Crispin Cider at The Four Firkins
By Tom // Posted 2 August, 2009 in: Food + Drink
On Friday night I headed down to The Four Firkins for a tasting of Crispin cider. There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding Crispin right now, at the very least on the Internet. With Joe Heron the CEO in the house pouring and talking about his cider, it seemed like a good time to see what all the talk was about.
As it turns out, Joe being there was quite advantageous, since I learned all kinds of interesting things about cider and cider manufacture. Some of them being:
You don’t actually need a special license to produce cider—the bodies regulating liquor sales don’t require one and won’t issue one. Since alcohol distributors were wary of selling unlicensed booze, Crispin obtained a license but were only able to do so by claiming to produce apple wine. You will notice that Crispin cider has a nutrition information label, while beer and wine never do: this is because Crispin cider is regulated by the FDA, rather than the liquor authorities. So that’s why I don’t know how many calories are in my beer! It is also illegal to carbonate cider to the level of beer—it has to be slightly less.
It’s really hard to find cider apples in the US. Sweet apples are not good for cider. As Joe said, the more edible an apple is, the worse it is for making cider. He fantasizes about making a barrel of Cider from crabapples. Crispin uses a blend of apples including Granny Smith, Gala and some others and finish their cider with concentrate. Apparently some brewers make their cider exclusively from concentrate, and this is to be poo-pooed.
There were four ciders available to try. I started with the regular, which was slightly dry but pretty fruity, like a tangy apple juice. Next up was the brut, which as you might expect was drier. This was my favorite. The third was a limited edition that won’t be available in stores for a couple of weeks: the Honeycrisp. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not actually made with honeycrisp apples—according to Joe you could hardly find a worse apple to make cider with: too sweet and hardly any acid. Instead, the Honeycrisp is regular made with honey. The honey was quite strong; it was the dominant flavor. Finally, after I had had enough free samples to ensure my bike ride back home would be an interesting challenge, Joe offered me a sample of the final variety of Crispin: Light. I liked the light because it was dry like the brut and without a very strong apple flavor.
As is always the case when I’m offered free alcohol, I bought some to take home. I would have liked to buy the brut but they were sold out; instead I bought a four-pack of the Light. Joe recommended to several people to drink the light over ice with a wedge of lemon. After visiting the farmers’ market the next day, I didn’t have any lemon, but I had a bunch of raspberries, so I made a cocktail that I think Joe would approve of.