I can’t say that I know much about draft ciders, but my life has been filled with apples from an early age (applesauce, apple juice, apple cider, apple pie, etc.)…so that’s gotta count for something. And there’s just something about cider that fits with Fall. The other night I attacked a bottle of Woodchuck 802 with an open mind and inquisitive palate, and was pleasantly surprised. My thoughts are as follows:

802 is named after the Vermont area code where Green Mountain Cidery—the brewer of Woodchuck—is located (a la Goose Island’s 312). For all you brewers out there…it’s not a bad method for assigning a cool numerical name to your alcoholic beverage, especially if your best idea so far has been something like “Cider #4” or “Beer 3, Batch 5”. The cider poured a tad darker than your standard apple juice, with a good bit of carbonation and no head. But I’m pretty sure that’s not a hallmark of ciders…I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t drinking beer. To my untrained nose, it smelled like apple juice with a tinge of alcohol; I genuinely wished I could pick up more subtleties, but that was truly all my nose could detect.

As I sipped, I found myself wishing I had more to compare the flavor to. But what kept coming to mind was something slightly dryer and tangier than Woodchuck’s classic Amber, with alcohol at the end and the subtlest hint of caramel sweetness when it warmed up a bit. This probably comes from the caramelized sugar added, which is 802’s identifying feature…but the sweet and tangy bite from the apples still dominates throughout. And that’s a good thing; honestly…I think this is what Woodchuck was going for. It’s a more “sessionable” cider (if that’s possible); it doesn’t add a lot of depth like the Fall Cider does, but stays the simpler course and takes the position of an everyday workhorse. The Old Faithful of Woodchuck’s lineup, methinks. I’d be interested to hear a more experienced cider buff’s opinion, but I was happy to polish off my glass; this would be a solid choice of cider for me anywhere, anytime.