Sunday, October 9, 2016

Double Cider Review: Sietsema Lemongrass Hard Cider and Slightly Sweet Hard Cider

Today I'm reviewing two canned ciders that were part of a trade I made with the amazing Darlene Hayes of Turn Them All Into Cider and author of Cider Cocktails Another Bite of the Apple (a book I highly recommend). She managed a visit there on her way to GLINTCAP where we both judged this past spring. Thanks, Darlene!

Sietsema is not just a hard cider company but also an orchard business now being operated by the fourth generation of one family. The orchard was originally just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan in an area known for both apples and cider and now is only 1o miles away in Ada, Michigan. 

You can find out more about the orchard and the cider company on their Facebook page:

I looked for more cider-centric information on Sietsema Orchard's website, but I didn't find much about their current cider offerings. You're welcome to see plenty about their orchard there though:

Slightly Sweet which is the same as their red label, according to the internet.

Official Description: "For those who like their cider sweet. We stop fermentation just in time to retain the apples’ residual sugars; and you get a complex blend of citrusy sweetness with an underlying dryness with notes of pineapple and banana."

To me, the most interesting part of this description is the mention of stopped fermentation. This is a fairly advanced cidermaking technique that avoids fermenting to dryness and backsweetening for some sweetness to the beverage but instead using one of a few strategies to halt the fermentation while the juice has some of its own natural sugars intact. This is tricky because it goes against how yeast wants to work.  Yeast survives by eating sugar and creating alcohol, so you have to get rid of the yeast to keep that cider from starting to ferment again. Actual cidermakers are more welcome to add to this explanation in the comments. I just wanted to give the heads up that this isn't the easiest way to make a slightly sweet cider; its relatively ambitious but can give strong results. 

On to the cider!

Appearance: Hazy, deep coppery color, some visible bubbles

This cider looks more like fresh juice than many United States ciders. Its hazy and a dark coppery brown red. This could come from the arrested fermentation or some apples just produce a darker juice. It looks more like many English ciders to me. I can see some bubbles, but not a ton.

Aromas: sweet dusty lemon

Not to get ahead of myself, but the Slightly Sweet smells much sweeter than it tastes, but there's a specific cast to the sweetness. It remindes me of old-fashioned
 rock candy in the sweetness of its smell and also candied lemon peel. A very appealing aroma. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

They are right to call this slightly sweet. It isn't very sweet. The initial taste is one of apple sweetness, but that isn't the only note of the beverage. See below.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemongrass, grapefruit, medium tannin

As I said earlier this cider tasest sweet almost only at first followed by interesting bitterness. Medium tannins. The fruit notes are more citrusy than anything else and there are some grassy herbal elements as well.  The cider's acidity tastes like a blend of different acids and not just malic.

The body is lively but a bit on the thin side. There's a very different shape to the whole flavor experience. An interesting cider to be sure. I paired this with a vegetarian chili with chickpeas and delicious faux-pork crumbles. Very tasty.

And now for Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider

Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider's official description reads: "For those with a taste for brightness. A bold blend of refreshing local Lemon Grass combined with our the crisp apple zest taste of our cider creates a unique taste of citrusy, zesty, sweet fruitiness"

Appearance: hazy, lots of visible bubbles, cheerful sunny gold

This cider is lovely to look at; its almost a shame to see it in a can. I like the rustic haze and sunny golden color. I also get a real sense of anticipation when I see that many visible bubbles.

Aromas: lemon and lemongrass, herbs, applesauce

This cider smells like lemon, lemongrass, sun-warmed apples, green zesty herbs, and homemade applesauce. This is a great set of aromas. They meld well together and yet I can identify all five notes distinctly.

Sweetness/dryness: tart and semi-dry

This cider is an easy to identify as semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: clean, tart, good balance of lemongrass and apple

Wow! This cider tastes so clean and tart that it makes the insides of my ears feel like they are curling. I'm getting a strong salivary response as well. The lemongrass characteristics reminds me of a hopped cider. I had this with a mexican-inspired tomato and rice dish and the pairing worked well.