Days are blazing hot and sunny outside. My berry bushes have scads of ripe wild blackberries and even more thorns. At night, I can hear the rubber band croaks of frogs and the string section of insects. Not even a global pandemic can stop the season. I’m just grateful to have air conditioning and a few ciders designed to chill.
Let’s start today with Mountain West’s Cottonwood Dry Hopped Hard Cider.
A bit about Mountain West cider. Jennifer and Jeff Carleton started the company in Utah. The company’s cider maker is Joel Goodwillie.
I've reviewed one Mountain West cider before, the Ruby: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-colorado-cider-cos-block.html
You can visit Mountain West online here: https://mountainwestcider.com/
Here’s the official description of the Cottonwood Dry Hopped Cider.
From world-class skiing to remote hiking trails to pristine climbing pitches, it takes a lifetime to fully explore Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons. Infused with hops during the final stage of fermentation, our 6.9% alcohol by volume Cottonwood Dry Hopped Hard Cider offers a bold, complex flavor equally worthy of repeated exploration.
Appearance: transparent, corn, few bubbles
This cider has a color like ripe corn. It’s a yellow a bit more strong than Silver Queen but not quite as buttery as Golden Bantam. I’ll call it transparent rather than brilliant.
Aromas: mild soapy hops, Concord grapes, minerality
My co-taster was the first to notice the Concord grape notes, but once he mentioned them they were unmistakable. I noticed the soapy hops, minerality, and sulphites first. It does smell cooling, some note in the mix reminds me of aquatic plants and icy mint.
Sweetness/dryness: off dry
The Cottonwood tastes off dry. There’s almost no sweetness to it at all. I like this level for a hopped cider such that there’s just enough sweetness to make the overall experience not one of total austerity.
Flavors and drinking experience: astringent, citrusy, petillant
The Cottonwood tastes very citrusy! I get strong astringence at the start, leading to a luscious smooth texture. I’ll call this cider petillant, as it’s bubbles are not very strong. The hops meld with the cider nicely with piney, citrusy, and aquatic notes. I appreciate that there’s no sweatiness. Instead this cider tastes aquatic and icy. One of the most surprising characteristics is the creamy mouth coat. It was a fun one to eat with vegetarian hand pies!
Now for Big Hill Ciderworks’ Manchurian Cider!
Every year since it began, I have the pleasure of judging the PA cider competition. Through that, I’ve gotten to be a big fan of several independent Pennsylvania cideries that I would never have other wise discovered. Big Hill Ciderworks happens to be one of them. The small company is based in Adams County; it was started in 2002 by Ben Kishbaugh and Troy Lehman. The fruit and fermentation are all local.
I have one previous review of a cider by Big Hill Ciderworks, the Little Round Hop: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-big-hill-ciderworks.html
You can read about all of Big Hill Ciderworks beverages on the website: http://www.bighillcider.com/home
This is the official description for the Manchurian by Big Hill Ciderworks:
Manchurian Crabapples by themselves pack a very acidic punch, even with their high brix content. We’ve blended a bit of Winchester cider to round out the flavor and add some subtle tannins. Both are barrel aged for one year prior to blending for a smooth vanilla and oak characteristic. 8.2% ABV
Appearance: Butterscotch yellow, brilliant, few bubbles
This cider has so much color! I think I’d describe it as a butterscotch yellow. It pours brilliantly with few bubbles.
Aromas: Tart, dusty, fusel oils and tropical fruit
This was where some differences of opinion began to show. My cotaster and I both agreed that something about the aromas tipped us off to a very tart cider. I got some mineral or dusty notes, and tropical fruit. My co-taster got more notes that reminded them of Sauvignon Blanc or Fusel oils.
Sweetness/dryness: Off dry
This cider tastes very nearly bone dry to me. I’ll call it off dry, but between the subtle barrel characteristics and the crab apple profile, I could be wrong. I could be mistaking richness or fruitiness for just a hint of sweetness.
Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, concentrated fruit, leathery finish
The Manchurian cider is delicious and fascinating! I loved it. I appreciate how the acid is high, but the profile of tartness and hints of sourness are so different from the kind of high acidity I taste in a lot of Northeastern American ciders. The acid hits immediately, but then melts into a fruity mid-palate and a leathery finish.
I think it’s the heavy use of crab apples, but the apple notes taste concentrated somehow with intensity to acids, fruitiness, and tannins. There’s also a very real citrus presence in the mix. It is too sour for some, including my co taster. It’s got a distinctive profile, and one I liked very much.
I had this cider with peppers, tortellini, and homemade pesto. What a delightful pairing!