Friday, October 24, 2014

Cider Review: Blackbird Ciders' Orchardist's Reserve

So, one of my goals for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week was to try as many of the unfamiliar cideries as I could. While I didn't make it out to all of the Cider Week events, I did what I could to try new things and this is my first review from that process. I got my hands on some Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve. But before I dive right into the cider, let's learn a bit about the folks who make it.

This is how Black Bird Cider Works introduces themselves on their website (which you can visit here http://blackbirdciders.com):
BlackBird Cider Works is proud to be Niagara County’s sole craft hard cider producer. Nestled on a beautiful farm overlooking Lake Ontario, we produce hard ciders made from apples grown in our own orchard. We boast a variety of ciders ranging from dry to sweet, including some made from certified organic apples. Our on-property tasting room is open seven days a week, offering samples of our current craft cider selection, as well as bottle sales. Stop by the cidery for a tasting, grab some BlackBird merchandise, and discover why we’re Western New York’s premier craft cider producer.
 Their exact location is Barker, New York and one of the really cool things about Black Bird Cider Works is that the cidery and orchard are all part of one location. Black Bird grows all of their own fruit, including both cider varieties of apples and organic apples. Both fairly rare situations and quite special.

I love that Black Bird Cider Works has a tasting room. Perhaps I've become partial over the months I've been involved with one, but there's really something wonderful to say about both seeing the premises for the beverage you are trying and about seeing how customers respond to your ciders.

Now onto Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve!

As I often do, I think it is useful to begin with the cidermaker's official description: "A Blend of six varieties of apples including New York State favorites like the Empire, Cortland & Jonagold apples. With an apple essence on the nose & a light refreshing taste, this cider has a clean finish." To me, this just gives me a good baseline for what to expect so that I approach the cider on its own terms.



Appearance: lots of color, no visible  bubbles, brilliant

This cider shows great color, a deep autumnal gold with hidden hints of green. As the photo shows, there are simply no visible bubbles or haze. It looks so unbubbly that there might not be any sparkle in this cider at all. We'll see.

Aromas: warmed apples, wood, booze

This smells immediately of warm overripe apples, yum. I can get notes of wood shavings, things that remind me of both beer and wine, so I guess I'm just smelling a more notable than usual booziness to the bouquet. Somehow the smell also makes me think of dusty hot slow afternoons in an attic or a barn. Perhaps thats more memory than smell though.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

I know the bottle tells me that this cider will be semi-dry, but I don't get that at all. Semi-sweet is my official recommendation even taking into account that my personal palate is calibrated with some real sensitivity to sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, fruity, green, sweet finish

As the appearance suggested, this cider is just slightly petillant. In terms of flavor, what I notice most is the fruity mid-palate. At that moment, I can taste tangerines, cucumber, all kinds of summer fruit backed with hints of green ultrafresh bitterness. Pleasantly complex. Somehow this just tastes so much like summer. Perhaps it is the hits of lake water minerality. Or somehow the combination of tannins and a sweet powdered sugar finish. I'm not entirely sure. My only real critique has to be in mouthfeel. I prefer a crisper feel with real acid but the Orchardist's Reserve offers more of a soft giving mouthfeel, especially after the initial burst of texture and flavor.

As for pairing, I'd put this with one last summery salad. Even up here in upstate New York, I can still get really good bell peppers and greens. So, I'd chop up every fresh crisp vegetable in the house into a grand finale of a salad, add a good splash of lemon and feta dressing, then drink up this cider right with it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cider Review: Nine Pin Cider Works' Ginger



Pumpkin and pumpkin spice are frequently touted as the flavors of fall, followed closely by all things apple. But I'd like to propose another contender, ginger. Especially when paired with apple, as in this cider by Nine Pin Cider Works, the balance of spice, heat, fruit, and zing is extremely autumnal. The air feels crisp; the chilly nights inspire warm fires indoors or out, and everything is bright for one last hurrah before the winter. Ginger suits this perfectly. But can bright spicy ginger combine well with hard cider? (My only previous review of a ginger cider combination can be investigated here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-millstone-cellars-gingeroot.html)

This question informs my review of the new ginger cider by Albany's youngest cidery, Nine Pin Cider Works.

You can check out all of their new cider styles and their full schedule of cider happenings on their website: http://www.ninepincider.com/

It looks like they've really jumped in the cider scene enthusiastically since their relatively recent opening.  Their only previous appearance in this blog comes from my review of their first cider, called their Signature Blend: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-nine.html
Alejandro del Peral, Nine Pin's cider maker has expanded their lineup quickly and now Nine Pin offers the Ginger, Belgian, and Hunny Pear as well.

Here's what Nine Pin says about their ginger cider, "Ginger – A spicy yet balanced cider created from a blend of dessert apples from Samascott Orchards and infused with ginger and orange peel."

I love that Ninepin is going for something spicy and also adding the orange notes. I'm so curious to taste how it will all work together.


Appearance: pale, brilliant

Somehow this color reminds me of a certain shade of sunrise when rose and gold combine with pale delicacy. Poetics of color aside, this is a beautiful brilliant cider without a hint of haze. 

Aromas: fresh apple, some ginger, spices

When I lift my glass, I can immediately smell apple. It is a fresh clean apple scent rather than something more ripe or warm. In the background, ginger and spice both appear but remain very separate from the apple.

Sweetness: Semi-dry

Though it is a bit more difficult to assess the sweetness or dryness of a flavored cider, at least for me, this one is doubtlessly a semi-dry. It has fruit and body as well as spice but these things always function in balance. The mouthfeel and finish contribute to the cider's functioning as a semi-dry. This makes it pleasantly approachable and enjoyable for folks with a wide array of preferences.

Flavors and drinking experience: genuine ginger flavor coordinated with orange zestiness

Wow! This cider has a very real ginger taste. It drinks just a touch spicy while staying nicely balanced. The ginger does not dominate the cider completely but it is a primary aspect of this cider. Rather than tasting like a flavored cider it drinks like apple, orange, and spicy ginger altogether. I am impressed by how tremendously well these flavors combine.

The Ginger offers a good level of carbonation for me, which means it is strongly sparkling. I enjoyed this cider before reading any descriptions or notes, but once I read about the infusion of orange peel it made all the sense in the world.

For reasons of practicality, I had this with a couple of non traditional pairings because my fridge was so filled with party leftovers. I could not in good conscious cook something new, so I asked the Ninepin Ginger to work with what I had. That means I tried it with tabbouleh salad, tortilla soup, and white chocolate tequila-soaked jalapenos. Trust me it worked.
 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week is Less Than Two Weeks Away!


The time is nearly here for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week!

Cider Week is a growing way for groups of cider makers and enthusiasts to get together and celebrate the finest of all libations, hard cider! There are a number of Cider Weeks in the United States now and some of them having been going on for a few years now. This will be the third Finger Lakes Cider Week!

The actual dates are October 3rd through 12th, 2014. There will be cider events galore all over the region. Find out more at http://www.ciderweekflx.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ciderweekflx

So, to help get people as excited as I am for the upcoming festivities, I thought I'd mention a few of the upcoming events and link back to my coverage both of last year's Cider Week and of the participating cideries that I've featured or reviewed in the past. That way you'll know a bit more about what you could be drinking soon at Cider Week!



My Participation Last Year

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be invited to help run a cheese and cider pairing event at The Cellar D'Or which is still a huge favorite of mine. We paired ciders and cheeses from the local to the international and had a great time. I know they're doing tons for Cider Week again this year.

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-and-cheese-pairings-cider-week.html


Here's just a bit of link roundup for reviews I've done in the past on ciders from cideries that will be participating in Cider Week again this year. 

Highlights of Cider Week 2014


• Friday- Sunday October 3-5: Apple Harvest Festival with cider sampling, apple tasting, pies, rides, and more, Ithaca 

• Friday October 3 (5-8pm):  Cider Week Kickoff Tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Eve's Cidery, Bellwether Cidery, and Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Ithaca
 
• Tuesday. October 7 (7pm): Science Cabaret with Dr. Gavin Sacks @ Lot 10, Ithaca

• Wed. October 8 Free Cider Tasting at Seneca Falls Farmer's Market, Seneca Falls
 
• Wed. October 8: Cider Flights and Tasting Event @ Microclimate Wine Bar, Geneva

• Thu. October 9: Cider Party for the Library’s 40th! @ Durland Alternatives Library, Ithaca

• Fri. October 10 (5-8pm) Local and International Cider tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Blackbird Cider Works, Ithaca 

• Fri. October 10 (8-11pm): Cider Stomp @ the Chanticleer Loft, Ithaca
 
• Sat. October 11 (11am, 1pm): Orchard and Cidery Tours @ Black Diamond Farms, Trumansburg

• Sat. October 11 (3-7pm): Gifts of the Apple family event @ the Good Life Farm, Interlaken

 • Sat. October 11 (5-8pm): Free Cider Tasting at Greenstar Coop with Bellwether Ciders
 
• Sun. October 12 (8am-5pm): Build Your Own Cider Press and Cider Making Workshop @ Hammerstone School, Trumansburg (requires pre-registration) 
 
 This is just a smattering of events from the week. Restaurants, bars, groceries, farms, and more will be featuring hard cider in all kinds of ways.

Cider Week Cideries I've Reviewed

Harvest Moon Cidery

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-harvest-moon-heritage-hops.html


Eve's Cidery

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-eves-ciderys-autumns-gold.html

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-eves-ciderys-beckhorn.html



Redbyrd Orchard Cider

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html



Beak and Skiff's 1911 Hard Cider

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-beak-and-skiffs-1911.html



Bellwether Cidery

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/03/cider-review-bellwethers-liberty-spy.html



Cider Week Cideries I Still Need to Review

Black Diamond Farm Ciders
Steampunk Cider
Black Bird Cider Works
South Hill Cider
Hazlitt's Cider Tree
Three Bros. Winery

How many of those can I get good notes on before the end of cider week? Do you think I can collect all six? I might just try.

(Full Disclosure: I'm a volunteer for Cider Week. I'm part of the team that's trying to bring you free cider and fun.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cider Review: Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King


Today feels like fall. Though the season doesn't officially start until the equinox on Sunday, the mornings are crisply cool, leaves are changing color, and apple harvest has started for the year.  I love these earlier cooler nights, for that that it means that winter and real cold cannot be too far behind. It is a season for visitors here in Ithaca, and today's review is for a cider I shared with dear visiting friends recently. They like dry challenging ciders, so I pulled out something I thought might be a bit special, Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King.

Here's a bit of background on Whetsone Ciderworks that I found on their website. The company has been around since 2010. Jason and Lauren MacArthur started Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro, Vermont. They appear to have a few really interesting identifying features as a cidery.

They do focus on local fruit. This what they have to say about that, "All of the apples we use are grown locally- this past year, most were from Scott Farm in Dummerston, some from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH, and even a few from our own small orchard."

This, plus the description of Jason MacArthur's winemaking influence make me really excited to try their ciders. I love it when cidermakers show a genuine focus on apples, climate, and the under-realized similarities of cider and wine making. Anyhow, that's my own bias talking.

You can find out plenty more on their actual site http://www.whetstoneciderworks.com/ or their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whetstone-CiderWorks/209863572381300

In looking at a few Whetstone Ciders, I though I'd start by sharing and reviewing their Orchard King. It sounds complex and truly expressive of their cider-making goals.

Here's what Whetsone has to say about their Orchard King, "This extra-dry, bottle-conditioned cider is effervescent and refreshing. Yarlington Mill, Orleans Reinette, and Major are among the apples that impart tastes of citrus and apple, leading to a delicate, smoky finish. A fabulous 'cocktail hour' cider."

This cider is sold in 750ml bottles and has an ABV of 7.5%.



Appearance: cloudy, deep creamy color, very little visible bubbling

I can see a ring of very fine bubbles around the edge of the glass and a few tiny islands of bubbles, but not much more. This cider is hazy to cloudy and shows signs of being bottle conditioned. This matches the official description, so that's good. The cider is a creamy rich gold in color.

Aromas: Leather, Ripe Apples, Clay

The Orchard King smells fascinating, rather like leather and limestone and deliciously ripe apples. I also detect notes that remind me of wood and clay. One of my fellow tasters got hint of lily aromas, and I think she's spot on. I get some phenols but not to a distracting or negative degree. I really enjoy how rich and complex this cider smells.

Sweetness or dryness: Dry

Definitely at dry cider! This doesn't taste the least bit sweet until the finish, but then some hints of warm sweet oats and breadiness kick in. I love the dryness and the shift just at the last moment. Very interesting.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, medium high acid, some degree of farminess

The Orchard King tastes monstrously tannic and fabulous. This cider comes across as lightly fizzy more than deeply bubbly. It shows a bit of farm funk with some hints of metallic flavors. The Orchard King balances that weight of tannins and funk with some intense acidity, making this a complex and bombastic cider. It tastes very rustic, even a bit medieval.

I enjoyed this with grapes, cheese, cookies, and wonderful friends. I think they were the most important accompaniment to this cider. It doesn't need lot in the way of foods. The Orchard King offers enough interest and flavor to stand on its own, but it could also easily pair with hearty foods. I would not enjoy this cider so much with anything super spicy or acidity, but balance it out with non-competing flavors like farmhouse bread, cheese, and fruits.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cider Review: Appletreow Kinglet Bitter

Tonight, I am finally able to post my review of Appletreow's Kinglet Bitter. I say finally because I tasted this cider weeks ago. Spoiler alert: I loved it. But I temporarily misplaced the photos I took of it, so I didn't want to post a review with no pictures. Tonight, I found them, so no more waiting!

First things first. You can find out plenty about AeppelTreow Winery and Distillery at their website:
http://aeppeltreow.com/

I have reviewed one AeppelTreow cider before, their Barnswallow. Interested parties can read that review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html

The briefest version of AeppelTreow's description of their Kinglet Bitter reads, "Semi-dry, medium tannic traditional English and French cider apples."

While mouthwatering, that doesn't go as deep as I would like in terms of information, and, luckily for us cider nerds, AeppelTreow gives us more. Here's the full rundown of what they say about the Kinglet Bitter.
English and French traditional cider apples. Complex and tannic.
Fermented to highlight cultivars and terroir.
Subtle apple and tannins, tart, slightly bubbly.
  • Body: Medium
  • Sweetness: 1
  • Tartness: 4
  • Alcohol: 6
  • Apples: Dabinette, Domaine, Frequin Rouge, White Jersey, Muscadet Deippe and other bittersweet cider apples of English and French heritage.
Kinglet Bitter is one of our proud ‘estate’ ciders.  It’s all grown at Brightonwoods, within sight of the Winery.   It’s more subtle and complex than Barn Swallow – being fermented from 100% bitter English and French cider apples.  It differs from an authentic European cider by being ‘immature’.  Kinglet has very little post-ferment changes made by wild Lactic Acid Bacteria.  Instead, we ferment it with a Sangiovese yeast that we think really brings out the tannin characters of the cider-specific cultivars.  These apples are rare, and not easy to grow.  When we get the question "Then why use them?", we pour a glass of Kinglet.
I've had a fair number of ciders that use only cider apples, and it changes the landscape of flavors tremendously. What excites me especially is that this list goes beyond the ten or so cider apples I've tasted most often and includes totally unfamiliar apples! The comment about relative 'immaturity' caused by post-fermentation changes makes me curious. What does that really mean? How will that translate into taste?


Appearance: marigold, few visible bubbles, brilliant

This is a deeply colored cider. Its marigold hue bespeaks tannins; this is not a surprise given the description.

Aromas: Tons of overripe apple aroma, some minerals, spicy.

 Wow! I feel completely entranced by the aromas here. This smells sweetly spicy but oh-so appley. Laying atop this balance, I pick up a subtle drift of minerality. Gosh, this is going to be good.

Sweetness: semi-dry

This has some sweetness, but not too much. Definitely not enough to call it semi-sweet. The thing about this sweetness that I notice most is its depth. This is a real rich apple taste that expresses itself partly with sweetness.

Flavors: high tannins, medium sweetness, rich, creamy, yet a bit tart

This cider tastes highly tannic but not too dry. I'll chalk that up not only to deep fruits in the mid palate but also no overkill in terms of acidity. The Kinglet Bitter offers rich flavor without being heavy. Instead the mouthfeel is more creamy but with hints of zest. The flavor is one that you can fall into but that just bounces you back up. It really is tannic and sweet but still refreshing; I just cannot get over how well those two elements are balanced.

I just absolutely adore this cider.

The level of sparkle is more one of spritz or petillance. My one complaint is that it did lose its sparkle fairly quickly in the glass. This is not a sincere critique. We need ciders at all levels of bubble and stillness. I just happen to like sparkle a lot.

Thinking about pairings for AeppelTreow's Kinglet Bitter, I'd like to pair it with foods that play up its tannins well. I think a totally smooth sherried mushroom soup, a salad with big herby croutons, and gruyere would taste amazing. Mind you, I enjoyed my own glasses of this cider with a good book instead of food. I assure you, it delights the senses either way. I just like tasty cider more than I like cooking, so I don't always prepare the meals that I think the ciders deserve.

Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cider Review: Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider

Apologies for the brief hiatus, cider drinkers! Many things have been afoot in the world of Along Came A Cider. Most exciting to me though is that HQ has moved yet again, and this time for to be settled for a long while. And that is a feeling that goes well with any pleasant beverage.

For the time being though, let me share my most recent adventure with a Farnum Hill cider.

Let us begin with the fact that Farnum Hill is serious about cider and about using cider apples. If you want to see this for yourself, you can find evident all over their website:

http://www.povertylaneorchards.com/farnum-hill-ciders/

On the one hand, I love that. Cider is worthy of being taken seriously. It is a seriously delicious and complex beverage. Different apples make for different ciders, and Farnum Hill has invested in cider apples much to the benefit of their ciders. But to represent that other hand, I have to say that I'm not completely into the tone that their seriousness takes.  For example, "On Farnum Hill, we stick to the true meaning of the word 'cider:' an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as 'wine' is fermented from particular grapes." Anyone who starts talking about true this or true that starts to lose me, I must say. There are a lot of ways to do anything, and calling one way true starts to mean calling all other ways false, and that sounds a bit limited and unnecessarily disdainful.

Consider me a rebel, but this seems a bit silly. The cider world has room for many style and even more bottles. I will absolutely line up to taste and try what Farnum Hill offers, but I'm not going to sign up for a "one true way" for cider.

Speaking of my fondness for their actual beverages, I have reviewed one Farnum Hill cider in the past. Find my review of their 2013 summer cider here:

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/09/cider-review-farnum-hill-summer-cider.html

But for tonight, it is all about Farmhouse Cider. 

This is how Farnum Hill introduces this cider:
Farnum Hill ‘Farmhouse’: Alcohol content: 6.5% by volume. Available in 750 ml bottles with mushroom cork & wire hood.
Our most casual cider, pale gold and bubbly, with a stroke of sweetness along with the tart, bitter, and fruity elements that good cider offers: citrus, pineapple, bittersweet apple, and a whiff of good barnyard funk. Farmhouse astringency is nowhere near the extreme, but shows a certain tannic edge. Agreeably versatile, it shares certain flavor elements with both beer and wine. A clean, appetizing finish makes it congenial with many kinds of food, from the snackiest through the meatiest to the whole-grainiest and back.
People fond of English or Irish commercial ciders often like our Farmhouse, though its sweetness is a fraction of theirs. Imagine a fresh-tasting second cousin to Magner’s (alias Bulmer’s Ireland), and subtract the sugar. ‘Farmhouse’ is more of a pub cider than our others. It varies a bit more from batch to batch, shows less complexity less alcohol than our others, and of course is less filling than beer. It and Semi-Dry are the most popular of our regular ciders. ‘Farmhouse’ is blended from a group of real cider apples that ripen earlier than most. So it’s a bit easier to make and less expensive to buy.
The tannins in the Farmhouse Cider taste more bitter and feel more rustic (rough?) than those in our more elegant blends. You who wince at the tannins in Farmhouse might find pleasure in our smoother, more complex Semi-Dry.
(For the ultimate in tannic astringency, journey to certain farmstead operations in the West of England. Any of their serious bittersweet ciders convulse the oral membranes with eerie power. Ageless residents of rural Somerset or Hereford can chat and sip all day, gently propped against barrels, freed by cidrous tannins from time and harm. Or that’s how it looks.)
Whoa. That's a mouthful. Let's dig out a few concrete specifics to use when tasting this cider. I'm guessing this will be an off dry cider (meaning not entirely dry but also drier than a semi-dry) with medium to high tannins. I anticipate some bitterness but not enough to entirely crowd out fruit notes. Sounds enticing enough. I'm curious.



Appearance: deep topaz, not many visible bubbles, brilliant

This is a lovely cider in the glass. That depth of colors supports the description of tannins and heritage fruit, but none of that is a surprise. Though the photo doesn't reveal this, when first poured, I can see that this will be a slightly sparkling cider, but the bubbles calm down quickly.

Aromas: overripe apples, dust, summer storms

Luscious smells. This cider makes my mouth water with that combination of warmed overripe apples and mineral dust. This is my second clue that this cider will taste tannic, so that's consistent with its appearance and description. But now I'm getting in a hurry because it smells so good that I want to taste it absolutely right now.

Sweetness: off dry

This cider, as predicted, tastes more than semi-dry but not completely dry and not at all harsh. This truly is a drinkable off dry.

Flavors: Tannins! Slight bitterness, good structure, woody

The Farmhouse Cider tastes highly tannic, but it balances that out with plenty of fruits and medium acidity. What the tannins contribute are good structure and body with some delightful drops of mild bitterness. My only complaint is purely personal. It has not very strong petillance, meaning it sparkles just a touch on the tongue but I would like perhaps a touch more. This is decidedly an easy drinking cider for the aficionado, and at the same time a beautiful and complex education for the more casual quaffer. I keep noticing the slight levels bitter astringency, but you know that's how I like it.

This cider offers a long woody finish that gets a bit sweeter at the very very end. Friendly.

In terms of pairings, I think I want both some fattiness and some mild sweetness to best highlight what I enjoy about this cider. If I were near the ocean that would mean lobster roll and homemade potato crisps. *swoon* Since I am significantly land-locked, avocados spring to mind. Perhaps an avocado and tomato salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a lemony drizzle. Or roasted corn on the cob with feta cheese and veggie burgers. Lots of summer foods would match this beautifully.

Farnum Hill didn't get their intense reputation by making mediocre cider. This is an elegant and deeply enjoyable experience. I am grateful for the apples and expertise that went into this. If they could relax a tiny bit about themselves, they'd be pretty much perfect.

**Don't forget! If you need my address for any cider-related reason, particularly if you want to send me your delicious cider for review, contact me via email or comment  to get my new address!**

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cider Review: Millstone Cellars Hopvine

Today makes Millstone Cellars' third appearance in this blog. I'm lucky to have friends in the Maryland DC area and a phenomenal local cider seller (https://www.thecellardor.com of course!) who hosted the cidermaker from Millstone (bringing in the current line of ciders for tasting and sale) because normally these ciders are only available in the Maryland and Washington DC areas. Ask me another day about the extremely difficult hurdles of distribution for small craft cider producers. I'll talk your ear off. Anyhow...

Here are my two previous reviews of Millstone Cellars ciders.



Millstone Cellars makes really interesting ciders. You can read about them on their website here: http://www.millstonecellars.com/artisanal-cider/ They aren't afraid to try interesting additives, unique apple varieties, and the most nuanced use of honey as a backsweetener that I know. Combine my good feeling for Millstone Cellars' style with the fact that I love hopped ciders. They are the absolute best for hot summer afternoons. The world can consider me very excited to try Millstone's Hopvine.


Obviously the Hopvine is an apple cider with hops, but we can do better than that for some useful information. Here's what Millstone says, "Cask cider aged with Maryland dry hops and blended with a touch of raw honey. Wrap your taste buds around a cascade of lemony and spicy hop flavors." Further reading or even just admiring of the beautiful label shows that this cider uses York Imperial apples, wildflower honey, and Cascade hops. This cider has an ABV of 8%. It is also listed as being bottle conditioned and dry.


Prepared with this details, let's pour and taste. Today is 88 degrees in Ithaca, perfect for hopped cider.


Appearance: Hazy, lemon curd color, not too many visible bubbles once the initial head disappears
 
The Hopvine pours with some belgian lace that quickly dissipates.

Aromas: Wow, alfalfa, citrus

The reason for the wow is that this cider is intensely aromatic. I love it when a cider gives me plenty of good smells! This one has alfalfa, hay, citrus, grapefruit pith, and a background of apples. But as it warms up a bit, the smells develop and give me additional notes like baseball glove or soft patent leather. Mmm! Wow indeed.

Dryness: Dry

Like many bottle-conditioned ciders, the Hopvine manages to exhibit loads of flavor while being bone dry. I really appreciate this in a cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: zesty, astringent, sour, fruity

I must preface my description with the fact that this cider tastes milder than it smells. It is dry, phenolic, and astringent. I love the intensity that astringency brings to mouthfeel; it makes everything zesty. The cider finishes with notes like straw, leather, and sour yeast. The hops make it spicy yet vegetal or herbaceous. I love how totally insane the Hopvine is with leather and acidity. This does not strike me as a sipping cider. I was tasting with a few friends who faulted it for moments of bracing funk that approach sweatiness, but I really enjoyed those facets. What can I say? I like a little stink in my cider. I like it a lot.

What we can all agree on is that Millstone's Hopvine pairs with strongly flavored aromatic dishes. Bring out the Rosemary bread, olives, and feta. I flipping love Rosemary and never get to eat it often enough, but the salty rosemary bread and briny feta just complemented this cider perfectly. My love for hopped ciders continues! This is probably one for the lovers of sour beers, unusual ciders, and deliciously complex tastes. I'd not share this with just everyone, but then again I say that about most of my favorite discoveries.