Located just past the hub of Union Square, Bantam has a beautiful open space where they offer tastings Thursdays and Fridays from 4-7pm and Saturdays from 1-7pm. A tasting flight includes five cider varieties for $10 and full pours are available for $6 after that. I recommend taking along a friend in order to maximize your tasting opportunities and make the most informed decision on your full pour (you’re going to want a full pour.)
The tasting room has a modern layout–an austere, shiny bar and large tabletops that sport Mason jars of pretzel sticks to cleanse the palate between pours. The tasting hours can get busy, and there is plenty of room for visitors, but I had a demure Thursday night with full attention from our bartender.
Thanks to sharing a couple pours with my friend, I was able to taste all seven of the on-tap ciders, including the three that Bantam currently bottles. The tasting list builds in order of strength of flavor, ending with the one-of-a-kind Smoked Saison. My past experiences with cider often left me with a belly-ache– too much apple and too much sugar. Not so with Bantam. Everything on the list was extremely drinkable, one might argue too drinkable since I left a little boozy.
And now my brief and professionally-unfounded tasting notes:
Wunderkind tied for my favorite cider; and lucky for me, it’s bottled and ready to buy! My immediate reaction on tasting was that it would be perfect for a picnic, a “good anytime” cider. The flavors from the champagne yeast are what made me think of a Prosecco but without falling into that sticky sweet Moscato territory.
Rojo, also bottled, would be my pick for an autumn party. Sour cherries give this cider a tangy aftertaste, the adult version of a Warhead candy. This is the type of hostess-gift that says sophisticated without being stodgy.
Both La Grande and A Little Something veered away from bubbles. La Grande had a milder fizz with vanilla hints while A Little Something is a still cider. In my notes, I wrote down “wild tastes” (presumably from the wild yeasts), so interpret that as you will. Maybe it was the lack of bubbles, but this pour reminded me of an aperitif, in that the alcohol was more prominent. However, it would also serve as a delicious nightcap.
Americain was my other pick for favorite. If anyone from Bantam is reading this, please bottle it soon! Our bartender called this one Thanksgiving dinner in a glass. It was the most apple-cidery of the bunch but without the stomach-achey sugar overload. Cinnamon, cardamon, and other spices make this a robust and tasty pour.
Dry-Hopped has “grassy” written as a descriptor on the tasting list and that says it all. This one tasted the most like a beer to me, an IPA specifically, according to my friend. It’s a lively pour, probably a great companion to summer concerts or a fish dinner (not that those events are mutually exclusive).
Smoked-Saison, which completes the bottled trifecta, smells absolutely amazing and tastes just as good. Pretty much all the ciders smelled delicious and if Bantam ever puts out a line of cider-scented candles, you heard it here first. The flavor in the Saison comes from the apples, smoked in Mei Mei Street Kitchen’s smoker (bartender tidbit), and is like nothing else I’ve ever had in a drink, let alone a cider. I said it tastes like grill charcoals “but in a good way.” A better, more palatable, way to put it is that it tastes like bacon.
I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Bantam and checking out their tasting room, if only to experience the Americain. Let me know your favorite in the comments!
Bantam Cider Tasting Room
40 Merriam Street, Somerville MA
Thurs, Fri 4-7 pm, Sat 1-7pm