Cider Review: Smith & Forge Hard Cider

I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one: Smith & Forge Hard Cider is one of the worst ciders I’ve ever tried.

I discovered it in the usual way–looking for new ciders at my local liquor stores–and made the mistake of buying this just because it was new and next to the craft ciders in the display. Don’t make my mistake.

Imagine a generic  apple juice made from concentrate…you know, the little frozen tubes you buy at the grocery store. Now imagine ‘making’ that juice, pouring in a bit of alcohol, and carbonating it. That end product is what Smith & Forge tastes like.

Contrary to its ‘Made Strong’ marketing, it’s actually anything but. The 6% alcohol is hardly strong by cider standards, for instance, nor is its lack of any astringency or bitterness. Neither is its low perceived acidity, which is weak even after malic acid additions. The only thing strong here is the big, bold font on the can, and the excessive perception of sweetness due to the lack of balance.

A little research on this cider, which the can describes as being made by ‘Uncharted Cider Co’, reveals that it is actually a MillerCoors product. At the very least, Uncharted is owned by MillerCoors.

You will not find any reference to MillerCoors on the packaging, and that’s clearly intentional. With their vast resources, the macro brewing companies could easily compete with craft cider-makers (or beer-makers, for that matter) on the basis of quality. That is a form of competition I would welcome. Instead, they routinely present their products as if they were those of independent, craft producers, without reference to the chain of ownership. This is not a strategy that will work long-term, nor is it one that consumers will likely forget anytime soon.

If you’re looking for an original, canned American cider, try Bite Hard by Boonville Cider House instead.

Better yet, learn to make your own cider.

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12 Comments on Cider Review: Smith & Forge Hard Cider

  1. I’m especially bothered by the deliberate obscuring of the cider’s provenance. But it’s also annoying that hard cider producers don’t have to declare the use of juice concentrate. Look at the nutritional label of any bottled juice (click on Nutritional Information for Naked Pomegranate Blueberry as an example) and any juices from concentrate are listed. Why shouldn’t hard cider be held to the same standard?

    I’m surprised at how deep the color is in your picture. Is caramel coloring on the ingredient list?

    • Yes, it’s surprisingly dark. It lists concentrated juice but no caramel color is listed, so it’s a bit of a mystery…

  2. Shame.

    Every time I talk to local cider guys, they’re happy to see the big guys getting into it, but doesn’t it sucking hurt everyone?

    • Thanks for the link. On one hand I suppose all cidermakers benefit from the increased overall popularity of cider, but they’ll also have to fight the impression created by the big guys that cider is poor quality and cheap, making it harder to sell niche, high-quality ciders at a premium to anyone who isn’t already tuned in to the cider scene.

      There’s also the dynamic where the big guys are buying up smaller cider companies left and right…

  3. I’m an occasional cider drinker (nothing near sage status). Like you, I found this new one with the others at my local beer store and decided on a whim to buy a four pack. It stinks. The after taste makes me feel like I’ve been working at a dusty gravel pit all day breathing crushed rock and drinking stale water out of a big Igloo cooler.

    I should have know, the crappy name, idiotic can design. I feel cheated and foolish. Had I taken a few moments at the liquor store to examine the can I would have had the common sense to pass on this “apple concentrate” added garbage.

    Bonus pro-tip: Anything with a “Ball” canning company logo probably stinks.

  4. I wish I’d read your review before impulse-buying this mess. The closest I can come to having anything good to say about it is that it was on sale!

  5. I have to disagree Smith & forge is a great change in cider compared to all the way to sweet cider that’s available.. And no buzz…… And really the buzz and taste is why we buy cider.

    • It’s true that there are sweeter ciders out there. What do you like about it?

      • This stuff has 23g of sugar per 12 oz! Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a cider that has more, and not many that even come close?

    • I really don’t know of any sweeter ciders. I think Smith & Forge is on the same level as many of the Woodchuck & Angry Orchard flavors, JK Scrumpy, etc. However, for me, Smith & Forge tasted more syrupy than any others. Also, the can I got had literally no carbonation, so it made it seem even more syrupy to me. There shouldn’t be much of a difference between 5% & 6% ABV ciders as far as buzz. If folks want a stronger cider, there are some 6.9% ABV commercial & craft ciders, or even some craft ciders I’ve had up to 14%!. I really don’t get the appeal.

  6. I’ve tried a lot of ciders, but not many “craft” ciders. I like Smith And Forge. For my money, best six pack under $10. Not as sweet and syrupy as angry orchard. I didn’t know that Miller Coords owned them. I haven’t been able to find it in the store lately.

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