Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Capitol Cider with Westcott Bay Cider, WildCraft Cider, and Slake Cider

I love Seattle. Usually, I’m not much a city person, but I adore Seattle. It’s a great city for food adventurers, art lovers, and cider nerds. Since I happen to be all three, having fun on my trip was the easiest thing in the world. My most anticipated cider stop had to be Capital Cider. Check the place out in person if you’re near or online in any case: https://capitolcider.com/. That menu and cider selection are hardcore! It claims the largest cider selection of any independent cider bar in the country. 

I’d been looking forward to exploring this cider list for years. The walk was cool and rainy, so it felt like reaching an oasis once we got there. I loved their decor and atmosphere. The whole place was filled with art copies that looked largely 18th and 19th century inspired. It gave the taproom a classic pub feel but with lots of natural light. Heavenly!

I ordered a flight of ciders that included Slake Cider, Westcott Bay Cider and Wildcraft Cider. This was the flight most oriented to heritage apple varieties and dry ciders, so it was an easy pick for me. For food, I chose a cheese, saucy, brunchy dish with eggs and tortilla chips. I wanted something hearty and filled with umami flavors to pair with what I hoped would be higher tannin dry ciders. Here’s how it went, cider by cider.

Westcott Bay Cider’s Very Dry

Westcott Bay Cider comes from San Juan Island, just off the coast of Washington State. I’ve never had the chance to try one of these ciders before. Based on what I can find out about this company, it’s small, operational since at least 2007, and focuses on a small number of traditional apple-only ciders.

Learn all about Wetscott Bay Cider at the website: https://www.westcottbaycider.com/

Here’s this cider’s official description, “Traditional Very Dry Very Dry is a "bone dry" cider, crisp, with a bit of effervescence, it is an excellent addition to any meal where a dry white wine would be served. Residual sugar less than 1/2 percent. Alc 6.8% by Vol.”

This cider’s aromas start with mushy overripe apples, honey, and pollen. There’s been debate about if any notes in a smell can lead one to correctly anticipate a cider’s level of acidity, but something about this smell leads me to expect a tart, high acid cider.   

The Very Dry tastes delicious; it’s dry with high tannins and high acidity. Though the abv isn’t particularly high, the intensity of flavors leads this cider to feel just a bit warming. It’s a strong combination of old and new world styles. It uses mild oxidation to very positive effect. The flavor is so savory as to veer almlost into salty territory. I love how very savory this cider is with notes of leather, tea, and rosemary.  In terms of texture, the Very Dry is a tiny bit petillant but basically still. 

WildCraft Cider Works’  2016 Willamette Heritage 

WildCraft focuses on using local fruit and botanicals as well as spontaneous fermentations for all of the ciders the company makes. The company has a tasting room in Eugene, Oregon.

Check out this Oregon cidery online: https://wildcraftciderworks.com/

I’ve reviewed one WildCraft Cider before, almost a year ago: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-2-towns-ciderhouses.html

The official description for the 2016 Willamette Heritage follows. 
Though the tradition of cider making is still in the memory of many farmhouses across the nation, the methods once used along the west coast seem to have all but vanished. In times gone by the unique Willamette Valley landscape was covered in orchards planted by reliant settlers. Some of these orchards remain, now untamed but still accessible, and provide a portal to their mysterious past. Fermented with indigenous yeasts from the fruit of the very same orchards, we present to you the reclamation of the bygone Western Farmhouse Cider.
This cider smells funky, like an interesting meeting point between English and Spanish cidermaking styles. There’s just a high of volatile acid in the smell. I expect lots of tannins. The aromas are like dipping well worn bridle leather in pixie sticks. It’s fruity, herbal, and farmy.

The 2016 Willamette Heritage tastes like salted caramel and ripe apples. The funk I noticed in the aroma is present, but thankfully it doesn’t take the cider to a too briney direction. I’d call it off dry. It’s simultaneously bright and dark tasting. 

The mild VA from the aroma translates into some well incorporated acetic acid; perhaps the cider was exposed to oxygen during fermentation. Spontaneous fermentations like these frequently result in wild and farmy flavors like the 2016 Willamette Heritage has in spades. The cider tastes fruity(underripe strawberry.), sour, and leathery. Even with all this, the cider is still filled with apple notes and offers up rich pleasant mouthfeel. This one tastes especially good with salty food. 

Last but not least, I tried Carlton Cyderworks’ (recently renamed Slake Cider) French Lane Cider.

This small cidery has been around since 2008. The company has recently renamed itself to Slake Cider, but earlier fans might know it from Carlton Cyderworks. You can visit the cidery and taproom in McMinnville, Oregon. The company makes several varieties, some of which include fruits or spices in addition to apples. 

Visit the website to learn more about this https://slakecider.com/

Here's the official description (I love how complete this description is.)
French Lane Press 
Wild fermented traditional dry cider, made solely from apples grown at our orchard in Carlton, Oregon.   
Planted in the fertile soils of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, our French Lane Orchard is the ultimate labor of love.  Over 60 varieties of traditional cider apples and perry pears grow at French Lane, and this variety yields a complex and totally unique blend of fruit.  Bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples from England and France lend depth, mouthfeel, and tannic astringency.  Heirloom American apples brighten the cider with tartness and acidity, and their higher sugar content contributes to the final ABV - a solid 7.4%.  The natural yeast which grows on the skins of the apples was allowed to completely ferment the juice, with no additional cultivated yeast strains added.  After primary fermentation the cider was aged and then bottled completely dry, with no added sugar, juice, or other sweeteners.  French Lane Press is truly a traditional farmhouse cider, showcasing what cider apples can be, without gimmicks, tricks, or excuses.
2017 Harvest - 7.4% ABV - Apple Varieties:  20% Porter’s Perfection, 20% Kingston Black, 12% Fillbarrel, 10% Browns, 8% Somerset Redstreak, 7% McIntosh, 7% Ashmead’s Kernel, less than 5% of the following: Spitzenburg, Tom Putt, Tremlett’s Bitter, Roxbury Russet, Ellis Bitter
This cider smells mildly leathery. I get the farmy richness that tells me to expect elements of both English and French cider styles. It’s Just a bit of barn wood and toast. The French Lane Press has inviting aromas that I think make it a great choice to introduce a newer cider drinker to heritage fruit and more wine-inspired cider making.

The French Lane Press is still and the first flavor note that comes across is honey. The cider has a light mouthfeel with medium high acidity and medium high tannins. The cider reminds me of hay and sun warmed grasses. I get notes of freshly washed apple and grapefruit. The ABV is 7.4% but this cider doesn’t taste especially boozy.

This flight was put together intelligently. The ciders all complement one another, and they are presented in the best order to appreciate each of them. The food was similarly attuned to pair with cider. My co-taster and I were very impressed! I know that all of my future trips to Seattle will have to include a stop at Capitol Cider. And I look forward to tracking down more ciders from Westcott Bay Cider, WildCraft Cider, and Slake Cider.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cider Review: Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider and Finnriver's Honey Meadow

West Coast ciders don’t get enough love on this blog. It’s not that I don’t feel the love, it’s just that I can’t get my hands on as many west coast ciders easily! Some wonderful companies share their releases with me regularly, but I don’t see many available in stores. Luckily, I took a brief vacation to Seattle with the Tall One last week. Of course, I tasted ciders everywhere I could! Here are my first two reviews from my explorations!  

I saw Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider in a fancy grocery store, and it came back with me to the AirBnb post haste. I’ve not gotten to try too many Dragon’s Head ciders, but what I’ve had, I’ve loved. The cidery is run by Wes and Laura Cherry on Vachon Island, off the coast of Washington State. They have a 3000 + tree orchard and a focus on apples and tradition cider making. 

This link will take you to the website where you can read more about Dragon's Head: http://www.dragonsheadcider.com/

Here’s the only previous mention in my blog, in a write up of CiderCon: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html 

Dragon's Head's official description is helpfully full with a few different sections. I’ll quote it in full. 

This is the Dragon’s Head Cider version of a farmhouse cider. Rather than carefully selecting a yeast strain for the fermentation, we allowed the wild yeast present on the skin of the apples to ferment the cider. It’s a bit of a fun gamble, but one we believe is worth taking.
2018 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, BRONZE MEDAL 
Tasting Notes 
Appearance – hazy, straw color, some sediment may be presentAroma – pineapple, green tea, apple blossomTaste – lemon and young pineapple flavors are followed by mild spice and lingering grapefruit notesMouthfeel – medium body with mild astringency; lightly effervescent

Appearance: warm straw, brilliant, big bubbles

My glass looks filled with large motionless bubbles. I know this cider will sparkle. The color of the Wild Fermented Cider reminds me of warm straw and the clarity is brilliant. A very good looking cider.

Aromas: lemon, pears, sugar, apples 

Oooh golly. The Wild Fermented cider smells like apples and sugar dusted on a lemon slices. It’s fresh, sweet smelling, fruity and sharp. I love how balanced and enticing it smells. I get notes of citrus, pears, and most of all mellow overripe apples.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The Wild Fermented cider is barely off dry. There’s just enough sweetness to expand my ability to perceive the cider’s nuances. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, balanced, bubbly, wine like

This has to be one of the cleanest and most balanced wild ferments I’ve ever tasted. I’m completely impressed. The cider tastes like cool fresh apples with quite high acidity, and plenty of yeast character.  I love that it’s super balanced and controlled. Tasting this cider creates a strong salivary reaction due to both intense sparkle and high acidity. 

The overall experience is very wine like; it reminds me of a very green appley Sauvignon Blanc. I can  definitely taste the apple in this cider, but the fermentation speaks impressively too. It’s delicious in big and small sips.The fruity notes include lots of citrus. The cider doesn't change much over the course of the sip: it hits with the apple and citrus, and stays constant through the finish. What it offers is excellent. The cider’s  mouthfeel is light and zippy. This is remarkably good. 

Finnriver’s Honey Meadow 

Finnriver Farm and Cidery is an organic cidery and winery, farm and event space in Washington State. I love this introduction from the website as a way to understand this cidery’s identity, “While our farm is remote, we're honored to be on the forefront of the Pacific Northwest hard cider revival and to craft ciders that both honor historic hard cider traditions and offer fresh perspectives on the possibilities of the fermented apple. We grow and source organic and seasonal ingredients to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the earth.”

Read more about Finnriver online: https://www.finnriver.com

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

I enjoyed the Lavender Black Currant this past November: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-finnrivers-lavender-black.html

The Honey Meadow's official description comes in a few parts. 

Describing the aromas and flavors of the cider, we can read, “This floral, earthy nectar sips like a fine, fermented spring tonic. Distinct floral notes with wandering hints of greenery. Light and crisp, herbal body with notes of artichoke and earth, and finishing with honeyed out-breath and a cream soda sprig of chamomile.”

I’m grateful to get some insight into the apple, herb, and honey choices, “Fermented on the farm with a select blend of Certified Organic Washington apples, organic Midori Farm burdock root, organic dandelion root, organic Finnriver lemon balm, organic chamomile blossom and Sequim Bee Farm blackberry honey.”

The ABV of this cider is 6.5%.

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly bright gold

This color just shouts spring sunshine. I didn’t see much of that in Seattle, but I know it when I see it. The cider is brilliant and obviously bubbly.

Aromas: honey, ripe apples, white flowers, yeast, vanilla

I am so glad that this cider smells of apples first and that the floral and honey notes do not dominate. The Honey Meadow does smell like all sorts of fruits, flowers, and herbs, including honeysuckle, vanilla, light honey, and Meyer lemons. I also get just a little yeast bread buried deep in the aroma. It smells so very pleasant! 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Honey Meadow is a sweet cider. The character of the sweetness is honeyed, rich, and vanilla tinged.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbed, honeyed, rich, funky

What a trip! The Honey Meadow tastes sweetly of creamed honey, while also being funky, herbal, appley and powdery. The floral notes remind me of daisies, queen anne's lace, and tiny white spring flowers that make the air smell like May. I get strong hints of vanilla frosting, notably that could be connected to the creamy, thick mouthfeel. The honey is fairly strong, it even hints at being like a cyser. 

The cider has medium acidity and medium bubble that fades fast. There are no tannins to speak of.  I appreciate the clean and bready funk, because it adds a needed second dimension, and a note to the finish.  The cider pairs very well with a salty snack. It’s fun, drinkable, friendly and extroverted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Cider Review: Eve's Cidery Northern Spy and Stormalong Cider Red Skies at Night

The season has finally turned here in Upstate New York. It felt like spring over the weekend; I can’t count the signs of spring as they arrive anymore. They are too numerous. Plus, I always feel so grateful and energetic after recovering from illness, so I’m still thrilled to feel good.

Today, let’s begin with Eve’s Cidery Northern Spy.

Eve’s Cidery operates in Van Etten, New York and has since 2002. The cider apple orchard the founders planted has to be one of the most mature in the country at this point.

I’ve reviewed several ciders by Eve’s cidery before, stretching all the way back to 2013.

I started with Autumn’s Gold: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-eves-ciderys-autumns-gold.html

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

Albee Hill Still and Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-eves-cidery-albee-hill.html

I got to try the Perry Pear with a Murray’s cheese board:

Autumn of Eve’s led a group of us cider nerds on an Orchard Tour and picnic back in Fall 2016:

This past November, I served the Darling Creek at my Thanksgiving meal and then it made my top 10 of the year:

You can read all about Eve’s Cidery on the website: https://www.evescidery.com.

Here’s the official description for this particular batch of Northern Spy: “Aromas of apple pie with buttered crust, savory herbs, summer plum and sun dried linen. On the palate, soft sumac flavors hang on a frame of grippy tannin. The finish juicy and persistent with wet stone, sea salt.” ABV 7.1%.

Appearance: unpopped popcorn, brilliant, so very bubbly

This cider looks just as bubbly as I’ve ever seen a cider! Every photo i took shows a blur of bubbles racing to the surface of the cider. The color looks deep in a way that leads me to anticipate rich flavors and tannins. The color reminds me of unpopped popcorn kernels. It’s brilliant which shows off the color and the bubbles even more.

Aromas: caramelized lemon, overripe apples, spices

Remembering how this cider smells makes my mouth water all over again. I love The Northern Spy’s overipe apple smell. It also had sweet citrus that reminded me of caramelized lemon or even blacked lemon peel. I also got oodles of baking spice.

Dryness/sweet: off dry

This is a gorgeous off dry cider. It has enough sweetness to unfold all the flavors within but not one hair more.

Flavors and drinking experience: super bubbly, Golden raisins, tart, lemon

I love super bubbly ciders! It’s a weakness of mine, and the Northern Spy suits it absolutely.  Gosh, I’m grateful. I got some wonderfully rich flavors as well, including golden raisins, citrus tartness, lemons and honey. It’s just a little bit funky, but only enough to give the experience some tooth.

I enjoy this dry, very tart, fermented, cider with a lemon finish. I’m not always the biggest fan of a single variety cider because they can suffer from lack of balance, but I just adore this. I paired with a springy asparagus and potato bake. It was delicious!

Let's move to Stormalong Cider's Red Skies at Night. This sample was shared with me by the kind folks of this Massachusetts cidery.

I started with the Legendary Dry:

I also tried The Light of the Sun:

Visit the website to learn more about the cidery and Stormalong’s other offerings: http://stormalong.com/

Red Skies at Night

Official Description, “A delectable cider made with passionfruit and hibiscus.  Tart and juicy, tropical, and satisfying.” 5.8% ABV. Apple varieties used include Idared and Golden Delicious.

Appearance: Persimmon, brilliant, and bubbly

This cider is too pretty to come in a can! I hope everyone who cracks one open pours this rich orange red cider into a glass, so as to appreciate that gorgeous color. I’ll call it persimmon but it lives right on that hazy sunset area of red and orange. What a color! It’s also bubbly and brilliant.

Aromas: Passion fruit, coconut, guava, hibiscus, and apple

Red Skies at night smells so tropical! This cider smells like what it entails: passionfruit, hibiscus, and apple, but I also get other tropical notes that remind me of guava and coconut. I am so happy that the apple still comes through in this vibrant mix.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi dry

From the aromas, I expected a sweeter cider, but this was a nice surprise.

Flavors and drinking experience: zingy, red fruit, herbal

This is such a satisfying cider!  I love that Red Skies at night tastes so zingy; it causes a pronounced salivary reaction. What starts of dry and tart does develop into a sweet finish. The overall experience is one of  apple plus red fruit. This cider tastes herbal but simultaneously fruity. The Red Skies at Night consistently offers up lots of acid, making it very refreshing!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cider Review: Eastman’s Forgotten Cider's The Red Queen and The Cider Lab's Empire Golden

This week’s post is late! I apologize, but I have been sick for days and getting healthy takes time. Someday, I hope to be the sort of responsible blogger who is always more than one post ahead,  but I don’t see that happening before July at the earliest. Alas. But I’m glad I managed to taste some exciting and flavorful ciders before this cold claimed me. (I won’t have enough of a sense of smell to take new tasting notes for several more days!) 

Eastman’s Forgotten Cider has a slogan, “From Tree to Tap.” The company is very focused on apples. The company comes from an orchard (Eastman’s Apples) with hundreds of different apple varieties (some folks say 1000 plus). It’s based in Wheeler, Michigan where the company also has a tasting room. Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders has been releasing ciders commercially since 2007. I was given a sampling of the cider at GLINTCAP last year, and I’ve enjoyed working my way through them slowly. 

This week, I’m tasting The Red Queen. I know the Red Queen uses red-fleshed apples for the cider, giving all of the color, aromas, and flavor that we’ll find. 

You can find out more about this cider on the Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EastmansForgottenCiders/ 

I’ve previously reviewed a couple of cider by Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders:

The Mad Russian (a rose cider from red-fleshed apples): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/07/cider-review-eastmans-forgotten-ciders.html

More recently I reviewed the Cinnister: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/02/cider-review-citizen-cellars-sur-lies.html

The info I got for the Red Queen comes from entries on beer rating sites; the label doesn’t give much background (just that lovely chess inspired picture). “Blend of red fleshed and crab apples providing a dry finish with just a hint of sweetness.”

Appearance: salmon, brilliant, bubbly 

Though the Mad Russian is Red, the Red Queen is more peachy pinky salmon in hue. It’s a tremendously appealing color, especially in spring. When poured I could see some bubbles and beautiful brilliance.

Aromas: powdered sugar, ripe apples, cherry pie

Yummy, this cider smell so much like fresh baked goods! These aroma notes remind me of  cherry Pie, bread, ripe apples and powdered sugar. I got a few more tropical fruit aromas, and some mineral zinginess that leads me to expect a high acid cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Though this cider smell sweet, it tastes dry!

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, plums, tannins, acidity

My first impression of this cider is how tart it tastes. The Red Queen is sot as sweet as it’s aromas. That doesn’t mean it’s all austere; the cider has plenty of fruit flavors. I taste plums for miles. The ripe apples and powdered sugar aroma notes did not translate directly into flavors, and I think the cider is better off this way.  

As for texture, the Red Queen offers medium bubble, some tannins, and massive acidity. It’s a fun a cider. I opened on a quiet TV night with the question of what snacks would complement it. Our options were Girl Scout Cookies, popcorn, or cheese, and we had no trouble choosing a creamy brie and wheat crackers to accompany this cider. It was delicious! 

The Cider Lab's Empire Golden

My next cider for this week is a New York cider from Geneva, New York. The company is The Cider Lab. It’s a relatively new venture with a portfolio of four ciders. For more background on the company, check out my first review of one of the ciders.

 Read about the company and the ciders here: https://theciderlab.com/our-cider/

I have reviewed one of them before, the Empire Royale: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/02/cider-review-cider-labs-empire-royale.html

Here’s the official description, “Empire Golden An award-winning, rich, hard cider made from fresh-pressed New York Empire apples grown on the golden shores of Lake Ontario. The sweetness of The Cider Lab’s Empire Golden is perfectly balanced with the tart acidity of the fruit. A luxurious nose seduces the senses while hints of apples and honey comfort like a warm day. A smooth cider experience that pairs well with foods that have a spicy finish or simply as a luxury to be enjoyed on its own. Enjoy responsibly and share Empire Golden with friends.” 7%ABV 

Appearance: super bubbly, canary yellow, brilliant

This is an exciting cider to see! I love how bubbly it is. The color is vibrantly canary yellow with excellence brillance. 

Aromas: yeast, cinnamon, rip apples, lemon

The Empire Golden smells both fruity and yeasty. Specific notes all center around ripe apples but also include cinnamon and lemon. I got little bits of funkiness when I first poured a glass, but they were fleeting.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet cider with lots of fruit flavor. It isn’t sweet like sugar but sweet like cooked apples. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, great mouthfeel, juicy

This cider’s sweetness is kept in balance with high acidity and just a fun amount of funk. What I enjoyed most about the cider is also related indirectly to it’s sweetness: the mouthfeel. While I love a light and lithe dry cider as much as anyone I know, I also enjoy ciders that have some heft and gravitas. The Empire Golden has a fun big mouthfeel buoyed by lots of bubbles. It’s a juicy and substantial cider, and that’s what’s best about it. 

The Empire Golden is so fruity and apple, tropical, pineapple, that it’s almost sticky. It reminded me of certain Tiki drinks while still being 100% apple focused. I shared this cider at birthday party with my first ever experience with an MST3K movie, Manos the Hands of Fate. Thankfully, the cider made much mores sense than the film did, with or without robot commentary. Nonetheless it was a lovely addition to a tremendous party. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Cider Review: Stem Cider's Banjo and Grand Illusion Cider's Blue Illusion

Before I get into this week’s reviews, I do want to remind folks of two upcoming cider competitions for which I’ll be volunteering. I admit my bias freely, but I’m excited to be involved with both of these competitions, and I hope cider makers of all styles and categories will enter their favorites.

 New York Cider Competition through the Raise a Glass Foundation: https://cider.raiseaglassfoundation.com/

GLINTCAP (still a few more day for discounted registration): https://glintcap.org/register/

This week, I have two fun and different ciders. Before I start my reviews for the week, let me mention that both ciders were samples shared with me for review. A free cider doesn’t sway my opinion; I review based only on my perceptions. Both of this week’s are on the more inventive rather than traditionalist side of the spectrum. The first is Stem Cider’s Banjo

Stem Ciders is a company out of LaFayette, Colorado. The company dates back to 2013, but the flagship cider Real Dry Apple Cider was born even before the company in 2011. The company’s philosophy section of the website identifies a clear focus and mission within the cider world: one that straddles experimentation and apple-focus. (Read it here: https://stemciders.com/philosophy/). 

 I have reviewed two Stem ciders before. 

I tried the Pear Apple in 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/06/pickcider-review-stem-ciders-pear-apple.html

And I enjoyed Stem Ciders’ Perry last year during Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-tieton-cider-works.html

You can find out all about the company online: https://stemciders.com

Here’s the official description, “Crisp apple melodies and smoky undertones come together to create Banjo. Carefully picked apples are fermented dry and aged in bourbon barrels to smooth perfection. Pour a glass, find a band and marinate the day away.” 6.9%ABV.

Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, pale honey

I know it’s a cheat to call a cider honey colored because honey comes in as many colors as cider does, but that’s what looking at the Banjo makes me think about. It’s pale and nearly transparent but not bubbly, not golden, and not quite brilliant. Instead it looks like a mild pale honey. 

Aromas: Alcohol, bourbon mash, vanilla, smoke

Almost all of the Banjo’s smells relate to the barrel aging. It’s scent pours forth with notes of  bourbon mash, alcohol, corn, smoke, wood, steel. Secondarily, the cider smells of sour and sweet apple notes, but then we return to barrel qualities with sweet creaminess and vanilla. This collaboration is going to be very barrel forward, I predict.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

This cider is mostly dry and has lots of different moments of flavor, but sweetness only makes a fleeting appearance at the beginning and end of the cider’s flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: whiskey, hot, astringent, tannic

This is almost certainly a divisive cider for Stem fans. It tastes overwhelming of whiskey and barrel notes. I imagine whiskey drinkers and barrel fans (perhaps even stout drinkers) like it very much but those who want a more fruit forward cider might be less into it. I can see both sides of the story; for me, this has to come down to how such a cider might be best served.

The Banjo’s first note is grainy and intriguing, following instantly by a big wave of astringence sweeping the tongue front to back. It feels a little hot despite the perfectly reasonable ABV.  The wave dissipates, and what comes after both feels and tastes lighter. The barrel contributes corn, toasty, vanilla, and smoky notes.  

Somehow this cider can swing between cool and then warm all in one sip. I’m glad that there’s plenty of acid, which serves to deliver the bitterness in a more balanced way. Though I couldn’t see them, the Banjo brings  plenty of fine bubbles. It goes all over the place, but averages out to mildly more than  medium mouthfeel. Yes, it’s  tannic but only in a barrel way.  I got into its groove, but as a whiskey collaboration, it's definitely heavy on the whiskey end. I had this cider with veggie barbeque, corn, and cheddar. It could have handled even heartier foods. I’d love to try it again with a rich and smoky bean chili and cornbread. 

Grand Illusion Cider’s Blue Illusion

Grand Illusion Cider comes from Carlyle, Pennsylvania. The company has a restaurant and makes cider. You can also find a variety of beers, wines, and special events at the location.

Visit Grand Illusion’s website to learn more : https://www.grandillusioncider.com

A few months ago, I shared my first review of a cider by Grand Illusion Cider: Mystic Citra Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-grand-illusion-hard-cider.html

The official description of the Blue Illusion is short and to the point, “This well-balanced blueberry-lavender cider offers a pleasant sweetness and a light berry fruitiness; it finishes with a touch of English lavender.” 6.5% ABV I’ve not had very many lavender ciders, so I’m curious to see how that flavor profile will blend with apple and blueberry.

Appearance: Cloudy, magenta, bubbly

This cider bubbles excitingly, just as the color strikes an intriguing ambiguous place  between red and purple. Let’s call it magenta, but I’m hard pressed to know if it’s more like red grape or a plum color. What I can tell is that it’s not filtered; this cider is cloudy!

Aromas: yeast, lavender, acetic acid, blueberry and apples

There’s a rich fermenty note that starts off my experience of the Blue Illusion; I think this comes from the yeast chosen. The Blue Illusion smells very much of both lavender and blueberry, with some tart acetic acid thrown into the mix. While there’s not a lot of apple in the aroma, I do smell some, blended with the clean yeast to remind me of apple pastries.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider but one kept there by acidity rather than by austerity.

Flavors and drinking experience: Blueberry, lavender, lemon curd, high acid

The Blue Illusion tastes of lavender but most of its character can be traced back to blueberry; it’s not very apple-forward. The acidity in this cider is high and reminds me of lemon curd. That’s a flavor I love! This cider tastes enjoyable in an easy-going and approachable way. 

The mouthfeel is wet and full. The whole experience reminds me of blueberry muffins; that could also be the yeast notes from the smell coming through in a new way with all of the fruity notes.  The Blue Illusion boasts high acidity but no tannins. I’m guessing the apples involved are eating varieties, though I cannot be sure. 

I had this cider with some some pineapple pizza! Two fun easy things together: both fruity and flavorful.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Super Natural and Eden Cider's Extra Sec

Lots of exciting cider events are approaching in the next few months (GLINTCAP, NY Cider Competition), but they aren’t here yet. I don’t know about you, but patience isn’t my most developed quality. I like the fun thing to be happening today or if not today then very soon. I needed some extra fabulous ciders to help me wait out the next several weeks until I can count down till the fun starts.  

I’m starting with the Angry Orchard Supernatural: something I picked up when I visited the Innovation Center for Angry Orchard in Walden, New York. 

Here’s what I wrote about that visit for Cider Culture: https://www.ciderculture.com/angry-orchard-innovation-cider-house/

You can also visit Angry Orchard online: https://www.angryorchard.com/

Here's a quick list of some of my previous Angry Orchard reviews (this is not all of them!)

Wooden Sleeper: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-angry-orchards-wooden.html

Understood in Motion 3: this collaboration with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider (this was my #6 cider of 2018): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-angry-orchard-ciders.html

Spiced Apple from March of 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

I reviewed the new Pear as a part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-greenwood.html

I reviewed the Rosé last March: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

I did get to try an early release from the Innovation Cider House: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

Angry Orchard's official description reads, “This cider is pet-nat and also unfiltered so sediment is natural. It will absolutely slay at your dinner table. Enjoy.” What it doesn’t mention is that pet-nat stands for Petillant Natural, also known as Method Ancestrale. What it means is that the bubbles in the bottle come from the primary fermentation finishing up in the bottle so that the Carbon Dioxide produced by fermentation stays trapped in the bottle. This method has been used for both cider and wine for a couple hundred years at least.

The label also lists the apples included, “40% Dabinette, 34% Gold Rush, 11% Marie Menard, 11% Muscadet de Lense, and 4% Northern Spy.”  I love love love that this label includes the apple varieties! This one even introduced me to an apple I’d not heard of before: the Marie Menard. This is a french bittersweet variety.

Appearance: dandelion yellow, lightly hazy, bubbly

This does look like pet nat. Because the sediment created by fermentation (the lees) is never filtered out or disgorged, the cider cannot be fully brilliant. It does however have lots of bubble and a cheerful bright yellow shade. 

Aromas: sour apple, volatile acidity, sour, grain, ripe apples

I can smell lot of dynamic and exciting fruity, sour, and grainy notes in the Supernatural. There’s definitely some funk to these aromas! The fact that this is a wild fermentation is not at all surprising.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

This cider is semi dry but it might come across as completely dry, depending on the drinker’s habituation to high acidity. 

Flavors and drinking experience: finy bubbly, juicy, fresh sour

Ooh! I like Angry Orchard’s Supernatural, even though I am often not the biggest fan of Sidra style ciders. It’s more than tart, but only has a little acetic acid and volatile acidity. The cider is semi-dry with very fine bubbles. I find that Pet Nat textures can be so very exciting and fresh; this is no exception! 

The supernatural manages to be juicy and fresh without being sweet or tame. The whole drinking experience is very raw and sour- it’s vivid and exciting. My co-taster called it a cider with bite, and I think they’re right.

Eden Cider is a small specialty cidery operating in Northern Vermont. Eleanor Leger runs this inventive cider house that not only produces heritage orchard-based ciders but also fine ice ciders and infused cider blends for cocktails. You can find out more background on Eden Specialty Ciders in early reviews.

I tasted the Ezekiel most recently: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-eden-specialty-ciders.html

Over the summer, I was able to sample the Eden Heritage Cider in a can: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-eden-heritage-and.html

My number one favorite cider of 2017 was the Imperial 11 Degree Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

I relished trying Eden’s Sparkling Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-eden-sparkling-dry-cider.html

And I included it as part of my Thanksgiving and Birthday celebrations in 2016: 

Visit Eden Speciality Cider website to find out more, including new releases: https://www.edenciders.com/

Eden offers so much more than just an official description for all of the ciders. I’ll give what info I can, but do recommend checking out the webpage: https://www.edenciders.com/store/detail/?item=2016sparklingextrasec750ml

The description reads.
Champagne-method cider made from heirloom and bittersweet apple varieties grown in Vermont and at Poverty Lane Orchards in New Hampshire. It is naturally sparkling and clean - we hand-disgorge the yeast from every bottle! Beautifully balanced between fruit, acid, and tannin. The barely perceptible dosage serves to bring forth the fruit character of the cider. Perfect with roast pork, turkey and vegetable gratin dishes.

Appearance: honeybee gold, fine bubbles, brilliant

This brilliant cider has the deep gold I see on honey bees for color. The Extra Sec shows off a beautifully fine bubble. It’s easy to wax ecstatic about this how lovely this cider is to see.  

Aromas: Overripe apples, honeydew, peach, pine

There are more fruity aromas than savory ones in the Extra Sec, but this cider does include both. I can smell overripe apples, peaches, honeydew melon, and a waft of pine. 

Dryness/sweetness: Off dry to sem-dry

This is an interesting one. This cider is described and even named for a being a bit sweeter than many of Eden’s Heritage style ciders, but the residual sugar is still at .9% which would be called dry by some other cider makers. For me the result tastes not quite dry but certainly not semi-sweet; it’s more of that gentle slope from off dry to semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich mouthfeel, tea, leather, bright, steely

I love how rich the Extra Sec tastes; the cider offers up a viscous mouthfeel from the ice cider backsweetening. That doesn’t take away from the little bit of steel I can taste on the front. Melon sweetness in the middle palate balanced by tannic tea notes and leather on the finish. This cider surely is bright and bubbly, but the acid makes it feel bubblier than it looks (and indeed may be).  

I love how the Extra Sec’s finish rolls in waves of strong aromas, a little astringence, sweetness and bitterness alternating. Factually speaking, the cider leverages medium high tannins, high but not extreme acid, while remaining off dry. This beautifully balanced cider is refreshing for every moment of the experience, but it’s also thoughtful. 

The Extra Sec paired well with homemade pesto pizza and wonderful company. I couldn’t have asked for a better cider to share with the best of friends. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cider Review Black Diamond's Geneva Tremlett's and Farmhaus Cider's Sweater Weather

Everyone hates on Daylight Savings Time, unless they are hating on Standard Time. I try to avoid the internet on the day after the switch just because I am so tired of seeing the same thing every year. Personally, I’m a fan. I love looking out my windows to see sunset after 7pm, and I know that soon enough the mornings will be bright again. But, I’m here to talk about cider and not just pick fights about things beyond my control.

Black Diamond remains a absolute favorite cidery in home region. And I don’t think the competition for the title of regional favorite gets much more competitive than it is in the Finger Lakes area of New York. For a touch of background, Ian and Jackie Merwin, started as long-term home cidermakers, orchardists, and farmers. Dr. Ian Merwin is a Professor Emeritus at Cornell University in Pomology, specializing in cider. He and Jackie founded their own fruit orchard in the finger lakes, near Trumansburg, New York. They founded Black Diamond in 2014 and use primarily the apples they’ve been growing for years. 

You can read much more about the Merwins and their ciders on Black Diamond Cider's Website: http://blackdiamondcider.com

I’ve reviewed several Black Diamond Ciders before.
Most recently, I checked out the Slatestone: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-big-hill-ciderworks.html

Black Diamond’s award-winning Pommeau made an appearance at the Locavore Birthday pairing dinner in 2017: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

I reviewed The Solstice; this cider was my second favorite cider of 2017! http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/08/cider-review-black-diamonds-solstice.html

My first review of a Black Diamond cider is the Rabblerouser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-black-diamonds.html

I did receive my bottle of Geneva Tremletts for review just after its release. Full disclosure, many  ciders I review are shared with me for that purpose. I do not promise a review for every cider received, and I certainly do not allow the origin of a bottle to sway my thoughts on it. 

Here’s the background information on the Geneva Tremletts' as provided by Black Diamond Cider. 
Our version of a sour cider  
The identity and origin of Geneva Tremlett’s Bitter is unknown. It was imported from England for the Geneva, NY apple collection in the 1960s, thought to be the English cider apple Tremlett’s Bitter. Whatever its true name may be, Geneva Tremletts has established itself as one of the few bittersharp cider apples that can stand on its own in the bottle. This single variety cider is cold fermented and then bottled conditioned using both wild and cultured yeasts.  
Tasting Notes: Complex and austere with robust tannins and aromas of citrus and spice with a lingering finish. 
Predominant Apples: Geneva Tremletts (80%), Mixed Sharps (20%)

Appearance: warm straw, transparent, bubbly

This looks like a bubbly heritage cider. I see plenty of color in it’s warm straw hue and bubbles in my glass. I’d not call it brilliant, but it is transparent. I apologize for no good picture of the poured cider. Sometimes my photos just don’t turn out, so here’s the cake I paired the cider with.

Aromas: very aromatic, cooked apple, pear

Here’s exactly what I love about Black Diamond ciders. They smells luscious, rich, and intense. The Geneva Tremlett’s smells of apple, particularly cooked apple, pears and baking spices. 

Dryness/sweetness: off dry

I think this cider is an off dry, but I’m fairly confidently it would be perceived as dry by many drinkers. It has both high acidity and high tannins, without a lot of sweetness, pulling it towards a semblance of dryness.

Flavors and drinking experiences: high acid, high tannins, pointed tartness

The pointed tartness of the Geneva Tremlett’s is the most notable feature. Yes, the cider has tannins and some fruit notes. I love some of the mellow fermented flavors. What keeps sparking to the front of my mind though is that tartness on the very of being sour. 

I’m glad this cider isn’t fully dry. The sweetness that’s there does bring out the cider’s fruit notes, namely in a tart tropical fruit direction. The sweetness also helps bring it some heft (though it’s still lithe), just enough to pair with a chocolate spice pound cake. It’s a complex cider; one well worth trying if you ever see a bottle! 

Next up something spiced by Farmhaus Ciders!

Because I knew the spring is coming, I didn’t want to wait any long to enjoy  Farmhaus Ciders’ Sweater Weather. Even so, I’m read to trade in my tights and sweaters for sundresses and sandals!

Farmhaus cider comes from the fifth generation of a Michigan farm family. The ciderywas founded in 2015 in Hudsonville, Michigan. Not far from Grand Rapids you can try Farmhaus Ciders in the tasting room and a cidergarten I met the founders Megan and John at GLINTCAP years ago; it’s been fun to watch their progress. This is a sample shared with me for review. 

Find out all about the company on the website: http://farmhauscider.com/

I’ve reviewed a cider or two by Farmhaus Cider before. 

Last year, I tried the Crushable a canned cider with cucumber: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/cider-review-farmhaus-crushable-and.html

My first Farmhaus review is of The Classic: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-aeppeltreow.html

Here's the official description of Sweater Weather.
Chai. Spice. Cozy.
Throw on your favorite sweater, it’s about to get cozy in here!  Snuggle up and sip on this delicious chai cider.  Unlike anything you’ve tried before,  cardamom, cloves, allspice, cinnamon and ginger meet their soulmate in a blend of sharp and sweet apples.  Not too sweet and not too dry, this is the cider for you.  So settle in, get comfortable and most importantly bundle up – because it’s sweater weather time!

Appearance: morning sunshine, brilliant, mildly bubbly

This cider just shines in the glass! It's color is like a wintry morning sunshine, it's bright but not too warm. I don't expect a strong sparkle based on how it poured out of the can, but I can see some bubbles. 

Aromas: cinnamon, clove, vanilla, nutmeg

Sweater Weather smells just exactly how I want a spiced cider to smell. I get notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla. I’m hoping for a cider that’s going to balance sweet with spicy and a hint of tartness.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet
This is a sweet, spicy cider. It doesn’t want to be anything else, and I’m glad for that.

Flavors and drinking experience: full bodied, mildly spicy, acid, sweet

Yes, there’s a lot going on in this cider. Sweater Weather feel full bodied with rich maple heaviness. It’s Mildly spicy and mildly sparkling. Something about this cider reminds me of Chocolate and tea berry gum that I haven’t tasted since high school. What a wave of nostalgia! 

All of the spices that I smells are still present in the flavors of the cider. Sweater Weather brings medium high acidity and some savory and fruity notes as well. I feel most surprised to taste little hints of cherry, concord grapes, black tea and not at all surprised to taste ripe sweet apples in the mix. This cider is just a little bit funky, but not enough to be distracting from the spices.