101 House Black Dog Cider Review

It’s Saturday morning. Your friends wanted to grab brunch but your head is screaming in protest from last night’s outing to LA’s new speakeasy. “Pull yourself together,” a friend says from across the table, “a little hair of the dog and you’ll be fine.” Hold up. Before you order those unlimited mimosas, ask yourself the obvious: is this actually a cure or are you just postponing an even worse headache? I’d say the latter. That is unless your hair of the dog happens to be a Black Dog, one of 101 Cider House’s most popular elixirs crafted for enjoyment at any time of day.

But why black, you ask? It’s not a tribute to Harry’s animagus godfather nor is it a limited release Halloween-themed flavor (although it’s the perfect brew for your party). This cider is black.  Wait. What? You read right. At first glance, its inky coloring may cause you to question its overall drinkability. I would have been wary had I not known the ingredients.

It starts with 101’s unfiltered scrumpy base. Next, according to the bottle, they mix in an “herbal citrus punch” consisting of blood orange juice infused with fresh lavender. The final touch is to blend in “activated charcoal derived from tropical coconuts,” giving it the unique color.

Still doubtful? If you’re like me, Kiara, and from a rural town where charcoal is only the stuff you cook over, I can understand your hesitation. Here in Los Angeles, it’s a popular health supplement known for its detoxifying properties. In fact, owner, Mark McTavish, was inspired to create this flavor due to his love for charcoal lemonades. So we gave it a go! Now, this flavor was my initiation to 101 Cider House as well as sour style ciders in general. Keep this in mind while you peruse the following review. Ready for this funky, fresh flavor?  

THE TASTING

“Step 1: Shake upside down for 10 seconds. Step 2: Wait 20 seconds. Step 3: Enjoy!” With a simple bottle label in black and white, 101 Cider provides directions for best enjoyment of this 0 sugar, 6.9% ABV beverage. Being an unfiltered cider with charcoal that easily separates, it’s best you follow these for the full effect.

Pouring the cider into a glass causes a gray, foamy head to bubble up like a boiling cauldron before quickly settling down. Black is black, right? Not quite. There is certainly a greenish blue tint in the depths of this cider. Upon raising the glass, I may have inhaled too deeply at first, as the smell was sharp and acidic causing my eyes to go wide. But its bark is worse than the bite. Going back to it, I was reminded of balsamic vinegar due to a mild underlying floral aroma from the lavender.

The first swallow seemed to burn on its way down the back of my throat. I was so caught off guard by its true sour nature, I couldn’t tell what else I was tasting (hey, first sour cider). After a few more sips, the citrusy acidity grew on me and became more enjoyable, like the refreshing pucker of lemonade on a sweltering summer day, except different. While the charcoal itself doesn’t have any taste, it lends a creamy mouthfeel similar to that of a stout or porter – minus the weight. Black magic? Then, just when you think the lingering sourness is unending, the herbal essence of lavender mellows your mouth (and stressors) with an easy earthy spice to finish.

Overall

A unique blending of elements, this cider definitely strays from the purebred class to the hybrid side, receiving 3.5/5. While it certainly grew on me over time, I have to admit the sour style is simply not my go-to cider of choice. Am I glad I tried it? No doubt. If you steer toward fresh pressed citrus juices, sour beers, or clever cocktails, this may be the perfect cider for you. Even if you don’t, take a walk on the wild side because this product is one-of-a-kind. And the charcoal can’t hurt, especially if you do have that dreaded hangover.