PA Cider Style Guide: Hopped and Spiced Ciders

As we hope you’re beginning to learn from our series on PA Cider styles, the beverage category of “cider” actually encapsulates a beautiful array of flavors and textures. From the amazing list of cideries that make up the PA Cider Guild, you can find ciders in every color of the rainbow, showcasing the nearly infinite possibilities of what fermented apples can taste like.

This wide range of diversity can be attributed to different types of apples used, as well as to techniques employed by cider makers, and other fruits or elements added. In this blog post, we’ll explore the categories of Hopped Ciders and Spiced Ciders. Both of these styles recruit the aromatic characteristics of these botanical ingredients to create a harmonious effect with the apples used. The spices or hops can play off, balance and enhance the properties of the apples in the cider, for a uniquely delicious sipping experience.

According to the American Cider Association’s Style Guidelines, hopped ciders are defined as:

“Simply ciders with added hops.”

The hops can be added as pellets or whole flowers, and can be added at any stage of the cider making process. There are hundreds of varieties of specific hops, though some of the most commonly used are Citra, Cascade, Galaxy and Mosaic. Much like apples, different types of hops express themselves very differently: Some are more citrus or tropical fruit-forward; others are piney and bitter; and yet others are grassy, floral or even minty.

There aren’t any set guidelines around which kinds of apples can be used, though often hopped ciders are made with dessert/culinary varieties. Hopped ciders can range from brilliant and clear to hazy, depending on the cider maker’s intention, and the aroma and flavors also range from subtle and floral to bold and bitter, based on the variety of hop and production process used.

Because of their crossover with craft beer fans, hopped ciders are quite popular among ciders in Pennsylvania. Here are just a few examples: At Hale & True in Philadelphia, find Hail to the Hop, dry-hopped with Citra; at Godfrey Run Farm in Lake City, PA, there’s a fresh, herbal Hopped cider; and Red Balloon Cider in Emmaus, PA offers a double dry hopped cider with Citra and Mosaic. 

Hopped ciders also have their own category at the PA Farm Show Cider Competition. The winners from the 2021 showing are:

2021 Hopped Ciders

Red Balloon Hopped Cider

For food pairings, hopped ciders can hang with any kind of food where a crisp, refreshing beer would also be welcome. Pepperoni pizza, tacos, cheesesteaks, or any other savory, game-day-style foods are all included! The herbal qualities of hopped cider also pair quite well with vegetable and herbaceous foods, like salads, pesto pasta and pho or other noodle soups.

Five Maidens Peach White Tea Cider

Spiced ciders are another fun category to explore! The ACA defines them as,

“Ciders made with any combination of spices or spicy vegetables added either before or after fermentation.”

These can include various types of tea and coffee; traditional baking spices, like cinnamon, ginger, clove and vanilla; culinary spices that bring some heat, like jalapeno and habanero peppers; or earthy flavors, like turmeric or ginger root.

The ingredients added will likely affect the overall flavor and aromas of the cider, and may influence the color and clarity of the liquid. Spiced ciders range from dry to sweet, and any apples can be used, though much like hopped cider, it’s most common to find dessert/culinary varieties included.

To get to know a few made in PA, check out the winners from the PA Farm Show Cider Competition:

2021 Spiced Cider

Spiced ciders with baking spices can be fabulous paired with sweets and desserts, while ciders made with hot peppers are a knockout in place of a spicy margarita with Mexican food. This is a really expansive category with so many pairing possibilities. Get experimental and find your new favorite cider and food combo!

Want to explore more Pennsylvania cider styles? Dig into the other educational blog posts published on the PA Cider Guild blog. For more information on the Pennsylvania Cider Guild, or to join us as a member, visit our website, and follow along on Instagram and Facebook for updates.