Thanks to Artifact, I Finally Understand The Buzz Around Cider

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There are lots of ways to enjoy a cider. You've got the mulled variety, just begging to be warmed up with cinnamon. Children as precocious as I was can pour a flute of Martinelli's and pretend to be sipping champagne. Or, if you're craving something crisp and refreshing, why not pop open a dry cider? 

The fermented cousin of those juicier beverages, dry cider drinks much closer to a beer, but with a lightness and spice all its own. Originally most popular in the UK, over the last few years I've seen cider pop up in almost every liquor store, bar and dinner table in town. As a  beer and wine loyalist, I was determined to see what all the fuss was about. For months I sipped my way through hopped, sour, and wood-aged varieties, always mildly a fan but never totally convinced. I waited quite a while to find my match in apple heaven.

And boy did I find it. 

From Apples To Artifact

Founded by Jake Mazar and Soham Bhatt in 2014, Artifact Cider Project grew out of a singular goal: sustaining local orchards. With the bounty of western Massachusetts as their backyard, the two founders began fermenting the juice from delicious, diverse, heritage apples hand-picked from right around them -- a far cry from the Red Delicious we've got in our supermarkets. Since every orchard and every season brought different apples to play with, their cider became as tied to terroir as the most exclusive bottles of wine. 

Rather than offering one flagship can, Artifact quickly experimented, turning out drinks that are individual, playful, and push the boundaries of what a cider can be. With flavors such as Magic Hour (light and golden), Wild Thing (a crisp and aromatic 100% Macintosh), and No New Friends (fermented with cranberries too), there's an Artifact for everyone. I just so happened to try Groove Steady first, the brand’s limited-edition line released just in time for the holidays -- and it was love at first sip.

Cider's an all-day beverage, but everything hits better poolside

Let's Groove Tonight

After getting my first 4-pack of Groove Steady, next I did the only logical thing left to do: invite friends over to share with, then immediately regret not keeping them for myself. As lured in as I was by the chicly minimalist branding, my eye zeroed into one part of the can in particular: the alcohol by volume percentage (or ABV.) In my quest for the perfect cider -- and perfect beer too, for that matter -- ABV has come to be a very helpful guide. Ciders lower in alcohol, say 4.0%, are too watery for me to really enjoy them, but the heavy hitters are so boozy they put up a fight. 6.0% ABV has come to be my sweet spot, substantial but sippable, and that's right where Groove Steady clocks in. 

Each sip revealed a new, exciting element, so much so that a friend called out at one point, "Wait… it's also spicy?!" 

As I passed around the cans, the satisfying pops and fizzes let us know we were in for something sparkling. But whatever my expectations were, Groove Steady sailed right past them. My problem with most ciders is that there's very little depth of flavor -- instead of tasting notes that reveal themselves to you over time, like in a great glass of wine, I've found most ciders stay pretty monochrome. Not so with this one. Each sip revealed a new, exciting element, so much so that a friend called out at one point, "Wait… it's also spicy?!" We had such a blast unpacking the different layers of Groove Steady -- the floral notes, the hint of fall spices, the tartness of something like kombucha -- that I had to do some homework. It made total sense to find that Groove was developed as a blend of different harvest, barrels, and fermentation processes, designed to reflect every year of Artifact's history in one delicious can. 

Think of it as a Greatest Hits album. Even if the OG records are your sentimental faves, sometimes you just want to get all the classics in one place.

My merry band of taste-testers in action

Pour Me Another

Though our friends in Massachusetts might get to visit Artifact's tap rooms in person, the rest of us can have our cider shipped direct. Artifact offers 12-can bundles of its different flavors, ranging in price from $36 to $42, but the brand has also recently rolled out its Good Vibes Series.

Four times a year (for $52 a shipment), series members will receive three different ciders -- a mix of new limited editions and some old favorites to round things out -- along with surprise bonus content that ties into the specific vibe of each grouping. They've left those details purposefully mysterious, and clearly it's worked: the series is currently sold out, but waitlist sign-ups are still available on their website.

Great news all around, because now that I've had my first taste of Artifact, I'm determined to work my way through the back catalog.

5 More Reasons To Love Artifact Cider Project:

  • Celiac hive, rise up! Unlike beer, cider is naturally gluten-free, meaning our gluten-free pals can finally crack open a cold one.
  • Slow and steady: Even as Artifact expands, the brand is doing so thoughtfully, matching the output available at nearby orchards so they don't have to import a single apple. 
  • Keep it simple: Artifact is one of the few brands on the market that releases single-origin ciders, spotlighting one specific brand of apple instead of relying on blends.
  • Goes down smooth: Coming back to the topic of ABV, all of Artifact's products land between 5-6%, less than half of the alcohol by volume in the average glass of wine. For those looking to unwind without getting too tipsy, it's the perfect match.
  • How about them apples? Artifact also sells rare apples -- bespoke varieties like Ananas Reinette, Baldwin, and Calville Blanc d'Hiver -- direct from its partners at Scott Farm. And while these are only available at in-person taprooms, it's worth applauding the brand’s commitment to local produce and farmers.

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