Hard ciders are all the rage, and gone are the days when “cider” always meant cloying and sweet. At the core of most ciders’ current appeal is a dry, refreshing, gluten-free effervescence.
But what are the cider house rules for pairing these beverages with food? That depends.
“With such an incredible variety of great craft ciders on the market, what pairs with cider is not such a straightforward question these days,” said Neil Collins, co-owner of Bristols Cider in Atascadero and the winemaker at Tablas Creek Vineyard and his own label, Lone Madrone. “So it, of course, depends on which cider you are drinking. Is it hopped? Is it infused with a fruit? What yeast was it fermented on?”
With apple ciders such as Bristols, Collins likes to pair those with a classic West Country farmhouse cheddar from his native Britain or any of the curries served at Bristols Cider on Thursday evenings.
“The great acidity and brightness complement both the fat and sharpness of the cheese,” he said, “and with the curries, the freshness of the cider cuts well with the spice.”
Collins noted that “another classic pairing is slow-cooked pork shoulder cooked in cider, but cider also lends itself very well to a lot of vegetarian cuisine.”
At The Spoon Trade in Grover Beach, “we serve ciders that are dry and pair nicely with rich foods,” said co-owner Brooke Town. A sweet cider may not be as good with those foods, she explained.
For example, “the Tin City Cider (from Paso Robles) is dry, crisp and briny, which is a lovely complement to our honey-glazed fried chicken,” Town said. “We also sprinkle fried rosemary on the chicken, which adds a fun complement to the cider as well.”
Town added that with something such as The Spoon Trade’s smoked potatoes with lime aioli, “Tin City’s Cherry Saison is a fun, tart way to cut through the richness of the potatoes.”
(Check out many local cider producers at the Central Coast Cider Festival on May 13 at the Atascadero Pavilion on the Lake.)