I love the Thanksgiving holiday.
For our family, and for many Americans, Thanksgiving is the most traditional of holidays.
Our traditions include food, some family, friends, wine, guilt-free consumption (there will be no entries in MyFitnessPal on Thursday), football, couch time, no expectation to be available for work emails, and time to take a deep breath.
Turkey, salty Edwards Virginia Ham (before the fire), stuffing, oysters and wine have long been part of our Thanksgiving meal tradition. In recent years we have added a beverage with a long history in the U.S. — cider.
Cider made from apples has a long history. From the founding of Jamestown through the Revolutionary era, cider was a common drink for both the rich and poor. Considered a source of nutrition and often safer to drink than water in early American, cider was drank as much out of necessity as pleasure.
Cider production and consumption dropped considerably in the mid-19th century.
One of the primary reasons was the influx of German immigrants that brought new and more efficient methods of brewing beer, which was cheaper and quicker than growing apples and harvesting once a year to make cider. Prohibition and other factors contributed to cider’s decline.
Thanks to a fraternity of women and men fiercely committed to growing traditional cider apples and crafting artisan ciders, this once-common traditional beverage is at the threshold of a renaissance.
Light, crisp, refreshing, bright acidity, and low alcohol (typically) — cider pairs well with traditional Thanksgiving dishes from salty ham to turkey to sides dishes and pies.
Here are five Virginia ciders to consider for Thanksgiving or other holiday meals:
Foggy Ridge Serious Cider ($18)
A serious cider from a serious cidermaker. Situated on the Blue Ridge plateau in the southwestern part of the state, Foggy Ridge Cider was founded by Diane and Chuck Flynt. The Flynt’s planted the initial orchard at Foggy Ridge in 1997 and today farm 30-acres of orchards planted to 30 different traditional cider apple varieties. Of the six fine ciders Flynt crafts, Serious Cider is my favorite. Crisp, light and refreshing with notes of tart green apple, lime and hints of stone fruit. Dry with zippy lime acidity. Perfect as an aperitif or paired with most Thanksgiving dishes.
Foggy Ridge Handmade Cider ($11)
A complex cider made primarily from Newton Pippin apples with Gold Rush and Arkansas Blacks, Handmade is crisp with notes of tart apples and pear with hints of beeswax. Softer than the Serious cider, Handmade is fantastic with fish dishes (everyone serves fish for Thanksgiving like we do, right?) and sweeter oysters like Rapphannocks.
Blue Bee Cider Charred Ordinary ($15.50 for 750ml)
Located in the historic Scott’s Addition area in northwest Richmond, Blue Bee Cider is Virginia’s first urban cidery. Owner and cidermaker Courtney Mailey founded Blue Bee in 2012. The name ‘Blue Bee’ cider is named after a native Virginia bee, Ostia lignaria, known as the Blue Orchard Bee. Charred Ordinary is a crisp, dry traditional cider with subtle earthy notes and saline. Perfect paired with salty hams or briny oysters.
Albemarle Cider Works Old Virginia Winesap
North Garden, VA
Located 15 miles south of Charlottesville, Albemarle CiderWorks was founded by the brother-sister team of Charlotte and Chuck Shelton who purchased the 80-acre farm in 1986. The property first served as a commercial nursery propagating trees and the Sheltons opened Albemarle CiderWorks in 2009. Made from 100% Winesap apples, this effervescent cider offers notes of baked apple and red berry with notable acidity. Pair this with the entire meal.
Potter’s Craft Cider Farmhouse Dry ($13)
Free Union, VA
Though Potter’s Craft Cider orchard is based in Free Union, about 20 minutes northwest of Charlottesville, they do not have an on-site tasting room. Instead, customers can taste Potter’s Craft Cider in their mobile tasting room, a remodeled Airstream (referred to as Ciderstream). Very cool! Dry, fizzy and refreshing offering notes of red apple, stone fruit and hints of mineral. Pair Farmhouse Dry with your lighter meats like pork or the cheese course.
Wishing you and your family the happiest of holiday weekends!
* Ciderstream photo credit: Potter’s Craft Cider