It is flavorful, seasonal and refreshing. Pear cider is worth a try, especially at Thanksgiving.
There is always a question, at my house anyway, about what beverage to serve during the pre-meal sipping time on Thanksgiving. I save the good wine for the main meal. Beer is a familiar option, especially for guys, but not everyone cottons to it. Moreover, there are some folks, who prefer a beverage that has little or no alcohol. Cooks, for instance, don't want to get tipsy before they get the Thanksgiving turkey to the table.
Pear cider fits each drinker's need. It is an attractive alternative beverage.
All pear cider is made from the juice of crushed fruit. In the nonalcoholic version, the juice is pasteurized and bottled. It is fruit juice at its finest. The pear cider from Reid's Orchard of Orrtanna, Pa., sold at farmers' markets in Waverly (Saturday mornings) and downtown Baltimore (Sunday mornings), is loaded with pear flavor, making it a beverage for all age groups. Other ciders let the yeasts in the fruit liquid do what they do naturally, namely convert sugar to alcohol.
The three alcoholic or "hard" ciders I bought at a liquor store were all light-bodied, easy to drink and seemed well suited for pre-meal sipping.
The pear cider from France gave the juice the Champagne treatment, producing a dry, lightly carbonated beverage that I loved. The label listed the type of pears - Plant de Blanc, Muscadet, Tricotin, Avenelle and Poire de Grise - used to produce this dry, bubbly winner.
The pear cider from California emphasized the flavor of the fruit and had a marvelous pear aroma. In the glass, the yellow cider reminded me of a pale lager, and it delivered the biggest buzz: 5 percent alcohol.
The Vermont pear cider I sampled was called Woodchuck, and this name, I admit, made me biased. I do not have fond feelings for woodchucks. One attacked my garden this summer. Nonetheless, I drank this cider and tried to give it a fair test. It was as clear as club soda, with a hint of wood flavor and a tangy finish.
HOW THE CIDERS RANKED
Here is my appraisal of the pear ciders, hard and soft.
Poire Pear Cider de Christian Drouin: $13 for 750 milliliters. 4 percent alcohol by volume. This is a sparkling cider from France that behaves like Champagne. Straw-colored, with lively carbonation, it blends crisp acidity and sweetness. An ideal partner with lighter, pre- dinner fare.
Reid's Pear Cider: $2 a quart. Sold in farmers' markets in Waverly (Saturday mornings) and downtown Baltimore (Sunday mornings) until Christmas, this nonalcoholic or "soft" cider has plenty of pear flavor without excess sweetness. It's a beverage to serve everyone, from the kids to the grandparents. (The Orrtanna, Pa., orchard makes a hard version of the cider that is sold only in Pennsylvania.)
Ace California Fermented Pear Cider: $9 a six-pack. From the heart of Sonoma County, Calif., this pear cider is like a high-class, light-bodied beer. Features a wonderful aroma of pears and a distinctive fruit finish. With 5 percent alcohol by volume, it packed a subtle buzz.
Woodchuck Pear Cider: $8 a six-pack. A product of Vermont's Green Mountains, this clear, low-alcohol (4 percent by volume) cider has a slightly sharp, woody note. The woodchuck on the label was undeniably cute. The one that ate my garden was not.