The cider renaissance: Virtue Cider launches Lapinette

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This may look wet, but its dry
OK, maybe it's not exactly a renaissance. Lapinette is the second offering from Virtue, Chicago's first local cider-only outfit. Virtue's English-style cider, called RedStreak, hit local taps in April; the Mitten, aged in 12-year Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, is expected around New Year's. Former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall, the founder of the operation, has studied cider in England and France, and while he brews with local apples, he's clearly influenced by drier European styles.

Lapinette, whose coming-out party took place last night at Lula Cafe, is a Norman-style cider fermented with saison yeast and aged in French oak wine barrels. Slightly cloudy (in the style of the rough French ciders made hundreds of years ago, it's unfiltered), it's bone-dry, lacking both the tartness and sweetness of RedStreak—which itself is much less sweet than most American ciders. "Fruity" might seem like a glaringly obvious way to describe a cider, but where RedStreak is very fruity (in a lush, juicy kind of way), Lapinette is not. It's woody and tannic, so it dries out your mouth a bit, and while it does have fruit flavors—pear and bitter grapefruit in addition to the apple—they're restrained. And, though I realize this description may not sound particularly positive, the cider is really good, perfect for pairing with food. It may, however, be a shock to palates that are accustomed to Woodchuck. It's on tap at bars around Chicago, but won't be released in bottles for a year or so (RedStreak is also available only on tap).

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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