Tuesday, February 13, 2018

CiderCon Part 2 including Heritage Cider Tasting with Foggy Ridge, Eve's Cidery, Castle Hill, and Dragon's Head Cider

Before I get into the rest of my CiderCon highlights, I do want to share a few facts I've learned about this year's event. Baltimore's convention hosted 1100 people from 12 countries and 41 states. Wow! That's fantastic attendance, and the number one thing that shocks people when they ask me about CiderCon. No one expects it to be this populated. I think folks must under-estimate the devotion cider inspires!

My Friday started with an amazing panel, “Heritage Cider: Keys to Success in this Next Growth Category.” Diane Flint of Foggy Ridge Cider (https://foggyridgecider.com/) led this talk with verve, humor, and a compelling argument. Flint used pictures of her home state of Virginia to start in on the connection of land to cider, but soon used what at first seemed like a little local color with pictures of church signs to make her largest point. One sign said “Repent,” and Flint took us on a little etymological journey about the word. The takeaway was that to repent means to think again.

Flint used this theme to discuss several facets of heritage cider: orchards, format, style, and sales. What I appreciate is that she didn't just bring her own perspective as a talented cidermaker and business owner, but also brought on folks affiliated with on and off premise sales as well as Autumn Stoscheck of Eve's Cidery. Stoscheck has been growing her We also tasted a few heritage ciders

Eve's Cidery: Autumn's Gold

Three significant cider apples adding to this blend include Ellis, Dabinette, and Yarlington Mill. This cider was generous with smoky and overripe apple aromatics. Autumn's gold is a champagne style cider that has undergone two fermentations, spent nine months on the lees, and was finished with hand disgorgement. Like many Finger Lakes Ciders, much of the mouth feel comes from the double impression of high acids and medium to high tannins. The lingering finish on this cider totally wows me.

Castle Hill's Levity

The heritage fruit in the Levity includes Yarlington Mill, Golden Hornet, Dabinette and Albemarle Pippin. This cider spents time underground fermenting in amphora. Whatever they did, the resulting cider had more sparkling champagne-esque bubbles than anything in the champagne-style cider tasting the day before. Mesmerizing! I found it floral balanced with grassy. My primary experience was the duelling excitement of really strong bubbles with lippy, grippy tannins. There are almost no ciders in the world that do this tense and exciting combination like the Levity does.

Dragon's Head Cider Traditional Cider

This is an estate bittersweet cider. I enjoyed how it is a little yeasty and wild in its aromas. The most like an English cider in style, I found the Traditional astringent, bitter, and leathery. It is full of big big flavors and substantial body. It did have some excellent bubble in the mouthfeel. It's earthy, funky, with medium high acidity and wowza levels of tannins. This cider was a lot less fruity than the others in the tasting.

Hearing from not only cider producers but also from folks selling heritage cider both on and off premise made this panel well-rounded and persuasive. It had to be a highlight of the conference for certain!

Friday afternoon centered around the events planning and management panel: “Let's Get this Cider Party Started” with Jenn Smith, Eric Foster and Mattie Beason. In addition to having that adorable name and greeting us with cans of wonderful cider, this panel covered a hot topic of the conference.

This was a fantastic panel that packed the room with folks passionately eager to learn how to run events with their cideries. It said to me that if there's one area I think next year's Cider Con could meaningfully expand upon its this! One panel gave the audience a lot of help, but we were hungry for even more. Our speakers brough a pleasing variety of event experience to the stage including events large and small, for individual cideries, groups, and focuses that range, including, education, food and drink pairings, music, fund raising, and just enlivening slow week nights at a taproom.

Panelists gave answers to moderator questions that started out with the basics but included lots of real life stories and even got into some of the tricky stuff. How does one estimate how many people will show up for an even the first, second, or third time it happens. Audience members shared questions and got thoughtful answers that really showed the usefully different perspectives represented. It really makes me want to run some fun cider events up in the Finger Lakes!

Cider Con ended with a “New Zealand Cidermakers Panel” that led directly into the “Grand Tasting and Commencement Toast”. Here our guest cider makers from New Zealand answered questions from Ciderologist Gabe Cook (http://www.theciderologist.com) and from the audience.
My favorite of these was Wild all the Way by Peckhams Cider(https://peckhams.co.nz/). This cider is a bit non-traditional in that a third of the juice is from Comice pears. All of the New Zealand ciders showed some real stylistic differences from other cider regions; this was great for me to learn as I went into Cider Con 2018 with virtuall no knowledge of a New Zealand cider culture. I didn't even know what I was missing.

The evening continued with generous sharing and good times. I spent it at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant with cider friends old and new eating coconut milk lobster bisque and vegetable tempura. Delightful!

What's next you might, ask. The Gathering of the Farm Cideries in Albany!

At this sold out event, 17 New York State Cideries will be sampling there wares under one roof! I'll be on the scene with some beverage industry friends to scope and sip and tell you all about it!