Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Visiting Original Stump Blower Ciderworks: Mini-Review Roundup

After Sunday brunch, On a tip from the fine folks at The Owlhouse in Rochester (http://www.owlhouserochester.com) I drove out to the Original Stump Blower Ciderworks Taproom to check out their cider. The weather was glorious, a perfect backdrop to a surprise cider adventure.

To introduce Original Stump Blower Ciderworks, I'll paraprase sister and brother pair of Elise Barnard and Eric Smith own and run Original Stump Blower Ciderworks and its taproom in Lakeville, New York outside of Rochester.The name refers to the illicit cider making and drinking done by their father and his uncle. It was both a code phrase for going drinking and proud claim that the cider was powerful enough to blow up the stumps in which it was hidden. 

They create a lot of cider with fruit additions, barrel aging, or other variations, but it all starts with a base cider made from only NY apples. As often as they can, OSB works with local companies to either source ingredients like Fee Brother Bitters or reuse spent materials like their used chamomile flowers go to a local soap maker for her work.

In just a month, OSB Ciderworks will be celebrating its first anniversary!

You can find out tons more about OSB Ciderworks on their website: https://www.osbciderworks.com 

I was welcomed by Elise who was soon joined by her husband and her brother Eric. They were kind enough to show me what they are pouring and a few projects in production. They were completely welcoming and knowledgeable. Here's a quick run through of everything I tried. I can't share full reviews of all of this, but I'll try to include some commentary for each.

Little Lakes Semi-Sweet  6.9% ABV I'm not too sweet and not too dry. My apple flavor is refreshing and great to enjoy by the lake in the summer or cozied up under a blanket by the fire in the winter. I love to make friends with everyone.
This was a nice safe starter cider. Its right between semi-dry and semi-sweet, slightly high acid, low tannins, with a clean fermentation. I imagine this would be a great seller for bars and restaurants. 
Honey...CHAM YOU DIG IT 6.2% ABV WE CAN DIG IT! I’m all Local baby! Conesus honey and NY chamomile are blended with my NY apple cider base. I'm smooth and flavorful with a chamomile finish. I am good at the bar after a long day or in a bubble bath listing to smooth r&b, share me with lovers and friends... im here to calm your soul!
This was my hands down favorite of the day. I'd call this a semi-sweet but just so herbaceous and different. I love the addition of chamomile in terms of an ingredient that can play well with apple flavor-wise and not dominate the conversation.
Mama Said Hop You Out!  6.9% ABV I’M GONNA HOP YOU OUT! Centennial and Nugget Hops, that are grown in Dansville, NY give me my hoppy aroma and flavor. Don’t pass me up because you don’t like IPA, I'm not bitter, give hops a chance! That first taste its like hearing your favorite 90’s song on the radio!

This is a dry hopped cider, so hops primarily add aroma. That's what the description means when it says that the cider isn't bitter. Its super fresh though and plenty of clean grassy hoppy notes.

You Love it When I call you Hop Papa I don't have an official description or ABV for this one.

This is a wet hopped cider, which almost certainly means that the cider itself has been boiled at some point in the fermentation process. The Hops include Citra and I think Chinook hops. This one tasted darker, dryer, and a touch bitter. A winner for me.

Matcha Man Apple Savage 7.2% ABV I am Matcha Tea Infused hard cider. I'm strong like Randy coming in at 7.2%. My flavor is a bit tart with an earthy dry finish. Tho i don't pair best with Slim Jim's i go awesome with just about everything else.
I'm not the biggest Match fan in the world, so I'm glad this one was a bit more subtle with the additive and offered plenty of apple vibrance in addition to the mild astringence of green tea.
Hold The Crust Apple Pie  6.5% ABV I’m made up of Grandma Fran’s famousapple pie filling. For every gallon of cider we make one pie... hold the crust. I'm spiced with three kinds of cinnamon as well as nutmeg, mace, and clove. I enjoy long walks through crunchy foliage and bar stool conversations. Save dessert and drink your pie!
This is a sweet spiced cider that I can imagine sells tremendously well, not just in the fall but year round. Look for a small run special edition coming up closer to the 4th of July!
Ginger Citrus 6.9% ABV I am a tangy cider with a bitter finish. I am made lovingly by creating an oleo saccharum with lemons and oranges, adding fresh ginger juice and then fermented in barrel that contained Fee Brothers Orange Bitters in them for a year. People who enjoy bitter cocktails (negroni, manhattan, old fasion etc.) tend to flock to me.
This one was excellent. Had good sense allowed me to take home a third small growler, I would have chosen this one. I love bitter and citrus notes, and this cider has them in excellent balance.
The Original 11% ABV I'm the one that started it all! A combination of apples and concord grapes go in to making me a strong and exciting cider. I am fermented until I reach 11% ABV and then I get to chill out in the barrel house in Black Button Whiskey barrels. I'm strong. bold and fun. I am great in cocktails and some people enjoy making french onion soup with me.

Scotch Bonnet Bomber

I don't have an official description for this one, but I do know that in addition to the cider this has a puree of three different pepper varieties added: Scotch Bonnet, Fresno, and Serrano.

Like some other ciders with chilis added, this one has a sharp aroma but a much more balanced flavor. It does have more heat and staying power than I'm used to, even in a chili infused cider, likely because it isn't blended with fruit in addition just peppers and cider. A winner for fans of spice, so I took some home for a dear friend of mine from Texas. 

When it came time for me to make my purchases, I got a small growler of the You Love it When I call you Hop Papa, Honey...CHAM YOU DIG IT, and a smaller container of the Scotch Bonnet Bomber. All lovely ciders. I'll be curious to see where this cider is this time next year. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cider Review: Du Minot Cidrerie's La Bolee Petillante and GLINTCAP

My first cider review of something by Du Minot. I've only had their ciders before once or twice with local friends who brought them back from Quebec. I've never had the chance to review one.

Lots of information on the Du Minot website, which helpfully can be accessed in either french or English. Though it, I learned that Du Minot has been operating out of Quebec since 1987. That's quite an achievement as the cider world did not have lot of support then and has gone through more than its share of ups and downs since that time.

This family business has a most interesting background. I'll let their words tell the story.

From Brittany to Quebec, the Demoy family has been making cider for almost 150 years. Cider enthusiasts, Robert and JoĆ«lle Demoy left their native Britanny in the late 1970s to settle in Quebec and set up Cidrerie du Minot in Hemmingford in 1987.  Over the years, the couple shared their passion with their children Audrenne and Alan who are now ensuring succession. 
Inspired by traditional Breton techniques, Cidrerie du Minot has been producing high quality ciders for over 30 years and collected national and international recognitions. Today, it is with ultra-modern equipments that Cidrerie du Minot develops more than a dozen ciders

This cider was a gift from my friend Eric West of Cider Guide (https://ciderguide.com/) who will be working on GLINTCAP this week, but more on that at the end of the post. I'll also be managing his newsletter this week and next week, so wish me luck!

The Du Minot website helpfully has information on their ciders in both French and English: http://www.duminot.com/fr/cidres/

Today's cider is their La Bolee Petillante which is sold in an adorable small single-serve bottle with nice transparent modern labelling.  This cider has a quite low ABV at 4.5%; that  helped me decide to reach for it on a rainy spring afternoon. I like having options of radically different ABVs in my cellar.

The official description of the cider follows:

Ripe apples are picked, crushed and gently pressed. The must is fermented at low temperatures to preserve all the aromas. Finally, a second fermentation in sealed tanks provides the natural effervescence that is unique to this type of sparkling cider. 
This sparkling cider at 4.5% alc./vol. with delicate aromas of apples and pears is refreshing on the palate. It has a pleasant acidity and fine bubbles, giving it all its elegance.
The apple in this cider are McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Spartan.

Appearance: Brilliant,  few visible bubbles, straw color 

The color is just a hint warmer and more apricot than most ciders that I'd call straw, but its a subtle distinction.

Aromas: bready, sweet, cooked apple

Smelled from the neck of the bottle is restrictive but smells pleasantly sweetly bready. It actually reminds me of the aromas of Doc's Draft Original. When poured out of that container into a more open glass, a creaminess joins the aromas. There's some soft apple in the mix as well.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This a sweet cider, but something about the sweetness strikes me as different. This is a very nectar-like sweetness that's thick and rich.

Flavors and drinking experience: juicy,caramel, rich, mellow, fruity

I'd like to start by mentioning that this cider doesn't fit into the usual categories and styles I am most familiar with. It's different! This does have some of the qualities of a Bretagne cider, but it isn't just an example of that. This cider has its own style.

The cider offers up medium high acid with a nice zing of bubbles. Part of what makes this so unique is that combination of rich intense fruitiness with notably clean fermentation. Let me say it again and again- this cider offers up lots of apple in aroma and flavor. One of the other standout characteristics is the very thick mouthfeel. 

Its mellow, rich, slightly oxidized. Its remarkably tasty. I'm not often a real fan of sweet ciders, but this is special. Even so, I'd still probably not reach for a cider like this often. The rich mouthfeel is intense, and my preference do run more towards the austere and dry. 

Have this cider with something light and sweet. I'd recommend it with a panna cotta, homemade poundcake, or even on its own. Its a magical experience.

There's something else cider-tastic on my mind this week. That's because the 12th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) will be happening from April 19-22, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For the past three year's I've judged and had a simply fantastic time. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out this year, but I know I'll have GLINTCAP on my mind this week. 

Here's coverage of previous years. 

The lead up to my first GLINTCAP: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/driving-out-for-glintcap-judgingand.html

GLINTCAP 2014 the full experience: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/finally-my-fabulous-time-at-glintcap.html

2015 GLINTCAP results and my Magner's Original review: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/04/cider-review-magners-irish-cider-plus.html 

And most recently, GLINTCAP 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/04/my-experience-at-glintcap-2016-worlds.html

Best of luck to all competitors and judges!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cider Review: Grisamore Cider Works 24.4 Squared

Very recently, a new and relatively local cider cider company appeared on the shelves of my usual cider shop and started appearing on the dinner tables of my friends. Great news for me; I'm always keen to try something new and local! Two friends were kind enough to save a bottle to open when we were dining together one cold February evening. 

This is how I found out about Grisamore Cider Works, and I don't know a tremendous amount about these new neighbors. Simon Ingall (with his brother Jesse), works on his family farm and launched the hard cider business. Grisamore hit the scene with their first four releases this past fall, though I started seeing them around my usual haunts in early February. That's when I got to taste the 24.4 Squared.

You can see pictures of the farm and the cidermaking process on the Grisamore website:


Or, you can also find them on Facebook for product updates and the most up-to-date information: https://www.facebook.com/grisamoreciderworks/

Today, I'm sharing my review of Grisamore Cider Works' 24.4 Squared. This cider is named after the geographic footprint of Locke, New York. That's where the orchard is and where the apples and cider maker come from. I couldn't find very much information online about any of their cider styles, but I did see a very brief description on Untappd, "An easy, drinking cider with tropical notes, aged on Citra hops" The cider is 6% ABV. I wish I had more information on the apples or more of what this cider is aiming for, but I'm curious. We'll find out more by tasting.

Appearance: warm, still, transparent

Neither hazy nor brilliant, this cider is transparent. It doesn't show any visible bubbes in the glass. The color could be described as like warm homemade applesauce. Between the warm color and level of clarity, it gives off a rustic vibe.

Aromas: laundry, grass, tropical fruits

This cider smells astonishingly like laundry and lawn clippings, along with some white wine tropical notes. The hopped nature of this cider dominates the smells.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider offers up a nice initial sweetness that doesn't linger. The finish is cleaner and drier than I would expect from that first burst of flavor.

Flavors and drinking experience: Green tea, cold minerality, woody

So very very interesting. After that first hint of sweetness, the flavors become more herbal. They remind me of green tea, sweet grasses, and fresh saplings. These flavors are very savoy, they even veer into a slightly metallic territory before resting at cooling and minerally.

My more holistic and less detailed impression after a few sips, is that the 24.4 Squared is so fresh and fun! I'm thrilled to add this local cidery to my mix, and I cannot wait to try the rest of what they are doing!

I had this with a wintery meal with homemade pasta, red sauce, and softly cooked carrots and celery, but that was back in February. The next time I have this, I'll do something more summery, as I think that's how to best show off the best qualities of hopped ciders. I like them with light and mustard rich potato salads, with fish tacos, and with pizza of any stripe. Man, I'm making my own mouth water thinking about this cider with pizza. Yum.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Wit's Up

Spring has finally truly and beautifully arrived. I've seen more crocus in the last two days than I may have ever seen in one season before. Yesterday, I took a walk in the sunshine between work and supper. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I could even feel hints of the summer to come in the color of the light and the sun's warmth on my black t-shirt. 

I'm not going to attempt to rush Spring. It just got here, and I love this transient ever-changing season. I'm starting to think ahead just a little though. That's what led me to reach for a cider that recently came to me as a review sample from Citizen Cider. They shared the Wit's Up as a fun summer cider, though it is available year round. 

A little about Citizen Cider: this cider company has grown quickly and really made a name for themselves in their home state of Vermont. The cidery was founded in 2010 by three friends: Justin Heilenbach, Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson. They each came from a different career background and brought a unique skill set to the cidery, and the results have been striking. They work with multiple Vermont orchards, including Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury.

You can learn more about them on their website here: http://www.citizencider.com/

Or learn about new releases and local events even faster by following them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/citizencider/

I have reviewed a couple of ciders by Citizen Cider before. 

My first was the bRose in 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-citizen-cider-brose.html

And more recently, I reviewed their Barrel Aged: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-review-citizen-ciders-barrel-aged.html

Citizen was also a major stop on Day 2 of my Vermont Cider tour this past fall: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

Today, I am looking to the future and sharing my thoughts on Wit's Up. Here's how Citizen Cider describes it:
There are ciders for the people, and there are ciders for the people who make the cider for the people. Wit’s Up is a classic cider maker’s cider. Drawing on the old and new traditions of cider making, it starts like an ale and finishes like the dry, sessionable craft cider that it is. It’s cider for today, it’s cider for what we believe the future of cider to be. Come, enjoy the future with us and drink Wit’s Up. 5.9ABV.

Interestingly, Citizen also offers some suggested pairings for this cider: "Bratwurst, brioche, roasted chicken, root vegetables." But I have a bowl of vegetarian Chick'n & Dumplings, and I'll be curious to taste how that goes.  

Appearance: hazy, lots of bubbles, temporary mousse

The Wit's Up pours with a head that doesn't stick around. I'd call the cider hazy in terms of clarity. It has lots of visible bubbles. The color is warm straw. 

Aromas: apple, grain, lemon, pepper

Wit's Up smells sweet and lemony with a hint of peppery spice and maybe grains.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This cider tastes much drier than it smells. I always find this characteristic interesting, and I wonder how it happens. 

Flavors and drinking experience: cool, savory, grainy, dominated by yeast characteristics

Part of why this cider might be promoted for summer is that it actually tastes cooling. I'm not referring to the temperature of the beverage, but some associative quality that makes it connote coolness. It tastes like a beer yeast, lemon, but not much apple at least not very much like unfermented apple.

The Wit's Up reminds me nicely of a summery beer, making it a supremely session-oriented cider. The description of ale style is completely accurate. I do get some fun mildly sour notes along with black pepper, tropical fruit, and pears.

Though this cider totally gluten free, it tastes positively wheaty, like toasted grain.

This is the cider that should convince anyone that yeast matters for flavor. There's a popular line of belief that a cider's flavor is all apples all the time, but this can disprove that. Citizen makes lots of ciders with a similar blend of apples and for this cider it is the yeast that makes it different. And it does.

Many characteristics point to a relatively clean fermentation. The Wit's Up reminds me of summer and baseball. Gosh it makes me want a veggie dog. I cannot get over how much I am reminded of the good parts of a bright summer heffe weisen or lambic. I'm not a beer person, but this is a happy place of commonality between cider and beer for me. I look forward to sharing one with my super beer-nerd dad.

Its a thinky but not too challenging cider. Its a lot of fun. Lastly, be forewarned, this is burpy! Enjoy!