With a healthy number of pick-your-own apple operations within easy driving distance of Kansas City, the world of apple cider is fairly competitive. To determine which of the commercially available options was the best, Fat City decided to pit Stephenson's Apple Cider against Louisburg Apple Cider -- both are currently available at Hy-Vee grocery stores.
Stephenson's Apple Cider from Stephenson's Orchard (6700 Lee's Summit Road, Kansas City, Missouri) is light gold in color -- when it pours it looks similar to apple juice.
If there's such a thing as apple juice cider, this is it. The taste is unmistakably apple, but it's the cider equivalent of a half-egg nog, half-milk drink. The end result isn't very hearty -- call it apple cider light. For those who want less body and the stomach-filling properties traditionally associated with apple cider, this is your drink.
Louisburg Cider from Louisburg Cider Mill (14730 Highway 68, Louisburg, Kansas) is probably the area's best known cider.
The cider pours with a strong smell of apples and the color is cloudy -- a pale brown. It's rich with the slight bite of apple skins. It makes me want to try it warm or mulled. And it's easy to think of the cider mill where this came from -- and the cider donuts that I wish I was eating along with the cider.
Louisburg Cider is the clear winner. But this battle suggests differing cider philosophies with regard to flavor and heaviness. Stephenson's might go well with club soda, but Louisburg seems destined for a crock pot with cinnamon sticks -- and as the weather gets colder, it's a warm drink I want, not a summer refresher.