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Belt’s Beer Garden: This Cider House Rules!

Shacksbury’s The Vermonter - a gin barrel aged cider

Let’s break from the norm this week and try something a bit different - instead of a beer, let’s bust out a cider from New England.

Shacksbury Cider hails from Vergennes, Vermont, a small city of less than 3,000 near Lake Champlain and the New York border. And, about 25 miles north, in Burlington, they’re also part of CO Cellars, which acts as a second tasting room, that is run in collaboration with ZAFA Wines.

Today I got to try a “cocktail-esque” botanical cider they produce - The Vermonter.

The Vermonter is a cider aged in Barr Hill gin barrels and fermented with juniper berries. It has no added sugars, uses 100% fresh apples, and packs a solid punch with its 6% ABV. It was also rather reasonably priced, at $4.50 for 16 ounce-can.

This cider was incredibly translucent and poured a light straw color, nearly clear at some points. There was a nice carbonation hiss and a rush of bubbles when initially poured but there was absolutely no head that stuck around.

Upon first smelling this cider, I was surprised at how much the gin was imparted into the smell. In fact, the gin was a tad bit more prominent than the apples! It provided a huge whiff of juniper and booze while the apples add some nice sweetness underneath and soften the alcohol aroma some.

I was shocked not to taste any of that gin almost immediately...and, instead, my first swig begins with a rush of sweet and slightly tart apple juice. Then the apples continue to control the flavor for the vast majority of the sip.

Around the midway point, the gin begins to make an appearance. The juniper slowly begins to creep forward and give off that boozy, floral flavoring. However, unlike with the aroma, the gin doesn’t overpower the apples when tasted. It merely adds a sharpness to cut into the otherwise sweet cider.

Finally, as the flavors all fade, there is a bit of dryness (and some lingering juniper) that lasts for a few minutes after everything else. I was expecting a lot more dryness from this cider but nope, it drank pretty damn easily.

Overall, don’t let that strong gin aroma scare you away. It’s actually a rather smooth and enjoyable cider with just a hint of that booze that hits in the later half of the taste. If you’re a fan of semi-dry ciders and enjoy gin every now and again, this cider is right up your alley.

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