Tuesday, December 30, 2014
My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2014
Like last year (http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html), I want to pause now at the end of 2014 to bask in complete gratitude for this year. Along Came A Cider has had a great 2014. And do you know who I have to thank for it? My wonderful readers and all the cidermakers I know!
Without further ado, allow me to share my top ten ciders of the year. The caveat is that I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, but, unlike last year, I am going to limit myself to ciders that have a full review on the blog. I'm also going to up the suspense a bit and list them from 10 to 1, and only reveal my absolute favorite cider of the year at the very end. I know, you'll all be barely able to contain yourselves. But, I think a little anticipation is good for the soul.
10. Bantam Cider's Wonderkind
So, I'm starting out my list with I cider I enjoyed surrounded by family. And I did really enjoy it, though this particular cider surprised me considerably with its honey aromas and substantial mouthfeel. The Wonderkind managed to be both fun and sophisticated, which means it is something I'd enjoy pretty much anytime. You can see the full review here:
9. Virtue Cider's The Mitten
I still enjoy what I've tasted by Virtue Cider completely, and I think this particular meal paired with their bourbon barrel aged cider was my favorite Virtue Cider experience of 2014. (Mind you, grabbing late night vegan buffalo wings with my dad and having that with a Virtue Red Streak before Christmas was also great.) My favorite quote from that review says, "I can taste caramel and vanilla notes from bourbon plus woodiness and somehow this all equals maple, plus the cider's buttery mouthfeel equals waffles." One of my favorite ciders of the year makes me think of waffles. Who knew that would happen? This review also has the first picture of my cider apple tattoo with some color:
8. Whitewood Cider Company's Northland Traditional Blend
Old Timey Dave has been a fixture in the cider blogging world since long before Along Came a Cider, so getting to try one of his ciders was a big deal for me. I'm thrilled to say that Whitewood Cider Company's Northland Traditional Blend was delicious. This experience impressed me particularly because of the slowly unfolding complexity of this cider. Great fruit and great tannins. Here's the rest of what I had to say:
7. 2 Towns Ciderhouse Hop and Stalk
A recent one, and yet another winner of a cider that I first experienced with pizza. This is beginning to tell me that I eat rather a lot of pizza. Oh well. What I enjoyed wasn't just the pizza though; I loved the building rhubarb flavors, robust carbonation, and tons of planty herby hoppy notes. Hopped ciders continued throughout 2014 to provide me with some of my favorite flavors of the year. The Hop and Stalk really took that fruit plus hops combination to new places by adding tart and zesty rhubarb.
6. Vintage Henney's Still Cider 2012
I remember not only how gorgeous Henney's Still Cider 2012 tasted, but also how much I adored its appearance. I wrote my review in late October still at the height of fall, and perhaps the season affected how I perceived this particular cider. I said, "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." But aside from its beauty, this cider also offered plenty of rich deep tannins and some fabulous fruit. See for yourself:
5. Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider
It is not likely a surprise to anyone that Farnum Hill produced a cider that made it to my top ten list. They've been making really good cider for a very long time now. This review is one of the last ones to feature photos taken in my old apartment. The surface under the cider is a little ladder that permanently connects a small sleeping loft to the TV nook in that apartment. I loved that place, and I loved this cider. It's aromas especially just left my mouth watering.
4. Millstone Cellars Hopvine
Hoppy, bottle conditioned, and dry, what's not to love here? There isn't much, as it turns out. This cider is wildly funky with lots of unexpected notes in the aroma. I really enjoyed that about it. But for those who might be scared off by a cider that honestly smells like a baseball mitt, it does taste gentler and more mild than the aromas would imply. I'm not at all afraid of an untamed cider with tons of flavor and acidity, so this suited me very well in both smell and taste.
3. West County Cider Cider Maker's Favorite
2. Appeltreow Kinglet Bitter
I knew one of my Appeltreow cider experiences would make it high on this list. I simply love what they do. I wish I had easier access to more of their cider varieties. My review of the Kinglet Bitter ends with, "Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work."This is in reference to their own descriptive copy that talks about the struggle to grow the rare and fussy cider apples used for the Kinglet Bitter. Those apples, however difficult, add the best tannic depth and mellowly rich fruit notes. I stand by my earlier appreciation, and I want to go searching out another bottle of this stuff!
And now for my number 1 cider of the year...
1. Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Wild Pippin
It tastes like no other cider I've ever had. As much as I completely enjoyed each and every cider on this list (and I did) this had to be my top choice. It goes beyond what I thought cider could be. I adored the Wild Pippin's herbaceous spicy notes. They blew me away. It balanced them with gorgeous sparkle, clean dryness, and great acidity. Redbyrd Orchard Cider did a marvelous thing with their wild gathered apples. I doubt, I'll ever get to taste anything quite like it again, but I do know that they are working to get some material for grafting from some of these wild trees, so I can hope for a cider with fennel, peppercorn, and basil notes. If you want to read my further adulation of this cider and see cute kitten pictures, follow this link to my review:
Thanks again to everyone! My special appreciation to friends, family and guinea pigs who tried any weird ciders I offered. Thanks to those who hunted rare or faraway ciders for me to taste and review. As always, I must thank all the cider sellers and producers I know. You guys make this passion of mine possible. I cannot forget thanks to every commenter, reader, and visitor to Along Came A Cider. I'd enjoy cider no matter what, but sharing this with all of you enriches my life tremendously. Cheers!