Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cider Review: New Day Craft's Johnny Chapman (Hard Apple Cider Sweetened with Sorghum)

It feels a little strange to be writing for the future like this, though I know that nearly all bloggers do it. So, when this goes live, I'll be in England with my fantastic husband Alex soon to meet up with his wonderful mom Ginny. The plan is to explore a bit of cider tourism followed by many days of hiking in Cornwall. But, I don't want my faithful readers to forget about cider while I'm gone, so I've left a few posts to take care of the blog in my absence. Now all I have to do is cross my fingers to avoid technical difficulties!

New Day Craft is a small company that makes cider and mead and operates a taproom in Indianapolis. Here's a link to their website: http://newdaycraft.com

 Here's how the company describes itself on the about page of its site: "New Day Craft specializes in craft mead and hard cider. Light, refreshing and full of flavor, our products are easily enjoyed. New Day Craft is the brainchild of Founders Brett Canaday and Tia Agnew. Starting in 2006, they have grown their business to provide the exciting, and tasty, line of beverages available on tap and in bottle today."

A dear friend of mine passed through this area and shared with me a bottle of Johnny Chapman Sorgum Cider by New Day Craft a few months ago. Many thanks to Kristen for the cider and for giving me access to a cider maker I've still never seen on store shelves.

Just as an aside, I want to make sure everybody reading know Johnny Chapman is also known as Johnny Appleseed. He is a hero to America's cider making and orcharding communities, but he was a lot weirder and more complicated than the cartoon image most of learned about as children. I like this article on him and his legacy: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/real-johnny-appleseed-brought-applesand-booze-american-frontier-180953263/?no-ist

That said, I like the idea of playing into the rural historical roots of Johnny Chapman by using sorghum as a backsweetener. I have no idea how that will taste, but I am ever so curious. This is all of the information I was able to find on New Day's website about this particular cider,"Johnny Chapman: Fill $12/Glass $5/Bottle $6.99, 4.5% Sugar, 6% ABV:  Rich hard apple cider sweetened with sorghum; caramel and malt notes with a sweet cider finish."

 Appearance: Intensely pumpkin orange, brilliant, so many visible bubbles

This deep coppery pumpkin color is an immediate signal that there is something unusual going on in this cider. I can see enough bubbles and even a lacey mousse such that I anticipate a whole lot of sparkle in the Johnny Chapman.

Aromas: malt, rich, sweet, dusty

The Johnny Chapman smells malty. Somehow that aroma also comes across as both dusty and rich and gives me a few hints to expect some sweetness in the beverage.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This has a fabulous balanced maple, caramel, sorghum sweetness that is anything but overpowering. Instead it is drinkable without being boring.

Flavors and drinking experience: malty, tangerine, strong carbonation, long finish

Wow! I love how Mapley and malty this cider tastes. It seems straightforward but not simple, in fact some of the richness almost crosses over into being both sweet and savory. In terms of fruit, I actually
get notes of tangerine or the sweeter sides of citrus. The low ABV is reflected in how not boozy this tastes. All of the flavors appear very integrated. It comes across as a well balanced sweet cider with a long narrow finish with lingering aromas of caramel.

The sorghum does give the cider a certain molasses old timey vibe that is consistent between presentation and taste. It is no secret that I'm more than a little bit fond of ciders that are strongly carbonated. This cider makes no exception.  So enjoyable.

I paired this with a light vegetable soup: one with more tomatoes, carrots, and celery, in a thin italian-esque tomato basil broth and slices of Colby and homemade wheat bread. The full-bodiedness of this cider made it perfect for a lighter spring soup while the sweetness brought out the sweetness in my homemade bread. I could also see having this with fried catfish and beans and rice to use the sorghum sweetness to balance out some spice. You could do a lot of different things with this cider; New Day Craft did something very right with their Johnny Chapman.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cider Review: Tandem Cider's Smackintosh

I love that Tandem Ciders has a section on their website labelled "Cidery Philosophy." That's something I want to know from every cidermaker I encounter, but usually I find it by bits and pieces gleaned through reading their histories, cider descriptions, about sections and social media presence. Usually it is gleaned between the lines as much as by direct statements. But Tandem is making it easy for me, which says to me that they care about having and sharing a cider philosophy. Here's the opening sentence, "The intention at Tandem Ciders is to produce ciders that reflect the beauty of the apple." Very direct and bold. Much of the following section is a loving paen to apples and their mythos, but the last paragraph begins to get specific, and I love that.

Here's what Tandem Ciders say about their cider philosophy.
As with any craftsman, the ability to transform raw materials into a composition requires patience, passion, and a little elbow grease. With these ideals in mind, Tandem Ciders strives for culinary artistry in its ciders. Our products will begin with superior apples that will echo farmers’ time and hard work. Each small batch of fruit will be turned into juice with a traditional rack and cloth press. The juice will then be fermented using standard styles, and the resulting cider will be bottled ‘straight’ or blended with a little Leelanau County imagination. As we keep on fermenting, we hope to keep on improving with each passing season.
You can read much more about them at: http://www.tandemciders.com

I was given a bottle of the Smackintosh at GLINTCAP with only the context that it is one o their sweeter and more popular ciders. Fair enough, but I wanted to know more, so I found their official description.
POW! Right in the Kisser
McIntosh, Rhode Island Greening, and Northern Spy. Everything's better with a little Smack. This crowd pleaser is sweet and tart with full apple flavor.
Apple Growers: Smith-Omena Heights Farm, Steimel Brothers, Christmas Cove Farm, & Schultz Orchards
These apples are classic varieties. Northern Spy have been popular for pies and baking for decades, and Rhode Island Greening has been a sauce apple for longer than most of us have been alive. The McIntosh serves as a fantastic apple in a number of contexts: raw, cooking, and processing. There's so much neat history there that I recommend reading the Wikipedia article about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McIntosh_%28apple%29

What I can surmise though is that this blend of apples will offer more sweetness and less acidity and virtually no tannins. I'm curious about what "full apple flavor" means in this context, but I'm hoping for a nice rich mouthfeel. The ABV for this cider is listed as an unusually low 4.5%. 

Appearance: straw, tiny visible bubbles in the glass, clear

This cider looks lovely with its mellow straw color and unusually tiny bubbles. It appears clear rather than brilliant.

Aromas: fresh apple all the way

Just smells exactly, almost freakishly, like an apple. The aroma is so fresh that it seems luscious and wet.  How a smell can seem wet, I don't really know, but that's how it was.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is going to get repetitive, but I must emphasize how much like eating a fresh apple this cider tastes. The sweetness is the sweetness of fresh pressed juice, and there's plenty of that sweetness present.

Flavors and drinking experience: apple, apple, and more apple and relatively low level of carbonation

The Smackintosh tastes like a dessert apple, rather specifically like a McIntosh or a Golden Delicious. It's nearly goofy to me how much this tastes like an apple; partly I attribute this to halted fermentation and a relatively low ABV.  It tastes great with pieces of real apple. The taste feels low in the mouth in a way that reminds me of many French ciders. The mouthfeel is not super crisp or tart but rather soft and mellow. The cider is juicy iwth low acid, making it not bright but nicely minerally. Very low level of sparkle. I find it very pleasant and natural for its type of a cider: arrested fermentation, low abv, and sweet. 

I enjoyed this cider with a little picnic on my porch: fresh mozzerella, lemon and raw garlic hummus, cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes, apples, and fresh brown bread. Perfect balance for the sweetness.

Last blog post before England! I've stored a few entries and set the blog to post them automatically, but I still feel like I'll miss this (and all of you) while I'm gone. Drink some tasty ciders for me! I promise that's what I'll be doing in London and Cornwall.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cider Review: Portland Cider Company Kinda Dry

Portland, Oregon is the location for next year's Cider Con, and while I'm excited to satiate my curiousity about the Pacific Northwest cider scene then and there, I cannot wait that long. Hence, I'm breaking out one of the bottle my wonderful husband brought back from there. Let's find out what Portland Cider Company is all about. 

Here's a link to their website: http://portlandcider.com

This is how the company introduces themselves: 
What do you do when you’re frustrated by the quality of the commercial cider available?  You start making your own!  What do you do when friends and family keep telling you it’s the best cider they’ve ever had?  You start a business!  That is the essence of how the Portland Cider Company got its start.  Founded by Jeff Parrish, an Oregon native, and his wife Lynda, an ex-patriot from the Somerset region of England (the Mecca of cider), the Portland Cider Company is based on the belief that good cider comes from good fruit, honest practices, and attention to detail.
Our cider starts with fresh pressed juice from Northwest grown apples.  We then carefully ferment it using yeast that protects the delicate characteristics of the fruit.  The results are cider blends that are easy to drink, refreshing, and downright delicious.  Drink it, it’s good!
I appreciate their friendly and approachable tone. Their claim that many folks have preferred their cider to all others sets my expectations fairly high, especially given that they are using a range of apples that many cider makers find somewhat challenging when attempting to make their ciders inspired rather than competent.  Many modern breeds of dessert fruit work just fine, but they don't often do the heavy lifting for the cider makers therefore it is up to the fermentation process to make the cider shine.
Since this is my first review of anything by Portland Cider Company, I want to start with their flagship cider called Kinda Dry. I admit that the unpretentious name is completely charming to me. Here's how Portland Cider Company describes it.
Traditional English cider is dry, lightly carbonated, has very subtle apple flavors, and a lingering fresh finish. It is in the spirit of this traditional cider that we blend our Kinda Dry. We use fresh pressed juice from a blend of NW grown culinary apples such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Gala, Golden and Red Delicious, carefully ferment them with a yeast that preserves their subtle characteristics, give the cider time to develop to its full potential, then bottle or keg at just the right time. Just off dry, light, clean, refreshing, with a pleasant finish, Kinda Dry is the cider to always have on hand.

 Appearance: lots of visible bubbles, brilliant, warm, golden peach color

This pretty cider looks simply enticing with its brilliance and bubbles. I found it challenging to decipher the color precisely, but after weighing half a dozen different shades of yellow, I think the color of golden peaches captures it reasonably well.

Aromas: soft apples, stones, followed by a edge more green and tart

This cider smells stony first then softly appley. I anticipate based on the aromas that it will have some tart green apple sweetness and a sharp barely bitter edge. Breathing in this cider deeply is richly rewarding. It smells pleasantly vinous as well. My mouth waters.

Flavors and drinking experience: Dry

At first, the Kinda Dry's taste comes across as acid puckering tartness. Very Low sugar. I'd actually call this dry rather than off dry, but the acid could be affecting my experience. The cider offers a lingering finish with a little goodbye twist to the salivary glands. The acid is not especially citrusy or bright: too dry to perceive the acid that way perhaps. I enjoy this level of carbonation which is neither too much nor too little.

Right now, I'd pair this bone dry cider with the last few episodes of Mad Men. That intoxicating world will only be with us for two more episodes. The characters are already slowing and stumbling in their interaction in the strange world of the 1970s. I think a super crisp high acidity cider is just the thing to keep us from feeling to maudlin or bogged down. Even as I love that show, though it sometimes gives me way too many feelings. I think this particular cider is enough to wake us up and keep us in 2015 even while we watch this show's surreal descent. 

In terms of food, I'd pair this with a gourmet grilled cheese (the internet is full of these recipes and variations) and fresh cucumber salad. I want to pair this cider with tastes both seasonal and exciting!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cider Review: South Hill Cider's Hypothesis (available only at Cider and Beer Together At Last)

This review is a little different than most that I written. Mostly because this cider was served only for one evening. The cider maker described it as basically impossible to replicate, at least with any expectation of consistency. So, instead of telling my wonderful readers about what I thought of a cider they might choose to drink, I'm instead describing an experience I shared with those us who were at the Ithaca Beer Company and tried South Hill Cider's Hypothesis. 

Photo Borrowed from Ithaca Beer Company

I apologize in advance because this cider was really really good.

Because this is the first time I've reviewed a South Hill Cider here's a bit of background. South hill refers to a specific part of Ithaca and South Hill Cider went professional in 2014 though they've been making cider for far longer. Here's how South Hill Cider introduces the cider maker and the company. 
Steve Selin, the cidermaker, apple picker, and community orchardist has been bottling his own cider since 2004.  Collaborating with neighbors to help maintain and reclaim wild trees and forgotten orchards for use in cider making has been a labor of love for years... The apples from these trees, plus bittersweet and heirloom apples from other small orchards, enable us to give every bottle of cider the solid foundation needed for world-class ciders. I made around 200 cases in 2013 and am making around 600 in 2014.
Photo borrowed from South Hill Cider
and here's the larger philosophy behind South Hill Cider:
At South Hill Cider, our apples come from wild trees, abandoned orchards and orchards of high quality cider apples. Using traditional cider-making techniques we create timeless well-balanced ciders. We are planting our cider orchard on a peaceful hilltop to be part of a harmonious ecosystem that relies on diversity and fertility as its foundation.  South Hill Cider produces ciders with individuality, quality, and elegance reflecting the terroir of our beautiful Finger Lakes region.
You can read about the ciders you can buy of theirs here on the website: http://www.southhillcider.com

South Hill Cider's Hypothesis: This is a single cask cider made from a blend of wild fermented cider, pitched yeast cider, hops and whole tart cherries. 

Appearance: cloudy, peach nectar

This looks like the fancy peach or apricot nectar at fancier grocery stores. It is completely cloudy and shows a small ring of bubbles at the top edge of the glass.

Aromas: Barnyard, leather, wood, fruit

I love how much barnyard and fermentation comes across here. I can smell leather, barn wood, and only a ghost of fresh fruit aroma remains.  There are milder notes like honey and overripe cherries, but also a bit of shoe polish. It rather works together almost like a warm peachy musk in scent.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

Dry, but so much more than simply dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: sour, bitter, astringent, exciting, petillant

This cider, though unique, tastes very British to me but also like a sour beer. The cherries were entirely subsumed by the fermentation process, so they add fresh tart fruitiness but not specific cherry flavor. The connection to Flemish-style sour beer comes through clearly. With its decidedly beery slant, I can't help tasting sourdough bread. All in all the flavors are very wild. Like the cherries, I think the hops contribute to the overall impression but don't really have their own distinct voice, at least not until the finish.

The astringent qualities wow me by being so through the roof yet so delightful. I love how very funky and bitter this cider tastes. Wow. The finish cleans up with piney hops. Of the fruit notes, I tastes grapefruit the most. This cider does remain balanced despite its bitter wildness. I get the same effect in small and large sips alike. Rather mild bubbliness, such that I would call this petillant. Too much would overpower the complexity of the flavors. I can taste some yeast, but not it is not overly yeasty.  Both the levels of tannins and acid are relatively high. The the cask conditioning has a lot to do with the tannins, but I know Steve Selin uses some very tannic fruit as well. I heard wildly positive comments from everyone I spoke to who tried the cider. I loved it!

Here's the menu from Ithaca Beer Company's event, Cider and Beer Together at Last. I had a fantastic time. I tried more than just the South Hill Ciders and enjoyed everything I had. The turnout impressed everyone, proving that cider, beer, fun music and delicious food go very well together indeed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cider Review: Doc's Draft Peach Hard Apple Cider

Finally, finally, finally, after many fits and starts, spring is springing. Though we had new snow flying through the air a week ago, now all of the grass grows greenly and humans appear to be emerging from their winter coat chrysalides (yes, that is an appropriate plural for chrysalis, and yes I had to look it up). Anyhow, beyond just feeling wonderful, this change of season also means a change of cider.

I'm not sure that spring needs its own series of seasonally appropriate ciders, but I know I'm ready to move away from the warming and heavy ciders into more fruity, sparkly, light ciders. They can be as dry or sweet as they need to be, but these ciders need to pair with a whole different range of foods. I've opened up my favorite room in the house, my screened in porch, and many meals and ciders will be consumed there. Imagine semi-indoor picnics, guacamole, frittatas, lighter soups, and mighty salads. Maybe even some cider-based mixed drinks.

But to get things started, I want to try a cider that breaks the winter pattern boldly! So I'm going with Doc's Draft Peach Hard Apple Cider. I cannot imagine a fruit that piques my interest more right now, and there aren't many ciders that use peach.

Though I could find nothing about this particular cider on the Doc's Draft website, I'm linking to it anyway. It has basic information about most of their ciders and about visiting the winery.


I do recommend visiting, especially now that the weather inspires exploration and enjoyment. Spring time mini-getaways are the absolute best.

To check out my previous reviews of Doc's Draft Ciders take a look at these links. I've evidently tasted more of theirs than I'd realized.

Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/01/cider-review-docs-draft-hard-apple-cider.html

Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-docs-draft-hopped-cider.html

Pumpkin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-docs-draft-pumpkin-hard.html

Cranberry Spice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/05/cider-review-docs-draft-cranberry-spice.html

Of those, I probably like their hopped cider best, but I know I've got a soft spot for the pumpkin as well. Shameful perhaps to the purists but I like it, and pumpkin such a very difficult style to make tasty. But that's a condundrum for fall and not for today. But back to today and reviewing Doc's Draft Peach Hard Apple Cider.

The official description of Doc's Draft Peach Hard Apple Cider can no longer be found on their website, but I tracked it down to share nonetheless. It doesn't say too much though, "Doc's Draft Peach Hard Apple Cider made from freshly pressed NYS apples and peaches, fermented with champagne yeast. Deliciously refreshing!" I wish I knew when the peach was added, the ratio of peach and apple, and the varieties of both peaches and apples. Ah well, I usually want to know more.

Appearance: brilliant, warm gold, visible bubbles

This color is more nuanced and interesting than my photo shows. It is a brilliant cider with one layer of visible bubbles at the bottom of the glass, but what's interesting is the color. It has a bright warmth that seems to defy most shades of gold, straw, or yellow. When looking up colors it reminds me most of a shade called Stil de grain yellow which was made historically from unripened buckthorn berries.

Aromas: roasted nuts, dust, sweetness

This ciders smells like dust and stones, a surprisingly common blended aroma. After doing the sensory analysis training, I've come to associate this smell with perceivable levels of sulfites. The Peach cider also offers up aromas reminiscent of roasted nuts. I can definitely find some vegetal notes as well. Interesting.

Sweetness/Dryness: sweet

This cider has plenty of sweetness. Thankfully it is more like a fruity but also burnt marshmallow sweetness rather than anything artificial or too sticky. The sweetness is pleasant.

Flavors and drinking experience: peach, apricot, apple, high acidity

First, I must say that this cider tastes very peachy! The intensity of flavor surprises me after the mildness of the aroma. Primary notes are apricot, peach, and apple. The other dominant impression this cider gives is high acid. The acid tastes more acetic than either malic or citric. The Peach Hard Apple Cider bursts with high levels of bubbles. The taste vanishes in a short uniform finish. If pressed to describe some of the fruit flavors in more detail, I think of cooked peaches blended with a little note of booziness. Adding to the complexity, I also get a little nice bite of bitterness at the back of the tongue.

In thinking about pairing this cider, I think it could go beautifully with a number of fruit based desserts. I actually saw a recipe for a rhubarb custurd pie that strikes me a perfect for this cider: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Rhubarb-Custard-Pie

I could also imagine having this cider with a simple pancake brunch before going out on a long walk. All of my imaginings put this sweet cider with more mildly sweet and creamy bready foods. I think that's the best way to enjoy its high acid fruitiness. In any case, get out there and enjoy spring with any cider you can!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CiderCon 2015: Friday and Wrap Up

Here's part three of my documentation of CiderCon.

If you want to see my earlier posts on this amazing event please follow these links:

Tuesday's Sensory Analysis Training: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cidercon-2015-sensory-analysis-training.html

Wednesday USACM meeting and Cider Swap: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cidercon-2015-usacm-business-meeting.html

Thursday Clicker Session, Keynotes, Panels and Workshops: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cider-con-2015-thursday-clicker-session.html

I started my day with a marketing and sales panel, "Cider Sales Strategies & Tactics" a shared panel with Bob Egan,Vandermill Cider; Patrick Gould, Windy City Distributing; Michelle Foik, Eris Brewery & Ciderhouse; Anthony Belliveau-Flores, Rowan Imports LLC. This group had energy to spare and so much to share with cidermakers ready to sell their products. They spoke about building relationships with the accounts (bars, restaurants, bottle shops and more) that sell the cider. Everyone emphasized both educating consumers and being educated by them. I think one of my favorite takeaway ideas was to find out where your customers are and what they are doing then bring cider to those activities whether that means bars, museum events, renaissance fairs, fine dining or night clubs.

They also spoke specifically about the cider market of Chicago, its growing pains, idiosyncracies, and educational network. I was massively impressed, and I know I wasn't the only one who really appreciated how much immediately interesting and useful information this panel had to share.

A few other useful thoughts I noted particularly:

This Multi-Step Approach
Be engaged: Talk with everyone about your expectations
Plan-not just one year but three years or more
Support- not just at the point of sale but everywhere, educate people, sales materials
Partnership- Be an advocate for yourself, make distribution and marketing and sales work together, nothing happens in a vaccuum.

Understand the law.

Don't sell to the store. Sell through the store.

There were great questions at this panel as well. I love being part of a motivated audience and CiderCON offers those consistently!

My last panel on Friday at Cidercon was a fantastic one, "Surviving the American Dream: Cider Business Startup" by Bruce Nissen. This is an anther panel to which I showed up early because I knew the room would fill, and fill it did. There are so many people who want to start cideries right now, and they are hungry for good specific information about that process. Nissen is in a great position to share good information because of his history in the industry; he started Fox Barrel Perry with Sean Deorsey in 2004 and is in the process of some fantastically interesting new projects (http://hoodriverbizbuzz.com/?p=6006)

Nissen's first and primary emphasis was on planning. "Have a plan. What are you doing?" he said to us.

He encouraged people to plan for scale and profitability and to be honest about the need for human capital. This is a point I've seen in action. People need to plan to pay themselves and have have enough money to hire other people. So many businesses struggle with this, especially small businesses and young businesses. Products don't look good because the company cannot afford a professional graphic designer for their packaging. Websites go offline or become outdated because a company doesn't spend the money (or necessarily even have the money) for well-supported website. Products languish because there isn't money to pay for adequate sales staff. Tax issues because no one hired an accountant who knows and understands the tax laws. I've seen all of these things mulitple times in the cider world. I hope people listened when Bruce told people to budget for all of these things before even starting.

He told folks to think about format: tap room vs tasting room? bottle size? kegging?

Who are your customers? Where are they? Can the business have ancillary revenue streams? It should.

Next Nissen spoke about timing. Many businesses underestimate how long it will take to get up and running. There will be delays and they can be expensive. When can a new cidery owner afford to quit her or his day job?  How long does the start up phase last? Things take more time than most folks expect.

But the presentation wasn't just a list of questions for potential cider owners to ask themselves. He also talked about grant opportunities.

It was a very thorough completely riveting talk. Once the materials go online, I'll link to them here. I don't have the notes necessary to completely recreate his talk here, but I wish I could, because it was that good.

Sadly, after this I had to fly home. I missed the guest speaker: Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. But from what I understand, he appeared to discuss the CIDER (shorted from Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation) act, which is a bipartisan Act, HR 600. Blumenauer reintroduced this with Congressman Chris Collins from New York with the goal of improving taxes codes relevant to cider and especially small or farm based cideries.

All in all, CiderCON was a wonderfully inspiring and education experience in addition to being a fun and delicious one.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to attend and meet so many fellow cider lovers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cider Review: Magner's Irish Cider PLUS the super exciting GLINTCAP results!

Finally, finally, finally, spring has arrived. I've seen the sky and the ground and they both have colors beyond white and gray! Skies can be blue! The ground can be brown (also kinda green, but mostly brown). It's time to celebrate with a different sort of cider! Today I'm reviewing Magner's Irish Cider.
This is actually fairly exciting for be because I'd rather forgotten about Magner's. Years ago, they were one of the handfull of ciders that any given bar/pub might have in bottles (almost no one had cider on tap back then) so I had Magner's fairly regularly. But as my options expanded, I didn't drink Magner's as much. Now, because the Magner's folks were kind enough to send me two bottles, I'm gong to revisit this cider and really get to know it within the current cider scene.

For a bit of background, I have to describe the front page of their website for folks who don't have the time to follow the link (For those who want to look for themselves: http://www.magners.com). The page has a black background relieved by two glowing ciders. They look unearthly, richly colored, radiant, each glass completely covered with condensation. Other than the ice, they look mouthwatering. This is paired with the phrase, "Made in the dark for a better taste". Wha? Weirdest cider tag line ever. Despite the photos, I'm not going to try my sample bottles over ice.

Here's some of what Magner's says about their own cider-making process.
We love making cider, but we reckon there’s only one way to do it properly. That’s why we’re still taking inspiration from the historic methods we used when we started making cider back in 1935. That’s part of the Magners taste.

So in this way we use 17 varieties of apples, waiting until they drop before pressing and filtering them in the traditional way.

We take time to ferment the cider and even more time to let it mature, up to 2 years in fact, tasting it along the way. Sure, there are faster ways of making cider, but then it wouldn’t be Magners. 
I also emailed back and forth with a very helpful gentleman who told me about the apples Magner's grows in their orchards for their ciders. I've wondered about this for some some the larger companies in regions that grow traditional cider varietals for a long time. Here's what Brian had to say, "A number of varieties growing in our 150 acres of orchards include Michelin, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Bulmer’s Norman, Tremlett’s Bitter, Breakwell Seedling, Taylor’s, Harry Master’s Jersey, Bramley’s, Grenadier, Brown Thorn, Brown Snout, Vilberies, Improved Dove, Medaille d’Or, Reine des Pommes and Ashton Bitter." Now that's a list most United States cidermakers would freak out for because those include several of the high tannin apple varieties that are nearly impossible to get here. Also, I just need to take a moment to appreciate those names like Improved Dove and Brown Thorn; they are just lovely.

Appearance: Brilliant, tea, plenty of visible bubbles

This cider shows lots of color but absolutely no haze or cloudiness. I'd describe the color as either pumpkin flesh or very black tea. This is definitely a color that implies the presence of tannins.

Aromas: tart green apples, yeast, hints of bourbon

Magner's has a medium level of aroma, neither particularly shy and subtle nor tremendously outgoing. I am glad I poured mine into a glass, because I don't think consumed straight from the bottle, I would have gotten anything from it. The most interesting note is something that reminds me of bourbon aged ciders, but since Magner's has nothing to do with bourbon, I'm guess that it is something in the aging or barreling process that I'm smelling.

Sweetness: Semi-sweet

Magner's is not nearly as sweet as most six-pack ciders. Honestly, I'm shocked. I'd forgotten, or perhaps they've changed their recipe. I expected simple and sweet, but this is both more and less than that. Less sweet and more flavor.

Flavors: Citrus, cooked apples, mild tannins

I am pleased to report that as the Magner's appearance and smell led me to expect, this cider has tannins! They isn't out of control and might not even be noticeable if you drink it from the bottle or over ice, but they are there. I can also taste little bits of citrus, definitely lemon notes. In terms of the primary impression, I get applesauce-y apples loud and clear. Whatever was reminding me of bourbon in the smell doesn't really carry over  to the taste. Mixed in, I can also detect a cola note. Interesting and more varied than I expected. There's even a little brush with bitterness, but just a hint.

I definitely like this more than most six-pack ciders, but I do wish the flavor was more intense while still not being sweet. I enjoyed one of these with a fantastic sandwich with hummus and cheddar and oven dried tomatoes, and the other I had entirely on its own. It works well either way and I'm sure would also taste scrumptious with other foods.

Also, I don't want anyone to miss out on reading about the GLINTCAP results! This was the cider and perry competition that I helped to judge this past weekend. It is one of the largest and longest running in the world, and here are the results. I judged three flights in the Commercial Division: one of the New World Modern Ciders, New World Perries, and a flight of Pommeaux. The whole experience was wonderful, and I'm happy to say I have several ciders awarded silvers in my little collection and even a gold.