A Cider Alternative: Crispin For Summer

Aah, the sun. Doesn’t its warm presence just get you thinking? I’m already daydreaming of the summer evenings that I’ll be lounging on my deck, sipping a cool something-or-other to wrap up the day. In those dreams, I rotate through a variety of friends and loved ones, different kinds of nibbles to serve, and a mental selection of the tasty beverages we’ll imbibe. Last year, I nearly overdosed on the crisp Sauvignon Blanc that I’d taken to like water. The year before, it was Pinot Grigio for the summer drink of choice. This year, I’m looking for something new.

Luckily, certain elements of my quest have aligned deliciously with a few other important (to me) concepts – artisanal practices, organic and natural ingredients, and local purveyors. And to that end, I’ve got a burgeoning list of ciders on my mind for this summer. Now wait. If you think you don’t like cider, I’m going to guess that you’ve not had any truly great ones. I was spoiled early in the cider game when I visited the Brittany region of France and learned what cider (ahem, cidre) is really about. Since then, I’ve made do with the Strongbows and the K ciders of the world, with the occasional Blackthorn when you can find it on tap. But, in my humble opinion, most of the cider beverages produced in the U.S. are médiocre, at best. Sorry. 

My opinion, however, changed last week, when our friends at Roepke PR and Crispin Cider were good enough to invite us to a “Ciders and Sliders” event at Firelake Restaurant. And though I love baseball (the underlying theme) and sliders, I was most excited to try the ciders.

(I’ve been watching Joe Heron take his little local cider company nationwide. In only 18 months since Crispin’s launch, they’ve expanded their distribution from just two markets into 18 states. This was a beverage concept that was ripe for picking, if you’ll excuse the very obvious pun.)

And though that dinner was absolutely amazing – I mean, fancy sliders! (How fantastic is that?) – most important to me was the fact that we got to sample each and every Crispin Cider style, along with those from their newest acquisition, Fox Barrel Cider. And boy, my summer-menu-planning brain was not disappointed. From the most basic to the nuanced and layered, these ciders got me spinning.

So what’s Crispin got that I’m so worked up about?

Let me count the ways:

  1. Local business
  2. Artisanal processes
  3. Made from fresh apple juice, not concentrate (in fact, cider maker Bruce Nissen said that most go from apples to the fermentation process within 24 hours)
  4. No added sugar
  5. Organic honey and maple syrup in their two boozier Belgian-style ciders – The Saint and Honey Crisp
  6. No icky preservatives or colorants
  7. Gluten-free
  8. Food friendly
  9. Cocktail mixable (great ideas here)

Now you understand the cider trance I’ve been in. While I still wish that Crispin would do a little something with our fabulous apples from Minnesota and Wisconsin (theirs are grown on the West Coast), I’m happy to get behind a local business that puts this kind of care into its product.  

My favorites? I'm glad you asked:

First, Honey Crisp because it's rife with both honey and apple-y goodness. And despite how it sounds, it doesn't go all sicky sweet on you.

Next, brut. Over ice, it's that whistle-wetting, sun-busting drink I want on a hot day. Plus, it's the perfect base over which to layer liqueurs, herbs and other happiness.

And to round out my Top 3? The Saint. It's not my normal style as it's much more like a Belgian beer of sorts -- all cloudy and rich -- but sometimes you just want something a little different, right?

So if you visit my deck this summer, please don’t be disappointed by the lack of beer. I’m fairly certain that a cider and ginger liqueur cocktail will take your mind off of it.

Photos provided by Jack Fischer of jack f photo.

Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie, cookbook hoarder, and owner of all the right kitchen gadgets. Living in downtown St. Paul, she loves to take her green trolley shopping at the Farmer's Market and see how much weight it can handle. When not spotlighting local goodies for Simple Good and Tasty, Tracy runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm that helps small companies create big-picture strategies, understand branding, and navigate social media. She also serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op. Her last blog post for Simple, Good and Tasty was This Month's Bookclub Selection: Much Depends on Dinner.