Guide to Cider Styles

by Carrie Uffindell | Photo © Carrie Uffindell

The story of hard cider in America traces its roots back three centuries to the orchards of colonial New England. Now it’s back and reshaping the craft beverage industry in the Northwest. To help you navigate this brave new world, check out the following primer on cider styles with tasting terms, flavor profiles, cider-making techniques and Northwest-made examples.

Acidity: The product of natural acids complements the sugars and gives cider its zing or sourness. Ciders can vary from low to high acidity. The balance of acidity, sweetness and bitterness are the basic components of any good cider.

Cidre: This French-style cider uses the traditional method of keeving, a fermentation technique that produces a sweeter, fruitier drink that’s lower in alcohol, around 3-5% alcohol by volume (ABV). Example: “Willamette Valley Cidre” by E.Z. Orchards, Salem, OR (

Dry or Off-Dry: These ciders finish with very little residual sweetness on the tongue because the yeast ferments most or all of the sugars in the apple juice. Example: “Traditional Dry” by Westcott Bay Cider, San Juan Island, WA (

Ice Cider: Originally from Quebec, these ciders are made from apples or apple juice frozen before fermentation, resulting in massive sweetness and acidity with no tannin. Example: “Tieton Frost” by Tieton Cider Works, Yakima, WA (
Perry: These are made from fermented perry pear varietals, not apples. Usually fruity, floral and highly tannic. Example: “Perry” by Snowdrift Cider Company, East Wenatchee, WA (

Semi-Sweet or Semi-Dry: These ciders finish with more sweetness from residual sugars left in the finished product. Example: “Citizen” by Carlton Cyderworks, McMinnville, OR (

Scrumpy/Farmhouse: Traditionally made with no added sugars, these ciders are unfiltered and non-carbonated with strong, tannic flavors and high ABVs, usually 6-8%. Example: “Serious Scrump” by 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Corvallis, OR (

Single Varietal: While most ciders are a blend of different culinary or cider apple varieties, these are made from a single variety that offers a good balance of acidity, sweetness and tannin. Example: “Revelation Newtown Pippin” by Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, Portland, OR (

Sweetness: The basic taste associated with the natural residual sugars in cider, which can take on vanilla, honey or syrup notes. The percentage of residual sweetness is what makes a cider sweet, semi-sweet, dry or off-dry.

Tannin: A bitter compound that gives cider a dry finish as well as adding texture and flavor to the fruit juice, including a thicker, more full-bodied mouth feel.

Wild Ferment: Fermented with only the natural yeasts present on apples instead of a selected yeast strain. Since wild yeasts are incredibly diverse, results are unpredictable but can offer a greater flavor complexity. Example: “Wild English” by Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse, Saanichton, B.C. (

Wood-Aged: Post-fermentation, these ciders are aged in a wooden casks or barrels, which imparts smoky, spicy or vanilla notes. Example: “Fire Barrel” by Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, WA (