Monday, December 22, 2014

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Hop and Stalk

My darling husband traveled to Oregon without me for work this past fall. I would have loved to have gone with him, but between August and early November, I'm pretty tied to this area for many reasons (all of which have to do with apples). So, he went alone and vowed to bring me back some ciders from the region. He brought back a whole suitcase full of cider goodies and tales of the wonderful hospitality offered to him by the kind folks at 2 Towns Ciderhouse. He visited their tap room, and they took amazing care of him. I am so grateful. Thanks, guys! So, I have to recommend visiting their tap room if you are in Corvallis, Oregon. I hope to make the trip myself someday before too long. This is my first review of any the ciders he brought me back from that trip.

In looking at the 2 Towns Ciderhouse website, one thing becomes abundantly clear. They want everyone to know that their ciders are natural rather than artificial. Those are some fairly huge concepts: natural and artificial; I'm afraid I spent too much time in grad school to just accept that we all mean the same things when we use those words. Luckily for me, and all the other word nerds out there, 2 Towns Ciderhouse clarifies their position in a very helpful introduction to their ciders. Check out how they outline their concepts and their ciders:
At 2 Towns Ciderhouse our aim is Damn Fine Cider. This means cider produced using the best the Northwest has to offer, superior brewing standards, innovation and a lot of love. We insist on using only the finest fresh-pressed 100% NW apples in our ciders. We never take shortcuts in the cider-making process, and never add any sugar or essence flavorings, but instead let the fresh, naturally fermented ingredients speak for themselves.
Further reading identifies three qualities that 2 Towns prioritizes in their final products body, aromatics and flavor. So, I'm happy to think of these qualities in particular when I taste and describe my first 2 Towns Ciderhouse beverage, their limited edition Hop and Stalk.

If you want to read more about 2 Towns Ciderhouse, you can either visit them on Facebook or their full website: Both places have plenty of additional information, pictures, and news from this exciting cider company.

Tonight's cider is their limited edition Hop and Stalk, which is a cider with both hops and rhubarb. The official description follows, but it doesn't add a tremendous amount of additional insight to help us build more precise expectations, "An outrageous amount of hops and a healthy helping of righteous rhubarb make the Hop and Stalk a perfect cider for adventurous hop heads! Stalk on Hop!"  This is only sold in 500ml bottles. It's ABV is 6%. That's all I know so far.

My only previous encounter with rhubarb in cider came through a really fun little petillant cider from Eaglemount:

Appearance: Deep nectarine color, brilliant, lotsa bubbles

Nectarine color really pops tonight because the sun has been hiding for so many days. I can see every single little bubble because this cider is crystalline in its brilliance. The bubbles most remain still; I don't see a lot of motion in the Hop and Stalk.

Aromas: hops, red fruit, dust

The aromas promise good things for this cider. I can smell hops with that piney, almost soapy, grapefruit freshness. I simply adore how this smells. Hops in cider are such a shortcut to my heart, or at this point, to high expectations. I can also smell red fruit like strawberries or currants. This simply smells so good, so in terms of aromatics, 2 Towns Ciderhouse is doing well.

Sweetness/Dryness: semi-dry

Very fruity but not too sweet. Tons and tons of zingy acid to balance out the sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, zippy,

The rhubarb tastes subtle at first, but it definitely builds. This cider has notes of mind and herbs that decidedly come from the hops. Definitely pine and basil. It has an almost celeriac quality in a yummy way.  Very tart. The rhubarb builds in this tartness with some strawberry, lychee, and orange notes. I just get tons and tons of zesty fruit flavor. I love how tremendously big yet well balanced this is. Great body with lots of robust carbonation.

I savored my Hop and Stalk tremendously with a giant fluffy deep-dish cheese pizza, the kind it takes to get through this many days in a row with no sun at all. Sorry to fuss, I promise I'm not a winter hater. This cider is really helping though. I feel like I am reminded that summer and fruit exist because of its rhubarb hoppy lightness. This is particularly thrilling, even inspiring, in late December. You could pair it with lots of different dishes, but I think making sure you've got something not too acidic would be key, and dairy fits the bill well for me. I could also see pairing this cider with present wrapping and cookie baking. Enjoy!