As the craft beer movement has taken a well-established hold within the grocery and liquor stores, craft cider has been making its move onto the shelves. One of the companies doing just that is Tieton Cider Works.

Tieton Cider Works is aptly named from where its apples are grown, juiced, and bottled in Tieton, Wash. and its beverages are now available in Tucson. While some people choose other drink options to simply try something new, others who are sensitive to gluten can indulge in Tieton’s cider as their varieties are gluten-free and a nice alternative to the gluten-free beer variety.

Combining numerous varieties of apples, the company is able to achieve a wide arrange of notes comparable to wine and beer.  They use apples like the Kingston Black and Wickson Crab for a bitter and sharp taste that is high in acid and tannin. Dabinett and Yarlington Mill apples are low in acid but high in tannin. The company also blends in dessert apples and sweet apples into its ciders for body and depth, rather than simply bottling a really sweet hard cider like that, which has been found on shelves for quite some time now.

Tieton Cider Works has 10 varieties, some of which are offered year-round, while others are seasonal. Six of its varieties were sent to the Explorer to sample, as we regularly sample and critique drinks during the paper’s monthly Sippin’ Social happy hour review.

The ciders sampled were Apricot, Blossom Nectar, Cherry Blend, Wild Washington Apple, Tieton Blend, and its Yakima Valley Dry Hopped ciders.

The Apricot cider comes in at 6.9 percent and was absolutely outstanding. It was crisp and light, with a tart dry finish, along with beautiful and subtle apricot notes. It did not taste like there was any alcohol in it, which made this drink disappear quickly after a long and hot day of work.

The mild acidic and tart finish leaves the tongue dry and thirsty for another ice-cold gulp.

The Wild Washington Apple cider is touted as semi-dry and is a 7 percent bottle of very crisp and refreshing alcohol. The gorgeous golden color shines as this is poured into a glass and very fine sparkling bubbles rise to the top to make a very thin head. It smelled just like apple juice, and looked the same as it, too. It was again slightly dry with a tart-like finish.

The Cherry blend was probably the least favorite of the bunch. It comes in at 6.9 percent and has a surprising cranberry-red color; a lighter color of the previous drinks was expected. It was well balanced and wasn’t too sweet at all. It was still pretty tart, which became apparent the more it was consumed.

The Tieton blend is a very refreshing cider that is not too sweet or tart, with a slightly dry finish at 7 percent. Again, this enjoyable drink did not taste like alcohol at all, which is surprising at 7 percent. The slight tannin finish makes this beverage feel like it evaporates out of your mouth, thirsty for more.

The Blossom Nectar cider was like popping a cap off of a bottle or sweet, carbonated apple juice – and that apple juice just so happens to have a 7 percent kick to it. The sweet taste was not overwhelming at all and the mild tart finish really rounded this cider out.

Being a beer drinker, and having a taste for IPAs, the Yakima Valley Dry Hopped cider was extremely anticipated. Once poured, this cider had the sweet smell of apple fused with an undeniable aroma of hops. The hop flavor wasn’t nearly as strong as I was expecting. The apples were still the main stars of this cider; the hops were simply there to finish the show. Again, it was very refreshing and not a heavy drink at all. The finish left the mouth a very subtle hint of hops and vanilla that worked tastily with the sweet and tart of the cider.

Each of the Tieton Cider Works’ ciders were unlike any cider this reporter has tried before. The delicious and dangerous fact that none of these refreshing beverages tasted alcoholic was an added plus. Especially for those who don’t like a cheap malt aftertaste that usually comes with these types of drinks. These ciders are the real deal. They are award winners for a reason. The ciders are grown, processed, fermented and bottled all under one roof in Washington.

Like wine, they can be paired with meals. They can also be mixed to make cocktails. The company suggests mixing the Tieton Blend with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters for a Washington 75, or the Wild Washington Apple Cider can be mixed with whisky, orange juice, lemon juice, and bitters for a Ward 509.

Tieton’s cider is currently available in Tucson at A.J.’s Fine Foods, Monterey Court Cafe, Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink, RJ’s Replays, Tap and Bottle, and World of Beer.

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