Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cider Con 2018 Pt 1: Eden Specialty Ciders, Eve's Cidery, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Snowdrift Cider Co.

CiderCon has to be one of my favorite events in the cider year! I get to catch up with friends from all over the country (and some from even further afield), attend professional workshops and classes, meet new cider folks, and taste ciders I would never ordinarily have access to. Pure pomme bliss.

For reference, and a trip down memory lane, here are a few posts from my previous CiderCons from 2015 through last year.











My CiderCon 2018 started on Wednesday almost immediately after I arrived. I rushed through check in and on to the Media Meet and Greet where members of the media got an introduction to all of the United States Association of Cider Makers'(USACM) board members. Not only that, we got to taste some of their ciders.

I want to introduce two of our hosts in particular here, because they have been so active in USACM in 2017.

Michelle McGrath: Executive Director. This is Michelle's second CiderCon and her first as a drinker, because she spent last year's CiderCon 5 months pregnant! Michelle has been an inexhaustible force for organization, consensus building, and a juggernaut of of achievement in her tenure thus far as our Executive Director, working with the group to achieve legislation changes, put out the USACM Style Guide, funding academic research grants on cider, and working actively with Nielson to get the valuable cider sales data that tells us how the cider market is functioning.

Bruce Nissen: President and Owner of Jester and Judge Cider. Bruce has been part of Cider Con and USACM before they were official events or organizations. This quote from Bruce's letter in our program really does capture the spirit of CiderCon for me, “There are few industries where you have a chance to cross paths with the founders, the legends, and the upstarts in such a relaxed and open conference.” I find that to be absolutely true, as someone who came into this scene as a fan five years ago.

A major tradition at CiderCon that always gets people talking and tasting together is our Cider Share. Cideries apply to have a table and share some of their ciders with members of the media, other cider and beverage industry professionals, and CiderCon attendees.

The best part for me is how broad the CiderShare is. I had ciders that I cannot buy because they aren't sold in New York and don't yet ship. Two highlights for me were ciders from Estonia  made by Jaanihans (http://www.jaanihanso.ee/our-cider/) and from Treehorn out of Atlanta, Georgia (http://www.treehorncider.com/).

Part of what USACM is doing with CiderCon is using this event to anchor cider within the host city, and this year that meant sponsoring the inaugural Cider Week Baltimore!

My Tuesday evening was taking advantage of Cider Week Baltimore by going to the La Cuchara and Black Twig Txotx Cider Tasting at La Cuchara. Black Twig (http://www.blacktwigciderhouse.com/) is a cider focused restaurant and tap house in Durham, North Carolina. They specialize in Spanish style cider's poured from barrels called Txotx. Co-owner Mattie Beason was on hand to share the cider and help us get the hang of those long Sidra pours straight from the barrel.

But the event wasn't just cider. La Cuchara (https://www.lacucharabaltimore.com/) brought an array of pintxos, tray after tray of delectable basque-inspired bites. My favorite had to be the pimientos del piquillo rellenos de atĂșn (roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna), but the egg tortas, Pan con tomate and little chocolate cakes made for some stiff competition.

One of the most awesome parts of this year's Cider Con is the Heritage Cider Track along with tastings.This is a whole schedule of events focused on cider made from heritage and cider specific fruit. Other terms for it include fine cider and orchard cider. Where I live in the Finger Lakes, we make a lot of it, so I feel like this is highlighting a type of cider I know well and love to drink. These workshops address orcharding, cider production, marketing, sales, and the very ethos of what Heritage Cider means.

The first of these that I attended was the Champagne Method Cider panel with Cider Tasting. I was super excited about this one because so many of my favorite ciders are naturally sparkling and this talk and tasting got into the deep dark details of Pet Nat vs Method Charmat vs Method Ancestrale. This is why I come to CiderCon!

Eden Specialty Ciders: Unreleased Brut Nature
This cider has no label yet. It's made with 50% bittersweet cider apples and a second batch of cider. No dosage and no tirage. It spent seven months on the lees (residual yeast in the bottle). I found this cider extremely aromatic! I loved its spicy notes, full body, and long finish. When this gets its official release, I cannot wait to get some.

Eve's Cidery Darling Creek
This is an 80/20 blend, relying strongly on estate fruit, meaning all of the fruit was grown on the orchards belonging to Eve's Cidery as well as fermentation, bottling, and disgorgement. It smells wonderfully of homemade applesauce. The taste is dominated by searing acidity. It has a lot of tannic action. It is sweeter than many of Eve's Cidery releases but its other qualities keep that in pleasing balance

Redbyrd Orchard Cider Celeste Sur Lie 2015
This is a blend with bittersweet apples, heritage apples, and crabapples. It was aged on the lees for 8-12 months with a batonage treatment to stir the lees once a week during that time. Check out the 10% ABV. This has a bit more of a clean yeasty aroma. It was super gorgeously tart. And its round body is beautifully balanced. 

Snowdrift Cider Cidermaker's Reserve 2014
The sweetest and fullest body of anything we tasted had to be the Cidermaker's Reserve by Snowdrift. The dosage for this cider is cane sugar. It also features an apple spirit to boost the cider's body, which is definitely something hefty and substantial in this cider. I love the floral, berry, and raisin aromas that are so strong in this cider. I don't know how to articulate all the ways in which this one was remarkable and different, but it was and excitingly so.

That's all for Part 1! Stay tuned for the rest of my Cider Con Experience next week with  more sessions, more learning, and more cider!