The low-proof version of French calvados also makes a great holiday gift

Benny Boy Brewing Pippin Pommeau Apple Cider Alternative
Benny Boy Brewing Pippin Pommeau is the ideal apple cider alternative for the holidays

In the flurry of seasonal winter beverages, there are the pumpkin spice girlies and there are the apple queens. If you’re one who leans towards the latter and goes absolutely bananas for all things apple this time of year, believe me when I say that Benny Boy Brewing‘s Pippin Pommeau is next level. Popular in the Calvados, Normandy, and Brittany regions of France, this is the first version of pommeau I’ve seen stateside. And it makes for the perfect last-minute holiday gift.

I first experienced the spirit as part of a community apple pressing event where Benny Boy launched their aged apple brandy at their annual AppleFest. And now I’m actually obsessed.

“We’re dubbing it the ‘Spirit of the Apple,’ says brewery co-owner Chelsey Rosetter. “Our brandy, juice, and pommeau were all made with 100% California Newtown Pippin apples, which are distilled into apple brandy and then moved into barrels in their Cider House to age, and are eventually blended with non-fermented straight pippin juice. Then it’s barrel-aged for yet another year.”

Benny Boy Brewing

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Rosetter and her husband/co-owner Ben Farber fell in love with the style of apple spirit while traveling in Normandy, where it’s served at restaurants as a pre-dinner aperitif. After starting the meal with pommeau, diners typically move on to an apple cider with dinner, then enjoy higher-proofed calvados after the meal as a digestif.

At 19% alcohol, the Pommeau definitely warms you up, but it doesn’t tip you over. Where calvados brings the heat first and then finishes with the flavors of apple, pommeau flips the experience around, immediately welcoming your palate with the purest essence of fresh unfiltered apple cider, and ending with a soul-snuggling warmth.

“We’re so excited to bring this beverage to LA, and the fact that a lot of people have never heard of it gives us this amazing opportunity to bring this special drink to their attention,” says Rosetter. “It’s a French tradition, made with California apples.”

AppleFest at BennyBoy Brewing in Los Angeles
Apples preparing to be pressed at Benny Boy’s annual AppleFest

Krista Simmons

All the apples used to make the bevvie come from Five Mile Orchard, a third-generation family farm smack dab in the middle of in apple country in Watsonville, California. They’re grown using minimal intervention, giving them an incredible flavor and aroma.

“They specialize in the Newtown Pippin apple variety, which is an American heritage cider apple, and is used for 90% of our cider and pommeau production,” says Rosetter. “Cider apples are different from culinary apples that you see at the grocery store. They’re smaller, not as attractive, although we think they’re just gorgeous, have a higher sugar content, more acidity, and tannins in the skin. It’s very similar to grapes for wine-making.”

Whatever it is that’s going on there, it’s delicious. The 2020 Pippin Pommeau is now being sold in their charming Los Angeles cidery, where they pour it directly from barrel, as well as by the bottle online. It ships throughout the U.S. Bottles are $35 each or $50 for a gift set that includes two branded tasting glasses. They’re also available for online shipping via their online store.

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