Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cider Review: Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice and Shoal Hope Ciderworks Little Tart



This morning I walked down the hill to my office in autumn fog. I could see yellow foliage glowing through the grey mist, and it was cool and peaceful. I feel grateful for these calm moments and lovely sights, perhaps especially so when the wider world is full of bad news and discouragement. And in addition to the coming of fall color and cooler temperatures, the season of fall flavors is here! I’m reviewing two ciders that really embody the season, Pumpkin Spice by Portland Cider Company and a Cranberry cider from Shoal Hope. 

Portland Cider Company stakes it’s identity on being a hybrid of two cider cultures: the pacific northwest and England. Those are very distinct identities. The people behind the brand are Jeff and Lynda Parrish who are from these two regions, respectively. They started Portland Cider Company in 2012. While I cannot speak precisely to the melding of regions, I’ll be curious to see if any of that comes through in the ciders from Portland Cider Company that I try. 

Visit Portland Cider Co online: https://www.portlandcider.com

I have reviewed a few ciders from this company before.

The Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

The Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Today, I’m reviewing Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice. This was a review sample shared with me just in time for the autumnal craze for all things Pumpkin.

Here’s the company’s description of the Pumpkin Spice.
Take the flavors of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, and Ginger, blend them in just the right proportions, and you get our Pumpkin Spice cider. Full of all the spices of your favorite pumpkin pie, this cider is a delicious tribute to the flavors of autumn. A familiar Fall spice blend blended to pair perfectly with a classic American semi-sweet apple cider made with 100% Northwest apples. 5.5%ABV 

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, popcorn

The color reminds me of popcorn kernels not yet popped. It’s warm and richly hued. The clarity is brilliant and shows off lots of bubbles. 

Aromas: ginger, cinnamon, clove, ripe apples

This smells distinctly like Pumpkin Pie spices. The aromas foreground ginger and cinnamon, but I can also smell clove, nutmeg and ripe apple. Secondarily, I get notes of lemon and peach too. For fans of this profile, this cider will be seriously appealing. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is right on the line for be between perceiving as semi-dry or semi-sweet. The brand calls it a semi-sweet, so I’m happy to trust them on it.

Flavors and drinking experience: cinnamon, peach, nutmeg

Almost everything I noticed in the Pumpkin Spice aromas comes across in its flavors. I can taste cinnamon, peach, nutmeg, and ripe apples. The cider has a medium intensity of sparkle. I didn’t notice much in the way of tannins, but it offers plentiful high acid. The cinnamon notes give a textural experience somewhat like tannins.

I enjoyed this cider after dinner because I knew all of the complex flavor notes might be too much for many foods. Instead of a food pairing, this cider was complemented by David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977). It’s October, a perfect time to curl up for some scares.


The next cider I want to highlight for fall is by a relative newcomer to the cider world: Hope Shoals. This Massachusetts company was founded in 2015 in Provincetown with the first cider releases in early summer of 2017. I received a few samples from them this year, and I’m excited to try these new ciders. From what I can see on the web, this company focuses on their local identity.  This is my first review of anything By Shoal Hope Ciderworks.

Find out more about the company on the website: http://www.shoalhopeciderworks.com/

The cranberry cider is called Little Tart, which leads me to expect that it will taste at the very least a little tart.

The official description reads: “LITTLE TART is a blend of apple and cranberry juices fermented together and then back sweetened with cane sugar. The sugar enhances the sweetness of the apple which then gives way to a tart, tannin cranberry finish. 5.3% ABV”


Appearance: transparent, true ruby, no bubbles

This color is drop dead gorgeous. It is a true ruby shade with no visible bubbles. I’ll call it transparent but the color is so deep, it’s almost hard to say.

Aromas: Ripe apples, cranberry, autumn leaves

Wow, this smells so seasonal! The first note is of ripe apples, but I can also smell cranberres and something that reminds me of freshly fallen autumn leaves.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This is so tart it’s difficult to accurately note the sweetness/dryness of this cider. I’ll call it semi-dry, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess on its residual sugar level.

Flavors and drinking experience: off the charts tart, minerals, cranberry

This cider is not a little tart; it’s hugely tart! I’m not surprised that this cider tastes so much like cranberry juice; there’s a ton of cranberry here. The autumn leaves I smelled are present but less distinctly so in drinking this cider. I do get lots of mineral notes. 

While the cider tastes kind dry, I think I’m being fooled by how very tart it is. With every sip, I notice the fruity tartness again. The cider has an extravagently long finish of exceeding high acid. The cranberry brings both astringence and bitterness in addition to the tartness, making them function somewhat like apple tannins. It’s light bodied and zesty with only a medium to low level of sparkle. 

I enjoyed this cider with roasted broccoli, salmon, and butternut squash. It was a harvest feast of a sort I look forward to eating many times this season. 

Both of these ciders were more on the adventurous side of the cider spectrum. And though I love orchard-based heritage ciders, there’s also a lot of to be said for innovation, excitement, and seasonal variation. There’s room at my table for many different kinds of ciders, and these two really bring some fall spirit! 

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