Stem Ciders (2811 Walnut St.) in Denver, CO specializes in dry ciders. It says so on the beer list. And the website. The bartender will tell you.
But I was still suspicious. I didn’t want to get stuck with a syrupy, sugary drink that I hated. I ordered the Real Dry, thinking it was my best chance at a cider I would enjoy.
Can you tell I was nervous? Maybe I have a personal prejudice against cider, but for good reason – I’ve had so many over-sweet, one-note ciders. Every time I think “a cider sounds great right now!” I’m disappointed.
The Real Dry is served in a tulip. It is pale gold in color and crystal clear.
And it was dry. Truly dry. And light, and effervescent. I loved it.
So I tried the Crabby Neighbor, made with green apples and crabapples. It was sour and funky and the unique combination of fruits brought an extra complexity.
I ordered a flight:
I was impressed with what I had tried so far and wanted to see what else Stem was offering. I built a flight of Off Dry, Hopped, Le Chêne, and Pear ciders to sample.
Drinking these ciders was a revelation – they reminded me what I love about craft beer. The exploration of flavors, the elevation of ancient recipes, the innovation – these ciders were unique, and wonderful. The Hopped is dry hopped with Cascade and Citra, and the aromas of hops lift and add depth to the cider. Le Chêne is aged in wine barrels, adding oak tannin and earthy flavors. The Off Dry and Pear, which I thought would be too sweet, were surprisingly light and refreshing. The pear added floral notes that were as complex as the hops and barrel flavors.
In some ways, cider is today where beer was 10-15 years ago. It is often seen as unsophisticated or insignificant or unappealing (sometimes all these, sometimes by me). But Stem Ciders proved to me that cider is a contender in the craft beer industry, and there are brewers ready to show their skills in a new medium.
This fall, Brick River (2000 Washington Ave.) will debut as St. Louis’s first cidery. Brick River’s brewer Evan Hiatt brings brewery and winery experience to the operation. No in-progress draft list has yet been released, but I’m looking forward to a selection of complex, carefully crafted ciders. Brick River is situated to bring a new product to St. Louis’s thriving beer market, and I can’t wait to drink more cider.
Tell me what you love/hate about cider. @riverwaterblog on twitter and instagram.