OTR Cider Co. unveils first two brews

Pick up a six-pack of red Original Hard Cider and green Crisp Hard Cider, both effervescent and neither overwhelmingly sweet.

click to enlarge Just in time for fall: more local cider - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Just in time for fall: more local cider
The six-pack cans are red and green, like your choice of apples at the grocery store. Pop the tab and you have access to OTR Cider Co.’s Original Hard Cider (red) and Crisp Hard Cider (green), both of which debuted at Taste of Cincinnati this past spring as part of the popular trend of breweries adding ciders to their repertoires — OTR Cider Co. is owned by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company. Listermann and Rhinegeist have also joined the ranks. 

“Hard cider is a traditional beverage that’s widely popular in Europe,” says Eric Baumann, vice president of brewing at Christian Moerlein. “It’s trending more and more in the U.S. If you like sparkling wines and light beers, try cider.”

Of course, some may be tempted to say that the majority of mainstream ciders are heavy — they’re often cloyingly sweet and thick, like microwaved honey — but lately the industry has been moving away from these flavor profiles. Around the country, the key words are now “dry,” “effervescent” and “dry-hopped” (see Rhinegeist) with “sweet” occupying a spot between a no-no word and a curse word. OTR Cider Co.’s contributions certainly fit the sophisticated new mold — neither ciders could be called particularly sweet, and in fact, the Crisp Hard Cider is quite the opposite. It’s a classic green apple flavor but tempered so that it’s not overwhelming. Slightly sour, a little acidic and just barely sweet enough to remember you’re drinking alcoholic apple juice, the green was my favorite. Truth be told, the difference between the two isn’t drastic, and the Original Hard Cider is similar in flavor saturation: It’s subtle, but you can taste the alcohol at six percent — a boost from what seems like the national average of five in ciders. But this one doesn’t have the same punch the green delivers, although the effervescence is there for both. 

The bubbles in the ciders are built by champagne yeast, which also lends a slightly aromatic quality unique to that variety. “We receive our cider base from the Northwest, which is made from a variety of apples specific to our cider,” Baumann says. “It’s blended in our tanks and mixed with champagne yeast for that fizzy-like finish. Once it’s fermented for one month, it’s filtered, packaged and sent off to consumers. We take a more refined approach to the delicate apples and try to best accentuate the flavors and intricacies of each variety that we use.” 

That sounds like classic Moerlein approach. The company was originally founded in 1853 by Christian Moerlein, a Bavarian immigrant who foresaw the now-modern craft beer movement. He was a blacksmith and then a master brewer, known for his beer far beyond the reaches of his home in Over-the-Rhine, and in 1981, the company even proclaimed their beer as “better beer” after reopening post-Prohibition. The taproom on Moore Street, a veritable city cave, has both ciders on tap and a welcoming ambiance in a renovated industrial space — the kind Cincinnatians love to love. 

Steve McGlone, Moerlein’s vice president of sales and marketing, explained the brand’s decision to create OTR Cider Co. like this: “We’re the only craft brewery to ever save a city’s retro-historic beer brands (Hudepohl, Burger and Little Kings). We took this a step further in 2016 when we expanded into the craft cider realm. With the craft beer industry growing like it is, we wanted to expand our portfolio and broaden our horizons. Cider is a growing market that provides consumers with an alternative beverage choice. Once the exciting idea popped in our head, we just couldn’t turn it down.” 

McGlone also mentions that the company is experimenting with new varieties and seasonal flavors. “October is national apple month, so stay tuned for some fun events this fall,” he says. Apples are great, they keep the doctor away (does it still count if it’s in alcohol?) and their juice ferments into the perfect fall beverage, but I’m stuck wondering about those seasonal flavors. Should I dare to hope for that panacea of all first-world problems, that ubiquitous word whispered on the autumnal winds grazing our warmest pair of ironically clean L.L. Bean duck boots: pumpkin? I guess the taproom will tell. 

The CHRISTIAN MOERLEIN MALTHOUSE TAPROOM is located at 1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: facebook.com/otrciderco.

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