Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cider Con 2016: My Personal Highlights

Usually in winter, I travel with my husband to Florida to see friends and thaw out a little from the upstate NY temperatures. But at last year's Cider Con in Chicago, we learned that this most amazing of cider gatherings would be happening in February in Portland, Oregon. I knew I had a different sort of escape from winter.

Though the sign seems more Vegas, this is a lovely welcome to Portland
Not only did I get to attend Cider Con, I got to present! This was a huge honor for me because I have so much appreciation and respect for the cider community (and the beverages produced thereby). Eric West (of Cider Guide


While many folks were out touring orchards and ciders, I didn't arrive in time for their early departures. Still, I had an excellent time walking around Washington Park ( which is home to the International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, and my favorite: Hoyt Arboretum. Just seeing so much green in February is good for my soul. 
You cannot know how much I bemoaned baggage check fees when I saw this

But I had plenty of time to check out the cider selections at a grocery store or two and still make the 2 Towns Ciderhouse( Tap Takeover at Cider Bite ( It was a casual gathering, but I saw so many unfamiliar ciders. Tasting in a different region than your own is an exciting experience. Plus, I ran into a few cider luminaries which never hurts an evening, particularly when they are as charming as Tom Oliver ( or as welcoming as Dave Takush (of 2 Towns).

And we were glad to be there!


The start of my official day wasn't until the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) business meeting. While I am not a voting member of the USACM, I alway relish the chance to meet with members and learn about what the organization has been up to. In 2015, the big headline was the CIDER Act.

I volunteered at Bill Bradshaw's session on UK Cider. Bill is an amazing archivist and photographer of ciders and cider cultures both in the UK and all over. If you're a cider lover you simply must get your hands on his book, World’s Best Ciders: Taste, Tradition, and Terroir. You can see some of Bill's photo and read about this IAMCIDER project here:

The Crowd for Bill Bradshaw

This led smoothly into the Cider Con Reception with tacos, pizza, tapas, and countless ciders all served in the in the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. What a setting and what a party! They completely turned us loose in a museum while letting everyone taste ciders from all over the world. I have almost no photos because I was simply too enthralled by this night. I'm sorry. Kind of.


We stated the day with one of my favorite activities from last year's cider con, the Clicker Survey. What I love about this is we were all asked pretty basic questions about who we are, what we do, where cider makers get fruit or juice, who is planting orchards, who is getting fruit from their orchards, and whether or not we want to support academic research or apples or cider. 

I got a similar takeaway as I did last year too. If you are growing apples, don't start a cider business on your own; partner with a fermenter. If you love to make cider but have no apples, don't just go on the market; find a grower or three and work with them for the long run. I think a lot of business strength can be gained by folks working together on all steps from sapling to glass.

Next came the General Session, or as I like to think of it: "The Big Talk with Grocery Store Cider Purchase Data." I don't find that data nearly as complete or representative of my cider life or even my cider region as some, but its heartening to see cider growth in every region of the nation.

Ian Merwin and Greg Peck: Two Fabulous Academic Advocates for Cider

But my day was not so secretly about my session with Eric West: "Engaging Your Core Audience Through Writing." We had a packed room and an appreciative audience who asked great questions. Our topic ranged from online brand presentation to working with mailing list applications and many places between. It all came down to communicating effectively online and why using the writing and internet is so potentially helpful for cider companies. 

Giving the talk was a great experience, and it started many conversations for the rest of the conference. Consider me completely grateful. 

That evening we had the first meeting of Pomme Boots ( a new professional organization for women who work in the cider industry in one role or another. Meeting everyone was inspiring; there are so many awesome women making, selling, and promoting cider. 


With the talk over, I could focus more completely on the session I attended as an audience member. And I got to spend a lot more time just relaxing and meeting awesome folks  One stood out for me on Friday. The first was "Finding Your Brand Strategy - West Coast Perspective" by Alan Shapiro. What he brought was not only a west coast perspective for understanding how folks understand and buy cider, but also the historical context of his decades distributing wines and beers. As soon as links go up to his presentation, I'm sharing them!

At lunch, Congressman Earl Blumenauer spoke with us about the CIDER Act, and he was the warmest and funniest politician I've ever seen speak. He earned two standing 

We ended Cider Con with the Grand English Cider Tasting, easily the most socially invigorating part of Cider Con for me. The photo below shows the ciders that were shared at each table in the ballroom. We tasted through together with the guidance of Tom Oliver, Neil Worley, and Bill Bradshaw. They brought insight and crackling personality such that folks were nearly falling out their chairs laughing (and it wans't just the cider).

These UK Cider made my evening, and shocked several palates


Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip for me happened after Cider Con. The USACM is developing a Cider Certification Program along with interim program director, Eric West. I signed up eagerly to be part of the inaugural class for Level One.

Eric West talking about cider styles

We had a slew of experts presenting material about apple growing, cider making, cider tasting, and other topics on Cider Certification Program Level 1. This inaugural class also got to learn about storing, serving and pairing cider: all topics close to my heart. The day was long but fascinating. I look forward to the progress of this program and hopefully participating in all coming levels.

Our messy table of learning

It was a long trip and a fabulous one! The education, the ciders, and most of all the people made it a delight each and every day. We grew the event by more than 450 attendees (by my unofficial observations) this past year, and I think its going to continue to grow and improve. If you care about cider and want a educational, enriching trip in February consider joining us next year!

Read more about Cider Con returning to Chicago in 2017 here:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cider Review: Seattle Cider Company's Gin Botanical Hard Cider

Usually, I'm not a spirits person. Not meaning that I don't enjoy haunted houses, but that I rarely go to the cocktail list when I'm out. My own liquor cabinet doesn't get much love either, sadly. But for gin, I occasionally make an exception. There's something about its zest and bite and heady aromas. Thus, when I learned that Seattle Cider Company makes a Gin Botantical Cider, I knew I had to try it. Trouble is, Seattle is far away from Upstate NY.

I could not buy it locally, so when I got a box in the mail with not one but three Seattle Cider Company offerings, it made my day! (You can look forward to the Basil Mint and Three Pepper reviews in the spring.) I knew I had to try the Gin Botanical, preferably with my favorite gin fan, Phil Sandifer (He writes strange and significant things here: So when he put together a vegetarian cider pairing feast, we chose Seattle Cider Company for one the early courses.

Seattle Cider Company has a great website. I love the process pictures to illustrate the processes of cider making and the clean layout. Great work. Check it out:

When I look at the presentation of cider companies, I want to learn about their priorities. Its inherently intesting, and it sometimes clues us in to what we can expect about the cider. Here are a few tidbits that Seattle Cider Company on their website. 
Their Mission: "Produce, package, sell, and promote the finest quality craft cider by cultivating a work environment of innovation and exploration."

Their Vision: "Be a national leader in the transformation of the cider industry, admired for our dedication to real ingredients and original products."

While those statements are their most clear and identifiable statements of identity, I don't see as much content in them as I do in other parts of the website, "Seattle Cider Company is Seattle’s first cidery since Prohibition, bringing true craft cider back to Seattle and across the country. Bridging the gap between wine and beer with flavorful, small-batch cider, Seattle Cider’s initial offerings – Dry and Semi-Sweet – break the mold of overly sweet cider, bringing the natural flavors of Washington apples to the forefront" and "Naturally gluten free and made from a custom blend of fresh pressed, locally grown Washington apples, Seattle Cider’s products are handcrafted with real ingredients, successfully distinguishing themselves from the mass market cider found in stores today."
From these descriptions I infer that Seattle Cider Company's will use culinary fruit because they focus on the locality of their apple source. I also see a nod to wine which doesn't come up as often as it should in cider promotion, if you ask me. A nod to wine could mean a still cider, a drier cider, or a more understated presence of yeast compared to other profiles of cidermaking. Or it could not. We'll have to taste to know.

First a few facts about the Gin Botanical Hard Cider from Seattle Cider Company

ABV: 6.5% 
BRIX: 1.8 
APPLES: Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala 
TASTING NOTES: Fermented with spent gin botanicals from Batch 206 Distillery, our Gin Botanical is a semi-dry cider showcasing lemon, orange rind, juniper, cucumber and verbena. Like the spirit that inspired it, this cider is complex, clean, aromatic and refreshing. 
FOOD PAIRINGS: Herbed Chicken,Fresh Melon, pickled ginger

Appearance: palest white gold, like morning sunlight in winter

The color of this cider does not give away its secrets; it pale and subtle rather than blazing or warm. I can see a few visible bubbles but not a notable number.

Aromas: men's aftershave, mint gum, apples

Whoooaaaaa, I smell a blue cold mint herbal blast followed by apples. These combine to give the impression apples on a ski slope surrounded by pine trees. There's also some lychee in the array of smells.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I noticed that Seattle Cider Company lists the brix in this cider. That's very unusual. Most places rely on more perceptual descriptors or even a graphic scale that shows a dry to sweet continuum. Almost universally these skew towards describing or depicting dry and offering a little sweeter. I'm pleased to say that this is a semi-dry that was described as a semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: herby, high acid, funky

Those gin botanicals taste immediately arresting! I get mint, basil, hops, citrus, and a hint of clean sweat. The cider activates my salivary glands intensely. Texturally, I notice big bubbles that show the cider is force carbonated: not really a surprise. The carbonation amplifies the herbal gin infused flavor in a brute force way. The Gin Botanical offers high levels of acidity but no tannin. I do get some pleasing minerality.

The cider rolls through immediate bitterness into more fruitiness. The herbal notes remain present throughout the experience. It tastes like you'd hope gin and cider would taste together—as much a funky gin cocktail as a cider. They use spent gin botanicals for it: juniper, orange peel, coriander.

If memory serves, we paired this cider with the sun-dried tomato flatbread course. I could see pairing this cider in a number of ways though. right now I'd like to pair it with herb and lemon coated baked salmon. I think keeping something juicy but not overpowering is key. This cider has a lot to say, and I wouldn't want it to get lost in something too sweet or spicy. For activities, drink this cider while playing a board game with friends, perhaps Dixit or something equally dreamy.

This is a fun and delicious cider that pairs its creativity with successful execution and balance. I'm hoping to taste it again when I'm nearer the west coast for Cider Con!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cider Review: Cider Riot's Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider and Cider Con 2016!

In just a little over a week, I'll be flying across the country to join my fellow cider freaks for CiderCon! To get ready, I want to share a review of a cider that I only got to taste because of last year's cider celebration. The kind folks of Cider Riot shared a bottle of their Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider with me in cold and snowy Chicago, and I toted it back to cold and snowy upstate NY to drink and describe.

Abram Goldman-Armstrong grew up planting apple trees, studied abroad in a cider drinking region(me too!) and spent his early professional years in beer. Making cider was a very natural combination of his two passions. I found out about Cider Riot first through their successful Kickstarter campaign, and I've been following the business ever since.

Read more about Cider Riot on the website:

And here's the official description of Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider.
Never Give an Inch™ Now on tap & in bottles in Oregon, Washington, & British Columbia . . . Oregon Blackberry Cider 6.9% abv - A testament to determination, hard work, and downright cussedness, Never Give an Inch celebrates the spirit of Oregon. Invasive Himalaya blackberries run riot across the fencelines and fields all across western Oregon. Fire, chemical poisons, machetes, bulldozers, even goats can only beat back their inevitable advance, as they attempt to take over every square inch of cleared land. Luckily their fruits are delicious, juicy, and plentiful, spawning the phrase “as Cascadian as blackberry pie.”

In Never Give an Inch, Oregon blackberries and blackcurrants combine with Hood River and Yakima-grown apples create a tart dry cider with a fruity aroma.

Appearance: deep maroon, tons of visible bubbles, lovely

Seriously bubbly! I rarely see so many bubbles on the glass when I pour a cider. This blackberry cider also offers up rare and gorgeous color. Its more dark red and deep purple, but both are there enough to call it maroon. I can't really judge the clarity through all those bubbles. But they do make my mouth water.

Aromas: tart, fruity, phenolic

This cider smells so very bright and acidic! There's also berry fruits and a bit of funky. Mmm like raspberry and leather. We'll see how dry it is or is not based on these aromas. The black currant doesn't get talked up enough in the description, but its already present in the aroma.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Wow! I wasn't really expecting dry after all of those berry smells. It dry and tart, and I'm into it! So many fruit ciders tell me that they will be dry, when they aren't. This follows through on the promises of the promotional copy, and I'm grateful.

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, tannic, tart, with tons of fruit

This cider comes as a BIG surprise! Yes, I mentioned that in my surprise as its dryness, but I was expecting a pleasant semi-sweet, based on smell. That's also where a lot of fruit blended ciders end up, but this is very tart, dry, and a bit phenolic. The tannins are so prounounce that it gives me a bit of cottonmouth with acidic bite. This doesn't mean the cider doesn't have fruit, but the apple is crabapple or even apple core and green wood. The blackberries and black currents taste sour and tart but only very slightly citric. This is so very pleasantly autumnal though I'm drinking it with snow on the ground outside.

Cider Riot's Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider is not particularly balanced, but intriguing and a fantastic complement to vegetable tempura. The battered and crispy red peppers and broccoli florets highlight and play well with this super tart, funky, wild cider.

When I'm in Portland, I'll definitely be seeking this one out again. Very fun.

But that's not all we have to talk about today! I know I'm not alone in feeling super excited for Cider Con 2016 in Portland, Oregon. This is where we'll get to talk fermentation, cider business, tasting room strategies, food pairings, cider mixology, and best of all, apples!

Find out all about it at:

But most especially check out the schedule what awesomeness is happening when:

Along with Eric West of Cider Guide ( I will be talking about communicating with cider fans online Thursday, February 4th at 3:40pm. Our talk is titled Engaging Your Core Audience Through Writing. It should be a fun time, and I feel totally honored to share a stage with Eric. He's amazing.

Until next time, cider lovers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cider Review: Aaron Burr's Homestead Elderberry Apple

On this still dark and snowy morning, Along Came a Cider finally reviews an Aaron Burr cider. I thought I'd reviewed one long ago, but a little looking reveals my error. I suppose I thought I'd reviewed a cider by Aaron Burr Cidery, because it is such fascinating cult cidery of sorts. Andy Brennan makes these ciders in Wurtsboro, New York in tiny runs from either heritage or foraged apples. Some blends include interesting additives or co-fermented ingredients. Brennan also doesn't add preservative sulphites. Its a very purist and historically oriented approach to cider making, which adds to the mystique

Read how Aaron Burr Cidery presents its cider identity on the website:
“The Cidery”, which produces Aaron Burr Cider in Wurtsboro, New York, is a small homestead farm dating back to the early 19th century. We specialize in growing cider-apples, which are different from eating-apples in the same way wine-grapes are different from table-grapes. We use our apples and other locally grown and foraged apples for one mission: to re-create “true cider”, the time-averaged most popular drink in America.

This focus is founded on the belief that early Americans drank history’s best cider. Reestablishing this involves holism -from farming to art, from the market to politics- cider is an identity. There is much from our recent past which must be undone but luckily the descendants of early cider apples do still exist in the wild. We believe their ability to survive the 20th century provides American cider its future.
You can find out more at the website itself:

Tonight I'm reviewing the Elderberry Apple which intrigues me mightily. I've only had one other elderberry cider, also from New York state, but one I suspect is nonetheless very different.

Here's the information Aaron Burr Cider presents about the Homestead Elderberry Apple
2014 Homestead Elderberry Apple 98 cases made, 7.4% abv , 750 ml

Specs: Tannic, dry, medium acidity. Deep crimson hue with slight carbonation.Notes: Woody/ forest aromas mixed berry upfront. Balanced, light body. Chalky and fruity.

Source: 10% elderberry foraged from BashaKill wetlands, 90% unsprayed west Sullivan County apples
Furthermore, the back label has a charming little addendum, "Dry. May become naturally effervescent." With a bit more instructional information in terms of how to pour a cider with lees (fermentation solids) and and how to store a cider without any added sulphites.

Appearance: hazy, rich watermelon color, a few tiny bubbles

I cannot over-emphasize how absolutely beautiful this cider is in the glass. It glows with the color of ripe watermelon flesh.

Aroma: tart, blackberry, yeasty

The smell is full and tart. It reminds me of both blackberries and orange, fruits that give flavor and tartness in equal measure. I also detect very real amounts of yeast that lean the aromas in the direction of a sour beer.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

The bottle tells the truth; this cider is dry. I know that fruitiness does not actually either take away from or add to dryness, but to call this cider dry without calling attention to its fruitiness only tells part of the story.

Flavors and drinking experience: rustic, light, tart, fruity and vegetal both

The Elderberry Apple tastes a little like a sour beer and like its aromas: tart. a bit of vinegar in with the berry notes. Perhaps the fermentation included a subtle level of acedification, which I know will excite any fans of Spanish style ciders. As the description predicted, it has a light mouthfeel—almost watermelony, to be sure. Texturally, the bubbles are small but not so present to be strongly sparkling. I can taste the yeast a little on the back of the tongue. The flavors include lots of citrus and berry notes, but I also get some vegetal elements like potato & celery, but not unpleasantly. The cider comes across as more balanced in big sips. If you enjoy a rustic cider, this cannot be beaten.

guess right now I'd say drink this cider while listening to David Bowie's music or watching a film he was in. Perhaps I'd say that about any cider right now; its all I want to do. But, I actually think this makes more sense with a special cider by this cidery more than most. Andy Brennan's ciders are unique and vary between being extremely playful and inviting and being somewhat more challenging. They always offer distinctive character and craft. If these qualities do not serve to parallel the towering achievements of David Bowie, I don't know whose ciders would. This, in my mind, serves as one of the highest possible compliments, and I mean it as such.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cider Review: Wandering Aengus Cider's Dry Oaked

So, it's time for a first but also a second for Along Came A Cider. This is the first time I've gone back and reviewed a second bottling of the same cider. In this case, I'm returning to Wandering Aengus' Dry Oaked Cider. This is a pleasure for me because I so enjoyed the 2011 Dry Oaked.

If  you want to compare the two, start with the previous review: 

Or, for even more context, one of my very first cider reviews was of Wandering Aengus' Bloom:

This is what the reverse of the Dry Oaked's bottle says about the cider, "Wandering Aengus Ciders are crafted from blends of traditional cider apple varietals renowned for their complexity.Oaked Dry is a blend of bittersweets and sharps that offer rich tannins and spicy aromas with a mild oak finish. This sophisticated dry cider pairs well with rich and aromatic foods: prosciutto, salami, or stinky cheeses. Orchards: Bittersweets: Newberg, Culver & Salem, Oregon Sharps: Hood River and Ashland, Oregon"

This vintage of Wandering Aengus Cider's Dry Oaked was Bottled June 2012 and hasan ABV of 8.0%  A bottling of this cider won a 2015 GLINTCAP gold in english style category. 

Appearance: clear, glowing embers, few visible bubbles

Wow, look at how dark this color is! It is the only cider I've seen that looks to me like glowing embers in winter hearth.
Aromas: Boozy, soft, and appley

This smells like wets apple skin, alcohol, and firewood. Even if I didn't know something of what was coming, these aromas would clue me into the tannins of this cider. It even smells the tiniest bit like iron.

Dryness/sweetness: DRY!

This dry is a true dry.It's more astringent and velvety than most ciders, and that makes me love it.

Flavors and drinking experience: oaky, dry, tannic, rich and complex

This tastes very oaked. I know fire keeps touching the sensory impressions I have of this cider, but somehow the oakiness seems like oaky charcoal in a pleasing and good way. Or at least the wood near the charcoal. It is both highly tannic and moderately acidic. This combination gets some serious salivary gland action.

But this cider isn't just sensation; the flavors build a complex yet unified whole. The initial oakiness graciously gives way to lighter flavors like lemongrass and green tea. In the background I get just a little bit of phenols and turpentine. 

Texturally, the cider gives mild carbonation. Its rich mouthfeel is distinctly not caramel but rather buttered toast. I love what a slow drinking thoughtful cider this is. Have the Wandering Aengus with blue cheese, fig, roasted onion, perhaps altogether on foccacia. 

This cider is perfect for a long discussion of anything enjoyable and just a little decadent. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cider Review: Tandem Cider's Bee's Dream

2016 has been cozy and enjoyable thus far, but a bit gray. I've seen far more spitting snow than hints of sunshine. So, I knew I wanted my first cider review of the year to be something cheering and bright. Luckily, my dad shared with me a bottle by Tandem Ciders. Plus, I know folks have been wanting more coverage of Michigan ciders. I do what I can ;).

You can visit Tandem Ciders on online at their website:

Or go see their tasting room in Sutton's Bay, Michigan, perhaps getting to say hello to founders Nikki and Dan.

A unique stop on the Leelanau wine trail, Tandem Ciders specializes in artisanal hard ciders. In the major apple growing regions of Europe, a culture has developed around the enjoyment and deep appreciation of cider, of both the traditional production processes as well as the apples themselves. Cider plays an important role in these areas by helping create a healthy, relaxing lifestyle that revolves around a profound connection to the land and its offerings

When I met some of the folks from Tandem this past spring, they were kind enough to share a couple of bottles with me. I reviewed the Smackintosh here:

This find however wasn't from them. I am lucky enough to have many wonderful cider hunters in my life, and when they travel I sometimes get new ciders that I wouldn't ordinarily be able to find. The Bee's Dream is just such an acquisition; thanks Dad!

I found two official descriptions.

From the web:
Summer days... a bee’s dream. From apple blossoms to harvest time we bring to you a cider that celebrates the fleeting season of northern Michigan. Radiant and golden, Bee’s Dream is touched with a hint of sweetness - the perfect drink for hitting Good Harbor Beach or cookout in the backyard. Bee’s Dream is the one to don the party hat, so you can dress her up with an ice cube, a sprig of mint, or even a few cherries off the tree.

While on the bottle it says: "Bee's Dream Fermented with honey from Julia Kularik's hard workin' hives, this cider sips smoothand finishes with a bright hint o'honey. What do busy bees daydream about while filing their 500 mile lifetime pollen pursuit. Ponder that as your lap up the fruit of their time."

Appearance: Brilliant, very few visible bubbles, mellow blond

Apologies for such...atmospheric photos. It was a warm and cozy night by the fire in Lousville which is perhaps better for drinking cider than photographing it. The color was lovely, a mellow shade blonde, easy to see because of the brilliance of the cider.

Aromas: Honey, minerals, stone, maple, wet apple

We have honey! This cider smells like honey and wet apples but in the cleanest way possible. Sometimes honey can be musky, but this smells the opposite, very floral and fresh and fruity. I anticipate a cider with plenty of fruity sweetness and brightness.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet!

Though the descriptions don't tell us, this could be back-sweetened with honey and fresh juice. That's what the qualities of the sweetness suggest.

Flavors and drinking experience: Petillant, sweet, fruity, balanced

Texturally, the Bee's Dream is very lightly sparkling—more a tickle than bubbles. Though it is sweet, there's nothing cloying, nor is there any bitterness. The cider has a nice light body with pleasant brightness. I taste medium acidity and no tannins. Tandem has created a surprisingly balanced sweet honeyed cider. 

I like its genuine apple notes,  because its not too mushy or too much malic acid. Somehow this reminds me of lemon curd with a tiny shade of blueberry. The bright flavors linger and dark ones fade. This cider is so drinkable even brunch friendly. Drink with big fluffy fruit-topped pancakes. Yes, I give my blessing to cider with breakfast, at least everyone once in a while on the weekend. After all, we've got a long way to go till spring.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2015

Thank you! Along Came A Cider has had a fantastic 2015, and I am so grateful. I tasted cider in England, at CiderCon, at GLINTCAP, and in kitchens, tasting rooms, and restaurants everywhere I went. Thanks so much for each glass, each apple, each conversation shared this year.

Cider itself also had a great year in the United States and around the world. Many new cideries and cider bars opened their doors. Others grew in taste and reach. My favorite news though has to be the CIDER Act. This act makes cider more comprehensible to the United States Federal Government, and begins to support this internationally popular agricultural product. Read what the United States Association of Cidermakers says about it here:

To share my joy and gratitude, I want to share which 10 ciders have thrilled me the most this year. At this point it's a tradition for the blog. 

(my 2014 list: and my 2013 list:

To borrow from last year, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have a review on the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I reviewed in 2015. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.  

10. New Day Craft's Johnny Chapman

I love how this cider—made in Indiana—smells malty and tastes fabulously balanced yet sweet. Its character of  maple, caramel, and sorghum charmed but did not overpower.

9. Rev Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot 

This west coast cider not only struck me as super tart, bitter, hoppy and mildy fruity, but it also made a major impression with its creativity and innovation. This, to me, is the most outstanding contribution of American west coast ciders in 2015.

8. Awestruck Premium Hard Cider Hibiscus Ginger 

Staying with my theme of exciting ciders, I was amazed by how developed and balanced this adventurous offering the taster. It looks beautiful in the glass, but is so much more than that. Awestruck, a young New York State cider company, really has something to say with this zesty blend of apple, hibiscus, and ginger.

7. Cornwall Cider Co. Lyonnesse 

My review of Lyonnesse was part of a longer entry on all of the ciders I found and tried during my trip to Devon and Cornwall this May. This cider smells like cooked apricots and is semi-dry. It stood out because it offered great bubbles and a higher level acidity than most UK ciders. I was just endlessly impressed with its bright acidity and medium-high tannins. Its full and oaty mouthfeel kept it uniquely English and decidedly special.

6.Good Life Cider's Barrel Rye

This is my most recent addition to the list, and it's a special one. I tasted this New York state cider a few times before reviewing it, including on the night the CIDER act was passed. What a perfect celebratory drink: bright with acidity yet deep with caramelly oxidation. It's recalls maple and coconut, uniquely combined with clementines. Very yummy indeed.

5. Castle Hill Cider's Celestial 

This high-acid off-dry cider from Virginia was a special treat found in a Florida grocery store. I have the highest praise for its clean fermenation and stone fruit notes.

4. Eden Sparkling Dry Cider

Now we've crossed into the rarefied terrority of the top four. These are the ones that start to reveal my preferences and biases as a cider drinker. Vermont's Eden Sparkling Dry Cider hits all of the notes I enjoy: great mouthfeel, high tannins, enough acidity to keep things firm, and gorgeous sparkle!

3. AeppelTreow Winery's Appley Brut Sparkling Cider

And now for the second appearance of an AeppelTreow Cider in my favorites list. This year I loved the Appley Brut, and previously I adored their Kinglet Bitter (which I just tried on draft for the first time at a top notch beer store in Louisville and loved again). But this Wisconsin cider offers a crisp, very bubbly, and cracklingly sharp experience with great balance.
2. Aspall Imperial English Cider

My choice here cannot surprise anyone who knows me. I love English ciders of the particular type Aspall offers—what can I say, we get along well.  Their sense of balance is difficult to beat and the mouthfeel is nearly always outstanding. This particular cider is smooth, dark, rich, and just cuddly.

And now, drumroll please...

1. Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider

Farnum Hill, based in New Hampshire, is the only cider company to have made all three of my yearly favorites lists.  (Previously, I'd nodded to both Kingston Black and Farmhouse.) That might tell us all something about their quality, or maybe something about my tastes. I tried this as part of Protocol Wine Studio's month of Twitter discussion amongst wine and cider folks. It was really a great time.

What I love about this cider is its complexity and controlled funk. Yes, the Extra Dry was earthy and mushroomy, but it still offered loads of fruit. A cider that gives me orange, leather, and butter is doing something right.

With that, I wish you all a safe and happy New Year! Let's enjoy cider together in 2016!