Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Cider Review: California Caboose Cider's Hold the Line Cider and Awestruck Cider's Viking Sahti

High winds and rain are racing across my region tonight, but it feels like weather is the only thing that’s moving. That’s okay; staying home is what we need to do right now. I’m dealing with my cooped up feelings with small home projects, gardening when conditions allow, lots of cooking and almost nightly movies. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it. I appreciate that cider goes wonderfully  well with the home-cooked meals and the movies. 
Let’s start this week’s reviews with my first ever review of anything by California Caboose Cider. The company is based out of Healdsburg, California. It’s a young cider, only launched in November of 2018. The focus is on using pacific northwest regional fruit and producing acid-forward lower tannin ciders. I appreciate their clarity of vision and openness in sharing their style.

I’ll be reviewing the Hold the Line cider which was sent to me at no cost for review. 

The company describes the Hold the Line cider as “a hard cider dedicated to the firefighters and first responders who fought tirelessly to save Sonoma County during the Kincade Fires in Fall of 2019.” It’s ABV is 6.3%

Visit the company on Facebook:

Appearance: Brilliant, pale straw, very few bubbles

This is a brilliant cider! It’s color can be described as pale straw, and I can see very few bubbles in the glass. 

Aromas: Malic acid, Jolly Ranchers, peanuts and salt

What an intriguing set of aromas. I was surprised to smell peanuts and salt when I poured the Hold the Line cider. Notes of green apple, Jolly Ranchers both of which indicate malic acid also showed up.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry!

This is certainly a dry cider! The Hold the Line is a much more acid driven experience than one relying on fruity sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, grainy, minerals, bitter

The Hold the Line Cider is very tart! I expected it might be based on it’s aromas. What I didn’t expect is that it's also mildly bitter with lots of mineral and citrus notes. This is a pointed and austere cider. It doubles down on these characteristics with lots of bubbles, low tannins, and no sweetness. Some drinkers might note that isn’t aiming for a more purist mode rather than a balanced one. You could even call this cider bracing.

I had my Hold the Line cider with BBQ cauliflower, seasoned white beans, and homemade cornbread. When I noticed a nutty or grainy finish on this cider, it complemented this meal. 

My other cider review this week is one I wanted to enjoy during one of short cold spells of Spring. I had a can of Awestruck Cider’s Viking Sahti. This cider is made with juniper and spruce; my associations with those botanicals have everything to do with staying cozy at home.

Awestruck cider comes to us from Sidney, New York. I first became aware of the company through the annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries in Albany. I’ve consistently enjoyed the ciders I’ve tried!

I want to share one quote from the Awestruck website that does convey the cidery’s general attitude, “We are fanatical about crafting transcendent, awe-inspiring hard cider. Each and every apple in our blends specifically loves you, and they’ve all come together to help improve your day. Our name is our mission, we aim to leave you AWESTRUCK.”

I have previously reviewed a few Awestruck ciders. 

 Hibiscus Ginger: This cider reached my top ten in 2015!

Dry Apple + Oak:

Hometown Homicider:

Visit the company online:

This cider’s official description says,
Inspired by ancient Finnish Sahti ale, we ask you to raise your drinking horn in honor of our Viking forebears. We ferment our apples in hot, bringing the slight banana note distinctive to traditional Sahti; we then lightly bitter it with whole juniper berries and a touch of spruce, yielding a drop fit for the Halls of Valhalla. Kippis! As they say in Finland. 6.8% ABV

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, bubbly

I was met with a shock! This cider pours with a foamy head that disappears. I’ll call the color warm straw. It creates a rustic impression by being hazy and bubbly.

Aromas: spruce, apple, citrus, volatile acidity

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect with the mention of banana notes in the cider’s official description, but I didn’t smell that. I got some volatile acidity (just a touch) but more spruce and apple. Other fruity notes bounced through the experience, including orange and lemon.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

I’ll call the Sahti semi-dry though I think there are cider fans who might consider it closer to dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tropical fruit, juniper

The Sahti brings very high acid to the party! It’s almost shocking. Tropical fruit and pineapple notes dominate the fruity parade. Apple and citrus support these tropical notes but do not compete with them. Some of the fruit and tart notes come from a certain amount of acetic acid, as far as I can tell. What balances those lithe and nimble elements out are some deep anchors of juniper and aquatic notes.

I wanted something simple for this cider, so I enjoyed it with homemade popcorn and a movie. Simple worked well in this case!