The hard cider craze is beginning to taper off, but there’s no doubt the sweet, bubbly adult version of apple juice has carved out a solid niche for itself on tap listings and menus nationwide. Now that hard cider is a mainstay, we’re seeing various brands put out different varieties and styles in order to keep consumer interest. Redd’s Apple Ale, which So Good contributor Mark tried, is one example. Angry Orchard was nice enough to send me some free samples of their own attempt to break the mold: Angry Orchard Cider House Collection. The Cider House Collection is a new line of experimental hard ciders that includes Angry Orchard Strawman Farmhouse Hard Cider and Angry Orchard Iceman Hard Cider.photo__1367874331_66.80.123.2Angry Orchard describes their Cider House Collection like this:

Our Cider House Collection includes rare and innovative ciders, harvested from our cider makers’ passion and creativity. To bring you these new distinct styles, we experimented with juice blends, wood again, fermentation techniques, and other traditional processes learned from years of cider making exploration and craftsmanship.

The descriptions of Strawman and Iceman themselves are probably too lengthy to reproduce here, but the highlights for Strawman include “ripe apple, vanilla and honeysuckle…wood, dark fruits and sweet citrus…complex, earthy, slightly herbal taste akin to that of a dry, southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling” while Iceman’s flavor profile is described as “crisp apples with notes of caramel and toffee…smooth vanilla character…Iceman’s warm taste, with vanilla and honey characteristics, is similar to a Sauternes or Muscat wine.” Both are 10% ABV, about twice as much alcohol as Angry Orchard’s regular hard cider.photo__1367896187_74.5.70.98Judging from the dramatic descriptions, comparisons to wine and striking bottle/logo design, there’s no doubt of Angry Orchard’s aim for a high-profile brew. They don’t just want to be the tap next to Mich Golden Light, they want to be in your wine cellar. So far, the Cider House Collection image is impressive. But does the flavor add up?photo (1)__1367896730_74.5.70.98My parents and I tried both of these ciders via blind taste test, and the results were not stunning. Tasters described Iceman, the more favored of the two, as “sweet, mellow, full-bodied,” “sweet, not as bubbly, caramel, apple,” and “smells like wine, flavor is sweet and tart.” Sweetness was the overriding flavor profile of Iceman. It was a veritable kick in the face of deeply sweet, pucker-up apple flavor.photo (2)__1367897286_74.5.70.98Strawman was the exact opposite of Iceman on the cider flavor spectrum. Tasters wrote “Not as sweet, effervescent, dry, crisp, like a white wine, fairly bland,” “Sour, acidic, tart,” and “Tastes much less sweet, mild, bitter.” Full disclosure: having tried Iceman first, my taste buds were probably too buzzing with activity to notice the subtler notes in Strawman. It would have been better to try them the other way around. As it was, I couldn’t taste much of anything from Strawman besides a lingering sourness.photo (3)__1367897927_74.5.70.98Overall, I was not impressed with Angry Orchard Strawman and Iceman. Their one-off flavor profiles were too extreme and singular, and not at all as complex as their dactylic descriptions would have you believe. However (and there’s always a “however”) I have to admit I would drink pint after pint of Iceman just because it’s so sweet, and I find sweet things delicious. Or even better: mix equal parts of each together. We did this after the tasting, and it resulted in the best cider we’d had yet: not too sweet, not too sour. Striceman? We’re working on it.

Ratings:

Iceman: 6/10

Strawman: 4.5/10

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My name is Sam and all I care about is food.

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