Hard ciders are quite unlike anything else on the Beer Frontier. Because they’re fermented from fruit juices (usually apples) and not made with malt and hops, they’re not malty or bitter. But ciders are quaffed and enjoyed just like beer, and that’s why you’ll find our favorite ciders occupying an honored place alongside our favorite beers.
And there’s something (in our opinion) that ciders do better than beer: They pair beautifully with members of the Meijer donut family – and fortunately that’s a delicious extended family with enough shapes, sizes, and varieties to keep us busy until we find ourselves sitting down to turkey and gravy (and that’s another article).
brought to you by Short’s Brewing Company
(Available in MI.)
Octorock is a semi-sweet, light-bodied cider with delicate fruit and yeast aromas and a hint of spice. Initial candied apple flavors provide a generous amount of sweetness that lingers slightly before a relatively clean finish.
In addition to Nutty Donuts, Octorock pairs well with sausage, barbecue, dark greens, and savory desserts. Try it in (and with) this long-time favorite from the folks at Short’s:
Starcut Apple Sausage Cider Stuffing
- 4 cups Cubed white bread (around 7 slices)
- 5 cups Cubed wheat bread (around 8 slices)
- 1 lb Pork sausage
- 2 cups Diced white onion
- 2 cups Diced celery
- 2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 cup Dried cranberries
- ½ cup Toasted pecans, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Chopped fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp Chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp Dried thyme
- 1 tsp Dried sage
- ½ cup Chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup Starcut Ciders Octorock (allow to go nearly flat at room temperature)
- ¼ cup Melted butter
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring once as bread bakes, until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large mixing bowl.
- In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up into smaller crumbles until evenly browned.
- Remove sausage using a slotted spoon and add it to the large mixing bowl with the toasted bread cubes. Empty pan of grease.
- In the same skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and add the celery, apples, dried cranberries, pecans, sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes to blend flavors. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Add celery, apples, cranberries, pecans and seasoning mixture to the large mixing bowl with the toasted bread cubes and sausage. Drizzle with cider and melted butter and mix lightly until bread cubes have absorbed all the liquid.
- Allow stuffing to cool completely before loosely stuffing into a turkey (around 4 cups for a 12lb turkey). Remaining stuffing can be baked in a buttered 9″ x 13″ covered casserole dish at 350°F for 30-40 minutes. Uncover, stir stuffing, and return to oven for 10-15 more minutes until golden brown.
Virtue Michigan Brut
(Available in MI.)
Virtue’s dry brut is a blend of hand-pressed apples aged in French oak barrels. Virtue uses a variety of Michigan apples grown on local family farms. The blend of these heirloom apples creates a complexity of flavor that is impossible to achieve with just a few varieties. The result is a delicious aroma of fresh apples, a touch of oak on the palate, and a crisp, tart finish.
Once you’ve enjoyed the sweet-tart banter between the Apple Fritters and Michigan Brut, consider pairing it with roast pork or a rich raclette (a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland).
Blake’s Flannel Mouth
(Available in MI, OH, IN, IL, & WI)
Blake’s wanted to craft a beverage that would easily set itself apart from overtly sweet ciders that contain more sugar than apple juice. That was the beginning of Flannel Mouth, one of Blake’s original hard ciders that helped put it on the craft cider map in 2014. Flannel Mouth is a traditional semi-sweet cider that’s all about the apple. Its well-balanced, clean and crisp apple profile and acidity make it not only a great partner to Cinnamon Glazed Donuts, it’s also a fantastic mixer. A recent favorite concocted by the folks at Blake’s is this cider cocktail:
Bourbon and Flannel
- 2 oz Bourbon whiskey (your favorite)
- 4 oz Fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 Sugar cube (or ½ tsp Michigan honey)
- 2 dashes Bitters
- 1 or 2 Raspberries for garnish
Mix all ingredients and garnish with raspberries.
CiderBoys Cranberry Road
(Available in OH and WI.)
Beautifully balanced flavors of apple and cranberry make for a refreshingly tart and sweet companion to your rich Sour Cream Dunkin’ Stick. But Cranberry Road also makes an excellent mixer. Try it in the CiderBoys’ rendition of a Mojito:
- 5 Cranberries
- 1 Lime cut into 3 wedges
- 2 Tbsp White sugar
- 1 oz White rum
- 1 cup CiderBoys Cranberry Road
Place cranberries and 1 lime wedge into sturdy glass and muddle. Add one more lime wedge and sugar and muddle again. Do not strain. Fill glass almost to top with ice. Add white rum and fill to top with CiderBoys Cranberry Road. Garnish with remaining lime wedge and serve.
Rhinegeist Cidergeist Bubbles
(Available in OH, KY and seasonally in IN.)
Cidergeist Bubbles is the exception on our list of non-malted ciders, as Bubbles is an ale and does contain malt. Cidergeist lets Rhinegeist play in a lighter and drier zone than beer, introducing a flavor profile more akin to white wine and refreshing in a uniquely fruity way. Fermented with juices from the Pacific Northwest, Cidergeist deliver a blend of acidity and apple-ness with bountiful aromatics that strike the right balance of refreshingly dry with just a shy suggestion of sweetness. Bubbles Rosé Ale is made with apple, peach and cranberry for a beautiful pink hue, tartness and juicy fruitiness.
Cidergeist pairs well not only with Boston Cream Donuts, but is also an excellent choice with soft cheeses (Camembert, Brie, Chèvre), roasted pork belly, and cream-based sauces.