Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cider Review: Liberty Ciderworks Wickson Crab, Alpenfire's Glow Airlie Red, and Dragon's Head Heritage


We’ve crossed the Autumnal Equinox and (in the Northern Hemisphere) begun our descent through our harvests to the colder and darker portion of the year. Happily, we’re well into the local apple harvest, and I’ve been experimenting with apple recipes and desserts as well as cider.  

This week I want to cover the amazing ciders I got to enjoy as the Washington Fine Cider tasting last Friday evening. Tech issues gave me problems connecting and hearing folks, so I wasn’t able to connect with cider folks as much as I hoped. Nonetheless, I was thrilled about this cider lineup, and I understand that the session had plenty of good cider making and orcharding education. 

Thanks so much to Washington Cider Week and the folks who made it possible for attend virtually this year! Hopefully in a year very soon, I’ll make it out there, and we can enjoy these west coast orchards, ciders and dinners together in person. Here's hoping!

I started my tasting with Liberty Ciderworks’ Wickson Crab and a sharp Vermont cheddar.

For background info on Liberty Ciderworks, you can visit the cidery online or take a peek at my review of the Manchurian Crabapple SV cider.  

I only have one previous Liberty Ciderworks review. Check it out below.

Manchurian Crabapple SV Cider:

I recommend checking out Liberty Ciderworks on the web:

The official description for Liberty Ciderworks Wickson crab single varietal reads:


One of pomologist Albert Etter's finest creations, Wickson crabapples (introduced in 1944) were developed with west coast conditions in mind. True to form, this cider exhibits a bright, spicy character with green apple, nectarine, lemongrass and stone fruit notes. ABV 6.5% 

Aromas: overripe oranges, powdered sugar, dark berries, ripe apple, barrel 

The Wickson Crab smells rich, darkly barrel-esque (though from my understanding it isn’t barrel aged), with notes of apple seed, sweet cream and overripe oranges. Something in the aroma reminds me of powdered sugar. 

Sweetness/dryness: Off Dry

This is a lovely off dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, high tannins, medium sparkle, clean 

This cider tastes not sweet but citrusy, like blood orange. It certainly brings high acidity and medium to high tannins. I love that the Wickson tastes leathery but refreshing, which is a remarkable combo. This is one of my favorite apples, so I’m not surprised that a single varietal can taste this good! This cider offers a medium intensity of bubbles but I usually wish there was more. Liberty Ciderworks created a nice clean bright finish; I feel that’s extra neat given the cider’s dark nose. 

Next, I opened up my bottle of Alpenfire Glow Airlie Red. This needed to be paired with a very dark chocolate mousse. For background on this Washington cidery, I recommend my previous coverage of the company and Alpenfire’s website. 

My earlier Alpenfire reviews include the following.

You can visit Alpenfire to find out more from the cidery online:

The folks at Aplenfire offer lots of info about the Glow Airlie Red
Single Varietal Rosé Cider
Winner, Cidercraft Double Gold 2018
Winner, Dan Berger Int’l Wine Competition Double 2016
Winner, SIP Best of the Northwest Silver 2016
Winner, GLINTCAP Silver Medal 2012

Vintage | 2018 (released October 2019)

Package - Cases | 500ml - 55 cases, 750ml - 164 cases, draft - 180 gallons

ABV | 8.2%

Varietals | Airlie Redflesh (Hidden Rose®)

Process | 8 week cold fermentation, 9 months matured in stainless tanks.

Our award winning Alpenfire Glow is fermented from the Airlie Red, an organically grown apple from the south end of the Willamette Valley with red flesh is what we use to create this single varietal rosé cider. No filtration, adjuncts, colorings, or other fruits are added to this cider, just full strength fresh pressed red fleshed apple nectar.
Aromas: floral, tropical, perfumed, ripe apples

The Glow smells tropical, perfumed, and floral. The predominant note is ripe apples, but I also smell peaches, pineapples, and bananas.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider with no hint of anything artificial or non apple in its sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, low tannins, very sparkly, mild funk

Somehow the Glow tastes low in the mouth. I’m not entirely sure what characteristic I’m getting at when I say that, but it’s what I perceived. The cider brings a bit of Funk and loads of high acid that cling a with a pleasant burn. This doesn’t have the flavor profile of many rose ciders. The Glow is semi-dry with present but understated tannins. I love how much sparkle I get from this cider.  

The Glow has a lithe and zestly mouth feel. This is a fun one if you want to expand your expectations for Rose ciders!

I finished my tasting with Dragon’s Head Heritage cider.  

Dragon’s Head is a cidery based on Vachon Island off the coast of Washington State for more background information, I’ll point readers to my earlier reviews.

Here’s the website where you can learn more about Dragon's Head Cider:

Here’s how the folks at Dragon’s Head describe it. 

Our heritage cider is crafted from a blend of more than 20 traditional English and French cider apple varieties grown in our orchard on Vashon Island, WA. These time-honored apples create a richness of flavor and character to cider that can’t be achieved with ordinary culinary apples. ABV of 7.3%.

I am so excited at that description of Estate bittersweet apples.

 Aromas: sugar snap peas, salt, wine grapes, wild rice

This is a cider that smells like a sea breeze. The notes I get are all fresh air, salt, wine grapes, and minerals. There’s a springy vegetal element like sugar snap peas. The Heritage Cider smell farmy, with shadows of mushrooms, wild rice.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is unambiguously a dry cider, yet I’m glad it was saved for last.

Flavors and drinking experience: unusual profile, medium acid, high tannins, very funky 

What a wonderfully wild profile. This cider really does take those apples and make something very different than even the heritage ciders I’m accustomed to in my region. The Heritage has medium acidity but very high tannins. The apples certainly are bittersweets rather than bittersharps. I taste grape stem, there’s a bit of astringence and austere structure. The notes of wild rice and mushroom flavor that came through in the aroma continue to the flavor. I also get some cheese notes of extreme cheddar sharpness. The fruit comes across as the barest hint of a little dark sweetness. The cider is mature and very funky.