10 Popular Hard Cider Brands Ranked From Worst To Best

The beer and liquor frontier at your local grocery store can sometimes feel like a glorified adult playground — slightly daunting. In fact, if you've perused this section for the past decade, you may have noticed a proliferation of hard cider — essentially a delicate hybrid between craft beer and wine. Zeroing in on hard cider alone, you can choose between the mass-produced, savagely sweet option (reminiscent of cough syrup) or something a bit more dynamic, dry and palatable. Hard cider is multifaceted. 

The rise of this fermented apple beverage traces back to England, in the early 2000s. Ciders were consumed in rustic, earthy environments — a beverage with a sort of masculine flair. Its popularity surged quickly, sales skyrocketed and the buzz transferred over to progressive American soil shortly after. To this day, hard cider is still a hot commodity, especially for those who have gluten intolerances or simply don't fancy the taste of dense, carb-loaded beer. Macro cider brands have rapidly dominated shelf space over the past ten years, quickly acclimatizing everyday consumers to a specific taste with sweeter tendencies. Predictably, quality ciders rooted in method and traditional craft tend to become overshadowed by the more "household" names. Today, we're untangling the confusion.

Here's a list of popular cider brands ranked worst to best.

10. Ace

Since 1993, Ace Cider, a California-based company, has been an award-winning leader in the cider industry. In fact, in 2018, Ace won the silver medal in the "Modern Cider — Sweet" category in the U.S. Open Cider Championship. Ace claims to produce "clean" ciders, only using the best "eating" apples. One of the most popular flavors is Ace Joker, which launched in 2008 and is praised as the most award-winning out of all of Ace Ciders, embodying champagne characteristics — pleasantly pairing well with most charcuterie platters and seafood. Seems delightful? Well according to Cider Expert, the reviews are kicking up a bit of turbulence. 

Reviewer herharmony23 said, "Shared a bottle of this with a couple of friends tonight. It's quite light, and pleasant tasting at first, but then there was an almost metallic aftertaste, right before the swallow. Makes no sense as it's in a glass bottle, but the flavor was as if it was in a can for years. Not my favorite." 

Ace Pumpkin is another seasonal favorite, reminding us of sweater weather, jovial pumpkin patches, and a warm Thanksgiving spread. Even though it tastes like straight-up pumpkin pie doused in cloves, many reviews say it's overly sweet and the pumpkin taste is quite artificial.

Overall, Ace brings a diverse array of popularized ciders to the tasting table, but many say the taste is artificial and forced with Jolly Rancher qualities. 

9. Samuel Smith

Samuel Smith hard cider is one you'll see on most shelves — it's a name most beer connoisseurs recognize quickly due to its mass production, with deep-seated English roots. According to the site, their organic cider is medium-dry, with a straw color, light body, and faint apple blossom finish. It's also registered with The Vegan Society, only encompassing minimal ingredients such as water, organic apple concentrate, sugar, yeast, etc. In theory, its simplistic nature and British bones seems enticing, but reviews negate this facade.

According to die-hard, r/cider Reddit users, Samuel Smith shouldn't be too sensationalized. User LuckyPoire mentioned, "I thought in previous years it was so-so ... then went back a year ago and tried it again. I thought it had less flavor and was sweeter than I remembered. Maybe my taste has changed, or maybe their apple supply has changed. As the review mentioned, their production methods are suspect."

Even though this one is quite accessible, think twice before loading it into your cart.

8. Strongbow

"Refreshing by Nature," is Strongbow's tagline. As you scroll through Strongbow's site, you'll quickly envision this "orchard to glass'" illustration, enticing you to just close your eyes and gulp down a crisp, golden glass of cider under the looming sunshine. Strongbow also discerns exactly how they craft their cider — only harvesting the ripest apples to be pressed into the purest juice. 

Similar to Ace, Strongbow's ciders wear ribbons of accolades, with popular flavor Gold Apple winning Gold at the 2016 World Cider Championships and Rose winning Silver in 2018. But with a company as large as Strongbow, mass-production seems to supersede quality and taste. Users on ReviewCentre.com don't particularly agree with its "award-winning" status. Many agree that Strongbow ciders taste artificial, watered down, and the equivalent to a sugary apple soda. Descriptions such as "disgusting" and "absolutely horrible" don't exactly boast well for Strongbow. 

7. Angry Orchard

If you've been to any ordinary picnic or backyard bbq, you've probably seen Angry Orchard and noticed its perceptible "angry apple" label. Their philosophy around this is that the best cider apples (tart and tannic) actually look angry, hence the design. Most liquor stores and grocers carry a healthy supply of Angry Orchard. After all, they're considered to be an entry point into hard cider at 5% ABV and fairly high in calories — 190 to be exact. Most of the apples are sourced from overseas to glean specific flavor varieties. One of the most popular is Crisp Apple, noted as a vibrant, crisp flavor with a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Green Apple is "starred" amongst Angry Orchard fans, with notes of kiwi and honeydew melon. Basically, Angry Orchard offers a flashy fruit-filled lineup that caters to the masses, especially in America, but it's not necessarily the best according to cider experts. 

"The weird chemical flavor ruined it for me, and my husband agreed -– we ended up dumping it out. Maybe it had gone bad, but it didn't taste like ciders I have had before which were truly flawed (the most common I've found is those which have turned vinegary), " CiderSays states in a review. 

Unfortunately, these types of sentiments are echoed all over the internet.

6. Wyder's

What does "Wander-ful" cider taste like? Well Wyder's seems to know — they've been around since 1993 and also claim to do fruity ciders the right way, originally inspired by the U.K.'s cider joints. "One of the first ciders to catch the craft movement on the Pacific Northwest, Wyder's has continued to delight fans with its quirky and fruit-forward flavors," said Megan Skinner, Wyder's Brand Manager.

Wyder's also carries a diverse portfolio of ciders for every preference, including pear, prickly pineapple, raspberry, and reposado. Their first two releases were pear and raspberry, which remain the most popular out of the bunch. Customer reviews seem to yield a mixed bag of hot and cold feedback. "The flavor is good — spot on. However, it was hard to drink it. So tangy, sweet. So if you are looking for something to sip slowly through the night to kill time choose this. There was no other way to drink this as it is so sweet," Total Wine reviewer melbarre stated in regards to the pear cider.

Regardless of the assorted reviews, Wyder's is widely accessible and can satisfy your fruity beverage cravings.

5. Crispin

With an elegant royal blue label that transports you to an orchard somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Crispin is a cider fan favorite. The foundationof the brand is rooted in "uncompromising quality," by cold-fermenting a signature blend of unpasteurized juice (namely from apples and pears). They position themselves as an approachable cider, yielding crisp, refreshing notes, similar to what you'd find in a well-balanced white wine. Most Crispin fans will say you can't go wrong with the Original or Rose if you're in the mood for bubbles. Even though Crispin falls into the mass-produced category, cider connoisseurs still find it potable, at least the original flavor.

"It has a decent tannic crispness to it — or at least the low level of sugar in it allows the natural tannins to come through — and a low level of tartness compared to other ciders I've tried,' Blogger CiderSage mentions.

Crispin certainly isn't top ranking, but they produce a decent, mid-tier cider — a definite crowd-pleaser.

4. Woodchuck

When it comes to originality and craft, Woodchuck is one of the most popular brands that's played with cider since 1991. Fundamentally, they've kept to the same tried and true formula, while constantly innovating — now delivering a wide range of ciders from Granny Smith and Pear to Bubbly Pearsecco and Mimosa. If calories are a concern, you can even pick up the Woodchuck 100 Variety Pack featuring fruity varieties, all 100 calories each. The Amber is Woodchuck's original baseline cider, yielding a red apple finish and golden hue. It's a standard, must-try beverage that's not too sweet, maintaining a freshness that resonates with the masses. 

Overall, Woodchuck is a well-respected cider brand that is popular with fans because it preserves its integrity, while still playing with new, experimental flavors.

3. Common Cider

Crafting "human cider" is what Common Cider promotes and stands by. Its ethos revolves around balance, sanity, and joy, which adds another meaningful layer to the expansive cider universe. Owner Fran Toves views her ciders as poems, exuding adventurous, nuanced flavor that is really a celebrated art. Common only uses the locally-sourced apples, natural fruit extracts, and botanicals. All are naturally low in sugar. Blood Orange Tangerine is one of the most popular flavors and even seized Gold at the California State Fair. Its vibrant, citrusy fruit flavor keeps it light and revitalizing. Symbolically, tangerine represents fortuity, which makes it a delight amongst the masses. Blackberry Sangria is also a popular flavor, melding together red wine with ripe mangos and blackberries.

Even though Common Cider isn't nearly as "common" as Angry Orchard or other brands, it ranks high on our list due to their fervent artistry and distinct, quality flavors.

2. Portland Cider

Portland, Oregon is the renowned American epicenter for hard cider, given its premium apple scene. Portland Cider prides itself on eclectic cider making, uniting Somerset, England traditions with the impassioned, quirky Portland spirit. They only use 100% Northwest apples. Since 2013, they've made a concerted effort to keep cider making a familial custom, while also sharing the depth of their cider to the rest of America. "Kinda Dry" is what put Portland Cider on the map. It's an English-style cider that's described as well-balanced, crisp, and a homage to the owner's home in Somerset. It's also a Gold medal winner. "Sorta Sweet" is an award-winning, semi-sweet cider and a fine balance between the natural residual sugars from the apple and tartness.

"True to its name, a 'kinda dry', semi-sweet cider. If Sandra Bullock in 'The Proposal' had a cider alter-ego, it would be this one. It's a no nonsense, no-frills cider, but makes you feel warm and happy after a few sips," Hisherscider.com discerned in a review of Kinda Dry.

Needless to say, you won't be disappointed with Portland Cider's range of offerings.

1. 2 Towns

Chances are, you've seen the bold 2 Towns label stamped with a large black apple tree front and center. 2 Towns Cider prides itself on not taking any shortcuts, refusing to add any processed sugars ever. They also practice a slower fermentation process, which makes their varieties pretty irresistible. Like Portland Cider Company, all ciders are produced with Northwest apples, adding to the distinctness of each cider. 2 Towns also carries flagship, seasonal, limited release, and specialty flavors — so there's a beverage for everyone. Fan favorites include The Bad Apple — an imperial style cider made with meadowfoam honey and aged on Oregon White Oak; Made Marion – a blend of crisp Northwest apple with Oregon-grown Marionberries and Pacific Pineapple — brewed with Costa Rican golden pineapples and fresh pressed apples, making for a tropical delight.

"My opinion — Great! Refreshing, with real pineapple flavor. This would be especially nice in summer, and at 5% and not being too sweet, it would be almost too easy to drink. It's a tad drier than all the other pineapple ciders I've tried, but just as flavorful," blogger CiderSays states.

Overall, 2 Towns masterfully creates trusted cider varieties without compromising the true essence of quality cider.