The cold temperatures of the winter months often influence our taste buds when we head out to the bars.

Porters and stouts are typical go-to beers when the temperature drops: a nice, thick beer to warm you up. But here in Arizona, where spring comes faster than most of the country, reaching for a tangy cider is a great alternative to traditional beers.

Ciders have been around for well over 2000 years. Dating back to the invasion of the British Isles by the Romans, ciders emerged as apple farmers began mixing and blending seeds from various orchards. The earliest record of cider, dating back to 55 B.C., came from none other than Julius Caesar himself. Much like beer at the time, cider was widely consumed because its alcohol content made the drink hostile to bacteria and waterborne diseases like typhoid and dysentery. Americans weren’t introduced to cider until apple trees were brought to the New World and planted all over New England. Maintaining some of their European traditions, early colonists would brew their own cider as it became the safe alternative to water as cities grew.

Americans are often credited with moving away from propagation, which involved splitting young apple trees to create new ones, as they elected to grow many of their apples from seed to tree. Seeds were much easier to control which meant American apples were less subject to mixed flavors. Because cider often tastes much like the apples used during fermentation, there is a noticeable difference in taste between European ciders and their American counterparts. There are also cloudy and crispy assortments producing an array of different colors. Alcohol content in ciders tends to stay below 5%. This is because during the fermentation process, the yeast uses the natural sugar in the apples versus added sugar, as in a beer. Maturity can take a bit longer, sometimes lasting as long as 2-3 years.

Here at Noble Hops, we have several ciders ranging in taste that pair well with just about any meal that you can eat with apples. Irish-inspired dishes such as our Veal or Pork Chops will benefit from the tangy crispness of these ciders, and potato-based dishes like our Grilled Baby Reds are a good, starchy alternative. The gold standard for most cider drinkers is a draft of Magners Original Irish Cider. Imported from Ireland, Magners is a clear, golden cider brewed from apples just as they’re falling from the tree. They use 17 different apples, fermented in the dark for two years before making it on tap. The cider has been around since 1935, and can be found in most grocery stores and in bars all around the world. For something a little closer to home, the Wisconsin-based Ciderboys have their First Press Traditional Hard Cider. This one is a little more tart than their Irish counterpart with a much hazier pour. They use more dry apples, giving the cider more of a bite while still maintaining a fruity aroma and a sweet finish. Ciderboys is brewed at Stevens Point Brewery, a staple in the Midwest since 1857. The California-based Crispin Cider Company has an artisan cider called Honey Crisp, which may turn heads when you pour it into a glass. The infusion of organic honey during fermentation gives this hard cider a much cloudier pour than you would expect. The result is a very sweet cider with a dry finish, perfect for pairing with your evening dessert.

A great cider, enjoyed in a comfy bar with friends, is the perfect way to keep warm during the late winter season. And if you have nostalgia for the holidays, try a cider with a hint of cinnamon to keep that holiday taste going well into the New Year.