Ace Joker Hard Cider is made by California Cider Company of Sonoma, California, and is that company’s driest offering, at 9g of sugar in a 12-oz bottle.
Joker is drinkable, but I have to say I’m disappointed in it—it’s reasonably dry and refreshing but the apple character is a bit two-dimensional. I was hoping for some more complexity and bitterness to round out the very generic, tart apple flavor that predominates. I couldn’t detect much at all in the way of tannins–whatever else is in the apple blend, there appears to be very little in the way of the cider or wild apple character at all.
The carbonation level is very low, which isn’t always an issue for me with ciders—I’ve had a few outstanding ciders that contained no carbonation at all—but with Joker it became just another underwhelming aspect to the cider. It got slightly better over time as it warmed up, as the meager complexities began to assert themselves a little bit more. Emphasis on the little. Weighs in at 7% alcohol, which is a little more noticeable than it should be because the flavor profile isn’t robust enough to mask it, even with the use of concentrates and added malic acid.
Seeking clarification, I went to the Ace Cider website and took a look at their entry for Joker—sadly, their Joker page didn’t help much, festooned as it was with recommendations for mixing Joker with other beverages (Did you know that Orange Juice added to Joker produces a Jomosa? I…didn’t.). My aspiration is to eventually make a cider so good that if a customer at my cidery offered cocktail recipes for it, my other patrons would look askance at the instigator, and I would just smile, defuse the situation and pour them all some even more amazing cider. I’m not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but, you know, it’s good to have dreams…and I think I have Joker beat at this point on the homebrew front, which is somewhat empowering by itself. Later this fall, I hope to improve on this, and share the process with you. So stay tuned.
All in all, if you’re looking for an alternative to beer and your liquor store happens to have this in stock, go ahead and give it a try. It’s not a bad beverage, really, and it will definitely be a welcome alternative to, say, Imperial Stout at a hot summer barbeque, but if there are some better ciders available (e.g., by JK Scrumpy or Colorado Cider Company) in the cooler and you reach instead for Joker, well…sorry, friend, but the joke’s on you.
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