Cider is the perfect accompaniment as the weather chills and the color palette turns to muted browns and oranges. So keep cozy, sip alongside brunch, enjoy with fried snacks with friends at happy hour or pair alongside winter stews. Craft hard ciders are some of the most popular and versatile drinks. Whether you prefer something dry, semi-sweet, or somewhere in between, there's a cider for every palate. Here are the best North Carolina hard ciders for year-round sipping. So grab your people, spin your favorite tunes and get ready for lip-smacking hard ciders.
Bludacris & Bludarita
Bullcity Ciderworks started like many small cideries/breweries/wineries doing small fermentations in the backyard. After receiving a homebrew kit for Christmas in 2012, I started homebrewing beer with some friends without great success and then moved to cider - initially with very little success. After several failed attempts, we finally dialed in a flavor profile for cider that we liked; not too sweet, dry, and with a palatable apple flavor. Once this recipe was dialed in, we created an entity and leased an old garage in downtown Durham. We operated at the original location until early 2016 and opened up at the current Durham location in 2017. We also started a larger production facility in Lexington, NC, and completed a second round of renovations on that space in 2020-2021. In January 2021, we opened a taproom in Greensboro off State Street, opened in downtown Cary in February 2022, and most recently joined the Wilmington community in July 2022. We currently distribute statewide in NC and a little in SC.
This is unique relative to other ciders on the market, combining blueberries & lemon on our semi-sweet apple cider base. It's a fan-favorite cider, and we're starting to distribute it to more locations across the state, not just our taprooms.
The Food Pairing
WilmyWoodie food truck's Honey Blue Bleu Pizza features Muenster cheese, hand-breaded fried chicken breast, bleu cheese, blueberries, & house-made hot honey. And don't forget our cider cocktail - The Bludarita! Made with tequila, lemon juice, & house-made mint simple syrup & all topped with this delicious cider.
Cameron, North Carolina
As soon as we learned about Old Southern Apples and the work Lee Calhoun did to preserve these old-timey varieties, David and I knew we wanted to plant an orchard of these apples and use them to make hard cider that reflected a southern terroir. That was fourteen years ago, and now we grow over 80 varieties of southern heirloom and cider apples and make a bevy of award-winning hard ciders.
Stargazer Cider's Mighty Hunter is pressed from Stayman-Winesap apples, a terrific old southern apple variety grown in the North Carolina Brushy Mountains. Usually, we blend in a bit of GoldRush and sometimes some Hewe's Crab, an apple prized for its contributions to cider since the 18th century. We ferment and mature these ciders in a combination of neutral oak casks and stainless steel tanks, then blend them to meet our signature flavor profile. As a result, mighty Hunter has a freshly balanced acidity that makes it versatile for food pairing and is a favorite with local chefs.
The Food Pairing
Pair Mighty Hunter with pork BBQ, roasted chicken, and sharp cheeses.
If we're blending ciders, we are probably listening to Watchhouse, Dave Matthews Band, or I'm With Her….actually, we're probably listening to Under the Apple Tree by I'm with Her. We saw them perform that at the NC Museum of Art, which was amazing.
Red Clay Ciderworks
Charlotte, North Carolina
Wool Socks Cider
We were Charlotte's first cidery and started in July 2015. We are family owned and operated and produce about 25 different ciders each year, with a minimum of 12 on tap at any given time. We use fresh juice pressed here in North Carolina for much of the year and supplement it with juice from Michigan as needed. Our ciders are all made with natural apples and other fruits, spices, and vegetables.
This mulled black currant cider is inspired by the Swedish drink Glögg. This slightly sweet cider has a wonderful spiced bouquet and a well-balanced finish. Black currant, orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom, and other spices bring everything together for a potpourri of deliciousness. The cider is produced using a base made from NC apples, blended with black currant juice, and a custom winter mulling spice blend made for us by Appalachai up in Black Mountain, NC, and back sweetened with a touch of apple juice. The spices include cardamom, cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and orange peel. People like to call it Christmas in a glass.
Pair with a beef stew or other hearty winter soup, a charcuterie of cheeses, meats, bread, and crackers. If adventurous, you could go traditional Scandinavian and add smoked salmon and trout to the mix. It can be served either cold or warm. When warm, it pairs well with a cool night, a favorite mug, and a cozy fire.
Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter by Ingrid Michaelson or I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Billie Holiday