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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: | Posted: 04/04/2012
After a crazy long Fourth weekend (potentially including a camping trip) and all the activities to do, concerts to hear, people to see, and food to eat, here we are back at work. The standout drink of my weekend was cider. It was refreshing. Not only did it cool me down when it was 102˚, but it also refreshed my overworked palate (all that beer, be damned!) and left me curious for more. This wasn’t some sticky-syrup sweet cider; this was clean on the palate, completely crisp, and off dry. I’m completely in love and now I want to try as many as possible.
Turns out, I may have been inadvertently patriotic, as it wasn’t beer that the founding fathers chugged at the pub after a hard day of democracy. It was cider. Cider came to America with the English settlers, as well as the seeds to plant orchards. Great Britain still remains thirsty for cider; it makes up 15 percent of their beer market, as opposed to only 1 percent stateside. My own first taste of cider was at a little pub in London, sipping Strongbow. Did I think I was cool, having a legal drink at the pub with my fish and chips at the ripe age of 19? Yes! (And it was no big deal; they didn’t even card me!) So, I suppose my memories have contributed to a fondness for the apple drink.
Cider is easier to produce than wine or beer, and in fact, most settlers often started their day with a mug of cider. So what happened? The German immigrants came and, along with them, their thirst for beer. There was also that pesky Prohibition. After it was repealed, cider never really made a comeback until now. Craft producers are popping up all over the market and the industry is growing daily. We’ve even dedicated an entire section of our beer department to it. Find it on the far right wall of the store, tucked between the beer cooler and the humidor. Another bonus: ciders are naturally gluten-free and are typically lower in alcohol.
English ciders are dry and crisp and are the obvious match for fish and chips or any hearty pub-food. Try Aspall English Dry Draft Cider, whose farm and orchard was established in 1728. Plentiful apple scents, a slight earthiness, and a super dry finish to refresh the palate.
French ciders tend to be sweeter than the English varieties, and would be a great match with rustic, homemade pizzas (think sweet Italian sausage and green peppers). Try the Sidre Tendre from Eric Bordelet, whose orchards contain over 30 varieties of organically farmed apples and pears, almost none of which are for eating, but make traditional cider.
Domestic Standout: Crispin Cider is headquartered right here in Northeast. Their Artisanal Reserve series ciders are outstanding. Rich cheeses love the carbonation, and thanks to the Cheese Shop, I’m already gleeful about the many combination possibilities. Try Crispin “The Saint” brewed with Trappist beer yeasts to give it complexity. Any clothbound cheddar would be a great match for cider, and the Montgomery is classic handmade English cheddar that would be perfect.
Whatever you choose, I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how delicious cider really is! I can’t wait to drink with so many of my summer favorites (I’m already imagining the barbecue pork sliders), and plan to drink it through the fall. Cheers! – Lindsey Coleman @surdyksliquor
P.S. Surdyk’s Summer Wine Sale starts Wednesday, July 11! I’ll share some wine sale tips and favorites next week. Get prepped here.
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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