I have never liked beer. To me it always seemed like a giant bait and switch scam. When I was a kid, I saw all these TV commercials that told me how awesome and delicious beer was. When I was 12 some of my cousins sneaked some from the keg at my Uncle Mel’s place and we found a corner away from the adults to try it. It tasted like boiled socks. What the hell? Where was the refreshment? Why did adults drink so much of this swill? Since then I’ve tried dozens of different beers of all sorts in countries around the world. I’ve found a few I can abide but Belgian lambics are the only ones I can say I actually like and that’s because they don’t taste much like beer. No, beer isn’t for me. I later discovered hard cider, however, and that became my brew of choice.
About 11 years ago I was home in Massachusetts for Xmas. I think it was the first time I brought Nicole east to see my old stomping grounds. We were out getting some libations for the holiday and I saw something I’d never encountered before: a mulled hard cider. It was a seasonal special, I think by Cider Jack. I got a six pack and drank it all in a couple of days. It was delicious, and the mulling spices added a lovely flavor to the cider. I said to Nik, “We’ll have to get some of that when we’re back in Seattle.”
The problem was it never made it Seattle. I don’t know if that was a regional test that didn’t sell well or what, but in fact I never found that mulled cider again. And oh, I have looked. For over a decade I have haunted liquor stores and specialty shops, scanning the ciders from brewers big and small. I never found anything close. The only things I searched for that long were the Witch Hunt RPG and the “Kill by Remote Control” album by Toxic Reasons, both of which I eventually tracked down.
The other night Nicole and I went to a cider tasting at Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown. We tasted six ciders. Five of them were made here in Washington. The sixth was Scrumpy Jack, which I’ve had in England but isn’t sold in the US. The woman running the tasting wanted to contrast a mainstream English cider with the local varieties. The tasting was fun and we got to try some different ciders. As we were browsing the store, it occurred to me to ask her about mulled cider. She seemed to know her business after all. So I told her my story and she said without missing a beat, “Try J.K.’s Solstice Hard Cider.” I found it in the case (it’s made by J.K. Scrumpy) and picked up a bottle to take home.
I am drinking said cider right now and it’s delicious. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to that mythical mulled cider of over a decade ago. It’s spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, and maple syrup that enhance the apple taste and give it a very full flavor. The label has snow flakes which makes me wonder if it’s also a seasonal variety. I think the only safe thing to do is go back to Full Throttle Bottles and stock up for the winter!