When companies pivot away from where their strengths lie, things can go poorly. Chevy makes trucks, but you wouldn’t expect them to immediately make a great plane, or tractor. Levi Strauss makes jeans, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to drop everything and make great couture wedding gowns.
And just because a brewery makes a beer, doesn’t mean they can turn and immediately make a cider, does it?
So when Stella Artois sent us a big ol’ bottle of their “cidre” with the lah-dee-dah style spelling (because it’s European!) we weren’t immediately overwhelmed with anticipation. It was too easy to imagine that sharp Stella pilsner taste with some apple esters jammed on top of it; too easy to envision the Redd’s Apple Ale of the East.
But, in that we enjoy trying new and interesting things and occasionally having our expectations confounded, we tried it nevertheless. (Obviously from the photos, we were cooking at the same time.)
And guess what: It’s actually pretty good.
You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a regular Stella and the Cidre (god, I feel stupid typing that but whatever) upon the first pour — they’re both pretty similar in terms of color, but the similarities stop right there. Whereas a regular Stella has a nice, creamy head, this one is light, bright, sparkly and dissipates quickly like a flute of champagne. It has similar carbonation, too, making this neither boring nor cloying with sticky apple juice and sugar to linger on the palate.
Whether or not you choose to believe the label that states these apples were hand-picked, this definitely doesn’t come off as some sugary thick malt beverage or watered-down brew with a healthy dose of corn syrup and “natural flavors”. Definitely skewing to the dryer side of things, this is most assuredly a cider with a limited amount of apple sweetness backed up by some nice wine-like complexity.
According to the press release, they’re going for something to not just move in on the beer market but also cut into some wine sales — I’d say they have done a pretty good job of walking that line.
I realize full well that most everyone with a passing awareness of the beverage industry is likely to scoff at a massive beer company hopping on board the cider trend train to make a quick buck — but Stella certainly could have done a much worse job with this, or certainly a cheaper one. They didn’t, and I’m okay telling you that. Speaking of trends, this is just 4.5 ABV, so we could even tie this into the “sessionable” movement as well, if you want to cover another space on your bingo card.
Stella’s repuation over here is higher than it is in the UK and Europe — over there it’s famously known as “wifebeater” for its ready availability in cheap tinned form leading to poor matrimonial decision making — and I don’t see myself going out of my way to find this when our site-favorite Vander Mill is readily available in cans as of this summer.
If I needed to scratch a cider itch, and this was readily available (also, preferably, in cans? for cheap?) and cold on an end-of-summer day? Yeah. I’d probably give this another shot.
*This beer was provided by the brewer for the purpose of a review.