Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cider Review Aeppeltreow Sparrow Spiced Cider and B. Nektar's Cranberry Orange Zest

Winter is going to last a long time. There’s no need to look at the 10 day forecast because it’s all going to vary between cold and very cold. I need to learn to relax into the season, because there are many things about Winter to love. I just need to remember what they are, and I want to share two enticing and richly flavored ciders this week to help me. 

The first is Sparrow Spiced by AeppelTreow.

Aeppeltreow is a Wisconsin cidery, winery, and distillery run by Charles and Milissa McGonegal, founded in 2001. Aeppeltreow partners with Brightonwoods Orchard. More than 200 apple and pear cultivars are grown at Brightonwoods, giving Aeppeltreow access to a rich palette of apples from which to create different cider blends. Charles was kind enough to give me this sample at GLINTCAP this past year.

I’ve enjoyed many different Aeppeltreow ciders. Find the links below.

One of my favorite perries ever, the Orchard Oriole Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html 

For bubble lovers, the Appley Brut: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-appeltreow-winerys-appley.html 

The Blackbird Berried Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-aeppeltreow.html

My favorite might still be the Kinglet Bitter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/09/cider-review-appletreow-kinglet-bitter.html 

Barnswallow Draft Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html 

I reviewed the Sparkling Perry as part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-1-aeppeltreow.html

At my friend El’s birthday dinner, I included the Americana:

You can read about many of the ciders, fruit wines, and spirits on the AeppelTreow website: http://aeppeltreow.com/ and also now http://appletrue.com

On to the Sparrow Spiced cider

The official description keeps it short and sweet, “Seasonal cider infused with our custom spice blend. Mace, two cinnamons, and more. Pre-mulled, as it were.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: brilliant, fine bubbles, antique gold

I know using gold as a color descriptor is almost a cheat, but the color of this cider really does remind me of gently patina-ed antique gold. 

Aromas: clove, nutmeg, mace, cooked apples, and cinnamon

This smells so rich and spicy! I can tell that there’s apple in the mix, but I do smell spices in the foreground. Aroma notes include clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace. There’s also something else going on in the aroma that reminds me of nuts or olive oil.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This cider is semi-sweet! It needs to be because of the intensity of the spices.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acidity, lots of spices, cooked apples

The Sparrow Spiced Cider offers up a tidy balanced drink with a strong foundation. That foundation is the counterbalance between medium acid, some sweetness, and mild astringence from lots of classic mulling spices. These characteristics all work together along with the notes of cooked apples to create a tantalizing cider. It’s warming and rich. The bubbles are present but not overpowering. 

I enjoyed this cider with an episode of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and some popcorn. And I heartily recommend the experience.

Next up: B. Nektar's Cranberry Orange Zest!

I know I’ve tasted several B. Nektar ciders and a few meads before, but none have ever made it into the blog before. I apologize for the omission because B. Nektar makes really adventous beverages: beers, ciders, and meads. The company was founded in 2006 in Michigan by Kerri and Brad Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman. 

Visit the meadery and cidery online: http://www.bnektar.com

I apologize for not having the company’s official description on this one. It’s my fault because the review notes have waited way too long. What my online searches turned up is that this is a semi-sweet cider blended with cranberry juice and orange zest. 6% ABV.

Appearance: deep tawny copper, hazy, bubbly

This  Cranberry Orange Zest pours with a bit of bubble that doesn’t stick around long. Looking at pictures of different batches online, the color has varied some, but mine was a deep tawny color somewhere copper meets red. It’s a very pretty cider. 

Aromas: Yeast tart berries and mustard, with a cold funk

Whoa, what interesting aromas. I can definitely smell yeast and tart berries, but that’s not all. The Cranberry orange zest seems to almost include mustard seed note and a hint of funkiness. This smells wild!

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-Dry/Semi-Sweet 

This cider is right on the line where semi-dry meets semi-sweet. It’s a fruity sweetness balanced nicely by cranberry tartness, but more about that later. I do think it’s probably much sweeter than it perceives as because it is both very bubbly and very high acid.

Flavors and drinking experience: cranberry, high acid, bitter, orange zest, funk

The most forward taste in this cider is the cranberry, in all its bitter tartness. I do get the orange zest in a final note that adds to the puckering tartness. I tastes the sort of mild fruity bitterness that I associate with cranberry but low tannins.  It is semi-sweet but never with a moment of pure sweetness. 

In terms of texture and mouthfeel, the Cranberry Orange Zest is heavily sparkling, perhaps to the degree that it overwhelms the gently rustic funk (which can be smelled but only weakly tasted). This cider seems like an orange zest cider that was then mixed with straight cranberry juice. The apple flavors are there but never featured over cranberry or orange. The whole cider tastes bright, but gets darkly interestingly acidic and closes in the end at the back of the throat. I find it really quite nice and different.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Cider Review: Eden Specialty Ciders' Ezekiel and Rootstock Ciderworks' Legend

Winter isn’t my favorite season, so I tend to pamper myself with some extra special ciders this time of year. Because I’m a seasonal cider fan, I’ve thought a fair bit about what makes a cider nice for this time of year or that. In the first throes of Winter, I like a cider with some body to it. That helps with food pairing and it helps have mouthfeel and substance when cozying in of an evening. 

Today I'm starting my reviews with Ezekiel by Eden Specialty Ciders. This is part of their Cellar Series lineup. I have reviewed a few Eden ciders before.  

Most recently I tried the Eden Heritage Cider in a can: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-eden-heritage-and.html

My favourite cider of 2017 was the Imperial 11 Degree Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

I enjoyed the Sparkling Dry in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-eden-sparkling-dry-cider.html

And in 2016 I made the Sparkling Dry part of my Thanksgiving and Birthday celebrations: 


Visit Eden Speciality Cider online to learn about all of the ciders: https://www.edenciders.com/

Now to Eden's Ezekiel. The official description of this limited edition cider reads: 

"100% Kingston Black apples: Rare apples, pressed at harvest, carefully fermented and bottle-conditioned with our ice cider to produce a cider that is exquisitely delicious and unique. Winner: GLINTCAP Silver" 8% ABV.

Appearance: Hazy, few visible bubbles, goldenrod

This hazy cider offers up deep goldenrod color. Each glass poured with a different amount of clarity and showed some settling in the glass. I couldn’t see very many bubbles.

Aromas: leather, tea, cooked apples and peaches.

The Ezekiel smells like leather and cooked apples. It had more fruity and herbal notes though like a spicy black tea or warm peaches.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a tannic, high acid, dry cider. Wowzas!

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tannic finish, good body

I am never sure of what to expect from a single varietal cider. They often aren’t balanced. The Ezekiel has a lot to recommend it. I adore the immediacy and strength of acid I tasted. It’s not just powerful, it’s pleasurable rather than thin or too sharp. It’s almost as if there are multiple types of acid playing in concert here rather than one note being played loudly.

I definitely get some tannins from the Ezekiel, and they feel stronger on the finish. I can detect subtle and grainy wild rice notes too. The cider provokes a strong salivary reaction.
It’s dry but intensely flavorful and filled with juicy stone fruits. The body on this cider is firm and substantial, perfect for winter. I had mine with a savory rich cornbread casserole, and it was heavenly.

Rootstock Ciderworks Legend Barrel Aged

Rootstock is a Rochester-area cidery, based in a Williamson, New York orchard. The orchard is currently worked by three generations of the DeFisher family. The Legend is a premium cider available only in a limited run. 

I’ve reviewed a few Rootstock Ciders.

I reviewed the Rose this past summer: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-shacksbury-dorset-and.html

Not much later, I included the Belgium when rounding up canned ciders: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-rootstock.html

Rootstock Ciderworks first showed up on the blog with the Hopped Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cider-review-rootstock-ciderworks.html

Here’s the official description of the Legend Barrel-Aged, "Rich golden color and soft tannin—full of robust apple and vanilla flavors accompanied by the subtle aroma of oak, leather and hints of black pepper. Made from heirloom variety apples and aged for over a year in French and American oak barrels. 7.6% Alc/Vol – 0.5% RS"

It has won silver at two of the most prestigious cider competitions, Bath & West International Cider Competition 2017 and Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) 2017. I love that the description lists not only the ABV but also the residual sugar. Factual information really helps contextualize a cider, now if only we knew more about the heirloom apple varieties!

You can learn about Rootstock Ciderworks on the company website: https://rootstockciderworks.com/

Appearance: bright gold, brilliant, bubbly

This is going to be a sparkling cider! It pours with a light mousse that doesn’t stick around. I’d call the color bright gold with beautiful brilliant clarity.

Aromas: vanilla, toasted crumbs, pear, smoke

This cider some big emphatic barrel characteristics to the aromas. I can smell vanilla, toasted breadcrumbs, smoke, butter, caramel and pear. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry 

This cider has some sweetness, but it needs it to smooth out both the emphatic barrel qualities and the acidity. Keep reading for the full picture.

Flavors and drinking experience: Barrel, acidity, butter, apple

As I suspected from the aroma, the barrel has the first word here. I can taste lots and lots of barrel, in flavor it comes across as oak and butter. These notes do not drown out the apple thankfully! I can taste mellow cooked apple very pleasantly on the midpalate. Other flavors include citrus, ginger, and vanilla.

The Legend is undeniably High acid but the acidity is not pointed. This cider offers up loads of body and bubble! This is a fun one! Overall, it’s fruity and barrel-icious! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cider Review: Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Andromeda Crab and Original Sin Cider's McIntosh Unfiltered

We’re at the start of a whole new year. I hope that cider folks enjoyed their New Year’s celebrations. I know I enjoyed sharing a couple of lovely ciders with friends in the last hours of 2018. Hopefully, 2019 will bring even more tasty adventures. 

I’m so excited to start this year of reviews with something special I’ve been cellaring from Redbyrd Orchard Cider! This is a small orchard-based cidery that focuses on using heritage, European, and crab apples to make dry exciting ciders. The Redbyrd Orchard is grown using  biodynamic farming methods. 

I’m very fond of Redbyrd Orchard Ciders, so I’ve posted a fair number of reviews. Here’s the list:

The North Star:  https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

The Starblossom http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html 

The Dry Harvest Cider 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html 

The Wild Pippin (my #1 cider of 2014, the Wild Pippin): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

But I’m ready to share my thoughts on the Andromeda Crab!

The cider’s official description give some great information.
A nose of ripe strawberry, lemon peel, and waxy bittersweet apple notes. Finishes with lingering tannins and velvety texture. Andromeda. It’s the closest galaxy to ours and the brightest is the heavens- the most distant thing you can see with the naked eye. The way we think about Andromeda is the way we feel about the crab apples in this cider: they are amazing! We hope you’ll open this bottle of cider and spend an evening sky gazing and contemplating the wonders of the universe. 80 cases produced
And the label lets us know in amazing detail the apples that go into this cider: “38% aromatic crabs (Manchurian, Dolgo, and Wickson), 50% bittersweets (Dabinett, Domaines, Sweet Coppin, Binet Rouge, Medaille d’Or, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey), 12% heirlooms (Tompkins King, Sweet 16, Spigold, Northern Spy).”

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, fine bubbles

This is a very attractive cider with pleasing brilliance and tiny bubbles. The color is a warm straw.

Aromas: mushy apples, golden raisins, plums

These aromas were all sweeter and fruitier than I expected based on the other crab apple ciders from Redbyrd Orchard Cider. I could smell cooked apples, plump golden raisins, and ripe plums.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is definitely a dry cider with tons of acidity and loads of tannin, but the flavors include so much more. This cider surprised me a little, given the sweetness of the aroma notes.

Flavors and drinking experience: grippy tannins, high acid, citrus

Yum! The Andromeda Crab is very high acid with notably grippy tannins. Ihe cider tastes  juicy, but that’s almost a background to the salivary action-inducing tartness. This cider delivers lots of flavor. It’s dry but not understated. 

This cleanly fermented cider presents no funk, but straight up crabapple zinginess. I get notes of golden white flavors, candied orange peel, lemon, and ginger. The taste unfolds over time with a sense of ongoing blooming. The finish lingers and tantalizes.  The tannins have a strong effect on how the overall balance. The texture sparkles with fine bubbles. 

I had the Andromeda Crab with family and a holiday meal. It made for an extremely pleasant and very flavorful accompaniment to roast broccoli, mashed potatoes, maple butter carrots, broiled tomatoes, all slathered with Bearnaise sauce. The acidity was necessary for this rich meal and the two supported one another amazingly well.

Original Sin McIntosh Unfiltered

For lots of cider makers, the single varietal cider is a major goal. These ciders are difficult to do well. Most apples do not have all of the characteristics necessary to ferment into a balanced beverage on their own and instead the blend is how a cider has enough aroma, acid, sweetness, and tannin. And yet the desire remains, and I’m excited to try the new Single Varietal  lineup from Original Sin.

Original Sin has been around making ciders since 1999. The company is based out of New York City but many of the apples are grown in Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes region or other more apple dense areas.  

You can visit the Original Sin website to learn about all of the ciders Original Sin makes: http://origsin.com

Here's my list of previous Original Sin  reviews.

Most recently, I included the pear cider in my Very Perry May series: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-5-e-z-orchards.html

I sampled the flagship cider in one of Ithaca's most missed bars, the Chapterhouse Pub: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-original-sin-hard-ciders.html

In 2013, I reviewed the Elderberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/09/cider-review-original-sin-elderberry.html

And more recently, the Original Sin Extra Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/02/cider-review-original-sin-extra-dry-in.html

And a previous single-varietal release, the Newtown Pippin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/02/cider-review-newtown-pippin.html

Here an introduction to the whole line of single variety ciders. 
The single varietal ciders boast unique flavor profiles of their respective apples, the Fuji, the McIntosh, the Golden Russet, and the beloved Northern Spy. 
Each of the chosen apples has an entrenched history of being grow in the Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley regions of upstate New York affirming Original Sin’s commitment to source local products and promote New York’s agriculture.  
New York is the second-largest apple producing state and boasts the most diverse selection of apple varieties in the country. This diversity has only grown in recent years as growth in the U.S. cider industry has propelled a resurgence in American apple culture.  
The first of the new series is Original Sin McIntosh Unfiltered Cider.

Appearance: cloudy and sunny yellow

This indeed looks unfiltered. I poured it from the can into a clear glass so I could see just how cloudy it is. As the picture shows, it’s cloudy and a sunny yellow.

Aromas: Fresh apple, mint, lemon, grain

The McIntosh smells so very fruity, fresh and herbal. I get notes of fresh apple, mint, lemon, and clean grain.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

As with most Original Sin ciders, the McIntosh is semi-sweet. The sweetness tastes extremely appley and natural. This will be a hit.

Flavors and drinking experience: unfermented apple, baking spices, well balanced

The semi-sweet niceness of the McIntosh shocked me because from the first sip, this is a very well balanced cider. I do not associate balance with a single-varietal, yet this absolutely has it. It’s also very very apple. I think the first phrase I uttered after a sip was the barely coherent, “Ultimate fruit directness.”

The McIntosh is enticingly sessionable. It hits the tongue with a perfectly pitched acid, and something about the flavors just brings the texture of crisp apple flesh to mind! There are other flavor notes like baking spice and citrus. This won’t be the cider for everyone, but it’s just so fresh and balanced. I was planning on having mine with veggie chili, but it was all gone before the chili was ready. Oops!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

My Favourite 10 Ciders of 2018

As I’m about to close the books on 2018, I’m startled to realize that this is my 6th year collecting my top 10 favorite ciders of the year! Wow! There is something different this year though; I reviewed almost twice as many ciders. I had some encouragement to switch from top 10 to top 20, but I think the cider world is ready for more competition. ; ) I reviewed more than 95 ciders this year!

But that’s not all that happened! I’m so happy to say that I continued learning and teaching about cider, giving talks, consulting, and I wrote more about cider for venues beyond the blog than ever before. 

Just in case folks want to take a peek at last year’s and those that came before. 

2017 List: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2017.html

2016 List: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2016.html

2015 List: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2015.html

2014 List: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2014.html

2013 List: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html

And I'll quote my own rules. “As in earlier years, 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 coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 201[8]. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

With no further addendum or caveats, let me show you what ciders I loved most this year!

10. Australia Peckham’s Wild all the Way 

I tried this intriguing blend of wild fermented cider and perry at CiderCon, and I managed to sneak a can back home with me to enjoy months later. I was surprised by the awesome tartness of this cider. Many international ciders do not have the same focus on acidity that American ciders do, but I loved this one. It had great mellow fruitiness and some tannic heft too!


9. Tieton Ciderworks Sparkling Perry

When visiting friends after GLINTCAP, I got the chance to share a very special perry. I wanted to treat them to Tieton’s Sparkling Perry because I knew it would have some sweetness, some bubble, and tons of fruit character. These were all perfect as accompaniment to two vegetarian curries; and this cider wowed everyone! We loved the bright acidity and nuttiness.


8. Number 12 Cider House: Chestnut Semi-Dry 

Number 12 Cider House just opened their Minnesota taproom this year, and they continued to put out totally delightful ciders including this rich and fruity semi-dry cider filled with buzzy zestiness. The barrel characteristics took this cider from tasty to really special!


7.  Descendant Cider Company: English Kills 

This cider is described as and English Bittersweet Dry, all magical words to my ears. This cider delivers on lush aromas but keeps the taste cleanly austere. It tasted more savory than fruity but kept some tannic wow factor and a light enough body to be perfect with summer barbeque and corn on the cob. It was a delight.


6. Angry Orchard Cider's Understood in Motion 3 

This collaboration cider between Ryan Burk and Tom Oliver has so many of my favorite characteristics. I knew it would take a place in this list the moment I first caught of a whiff of those mouthwatering leather and cooked apple aromas. The taste didn’t disappoint either. I like my tannic ciders to maintain balance with acidity and the Understood in Motion 3 really managed that beautifully. Yum!


5. Snowdrift Cornice: 

Washington state’s Snowdrift Cider Co. put out a supremely wintery cider in the Cornice. It has body from barrel aging and enough tannins to really feel substantial in mouthfeel. I loved the acidity and plumminess. This cider was one to savor.


4. Whitewood Cider Company’s Kingston Black and Wickson Apple

This cider was part of a very special birthday dinner my friend Elizabeth prepared. I chose this cider for the pesto and homemade pasta course, because the cider was going to offer up more herbal notes (to pair with pesto) due to some time spent aging in a gin barrel. The pairing worked splendidly, and everyone noticed this cider in particular. It was just so aromatic and botanical and delicious!


3. Big Fish Highland Scrumpy

This is another treat, I got to take home from CiderCon 2018; it’s a big blend of apples shared for a local community event. The final result is mellow, fruity, balanced and beautifully semi-dry. I especially enjoyed the burst of grapefruit: bitterness tempered with citrus fruit notes. 


2. Eve’s Darling Creek: 

This was my Thanksgiving cider this year. I’ve had the Darling Creek for years, but this particular vintage came out drier and more balanced than any previous. I just love how the aromas reminds me of autumnal apples and oak.This cider is funky, tart, substantive, and super bubbly. I absolutely adored it. 


1. Castle Hill Cider's Levity

This is just a fantastic cider. In a list this good, that almost feels like an understatement. The cider has body but lightness, structure and playfulness, balance and sophistication.I simply adore the richness and baking spice notes that manage to do so much in a completely dry cider. The Levity is bone-dry, beautiful, and bubbly. The apple varieties and use of terra cotta fermentation vessels combine to create a truly magical cider. 


Let’s end this list with what I feel most: gratitude for cider people and the wonderful experiences we’ve had together this year. I appreciate the orchardists, restaurant folk, cider makers and cider geeks of all stripes. I raise my cider glass to all of us, loving, learning, and promoting our favorite beverage. Here's to even more of the good stuff in 2019! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cider Review: Prospect Ciderworks Missing Link and Stormalong Mass Appeal

We are so unbelievably close to the end of 2018, cider lovers. Whether you’re ready to see the tail end of 2018 or not, we’ve only got two more weeks of it. And for me, that means I’m readying my top ten ciders of 2018 list. (Consider me excited!) But, that’ll come next week as my holiday gift to cider nerds. Until then, I was able to sneak two little evenings of relaxation in the past few weeks in which I could enjoy a couple of canned ciders; they are the simplest way enjoy a single serving of cider. You get every excuse not to share.

I started with a cider that’s been waiting far long that I picked from cider makers at Prospect Ciderworks when we were all hanging out at Cider Con 2018. Prospect Ciderworks was founded in 2015 and is based in Boston, Massachusetts. What’s interesting about Prospect is how prominently the website highlights the use of Belgian beer yeasts for the cider making. It is featured alongside the orchards (Doe Orchards) and apples (culinary). It’s a strong identity choice, and all the more unusual for a north-eastern cidery. 

You can visit the website and see more info at: http://prospectciderworks.com

I’m starting with a cider called Missing Link.

The official description reads,
Hopped Session CiderMissing Link greets with a bloom of citrus-forward Mosaic hops. We love this cider for its ability to ease the drinker into a hop-forward beverage while retaining the subtleties of our fruit. The semi sweet cider finishes with a soft bitterness, unmistakably different than the dry hopped ciders in its category. 4.8% ABV
I’m curious about a cider that’s this hop oriented while maintaining some apple sweetness and a low abv. I also appreciate that the description includes which types of hops:  Mosaic and Cascade.

Appearance: cloudy, lemon curd, not visibly bubbly

This cider barely looks like a cider, it's so completely cloudy. Instead being a shade of gold or amber this is an opaque yellow like lemon curd. 

Aromas: citrus, pine, apple, herbs 

Oooh The Missing Link smells so hoppy! I love it. That fresh citrus plus pine is just enticing. I know I’m more enthusiastic about hopped ciders than lots of cider aficionados. I like that hoppy ciders can smell herbal, citrusy, fruity, clean and sweaty all at the same time. This one is very much on the fresh air, citrus, pine, and clean laundry, but it makes my mouth water. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is an interesting one in terms of sweetness. It’s there, but the fruity sweetness is sandwiched between an initial bitter note and a strongly hoppy finish. Many fans of sweeter ciders are likely find that challenging.

Flavors and drinking experience: hoppy, grapefruit, bitter, sweet

This is a beverage of rolling waves. The Missing Link tastes bitter at first, but then it mellows out. The mid-palate is all fruity grapefruit and apple, but soon the wave hits again and we’re on to a bitter and herbal finish.

The whole cider is vivid and zesty, juicy fun. I find the progress through stages extremely pleasant and fresh. There are no tannins to speak of, but the acidity is punchy and active. The Missing Link refreshes by being so green, sticky, juicy, and fruity. It all works together to be a very session-able cider, exactly as designed. 

And now for Stormalong Mass Appeal

I know I started my tasting of Stormalong ciders with the flagship cider, The Legendary Dry. They weren’t kidding; it’s a dry one, but the Mass Appeal almost certainly the first favorite for many fans of the brand. Stormalong cider is based out of Sherborn, Massachusetts in a hot-bed of orchard and cider history

Find out more about Stormalong CIder on Facebook or the Stormalong website, including some very interesting history indeed. 



I have previously reviewed two of Stormalong’s ciders and give more brand backstory in my earlier reviews. 

I started with the Legendary Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

And earlier this year I enjoyed Light of the Sun: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Here’s the official description for the Mass Appeal: 
This cider is easy-drinking with just the right amount of tart and sweet.  We blend the pleasantly sharp bite of Macintosh apples with the honeyed, pineapple characteristics of Golden Delicious.  The classic Macintosh flavor is prominent, reminiscent of fresh New England farm stand cider, while Golden Delicious adds a tropical layer to the finish.  A highly drinkable and perfectly balanced cider handcrafted 100% from the finest quality locally sourced apples.  Our ciders are gluten-free with no added sugars, water, or concentrates.  Only the good stuff. 5.8%ABV
The page goes on to list the only apple variety in this cider as Golden Delicious, which strikes me as odd based on the heavy use of MacIntosh in the description.

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, very few visible bubbles

This cider looks just lovely and elegant in the glass. It’s totally brilliant with just the sort of warm straw color that fits its category as a modern cider. I don’t see many bubbles in the glass, but we’ll find out more about sparkle level later. 

Aromas: apple juice, sweet pastry, cooked apples, 

My oh my! The Mass Appeal smells astonishingly like fresh unfermented apple juice and pastry. It’s like walking past a bakery. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet cider. There are no two ways about it. It has more going on than simply sweetness but it’s very fruit forward and sweet. 

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, sweet, tropical, cherry, medium acid

This is a super fruit cider that just wants to have fun! The Mass Appeal is named that for a reason. I can see so many folks flocking to it’s fruity party vibes; the cider tastes tropical like pineapple and cherry and apple.

The Mass Appeal brings medium acidity and no tannins, so it’s the sweetness that gives it some body. It shows off a clean fermentation using culinary apples. I knew it would be sweet, so I paired mind with a homemade mixed berry cobbler. Not the most wintery dessert, I know, but sometimes I need berries. It complemented the super fruity dessert really well. There is definitely a place for sweet ciders, because they can help lift the flavors of a rich sticky dessert without themselves turning bitter or flavorless in comparison. The Mass Appeal performed this delicate job beautifully.

And for anybody in the Burlington area, I hope to see you at the Cider Tasting at the Eden Boutique Taproom and Cheese Bar Wednesday evening at 6:30!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cider Review: Angry Orchard's Wooden Sleeper and Weston Cider's Mortimer's Orchard Original

Snow happens here as often as it doesn’t snow these days. Winter may not be official for a couple more weeks, but the season has started. For this week, it means cozying in during the long dark evenings to write and cuddle with my cats and people. It also means choosing and reviewing ciders that I think match the new season, things with some tannin and a little bit of sweetness. At least that’s what I’m going for.

At the end of November, I had to chance to travel down to the Hudson Valley for a couple of days. I knew I’ve wanted to visit the Angry Orchard Innovation Cider House in Walden for years, so I took the opportunity. I was able to meet Ryan for a tour and taste through of several of the special ciders only available from Walden. I’ll be sharing my travel experience in the coming weeks.

For now, visit Angry Orchard online: https://www.angryorchard.com/

Today, I want to start out with Angry Orchard's Wooden Sleeper. I’ve reviewed many Angry Orchard ciders: too many to post all the links here, so I’ll share some the more recent ones.

Most recently, I enjoyed the third of the Understood in Motion collaborations, this one between Ryan Burke of Angry Orchard and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-angry-orchard-ciders.html

I tasted the Angry Orchard Spiced Apple this past winter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

This past May, I reviewed the new Pear as a part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-greenwood.html

Earlier, in March, My review of the category-exploding Rosé came out: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

A bit longer ago, I reviewed the Walden Hollow which was an early release from the Innovation Cider House in Walden: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

Here's the official description, "Wooden Sleeper is a part of the Orchard Collection which is available in bottles and on-draft at Angry Orchard in Walden, NY. Using both culinary and bittersweet apples, the cider is aged in bourbon barrels, which makes for a delicious, warming cider." ABV of  9.5%-10.5%.

Appearance: pumpkin, transparent, ring of bubbles

The cider nearly glows with a deep pumpkin color. I don’t see any bubbles within the cider but there are a ring of fine ones where the cider meets the glass. It’s transparent but that doesn’t fully come through in the pictures because of condensation.

Aromas: ginger, bourbon, caramel, cookie

Holy heavenly coziness, the Wooden Sleeper smells like ginger, baked apples, and bourbon barrel. Secondarily I get lots of other notes I associate with barrels like caramel and cookies, but there’s something more, perhaps a hint of orange?

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry

I expected a sweeter cider based on an earlier incarnation I’ve tasted of the Wooden Sleeper, but this batch tastes semi-dry. What it might be in terms of actual residual sugar, I cannot say.

Flavors and drinking experience: hearty, warm, petillant, tannic

What a hearty cider! I knew it would be based on the ABV, barrel aging, and the sweetness of previous batches. I chose it because of winter weather and a very wintery meal. The cider started with a gently bitter first note, but that was followed quickly by mellowing body and warmth from the ABV.

The Wooden Sleeper is tannic, medium acidity, and petillant, meaning it is only mildly bubbly. The flavors swirled and expanded generously. I could taste caramel, cooked apples, but other more savory notes like wood, wild rice, and mushrooms. It came back around to harvest richness that reminded me of pumpkin and brown sugar.

We paired this with a very traditional Sunday roast type meal with roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed purple potatoes, a green salad and a beef roast for the meat eaters. What a wonderfully appropriate choice. For a meal that most folks would use a red wine to pair, the Wooden Sleeper held up admirably and deliciously. It was fit for a winter feast.

Next, I want to travel back to my summer trip because I think I had a very winter friendly cider while I was in Glasgow. I had a Mortimer’s Orchard Original by Westons Cider.

I don’t know much about Mortimer’s Orchard, but you can visit the website here: http://www.mortimersorchard.co.uk/

The official description reads, “A fresh medium-dry cider with a light sparkling finish. Made from 100% fresh English apple juice.” 5% ABV. 

I had this by the half pint which is a very civilized tradition that I wish could be imported more widely to the states. A half-pint is an eight ounce pour, just perfect for many ciders.

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, pours with a mousse

This cider has a quickly disappearing bubbly mousse, but it remains very active in terms of visible sparkle. It’s transparent and a warm straw hue.

Aromas: lemon, sesame, fresh apple

The aromas from the Mortimer’s Orchard Original were not too intense. I could smell fresh apple, lemon, and sesame.  

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This has a very classic cane sugar, crystalized white sugar sweetness. It perceives as sweet to me, but I could also be responding to a lower level of acid than I’m used to from American ciders. 

Flavors and drinking experience: medium-low acid, cooked fruit, tannins, sparkly

I had this cider after dinner and a long day of walking over and through Glasgow. The flavor reminds me very much of cooked apples. It’s mellow and sweet, offering up medium-low acid. I was surprised to find medium high level of sparkle.

I enjoyed the warm fruit flavor, also the notes of grain and the nice tannic mouthfeel. These elements balance one another reasonably well. It was relaxing and refreshing on its own. I think this cider could pair well with a number of spicy foods because sweetness can be the perfect antidote to spice. I enjoyed it in summer, but I think this sort of profile would taste even better on a cold winter’s night.