Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cider Review: Two Towns Ciderhouse Hollow Jacked and Blue Bee Cider's Hewe's Crab Plus Cider Week VA



I just ate my first chili of the fall! That is a major seasonal milestone in my world. In the evenings, I light candles and put on big fuzzy socks for coziness. I even went to the Farmer’s market on Saturday to get some decorative gourds for my porch. It’s easy to tease autumnal enthusiasm, but it’s more fun to just give in to it! That’s exactly what I did this week with my cider choices. I want to share my notes on Two Towns Ciderhouse Hollow Jack’d which is a roasted pumpkin cider, and I want to start whetting folks’ appetite for Virginia’s upcoming cider week with my review of Blue Bee Cider's Hewes Crab.

Two Towns Ciderhouse uses a few basic facts to declare the company’s identity. It calls itself Northwestern craft cider and highlights the following, “BOLDLY CRAFTED IN
OREGON,” “INDEPENDENTLY OWNED & OPERATED,” and “ESTABLISHED IN
2010.” And this tells us a lot. Outside of the nuggets of information shared, these short, pointed statements display a declarative confidence that’s only expanded when reading the rest of the companies values and priorities. Two Towns cider house cares about using local fruit and not adding concentrates or processed sugars to the ciders. The company was kind enough to share this cider with me for review. 

I’ve reviewed several ciders and a perry by  2 Towns Ciders over the years. Here’s the rundown.

Afton Field: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/06/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-afton.html

La Mûre: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/02/cider-review-albemarle-ciderworks.html

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-eden-ciders-siren-song-and.html

Cidre Bouche: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouses-cidre.html

Pearadise:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-2-towns-ciderhouses.html

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

Bright Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

Hop and Stalk: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-hop-and.html

You can visit 2 Towns Ciderhouse Website. That’s where you can find the most current information about the ciders and events: https://2townsciderhouse.com/


Here’s the official description for the Hollow Jack’d.
IMPERIAL PUMPKINExtra mischievous, Hollow Jack'D takes our fall classic of fresh-pressed apples, caramelized pumpkins and sweet potatoes that are finished with local honey and spices to a whole new level. 8.4% ABV

Appearance: bubbly, hazy, butterscotch candy

The color reminded us of butterscotch candies. Hollow Jack’d is hazy and bubbly in the glass. It looks like a juicy big cider. 

Aromas: Peach, pear, raspberry, minerals

I don’t smell pumpkin, but I get lots of appealing aromas from the Hollow Jack’d. The cider smells very much like peach, pear, and raspberry. I also get some zingy minerality in the aromas.

Dryness/sweetness: Sweet

This cider tastes decidedly sweet. It feels honeyed and thick in the mouth.

Flavors and drinking experiences: nectarine, apricol, sparkling, mulling spice

This sparkling sweet seasonal reminds me of nectar, with a honeyed jasmine character. The Hollow Jack’d brings notes of nectarine and apricot, raspberry and spice. I don’t taste much pumpkin but I do get hints of the caramelization and sweet potato that were used in the process. The cider has a pronounced mulling spice finish.

I enjoyed this with plenty of popcorn and my first ever viewing of Candyman! I highly recommend this combo.


Now for Blue Bee Cider Hewe’s Crab.

Blue Bee Cider was kind enough to share this cider with me for review. This company describes itself as Virginia's first urban cidery. The way the folks at Blue Bee talk about the cider making process emphasizes concepts like seasons, small batches, and the special characteristics of different apple varieties.  

I don’t have as many previous Blue Bee Cider reviews as I’d like just because I don’t often see the cider for sale. Here’s what I’ve managed.

Hopsap Shandy:
https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/cider-review-blue-bees-hopsap-shandy.html

Charred Ordinary (my #4 cider of2017): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blue-bee-cider-charred.html

Here’s how Blue Bee cider introduces the single-varietal Hewes Crab.
A rare breed, the HEWE’S CRAB apple makes a comeback from near-extinction in this distinct, fruit forward cider. Bright, floral, notes of cumin and honey.
RS 0.3%, ABV 8.5%.

Appearance: Active bubbles, brilliant medium straw

This cider has so many tiny super fast bubbles! I love to just watch the Hewe’s Crab go! The color is a pleasant medium straw.

Aromas: Green apple, honey, white flowers, minerality 

Something about the Hewe’s Crab cider’s aromas feels very pointed to me. I think it’s somehow the acidity coming through without it being at all volatile. It reminds me of minerals and green apples. I also smell white flowers and honey. Everything about this is consonant with other crabapple ciders I’ve tried before. 

Sweetness/dryness: off-dry to dry, but not bone dry

The Hewe’s Crab dances across the palate with lots of flavors and almost no sweetness. What’s there is fruity and more than balanced by everything else happening.

Flavors and drinking experience: tangerine, orange blossom, tropical fruit

The Hewe’s Crab reminds me of Orange blossoms and tangerine. This cider is off dry and pleasingly puckeringly acidic. It’s definitely filled with my favorite characteristics of crabapples. The cider brings just a bit of tropical sweetness, specifically pineapple and citrus.

Of course, I love that this cider overflows with the tiniest champagne-like bubbles. The fermentation is gloriously clean and the cider is headily aromatic. As we all enjoyed it with dutch herbed cheese and apples, it warmed up slightly and the aromas kept unfolding. The minerality of Hewe’s Crab aromas come through in taste. I get a little spice and fair amount of white pepper. 

This cider leaves a tannic residue on the lips. One of my co-tasters noticed a very wet mouthfeel, but I am not quite sure what to make of that. We all agreed that the cider tastes complex but unified And consistently interesting. This is an outstanding cider!

Coming up November 15th through 24th, Cider Week VA will be celebrating cider all over the beautiful state of Virginia. I talk a big game about New York ciders, but Virginia is another state that has amazing apple varieties and some of the most talented cider makers and orchardists active today. I loved this week’s Blue Bee cider, and the company is far from alone in making thoughtful delectable ciders.

Let me encourage you to check out the website which has event listings and introduces all of the cideries participating: https://ciderweekva.com/

I can see bonfires, pairing dinners, comedy shows, cider making workshops and more on the list of events.  These are some fun, creative events! This is the perfect time to spend some time doing fabulous cider things before the holiday rush eats your calendar for the next six weeks! 


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Cider Review: Kite and String's Rosé '17 and Awestuck Premium Hard Cider Dry Apple + Oak



Today, I want to share a fun and unusual set of cider notes. This past Thursday, as part of Finger Lakes Cider Week, I had a casual event at The Watershed (http://www.thewatershedithaca.com/) to take people through the basics of tasting cider. The bar had a number of New York State and Finger Lakes options, and it was an absolute pleasure to meet with new people, taste with old friends, and deepen some cider connections. Many thanks to everyone who came out! And much affection and appreciation to Ashley and Dave at the Watershed and Woody who helped put together and promote the event. 

This week’s reviews both come out of that event and the tasting notes are a collaboration of everyone who tried these two particular ciders. We used a cider flavor wheel and Cider Tasting Journals to help capture what we saw, smelled and tasted. If you don’t know these excellent tasting guides, I recommend checking them out online (https://www.33books.com/products/33-mugs-of-cider-golden-russet-special-edition). 

Thanks again, everyone! 

The first cider I’d like to share about today is Kite and String’s Rosé '17.


I've enjoyed quite a few Kite and String Ciders before. This is the house cider for Finger Lakes Cider House and winners of the first New York State Cider Competition (where I was a judge). If you check out old reviews, please don’t get confused if you see the cidery’s former name.

The Barrel Rye: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-good-life-ciders-barrel-rye.html

The Cazenovia: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-good-life-ciders-cazenovia.html

The King of Hector:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-kite-and-string-ciders.html

I've enjoyed the Hickok at a few special dinners including:

Thanksgiving 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

And my oft-cited Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:  
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com

Here’s house Kite and String describe the Rosé '17.
Semi Sweet, Method Charmat.
This delightful apple-grape wine blends high-acid cider apples with vinifera grapes. Strong aromatics of strawberry and lilac, combine with luscious berry notes on the palate, followed by a round creamy finish. 8.2%ABV
What’s fascinating is that all of Kite and String’s cider’s have a tech sheet with additional details as well. The apples included in this cider are Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, Liberty, and McIntosh. Here’s the cider maker’s note about this one. 
A Finger Lakes collaboration, our Rosé is a mix of sharp, high-acid, lateseason apples blended with 18% fresh Riesling juice grown by Hosmervineyards (Ovid, NY), and 10% Marechal Foch (French hybrid varietal)red grape wine produced at Swedish Hill Vineyards (Romulus, NY). Thesecondary fermentation takes place in a closed pressurized tank that isthen bottled at four volumes of carbonation pressure.

Appearance: brilliant, gentle coral, no visible bubbles

This is a very appealing shade of coral pink. It’s warm but gentle and reminds me of the blush on many apple skins. The cider is brilliant with no visible bubbles. 

Aromas: Raisins, limestone, peach

This cider smells wonderful when first poured, but it only improves as it warms up after a few moments. The aromas of peach, raisins, and limestone all intensify. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I think Kite and String is entirely correct to call this cider a semi-sweet. The flavors are definitely impacted by it’s sweetness. The cider’s acidity does not alter or disguise that, but the sweetness is a profoundly fruity and pleasant sweetness. Because of that, I’d not choose to cellar this cider, but rather drink it now. 

Flavors and drinking experience: earthy, cherry, tart, stone fruit. 

For everyone who tried the Rosé, it was a favorite. Dry and sweet drinkers alike could agree on it. There’s a reason this cider appears frequently on the Watershed’s menu of ciders by the glass. The acidity and fruitiness work together beautifully. The sweetness adds heft and body that many ciders don’t have to offer. The fruits that comes across most strongly on the palate are cherry and peach, but there are other notes of apple and tropical fruit as well. It’s finish is rolling and pleasant. I’ll go ahead and nominate this one for future family get togethers.


The other review I’d like to share from the night is: Awestuck Premium Hard Cider Dry Apple + Oak. This cidery is based in Sidney, New York. The company has been producing cider since 2014 (Happy 5 years!), and I see folks from Awestruck at the Gathering of the Farm Cideries each year in Albany. 

You can visit Awestruck Ciders online: https://www.awestruckciders.com/

Last year, I Tried the Hometown Homicider: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-reviews-woodchuck-ciders-bubbly.html

I reviewed the Hibiscus Ginger by Awestruck back in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-awestruck-premium-hard.html

Here’s how Awestruck introduces the Dry Apple + Oak.
A Traditional, Artisanal Cider
6.8% ABV
Our Dry Apple + Oak cider is our constant companion. A loyal friend and ally. It pairs exceedingly well with meals, with evening galas, and with laid-back afternoons. Made from a seasonal blend of 100% fresh-pressed New York Apples, we very lightly oak this cider for a hint of toastiness and astringency. The first sip is smooth and dry then subtle flavors build and blend, growing the enjoyment sip after sip.


Appearance: brilliant, apricot, saffron, few visible bubbles

What a warm hue of yellow-orange. This was a great cider to dissect in terms of color because we have certain associations with a deeper color for cider. It’s often associated either with cider specific apples or barrel aging. Since this cider mentions oak, that’s in line with our expectations.

Aromas: baking spice, woodiness, sarsaparilla, cooked apples

This cider smells more like baked and spiced apples than I expected. The smells also reminded several folks of root beer with a sarsaparilla note. I do smell some woodiness and tropical notes like pineapple as well. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is not a dry cider. This is a sweet cider. One person said of the sweetness that it tasted cooked like the sugar in a baked dish.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, herbal, mulled, sweet

The Dry Apple + Oak has lots of acidity to offer. That’s what most tasters noticed first, one person going so far as to say that the acidity washing over their tongue with each sip was the predominant experience drinking the cider. Another taster noticed not only acidity but that it reminded them of seasonal fall ciders which often use mulling spices. I agree that the cider’s brown sugar, clove, and cinnamon notes go beyond any associations with barrels and into the realm of baking spices. The Dry Apple + Oak also brings a lot of body to the glass. It’s a rich, ripe, heavy cider. The mouthfeel is far more like cream than like water. 

My favorite thing about this cider was it’s finish. It wasn’t a long finish, but it reminded my of oatmeal with a clean, warm, graininess that’s only slightly sweet. 

All in all, it was a great night to learn more about cider and to enjoy tasting together. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Celeste Sur Lie 2015 and Ciders of Spain Wild fermented Pretty Dry Perry



I write from a cool gray evening in my living room, even though I should be out looking to see what FLX Cider Week has on offer. There’s fun to be had, but writing calls. I don’t intend to spend every evening this way though. We are still in the early days Finger Lakes Cider Week, so please check out what events are yet to come here:

https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/events/

Obviously, there’s fantastic variety, but I will say with moderate bias, come to The Watershed in downtown Ithaca this Thursday.  The event is Basics of Cider Tasting with Meredith Collins (that’s me). It’s totally free and requires no reservations or tickets!

Check out all of the details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/704691016703741/

Redbyrd Orchard Cider is based in Trumansburg, New York on a small farm run by Eric Shatt and Deva Mass.

Redbyrd Orchard Cider has been part of the blog since I moved to the Finger Lakes in 2013. My previous reviews of Redbyrd Orchard Ciders include:

The Andromeda Crab: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

Their presence at an all FLX pairing dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

The North Star: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

The Starblossom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html

The Dry Harvest Cider 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html

The Wild Pippin (my #1 cider of 2014, the Wild Pippin): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

You can also visit Redbyrd Orchard Cider online, here: https://redbyrdorchardcider.com/

I want to keep the Finger Lakes Cider Week excitement going by starting with Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Celeste Sur Lie 2015.

Here’s the official description, “An elegant cider for celebration, made in the traditional style and disgorged after aging on bottle lees for over 24 months, giving you a beautiful helix of endless soft bubbles in your glass and a creamy buttery mouthfeel. 0.0% residual sugar, 10.5% alcohol/volume. Release date- May 2018 ongoing (disgorged in groups of 10 cases),  44 cases produced” 


Appearance: medium straw, brilliant, a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass

When poured, it’s totally obvious that this cider underwent a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The fizz is active, but the bubbles are tremendously fine and small. I’ll call the color medium straw and the clarity brilliant. 

Aromas: bready, buttery, lots of aroma

This smells so much like toasted bread crumbs! I also get clean fermented apple notes and some champagne-like minerality. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Dry!

This is a bracingly dry cider. The Celeste Sur Lie maintains lots of excitement and fruitiness even so.

Flavors and drinking experience: yeasty, high acid, lingering finish

This cider is so filled to the brim with zesty acid! I love how bright the Celeste Sur Lie tastes. I get fruit notes like overripe apples, seville orange, and pineapple. I’ll think of the acidity as bracing and very true to the regional style. It gets a ton of flavor and structure from both of its fermentations because it’s clean but yeasty. The finish is luxurious and lengthy. 

I’ve tasted this cider a few times. I had it at Cider Con as part of the Heritage cider track, and I’ve tasted it at my own table and others around town. My favorite pairing with this cider has to be a very local caprese salad. The cutting acidity works beautifully with umami rich seasonal tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil. Yummy beyond belief.

Next up I’ll tackle Ciders of Spain’s Wild Fermented Pretty Dry Perry.



This is my first perry by Ciders of Spain, but not the first imported by them. They are the company that brought me my first spanish perry.

Viuda De Angelon Pera: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-4-argus-viuda-de.html

Visit the website to learn more about Ciders of Spain: http://cidersofspain.com/

Here’s what Ciders of Spain says about the Pretty Dry Perry:
PRODUCER: VIUDA DE ANGELON, Nava, Astúrias
CIDER MAKER: Francisco Ordoñez
alc./vol. 5.5%, 12 oz. 
Viuda de Angelón is the first Spanish producer to make traditional Asturian home-style perry widely available. Cider Maker Fran Ordoñez finishes his wild yeast (spontaneously fermented by native ambient yeasts) pear juice with a second fermentation for a natural sparkle and balances pear tannins with the sweetness of modest residual sugar and naturally occurring sorbitol. His perry starts sweet and finishes nicely acidic.
So this is actually made by the same producer that made my first ever spanish perry from a few years ago! 



Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, flaxen yellow

This is a lovely perry with a nice ripened flax yellow color, just a hint of haze, and no visible bubbles. Lots and lots of perries are nearly colorless, so please consider this tone intense by perry standards.

Aromas: not much aroma, tart, peaches, fresh apples

The Pretty Dry Perry smells mildly. It’s aromas aren’t strong, but there’s still a gentle drift of volatile acidity, not a ton though. It also smells like fresh apples and peaches. These aromas seem mostly from fermentation.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-sweet

I would not call this pretty dry. This is a semi-sweet perry.  I know that sorbitol is a type of sugar that does not ferment out, thus even a fully fermented perry could taste a little sweet. This isn’t that though. 

Flavors and drinking experience: pears, apples, petillant, mild phenols 

Though this cider smells extremely tart and  just a bit bleachy, it comes across entirely differently on the palate. I can detect what I smelled as peaches and tart stone fruit, but it tastes more like fresh pear and apple sweetness. I would not have called it perry if I'd not known it was made from pears rather than apples.  

The taste just keeps surprising me with how much sweeter and less acidic it is than I’d expected based on its aromas. The level of sparkle is petillant, but only gently so. It would be safe to call this a nearly-still semi-sweet perry. This is really quite a surprise from the aroma (which is more like a spanish cider).  I get some phenolic olive brine aftertaste. The perry is a little tannic and leathery.  I enjoy the orange, apple, and pear flavors. This perry is back sweetened with unfermented pear juice, and that element comes across the most clearly.