Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cider Review: Aaron Burr's Homestead Elderberry Apple

On this still dark and snowy morning, Along Came a Cider finally reviews an Aaron Burr cider. I thought I'd reviewed one long ago, but a little looking reveals my error. I suppose I thought I'd reviewed a cider by Aaron Burr Cidery, because it is such fascinating cult cidery of sorts. Andy Brennan makes these ciders in Wurtsboro, New York in tiny runs from either heritage or foraged apples. Some blends include interesting additives or co-fermented ingredients. Brennan also doesn't add preservative sulphites. Its a very purist and historically oriented approach to cider making, which adds to the mystique

Read how Aaron Burr Cidery presents its cider identity on the website:
“The Cidery”, which produces Aaron Burr Cider in Wurtsboro, New York, is a small homestead farm dating back to the early 19th century. We specialize in growing cider-apples, which are different from eating-apples in the same way wine-grapes are different from table-grapes. We use our apples and other locally grown and foraged apples for one mission: to re-create “true cider”, the time-averaged most popular drink in America.

This focus is founded on the belief that early Americans drank history’s best cider. Reestablishing this involves holism -from farming to art, from the market to politics- cider is an identity. There is much from our recent past which must be undone but luckily the descendants of early cider apples do still exist in the wild. We believe their ability to survive the 20th century provides American cider its future.
You can find out more at the website itself:

Tonight I'm reviewing the Elderberry Apple which intrigues me mightily. I've only had one other elderberry cider, also from New York state, but one I suspect is nonetheless very different.

Here's the information Aaron Burr Cider presents about the Homestead Elderberry Apple
2014 Homestead Elderberry Apple 98 cases made, 7.4% abv , 750 ml

Specs: Tannic, dry, medium acidity. Deep crimson hue with slight carbonation.Notes: Woody/ forest aromas mixed berry upfront. Balanced, light body. Chalky and fruity.

Source: 10% elderberry foraged from BashaKill wetlands, 90% unsprayed west Sullivan County apples
Furthermore, the back label has a charming little addendum, "Dry. May become naturally effervescent." With a bit more instructional information in terms of how to pour a cider with lees (fermentation solids) and and how to store a cider without any added sulphites.

Appearance: hazy, rich watermelon color, a few tiny bubbles

I cannot over-emphasize how absolutely beautiful this cider is in the glass. It glows with the color of ripe watermelon flesh.

Aroma: tart, blackberry, yeasty

The smell is full and tart. It reminds me of both blackberries and orange, fruits that give flavor and tartness in equal measure. I also detect very real amounts of yeast that lean the aromas in the direction of a sour beer.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

The bottle tells the truth; this cider is dry. I know that fruitiness does not actually either take away from or add to dryness, but to call this cider dry without calling attention to its fruitiness only tells part of the story.

Flavors and drinking experience: rustic, light, tart, fruity and vegetal both

The Elderberry Apple tastes a little like a sour beer and like its aromas: tart. a bit of vinegar in with the berry notes. Perhaps the fermentation included a subtle level of acedification, which I know will excite any fans of Spanish style ciders. As the description predicted, it has a light mouthfeel—almost watermelony, to be sure. Texturally, the bubbles are small but not so present to be strongly sparkling. I can taste the yeast a little on the back of the tongue. The flavors include lots of citrus and berry notes, but I also get some vegetal elements like potato & celery, but not unpleasantly. The cider comes across as more balanced in big sips. If you enjoy a rustic cider, this cannot be beaten.

guess right now I'd say drink this cider while listening to David Bowie's music or watching a film he was in. Perhaps I'd say that about any cider right now; its all I want to do. But, I actually think this makes more sense with a special cider by this cidery more than most. Andy Brennan's ciders are unique and vary between being extremely playful and inviting and being somewhat more challenging. They always offer distinctive character and craft. If these qualities do not serve to parallel the towering achievements of David Bowie, I don't know whose ciders would. This, in my mind, serves as one of the highest possible compliments, and I mean it as such.