Best Hard Apple Cider: Raise a Glass to These 8 Sweet Sips

The best hard apple cider is more than just a stand-in for beer for people who think beer is too bitter. Yes, it’s sweet, delicious, and tastes a lot like sparkling apple juice, but there’s a world of nuance that makes hard cider worth exploring for what it is—not just what it isn’t. Here’s what we learned in our hunt for the best hard apple cider you can buy.

As a person who doesn’t favor super sweet alcoholic bevs, I don’t drink a lot of hard cider. That means a couple of things: It’s a real dang treat every time I do drink it, and, also, I had a lot to learn about what’s out there in the world of hard cider. For example, not all hard cider is a sugar bomb. Some bottlings are super dry and tart. Some are totally sugar free. Who knew?

For this taste test, we gathered a sampling of highly rated ciders that are available across the country and some of those grocery store classics too. These might not all be available where you live, but a lot of them probably are. Without further ado, these are the eight best hard apple ciders we tried during our in-house taste test.

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best hard cider

Best of the Best

ACE Pineapple Craft Cider

I had qualms about giving a flavored cider the top spot, but hear me out: Apple and pineapple have super complementary flavors, and I’m not just saying that because they have weirdly similar names. This is a crowd-pleaser through and through—tart enough to have dimension but quaffable enough that you could drink a few without feeling gross. We had a hard time getting our hands on ACE’s traditional hard apple cider (anecdotally, the pineapple variety is way more available), but I’d venture to guess you can’t go wrong with any ACE products. This is good cider.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best big brand of hard cider

Best Big Brand

Strongbow Gold Apple

Along with Angry Orchard and Woodchuck, Strongbow completes the big-three cider triumvirate. You’ll find at least one of these on the menu at pretty much any chain restaurant by pretty much any freeway exit. I didn’t expect Strongbow to be good, but it won me over upon first sip. It’s way drier than I’d imagined it would be and has a really delicate fizz and an almost beer-like smell. My note was, “You could drink a lot of these”—and not just combined with Guinness in a Snakebite like we did in the ’90s and ’00s, when Snakebites seemed super cool.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best berry hard cider

Best Berry

Blake’s Hard Cider Triple Jam

As soon as you crack a can of this cider, you get slapped in the nose holes with a big berry aroma. Blake’s Triple Jam includes strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry essences, which don’t necessarily add up to a hugely sophisticated berry flavor, but in this format, it’s delicious all the same. This truly tastes like carbonated berry juice, but, like, real berry juice, not phony berry flavored juice. This cider is tart and it isn’t overly sweet despite the cavalcade of fruit flavors—the best hard apple cider for berry lovers, for sure.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

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best hard apple cider

Best Tropical

2 Towns Ciderhouse Pacific Pineapple

I don’t know how many (if any) pineapples they’re growing up in Oregon, where 2 Towns Ciderhouse is based, but cider is a seamless way to bring tropical flavors to the Pacific Northwest. This cider has a wonderful, natural sweetness that’s super juicy without being cloying. This tastes like freshly pressed pineapple juice (a flavor I’m familiar with from our extensive pineapple juice taste test). Between this and what ACE is making, pineapple cider might be one of my new favorite bevs.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best hard apple cider

Best Earthy

Henry Hotspur’s Hard Pressed for Cider

This is a weird one (and there will be more oddballs on this list). It’s super earthy in a way that’s actually pretty pleasing if you give it a sec to sink in. “This one’s a thinker,” I said when I took a sip. I think what comes through in this bottle of cider from Trader Joe’s is the taste of apple skin, which adds a little bit of bitterness to the sweetness of the apple flesh itself. When I opened it, I thought it smelled a little like Heineken, which accurately communicated that this would be a nice dry cider rather than a sugar bomb. We also tried the Henry Hotspur’s Rosé, but weren’t impressed (in fact, I said that it tastes like “something you’d get a gas station”). Stick with the original.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best tart hard apple cider

Best Tart

101 Cider House Hipster Brunch

This cider is so, so weird and I like it so, so much. How can I explain this in a way that won’t make me sound nuts? Here goes nothing: Something about this combination of apples, peaches, and hops tastes like heavily fragranced laundry detergent smells (I’m thinking Gain), but it really, really tastes good! “This is one of the craziest things I’ve ever consumed,” I said when I took a sip. “It has so many flavors.” It’s grown-up but playful. It’s sweet by virtue of being a cider, but it’s also tart like a kombucha because it’s probiotic. As an elder millennial, I’m averse to the term “hipster” and I absolutely hate going out to brunch (unless someone made a reservation), but I’m kind of obsessed with this cider.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Craft Shack

Rating:

8/10

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best seasonal hard apple cider

Best Spiced

Schilling Hard Cider Chaider Spiced Chai

Is there anything cozier than an owl in a little knit hat with earflaps? Maybe one thing: this cider. This best seasonal hard cider is also the best spiced hard apple cider we tried during our taste test. The chai spices give this Schilling cider mulled cider vibes, but the carbonation and the fact that it’s chilled keep it refreshing. If you like chai, you’ll like this.

Rating:

7.5/10

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best cinnamon hard apple cider

Best Cinnamon

Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple

We tried all four of the flavors in Angry Orchard’s Fall Haul sampler pack (including the brand’s traditional Crisp Apple variety), and this is the only one that we thought was worthy of a spot on our list. While other ciders in the pack tasted sour in an unintentional way, this cinnamon-tinged cider has a nice warmth to it that’s super autumnal and delicious. The smell reminded me of the way a craft store smells in the fall, and I can’t think of anything more comforting that that.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

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best sugar free hard apple cider

Best Sugar Free

101 Cider House Cactus Rosé

How can alcohol be sugar free when alcohol is sugar? I truly don’t know (feel free to explain science to me in the comments), but this zero sugar cider from 101 Cider House feels like a feat. Rosé flavored drinks have become big in the beverage world, from rosé hard ciders to rosé vodka. Most of these are bad and taste like fake grape. This cider is a different story. It’s super tart and dry thanks to the addition of cactus pear and lemon peel. Like the other 101 Cider House offering we ranked, this one is probiotic and has an almost kombucha-like sourness that I think makes the cider more complex and interesting. This might not be the best hard apple cider for everyone (consider a Strongbow?), but if you’re feeling adventurous, give a can of this a shot.

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Stella Artois Cidre, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Angry Orchard Hardcore Cherry Apple, Angry Orchard Baked Apple Pie, Julian Hard Cider, Henry Hotspur’s Hard Pressed Rosé, Bivuac True Lovers Rosé

Find the best hard apple cider at home and share with us using #SporkedTasteTest for a chance to be featured on our social pages!


About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • I just discovered 101 Cider House recently and I am OBSESSED. It’s unlike any hard cider I’ve ever had, with such unusual flavor offerings. Highly recommend Wish You Were Here if you can find it.

    Schilling’s Excelsior Imperial Cider is also excellent, I make sure to stock up whenever I find it at Trader Joe’s.

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