Way back when, cider houses came in dozens. With the abundance of apples and difficulty in making beer, cider was the alcoholic beverage of choice among early colonists. But it slowly lost its appeal, thanks in part to the Prohibition Era.
Only recently did cider resurge in the American market, driven by a number of factors: A gluten-free craze, a farm-to-table movement, and an appreciation of all things artisanal. Still, the cider market in the United States is in its infancy when compared to European countries such as France, England and Spain. Cider aficionados are itching to brew and taste all the flavors cider can offer, be they sweet, dry, spicy, sour, or something completely unique. Of course, to be considered cider, at least 50% of the beverage should be made of apples.
There have been several cider bars and taprooms popping up all over the country, and Chicago is no exception. Here are three of the best places in the city for cider lovers.
4337 N Lincoln Ave.
Although The Northman, Chicago’s first cider bar, opened in North Center in 2016, it was first conceptualized by its owners in 2014. Serving up 18 kinds of cider on draft, and 80 varieties in bottles or cans, The Northman has the widest selection of ciders available in the city. It also offers an extensive collection of calvados (apple brandy).
Brian Rutzen (also known as “Cider Brian”) is responsible for sourcing all the ciders offered at The Northman. He categorizes them according to place and not style, believing that “by identifying where it comes from, you begin to tell the story of how it was made and what it might taste like."
The Northman is very much influenced by French ciders, specifically from Normandy and Britain, but also holds some rare selections, sourced from both local and international brewers. The 68-seat bar is designed in 1920s style, paying tribute to the cider regions of England and France. It also serves up a menu of Spanish-, French-, and English-influenced plates, which are the perfect complement to its cider offerings.
2812 N Lincoln Ave
The owners of Beermiscuous conceptualized the beer bar to have that “coffee shop feel,” where patrons can relax, write, or read a book. As Beeriscuous puts it, "Draft your fantasy teams. Host a knitting class. Play a board game. Impress your date with a place where conversations take center stage. Better yet, come up with your own creative experience." The selection of 350 beers and ciders on hand, admittedly, can be a bit overwhelming, but the bartenders are very knowledgeable and can give recommendations for any taste. There's also no need to commit to a full drink; draft selections yet to be tried are available in 4 oz pours.
True to its concept and philosophy, Beermiscuous adopts a very relaxed attitude towards just about everything: Customers can bring their own food, as well as their pets and kids.
4300 N Lincoln Ave
The Bad Apple is a beer and burger bar that sets itself apart from others by serving up an extensive selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options in both the food and drink categories. Their drink list includes a wide selection of fruity beers, cocktails and ciders. A shout out for the Bourbon Fall Punch, which incorporates Chicago’s own Right Bee Cider with bourbon and punch to create one of the best beer cocktails in town.
If burgers are another of your loves, then you won't be disappointed. Creative menu offerings include the Grizzly Adams, which is topped with braised short rib, an ale, stone ground mustard, onion jalapeño and white cheddar sauce, and caramelized onions; Elvis's Last Supper, with bacon and peanut butter (as the menu says, "Trust us, it's good"), and the Slow Burn, with stout sautéed spicy chilies, onions, bacon and white cheddar
This list is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delicious cider offerings in Chicago. Where’s your favorite place to grab an apple-flavored alcoholic beverage? Let us know your picks in the comments below!