Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cider Review: E Z Orchards' WIlliamette Valley Cidre

I guess in some ways this post is my last little ode to summer. I had this just as the seasons were turning from spring to summer

Tonight, I'm sharing my first review of an EZ orchards cider. I can scarce believe my blog has made it this long without one! I hear consistently fantastic things about this cider and the people who make it.

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. They are still a destination for fresh apples, shortcakes, seasonal produce, and delicious-sounding events. According to their website, they started producing apples specifically for cider in the year 2000. Now they are known for not only producing quality cider but also being a fantastic community resource in their region for growing quality cider fruit.

You can find out some more here:

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. They are still a destination for fresh apples, shortcakes, seasonal produce, and delicious-sounding events. According to their website, they started producing apples specifically for cider in the year 2000. Now they are known for not only producing quality cider but also being a fantastic community resource in their region for growing quality cider fruit.

Tonight's review is their 2011 Cidre Willamette Valley.

The official description reads:
E.Z. Orchards Willamette Valley Cidre is the culmination of 10 years effort to develop our orchard and refine our fermentation technique. We grow a selection of French, English, and Early American apple varieties. The fruit contain essential characteristics, necessary to impart structure and aroma in our Cidre. The predominant characteristics are attributed to French varieties (85% of the blend) contributing tannin for structure, fermentable sugars, and aroma. We use one low acid English variety with similar dynamics. The balance of the fruit is tart to achieve the acidity necessary to complete the structure and provide stability.
The only fact this leaves out is the 6% ABV.  

Appearance:  Hazy, warm brass color. Few visible bubbles.

This cider looks very rustic. I'd call it hazy to cloudy, but I didn't follow the special pouring instructions to get a clearer glass of cider. It isn't a priority for me. The other thing to note is that I'm drinking a 2011 cider in 20016, so its no surprise really that its a gusher. Interestingly, though the cider seems to have plenty of bubbles, they aren't really visible.

Aromas: Berries, pears, phenolics, acetic acid

Primarily I think the Willamette Valley cidre smells like pear juice and berries, but the phenolics aren't too far behind. I can also detect a slight acetic acid edge.

Dryness/sweetness: off dry

There's a ton of flavor here and almost no sweetness

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, tannic, fruity, sharp

This cider is a complex journey that starts with high acidity then adds high tannins, and some decided funky flavors. Whoa. I like it, but I like lots of my ciders on the earthy, and this fits that bill.

Lets get specific about flavors though: I can taste pineapple, apple, melon, pear and all manner of light fruit. But that's not all I taste. Surprisngly some notes remind me of nachos or perhaps spicy peppers with a little creamy sweetness. 

Part of what makes the drinking expereince so complex is that the pepper-related flavors and the fruit-related flavors do not combine. Over all, I get an impression of high spicy notes and down low on the palate this feels like a medium bodied off dry cider. 

It hits more sweet and high and then rapidly spreads over tongue and gets spicy. I cannot get over the notes of jalapeƱo and orange peel. 

The finish and aftertaste stay with the acidity of and off dry cider mixed with sweet bell pepper flavor. I find the cider entirely likable, partly become the experience requires thought and focus. Though I've hung on to this bottle too long to consider this, my experience offered up moderate carbonation; the bubbles are part and parcel of the pleasant assault on the tastebuds. Its hard to imagine what it would be like without carbonation.

It tastes seemingly different with every sip. I found the Williamette Valley Cidre sensitive to other foods, so I'd recommend eating something gentle with it. Watermelon was especially good in my experience.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's June and Juice Juniper Hard Cider

I keep tabs on Woodchuck's Out on a Limb series and they make it really easy for me by sharing many of these new limited-release ciders with me. Today's review is one of these: the June and Juice a gin botanical inspired cider. 

This cider builds more anticipation for me than lots of flavored ciders because I love many gin botanicals, and gin is my favorite spirit because of its limitless range and herby flavors. Fellow gin lovers, comment with your favorites! I'm definitely game to try a couple of new ones.

I've reviewed a lot of ciders by Woodchuck; they have been around a long time, and they make a wide variety of beverages. Much of what they release is sweeter than I like to drink most of the time, but sometimes they make something pretty exciting. I'm hoping this is going to be one of those times, but first, here are a few links to previous reviews.

Most recently, I toured the Woodchuck facility as part of my cider vacation this summer:

My very first cider review was Woodchuck's Winter back at the start of 2013:

A cider that I've tried with a wide variety of foods is their Barrel Select:

To find everything I've tagged with Woodchuck, follow this link:

And my most recent actual Woodchuck review is of their Local Nectar:

You can read the June and Juice's introduction, "Like a classic gin, we steeped fresh juniper berries into our small batch hard cider for this new concoction. The Cider Makers filled our custom extraction tank with juniper berries, rose petals, and orange peels, yielding a fresh botanical aroma. June & Juice has a refreshing semi-sweet apple taste with notes of juniper and citrus, a perfect alternative to your Friday night G&T!"

And here's a link to the main Woodchuck website with even more information:

Appearance: brilliant, marcona almonds, some visible bubbles

There's a cool tone to the color that it hard to describe because most shades of yellow, amber, and gold are warm colors. This however seems like the color of Marcona Almonds, yes it is a pale shade of creamy yellow, but the color is a cool one. Its easy to see that the cider is completely brilliant, showing of a nice number of active bubbles. 

Aromas: freshly cut apple, juniper, lavender, citrus, rose, 

These aromas are more complex than most Woodchuck ciders; I smell the fresh juicness of a freshly cut apple, meyer lemon, juniper, and the sweetly clean smell of lavender. I do smell notes of rose but they are subtle. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a sweet to seme-sweet cider. Woodchuck calls it a semi-dry, but I found it sweeter. Compared to other ciders by the brand I'd move it to semi-sweet. The sweetness is a fruity one.

Flavors and drinking experience: apple, citrus, herbs, loads of fun

This cider tastes a lot like it smells. Yes, there are notes of rose and lavender but the juniper and citrus stand out more. Everything is well blended with lots of fresh apple flavor. No tannins. Medium bubble. I like the acidity; it balances the sweetness but doesn't dominate the experience. 

I paired this cider with cat cuddling and eating rosemary olive oil bread topped with slivers of Goblin cheese by a local creamery (*NEW*_Goblin_.html). Crosswinds Farm and Creamery makes this amazing alpine style cheese with tons of nutty richness and those simply flavors brought out all of the fresh herbal deliciousness in the June and Juice. All in all, I was more than satisfied by the experience. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cider Review: Rootstock Ciderworks Hopped Hard Cider

Things are pretty rough at Along Came A Cider HQ because we have a very sick kitty. I can blog with a cat on my lap; she's sure not getting up, so I can share a review that has me pretty excited.

 I was at Cornell Orchards for a recent FLX Ciderweek event, and I was offered a taste of a hopped cider that won gold in its GLINTCAP category. The fine folks at Rootstock offered me a taste and later a can of their Hopped Hard Cider. Here are my thoughts, but first a little background on Rootstock.

Like my last review, this cidery was born after a family had been working a fruit orchard for multiple generations. Rootstock Ciderworks is the project of fourth generation DeFisher Fruit Farms in Williamson, NY near Lake Ontario. The cidery was founded in 2012 by David DeFisher and the cidermaker is Alex Robb. From reading the website I can glean a few priorities that seem to stand out for Rootstock. They care about using their own New York apples, but their commitment to local production extends beyond their fruit to equipment and as much local economic integeration as possible and running an extremely low waste cidery. There are a lot of different ways to commit to sustainability and environmental support, and this is a crucial one.

Read more at the site,

I'll lead with the official description: 
Hopped Hard Cider is a semi-dry cider made from estate grown Crispin apples and locally grown Cascade hops. This heavily aromatic cider exhibits a bouquet of fresh lemon and pine paired perfectly with the taste of fresh picked apples. With its balanced sweetness and acidity this unique cider is sure to please beer and cider drinkers alike.
And on the front page there's more information leading to the announcement that this cider will soon be available at several Wegmans' stores. Hey, anything for more cider info.
Hopped Hard Cider is a unique handcrafted semi-dry cider made from estate grown Crispin apples and locally grown Cascade hops. This heavily aromatic cider exhibits a bouquet of fresh lemon and pine paired perfectly with the taste of fresh picked apples. With its balanced sweetness and acidity this small batch cider is sure to please beer and cider drinkers alike. Available at bars, restaurants, and stores throughout the Upstate and Western New York regions.

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, nearly green

Looking at this cider, I notice that it's brilliant with a color like pale summer hay—nearly green! pours with a head that quickly dissolves

: pear, pine, fresh

I love how fresh and herbal this hopped cider smells. I also get lime citrus. The overall impression is enticing, friendly but not simple, pears, tons of pine but its really not soapy. Alex and I agree that this is one of the best smelling hopped ciders: deliciously inviting.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

This cider has some perceivable sweetness, but it isn't out of balance with any other element. If I had to characterize the sweetness I'd call it both fruity and honey like, but somehow fresh.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, medium bubble, very clean

Lucky for us, this cider tastes like just exactly it smells. There's a tremendously fun interplay of flavors that somehow feel  pyramid shaped: a strong base that tapers toward the acid. The Hopped Hard Cider offers up pleasurable mouthfeel and tremendous balance. Flavors include Tropicals fruit, pear,
 pine, and basil. This has a super clean fermentation. I find the acid medium high (but not ultra-high) and in tune with other flavors. It's just a little sweet but theirs some not quite bitter playing in there too. Hops are front and center, with just a bit of their characteristically grapefruit note. 

Its lightly sparkling, but the bubbles fade fast. Big sips sweeten and darken the flavor with notes of honey—maybe the tiniest boozey note, but no real funk. Unlike some west-coast hopped ciders, this doesn't use a beer yeast. I find this cider both refreshing and compelling. I can taste why it won gold.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Double Cider Review: Sietsema Lemongrass Hard Cider and Slightly Sweet Hard Cider

Today I'm reviewing two canned ciders that were part of a trade I made with the amazing Darlene Hayes of Turn Them All Into Cider and author of Cider Cocktails Another Bite of the Apple (a book I highly recommend). She managed a visit there on her way to GLINTCAP where we both judged this past spring. Thanks, Darlene!

Sietsema is not just a hard cider company but also an orchard business now being operated by the fourth generation of one family. The orchard was originally just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan in an area known for both apples and cider and now is only 1o miles away in Ada, Michigan. 

You can find out more about the orchard and the cider company on their Facebook page:

I looked for more cider-centric information on Sietsema Orchard's website, but I didn't find much about their current cider offerings. You're welcome to see plenty about their orchard there though:

Slightly Sweet which is the same as their red label, according to the internet.

Official Description: "For those who like their cider sweet. We stop fermentation just in time to retain the apples’ residual sugars; and you get a complex blend of citrusy sweetness with an underlying dryness with notes of pineapple and banana."

To me, the most interesting part of this description is the mention of stopped fermentation. This is a fairly advanced cidermaking technique that avoids fermenting to dryness and backsweetening for some sweetness to the beverage but instead using one of a few strategies to halt the fermentation while the juice has some of its own natural sugars intact. This is tricky because it goes against how yeast wants to work.  Yeast survives by eating sugar and creating alcohol, so you have to get rid of the yeast to keep that cider from starting to ferment again. Actual cidermakers are more welcome to add to this explanation in the comments. I just wanted to give the heads up that this isn't the easiest way to make a slightly sweet cider; its relatively ambitious but can give strong results. 

On to the cider!

Appearance: Hazy, deep coppery color, some visible bubbles

This cider looks more like fresh juice than many United States ciders. Its hazy and a dark coppery brown red. This could come from the arrested fermentation or some apples just produce a darker juice. It looks more like many English ciders to me. I can see some bubbles, but not a ton.

Aromas: sweet dusty lemon

Not to get ahead of myself, but the Slightly Sweet smells much sweeter than it tastes, but there's a specific cast to the sweetness. It remindes me of old-fashioned
 rock candy in the sweetness of its smell and also candied lemon peel. A very appealing aroma. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

They are right to call this slightly sweet. It isn't very sweet. The initial taste is one of apple sweetness, but that isn't the only note of the beverage. See below.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemongrass, grapefruit, medium tannin

As I said earlier this cider tasest sweet almost only at first followed by interesting bitterness. Medium tannins. The fruit notes are more citrusy than anything else and there are some grassy herbal elements as well.  The cider's acidity tastes like a blend of different acids and not just malic.

The body is lively but a bit on the thin side. There's a very different shape to the whole flavor experience. An interesting cider to be sure. I paired this with a vegetarian chili with chickpeas and delicious faux-pork crumbles. Very tasty.

And now for Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider

Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider's official description reads: "For those with a taste for brightness. A bold blend of refreshing local Lemon Grass combined with our the crisp apple zest taste of our cider creates a unique taste of citrusy, zesty, sweet fruitiness"

Appearance: hazy, lots of visible bubbles, cheerful sunny gold

This cider is lovely to look at; its almost a shame to see it in a can. I like the rustic haze and sunny golden color. I also get a real sense of anticipation when I see that many visible bubbles.

Aromas: lemon and lemongrass, herbs, applesauce

This cider smells like lemon, lemongrass, sun-warmed apples, green zesty herbs, and homemade applesauce. This is a great set of aromas. They meld well together and yet I can identify all five notes distinctly.

Sweetness/dryness: tart and semi-dry

This cider is an easy to identify as semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: clean, tart, good balance of lemongrass and apple

Wow! This cider tastes so clean and tart that it makes the insides of my ears feel like they are curling. I'm getting a strong salivary response as well. The lemongrass characteristics reminds me of a hopped cider. I had this with a mexican-inspired tomato and rice dish and the pairing worked well.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Veggie Eaters Love Cider: How to best do FLX Cider Week as a Vegetarian! Xposted

We are now so close to the start of Finger Lakes Cider Week! I can almost taste it. But, I thought it might be nice to highlight a few events that are especially welcoming to vegetarians. I eat a plant-based diet, so I'm partly being selfish and planning out a few of my own RSVPs for the week. Some folks love love love pork with cider, but they will have no trouble finding exciting meals for that classic combo, but this list is for those of us who look beyond that into vegetable and cider pairings.

The number one event for food variety will be Apple Harvest Festival in Ithaca.

This event runs Friday September 30th through Sunday October 2nd on the commons in downtown Ithaca. You can find out about all of the activities and vendors at the website:

There's not one set of cider and food pairings but you can fantastic food from more than a dozen places, much of it vegetarian and several local cider places will be sampling and selling cider too.

The next event I want to highligh for vegetable lovers is the Tap Takeover at Moosewood Restaurant. The taps will feature South Hill Cider, Black Diamond Cider, and 1911 cider as well as the classic rotating menu that has made Moosewood famous since the 70s.

Here's a link to Moosewood's page about the restaurant:

and to the Facebook event for the tap takeover:

5 Days 5 Courses at Agava in Ithaca

Starting this Sunday at Agava, there will be a 5 course tasting menu including vegetarian options and local cider. I know South Hill Cider will be featured, but I have a feeling that other local cideries will be available as well. I do the cider week tasting menu every year at Agava and I've never been disappointed

Cider Menu at Taverna Banfi in Ithaca

I called the restaurant to find out if this week's special menu could be vegetarian friendly and I was assured that all off the special even menus at Taverna Banfi include vegetarian options and that this week will be no exception.

Cider Pairing Dinner featuring South Hill Cider at Nortstar House in Ithaca

This is another restaurant I called, and I'm glad I did because of the enthusiastic response! I love Northstar House and they tend to be very vegetable-centric and inclusive of vegetarians. This dinner will be multiple courses featuring different ciders from South Hill Cider and delicious dishes by their chef.

Finger Lakes Cider House Presents: Cider + Cheese Saturday on Saturday, October 8th, 11:00am – 6:00pm at Finger Lakes Cider House, 4017 Hickock Rd. Interlaken, NY 14847

They are celebrating the magnificent pairing that is cheese and cider with area cideries and creameries in to offer you cider and cheeses paired up for your tasting enjoyment from more producers than you can imagine.

Cider + Cheese Saturday at Engelbert Farms on Saturday, October 8th, 10:00am-5:00pm at 182 Sunnyside Rd, Nichols, NY 13812

There will be free farm tours (weather permitting) from 11 to 4 on each hour. Free samples of Engelbert’s organic cheeses and smoked sausages will be available all day. Certified organic cheeses – cheddars, goudas, feta, moochego and moovache, as well as farm-raised certified organic meats and some winter vegetables will be available for purchase in the farm store. Here are the cideries that will be represented on the farm for the day: Eve’s Cidery and Good Life Farm!

Cheese + Cider Saturday at Blackduck Cidery Saturday, October 8th, 10:00am – 5:00pm at 3046 Co Rd 138, Ovid, NY 14521.

This event will feature Crosswinds Creamery at Blackduck Cidery for cheese & cider tastings and pairings. Visitors can enjoy cider and family fun at the Candor Farm Festival. There will be barn tours, goat milk NY state made products, Eve's Cidery cider, and demonstrations of Atlatl (for those who don't know that's a specific type of ancient spear throwing). Just be sure to finish up your spear throwing before you settle in for some cider!

One last cheese and cider pairing-

Orchard Tour & Tasting at Redbyrd Orchard Cider on October 9th, tours at 11:00am and 1:00pm at 4491 Reynolds Rd, Trumansburg, NY 14886

At this event you can join orchardists and cider makers for a tour of their biodynamic orchard and learn more about what goes into each bottle of Redbyrd Orchard Cider by seeing the trees, sheep, geese, and family. Orchard walking tour beginning at 1pm and ending with a lovely apple, cheese, and Redbyrd Orchard Cider tasting. I've been told that this event is rain or shine.

These should be enough exciting activities to keep every vegetarian well entertained and well fed!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cider Review: 1911's Founders Reserve Hopped Hard Cider and FLX Cider Week!

We're only a few day away from  Finger Lakes Cider Week! Yes, fall begins at the Equinox, but this is just about the most joyful celebration of fall and harvest that I do every year. So, while I'm counting down the days, I want to share my review of a cider from our region: 1911. 

My friend Yann made this cider for 1911 where he is now the head cider maker. He delivered this to my house some months ago to show me what he's been up to there. Yann's move to 1911 was part of the company's significant re-investment, renovation, and development of the cider side of the business. Beak and Skiff had been running as a large orchard successfully for quite some time (hence the name) and had branched out into spirits and cider using their own orchard fruit.

1911 has sometimes mistakenly been called Beak and Skiff because that's the name of the orchard from whence the apples come, and I admit I've made that mistake myself. Just for the record, the cider is 1911.

Before the new facility and long before I knew the cider maker, I reviewed a previous release of theirs:

But, as I said, things have changed a lot for 1911, so consider this review my first under present conditions. You can learn more about 1911 cider on the website: 

But I encourage you to look not just at the ciders, but also at the apple spirits. 

Official Description

Founders’ Reserve Hopped Hard Cider is a sparkling cider made with a combination of classic American bittering and aromatic hops. Fruit-forward with a floral nose.  A subtle sweetness balances the light bitterness to give a smooth, slightly resinous finish. Semi-Dry, 6.9% ABV. 22 IBUs.

Inspired by some of our favorite American craft breweries, this cider continues the innovative streak pushing cider into the 21st century. Our unique hopping process maximizes the aroma and flavor of our specially selected hop blend.


Appearance: brilliant, very few visible bubbles, squash yellow

This cider doesn't give too much away about how it will taste based on appearance. It shows a nice yellow that reminds me of a Delicata squash. Its brilliant and doesn't have a lot of apparent bubble action.

Aromas: strawberry, cherry, cucumber, so fruity

Okay, I am getting so much from the smells in this cider. I can distinctly smell strawberry, sour cherries, grapefruit, but also lots of cucumbers and even a hint of ripe zesty tomatillos. All in all this cider stands out for smelling super green. and fresh. I don't get as much distinct hoppy flavors so much as fresh, green, and tons of fruit.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry

This cider tastes semi-dry with tons of acid. There's a lot going on here besides sweetness and dryness though.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, hoppy, clean

The first thing I notice in the taste of this cider is its very high acidity with a grapefruity hoppy zest. The cider is astringent but sweet enough enough to be highly and immediately drinkable. In terms of mouthfeel, I get a medium bubble. The 1911 Founders Reserve Hopped Hard Cider is noticeable for its very clean fermentation. 

The cider's main features are nice even acidity and well balanced hop and apple. In terms of the fruit, rather than tasting the same fruits as I smelled, there's more a lychee note.  I really enjoy the pleasantly warm quick-fading bitterness. The bigger the drink, the sweeter it seems, while staying in the semi-dry range.

I loved having this cider with grilled sundried tomato pizza. Though I had mine while summer's heat was lingering, I can easily see this cider's appeal stretching into fall.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Round Up of Finger Lakes Cider Week Round Ups! Cross Posted

Finger Lakes Cider Week offers many different ways to explore a love of cider. And we don't just do cider here, we have some of the best cider in the world. And during Cider Week, we can learn to make it, tour orchards, try new kinds of apples, pair it with fabulous foods and meet the talented cider makers that craft our favorite beverages.

But, if you're like me, one of the things I look forward to during cider week is going to one place and having multiple cider options! That's why I put together this little list. These are a few of the ways you can explore several cideries in one place during Finger Lakes Cider Week. And if you see me out and about at any of these events, come say hi!

Not to make things difficult, but I do have to share both of these events happening at the same date and time in different places. They are different events though, so read more about them to find out which format and location suits you best. Both of these will have a good number of excellent ciders.
September 30th: Cider Fest 2015 by Embark Ciderworks at Lagoner Farms in Williamson, NY:

September 30: Meet the Cider Makers at Cellar d’Or Wine and Cider Shop in Ithaca, NY

Consider me very excited about this next event. It's a stroll from my house and its a pairing event with some world class cider from Bellwether Cidery, South Hill Cider, and Hazlitt. Plus the event only costs $5. Steals like these do not happen every day.

October 5: Tasting and Pairing event at Cornell University's Bear's Den in Ithaca, NY

Then we've got a little after work 5:00 – 7:00pm tasting featuring ciders by Black Diamond and South Hill Cider for the weekly Hang Time tasting at Red Feet Wine Market.

October 6:Tasting at Red Feet Wine Market & Spirit Provisions in Ithaca, NY

I admit I've not spent as much time in Geneva as I would like. Its an interesting town with some lovely architecture. Therefore, I'm aiming to drive up for their monthly downtown evening, featuring multiple cideries sharing samples.

October 7: FLX Cider Celebration during Geneva Night Out! 5:00 – 8:00pm in Geneva, NY

If you like cider and you like cheese, you're bound to know that they pair like nothing else. This event brings together all the Cider Week FLX cideries and Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance producers for a huge celebration of two of my favorite things in the world.

October 8: Cider and Cheese Saturday Finger Lakes Cider House in Interlaken, NY

This list is just the tip of the Finger Lakes Cider Week iceberg. There really is a world of cider to explore right here. This series of events brings together one of the strongest cider regions in the United States. Come out. Try some ciders you've never had before. Remind yourself of your favorites. Bring a friend. You won't regret it.

This blog post originally appeared on the FLX Cider Week blog at: Catch more information and events listings there!