Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Cider Review: 1911 Cranberry Cider

Good morning cider friends, welcome to December. I can scarcely believe that we’re closing in on the end of this bizarre year. I hope you stayed safe for Thanksgiving and paired a delicious meal with some very good cider. I know I did. But now ‘tis the season for getting cozy and enjoying winter flavors.

In my mind, winter flavors include mulled ciders, barrel aged ciders, sips of pommeau, and my favorite non-apple fruit of all: cranberry. Some cider fans knock ciders with fruit additions, and they aren’t always my favorites. I just can’t resist trying every cranberry cider I can get my hands on. (If you’ve got one you’d like me to review, email me!) When I saw 1911’s Cranberry cider at the grocery store last week, I grabbed it with both hands. 

1911 is a Finger Lakes cidery, orchard, distillery and farm attraction that has a passionate local following and increasing availability across the region. 1911 creates a truly varied range of ciders, and I’m always seeing something new from this company. I did purchase this myself; it was not a review sample. 

I’ve reviewed a few of 1911’s cider over the years. The earlier ones appear under the orchard name Beak and Skiff that has since been rebranded as 1911. 


Somerset Original Cider:

Founders’s Reserve Hopped:

1911 describes the Cranberry saying, “1911 Cranberry hard cider is a semi-sweet cider that provides the perfect combination of classic American flavors. Our Unique blend of apples and New England cranberries strikes a delicate balance of sweet and tart. 6.9% ABV” 

1911 also posts a sweetness scale that puts the Cranberry at a 2 out of a possible 6 for sweetness.

Appearance: Rosewood, brilliant, bubbly

I enjoyed searching for just the right word to describe this shade of pink. It’s got a hint of warm brown, so rosewood suits admirably. The cider has beautiful brilliance and lots of active bubbles. 

Aromas: Citric acid, cranberry and other berries, ripe apple, dusty

My first impression when I brought my nose to this cider was citrus and citric acid. It has a fresh orange juice quality that’s a fun element along with a strong cranberry and apple presence. I also get notes of other berries and just a ghost of mineral dust.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet to semi-sweet

The can describes this cider as semi-sweet, but it feels more like a sweet to my tastebuds. The sweetness I get is very fruity. 

Flavors and drinking experience: strong cranberry finish, high acidity, medium body

I am so pleased! The Cranberry Cider by 1911 allows both apple and cranberry to speak distinctly. This cider is deliciously drinkable! I love the super cranberry finish. The Cranberry offers up just exactly the high acid I hope for in a cranberry cider. It also keeps things fun and exciting with the perfect level of bubble and medium body.

The Cranberry tastes fresh and fruity! We had it with the last piece of pumpkin cheesecake and the pairing was a total winner. Next time though, I’m going to bake some brie to go with this seasonal treat!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cider Review: Stowe Cider's Juniper Sessions

Hi cider friends. Ordinarily I would be writing to you about cider pairings for Thanksgiving, but things are just so different this year. I’m following the advice and not travelling and not seeing family. It’s hard, but I want to keep them (and my household) safe. It’s what I can do. So, I’m not going to pretend that tradition is what’s in the cards this year. Besides, Thanksgiving is certainly a holiday that needs some reflection and change anyway. 

Instead, I want to enjoy innovation. I’m sharing my notes on Stowe Cider’s Juniper Sessions. I’ve had this cider a few times, and I tend to enjoy gin botanical infused ciders. What I just learned is that there are many different Juniper Sessions, and the one I’m reviewing today is Volume 10 Smuggler’s Notch. Now I want to track them all down and try the rest!

Stowe Cider is a small Vermont Cidery based in a ski town. I don’t get access to many Stowe ciders, but I pick them up when I visit my in-laws in Vermont and whenever I see them in our local bottle shop, I pick some up. And sometimes they send me review samples, but this is a cider I picked up for myself a while ago.

Here are Stowe Ciders’ previous appearances in this blog.

High and Dry:

My 2016 visit to the tasting room:

Local Infusion Snow’s Raspberry Hard Cider:

Visit Stow Cider online to learn about all the ciders and other projects:

Here’s how the cidery describes this cider.

Juniper Sessions #10 Smuggler’s Notch


Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

Tasting Notes: Juniper, Citrus, Anise, Citrus Peel & Hops

And for the curious here’s a link to the collaborator Smuggler’s Notch Distillery:

Appearance: pale moonglow, bubbly, brilliant

This is a lovely and delicate cider to the eye. The color reminds me of luna moths or whilte flowers viewed in early morning light. It’s a little bit gold but also a little bit green and glowy. I can see lots of bubbles with great clarity.

 Aromas: Pine, vegetal, nutty, ripe apple and funky

The Juniper Sessions smells piney and nutty to me. There are lots of vegetal and herbal notes in the mix. There’s also some ripe apples and hints of funk. These are some complex aromas!  I also get more mysterious elements like pine nuts or even corn nuts.

Dryness/Sweetness: semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider but it’s on the sweeter side of that spot. There’s plenty going on besides sweetness though.

Flavors and drinking experience: Herbs, apple, warming, piney, spicy finish 

The Juniper Sesssions tastes herbal, with some almost rosemary or soapy notes, but I also get plenty of apple. I can taste apple even more than I could smell it. I love that this cider has a spicy finish; there’s even a note that reminds me of green pepper. It’s all so fresh tasting!

The cider has nice acidity and body. Juniper sessions has a medium strong bubble. The drinking experience is slightly warming and piney. 

You could have this cider with a lot of different dishes, but I recommend something heavy on cheese but otherwise simple. It would be great with a baked homemade macaroni and cheese and some broccoli. Let the many notes of the Juniper Sessions sing for themselves, loud and clear!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Cider Review: Lockhorn Hard Cider's Gallatin Grapefruit Mint

I am not ready for a season filled with holidays. I know it’s coming soon, but I don’t want all of my days from October first through the end of the year to be continual slalom from preparation to festivity over and over again. Not that I mind celebration; I love it, but I just need calm and variety between my holidays. So this week, I’m not getting ready for anything. I just chose a casual and creative cider to pair with veggie tacos. 

Through a friend I was able to get my hands on my first Lockhorn Hard Cider, so I’ve been curious to try the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint. This is my first cider by this cidery!

The Lockhorn cider slogan is, “The Apple's Instinct Untamed” is a fun one! I’m not entirely sure how that translates to cider making choices other than perhaps wild fermentations and minimal intervention ciders. The website describes Lockhorn as a small family-run cidery in Montana.  

You can visit Lockhorn Hard Cider online here:

Here’s how Lockhorn Hard Cider describes the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint.

Grapefruit Mint cider is a fan favorite! With fresh, cold steeped mint leaves infused with grapefruit juice, this cider is, by far, the most refreshing. A semi-sweet cider that fills all your senses, you are bound to love it! On tap and in 16 oz cans. 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, goldenrod

The color reminds me of afternoon sunlight and goldenrods. The cider has just a hint of haze but not enough to obscure the bubbles I can see. 

Aromas: Smells minty, apple, hint of grapefruit

I can smell all of the elements promised in the description of this cider distinctly. There are clear notes of mint, apple, and grapefruit, but the mint and apple predominate.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I thought this cider would be fairly sweet not only because the official description calls out semi-sweetness, but because I think both grapefruit and mint are best brought into balance with some sweetness or a very different dry and austere profile. This took the semi-sweet route.

Flavors and drinking experience: strong mint flavor, mild grapefruit, medium high acid

When drinking this cider, I wanted to pay attention to each of the three ingredients to see how they communicate. The mint is strongly present throughout but especially in the in finish. The grapefruit element melds with apple, making them more of a fruity presence but mint stands out. This cider has medium high acidity but no tannins. 

I appreciate the bubbles and full body in the the Gallatin Gallatin Grapefruit Mint. Somehow my brain keeps looking for hops and hop related flavors. I've had minty and citrusy hopped ciders before, but this is totally hop free. But I keep forgetting that every sip or two and looking for the tart, citrus hop notes or bitter hop edge.

This cider provoked a mixed reaction in my household. It has a lot going on and a fair bit of sweetness. I think for many drinkers those will be delightful features, whereas some might find the cider too experimental or the experience too much. 

Pairing this cider with veggie black bean tacos was fun. You could also take these in a whole different direction, focusing on the sweetness and pair them with a citrus glazed pound cake. I think there are a lot of pairing possibilities for the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint by the Lockhorn Hard Cider. 

And just for fun, one of my co-tasters and Peewee.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Cider Review: Stormalong Cider's Happy Holidays

Good morning cider friends! I write to you from an unseasonably warm and sunny day, but it’s the last one in the forecast. It feels like the perfect moment to savor everything bright, golden, and fleeting. Its wonderful to catch little moments of unexpected beauty and ease when we can. 

For my review this week, I want to share my thoughts on Stormalong Ciders’ Happy Holidays. I had it on a much cooler and blusterier night than we’ve had this week, but many more such nights are coming.

I’m getting this sample of Happy Holidays from Stormalong Ciders for review. They’ve been very kind and sent me samples of several of their newest releases over the years. You can read more about the cidery and each of these ciders in the individual reviews. Here’s the list. 

Esopus Spitzenburg:

Ashmead’s Kernel:


Legendary Dry:

Kingston Black:

Light of the Sun:

Mass Appeal:

Boston Heirloom:

Here's where to find Stormalong online:

And now for Stormalong Cider’s official description for Happy Holidays: 

Unfiltered hard cider with a blend of holiday spices (allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and organic brown sugar). 10% of ALL proceeds of this cider will go to The Greater Boston Food Bank.

Alcohol 5.20%

Appearance: Cloudy, warm tawny gold, bubbly

This is certainly an unfiltered cider! When I pass my hand behind the glass, I cannot see my fingers. The color is a warm rich tawny gold. I can see plenty of bubbles in the cider.

Aromas: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baked apples

Happy holidays indeed! This smells like so many wintry festive treats from apple pie to mulled cider and gingerbread. I smell nutmeg, cinnamon, baked apples, and brown sugar.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

Happy Holidays is sweet! If you don’t want a spiced and sweet cider, it won’t be for you, but it’s delightful in its balance. I’m not usually a sweet cider fan, but I happily make an exception for this!

Flavors and drinking experience: full bodied, baked apple, brown sugar, medium high acidity

The Happy Holidays tastes like brown sugar and baked apples. The cider brings medium high acidity and medium tannins. The cider is decidedly and beautifully full bodied. The spices are more varied on the nose but still present to taste. For me, this is a delicious dessert cider, but I can also imagine many drinkers reaching for it with chili and cornbread or as a reward for all the snow shoveling that is to come.

Happy Holidays is a keeper! This will certainly brighten our small or virtual celebrations this year.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Cider Review: Kite and String's King of the North Reserve

Writing this hours before any election returns start, I’m nervous. I feel like this year has been an exercise in dealing with uncertainty and unpleasant certainties. I’ll choose measured hope and plenty of actions beyond voting. But while we wait, there’s cider. Today, I’m sharing my notes on a local treat: Kite and String's King of the North Reserve.

Looking back in the blog’s history, I’ve reviewed quite a few Kite and String Ciders before. Kite and String is the home cider at Finger Lakes Cider House. The company won the first New York State Cider Competition (I participated as a judge). I’ll give a caveat that If you read back through earlier coverage, please don’t get confused if you see a few different names or phrases. This cidery has a former name as well as being affiliated with Good Life Farm and the Finger Lakes Cider House. 

Rose ‘17:

Barrel Rye:


King of Hector:

The Hickok has appeared at a few special dinners including:

Thanksgiving 2016:

And Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website:

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an official description of King of the North Reserve, and my photos didn’t include the back of the bottle. I do know that I picked this cider up for myself the last time I visited the Cider House in person. I tasted it and choose it because I quite liked it. This is going to be a super bubbly cider as it’s a “traditional method” cider, using a 2nd in the bottle fermentation to give it natural sparkle.

Appearance: bubbly, brilliant, rich saffron

The cider looks like a champagne. It’s brilliant, bubbly, and wonderfully enticing. The color reminds me of saffron threads.

Aromas: honey, overripe apples, minerals 

I knew this cider would be something special from the first note of aroma. The King of the North Reserve smells like honey and overripe apples. There’s a backbone of steely minerality present as well.

Dryness/Sweetness: Dry!

This is a dry cider that still manages to have so many fruit notes! 

Flavors and drinking experience: intense sparkle, high tannins, high acid, oranges, yeast

Ah yes! This has to be why I bought this cider for myself. It’s just so bubbly! Everyone who reads the blog knows how much I love dry bubbly ciders. They are my weakness. And the King of the North Reserve is a great one in that style! 

I get notes of apple seeds, woodiness, yeast, oranges, and ripe apples. This super bubbly cider has sharply pleasant high acid and high tannins. It feels like every good feature is turned up to maximum. I love the notes of oranges.

I had this cider with a veggie filled pasta bake, and it was good for the season and good for this tense moment. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cider Review: Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab

Of all of the things that are very much on my mind, I want to think about making Halloween fun and spooky and safe this year. So much of the rest of the world feels much too big for me to tackle. Part of my plan this year is a virtual Spooky Storytelling Gathering with some family. Thank you to my sister-in-law Karen for this great idea. I’ve already scared myself just doing research for what story I’ll tell. During this gathering across the miles, I know I’ll be sipping a cider. It’s no bonfire bash, but I do like cider with my scares!

One night last week, I had the pleasure of coming home from a sunset walk to home cooked lasagna. My only job was to choose a cider for accompaniment. I chose Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab. This cider was shared with me, but my opinions remain my own. Before I get into the review, I want to share a bit of background about this cidery.

Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Virginia. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the founder and cidermaker Kirk Billingsley. Big Fish Ciders often do well at competitions like GLINTCAP. I appreciate the range of styles and apples both present in the cidery’s lineup.   

Here’s the rundown of my earlier Big Fish reviews:

Wild Meadow:

Allegheny Gold (my #3 cider from 2019):

Highland Scrumpy (my #3 cider from 2018):

Church Hill Blush:

There’s a video about this cider:

You can visit Big Fish Cider Co. online here:

Here’s the official description for Virginia Hewes Crab.

This is our first single varietal ever at Big Fish Cider. And quite honestly it was destined to go into our heritage blend, until we tasted this after fermentation. The fullness of body, the intensity of flavor, and the tannins, quite honestly blew us away. So I gathered up more of the same fruit, did several small batches utilizing different wine yeasts, and the result for each batch was similar, so I blended it all together, and we feel this is the best cider we have ever produced at Big Fish. A touch of sweetness, partially due to the unfermentable sugars in the cider due to the water core in the apples produced by our hot dry summer of 2019. Notes of citrus, butterscotch, stone fruits, come through. A truly delightful, intense, cider. Drink at cellar temperature for depth of flavor. Alcohol 8.40%

Appearance: transparent, deep harvest moon color, lots of bubbles

The Virginia Hewes Crab has an amazing seasonal color. It reminds me just exactly of a Harvest Moon. That deep reddish orange appears with good transparence and oodles of quick bubbles.

Aromas: Citrus, floral, spice, overripe apples

This cider smells citrusy, floral, with a waft of spice aromas too. It reminds me of Constant Comment tea, cardamom, and overripe apples too. There’s a lot of very tempting aroma here.

Sweetness/dryness: barely off dry

This cider is very fruit but mostly dry. There’s just a lick of sweetness in the mélange of impressions I get from this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, creamy mouthfeel, full body, amazing fruit and spice notes

Wow! I knew I wanted to reach for a special cider, but this is shockingly good! The Virginia Hewes Crab tastes tart, acidic, but there’s so much more to it than acid. The cider is wonderfully fruity and spicy too. The bubbles keep it lively but that hint of sweetness and higher ABV also mean that it’s simultaneously thick! I love a bubbler with lots of body! I’d even call this cider creamy!

It’s extremely good! My cotasters and I agree that this cider with its well-balanced combination of zesty tartness, beautiful fruit, intense sparkle, and luscious mouthfeel is a total winner. The acidity really helped pair it with the lasagna as well. This is a combo to try!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cider Review: Left Foot Charley's Cinnamon Girl

Good morning Cider friends! I hope you are eating lots of apples and enjoying autumnal pleasures as we head towards Halloween. It’s still time to stay home or mask up, but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy the seasonal bounty. I’m imagining this week’s cider as something very seasonal! Left Foot Charley’s Cinnamon Girl seems like a cider playing dress up with cinnamon spice.

Left Foot Charley is a winery and cidery in Traverse City, Michigan. It was established there in 2004; their local focus is on processing fruit and juice from Northern Michigan for their  variety cider and wine lineup.

Here is a list of my earlier reviews of Left Foot Charley’s ciders and a perry. 

Fortis Maelum:


Henry’s Pippin (it made my top 10 for 2016):

You can visit the Left Foot Charley  online right here:

Now for the Left Foot Charley’s official description of the Cinnamon Girl.

This is a classic combination - apples and cinnamon. The apples are harvested from two farms on the Old Mission Peninsula. Whole cinnamon sticks are then added and steeped in the cider for 4-6 weeks. Gluten Free

Alcohol 5.00%

 Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, very few visible bubbles 

This cider looks like lots of other ciders from Michigan and indeed from many places. It’s brilliant in clarity and the color is often called warm straw. I don’t see many bubbles.

Aromas: cinnamon, brown sugar, ripe apples

Here’s where the hijinks begin! Cinnamon Girl smells of cinnamon, ripe apples, yeast, brown sugar. The whole mixture reminds me of coffee cake. These spice smells comes across vividly. My co-taster thought the whole experience was like an apple crisp.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi- sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider. The sweetness reminds me of brown sugar and baked goods.

Flavors and drinking experience: ripe apples, lush, medium tannins, well balanced

What was very spice oriented in aroma tastes very much of apples. The Cinnamon Girl has a low to medium but present level of  tannins, nice taut acidity, as well as sweetness and body. The whole experience is balanced and quite pleasant. This cider is so bubbly and fun! It went perfectly with good conversation and popcorn!