11 Hard Cider Brands, Ranked

When it comes to drinking, everyone has their go-to. Some prefer a nice classic cocktail, while others prefer a glass of wine. Some would never turn down a beer, while others swear by hard seltzer. But in addition to all these options, there's another alcohol choice that is becoming more and more popular: hard cider

Wonderful year-round, this sparkling beverage is especially nice when the weather turns cold and the leaves change color, since that's prime apple season. While you could take the time to mix up a spiked cider with a shot or two of your favorite liquor, sometimes all one wants to do is crack open a cool bottle or can. 

It used to be that all you could find were a few cider brands to appease anyone seeking to imbibe something other than beer or wine. Those brands tended to be on the sweeter side, tasting more like sparkling apple juice with a kick than a true hard cider. But over the years things changed. Sure, you can still find those sweeter brands on the shelf, but today there are plenty of ciders that are so dry they remind us of a beer or sparkling wine. After tasting a range of them all, we definitely know which we'll imbibe again and which we'll leave on the shelf.

11. Tennessee Cider Company

Maybe it's the cool bottle with a built-in stopper to keep the cider fresh once opened. It could be the fun label. Or maybe it's the fact that the cider is made in Tennessee, a state well-known for creating some mighty fine liquor. Whatever the reason, when we heard about this company, we couldn't wait to try its ciders. Well, sometimes it's better to wait. Even though Tennessee Cider Company promises that its ciders are made from local apples, this cider tastes absolutely nothing like real apples, which makes us wonder if the distillers really are using freshly harvested apples to make their cider. 

Based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Cider Company claims to embody a regional spirit that's "far better than moonshine." Trust us when we tell you that moonshine is actually better. The only thing we can surmise is that the creators wanted to hook more drinkers out there by adding lots and lots of sugar, which is why each bottle tastes more like a Jolly Rancher than actual fruit. An artificial flavor comes through with each sip, which is so off-putting that it was hard for us to continue sipping. If a cider is undrinkable, it doesn't matter how cool the bottle is. 

10. Virtue Cider

Unlike so many ciders out there which are available in single-serve 12-ounce cans, Virtue Cider sells its products in 750-milliliter bottles. That means these ciders are big enough to share and would be a nice alternative to a bottle of wine. If you're a fan of really dry ciders, then Virtue is the cider for you. Unfortunately, we weren't too impressed. That's not to say it isn't a fine cider, it's just that after tasting (and sharing) several different options from the company, we found them all to be roughly the same: dry, crisp, and reminiscent more of a dry white wine than a cider. 

Now, don't misunderstand us — we love a nice dry white wine. But if we're in the mood for wine, that's what we're going to drink. If we're in the mood for cider, that's what we want, and we just didn't find Virtue to be that satisfying. When we drink cider we want at least a hint of apple, and there just wasn't any. Maybe that's because, as Virtue proudly claims, the brand's employees "craft our cider like wine." While that technique might be good for wine, we're not so sure it's ideal for hard cider.

9. Ace

Remember back in college, when we got our feet wet in the alcohol pool by drinking bottles of Bud Light, Boone's Farm, and Ace Cider? We were finally old enough to legally enjoy a drink and thought these were the best available. Of course, as we got older we learned there are far better choices. Still, every now and then we like to take a stroll down memory lane, and that's exactly what Ace will do for you: send you back to college dorms and fraternity parties. 

It all began back in 1993 when a British entrepreneur decided to combine his love for English cider with the delicious apples he discovered in Sonoma County and set up a cidery right in Sebastopol. It's still there today, churning out cider, but after 30 years the number of flavors available has changed. There are a lot more than there were in 1993. Too bad none of them are noteworthy. 

While the flavored ciders are fine if you're looking for a quick, sweet buzz, the original apple cider isn't worth sipping. The first sip is fine, filled with the sweet taste of apple. Unfortunately, it ends with a tart vinegar aftertaste that won't disappear unless you grab another sip. We appreciate the variety of Ace ciders, including a new "high" version which boasts a whopping 8% alcohol by volume. But considering that there are so many other cider brands available today, we're going to grab a different can.

8. Austin Eastciders

There are quite a few different ciders produced by Austin Eastcider, including a light line that comes in a variety of flavors. Made in the heart of Texas, Austin Eastcider uses bittersweet apples as its base and then melds them with juices from other apple varieties out of the Pacific Northwest. With a recipe like that, this brand should be high on our list. The only reason it isn't is because of the light ciders. Promising only 100 calories in each can, the light ciders aren't just light in calories, they're also light in flavor. We tried to sample a few, but every sip made us long for Austin's classic ciders instead. Sure, they may have a higher calorie count, but the flavor is totally worth it. 

The Original Dry cider is definitely on the drier side, with hints of sour apples coming in on the finish. But it's Austin's flavored ciders that really excite us. Each of them start with delightful dry apple notes, but subtle hints of blackberry, orange, grapefruit, and other fruits float in on the finish, combining for a truly scrumptious cider. A cider we'd be happy to imbibe all year long.

7. Ironbound Farm

Based in New Jersey, Ironbound Farm has several ciders to choose from. Whether it be in a can or bottle, all these ciders are made with 100% local fresh-pressed apples plucked from orchards based in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. But what we really like about Ironbound is that this farm doesn't limit its ciders to just one type of apple. The farm uses several different varieties to create a cider that's full of complex flavor. 

Ironbound doesn't rely solely on apples for its cider, either. It adds other ingredients to create a variety of ciders that are just as interesting on the palate as they are on paper. Several cans on Ironbound's docket mix in ingredients like juniper berries, cranberries, and white pepper to create ciders that hit every part of the palate. 

The Harrison and Newark ciders are nice and dry with distinct apple flavor. We really appreciated the Devil's Harvest, which was not only beautiful in color thanks to infused cranberries and tart cherries, but had a delightful spiciness that lingered on the tongue and made our taste buds stand at attention. That is a cider we'll definitely order more of.

6. Gowan's Heirloom Ciders

The oldest cidery on our list, Gowan's was established in 1876. This orchard-based business is proud of its heritage, and the year of its founding is emblazoned on every bottle it produces. We can tell you that the ciders are dry, crisp, and absolutely delicious. While we enjoy all of them, our favorites are definitely the Heirloom, Rosé, and Sierra Beauty. 

While all of Gowan's ciders are on the drier side, they have hints of sweetness that depend on the type of apple that was used. The Heirloom, for example, is made with over a dozen different apple varieties, all of which are plucked from the trees in their Mendocino orchard. The Rosé, on the other hand, has hints of wine thanks to the fact that the cider is made with local pinot noir grapes. 

But what we find especially unique about this cider is the fact that there is one variety without an ounce of sparkle. A cider that not only comes in a tall, 750-milliliter wine bottle but tastes like a dry chardonnay laced with some of the best apples we've ever tasted. Those apples are the rare Sierra Beauty variety unique to the Gowan farm. This bottle is great on its own but would be especially nice with a cheese and charcuterie board.

5. Henry Hotspur's Hard Pressed for Cider

If you're familiar with Trader Joe's items and you like cider, odds are you've seen those cute little black cans that look like they were transported here from the 18th century. Unlike so many hard-cider producers that combine only cider apples, yeast, and time to create their beverages, Trader Joe's goes about things a little differently. Yes, the cider still starts with fresh-pressed apples (this cider happens to use fruit from the Pacific Northwest) that are then fermented with yeast. But after the fermentation process is completed, the grocery store chain's brewing partner adds a small amount of sweet, unfermented apple juice to give the cider a luscious flavor. A flavor of which we couldn't get enough.

The thing that keeps us drinking Henry Hotspur's again and again is that delightfully sweet finish. It's clear that Trader Joe's and its partner really value the belief that less is more, since the only ingredient in this can is apple juice. There are no extra flavors here to muddy the cider. It's pure apple through and through, which means this cider is sweet without being cloying.

4. 2 Towns Ciderhouse

If you like drier ciders that come in a variety of flavors, then 2 Towns Ciderhouse is the drink for you. We discovered 2 Towns a few years ago and instantly fell in love with its prickly pear cider. Not only do the producer's brightly colored cans jump off the shelf, the flavors on its docket are very unique. While other ciders have the very popular pineapple or pear varieties, 2 Towns has flavors like cherry and lime or strawberry and lemon. These unique flavors are what keep us coming back again and again.

We just wish the unflavored Brightcider was as good as the other options. We did enjoy this variety, as it tasted of bright, tart Newtown Pippin apples, which we love. But the finish was off-putting. We couldn't quite put our finger on why we didn't like it, it just didn't sit well on the tongue. We had no such problem with the 2 Towns selection of flavored ciders, though. Each flavor has hints of the fruits melded with the apple cider, making for a sparkling cider that's sweet without being too sweet. Each can really does taste like prickly pears, berries, and its other fruity enhancements.

3. Golden State Cider

Another on the list with flavors that go outside the box, Golden State Cider is a West Coast brand that gets its apples from orchards all over Washington, Oregon, and California. While Golden State's core products use fresh-pressed apples from Oregon and Washington, its Harvest line uses apples exclusively from the Golden State. Because the cidery is only interested in the apple itself, you won't find any extra preservatives inside these cans. The only ingredients inside are apple juice and champagne yeast, creating a tart, dry, cider that hits all the right notes.

But apples aren't the only fruit involved. As we said, Golden State thinks outside the box with some of its flavors, and we're here for it. Quite a few cans among its core and specialty ciders explode with creative flavors like hibiscus flowers, ginger root, and Cashmere hops — the latter being a cider inspired by IPA beers. These are the ciders that truly bring smiles to our faces. While there are subtle notes of apple throughout each variety, those pops of unique flavors are what make these cans really stand out.

2. Brlo

As the only international cider on the list, we couldn't be happier that it's available here in the States. Created in Berlin, Brlo started out as a brewhouse producing a variety of beers. But then in 2021, the brewery decided to add cider to its menu. And there isn't just apple, but a rosé, wild berry, and classic apple cider. They also produce a Winter Cider that its creators boast can be served hot or cold. After trying it both ways, we're here to tell you to keep these bottles in the fridge. While we love a piping hot cup of mulled cider when the temperatures drop, this Winter Cider loses its delightful sweetness once heated. Instead, it becomes a tart liquid that is way too sharp to stomach. Good thing we prefer our hard ciders cold. 

Even though the Winter Cider loses some of its spark when hot, we couldn't get enough of it right out of the fridge. It has notes of cinnamon and cardamom that make it the perfect sipper after a day on the slopes.

1. Honest Abe

Even though there are plenty of ciders on this list that feature other flavors besides plain apple, Honest Abe is one more cider brand with flavors outside the box. Instead of just one fruit enhancement per cider variety, you get an ever-rotating menu of blended flavors like limoncello and honey, Berry White (with strawberry and white cranberry), and even watermelon-habanero. These interesting twists on your standard apple cider are why it's number one on our list.

Honest Abe works in partnership with SoCal Vibes Co. to offer an affiliated line of ciders that are also delectable, including an Orange Sunshine mimosa cider and a semi-sweet peach cider. But it's the unique flavor infusions found in the Honest Abe line that make it the popular Southern California cider it is.

A couple of our favorites are the Berry White — with its strawberry and cranberry juices creating a pale pink cider that's both sweet and tart — and the Mexican Lollipop, made with watermelon and habanero peppers. We don't usually go for spicy drinks, but the spice is so subtle on the finish that it tickles your tongue, just begging for you to take one more sip.

How we selected the hard ciders

With so many apple varieties available, and numerous cider-production variations, an assortment of factors go into making the best cider. We've sampled several hard cider brands over the years, and while there are many more brands out there than what is included in this list, we took on the tough task of tasting these 11 different options to figure out which are the best of this selection. We'd heard good things about some selected brands or had tried them before, while others were sent to us free of charge by various cideries. And since apple orchards seem to be everywhere, we wanted to make sure we sampled ciders from across the country.