A Quick Guide to Cider Styles

Photo by Tj Turner

You know your beer styles and wine varieties, whiskey vs. whisky, and what you want in a gin. But what about cider? By no fault of its own (we blame the Prohibitionists who torched America’s once-plentiful cider-apple orchards) cider has fallen by the wayside for many drinkers, often being shunned due to misconceptions that it’s too sweet, all tastes the same, or is nothing more than a gluten-free alternative to beer. It’s time to change your thinking. Here’s a quick guide to get you started. 

Cider Distinctions

Cider, according to its technical definition, is “fruit wine derived wholly (except for sugar, water or added alcohol) from apples.” Effervescence comes either from secondary fermentation or forced carbonation. 

Modern Ciders are made primarily from culinary apples. Compared to other styles, they are
generally lower in tannin and higher in acidity.

Try it: Wild State Cider Semi-Dry (Duluth, Minnesota)

Heritage Ciders are made primarily from cider-specific apples. They are generally higher in tannin than Modern Ciders and lack the creamier flavor and texture often found in Traditional Ciders.

Try it: Keepsake Cidery Wild (Dundas, Minnesota); Milk & Honey Ciders Heirloom
(St. Joseph, Minnesota)

Traditional Ciders encompass those produced in the West Country of England, Northern France, and other regions in which cider-specific apple varieties and production techniques, such as malolactic (or secondary) fermentation, are used. English styles tend to be more dry, whereas French styles are sweeter.

Try it: Cornish Orchards Heritage (West Country), Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie (Normandy)

Natural Cider is cider from Asturias and Basque Country in Spain, and other regions in which wild yeasts and similar apple varieties and production techniques are used to achieve a dry, funky flavor profile.

Try it: Mayador Sidra Natural (Basque Country)

Grafs are a hybrid cider-beer beverage made from mixing apple juice with beer wort, then fermenting it.  They range in flavor from apple-forward to malt- or yeast-dominant.

Try it: Sociable Cider Werks Freewheeler (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Ellen Burkhardt About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.