Cider is often overlooked as an alcoholic drink, but it is deeply rooted in American history. The most famous example of this is John Chapman, known colloquially as Johnny Appleseed, who traveled the country planting apple trees. The part of this story elementary school teachers leave out is that these trees where not planted randomly but as orchards for the production of hard cider and applejack, and Chapman retained ownership of these orchards.
Doc’s Draft Hard Pear Cider is brewed at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery in Warwick, N.Y. The brewery sits in the picturesque Hudson Valley, where it was started in 1989 as a private orchard. The apple harvest, however, was so large that the owners decided to try their hand at making hard cider, which has since become their main product.
The name, Hard Pear Cider, requires a brief aside. A beverage made from apples is termed cider, while a beverage made from pears is termed perry. Technically, drinks made from both apples and pears, such as this drink, are neither cider nor perry; the terms are treated as exclusive rather than inclusive by the Beer Judging Certificate Program’s style guidelines. This distinction, while confusing, has been instituted to allow direct comparisons of each type in brewing competitions. Mixed-feedstock drinks are considered “fruit ciders” if all feedstocks are fruit juice. Some people also add honey, making it a mead, or other sugar sources such as molasses or maple syrup. The bottom line is that this particular cider is more complex than your standard cider, and the taste should reflect this.
Another note about cider and perry is that they aren’t actually beer, per se. Beer is brewed using starches as the feedstock, while wines utilize simple sugars. The difference is that you need to convert the starch to simple sugars so that yeast can consume them. This conversion is done in a process called mashing by mixing the starch with water and an enzyme source, typically malt, and then holding the mixture at a temperature at which the enzyme is active. After this, the beer is filtered and boiled, and then the yeast can be pitched. Wines — including cider, perry and mead — all have the yeast pitched directly, without the need for any intermediate steps.
The cider poured a dead clear, slightly yellow color, which was reminiscent of off-color water. No head at all formed, with only a few scattered bubbles, but this is not particularly out of place. Ciders don’t contain much in the way of either complex carbohydrates or proteins from which to form a head. The aroma is fairly faint but like a slightly sweet and alcoholic vinegar. The body was moderately heavy with fairly low carbonation, although the carbonation was actually quite sparkly. This is probably due to particulates still suspended in the cider, which serve as nucleation sites for the bubbles, but I still found this surprising given the clarity of this particular cider. The taste was fairly sweet up front but quickly dried out for a fairly dry finish. The flavor actually had a significant pear character, which seemed to clash a bit with the apple. What I really couldn’t get over with this cider is an overarching medicinal character with hints of cherry. The nearest thing I could place it with is Dimetapp cough syrup.
I honestly did not like this cider, as it reminded me of cough syrup, but my roommate really enjoyed it. I prefer Ace or Woodchuck cider, but if you are looking for something new, you may like this one as well.