BOSTON BEER’S Angry Orchard brand of hard ciders debuted in 2012 as a modern and slightly more masculine take on this rapidly resurgent category. The tactic worked: in one year Angry Orchard’s core trio of flavors knocked Woodchuck from the top spot en route to a staggering 40% market share. Now with unbeatable brand recognition and a strong foundation of accessible six-packs, Angry Orchard has turned on the charm to woo premium-priced customers. Their Cider House Collection emphasizes the “passion and creativity” behind “rare and innovative” ciders sold in champagne-styled bottles with branding halfway between cartoonish video games and Romantic mythology.
The latest entry in the series is The Muse, an oak-aged, quite bubbly, semi-sweet cider of 7.8% ABV aiming for the champagne crowd. It might just hit home—pouring a light gold, its bursting foamy head and total diffusion onto the palate give it the same striking mouthfeel of a sparkling wine. The flavor blends Granny Smith tartness and Fuij-style apples (they say “culinary and bittersweet”), hinting at a Pinot Grigio’s balance between sweetness and acidity. The Muse remains recognizably a cider, though, with a touch of yeast filtering in from the background and apple-sweet sugars sitting forward on the tongue. Its oak-aging imparts more flavors of vanilla than wood to the midsection as well as a faint tannic prickle in the finish that lingers near the lips.
It’s a pleasant sensation at first, but also a fleeting one: subsequent sips seem a little hollow and the slightly metallic flatness of carbonation eventually dulls the roof of the mouth instead of enlivening it. And although the body seems quite light there is still an impression of residual sugars that the bursting carbonation can’t quite scrub away. Were The Muse half its price it could compete with bargain champagne for a celebratory tipple, but at $14 a bottle the competition stiffens considerably. As a cider, though, the bright carbonation, underlying barrel notes, and lingering sweetness all pull in too many directions for The Muse to be worthy of much actual musing.
Served: 750 ml bottle