Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Pumpkin and pumpkin spice are frequently touted as the flavors of fall, followed closely by all things apple. But I'd like to propose another contender, ginger. Especially when paired with apple, as in this cider by Nine Pin Cider Works, the balance of spice, heat, fruit, and zing is extremely autumnal. The air feels crisp; the chilly nights inspire warm fires indoors or out, and everything is bright for one last hurrah before the winter. Ginger suits this perfectly. But can bright spicy ginger combine well with hard cider? (My only previous review of a ginger cider combination can be investigated here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-millstone-cellars-gingeroot.html)
This question informs my review of the new ginger cider by Albany's youngest cidery, Nine Pin Cider Works.
You can check out all of their new cider styles and their full schedule of cider happenings on their website: http://www.ninepincider.com/
It looks like they've really jumped in the cider scene enthusiastically since their relatively recent opening. Their only previous appearance in this blog comes from my review of their first cider, called their Signature Blend: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-nine.html
Alejandro del Peral, Nine Pin's cider maker has expanded their lineup quickly and now Nine Pin offers the Ginger, Belgian, and Hunny Pear as well.
Here's what Nine Pin says about their ginger cider, "Ginger – A spicy yet balanced cider created from a blend of dessert apples from Samascott Orchards and infused with ginger and orange peel."
I love that Ninepin is going for something spicy and also adding the orange notes. I'm so curious to taste how it will all work together.
Appearance: pale, brilliant
Somehow this color reminds me of a certain shade of sunrise when rose and gold combine with pale delicacy. Poetics of color aside, this is a beautiful brilliant cider without a hint of haze.
Aromas: fresh apple, some ginger, spices
When I lift my glass, I can immediately smell apple. It is a fresh clean apple scent rather than something more ripe or warm. In the background, ginger and spice both appear but remain very separate from the apple.
Though it is a bit more difficult to assess the sweetness or dryness of a flavored cider, at least for me, this one is doubtlessly a semi-dry. It has fruit and body as well as spice but these things always function in balance. The mouthfeel and finish contribute to the cider's functioning as a semi-dry. This makes it pleasantly approachable and enjoyable for folks with a wide array of preferences.
Flavors and drinking experience: genuine ginger flavor coordinated with orange zestiness
Wow! This cider has a very real ginger taste. It drinks just a touch spicy while staying nicely balanced. The ginger does not dominate the cider completely but it is a primary aspect of this cider. Rather than tasting like a flavored cider it drinks like apple, orange, and spicy ginger altogether. I am impressed by how tremendously well these flavors combine.
The Ginger offers a good level of carbonation for me, which means it is strongly sparkling. I enjoyed this cider before reading any descriptions or notes, but once I read about the infusion of orange peel it made all the sense in the world.
For reasons of practicality, I had this with a couple of non traditional pairings because my fridge was so filled with party leftovers. I could not in good conscious cook something new, so I asked the Ninepin Ginger to work with what I had. That means I tried it with tabbouleh salad, tortilla soup, and white chocolate tequila-soaked jalapenos. Trust me it worked.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The time is nearly here for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week!
Cider Week is a growing way for groups of cider makers and enthusiasts to get together and celebrate the finest of all libations, hard cider! There are a number of Cider Weeks in the United States now and some of them having been going on for a few years now. This will be the third Finger Lakes Cider Week!
The actual dates are October 3rd through 12th, 2014. There will be cider events galore all over the region. Find out more at http://www.ciderweekflx.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ciderweekflx
So, to help get people as excited as I am for the upcoming festivities, I thought I'd mention a few of the upcoming events and link back to my coverage both of last year's Cider Week and of the participating cideries that I've featured or reviewed in the past. That way you'll know a bit more about what you could be drinking soon at Cider Week!
My Participation Last Year
In 2013, I was lucky enough to be invited to help run a cheese and cider pairing event at The Cellar D'Or which is still a huge favorite of mine. We paired ciders and cheeses from the local to the international and had a great time. I know they're doing tons for Cider Week again this year.
Here's just a bit of link roundup for reviews I've done in the past on ciders from cideries that will be participating in Cider Week again this year.
Highlights of Cider Week 2014
• Friday- Sunday October 3-5: Apple Harvest Festival with cider sampling, apple tasting, pies, rides, and more, Ithaca
• Friday October 3 (5-8pm): Cider Week Kickoff Tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Eve's Cidery, Bellwether Cidery, and Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Ithaca
• Tuesday. October 7 (7pm): Science Cabaret with Dr. Gavin Sacks @ Lot 10, Ithaca
• Wed. October 8 Free Cider Tasting at Seneca Falls Farmer's Market, Seneca Falls
• Thu. October 9: Cider Party for the Library’s 40th! @ Durland Alternatives Library, Ithaca
• Fri. October 10 (5-8pm) Local and International Cider tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Blackbird Cider Works, Ithaca
• Fri. October 10 (8-11pm): Cider Stomp @ the Chanticleer Loft, Ithaca
• Sat. October 11 (11am, 1pm): Orchard and Cidery Tours @ Black Diamond Farms, Trumansburg
• Sat. October 11 (3-7pm): Gifts of the Apple family event @ the Good Life Farm, Interlaken
• Sat. October 11 (5-8pm): Free Cider Tasting at Greenstar Coop with Bellwether Ciders
• Sun. October 12 (8am-5pm): Build Your Own Cider Press and Cider Making Workshop @ Hammerstone School, Trumansburg (requires pre-registration)
Cider Week Cideries I've Reviewed
Harvest Moon Cidery
Redbyrd Orchard Cider
Beak and Skiff's 1911 Hard Cider
Cider Week Cideries I Still Need to Review
Black Diamond Farm Ciders
Black Bird Cider Works
South Hill Cider
Hazlitt's Cider Tree
Three Bros. Winery
How many of those can I get good notes on before the end of cider week? Do you think I can collect all six? I might just try.
(Full Disclosure: I'm a volunteer for Cider Week. I'm part of the team that's trying to bring you free cider and fun.)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Today feels like fall. Though the season doesn't officially start until the equinox on Sunday, the mornings are crisply cool, leaves are changing color, and apple harvest has started for the year. I love these earlier cooler nights, for that that it means that winter and real cold cannot be too far behind. It is a season for visitors here in Ithaca, and today's review is for a cider I shared with dear visiting friends recently. They like dry challenging ciders, so I pulled out something I thought might be a bit special, Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King.
Here's a bit of background on Whetsone Ciderworks that I found on their website. The company has been around since 2010. Jason and Lauren MacArthur started Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro, Vermont. They appear to have a few really interesting identifying features as a cidery.
They do focus on local fruit. This what they have to say about that, "All of the apples we use are grown locally- this past year, most were from Scott Farm in Dummerston, some from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH, and even a few from our own small orchard."
This, plus the description of Jason MacArthur's winemaking influence make me really excited to try their ciders. I love it when cidermakers show a genuine focus on apples, climate, and the under-realized similarities of cider and wine making. Anyhow, that's my own bias talking.
You can find out plenty more on their actual site http://www.whetstoneciderworks.com/ or their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whetstone-CiderWorks/209863572381300
In looking at a few Whetstone Ciders, I though I'd start by sharing and reviewing their Orchard King. It sounds complex and truly expressive of their cider-making goals.
Here's what Whetsone has to say about their Orchard King, "This extra-dry, bottle-conditioned cider is effervescent and refreshing. Yarlington Mill, Orleans Reinette, and Major are among the apples that impart tastes of citrus and apple, leading to a delicate, smoky finish. A fabulous 'cocktail hour' cider."
This cider is sold in 750ml bottles and has an ABV of 7.5%.
Appearance: cloudy, deep creamy color, very little visible bubbling
I can see a ring of very fine bubbles around the edge of the glass and a few tiny islands of bubbles, but not much more. This cider is hazy to cloudy and shows signs of being bottle conditioned. This matches the official description, so that's good. The cider is a creamy rich gold in color.
Aromas: Leather, Ripe Apples, Clay
The Orchard King smells fascinating, rather like leather and limestone and deliciously ripe apples. I also detect notes that remind me of wood and clay. One of my fellow tasters got hint of lily aromas, and I think she's spot on. I get some phenols but not to a distracting or negative degree. I really enjoy how rich and complex this cider smells.
Sweetness or dryness: Dry
Definitely at dry cider! This doesn't taste the least bit sweet until the finish, but then some hints of warm sweet oats and breadiness kick in. I love the dryness and the shift just at the last moment. Very interesting.
Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, medium high acid, some degree of farminess
The Orchard King tastes monstrously tannic and fabulous. This cider comes across as lightly fizzy more than deeply bubbly. It shows a bit of farm funk with some hints of metallic flavors. The Orchard King balances that weight of tannins and funk with some intense acidity, making this a complex and bombastic cider. It tastes very rustic, even a bit medieval.
Monday, September 1, 2014
First things first. You can find out plenty about AeppelTreow Winery and Distillery at their website:
I have reviewed one AeppelTreow cider before, their Barnswallow. Interested parties can read that review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html
The briefest version of AeppelTreow's description of their Kinglet Bitter reads, "Semi-dry, medium tannic traditional English and French cider apples."
While mouthwatering, that doesn't go as deep as I would like in terms of information, and, luckily for us cider nerds, AeppelTreow gives us more. Here's the full rundown of what they say about the Kinglet Bitter.
English and French traditional cider apples. Complex and tannic.
Fermented to highlight cultivars and terroir.
Subtle apple and tannins, tart, slightly bubbly.
- Body: Medium
- Sweetness: 1
- Tartness: 4
- Alcohol: 6
- Apples: Dabinette, Domaine, Frequin Rouge, White Jersey, Muscadet Deippe and other bittersweet cider apples of English and French heritage.
Kinglet Bitter is one of our proud ‘estate’ ciders. It’s all grown at Brightonwoods, within sight of the Winery. It’s more subtle and complex than Barn Swallow – being fermented from 100% bitter English and French cider apples. It differs from an authentic European cider by being ‘immature’. Kinglet has very little post-ferment changes made by wild Lactic Acid Bacteria. Instead, we ferment it with a Sangiovese yeast that we think really brings out the tannin characters of the cider-specific cultivars. These apples are rare, and not easy to grow. When we get the question "Then why use them?", we pour a glass of Kinglet.I've had a fair number of ciders that use only cider apples, and it changes the landscape of flavors tremendously. What excites me especially is that this list goes beyond the ten or so cider apples I've tasted most often and includes totally unfamiliar apples! The comment about relative 'immaturity' caused by post-fermentation changes makes me curious. What does that really mean? How will that translate into taste?
Appearance: marigold, few visible bubbles, brilliant
This is a deeply colored cider. Its marigold hue bespeaks tannins; this is not a surprise given the description.
Aromas: Tons of overripe apple aroma, some minerals, spicy.
Wow! I feel completely entranced by the aromas here. This smells sweetly spicy but oh-so appley. Laying atop this balance, I pick up a subtle drift of minerality. Gosh, this is going to be good.
This has some sweetness, but not too much. Definitely not enough to call it semi-sweet. The thing about this sweetness that I notice most is its depth. This is a real rich apple taste that expresses itself partly with sweetness.
Flavors: high tannins, medium sweetness, rich, creamy, yet a bit tart
This cider tastes highly tannic but not too dry. I'll chalk that up not only to deep fruits in the mid palate but also no overkill in terms of acidity. The Kinglet Bitter offers rich flavor without being heavy. Instead the mouthfeel is more creamy but with hints of zest. The flavor is one that you can fall into but that just bounces you back up. It really is tannic and sweet but still refreshing; I just cannot get over how well those two elements are balanced.
I just absolutely adore this cider.
The level of sparkle is more one of spritz or petillance. My one complaint is that it did lose its sparkle fairly quickly in the glass. This is not a sincere critique. We need ciders at all levels of bubble and stillness. I just happen to like sparkle a lot.
Thinking about pairings for AeppelTreow's Kinglet Bitter, I'd like to pair it with foods that play up its tannins well. I think a totally smooth sherried mushroom soup, a salad with big herby croutons, and gruyere would taste amazing. Mind you, I enjoyed my own glasses of this cider with a good book instead of food. I assure you, it delights the senses either way. I just like tasty cider more than I like cooking, so I don't always prepare the meals that I think the ciders deserve.
Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
For the time being though, let me share my most recent adventure with a Farnum Hill cider.
Let us begin with the fact that Farnum Hill is serious about cider and about using cider apples. If you want to see this for yourself, you can find evident all over their website:
On the one hand, I love that. Cider is worthy of being taken seriously. It is a seriously delicious and complex beverage. Different apples make for different ciders, and Farnum Hill has invested in cider apples much to the benefit of their ciders. But to represent that other hand, I have to say that I'm not completely into the tone that their seriousness takes. For example, "On Farnum Hill, we stick to the true meaning of the word 'cider:' an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as 'wine' is fermented from particular grapes." Anyone who starts talking about true this or true that starts to lose me, I must say. There are a lot of ways to do anything, and calling one way true starts to mean calling all other ways false, and that sounds a bit limited and unnecessarily disdainful.
Consider me a rebel, but this seems a bit silly. The cider world has room for many style and even more bottles. I will absolutely line up to taste and try what Farnum Hill offers, but I'm not going to sign up for a "one true way" for cider.Speaking of my fondness for their actual beverages, I have reviewed one Farnum Hill cider in the past. Find my review of their 2013 summer cider here:
But for tonight, it is all about Farmhouse Cider.
Farnum Hill ‘Farmhouse’: Alcohol content: 6.5% by volume. Available in 750 ml bottles with mushroom cork & wire hood.
Our most casual cider, pale gold and bubbly, with a stroke of sweetness along with the tart, bitter, and fruity elements that good cider offers: citrus, pineapple, bittersweet apple, and a whiff of good barnyard funk. Farmhouse astringency is nowhere near the extreme, but shows a certain tannic edge. Agreeably versatile, it shares certain flavor elements with both beer and wine. A clean, appetizing finish makes it congenial with many kinds of food, from the snackiest through the meatiest to the whole-grainiest and back.
People fond of English or Irish commercial ciders often like our Farmhouse, though its sweetness is a fraction of theirs. Imagine a fresh-tasting second cousin to Magner’s (alias Bulmer’s Ireland), and subtract the sugar. ‘Farmhouse’ is more of a pub cider than our others. It varies a bit more from batch to batch, shows less complexity less alcohol than our others, and of course is less filling than beer. It and Semi-Dry are the most popular of our regular ciders. ‘Farmhouse’ is blended from a group of real cider apples that ripen earlier than most. So it’s a bit easier to make and less expensive to buy.
The tannins in the Farmhouse Cider taste more bitter and feel more rustic (rough?) than those in our more elegant blends. You who wince at the tannins in Farmhouse might find pleasure in our smoother, more complex Semi-Dry.
(For the ultimate in tannic astringency, journey to certain farmstead operations in the West of England. Any of their serious bittersweet ciders convulse the oral membranes with eerie power. Ageless residents of rural Somerset or Hereford can chat and sip all day, gently propped against barrels, freed by cidrous tannins from time and harm. Or that’s how it looks.)Whoa. That's a mouthful. Let's dig out a few concrete specifics to use when tasting this cider. I'm guessing this will be an off dry cider (meaning not entirely dry but also drier than a semi-dry) with medium to high tannins. I anticipate some bitterness but not enough to entirely crowd out fruit notes. Sounds enticing enough. I'm curious.
Appearance: deep topaz, not many visible bubbles, brilliant
This is a lovely cider in the glass. That depth of colors supports the description of tannins and heritage fruit, but none of that is a surprise. Though the photo doesn't reveal this, when first poured, I can see that this will be a slightly sparkling cider, but the bubbles calm down quickly.
Aromas: overripe apples, dust, summer storms
Luscious smells. This cider makes my mouth water with that combination of warmed overripe apples and mineral dust. This is my second clue that this cider will taste tannic, so that's consistent with its appearance and description. But now I'm getting in a hurry because it smells so good that I want to taste it absolutely right now.
Sweetness: off dry
This cider, as predicted, tastes more than semi-dry but not completely dry and not at all harsh. This truly is a drinkable off dry.
Flavors: Tannins! Slight bitterness, good structure, woody
The Farmhouse Cider tastes highly tannic, but it balances that out with plenty of fruits and medium acidity. What the tannins contribute are good structure and body with some delightful drops of mild bitterness. My only complaint is purely personal. It has not very strong petillance, meaning it sparkles just a touch on the tongue but I would like perhaps a touch more. This is decidedly an easy drinking cider for the aficionado, and at the same time a beautiful and complex education for the more casual quaffer. I keep noticing the slight levels bitter astringency, but you know that's how I like it.
This cider offers a long woody finish that gets a bit sweeter at the very very end. Friendly.
In terms of pairings, I think I want both some fattiness and some mild sweetness to best highlight what I enjoy about this cider. If I were near the ocean that would mean lobster roll and homemade potato crisps. *swoon* Since I am significantly land-locked, avocados spring to mind. Perhaps an avocado and tomato salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a lemony drizzle. Or roasted corn on the cob with feta cheese and veggie burgers. Lots of summer foods would match this beautifully.
Farnum Hill didn't get their intense reputation by making mediocre cider. This is an elegant and deeply enjoyable experience. I am grateful for the apples and expertise that went into this. If they could relax a tiny bit about themselves, they'd be pretty much perfect.
**Don't forget! If you need my address for any cider-related reason, particularly if you want to send me your delicious cider for review, contact me via email or comment to get my new address!**
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Today makes Millstone Cellars' third appearance in this blog. I'm lucky to have friends in the Maryland DC area and a phenomenal local cider seller (https://www.thecellardor.com of course!) who hosted the cidermaker from Millstone (bringing in the current line of ciders for tasting and sale) because normally these ciders are only available in the Maryland and Washington DC areas. Ask me another day about the extremely difficult hurdles of distribution for small craft cider producers. I'll talk your ear off. Anyhow...
Here are my two previous reviews of Millstone Cellars ciders.
Millstone Cellars makes really interesting ciders. You can read about them on their website here: http://www.millstonecellars.com/artisanal-cider/ They aren't afraid to try interesting additives, unique apple varieties, and the most nuanced use of honey as a backsweetener that I know. Combine my good feeling for Millstone Cellars' style with the fact that I love hopped ciders. They are the absolute best for hot summer afternoons. The world can consider me very excited to try Millstone's Hopvine.
Obviously the Hopvine is an apple cider with hops, but we can do better than that for some useful information. Here's what Millstone says, "Cask cider aged with Maryland dry hops and blended with a touch of raw honey. Wrap your taste buds around a cascade of lemony and spicy hop flavors." Further reading or even just admiring of the beautiful label shows that this cider uses York Imperial apples, wildflower honey, and Cascade hops. This cider has an ABV of 8%. It is also listed as being bottle conditioned and dry.
Prepared with this details, let's pour and taste. Today is 88 degrees in Ithaca, perfect for hopped cider.
Appearance: Hazy, lemon curd color, not too many visible bubbles once the initial head disappears
The Hopvine pours with some belgian lace that quickly dissipates.
Aromas: Wow, alfalfa, citrus
The reason for the wow is that this cider is intensely aromatic. I love it when a cider gives me plenty of good smells! This one has alfalfa, hay, citrus, grapefruit pith, and a background of apples. But as it warms up a bit, the smells develop and give me additional notes like baseball glove or soft patent leather. Mmm! Wow indeed.
Like many bottle-conditioned ciders, the Hopvine manages to exhibit loads of flavor while being bone dry. I really appreciate this in a cider.
Flavors and drinking experience: zesty, astringent, sour, fruity
I must preface my description with the fact that this cider tastes milder than it smells. It is dry, phenolic, and astringent. I love the intensity that astringency brings to mouthfeel; it makes everything zesty. The cider finishes with notes like straw, leather, and sour yeast. The hops make it spicy yet vegetal or herbaceous. I love how totally insane the Hopvine is with leather and acidity. This does not strike me as a sipping cider. I was tasting with a few friends who faulted it for moments of bracing funk that approach sweatiness, but I really enjoyed those facets. What can I say? I like a little stink in my cider. I like it a lot.
What we can all agree on is that Millstone's Hopvine pairs with strongly flavored aromatic dishes. Bring out the Rosemary bread, olives, and feta. I flipping love Rosemary and never get to eat it often enough, but the salty rosemary bread and briny feta just complemented this cider perfectly. My love for hopped ciders continues! This is probably one for the lovers of sour beers, unusual ciders, and deliciously complex tastes. I'd not share this with just everyone, but then again I say that about most of my favorite discoveries.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Tonight, I'm reviewing the True Believer by the Standard Cider Company. They are a Long Island based cider company that uses 100% New York state apples for their ciders. As far as I can tell they have a small number of ciders; The True Believer, The True Companion make up the mainstays, but I've seen enough mentions of a holiday season limited edition that I think they've had at least one of those. Please pardon my lack of total confidence in my information, but I've not been able to find out as much about the Standard Cider company or their products as I would like. What info I can find comes from magazines and blogs covering the NY state beverage scene (thank you!) and the Facebook page for Standard Cider Co. here's a link if you'd like to check it out. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Standard-Cider-Co/444740802236202
When I saw this cider for sale locally, the graphic design caught my eye immediately. I really enjoy creative, visually appealing use of text. The lettering on this label definitely counts! This label manages to achieve some cute old-timey cachet while still being totally clear and easy to read. This is a genuinely difficult feat, so kudos to Standard Cider Company for this.
Of the True Believer and True Companion, I chose to review the True Believer first. It is a blend of Cameo, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji and Granny Smith apples. The True Companion begins with that as its base, but it also blends in orange zest, ginger, and spices. Starting with the apple-only cider seems logical to me. It is a relatively modest blend of dessert apples, so I know I'll be drinking something with a good bit of aroma, high acidity, but almost no tannins. We'll see if I'm right.
Appearance: dark peach, hazy, big bubbles
This cider looks peachy in the glass, but it is almost brilliant, barely hazy. The bubbles appear quite distinctly: notably larger than in most ciders, even forced carbonation ciders. A touch unusual.
Aromas: apple sauce, cinnamon, earth
Oh wow, when I smell this I immediately think of the two most aromatic apples I know for a cider blend: Northern Spy and Golden Russet. It just has that rich, warm, applesauce aroma. But I get a lot more than that in this particular cider: cinnamon, spice, dusty minerals, earth, and brown sugar. My predictions aren't terribly wrong so far. Let's see if I can keep this up.
Sweetness to dryness: Sweet
The sweetness is so integral to this set of flavors, I don't want to give anything away too soon. Just read on.
Flavors and drinking experience: mulled, spicy, sweet, cherries
Interesting! Though the apple blend mentions absolutely no addition of other ingredients or flavors, this tastes mulled. I'm sure most everyone knows this, but a mulled beverage is one that has been sweetened and spiced while being heated. Usually they are then served hot, but they can be chilled back down after being heated and spiced. Obviously out of the bottle and out of the fridge, I drank this cold, but it still tastes mulled. Cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger, and spices just jump out at me.
This cider coats the tongue and has such a massively thick mouthfeel. The True Believer delivers a strong aftertaste of ginger, powdered sugar, and Maraschino cherries.
Beyond a sweet spiced cider experience, the other aspect of the True Believer that I notice the most is the strong sparkle. If you like your ciders bubbly, sweet and sweetly spicy, then this is absolutely for you.