Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For the Love of Crispin

I haven't been much of a cider drinker the past few years, despite the prevalence of cider in the area. We have plenty of options with Woodchuck, Strongbow, Ace, Scrumpy's, Hornsby, and Blackthorn. We even have several varieties of Aspall, which is a fantastic cidermaker out of England. Additionally, Magner's has made its way into the metro area's liquor stores, yet I haven't tried it anywhere but The Gaf on tap and was satisfied with it but not overwhelmed.

Enter Crispin (which also owns Fox Barrel). I tried my first Crispin cider at the National Homebrewers Conference last year in Minneapolis and thought it was quite good, despite it being served over ice. It took a little while to try some again, but on a whim a while back I picked up a bottle of The Saint - apple juice and maple syrup fermented with Trappist yeast (presumably Westmalle). It's very interesting; sweet, spicy, earthy, and fruity - not at all like your typical cider. 

Crispin extends its line of Artisinal ciders brewed with ale yeasts with Landsdowne, a cider with added molasses and fermented with Irish stout yeast. I've had it twice, and honestly didn't care for it. The molasses overpowered the aroma and the flavor, and really took away from the depth of flavor. Disappointing, as it sounds more interesting than it actually is. You won't see this here in KC (yet?), and honestly aren't missing much. The Saint & Honey Crisp (cider & honey) are far better, and available at most liquor stores with craft beer as well as Brookside Market.

Those are in the Artisinal series and earn points for creativity, but their Blue Line and Import ciders are just as wonderful and more in line with what you'd expect with cider. I'm a huge fan of the Blue Line brut cider, as it's clean, crisp, and dry and very refreshing. However, I prefer the Brown's Lane traditional English cider. It comes in a 500ml can, and is fermented with both cider yeast and Brettanomyces. It has a strong apple flavor and aroma, but the finish is moderately tannic, completely dry and slightly earthy.

Now where to get it... I've seen Crispin's Artisinal & Brut ciders at Cosentino's in P&L, Brookside Market, and Royal Liquor, but Rimann in Prairie Village has the broadest selection I've seen in the area. They carry a couple of the blue line labels (brut & original), the Brown's Lane, and the Saint & Honey Crisp artisinals. As mentioned, I haven't seen Lansdowne here nor have I seen their limited "Jacket" cider (a blend of all their Artisinal ciders that is aged in bourbon barrels - fantastic cider and highly recommend it if you come across it).

Pick some up for a slightly different take on cider. It's worth it.


  1. I would argue that there's no need whatsoever to drink Crispin when you have J.K. Scrupmy's (and Ace, for that matter) at your disposal. One seems to be this massive cider-producing corporation spread between California and Minnesota. The other is a family that has been growing and pressing their own apples on the same land for over a century. Just saying...

    I would also argue that Woodchuck, Strongbow, Hornsby and Blackthorn shouldn't even be mentioned in this conversation since they're all manufactured with Apple Extract #7 — at least that's how they taste.

  2. Argue all you want. Crispin is making some damn fine cider.

    I found JK's quite good, but too sweet for my liking. And, I appreciate the creativity that Crispin is bringing to the market. There aren't many cidermakers out there making ciders with trappist yeast or molasses, or who are aging their ciders in bourbon barrels.

    I enjoy JK and Aspall (Ace is fine, but I much prefer Aspall, Rabbit's Foot, or Fox Barrel [owned by Crispin]), but honestly I find Crispin to be more enjoyable - especially their Browns Lane and Brut.

  3. PS - While I will say that the Woodchuck et al brands you mentioned are poor, I mention them because they're often the only ciders that people have had.

    I got to try some French ciders at NHC last year that tasted NOTHING like any other cider I've had - much like wine tastes nothing like table grapes, these ciders tasted nothing like food apples. Amazing stuff.


Tasting Notes