Taste Test: Wilson’s Orchard hard cider

Wilson’s Orchard, a gleeful orchard north of Iowa City that provides families with cider donuts and groves of apple-picking from August to October, recently started expanding their offerings. And while it’s not available at their orchards, among a litany of other apple products, I was able to get my hands on four different flavors of their hard ciders. Not only was I able to get bottles of cider, but matching recipe cards for a variety of concoctions. So, let’s see how the taste test went.

If you’re looking for a basic hard apple cider, try their Goldfinch first. This cider uses one of the over 100 varieties of apples grown at the orchard, with a few of the sweeter variety thrown in with it. In a blind taste test of the Goldfinch paired with other hard ciders, I’d put my money on this one. (Cue next test.)

Next, we tried the Spiced Up, True to taste, you can probably write the description of this one as you sip it. Flavors of Christmas, mulled wine, warming by the fire inside on frigid winter days, all come to mind as you sip it. And while not being too overly complicated and flavorful, you can certainly pick out the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. This bottle also kicked off the progression of great label artwork.

Third, we tasted the Hoppleseed. Then we tasted it with a few cocktails, such as the suggested Hop the Stone Fence: two ounces of bourbon over ice, top with Hoppleseed. Then, we drank the bourbon first to attempt to hide the flavor of the Hoppleseed. A lot of words came to mind, none of which I should share. If I hadn’t already had two positive experiences under my belt, it’s possible this one would lead me abandon the test altogether. But, full disclosure, I’m not a “hops person”, and there was still one hard cider left, so I chalked it up to a fluke and pressed on.

Last of the lineup was the Cherry Crush, and was the most approachable for everyone from grandmas to adult, beer-loving men. Surprisingly not too sweet, and with a slight hint of cherry, this cider was “more than one” drinkable unlike a lot of other fruit-enhanced brews. I was curious how the Pink Lemonade mixed up so immediately starting throwing together the gin, lemon juice, sugar, and cherry crush cocktail. This drink was the hit of the test. Tasting like an adult Shirley Temple that could sneak up and bite you, I imagined knocking back a few of these before remembering it was a hard liquor, cider, sugar combo- a dangerous mix.

Our group of tasters finished the bottles, and finished the cocktails. We listed the three we’d love to try again. What can I say, the cheese stands alone. Cheers!

Update: I’ve heard, in additional research driven conversations, that there was a bad batch of the Hoppleseed. Don’t let this review hold you back from trying it, I’ll be over here sipping Pink Lemonades if you want to give me your feedback.

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