Filling Up at Philly Cider Week

When I found myself disappointed over family weekend plans falling through, I was quickly consoled. It was Philly Cider Week! For cider week, restaurants, bars, and gastropubs all over Philadelphia host cider-themed events, brunches, entertainment, and, of course, there’s plenty of hard cider to go around.

This year, I chose to go to an old Fishtown institution for cider week: Johnny Brenda’s. I walked into the intimate gastropub, charmed by the locals and the selection of local brews!  As I peered into the neighboring room to check out the chalkboards displaying the region’s best,  I sat down and was given the “2nd Annual Cider Brunch” menu, more than excited to start drinking. 

I decided to order two flights, because of course I had to try all the flavors of these artisan ciders!

Traffic Jam

Traffic Jam was one of my top three. It was described as “bursting with strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.” Delicious. The blend of fruits and accompanying fizz reminded me of a Martinelli’s sparkling cider that I’d get as a kid at the Thanksgiving dinner table, only with a subdued sweetness. Not only was this drink slightly nostalgic, but it was equally delightful in flavor. 

Pen Nat Rose

This one was definitely way drier. Typically, when I’m in the mood for cider, I expect it to be a little bit… jumpier. This tastes more like a wine trying to fit in with the cider crowd, but forgot its Canada Goose. I’d rather just buy a bottle of rose at heirloom…

Fresa Amarga

Not sure if you could tell, but I really do love fruit, and it just so happens that my absolute favorite fruit is the delectable strawberry. First off, I was already a little biased when I noticed the name of the drink was in Spanish. (My latina pride is coming through.) Translated to “bitter strawberry,” that’s entirely what the drink is. It’s classified as a “sour” cider, and at first I was thrown off; however, each continuous sip I took the combination of fermentation and fruitiness balanced well. It ended up being another top three. 

Stark

This drink was similar to the Pen Nat Rose in that it is very imitative of a wine. However, I found this one to be much more palatable. The flavor was all there, the apples shone through and the crispiness was present and delightful. When I imagine a cider, though, I want there to be a sparkling aspect to it, so if you like a drier type of drink, this is more up your alley. 

Mojito

It seems that there’s a recurring trend of trying to make ciders taste like other alcoholic beverages. Normally, as has been attested, this throws me off. However, this mojito cider was amazing. “Fermented with pounds and pounds of mint, lime zest and juice, and toasted oak chips,” this drink was refreshing and made me long for warmer days (especially in this now twenty-degree weather). This drink completed my own personal trifecta of delight.

Gregarious Ginger

When I was young, my mom would feed me one thing when I was sick: ginger. I grew up on? ginger weirdly enough, and even worse — I HATED it. I was force-fed it for the sake of health, but the taste isn’t one I enjoy, so I thought I was fated to despise this Gregarious Ginger drink. Yet, it actually wasn’t half bad. In fact, it tasted like a rawer and more bitter ginger ale. So if you enjoy Canada Dry but without as much sweetness, this is for you.

Grapefruit Blood Orange Milkshake

This drink only had a slight hint of grapefruit/any fruit in general. All in all, it was slightly underwhelming and tasted tart and bitter. My sweet tooth was expecting more from a drink with the word “milkshake” in the title. My childhood creamsicle dreams were crushed, only sadness persisted. 

Cidre Blanc

Big D.C. girl here. (Nationals fans anyone?) Naturally, I was drawn to the drink’s locale, hoping it would be a stunner so I could gloat about my home, but once again I was triggered by another wine-tasting cider. This was extremely dry, though the aroma of “peach, kiwi, pineapple, and white grape” was quite nice. If you like fruity and dry wine, you’ll enjoy this.

Eight different ciders, sourced from eight different locations from Philadelphia to Vermont to Michigan. Disclaimer: I’m not much of a wine drinker and so those few that were more akin to that type of alcohol weren’t really my style. In the end, Traffic Jam, Fresa Amarga, and Mojito were my top three winners. 

Below I’ve enclosed the full list of ciders that were a part of the 2nd annual cider house brunch at Johnny Brenda’s so you can take a look and try them yourself!