Original Cider – Alexander Keith’s (Anheuser-Busch/InBev)

First out of the gate for Cider Week is Alexander Keith’s Original Cider.  Right out of the box (literally) Keith’s wins the massively over-the-top packaging award.  My two cans of Original Cider arrived in a 22″x14″x7.5″ wooden crate.  Included was a glass, an insulated ice bowl with a partition to separate chilling ice and serving ice, a scoop and a spiral-bound booklet on the cider with pairing recipes.  Zowie.  This totally tops the locked wooden box I got a while back (and broke into). Now what you need to know: Made under the Keith’s name, this cider is actually brewed and packaged in New York state at an Anheuser-Busch brewery.  I’ll be honest with you: I’m not down with that.  At least they print it (in very small, low-contrast letters) on the side of the can, so it’s not “hidden”.  Still.  Part of the romance of Keith’s is the east-coast of Canada.  If it’s made by Anheuser-Busch, why not brand it that way?  Anyway, let’s give it a go.

Original Cider - Alexander Keith's (AB/InBev)

Original Cider - Alexander Keith's

From a 473ml can with some sort of batch date on the bottom, Alexander Keith’s Original Cider pours a light straw yellow, with a bit of foamy head that drops to a bit of film supported by a very active carbonation. Aroma is immediately apples, lightly crisp and a little tart.  Maybe a touch of something floral.  Taste is similar: juicy apples, hinting at granny smith.  There isn’t a whole lot of complexity in the apples.  I’m not sure what variety of apples they used (or if it was just one), but it seems a bit one dimensional.  Lightly tart and quite sweet but very light on the palate.  To be honest, I would call it thin.  There is a little warmth of alcohol on the finish, which is otherwise fairly tart.  If not for the alcohol, it would be very easy to forget this was a hard cider, and think your were sipping a sweetened carbonated apple “drink”.  The carbonation, despite being very active, is much more inline with a traditional cider though, and is not prickly or reminiscent of soda-pop. It provides a pleasing effervescence, which in this case, adds some weight/interest, rather than cutting a medium bodied drink.

Over Ice – Aroma is still there, but is muted, it smells almost like apple peels. Taste is also still tart apples, but it is much less tart than refrigerated.  The sugar is also less pronounced, and the body is even thinner (and thinning further as the ice melts).  I know why people drink cider with ice, and this is a classic example.  I could probably drain a pint glass of ice-cold cider in 3 gulps.

To be honest, this isn’t my kind of cider.  It’s too sweet and light-bodied.  The apple flavour is quite nice (not at all synthetic), and the tartness keeps it interesting, but I prefer a more complex cider.  That being said, especially over ice, this is going to be a huge selling entry-level cider.  Bright and refreshing I have no doubt it will sell very very well, and could possibly introduce a lot of people to the world of ciders.  And I wouldn’t say “no” if somebody handed me one.  I won’t hesitate to drink my other can happily.

About the Cidery

Alexander Keith’s maintains the quality and heritage first introduced by Alexander Keith himself in 1820.  Only the finest barley malt and select hops are used to brew the Keith’s fine beers, which include the popular Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale – Ontario’s #1 premium draught beer – Keith’s Amber Red, Keith’s Dark and Keith’s Premium White. It is with the same attention to detail and quality that Alexander Keith’s introduces its new Original Cider, a high-quality apple cider with a well-balanced and refreshing taste.

16 Comments

  1. Cider Expert
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Alexander Keith’s Original Cider is absolutely horrible. It is not a cider, not even in the extended family – it is an artificial apple-flavoured malt liquor. It is produced in an enormous Anheuser-Busch malt beverage factory in the US side-by-side with some of the largest US malt liquor-based beverages that are despicably targeted at teens. Keith’s Original Cider has zippo to do with apples, true ciders, or Canada, and it is a disgusting, revolting thing to drink.
    I bought a six-pack ($17) last night at the local LCBO. I was really looking forward to trying it. Let me tell you – I was able to choke down barely half a can, and I am taking the remainder back for a refund today.
    I am extremely angry that Labatt’s/Keith’s has the audacity to package and market this insipid, deceptive alcopop as a cider. Doing so will do nothing but harm the image and reputation of true ciders – uh, like the kind that are actually made from apples. Synthetic apple flavouring? Fuck off!!!
    The LCBO is to be gravely faulted for assisting Keith’s to mislead consumers into buying this phony pseudo-cider. This is disappointing and unacceptable: what the LCBO ought to be doing is listing and facilitating the availability of real ciders, particularly those coming up from Ontario and other Canadian producers, as well as artisanal products from the UK, France and other places with a long and respectable tradition of producing genuine ciders with pride and craftsmanship.
    To conclude my rant, I would like to pose a question to Richard Musson, vice-president of marketing for Keith’s owner Labatt’s: Tell us, Richard, exactly how did your American friends get the cats to piss into your Keith’s Original Cider cans? And for Charlie Angelakos, vice-president of corporate affairs for Labatts: Charlie – buddy – would you yourself actually drink this stuff? What the fuck were you guys thinking???
    Inquiring minds would really like to know…

    • Felica
      Posted March 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was pretty damn good.

      • AB
        Posted September 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        I think its pretty damn good too!

    • claire
      Posted October 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      It is just too darn sweet. Not sure what to drink instead. Still seeking a full bodied, tart cider.

  2. chris
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Hey CE, thanks for posting. I can understand your frustration with a mass-marketed product that isn’t as “good” as it’s craft equivalents. And you are certainly entitled to your own opinions about what is “good”. That’s the nature of the beast.

    That being said, I absolutely must correct you: There is no artificial flavourings in the cider. Cider (it would seem) has to have it’s ingredients listed (unlike beer), so I can read off the side of the Keith’s can in my hand: Cider, water, sucrose, malic acid, natural flavour, sulphites. Furthermore, it certainly isn’t “malt liquor”, as there is no malt in it. Was the cider from concentrate? Possibly. Has it been adjusted to suit North American palates unaccustomed to big aggressive ciders? Most definitely. Do you have to drink it? Not at all. You will find the LCBO will happily refund you the price of the remaining cans, though hoping they will empathize with you might be an airy goal.

    Your questioning of brass at Labatt’s is also a little wonky. Of course they have no say in the matter. They are wholly owned by Annheuser-Busch/InBev, a merged company of an American mega-brewer (AB) and a Belgian one (IB). ABIB decides what’s what and that’s pretty much it. Which is why brands like Stella and Bud dominate the self-serve at the beer store, while Blue, once a celebrated Canadian brand, is relegated to a single facing, off to the side, at ankle-level.

    I’ll be the first to criticize the use of the Keith’s branding, generally identified as “Canadian”, for an American product. This just feels a little too sly for me. And I agree, this isn’t my type of cider, as I like bigger more complex ones. But I try to stay objective, and I think I’ve given the product a fair shake.

  3. jim
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    “Cider Expert” obviously isn’t. Perhaps in his own mind, he is, but his vitriolic review certainly fails to reflect anything even close to a reasoned and reasonable assessment of the product.

    I’ve been a cider drinker for many years, even before coming to Canada from the UK in 1971, and I’ve tried many varieties including Magner’s, Growers, Thornbury, Blackthorn, and my favourite — Strongbow. Each has its own appeal, but to MY taste, nothing beats Strongbow.

    I tried Alexander Keith’s Original Cider today, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a nice light cider with an apple-y taste and refreshing slight tartness, and I’d have to say that Mr. Schryer’s review is MUCH more accurate than “Cider Expert’s”. If you like your cider light, crisp, slightly tart and with a bold apple taste, you’ll probably enjoy Keith’s Original.

    I won’t convert from Strongbow but I certainly wouldn’t be averse to buying Keith’s Cider again, as it appeals to MY taste more than any of the other brands I’ve tried. Taste is subjective, and because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s cat’s piss — but then I don’t claim to be an expert — just a guy who’s been drinking cider for many years…..

  4. Campbell
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    While I am inclined to share much of Cider Expert’s diatribe, I certainly appreciate Chris’ objective writings on the subject. My general distaste for Keith’s products and the company as a whole should not bias my feelings on this cider. Attempting to leave my bias behind, then, I find Keith’s cider to be horrendously sweet and difficult to put in the “refreshing” category due to the feeling it leaves in my mouth. Perhaps it would be better over ice as it would be diluted (less sweet) and go down faster. I think it is too bad that a company such as AB-IB does not use the fact that people would buy and enjoy any product bearing the name “Keith’s Cider” to challenge the Canadian palette and help to make real ciders more mainstream. But their motivations never have been to make quality products, and so I would be naive to expect this to change now. Still disappointing, however.
    As I say about most new products that Keith’s makes, this one merely tastes like “Keith’s made a cider” – about 60% of the way to what the product should actually taste like, and wholly predictable at that. (This phenomenon manifested itself as well with Keith’s Dark/Stout/Harvest, and of course the IPA is the original example).
    On the other hand, if this product does serve to challenge more Canadian companies to start making better ciders, then it will have served a wonderful purpose indeed. Even better, maybe the Beer Store will start carrying ciders as well (but I’m not holding my breath).

  5. Norm
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Try to find this stuff at the LCBO good luck , it tastes so awful that it’s sold out almost everywhere.

  6. Charly November
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Ok. So everyone’s got a point. This cider is no doubt marketed at the masses, be them non-cider drinkers and certainly not connoisseurs. I can enjoy this cider the same way I can enjoy a Coca-Cola, a sweet and bubbly (and sometimes thirst-quenching) treat that is tolerable in SINGLE doses. I get it though. It’s a classed-up alcopop, and being in the service industry I can really appreciate the business side of what Kieth’s is doing. This is their own version of an alcoholic beverage targeted at non-beer drinkers, such as Bud Light Lime, Miller Chill, the ever-atrocious Bud Light Lime-Mojito, and the many others. And it works. People love this stuff, people are buying this stuff, LCBOs can’t even keep it in stock. That being said, it has few admirable qualities of a true cider… and I myself am far more inclined to reach for a Magners or Strongbow when in the mood for a cider. But hey, to each their own. One should certainly not be any more offended when comparing this cider to a traditional one than when comparing, say, a Bud Light to a Leffe.

  7. me
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    the “romance” ended when Keiths started producing their products for the local market. nothing finer than an east-coast london ontario bottle o keiths!

  8. David A. Young
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I was born and have lived all of my life in Nova Scotia. I couldn’t resist trying a 6-pack of
    Alexander Keiths Original Cider. It is the best alcoholic breverage joke I have seen in a long time. From a company that is known far and wide for its India Pale Ale that has been brewed in Halifax, Nova Scotia since 1820 to be offering a cider made in the USA and being sold in Ontario was too much. To make matters worse, Anheuser-Busch faked it.
    They add water to reduce the alcohol content, malic acid for tartness, and sucrose for sweetness. It is an okay cider for washing down dinner. To serve it over ice would ruin it completely. While I can appreciate Jim’s preference for Strongbow, it too has been altered. Just read the side of the can. Considering that cider is extremely easy to make once you get your apple blend right, I don’t understand why the larger companies have screwed it up. There are good ciders being produced in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia as well from the UK. As a small scale cider maker, I’ve made full flavored ciders from apples picked behind cemetaries and airports, roadsides, back yards, and orchards.
    All of which had more flavor than the Alexander Keiths Original Cider.

  9. chris
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    David, I know what you’re saying. To be fair though, for a lot of people, they don’t want “The Real Thing”. These are the people who regularly eat KD instead of making real pasta, drink Kool-Aid instead of juice that came out of a fruit, eat Wonder Bread instead of something that might have met a whole grain at some point in it’s production. Sadly, for many people in our western world, eating and drinking has nothing to do with pleasure, and everything to do with not dying (immediately). The pleasures of the table are lost on so many. This cider is, as you note, harmless. It’s tasty and tart and will slake your thirst. But compared to a beautiful cider hand pressed with a mix of cider apples, fermented for 18 days so that it’s laced with brettanomyces and a bit of lacto and it’s big and dry and smacks you in the mouth, this is just a mainline product, like so many others. But that isn’t really the producer’s fault, they’re not in this to challenge people to go beyond their own expectations, they want to sell as much product to as many people as possible. And if most people want instant coffee over a fresh-roasted french press of Nicaraguan beans, that’s what they’ll sell. If you make it out this way, look up Spirit Tree Estate Cidery. I’ve reviewed a bunch of their products, and they’re lovely. We had a cask of their Perry on at Castro’s, and it was one of the most wonderful drinks I’ve enjoyed.

  10. Kevin
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Quick question…someone told me that Keith’s cider is ok for people who have celiac? Is that true and is true for all ciders ie. Strongbow?? Anybody know??

  11. chris
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Kevin,
    Yes, Keith’s cider contains no gluten, so it’s suitable for people who are Celiac or have gluten problems. It’s kind of crazy to have to say this, but it’s best to check each cider (they generally have ingredients listed, somewhere). Cider should only contain two things: Apple juice and yeast. Everything else is unnecessary. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t mean you won’t find some other crazy things in there, especially in the big brands.
    I know Spirit Tree ciders are authentic juice-based drinks, and are totally good on the gluten-front. Plus they taste amazing!

  12. kevin
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Do you have ingredients for Strongbow by chance??

  13. doug
    Posted January 16, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    If you concentrated every negative thing written above about this “cider” and multiplied by ten you would still not come even close to describing how horrible it is. It is unfair even to compare it to Kraft Dinner. Maybe some Dollarama brand mac and cheese that sat in the back of your cupboard since 1989. Shame on you, Keith’s. Shame.

    Doug Gould
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

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