Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cider Review: Strongbow Honey Hard Apple Cider and my 33 Book Co. Cider Tasting Mug

About 14 years ago, I tried my first cider. It was a Strongbow, consumed at the Uni Pub at the University of East Anglia. I had a taste of someone else's cider and then chose to have mine adulterated...ahem with black currant squash and cheap lager. Not my proudest moment, but I'm glad to say that my tastes and cider experiences have expanded greatly since 2002. Yet I owe so much to that first taste and therefore to Strongbow. Yet this is my first Strongbow review.

Bulmer's has been sellling Strongbow cider since 1962, but the product I first tasted, the dry can no longer be bought in the United States. They replaced it with a number of sweeter alternatives. Some fans are concerned.

You can visit the Strongbow website at: http://www.strongbow.com/en-us

When visiting the website, I watched and abrupt and strange advertisement that shows an exageratedly American announcer firing Patrick-Freaking-Stewart (<3) because the only thing Strongbow needs is ice. This preceded the slogan "Bestest over ice." My reading between the lines (rudimentary though it is) reveals a connection to the bottled cider poured over ice boom in the UK in the early 2000s and targeting of internet-familiar millennials. 

But let's zoom in to tonight's review; I'm reviewing Strongbow Honey Apple Cider. This is one of the sweeter ciders that first replaced the dry for the United States market.

Here's how Strongbow describes it, "Honey on the nose and sweet on the tongue with a refreshing, fruity finish. 5% ABV. Gluten Free. 100% Kosher. 195 calories per 11.2 fl. oz.
Available in 6-packs and our 12-pack Variety Pack."

But going beyond those basics were a few more interesting descriptors

Underneath a nose icon in the experience heading: "An aromatic array of crisp-tasting apples, which mingle with the scent of other fruits before returning to hints of apple, honey and flowers."

White the text under the mouth icon: "A smooth body and a length on the palate that develop around a wealth of aromas and flavors to reach its peak before gently fading after each taste."

Now the time has come for me to find out for myself.

I poured my Strongbow Honey Apple Hard Cider in a tasting mug by 33 Books Co.  

If you want to check out the mug, please look here: http://www.33books.com/collections/tasting-tools/products/the-original-cider-tasting-mug

Appearance: tea, brilliant, plenty of bubbles creating a ring

Poured into the cider mug, it appears much darker and richer than it looks in the clear glass bottle. Instead of looking a dark straw color it becomes the color of a well steeped black tea. Both was the clarity is brilliant. I can see a pronounced ring of bubbles at the top of my mug.

Aromas: pureed apricot, black cherry, pineapple

Whoa. This cider smells so much like puréed apricots that I can scarcely believe it. Secondarily I smell ripe black cherries and pineapple. All of these juicier showier fruits hide any hint of apple.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

The sweetness would be pointless to deny in this cider. It simply is sweet. Its a very fruity kind of sweet rather than caramelly, boozy, or chemical.

Flavors and drinking experience: tropical fruit, peach, medium sparkle, good mouthfeel

The Strongbow cider tastes very much like it smells. My overwhelming impression is one of tropical fruits.  The cider is sweet with a pleasant kick of fruity acid. In a way I'm reminded of fancy peach sodas. It offers a nice level of bubble. The cider rumbles over the palate with a full body because of the sweetness. I paired my glass with a flavor bomb: I chose a Mexican jacketed potato because of the powerful flavors and spicy food, turn the sweetness into pleasant relief.

This doesn't taste like a typical English cider, but also its not quite like a mainstream commercially produced American cider in style either. The Strongbow Honey offers something different and in some ways in between. The mouthfeel is fully and the acidity less biting than american, but the base of tannins usually so key to English ciders is overshadowed by the tropical fruitiness.

The website offers some pairing with snacks including goat or blue cheese, meals including meatballs, or salmon, or a dessert including either honey or pair. I ignored these suggestions going with my own rule of thumb for sweet ciders, pair with highly flavored spicy foods. So I had a big bowl of mexican veggies with queso over a baked potatoe  (so many veggies and so much queso that you cannot see the potato). That works. I'll stick by my rule rather than pairing like with like or even some of the nice suggestions by the Strongbow folks.