When I drink alcohol, wine in particular, it's usually something very sweet that's just a step or two away from communion wine. Some churches go all out for wine that is specifically bottled for Eucharist service, while other churches do away with the formalities and spring for a case of Manischewitz Concord Grape. Your walk with the Lord to his final supper may vary. My wines of choice? North Carolina's Hinnant Family Vineyards' "Gimme Some Sugar" and "Southern Twang" and "Helena Blush," a sweet, unassuming Labrusca wine offered by Stonehaus Winery in Crossville, Tennessee.
For a long time, I figured this quartet of wines would get me through most occasions. Then one day I was at a bar for a storytelling event. It had not been stocked for the evening, so my choices were limited to what was left from the night before: beer, root beer, hard colas, and ciders. No, I couldn't get a bottle of water because they didn't have any. Flummoxed, thirsty, and a little noodly from low blood sugar, I chose a cider. And I liked it.
Ever since that night, I've made it a point to try different ciders when I find them. Here's the thing: Being diabetic means I have to watch my sugar intake. Most ciders are on the carby side, so I tend to drink a quarter, third, or half a bottle and call it good.
Tonight's choice, Maeloc's Strawberry Hard Cider, lists strawberry juice from concentrate as the second ingredient, and yet the first thing to hit my nose after opening the bottle was the odd chemical scent of strawberry flavored candy. The initial taste is an almost bruising hit of overripe berries. It is so overwhelming that it almost cancels out the pleasant surprise, the tart apple finish with a slight hint of citrus. This was one of those ciders that seemed like it should be good. Without the cloying strawberry flavor, it would have probably been a clean, crisp tribute to the tart Galacian apples at the base of this concoction.
As I smell the bottle, the warming dregs remind me more of the fruity incense that let eighties mall-going me know I was near Spencer's Gifts than something I just drank. The 11.2 ounce bottle weighed in 180 calories, 26 carbs, and 26 grams of sugar, which came to three servings for me. There's still a bottle of another berry blend to try from this company. How brave am I feeling? Maybe I'll give a go later on. Otherwise, until I can find an unadorned bottle of just their apple cider, I won't be tipping this company's brews into a glass any time soon.