7.9

B. Nektar Slice of Life Review

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B. Nektar Slice of Life Review

Here’s what you probably know about cider: It’s the fastest growing sector of the alcohol industry. Cider sales grew 75% last year, according to a market research firm out of Chicago. Cider hasn’t reached anywhere near the feverish pitch of craft beer, but the future is bright. Big boys like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are in the cider game with their own brands, and a bunch of craft shops have popped up in the last couple of years. All total, there are more than 400 cider makers operating in the U.S.

But forget about the quantity of cider on the market for a minute, what’s truly important here is the quality of the cider on the market. You still have plenty of traditional sweet options, the stuff that basically tastes like jacked up apple juice, but you also have a number of progressive cider makers who are taking a page from the craft beer industry and experimenting with different yeast strains and adjuncts. Cider makers that are squeezing every bit of flavor and complexity out of America’s most common fruit. Cider makers like B. Nektar, out of Michigan, who’s making a few different ciders that go beyond the saccharine apple juice that most of us might associate with the style.

Their Slice of Life uses lemon juice and ginger in the fermentation, and you get strong doses of both in the nose and on the palate. It’s light and dry, with a Champagne-like mouthfeel. It’s not as sweet as most ciders, but it’s still obvious that you’re drinking apples. Which is perfectly okay. If I wanted a cider to taste like a beer, I’d just get a beer. The thing that bugs me about many other ciders, is their one-dimensionality. A lot of the mass-produced ciders out there don’t offer much more in their profile than “apple.” If you’re lucky, you might get a hint of green apple. Slice of Life is far more complex than that.

I drank half of it while it was cold, and then came back to it and knocked back the other half when it was warmer. I was expecting it to suck because Champagne sucks when it’s warm, and hard cider sucks when it’s warm, but it was actually even more layered than before. The ginger had taken over as the dominate characteristic. The lemon was still there, but the apple had taken a backseat. Honestly, it had as much in common with a high-end ginger beer as it did an apple cider.

Another one of their ciders, The Dude’s Rug, incorporates chai tea. I liked it before I even tasted it because of the Lebowski reference. The chai comes on strong in the nose, mixing with the apple to create a sort of Christmas spiced cider feel to it. Turns out, chai is a pretty good compliment to the apples. It’s not as dry as the ginger-based cider, and it’s a little sweeter, but it’s still complex enough to keep it out of the “one-note” territory that most ciders live in.

Technically, B. Nektar is a meadery, producing just as many meads as they do cider—and I tried some, but it’s possible that I’m just not ready for mead yet. It’s simply too sweet. We are talking about honey wine, here, after all. Or maybe my beard’s not thick enough? Or I didn’t play enough D&D as a kid? I don’t know, but mead isn’t for me.

But I digress. The point is, if you haven’t tried one of the new breeds of cider, now might be a good time to give them a go. And B. Nektar might be the right cider-maker to seek out.

Cider House: B. Nektar Meadery
Location: Ferndale, Michigan
Style: Hard cider
ABV: 5.5%
Availability: Year round, in about 20 states