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An Apple Ale a Day

Walking the blurry line between beer and cider

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

On my most recent trip to the beer aisle, I noticed an odd trend: Many of the big beer manufacturers are making apple ales. Now I'm not opposed to apple beers, and I love ciders, but the ones I've had seem to be blurring the line between cider and beer. Are there any really good apple ales out there that are worth your hard earned quatloos? I looked to three local examples to find out.

Uinta Crisp Apple: This brand-new beer from Uinta has an aroma that is akin to sliced green apple, mixed with a good deal of caramel and candied sugar sweetness. The taste is powerfully sweet with green apple, but while this beer is apple-forward, there are also some notes of a candied and sour taste at the start, which give the overall flavor profile an apple sweet/tartness reminiscent of Jolly Ranchers. A little bit of a floral flavor and some light grain come at the very end, and you're left with a candied green apple taste lingering on the tongue. This beer is on the thinner side, with a carbonation level that is prickly.

Overall: This 4.0 percent ABV beer comes across as rather soda-like, and the beer aspects get a little lost in the sweet cider side of things. If you really dig those sweet snack flavors, this will work for you, but if you're a session drinker, the candy-like aspects can wear on your tongue.

Epic Sour Apple Saison: There's some faint haze in this pale yellow beer as its tight white head fizzles out to a cap of bubbles. Right off the top, you get classic Belgian saison notes from the yeast as your nose gets on top of the beer. There's some pepper, lemon and a clay-like mineral zap that follows, with apple and clove rounding out the aroma. Like the nose, Sour Apple Saison's flavor is spice-forward, with a clear focus on the Belgian yeast and the base beer, with the apple flavors added to enhance it. There is a little of the sour apple emerging through the spices with a hint of citrusy lemon and peppery snap. The finish is reminiscent of green apple skins.

Overall: Epic has crafted a wonderful fruited Belgian-style saison. The Granny Smith apple flavors enhance the beer without taking control of the whole show. Its 7.7 percent ABV is well hidden.

Mountain West Cottonwood: Since I'm showcasing beers that are masquerading as ciders, I think it's only appropriate to examine a cider pretending to be a beer: Cottonwood is hopped cider. Typically, ciders never have hops added to them, but with new varieties of fruit-like hops hitting the market, this relatively new practice is becoming a more common trend. This cider pours a clear straw gold color with a bit of haze from the hops. The head appears for about five seconds, then fizzles away quickly. The aroma is nice, evoking green and sweet apples, and some floral/grassy hops. The taste pretty much follows the same path, but with more intensity. Apple, of course, is prevalent with a blend of tart and sweet varietals. A mustiness creeps in next, then the hops assert themselves with mostly floral and pine bitterness. The finish is slightly bitter with a big tannin dryness.

Overall: This cider is fairly dry, and the hop additions make it even more so. If you like your ciders more pie-like, this is not the apple beverage for you. As a beer substitute? Not so much, but it is a nice alternative to beer.

All three of these adult beverages are available today. Check them out and share your thoughts. As always, cheers!

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