Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cider Review: AppelTreow Barnswallow Draft Cider

Winter is a busy time for the cider industry and for us hardcore fans. This sounds weird and the exact opposite of what most folks would expect because cider is a fermented agricultural product and so when things aren't growing we should be less busy. But this isn't the case because cider fits so many acitivites into this "off" season that winter has definitely caught up to spring and summer. People do tremendous amounts of orchard maintenance, planning, fermenting, tasting, competing and selling in the winter. Lately, I've been pleasantly embroiled in a few of these activities myself, and it's pretty neat stuff.

During a brief break, I did get to try cider from a part of the United States whose ciders I know much less well. I found a bottle of AeppelTreow's Barnswallow Draft cider. AeppelTroeow comes from its own winery/cidery/distillery in Wisconsin. You can read a bit about the products and processes on the company's website: The website has some useful information, but it is a bit more perfunctory than inspiring. More thrillingly, they do have a tasting room, so one can go visit AeppelTreow when in Wisconsin.

In looking at how AeppelTreow describes its own identity as a cider producer, here is the bullet list of points they emphasize online.
  • Use of locally grown fruits and crops.
  • Use of special purpose, heirloom cultivars.
  • A minimalist production approach
  • A lighter style that lets the subtle flavors come through.
I love how specific this list is. It really gives me a set of expectations for the cider and for their brand. Beyond the list, this is what AppelTreow says about themselves: "We back up this philosophy with great carry-through resulting is very drinkable products. We support it with a lot of education about apple and cider history, fruit growing, even politics and chemistry." A cider maker that focuses on  educating folks about cider! Count me in. I'm really hoping that their cider lives up to the high expectations I've formed based on their promotional materials. These folks just seem like people I'd really like a lot. Hopefully there cider will be a likeable. 

So the cider I'm trying today is AeppelTreow's Barnswallow Draft Cider.

Here's what they say about it: "Crisp and refreshing, Green apple, tart, slightly bubbly." Followed by another of their bullet point lists.
  • Body: Smooth
  • Sweetness: 2
  • Tartness: 5
  • Alcohol: 6%
  • Apples: Red Delicious, Cortland, Ida Red, Greenings
  • Available: 750mL, 5.16 gallon keg
This is the part where I'm definitely now sure what scale they're using or exactly what those numbers mean. But I do know those apples and three out of those four are really ones I adore in cider. Greenings are especially lovely.

Appearance: Brilliant, topaz, beautiful tiny bubbles on the glass

Apologies for the cheesiness of  using my husband's music paper for a cider shot, but I couldn't resist. The cider shows total brilliance, not even a hint of haze. The color is an intense definite topaz. More yellow than many ciders but a shade more leaning into green than orange, still a relatively pale non-green yellow. This seems perfect for a November birthday girl like me. Though the photo doesn't show them perfectly, this cider does have tight little bubbles that cling to the glass.

Aromas: applesauce, overripe apples,  sweet

Smells like one of the apples involved was brought in especially for aroma. I'd guess that to be one of the dessert varieties, either the Red Delicious or the Cortland. Both provide good aroma to cider. Perhaps yeast and baking smells are a distance second. Very approachable.

Sweetness: Semi-dry or Dry with a semi-sweet finish

I agree with AeppelTreow that their ciders tend dry, but so does my palate. The start of this even has some pleasant bitterness. But by the finish, I can taste a lot more fruit and it becomes a bit sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: bittersweet, medium low acid, mellow

I know I said a variation of this before when talking about sweetness, but it matters here too. A first sip of this cider starts with a bittersweet note that unfolds into mellow fruits. I really enjoy how it develops even in one sip. The fruits are soft and warm yet tart: like a tart apple you've let warm in your jacket pocket while taking a spring walk. Sorry to get a bit imagistic, but that's what it made me think.

The finish and aftertaste are sweet but subtle. It really does balance tartness and sweetness well. The level of carbonation is not as aggressive as even some craft producers which should suit lots of cider fans quite well as well as making the cider more appealing to those who don't usually drink cider.

AeppelTreow's Barnswallow is definitely a cider I'd drink again. I'd also happily bring it to a social gathering, though that might be a touch awkward because I have no idea how to say the cidery's name. Alas. In terms of food pairings this is a really flexible cider. You could have it with a creamy soup like I did. It worked really well that way. Or you could have it with something more casual like a hearty sandwich and good salty chips. I think the tart yet sweet combo means that many different foods would pair tastily with this cider. This makes me even more excited to try their other options.

For right now, I'd suggest drinking this cider with dinner and then bringing a second glass to the couch with a flower or seed catalog. This is the perfect time of year for dreaming of planting and planning a garden, and this cider seems just right for a little day dreaming. Happy March!