When it’s time to cross over from the hefeweizens and saisons of summer, cold-weather pours tend to get mired in the murky depths of love-’em-or-hate-’em pumpkin beers, malty Oktoberfests and syrupy spiced Christmas ales. Fortunately for those who prefer a crisper autumnal alternative, Philadelphia Brewing Company has released Commonwealth Traditional Dry Cider, a tart apple brew that will begin bottling next month.
The cider has been in the works for a while, and a recent expansion up at the Kensington brewery allowed for PBC honcho William Barton to begin trucking in the juice.
And where does the juice come from? Though PBC has plans for sourcing locally, it’s currently being brought in from Oregon. According to the PBC folks, last year was one of the worst in recent history for Pennsylvania and New York apple production, making pricing prohibitive, at least for now. Ideas for seasonal, local runs of ciders are being tossed around.
According to PBC co-owner Nancy Barton, Apple Pucker flavors are not what they’re going for. “Our cider is dry and tart,” she explains. “Not Jolly Rancher-sweet, like a lot of American ciders on the market right now. People really seem to want that dry tartness. We named the first flavor ‘Traditional Dry.’ And that it is. I think it’s kind of a cross between an English cider and a French cider.”
This more European style makes for a pour that’s incredibly food-friendly, drinking more like a full-bodied white wine than a sugary glass of Martinelli’s sparkling cider. The PBC version has a strong backbone of acidity that makes food pairing fun and playful when it comes to fall ingredients.
Mount Airy’s Earth Bread + Brewery has Commonwealth on draft right alongside its house-brewed beers and sodas. Available in both pints and growlers, it’s ideal alongside one of their Seed flatbread pizzas, a pie topped with roasted garlic, pine nuts and pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Along with being a wonderful fall sipper, Commonwealth is doing double duty as an ingredient in chef Scott Schroeder’s foie gras French toast, made with slices of cider-poached foie torchon. Schroeder takes the leftover poaching cider and simmers it down with bacon and Honeycrisp apples, finishing the sauce with a touch of maple syrup. It’s just the kind of plate that benefits from everything Commonwealth has going on: The bracing, apple-y crispness of the cider cuts the richness of the foie gras, balancing everything beautifully.
Commonwealth is currently on rotation at several bars around town, but if you’d like to see where the cider-making happens, head over to Philadelphia Brewing Company, where tours are offered every Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and growlers are on hand for filling.