Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's Local Nectar and an Announcement about CiderCon 2017!

I've been hearing about Woodchuck's Local Nectar for a while. This is the cider made from only Vermont apples; its semi-dry and has a higher ABV more in line with 100% juice ciders. I've been curious about this one for a while, so when I spotted it on  grocery store shelf in Vermont a few months ago, I picked one up. Usually Woodchuck kindly sends me little cider care packages, but this one I had to hunt down on my own.

Woodchuck is now celebrating their 25th
 anniversary! For cider in America, that's actually a tremendously long time.

You can read more about the celebration here: http://www.woodchuck.com/blog-post/25th-anniversary-cider-growler-launch

And Ciderstock 2016 is happening: August 20th in Middlebury, Vermont! Check out the music and food lineups here: http://www.woodchuck.com/ciderstock/index.php

I've tasted most everything Woodchuck has released: far too many to list in any one review. But I do want to share a few of my Previous reviews:

Gumption: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-woodchucks-gumption.html

Cellar Series Chocolate: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

Hot Cha Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

Daychaser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/05/cider-review-woodchucks-day-chaser.html

Barrel Select:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-woodchucks-private-reserve.html

But its time to turn to today's review: Woodchuck's Local Nectar

 Official description:  
"Woodchuck® was born and raised in Vermont and our roots remain firmly entrenched in our home state. This cider was handcrafted using apples solely from our orchard partners in Vermont. It is light and crisp, semi-dry, and a pure reflection of the fantastic apple crop Vermont is known for."

Appearance: butterscotch, brilliant, visible bubbles

The color is more deep than bright. It reminds me of butterscotch candies but made totally brilliant. It is easy to see lots of bubbles in this cider.

Aromas: understated, ripe apples, vinous, dusty 

I don't notice strong aromas from this cider, even when I seek them out. But what's there smells fruity and dusty. In some ways the aromas remind me of a semi-dry riesling.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I find this cider semi-sweet, while being extremely well balanced and pleasant.

Flavors and drinking experience: applesauce, fruit esters, juicy, blackberry

Let's start with the obvious. This cider tastes appley Like applesauce but little smokey. Somehow it tastes more natural than some offerings by this brand. I'm also getting some yummy fermented fruit notes and esters. No tannins. Medium acidity. 
Reminds me of the Farmhouse Select Original '91.

 The overall impression comes across as freshly juicy. The sparkle is strong and pleasant. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't easy drinking. The most interesting thing abou tthis cider is its subtly blackberry finish. Both Alex and and I tasted some bubbly fruits of the forest notes consistently.

I had my local nectar with a homemade vegetarian burrito smothered in salsa verde. This was a perfect way to serve and enjoy this cider. The brightness of the salsa paired with the medium acidity and sweetness of the cider and the corn, tofu, tomato, rice filling was a nice offset to such a fruity and balanced cider. 

If I could buy this around here for hot days and mexican food, I totally would.

Last but not least, I am super excited to announce that I will be presenting at Cider Con 2017 in Chicago on Cider Branding and Online Content Marketing with my dear friend Eric West of Cider Guide. This isn't until February, but learning this news made my day today!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cider Review Roundup: Common Cider Co. Hibiscus Saison, Finn River Dry Hopped, Two Towns Bright Cider, and Henney's Dry Cider

When kids come back from school, one always imagines them writing the essay, "What I did on Summer Vacation." Though summer isn't over yet, I only had one big bit of travel in my summer. This three day vacation was spent doing Family Reunion with my husband's very entertaining family on Lake Tahoe. This is how it looked.

But you guys don't want to hear about that! You're here to read about cider, so I'm going to share with you what I drank on summer vacation!

To be more specific, I explored a local beverage place between the airport and the lodge and picked up a few things I'd not seen before. These are ciders I cannot find easily in New York. Some family members were interested in trying some ciders, so we set up an informal tasting. I had no idea how many folks would be interested or I would have gone a lot more crazy in the store. But that simply tells me that people who aren't committed cider folks are still really excited to experiment with new tasty beverages, and that is a very good thing.

Cider #1: Hibiscus Saison

Common Cider Co. http://www.commoncider.com/

Official description: "Hibiscus Saison pours a rosy red color with a bubbly head. The aroma is light & floral with hints of sweet apples and hibiscus."

Aromas: Peach and citrus, dark acidity, strong smell of fresh green wood, a nice note of mineral

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, acidic, easy drinking, fun. Some folks tasted a bit of funk on the nose initially, but it fades fast. We all found this cider sweet, and the saison yeast is very subtle. Our beer expert at the table (of Latitude 42) said he couldn't taste it. It has very high acid, owing to some degree from hibiscus. A few tasters noted a juicy tea aftertaste; this is Red Zinger, the cider. It had a light mouthfeel with no tannins.

Cider #2: Dry Hopped

Finn River http://www.finnriver.com/

Official description: "Bright cider, made with heirloom and organic dessert apples, blended with the bold citrus tang of organic Cascade hops. Some say it's like sipping a meadow; some say it's like chewing on grass. A hopped adventure. Alcohol content 6.5%. Dry."

Aromas: very hoppy, bits of grapefruit, lychee, green apple a whole hop smell

Flavors and drinking experience: We can definitely taste grass and green tea; the cider is floral and very fresh. I found it off-dry. The hops have some astringent qualities in a pleasant way. This has medium tannins and high acid, high enough to cause significant salivary gland response. In terms of texture, there's just a little bubble; petillant. I did taste some rhubarb notes.

Cider #3: Bright Cider
Two Towns  http://2townsciderhouse.com/

Official Description: "Clean and crisp, The BrightCider is made exclusively with fresh-pressed NW apples. BrightCider, always a bright idea!"

Aromas: A note of sulfites—it blows off. We all found it minerally and bright indeed! The smell reminded most of a freshly-bitten Granny Smith; just a dash of green apple candy though.

Flavors and drinking experience: The Bright cider tastes sweet, with very high acid; the malic acid is very strong. I noticed a pronounced lemonade aftertaste. Alex described a wet mouthfeel. Others found it Somewhat soda-like; gentle carbonation.

My favorite 2 Towns is still their Hop and Stalk which I reviewed back in 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-hop-and.html

Cider#4: Dry Cider
Henney's http://www.henneys.co.uk/

Official description: "Henneys Dry Cider is our best selling cider. Smooth, light and refreshing. Sweet, appley aroma. Palate has a delicious bittersweet apple character with some spicy bite and a bit of a tannic grip. Very fruity and quite pure, with a nice savoury twist."

Aromas: We noticed all sorts of things. I'll just let the list speak for itself: fresh tobacco, caramel, very ripe apples, kim chi, fruit esters, funk, sun-warmed hay, rawmilk goatcheese, the freshly washed feet of an English milkmaid. Slightly silly, but there were reasons for these observations.

Flavors and drinking experience: Most everyone noticed a strong caramel presence, some barnyard funk, but not distastefully much. One sibling said: Ghetost. The cider was low acid, medium high tannins. I loved that it was darkly semi- sweet. I tasted new bruised apple, but found it so interesting.

All of these ciders went super well with family and sunshine and relaxing, but even better than that, sitting down to do a tasting after a ropes course felt magnificent. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cider Review: Cider Creek's All The King's Men

Today, I'm finally sharing my notes on a Cider Creek collaboration: All The King's Men.

Cider Creek is a small cider company now primarily based in Canisteo, New York, but the company retains strong ties to the Boston area of Massachusetts. 

You can read about their core varieties and seasonal ciders on their website: http://www.cidercreekhardcider.com

Additionally, I recommend visiting https://www.facebook.com/cidercreekhardcider/ their very active Facebook page and best way to keep up with whats happening in their tasting room. They have tons of limited edition ciders and fun musical events.

I have previously reviewed two of their ciders and found both of them filled with complexity and creativity. Here are both of those:

The Cascade Hopricot combines cider, hops, and apricots and was one half of my east west fruity hopped cider showdown: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-cider-creek-hard-ciders.html

Fall'n'Cherry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-cider-creek-hard-ciders.html

And this doesn't scratch the surface of everything they are trying. Kevin Collins, the head cider maker, is wild experimenter and a great guy. 

But for today, I'm reviewing All the Kings' Men.

All the King's men is a collaborative beverage made together by Cider Creek Hard Cider and Resurgence Brewing. More and more folks in all corners of the beverage world are trying collaborations. I'd call this one a graf because it is a beer and cider hybrid that does involve grain and fruit.

Here's some information about what all went into this beverage: "This is a smoked cider saison, a hybrid and a collaboration between Resurgence and Cider Creek Hard Cider. It's apparently 45% un-fermented cider, 30% barley wort, and 25% wheat wort." I have no idea what to expect based on these facts, but I am glad to know and very very curious.

Appearance: hazy, deep persimmon, rich color

The All the King's Men's appears hazy. In the glass, it looks like brandy. I love how rich the color is, and I had fun comparing shades of yellow and orange to find a way to describe it. I settled on persimmon, but I love a cider that gives me this sort of descriptive challenge

Aromas: bourbon, caramel, milky, acidic

Whooooooooa, this cider is extremely fragrant with bourbon notes. I also smell sour mash. Sweet dolce de leche notes.  I'm also noticing some yogurty lactic acid sourness. This is going to be so interesting!

Dryness/sweetness: dry at first with a slightly sweet finish

There's a ton going on with this cider, and almost none of it has to do with sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, sour, still, interesting finish

First impression, I am surprised by how completely still it is. I could see some bubble action when I first poured it, but that is not apparent when drinking it. The cider is dry and sour, with a bit of graininess like barley. It has elements of yeastiness like a hearty stout. I rather  thought it would be more dessert like.

In terms of flavors, first it's sour, then hard booze edge rises and fall, followed by a pleasant oatmeal raisin aftertaste. I think subtle oaty  finish is the best part: lingering and nearly sweet and mapley. A big sip makes all of the stages clearer.

This cider is a big beverage: very thick mouthfeel. 
 You could practically pour this on pancakes because of how substantial it feels to drink. All The King's Men indeed: somehow this graf does taste very masculine, with bits of mushroom, aftershave and leather. This tastes more complex and woody than most ciders, and at some moments its even a little harsh.

I want to reward Cider Creek's continued creativity in this thoughtful slow drinking cider. It isn't a summery cider though, try with chili, or a really aged cheese that has some substance of its own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cider Review Vander Mill's Totally Roasted and my CCP certificate!

Some days are perfect. We don't have responsibilities; the weather is fine; we get to see friends while enjoying tasty food and drinks. These are easy days. My day didn't start out so well because I had to take my perfect cat to the vet. But, the way a day starts is not necessary how that day will finish. Here's how my lame day got better. 

I got my official Cider Certification Program recognition in the mail!!

Even my photo bombing cat Pie May couldn't resist checking it out!

Vandermill is a cidery I first started encountering at GLINTCAP three years ago. I had the pleasure of judging with a cider maker from Vandermill, and the business donated plenty of cider to the event. Two very nice early impressions. I cannot believe its taken me this long to actually review one of their ciders. The company started as a cider mill in 2006. They focus on local fruit, using only Michigan apples. Their cider can be found in at least four different states, but they maintain an aura of drinkability and approachability.

You can read tons more about Vander Mill on the website: http://vandermill.com/

So, Totally Roasted

 The medley of cinnamon, pecan, and vanilla will dance on your palate. This is a mind altering example of what cider can be. We hope you love it as much as we do. Gluten-free

I also found some earlier descriptions elsewhere on the web. This gives us just little more info: 
This cider was specially made for a draft customer in Grand Rapids, MI.. We are using over 4 lbs. of homemade cinnamon roasted pecans in a 30 gallon batch of this limited edition cider to bring you Totally Roasted. You will notice that soaking pecans in cider brings a unique texture and taste to the drink. We use cinnamon and vanilla during the roasting process and follow that up by adding whole cut vanilla beans to the cider. These subtle tastes certainly make this a cider all it’s own.

Appearance: Bright and bubbly gold

This pours with a light color, but don't mistake that low visual impact. Rather than from the color, the intensity comes from loads and loads of visible bubbles. Cider appears brilliant.

Aromas: dust, apples, sweetness, like brown sugar

Despite the abundance of bubbles, I cannot get a lot of aroma from this cider. I smell some fresh apple and some sweet blend of spice, but it isn't distinct.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This is a sweeter cider. It's part and parcel of the experience. The sweetness adds to the mouthfeel and helps bring out the spicy and nutty flavors this cider is all about. 

Flavors and drinking experience: nutty, sweet, tart, brown sugar and spice

Fascinating! This cider does have something roasty and nutty going on, but I'm not sure how it works. I taste brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nuttiness.  At the same time, I cannot help but notice the high acid. Totally Roasted offers up really good mouthfeel; it's rich yet sharp. Unsurprisingly, I notice no tannins. Sweetness is brown sugar plus tartness.

My only complaint is that in some moments, this one can taste a little artificial more like green jolly rancher than like fruit or fermentation. What I cannot complain about is how extremely lively and pleasant I find this level of bubble.

I think pairing can make the difference between a reasonable experience and a really wonderful one with a cider like this. I found the spice and roastiness on the subtle side, especially when balanced by the high acidity. Therefore, I recommend having this cider with a slightly sweet bread and a soft cheese. That should bring out the best in everything. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cider Review: Number 12 Cider House Sparkling Dry Cider

Summer officially begins here with the solstice, but summer feels like it has been here far longer. Upstate isn't known for dry rainless stretches and 90 degree days, but we have them. Orchardists, my thoughts are with you. Personally though, I've been curious about expanding my notions of the right ciders for warm weather. Since Number 12 Cider House from Buffalo, Minnesota sent me two bottles of their cider, I thought I'd try one with a porch picnic last week to see how that works.

The identity that I see in Number 12 Cider House is very oriented towards quality. The name comes from their twelfth formulation of their cider, from back in 2011. They kept experimenting in order to develop a cider they loved. I know that sounds obvious and perhaps even universal, but it isn't. Many brands present heritage or regional identity or apple growing rather than focusing on the taste and quality of their cider. I appreciate that companies share their own set of values and priorities, but I admit I get extra excited when the final fermented beverage takes center stage.

The charming website has more information here: http://www.number12ciderhouse.com/

Usually, I turn to hopped ciders for warm weather, but I chilled and served a bottle of Sparkling Dry Cider in hopes it would be refreshing for a picnic on my porch. Here's what Number 12 Cider House says about this cider.          

Number 12 Sparkling Dry is a truly dry, English style cider with a slightly tart finish. It has just the right amount of dry and tart, with an appley bouquet and a champagne-like sparkle. Sparkling Dry is blended with over 10 varieties of apples, picked and pressed and fermented to goodness. It is the culmination of 17 years of experimentation. And we're ready to share.
 This cider has an ABV of 7.4%. I'm curious to see what this Minnesota cider inspired by English ciders will actually taste like!

Appearance: brilliant, active visible bubbles, old gold

As the picture shows, this is a lovely cider with lots of active bubbles and fantastic brilliance. It looks like a champagne in a deep gold color. Very heartening.  It pours with a lacy mouse of bubbles and at the tale end of the bottle a good bit of cloudy sediment. 

Aromas: fermented fruit, caramel, yeast

The Sparking Dry smells fermented first and foremost. I can scent yeasty ripe apples and dust maturity. Everything about the smell points to mellowness, richness, and ripeness. The smell is appley but not like fresh fruit. I can also smell a bit of caramel. 

Dryness/sweetness: Decidedly dry.

Finally! They said dry and dry it is.

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, sharp, rich, tannic

Wow! The first thing I notice about this cider is how it stimulates a salivary response. This cider has a lot going on. It is both high acidity and high tannincs. It tastes dark, and rich yet firm and sharp. The first hit of flavor is bitter, fruity and astringent at once. The acid lingers and creeps up tongue to salivary glands. I get a curling sensation below my ears! Wow! 

I just keep noticing the acidity plus tannins over and over. I love how the cider cuts through fatty food. In terms of mouthfeel, there's lots of sparkle, this cider is bottle conditioned for certain. I find it very wine like as well as being influenced by english cider making. There's just a little gentle funk, but not enough to scare anyone.  I like how this cider tastes spicy, with  a bit of black pepper flavor. In terms of fruit, I get lemon, quince, and crabapple. One of my tasting companions thought it tasted like a sharp and tart apple peel. Everyone found it *Very* good. 

For this porch picnic, we had cous cous with sun dried tomatoes, caramelized Vidalia onion, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. The cider worked well with this, as well as a veggie loaded green salad with avocado. Try your own pairings, but keep it simple so that this complex cider can get the attention it deserves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cider Review: Angry Orchard's Knotty Pear

Today I'm sharing my review of Angry Orchard's  Knotty Pear. This is my first review from Angry Orchard's Orchard's Edge series. This is how the brand introduces it, "Our cider makers are excited to continue expanding the idea of what American cider can be. Orchard’s Edge is our innovative line of ciders developed at the orchard." One of the facts I find most intriguing about this line is that they have been developed and produced at the R&D center, The Innovation Cider House in Walden, New York.  Some kind folks at Angry Orchard sent me two bottles of this and the other Orchard's Edge cider, the Old Fashioned (expect that review in August).

I've review other lines and ciders from Angry Orchard before. Here are just a few.

A roundup of Strawman, The Muse, and Traditional Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/05/roundup-of-angry-orchard-reviews.html

Most recently, I review the Stone Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-angry-orchard-stone-dry.html

"Knotty Pear’s main ingredient is juice from American apples, and also features pear juice, which adds a new dimension to the cider, creating a pleasantly dry flavor. Cardamom imparts a slight spicy flavor. With subtle notes of citrus and mint. This cider and showcases fresh acidity, lasting tannin, and a pleasantly dry finish from oak aging." There are a few references to dryness and one mention of tannins in this description; these will be features to look out for.

Beyond the description, the website also gives some facts. I love having these here to anchor my expectations.
ABV: 6.5%

Culinary Apples: Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith

Special Ingredients: Juice from culinary pears including Bartlett, Doyenne de Comice, and Bosc, D’Anjoucardamom. Cardamom

Gluten Free: Yes

Packaging Options: 12oz bottle (6-pack)

Availability: Year-Round

Appearance: bright brass, brilliant, few visible bubbles

This is a shockingly bold color. I never know what to expect colorwise when I'm pouring from dark glass bottles, but this was a lovely surprise.

Aromas: Powdery zingy fruity smells, Citric acid

Wow, I can smell so much tart acidity in this. It really reminds me of citric acid plus some extra zingy tropical fruit smells.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

Though the profile of this cider mentions dryness, I found this cider decidedly sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: dried apricots, sweet spice, green apple candy

The Jolly Rancher green apple flavor comes through the most clearly, but I can also taste rich sweet dried apricots, super ripe peaches, and tropical fruit. This cider offers up notes of pineapple as well. There's no getting around that sweetness, even with the cider's medium acid.

Here's where it gets interesting though. I do notice some astringency and fun mouthfeel. That's not from the pears, but it could be the oak aging. I'm also surprised by how relatively low profile the pear was in this mix.

The strangest thing is I had this cider twice and formed relatively different views of it each time. The first, I had it after eating far too much movie theater popcorn and watching X Men Apocalypse. Then, it tasted sweet yet invigorating and different. I think the sweet & salty contrast served it well. When I had it most recently, it was as an after dinner cider. Dinner had been amazing grilled pizzas and salad made by my friend Phil Sandifer (of Eruditorum Press http://www.eruditorumpress.com/). The pizza had plenty of savory and salty flavors being topped with homemade sauce, feta, mozzerella, roasted red peppers, basil and sun dried tomatoes. But after this, the cider felt much more like sweet apple candy and didn't unfold in quite the same ways it had before. 

If you're interested in trying this cider, I'd go for an intense salty and sweet pairing. The popcorn really did show it off well!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cider Review: Cidergeist Semi Dry Hard Cider

Last weekend, I travelled down to Ohio for the College of Wooster's alumni weekend. So, I wanted to keep my that little memory glowing by sharing my review of an Ohio cider. Cidergeist is from Rheinegeist out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Rheinegeist is primarily a brewery, and they've just now started releasing a couple of ciders.

One surprise I found when reading on the website is that they use Washington state apples. That's pretty far to go for mostly dessert apple varieties, but there are a lot of apples up there.

For a little background about Rhinegeist, I went to the website, "Our name, Rhinegeist, translates to "Ghost of the Rhine" and refers to our place in the historic Over-the-Rhine Brewery District in Cincinnati. Built within the skeleton of the old Moerlein bottling plant (1895), we brew batches of beer that sing with flavor." Let's hope their ciders sing as well!

If you want to read more about Cidergeist ciders and see some pictures, find them here:


Today, I'm sharing my review of Cidergeist's Semi-Dry Hard Cider.

This is what Cidergeist has to say about their Semi-dry, "Cider fermented to amplify the fragrance and essence of the apples whilst achieving a delightful, lip-smacking dryness." zI can add that the cider has 6.2% ABV  and is available year round. The kind folks at Cidergeist sent me a mixed six pack of cans of this and their hopped cider, so I'll be reviewing that one soon. 

Appearance: hazy, deep harvest moon color, poured with a head

This looks almost like bubbled bronze in the glass. Lots of sparkling action; the cider even poured with a head. That vanished quickly, but I caught it in the picture.

Aromas: fresh apples, stone, candy

This smells like fresh apples crushed between stones. Thesre's a secondary note that smells more candied, perhaps like candied pineapple and dried pear

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This is pleasantly semi-sweet with a real fruit character. I would not call it semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruit, fizz, balance

Fascinatingly, the Cidergeist Semi-dry tastes slightly of watermelon and cucumber. I was surprised that the level of fizz is medium; the appearance of so many bubbles made me expect something more intensely fizzy. Medium acidity and nice balance. As expected, there aren't many tannins to speak of. 
The finish of this cider transforms interestingly; it shrinks somehow and yet the acid remains for one little moment of farewell.

I had this first in a can and a few days later had one poured into a goblet. The glassware made a huge difference. The goblet caught the aroma much more. As much as I love the convenience of cans, I got a lot more flavor out of the goblet. And I'll choose flavor over convenience almost every time.

My recommendation is to free this cider from its can and drink it in such a way that you can really enjoy its aromas and flavors. The fruit be free!