VIRTUE CIDER’S booth at FoBAB was stashed back in the wild room, where the air was thick with the funk of sour yeasts. And to some degree Virtue’s award-winning The Mitten is also a sour, though only inasmuch as it’s a ‘sour mash’, meaning that a portion of one crop is mixed in with the following year’s to create a more nuanced, consistent, and mature profile. This kind of sour is hardly the same as a Brett-fermented beer, of course, but The Mitten fit the festival in the criterion that counted most: its ‘sour’ component wiles the months away in 12-year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels while awaiting the next year’s fresh harvest.
This wood-aging leaves the cider slightly cloudy, similar in complexion to a cloudy chardonnay. It’s also rather evocative of those flavors—dry green apple, notes of vanilla, and crisp tannic bitterness—but The Mitten, despite being weaker than wine at 6.9% ABV, has a rather lighter body and snappy carbonation that reveal its edges. Dry overall, it has notes of must and barrel char as well as alcohol heat in its bright and tangy finish. It is refreshing altogether and spicy enough for winter, but still rather hot overall. Let this one lay for a while longer and its barrel-aging will pay greater dividends.
Served: On tap (Skyline Loft, FoBAB 2013, Chicago)