Crispin 15 Men Review

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Crispin 15 Men Review

Cider lovers are living in an exciting time. The apple-booze business is booming, and along with all of that growth, comes plenty of experimentation. For the longest time, you basically had two cider options—dry or sweet. And the dry was pretty sweet, especially when compared to beer. Now, you have cider producers adding new layers of complexity with barrel aging, while others are playing around with different yeasts to bring out new flavors from the apple. Many cider houses are even loading their cider with hops to lend IPA-like aromas and characteristics to the beverage.

Cider behemoth Crispin has a broad portfolio that’s fairly representative of the trends sweeping the cider world (when you’re owned by MillerCoors, you have a decent R&D budget). They have a cider brewed with maple syrup, one brewed with lager yeast, and a whole series of ciders aged in used barrels. 15 Men is the latest release from Crispin’s robust barrel aging program, and it’s the first cider the company has aged in rum barrels. But wait, that’s not all, after the cider matured, they finished it with wildflower honey and candied syrup.

Before I go any further, let me just say, if you don’t dig ciders, you’re not gonna like 15 Men. Yes, there’s a lot going on in this beverage, with the rum and the oak and the honey, but this isn’t a cider that’s trying to win over beer drinkers. And I think that’s okay. Brewing cider with beer yeasts and 18 different hop strains is perfectly fine (long live experimentation) but at some point, you just have to stop comparing beer to cider. Other than being alcohol, they’re two totally different animals that deserve their own habitats at the zoo. Cider isn’t beer. It sounds obvious, but it’s something I’ve had to tell myself over and over recently. Once I got that simple notion through my thick skull, it opened up a whole new level of appreciation for hard cider. And Crispin’s 15 Men is a cider worth appreciating.

The cider pours a hazy, pale yellow with a thin white head. The aroma is super sweet, with notes of vanilla and caramel layered over the obvious apple. The taste follows through with plenty of sweetness, first from the apples, then from the honey. There’s also a pleasant bit of ginger spice and a layer of tartness on the backend. Yes, this cider is definitely on the sweet side of things, but it’s not boring and it’s not cloying—there’s complexity to all that sugar and there’s just enough going on beneath the apple to keep it interesting. With that said, I was disappointed in the lack of barrel-aged qualities. I get a little bit of oak in the sip, but the rum itself was like a ghost—so faint, I’d call it ethereal.

15 Men is a well-crafted cider, but I wanted it to be boozier. I wanted the time spent in rum barrels to have a “bad influence” on the apples. I wanted more rum, because I think rum and apples should go together. Especially in the fall. But as the Stones say, you can’t always get what you want. And I’m surprisingly happy with 15 Men, even if the rum is restrained.

Cider Company: Crispin
City: Colffax, California
Style: Barrel aged cider
ABV: 6.9%
Availability: Limited, 22 ounce bombers beginning in October