Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cider Review: Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Wild Pippin


In October, I got an amazing opportunity to take part in a media and trade tour for cider in the Finger Lakes region. Taste NY (http://taste.ny.gov/) and the New York Cider Association (http://www.nycider.com/hardciderwine.htm) put this together. They did just a brilliant job. Even though I've been part of the cider industry of the Finger Lakes since I moved here in 2013, I feel like I learned so many new things about the cider production realities and possibilities unique to the Finger Lakes. Amazing!

This picture is of a row of the relatively young trees at Redbyrd Orchard Cider. These are being trained in the slender spindle style to encourage them to bear fruit early and grow in a relatively stable and secure way. It largely involves training the branches downward because branch position relative to the trunk of the apple tree gives signals to the tree about how much fruit to set. Interesting stuff. This farm is also focusing on biodynamic farming that involves other farm projects all being designed and chosen to mutually support one another, in this case chickens and sheep along with apple trees to create natural fertilizer, control pests, and feed livestock all at the same time.

But tonight's post isn't just to talk about what an educational (and tasty) time I had learning about local ciders. I actually want to talk about one specific cider that I tried from Redbyrd Orchard Cider: the Wild Pippin.  (You can connect with them on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RedbyrdOrchardCider.)

To zoom out a bit Redbyrd Orchard cider describes themselves as, "Cider made from sustainably managed orchards nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York." The business belongs to a wife and husband team Eric Shatt and Deva Maas. Their website offers more information about their process and descriptions of all of their past and present ciders at http://redbyrdorchardcider.com/.  My own previous review of their Starblossom cider can be found here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html.


Of everything I tried by Redbyrd Orchard Ciders, the cider that stood out the most to me by far. In fact, this stood out so much that it became my Thanksgiving cider.  Before I give my own impressions, let's take a look at the writeup by Redbyrd Orchard Ciders.
Wild Pippin is a rare and unique blend of 100% wild gathered apples.  Every year we search the country side around the Finger Lakes for wild apple trees that we feel will add complexity and “wildness” to our ciders.  This year we found plenty, and blended them into most of our ciders and made “Wild Pippin”, a crafted blend of sharp, and bitter sharp wild-grown seedling  apples.  We will likely graft and grow out the best of these varieties to plant in our orchard for future ciders.  Will the grafted clones act and taste the same as their wild parents? After primary fermentation we aged the cider in French oak barrels just long enough to integrate this nice rustic character into the cider.  We finished the cider with an in bottle secondary fermentation to add elegant and creamy carbonation to balance its wild acidity…enjoy!!    pH 3.5,  approx. TA 0.8, RS 0.0%, 8.2% alc/vol    Bottle Conditioned
I'm thrilled to see this much information in a cider description, especially specifics like residual sugar (often abbreviated to RS) and total acidity (TA for short) and pH in addition the alcohol by volume. These numbers indicate to me that I should expect a completely dry cider, with some lively acidity and a relatively high alcohol level. What I don't know is what notes the wild apples will impart or how a short period of time in french oak will affect the cider.

 
Appearance: Robust butternut squash color, bubbles, brilliant

I'm afraid this picture does not do the cider justice, but in all of the hubbub of preparing for Thanksgiving Dinner, I didn't have time for a full photo shoot. You can see tons of very fine bubbles all along the glass and many moving within the cider. No haze to speak of. The cider is a rich yellow orange very reminiscent of uncooked butternut squash.

Aroma: Spicy! Herbal!

Whoa! Both times I've had this cider, I noticed the savory nature of the aromas immediately. It doesn't smell like fruit, it smells like herbs and spices. Very interesting and different.

Dryness/Sweetness: Bone dry yet flavorful

0.0 Residual sugar does not lie. There isn't any sweetness going on here. But, counter to many expectations, lack of sugar does not mean lack of intense flavor. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Flavors and drinking experience: Peppercorns, squash, grapefruit and more spice

Complex and unusual doesn't even begin to describe how truly wild this cider tastes. The predominant flavor for me is peppercorns. It is spicy and savory all the way. After that, I can begin to taste grapefruit, squash, lemon, poppyseed, fennel, and just a raw zesty green-ness. The bottle conditioning comes across clearly in how fine and intense the bubbles are. The acidity is strong but not out of control. But I cannot emphasize enough that this cider tastes savory.  

What I find hard to describe is how balanced the Wild Pippin tastes while still being so feral and distinctive. I absolutely adore this cider. It really pushes our perceptions and expectations about cider while at the same time being drinkable and incredibly pleasing.

As for how this paired with Thanksgiving? Excellently and just as I'd hoped. A very bubbly cider cuts through the richness of many traditional Thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes, turkey (for meat eaters), and buttery sauteed mushrooms. Acidity further extends the lightening and brightening effect of this cider which pairs well with my cold cranberry relish.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cider Roundup: Grocery Store Ciders Reviewed by the Along Came A Cider Moving Crew

 
This roundup review is a little bit of a stretch backwards in time, but I really don't want the rest of 2014 to slip by without reviewing a few of the new entries into the grocery store cider market. I use this term in particular because where a cider is sold has so much to do with who sees it and who buys it. More folks see the ciders in supermarkets than in wine or beer specialty stores, so this seems significant.


Along Came a Cider Headquarters moved this August. Luckily I had a hardy crew of about a dozen friends to help. Traditionally the reward for a moving crew of this type is pizza and beer, but my friends agreed to not only move my stuff but also help me taste and review a number of new ciders for the reward of pizza and eternal fame and glory, of course.

Everyone was a great help in moving and even better sports about being cider guinea pigs afterwards. they even let me take silly pictures of them. We had tons of pizza and spoke pretty candidly about this varied crop of ciders. 

And Now for The Ciders:

Johnny Appleseed

This cider is certainly the one I see advertised the most around here since its release. Ads appear on Twitter regularly and I know I've seen them elsewhere. This is Anheiser Busch's cider and the only one of the new crop of grocery store ciders to advertise its sweetness as a feature. Here's what they have to say about their cider.
Johnny Appleseed is a refreshingly sweet and intense hard apple cider. It’s best enjoyed on the rocks, among good friends. Inspired by a legendary adventurer and storyteller, Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider was created for anyone with a story to tell. So whenever friends gather to share a drink, a tale, or a night out, raise a glass of Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider — to the hundreds of stories waiting to be told.
This has the most chemical or artificial notes of any of the ciders we tried. Everyone noticed that though the cider has a pleasant appley first note it gets way too sweet and fake tasting. Specifically this tastes like green apple candy. This is especially noticeable because of the simultaneous stickiness and thin mouthfeel. Not a winner for any of us.

Smith and Forge


First, let me share some of official press release for this cider including the fabulously clear headline, "Presenting Smith & Forge Hard Cider: A Sturdy Drink for the Hardy Gent." Alrighty, this is a cider being marketed as manly and for men. Here's more from MillerCoor's exec Kroll, “There was a time when more hard cider was consumed in America than beer.  Now hard cider is exploding again, but the sweetness of many current ciders can be a turn off to beer drinkers, and some of them are looking instead to spirits and crafts for variety,” said David Kroll, MillerCoors vice president of insights and innovation. “Smith & Forge is a strong, just-sweet-enough hard cider that encourages guys to discover -- or rediscover -- the world of hard cider.”

“Once upon a time, barrel-chested men proudly drank tankards of hard cider,” continued Kroll. “Smith & Forge is honoring those times by bringing back the sturdy side of hard cider.”
One of my guest reviewers said, "This tastes exactly like apple juice. This is something my six year old would enjoy." I'm pretty sure he thought that was a bad thing even though he enjoyed the beverage enough to finish it.

In looking at the website now for Smith and Forge it seems to take a lighter view of its obvious targeting of a male demographic with jokes about mining, biceps, taverns and a general manly old-timey, moustache-loving vibe. Cute but feels artificial.

My word on the cider: it does tastes the most like fresh unfermented juice of any alcholic cider I've tasted above an ABV of 3% and yet this has an ABV of 6%, so I think the level of backsweetening and post-fermentation flavoring must be intense.

Woodchuck Fall Harvest


 (Many thanks to Woodchuck for letting me borrow one of their promo pics. I really wanted to show off their packaging and this photo does it.)

This is the cider I've had the most experience with before sharing it with my friends/movers, but we'll start with what Woodchuck has to say about it
The fall harvest brings farmers and communities together to celebrate another year of fruitful labor, It is a time of shorter days, cooler night, and great apples. This cider has a complex and elegant character full of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg balanced out with a hint of American White Oak. A true taste of the season.
My friendly movers had a lot more to say about the spices of this cider than the fruit or apple characteristics. The most common observations were about the apple pie similarities, questions about mulling this cider, and mentions of a brown sugar finish. We all expected it to be sweet, so there were no surprises there.

DeMunck's Belgian Style Hard Cider



Wow! This is some confrontational copy. I knew this cider would be a little different as the first cider by a regional microbrewery (Southern Tier) but they don't let us forget it. Take a look.
If you like artificial cider made from imported, concentrated apple juice, filled with caramel color, sweetened with corn syrup, and containing more than 200 calories per serving, we recommend you look elsewhere. It makes us angry that so many ciders are made with apples from orchards on other continents.

We ferment 100% pure apple juice with our house Belgian Abbey Ale yeast for a very special hard cider. Made in small batches, DeMunck's Hard Cider is smooth, easy to drink and naturally gluten-free.  
My tasters and myself all noticed that this cider hits with an initial half moment of bitterness and some beer-like aromas. The meaning of Belgian style becomes clear, they are using a Belgian beer yeast. This is good to know because I don't actually know of any particularly Belgian cider traditions in either the creation or consumption of cider. Perhaps if I'd read more carefully I would have noticed the website saying, "Fermented with Belgian Abbey Ale Yeast" sooner. Oh well.

This cider is the only one of these I've bought again since the moving party. Though I think the finish is a bit odd with some powdered sugar and bing cherry flavors, it is a nice well balanced cider.

Overall, we liked the DeMunck's best with a tie for second place between the seasonal Woodchuck and Smith and Forge. Pizza and thirst were ideal accompaniments for all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cider Review: West County Cider Cidermaker's Favorite

Tonight I'm reviewing a little bit of a mystery, West County Cider Cidermaker's Favorite. Unfortunately, I'm not finding out a lot of background information about this particular cider. I got it at a fundraising cider sell-off to raise money for Franklin Country Cider Days back in 2013. I finally opened up my bottle of cherished Cidermaker's Favorite on one of the first cold nights of the winter and shared it with visiting family.



I'll post a link to West County Cider's website, but I'll mention ahead of time that there is basic contact information on the page and nothing else. http://www.westcountycider.com/
The page is beautifully presented and formatted, but again mysterious. I tried for Facebook presence but alas, I found nothing.

 I've tasted their ciders very rarely, but I quite like what I've tried. My only previous review is of their Reine de Pomme. You can read about my impressions of this unique cider right here and my post also has more background information on West County:

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/03/cider-review-west-county-cider-reine-de.html

All of what I know about this cider comes from this classic yet minimalist label and tasting it.
 The basic facts include that this cider has an ABV of 4.8% and is surely a blend of heritage local apples like all of what West County does.


Appearance: Polished Copper

The Cidermaker's Favorite looks totally brilliant. Not one hint of haze is visible. The color strikes me as more metallic and clear and clean than many; it is unusually intense and looks just like polished copper to me. I don't see many bubbles, so perhaps this will be a still cider?

I can barely get over how deep and richly this color comes across.

Aromas: applesauce, highly aromatic, dusty, minerally

Ooh! My mouth waters. Certain aromas give excellent hints about how a cider will taste, and this set of smells gives me all kinds of goodness to anticipate. Dusty smells imply tannins to me. Many fabulous bittersharp apples and heritage apples offer their gorgeous applesauce notes in a blend's aroma. My hopes have officially been raised.

Dryness/Sweetness: Dry

Definitely dry but with fruit and tannin notes.

Flavors and drinking experience: Wow I did not anticipate how high the acid levels would be on this cider. It makes it very exciting! I did expect higher than average tannins, and I am not disappointed. Yay! The cider drinks with almost no sweetness. But still somehow dry, tannic, and acidic balance out beautifully. The low ABV of this cider really shows well. It makes a huge difference in how smooth and approachable it is while being this dry. The other element of this cider I must emphasize is how rich rich rich it tastes. Perfection. I love this complex and exciting balancing act. West County Cider has really pulled off something special with its Cidermaker's Favorite.


I had this both with dinner and after, so I can vouch enthusiastically for this cider as either a pairing beverage or something to focus on. My food was a baked pasta dish with a cream-based sauce, walnut, spring peas, and a swirl of pesto on top. Very rich and a nice accompaniment to such an utterly delightful cider.

If you see West County Cider anywhere, please do yourself a favor and try them. I cannot wait to have the chance again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cider Review: McKenzie's Hard Cider Pumpkin Jack

Even though I've seen snow every day since last Thursday, I want to review at least one more autumnal cider before we take the official plunge into winter. Luckily for me, winter doesn't begin technically for another five weeks. (Not that I think upstate New York is listening.) So, I'm pretending that we're still living in an autumnal wonderland for my review of McKenzie's Hard Cider Pumpkin Jack!


 McKenzie's is a widely available cider brand where I live, but I honestly don't know how common it is out of state. Commentors are encouraged to enlighten me! Their ciders are made here in upstate NY. The website has plenty more information here: http://www.mckenziesbeverages.com/.

While I love learning in-depth information about fermentation techniques and apples choices, I must say that the coolest thing on the McKenzie's website is a huge and varied page of cider facts, http://www.mckenziesbeverages.com/cider-facts. There's plenty of party trivia here!

McKenzie's Ciders have come up in my blog a few times. Here you can read all of my earlier reviews.

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-mckenzies-hard-cider.html

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-mckenzies-lazy-lemon.html

http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-mckenzies-hand-pressed.html

But tonight, I'm not worried about anything except the Pumpkin Jack. We'll see exactly what this variation on the current pumpkin craze (and it is a craze) is all about. McKenzie's official description is a bit light on information, but it says, "Who Needs Pumpkin Pie When You Can Have This! It’s All Treats & No Tricks with McKenzie’s 'Pumpkin Jack' Fall Seasonal Hard Cider! This selective Seasonal uses only the finest real pumpkin and fall spices to enhance and excite both your nose and your taste buds!" From this, I can expect some pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices in the cider. Let's see how it looks out of the bottle, and more importantly, how it tastes.

 
Appearance: brilliant, pumpkin orange, a few super tiny visible bubbles

It is almost a shame to sell this in a tinted bottle because the intense pumpkin orange of the cider really supports the branding. It is gorgeous and super fall pretty in the glass.

Aroma: Nutmeg, Pumpkin, Spicy, Salty?

The smells that this cider offers are far more spice than pumpkin and far more pumpkin pie than cider or apple of any sort. Not that every cider has to taste and smell just exactly like apple. This smells more like nutmeg, pumpkin pie spices, and an odd little hint of salt.

Sweetness/Dryness: Sweet!

This is decidedly sweet with a dark raisiny sweetness. As far as the  many, nearly infinite, types of sweet out there, this is one of the best.

Flavors and drinking experience: very sweet, desserty, mild carbonation

Nuance is not the strong suite of this particular cider, but it is completely fun. If one lets go of any sense of expectation save that of pumpkin pie, this cider really delivers that. It is sweeter than many pumpkin pies, but it has a few phases of flavor. It starts with a hit of sweet, goes spicy but cool, and offers a more gently sweet finish.

 
The Pumpkin Jack tastes very interesting, but it is not something I could drink regularly. I think I'd be more likely to use it to make a reduction and turn it into a dessert sauce. Pumpkin Jack has loads of flavor and for those who cannot get enough pumpkin spice, it would likely be a total winner.

I paired my Pumpkin Jack cider with a spicy chili for a bit of counterpoint. Sweetness is my favorite accompaniment to culinary heat. I enjoyed it that way plenty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cider Review: Bad Seed's Belgian Abbey Hard Cider

 

Though the Hudson Valley cider scene is physically close to us here in the Finger Lakes, I've felt surprised by the relative separateness of our cider scenes. Nonetheless, I always try to pick up these ciders when I see them for sale. Hence, my review of Bad Seed's Belgian Abbey Hard Cider.

The last time I reviewed a Bad Seed cider it was their IPC (India Pale Cider) back in September of 2013. You can read the review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-bad-seed-ipc-india-pale.html Theyve come a long way since then and even longer since Bad Seed was started by two friends in 2011. Now they even have website: http://www.badseedhardcider.com/ in addition to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Badseedcider.

In reading Bad Seed's website, the most fascinating writing I found says, "We seek to advance the craft cider industry through mixing both old and new cider techniques and craft beer influences. Making ciders from 100% fresh pressed apples grown by us on a 6th generation family farm with no Alchemy used, after all this is cider not science. You wont find the endless list of chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and excuses on our label because we don't use them." Alchemy, eh? I hadn't known that was a major issue in the industry, but what a fascinating idea.

This is what Bad Seed says about their own Belgian Abbey Hard Cider: "If Belgian Monks only found this the higher purpose of the apple, Crafted from apples grown in the Hudson Valley , fermented with a Belgian abbey beer yeast, unfiltered and bottle conditioned. Tart, tangy, Dry and a little off beat like a Bad seed should be." This cider has a very middle of the road 6.3% ABV, making it nice and easy with meals.

 
Appearance: Hazy bubbly lemon sorbet color

Aromas: beery, yeasty, citrusy

First and foremost, this cider smells like beer. Behind the intense beer smells, I can also detect some citrus and maybe maybe a hint of apple. Mostly though the yeast choice makes itself clear in the aromas of the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider.

Sweetness: Dry

Absolutely bone dry. Both from the copy on the website and the dryness of this cider, I'm confident saying that the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider has been bottle conditioned.

Flavors and Drinking experience: beer-like, bitter, bubbly

Unsurprisingly based on the aromas, this cider tastes very beer-like to me, mind you I don't usually drink beer. Somehow though, the bitterness and citrus notes just say beer to me. The Belgian Abbey is very bubbly too, but not very appley. This isn't a problem; ciders don't have to be very fruity or appley and this one is not. As I drink on, it seems almost burly and definitely burpy. I can taste hints of something savory: celery, fennel and pepper. And I get a consistent minerality. The only true fruit note is grapefruit pith. Very interesting. This cider is definitely low in tannins, medium low acid, and no sweetness.

My impression is that it is so dominated by the yeast choice that if you like that you'll like the cider and if you don't, you won't. The Belgian Abbey even pours with a lot of yeast at the bottom if the bottle when compared to other bottle conditioned ciders.


This cider made a great match with vegetarian chicken dumpling soup. I would always choose to pair the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider with salty food. Its combination of citrusy notes, extreme bubbliness, and bitter beery edge complement salt and heft extremely well. With food, I liked this one a lot, but I think it needs food: at least for me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cider Review: Vintage Henney's Still Cider 2012

 
If you read here regularly, you may have come to suspect a certain style bias in my cider drinking. I love many many sorts of cider, but higher tannin ciders often with some oak and funk to them are frequently favorites. I've been teased for preferring English-style ciders as much as I love UK bands or Victorian literature. I suppose I should confess. I am, in fact, guilty as charged.

So, when I chose a cider to relax with on a dark chilly night recently, my expectations rose when I chose an English cider by a company I've never tried before. Henney's is based out of Worcester, England and the founder Mike Henney has been making cider since 1996. I got my bottle of Henney's Vintage Dry from Franklin County Cider Days last year when bottles left over from the two cider salons were sold at incredibly reasonable prices at the end of the harvest dinner. I spaced out my enjoying of these hard to find ciders, but I believe this bottle was my last of that haul.

Speaking of Franklin County Cider Days, I highly encourage everyone to go. You can read about the cider celebration here: http://www.ciderdays.org/ (It just breaks my heart that I cannot go this year.)

(I wrote about my fabulous experiences there last year in this entry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/11/franklin-county-cider-days-2013-few.html

All my adoration of Franklin County Cider Days aside, it pleases me to no end to get to review something so unfamiliar and intriguing.

Henney's website is beautiful. Lots of use of illustration and clean simple graphic design. They don't go into vast detailed explainations, but they do talk about apple varieties specifically naming Dabinette, Ashton Bitter, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, and Tremlett's Bitter as varieties they prefer. Their website can be found at: www.henneys.co.uk/

This is what they have to say about the Vintage Dry 2012

"Henneys Vintage is made from a single year’s pressing and is naturally still. It is dry in style with a rich and flavoursome palate. This vintage cider is made from a single year’s harvest. It is naturally still and has been only coarsely filtered in order to retain as much flavour as possible. Sip or quaff, we don’t mind, as long as you enjoy it. Cheers!"


Appearance: Dark reddish orange, brilliant, obviously still

I know I go rather off the charts in my associative color descriptions, but you'll find no apologies for that here. This color reminds me of certain fall leaves, dark amber grade B maple syrup, or cinnabar. This is a color for the smell of woodsmoke and the crunch of leaves already fallen to the ground.

Aromas: woody, tannic, hints of fruit
 
Though the primary smell is apple, it offers something more specific: the deep dark but subtle sweet aura of bittersweet cider apples. At this point that smell just means tannins to me. The fact that this comes along with hints of wood and leather, make that prediction a safe one.
 
Sweetness: off dry
 
This is not a completely dry cider, but what sweetness is there is entirely fruity and understated. I think this is a textbook definition of off dry.
 
Flavors and drinking experience: tannins, astrigency, farmy, approachable
 
This cider is so tannic that it starts to dry the mouth and cause a peculiar but very pleasant feeling of astrigency and puckering. Definitely not for everyone, but I adored it. It also has notes of rocks and mist but without tasting watery. This is a tremendously interesting cider with just a bit of farminess to it. The mouthfeel creeps up on being cottony. Very English. I appreciate that the ABV is only 6.5% which keeps it very refreshing and drinkable.
 
In my enthusiasm for tannins and texture I don't want to forget about fruit because this has some lovely overripe apple characteristics along with hints of jam and biscuit dough.  At one point, tasting this cider provoked me to say, "Sweet sweet Pomona, thou art good," If that helps to indicate my level of enthusiasm.
 
Ideally, I'd have this with something creamy and spicy with a hint of seafood saltiness, like a shrimp curry with loads of coconut milk. I'd want something with broth and liquid just to balance out the drying characteristics of the cider, but also something flavorful and stimulating. Anything bland or too mild would simply fade in the presence of so much flavor.

This is not a cider for everyone, but it is certainly one for me!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cider Review: Blackbird Ciders' Orchardist's Reserve

So, one of my goals for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week was to try as many of the unfamiliar cideries as I could. While I didn't make it out to all of the Cider Week events, I did what I could to try new things and this is my first review from that process. I got my hands on some Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve. But before I dive right into the cider, let's learn a bit about the folks who make it.

This is how Black Bird Cider Works introduces themselves on their website (which you can visit here http://blackbirdciders.com):
BlackBird Cider Works is proud to be Niagara County’s sole craft hard cider producer. Nestled on a beautiful farm overlooking Lake Ontario, we produce hard ciders made from apples grown in our own orchard. We boast a variety of ciders ranging from dry to sweet, including some made from certified organic apples. Our on-property tasting room is open seven days a week, offering samples of our current craft cider selection, as well as bottle sales. Stop by the cidery for a tasting, grab some BlackBird merchandise, and discover why we’re Western New York’s premier craft cider producer.
 Their exact location is Barker, New York and one of the really cool things about Black Bird Cider Works is that the cidery and orchard are all part of one location. Black Bird grows all of their own fruit, including both cider varieties of apples and organic apples. Both fairly rare situations and quite special.

I love that Black Bird Cider Works has a tasting room. Perhaps I've become partial over the months I've been involved with one, but there's really something wonderful to say about both seeing the premises for the beverage you are trying and about seeing how customers respond to your ciders.

Now onto Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve!

As I often do, I think it is useful to begin with the cidermaker's official description: "A Blend of six varieties of apples including New York State favorites like the Empire, Cortland & Jonagold apples. With an apple essence on the nose & a light refreshing taste, this cider has a clean finish." To me, this just gives me a good baseline for what to expect so that I approach the cider on its own terms.



Appearance: lots of color, no visible  bubbles, brilliant

This cider shows great color, a deep autumnal gold with hidden hints of green. As the photo shows, there are simply no visible bubbles or haze. It looks so unbubbly that there might not be any sparkle in this cider at all. We'll see.

Aromas: warmed apples, wood, booze

This smells immediately of warm overripe apples, yum. I can get notes of wood shavings, things that remind me of both beer and wine, so I guess I'm just smelling a more notable than usual booziness to the bouquet. Somehow the smell also makes me think of dusty hot slow afternoons in an attic or a barn. Perhaps thats more memory than smell though.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

I know the bottle tells me that this cider will be semi-dry, but I don't get that at all. Semi-sweet is my official recommendation even taking into account that my personal palate is calibrated with some real sensitivity to sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, fruity, green, sweet finish

As the appearance suggested, this cider is just slightly petillant. In terms of flavor, what I notice most is the fruity mid-palate. At that moment, I can taste tangerines, cucumber, all kinds of summer fruit backed with hints of green ultrafresh bitterness. Pleasantly complex. Somehow this just tastes so much like summer. Perhaps it is the hits of lake water minerality. Or somehow the combination of tannins and a sweet powdered sugar finish. I'm not entirely sure. My only real critique has to be in mouthfeel. I prefer a crisper feel with real acid but the Orchardist's Reserve offers more of a soft giving mouthfeel, especially after the initial burst of texture and flavor.

As for pairing, I'd put this with one last summery salad. Even up here in upstate New York, I can still get really good bell peppers and greens. So, I'd chop up every fresh crisp vegetable in the house into a grand finale of a salad, add a good splash of lemon and feta dressing, then drink up this cider right with it.