Fox Barrel Pear Cider
Addendum from March 17, 2011: The folks at Fox Barrel are now making their pear ciders as true perries. Much of what I say below, while informational, no longer applies to Fox Barrel Pear Cider. I’ll have an upcoming article discussing the new perry varieties and will post a link here when it’s live. However, in a nutshell, I found the new all-pear Pear Cider to be as delicious and refreshing as the version reviewed below. It has slightly different subtleties, but that waits for the new article.
Fox Barrel Pear Cider
- Lightly sweet, delicate, pear; strong carbonation
- Tart, sweet
Thanks to reader and possible future contributor, Randal from Sacramento, who sent us a bottle of Fox Barrel Pear Cider. This is what’s important: Fox Barrel Pear Cider is delicious. It’s mildly sweet, has a wonderful pear scent, and the delicate flavors meld on the tongue. A non-beer or sweet-wine drinker will find nothing objectionable, and the seasoned drinker will find it a refreshingly light brew. It has 4.5% alcohol by volume, about the same as an average lager.
But I’m an old curmudgeon, and it behoves me to point out what Fox Barrel Pear Cider is not. It is not pear cider.Ciders are made from pressed pomes, that is apples or pears, in a process called scratting which pulps the fruit. The pulp is then squeezed for it’s liquid. This liquid, once fermented, is considered cider. There’s a bit of confusion in America as to the difference between cider and hard cider, due to Prohibition, which turned any non-alcoholic, but non-filtered apple juice into cider, so we usually refer to cider, the real alcoholic cider, as hard cider, but we’re all adults here, so anytime I refer to cider, feel free to mentally add “hard” in front of it, if that helps.
To the industry, a pear cider can be an apple cider with pear juice added, which is what’s in the Fox Barrel bottle. But traditionally, pear cider is fermented pear juice, called perry, and wouldn’t contain any apple juice or cider. A true pear cider will have a very different flavor, often with sour notes, than apple cider, which tends to have bitter notes. Pear ciders don’t necessarily have that pleasant pear scent, either, which makes it perfectly understandable that Fox Barrel, and other cider makers, would prefer to add pear juice to a white, sparkling apple cider.
The white in white apple cider designates a very light golden amber color, the familiar color of lager beer. White ciders are mild and additionally filtered to prevent cloudiness. Virtually every white cider is sparkling, with yeast turning residual sugars left over from the fermenting process into carbon dioxide. Heavier ciders may be sparkling or still, no carbonation, but those heavy ciders will also have highly variable flavors from batch to batch, something very few manufacturers consider desirable.
So, Fox Barrel makes a consistently-flavored, light, mild apple cider with pear juice added, and it calls the result Pear Cider. It’s delicious, and will surprise and delight those it is served to, except for the one old man at the end of the bar who has to rant that kids today wouldn’t know a real pear cider from a chalice of mead. Ignore him, and enjoy.
Fox Barrel Pear Cider is made in Colfax, California, and is sold through a few online distributors. It may be difficult to get, however, as it’s made in small batches. It’s not too expensive, though, around $10 for a six-pack of 12 oz. bottles, or $5 for a 22 oz. bottle.