Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Cider Review: Embark Ciderworks' Apple Pie Cider and Woodchuck Cider's Kinda Cloudy

We’re making our way through January, with it’s long cold nights. I’ve been having a lot of exciting dry ciders, but I wanted to switch it up this week with two semi-sweet treats. I pair these differently, often with snacks rather than with full meals. You can absolutely make fabulous meal pairings with sweeter ciders, but I had each of these with little treats like after dinner cheese or spiced popcorn. How do you like your sweeter ciders?

Let’s start today’s review with Embark Craft Ciderwork’s Apple Pie Cider.

Embark Craft Ciderworks is based out of a small community outside of Rochester, New York. The cidery grew out of a family orchard that’s been operational since 1909. For more background, I encourage you to read backwards in my reviews. 

I’ve reviewed a few ciders by Embark before. Check out these earlier features of this neighboring cidery. 

The Northerner:

Golden Russet Reserve:

Crab Series #1:

The American Hopped:

Visit Embark online and learn more about the ciders, the orchard, and the tasting room:

Here’s how the folks at Embark describe this cider, "As American As Apple Pie" is what we are replicating with this cider. We are using a blend of American Heirloom apples and apple pie spices to create a semi-sweet cider using the best apples of the fall harvest. Cheers to Americana!” 5.2% ABV. 

Appearance: rich rose gold, brilliant, bubbly

This is such a warm color it reminds me more of a deeper rose gold than the tones of most ciders. It’s almost apricot in color. The clarity is brilliant, showing off lots of bubbles in the glass.  

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apples, oats, vanilla

Wow! Embark really nailed the whole apple pie experience with this cider’s aromas. I can smell a strong cinnamon presence along with cooked apples, oats, and vanilla. They even captured the a la mode! I’m impressed.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Exactly as described, this cider is semi-sweet. 

Flavors and drinking experience: spices, bubbly, honeyed finish

While it smells like apple pie a la mode, the Apple Pie Cider tastes more like a crisp! I get tons of mace, allspice, and clove notes in addition to the cinnamon. The cider just feels so full and texturally exciting. I love a rich creamy cider with plenty of bubbles and acid to keep things from veering too heavy. 

The Apple Pie Cider also brings some luscious honey notes on the finish.

Now for Woodchuck Cider’s 802 Collection Kinda Cloudy.

This cider sample was shared with me for review, but I’m sad to say that I made the notes wait several months before posting them. Apologies for the delay!

If you know cider at all, you know Woodchuck. The company has been around since the 1990s in Vermont. The ciders are varied, but they often fall on the sweeter cider. I’ve reviewed tons of Woodchuck ciders, so I’ll just list a few of the more recent and most interesting ones. Check out older posts for more background on the company that has been with this blog since the beginning. 

The Odd Crush collaboration with Farnum Hill:


Bubbly Rose:

Pear Ginger:

Smoked Apple:

June and Juice: er-review-woodchucks-june-and-juice.html

Local Nectar:

In August 2016, I visited Woodchuck as part of my cider tour of Vermont:

Here’s a link to the Woodchuck site which has even more info on ciders, events, and more:

Read what Woodchuck says to introduce it. “A traditional cider made with only fresh pressed Vermont juice from our orchard partners. Give this unfiltered semi-sweet cider a slight shake and enjoy wherever friends gather!”5.1% ABV.

Appearance: cloudy, dark sweet cider color, hard to see bubbles in the cloudiness

This cider looks like soft cider in a gallon like you see at a farm stand. The color is a warm earthy brown with hints of orange and gold. It’s tough to see bubbles in a cider this cloudy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be sparkling.

Aromas: fresh soft juice, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, bready

The Kinda Cloudy is just brimming over with tasty smells. It reminds me of half fermented sweet cider tastes straight from the tank. There are notes of cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, and plenty of yeast character. That part comes across as a little bready and zesty perhaps like a lemon glaze.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a sweet to semi-sweet cider, exactly as promised! The sweetness that’s here tastes entirely natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: half fermented cider, bright, sweet, balanced

I am in awe. Somehow Woodchuck has stabilized a moment that I thought was purely ephemeral and fleeting. They have captured the sweetness, cloudiness, and body of half- fermented cider! I have no idea how they halted the fermentation at this point to keep it so naturally sweet and stable. I simply can’t get over it. 

The cider tastes bready, bubbly but with bigger bubbles. It’s super friendly and easy drinking. While a sweet cloudy cider is not for everyone, it’s an absolute winner at what it is aiming for. I love the full body and medium high acid. I has no tannins, but it doesn’t really need them for this experience. This cider is not watery or syrupy; it’s perfectly balanced and super apple-y.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cider Review: Scrumpy Ewe's Golden Crab and Forward Cider's Penpal

I’m so excited to introduce two cideries to the blog that I’ve not reviewed before. Of course, I love reviewing new ciders by my standby favorite cider makers, but there’s something differently exciting about trying a brand new voice in the cider world. It’s like picking out a book in the bookstore or library by an author you’ve not yet read. The expanse of what I don’t know is vast as I pour that first glass. And I was surprised to find these ciders have something else in common, you’ll have to read carefully to find out what. 

The first new brand I’m trying tonight is Scrumpy Ewe. I’ve admired the sheep’s head logo online for many months; it’s a striking graphic that feels both immediate and yet hearkens back to artistic styles of previous centuries. Scrumpy Ewe is a cidery in rural New York state in the Catskill mountains. Here’s how the company describes itself online.

"Scrumpy Ewe Cider is an independently-run, New York State Farm Cidery that ferments and grows a variety of European, heirloom and wild seedling apples in the fertile Schoharie Valley. We make hand-crafted, artisanal, dry ciders."

I highly recommend visiting the website. You can learn about the orchard, the cider making processes, and see a plethora of bucolic farm pictures with sheep, trees, cider, and apples. 

Here’s how the label introduces this cider.

“Golden Crab is a slow-fermented cider that showcases two of our favorite apples[:] the Wickson Crab and the Golden Russet Bright, bold and acidic, this complex cider pairs well with spicy curries, braised pork, and sharp cheeses” ABV 7.7%

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, no visible bubbles

The popularity of hazy ciders must be growing! I'm seeing more and more of them. This one pairs its haze with a warm straw color and no visible bubbles.  

Aromas: ripe apples, barely sweetened buttercream frosting, and pears 

The Golden Crab Smells inviting clean and fresh. The specific notes that stand out most immediately are ripe apples, cold juicy pears, and buttercream frosting. That last one might raise a brow for some cider fans, but I stand by it. I don’t mean general sugary sweet bakery smells, but the dairy richness of just barely sweetened real-deal buttercream. 

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

I think many drinkers would call the Golden Crab completely dry, but I feel like it brings just the tiniest sliver of sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, fruity, high acid 

The Golden Crab is a still high acid cider that drinks in some ways like a wine. It has a beautiful balance of fermented and fresh flavors: yeast and apples. The still texture highlights how high and arching cider’s acidity can be without become pointed or punishing. The fruit notes are pomme fruits and tropical fruits. I get wafts of overripe apple, pineapple, cherry, and quince. The whole effect feels golden and ringing. The cider just reverberates with clear and appealing acidity. Perhaps my upstate New York is showing here, but I appreciate taut tartness. 

The cider is intense and welcoming. I enjoyed it tremendously. I served it to friends with a dinner of cauliflower Parmesan and pesto carrots. I was glad to double down on acidity, but that might not be for everyone. Now that I’ve enjoyed this cider, I think I’d pair it with a hearty vegetable soup, cheddar, and farmhouse bread next time. 

Next up, it’s a cider I received in a trade that has been tantalizing me from my fridge for too many weeks now! I’m super excited to taste Forward Cider’s Penpal!

Please note the tiny can! It's adorable!

I don’t know much about Forward Cider, but the company is based in Myra, Wisconsin. Instead of a website, they maintain a Facebook page. There’s a short intro that gives a sense of the cidery’s identity. “Dry Cider. Made in a Barn. Myra, Wis.” Short and boldly declarative, I like it!

You can see updates to Facebook here:

The Penpal cider is described as dry and barrel aged on the can, so I thought it might be a nice winter sipper. 

Appearance: hazy, deep copper orange, no visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider. The can is cute, but why hide this color? It’s a deep copper orange with no visible bubbles. It has an even haze that makes it reminiscent of soft cider from a farm stand.

Aromas: overripe apples, peaches, volatile acidity

I got all sorts of seasonal imagery when I inhaled this cider. The Penpal smells soft like sweated overripe apples and peaches. It’s very fruity with hints of VA.  I also get some citrus and syrup notes. Its fragrance is shimmering with a little sweet and a little sour. 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

This cider is labelled as having o grams of sugar, but it’s fruity enough to taste just off dry. For many drinkers this would taste dry. I’d not feel confident in guessing its residual sugar down to the decimal points, but I’m not sure it’s 0.00.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, sour, peachy, overripe apples

Many of the notes I gathered when sniffing this cider came back around when I tasted it. It does taste drier than it smells though. I was surprised to find that this cider is still! I don’t get access to many canned ciders that are entirely still. 

I tastes some tart or sour notes of several varieties—both bright apple and dark citrus and stone fruit. It definitely offers up a peachy stone fruit finish.  This cider is also rich with minerality—more water and metal than stone. Penpal’s acidity spikes early and then recedes. 

This cider’s pineapple-heavy finish is the best part by my measure. I had some of this cider in a glass and some in the cute tiny can. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it more from the can, which is curious. This cider’s gentle element of bitterness seems tied to some of its creamier notes.  First sour, then bitter, then just barely sweet. When thinking about the whole experience I’d say that the cider has a somewhat European sensibility, which on inspection makes sense—the can says "Apples from France, Handmade in Chicago." Now I’m curious about how that came to be!

I enjoyed this cider as a little evening treat after dinner and after a winter workout. It was complex enough to stand on its own easily!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cider Review: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Lost Orchard and Ploughman Cider's Dornick

Cider is a global community. I love to keep things focused on cider in a fun and personal way here, but I was urged by a local cidermaker to bring up a thorny and significant issue this week. Thank you, Simon, for encouraging me to communicate about something that could affect all of us in the global cider community. It’s the upcoming potential wine tariff that could affect importers (many of whom import cider as well as wine), distributors, bottle shops, restaurants, and cider drinkers. 

Here are a couple of links,so readers can educate themselves about the threatened 100% tariff increase.

Thanks for your patience! On to the cider reviews!

Tilted Shed Ciderwork's Lost Orchard

I have only two previous reviews of anything by Tilted Shed. Now that I’ve joined the cider club, I will have a lot more Tilted Shed to taste and review! Here’s what I’ve tried in years past. 

Barred Rock Barrel Aged Cider:

January Barbecue Smoked Cider:

You can learn more about the company in my previous reviews or check out Tilted Shed online:

Here’s how Titled Shed officially introduces this cider:
In 1987, a couple planted an apple orchard along the Russian River with the dream of making traditional cider. But with the rise of wine, the timing was wrong, so the couple abandoned the orchard and moved away. In 2011, we found our way to this lost orchard, the Kingston Black, Nehou, Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, Porter’s Perfection, Yarlington Mill, wild apples, quince, and mystery pears enveloped in poison oak and blackberry brambles, wild boar feasting on the drops. Since then, we have worked to revive this feral idyll while harvesting and fermenting its fruit. This cider expresses a sense of place with notes of savory herbs and orchard floor, and an earthy depth synonymous with Sonoma County. This is our 8th “vintage” of Lost Orchard. Unfined, unfiltered, unpasteurized, minimal sulfites. 8% ABVAlcohol 8.00%

Appearance: Deep butterscotch color, brilliant, some visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider and it looks so different than most American ciders with its deep, rich color. I love seeing that heavy butterscotch saturation in a cider. Its brilliant with some visible bubbles as well.

Aromas: Leather, peaches, wet leaves, pepper

This cider  smells very much like some English ciders I’ve enjoyed. The Lost Orchard spills over with aroma notes like leather, peach, wet leaves, and black pepper. It makes me think of wet and autumnal scenes that just beg for a fireplace and a Chesterfield sofa.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

Though the label doesn’t focus on this, or even mention it explicitly, the Lost Orchard is a dry cider. This cider isn’t just dry though; there’s a lot more going on. 

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, high acid, wild, sour

The Lost Orchard tastes highly tannic which works in conjunction with the cider’s dryness to create a relatively austere and structured drink. This cider powers much of its flavor through blisteringly high acidity. I love what strong salivary reaction just sniffing this cider creates!

In terms of flavors, the Lost Orchard is wild. It tastes both sour and astringent. It’s fruity but also has notes of wine, tea, and acetic acid. The wildness adds zest and the bubbles keep the whole experience light and quick. It was a perfect pairing for veggie heavy pesto pizza!

Ploughman Cider’s Dornick

I was able to pick up a few ciders on my way home from Harrisburg at the PA Farm Show competition, and I was thrilled to see some Ploughman Ciders. This is only my second review of the brand.

Pinot N’arlet:

Ploughman Cider comes from Adams County in Pennsylvania. The cidery is affiliated with Three Springs Fruit Farm. I love how the website describes the Ploughman approach to making cider. 

Here at Ploughman, we embrace the "frontier" mentality – an eagerness to try new things, but always with authenticity to quality. We are not purists, but we will never cut corners and never use engineered essences, flavors, or artificial nonsense. Our eagerness to experiment with new things is almost completely farm based – we use whatever is exceptional and abundant at Three Springs Fruit Farm on any given year.

Visit the Ploughman Cider website to read about all the ciders:

Here’s the official description of the Dornick.

AMERICAN DRY CIDERWe're proud of Adams County, PA, where we live and make our ciders. In each bottle we share some of its terroir with you. The term Dornick evokes a stony, pebbly quality – like the limestone and fractured white quartz under the apple trees of our home orchards. The stones emerge under the trees each spring when the snow melts. This cider, born of bold, robust apples, offers aromas of strawberry, butterscotch, and autumn leaves. We let the cider emerge in its own time from the land when it is ready. Full and satisfying, and unique every year.
8.5% ALC./VOL. 
(note, the bottle I purchased lists a different and lower ABV of 7.3%.)

Appearance: hazy, moon glow, bubbly

This cider is so very active to watch. I can see many miniscule bubbles just tripping upwards. The cider has a softly hazy glow which adds to its cool moonlight tone. 

Aromas: funky, overripe apples, acetate, twigs, and leather

Whoa. I got two fabulous ciders with leather and overripe apple aromas in one week. I’m treating myself too well! The Dornick brings all kinds of tempting scents to the glass. This cider smells pleasingly funky, twiggy, and tart.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Exactly as promised, this is a dry cider! I love it when that happens.

Flavors and drinking experience: creamy, high acid, woody, funky

The Dornick certainly has a lot going on. This dry cider tastes creamy, yet offers high acidity. I think the higher than average ABV is allowing a full mouthfeel in addition to hopping zingy tartness. The cider tastes woody, buttery, and smoky. I could imagine pairing the Dornick with smoked salmon, a high intensity cheese tray, or a hearty winter stew. 

I appreciate this cider’s grainy funky finish. The Dornick is a fun trip from start to finish. I appreciate it’s body and its wildness very much!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Cider Review: A Cider Flight at Pivot Brewing

Happy new decade everybody! I raised my glass on New Year’s Eve with friends, but I also toasted all of my cider buddies all over the world. I hope you wrapped 2019 up right, but that 2020 will be an even brighter year for all of us! 

I thought I’d start the year off with a cider flight that I got to enjoy while visiting my folks in Kentucky. There aren’t a ton of local ciders in Kentucky. My dad made a point to take me to Pivot Brewing in Lexington where I could try a whole flight! He didn’ mind too much himself since he’s fond of ciders, especially places that are dog friendly like Pivot.

The cider company describes itself as working toward the goal of solving our shared environmental challenges, prioritizing creativity, fostering community, and making the small changes of direction that can lead to big changes in results down the line. The company does their own apple pressing on site, and always has a full slate of their own ciders and Kentucky beers on tap.  

You can learn about all of the ciders here on the website: 

Here’s the rundown of what we tasted! When I can, I’ll include the official description in quotes.

Vintage Apple
“Crisp apple 6.0% ABV”
This started off my tasting with the smell of rock candy dust and malic acid. It’s a semi-dry cider with high acid, no tannins, a clean fermentation, and small bubbles. It would be very sessionable. 

“Dry. Vinous. 7.1% ABV”
The Swanson cider has an unusual frosty white color! I wasn’t sure what to make of that.  Even from the aroma, I could tell that this cider would have high acid. I thought this dry cider tasted a bit barrel aged, even though the description doesn’t mention that. It’s more astringent than the Vintage. I like that this one is tart and citrusy with notes of lemon.. 

“Cranberry 5.6% ABV”
The Hoopla offers aromas that remind me very specifically of drinking cranberry juice during my childhood. I think I’m getting notes of honey as well. This cider is semi-sweet. It doesn’t surprise me that this tastes like cider with cranberry juice. The two flavors sit together, but they do not meld. I enjoy the cranberry tannins. As I sip on this longer, a cherry finish and lingering sweetness become more pronounced. 

Kentucky mule,
“Boubon barrel, ginger, lime 8% ABV”

This is obviously a take on the Moscow Mule, but it reminds me of a dark and stormy as well. The cider smells pleasantly of ginger, but the taste comes across as more lime and less ginger. This one is less bubbly than the others. The cider is semi-dry, and full bodied but it doesn’t taste  too boozy. I fear that 8% ABV could creep up on one quickly. I get a cream soda aftertaste. What’s best about this one is that the high kick of the ginger elides elegantly into the low boot of the barrel. I found the Kentucky Mule really well done. 

Barrel-Aged Fincastle
“Bourbon Caramel  8.6% ABV”
The Barrel-Aged Fincastl has a massive aroma that’s all butterscotch, biscuits, and brown sugar. The smell also reminded us of sugared nuts. This cider is sweet and very full-bodied. I got the caramel that the description let me know to anticipate. This one had medium high acid. It was sweetly boozy and way too easy to drink! This was definitely my dad’s favorite. 

This place is well worth a stop if you are in Lexington! Kentucky's cider scene is growing and getting stronger every year!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My 10 Favourite Ciders of 2019!

We’ve almost made it through 2019. That means I get to look back at my ciders before beginning another fresh and new year. 2019 was a heart breaker, but also I experienced many moments of joy. I hope you did too. I took part in some fantastic cider experiences, and I hope you did too. I reviewed more than 100 ciders this year, so I had the largest field yet of contenders for my favorite. It was tremendously difficult for me to narrow down to just ten favorites, but each of the ciders below is a gem. 

Here are all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!






And my first ever cider countdown from 2013:

And I'll quote my own rules again. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 201[9]. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

With no further blathering, let me show you what ciders I loved most this year! Please share your favorites with me in the comments!

10. Woodchuck/Farnum Hill’s Odd Crush

As soon as I heard about this collaboration between New Hampshire legend Farnum Hill with Vermont’s Woodchuck, I was eager to try it. Both of these companies have been making ciders since the 1990s, and their experience gets to shine in this cider. If you prefer things drier than most Woodchuck and sweeter than most Farnum Hill, this might be the perfect treat you’ve been waiting for. Even if you normally shun canned ciders, I urge you to give this aromatic, well-balanced, delicious canned cider a try.

9. Potter’s Craft Cider Pippin Cuvee

I feel so luck to have been included for the promotion of Cider Week Virginia this year. I got to try some excellent ciders that I otherwise would have had access to. The cider smells like a bouquet of fresh garden greener and ripe apples. I loved it’s bubbly enthusiasm, spiky acidity, and gentle wildness. Congratulations to Potter’s on their new tasting room as well!

8. Aeppeltreow Scarlett Rosey Cider

Whether or not you want to call this cider a rosé, this pink semi-sweet cider is delicious. What I love about it comes primarily from crab apples. The acidity is lively and a perfect match for it’s fruity sweetness, plus there’s enough tannin there to enhance the cider’s structure substantially. This cider was completely emblematic of summer sipping while watching the sun cast long evening shadows across my yard. It is lovely.

7. Eden Specialty Cider’s  Ezekiel

I knew from the moment I tasted the Ezekiel last January, that it would be a front runner for my year end favorites list. This dry Kingston Black Cider has everything. I chose to drink in January for it’s dryness plus body. Sometimes, I give cider makers a hard time for trying so often to create a truly delicious and balanced single-varietal cider. It often holds them back because so few apple varieties are ready to appear unblended, but the Kingston Black can do it. And the Ezekiel does it’s beautiful fruit full justice. I love the intensity of flavor in this cider!

6. Treasury Cider Homestead Semi-Dry Orchard Cider

I enjoyed Homestead Cider Semi-Dry at a birthday party. I taste it as a mellow, firm drink; it doesn’t taste austere or pointed, yet it’s still very driven by acid. I appreciate the cider’s balance and plethora of bubbles. But my favorite part has to be the pear notes on the finish. I do recommend this one for fans of dry ciders, as I think most folks would find it plenty dry.

5. Uncle John’s Cider’s Baldwin

The enticing aromas of this cider let me know I was going to enjoy it: ripe apples, rock candy, salt, leather and mild phenolics. The Baldwin was fruity with notes that remind me of pineapple, melon, tropical notes, and lush green leaves. It still managed to be dry. I really enjoy this complex, super tart cider.

4. Eve’s Cidery Kingston Black 2017

Another single-varietal made the list. I can’t be surprised because the Kingston Black is a great apple, and Eve’s Cidery cares about bringing the best qualities out of each batch of juice fermented. I love the body, structure, and acidity in this dry cider. The Finger Lakes is home to many talented cider makers, and we are lucky to count the crew at Eve's Cidery among them.

3. Big Fish Cider Co’s Allegheny Gold

I don’t often get the chance to try anything from Big Fish Cider Co, but everything I’ve tried has been delightful. The aromas on this cider are simply inviting; I can smell ripe apples, oats, carrots, golden raisins and caramel. It also really brought lively bubbles, making this cider a party. It was a mature and tasteful party, but a party nonetheless. I loved it!

2. Blue Bee Harrison

The Harrison cider by Blue Bee tastes tannic, acidic and fruity. It’s astringent in a way that reminded me of all manner of old and beautiful things like  maps, paper, antiques, sunlight, and dust. The fruit notes included lychee, lime, and ripe apple. The acidity was overwhelming brightness. It was magical. The Harrison created an overall image both golden and overripe.

1. Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented

This off-dry cider expanded my expectations for wild ferments as an entire category. Often I find them interesting but not the most hedonistically enjoyable. Dragons Head changed my mind by creating a wild-ferment cider that had appealing aromas like sugar dusted lemon slices and ripe apples. It tasted amazing with notes of citrus and fantastic balance. I was completely bowled over. 

I paired this cider with a fun vacation trip to Seattle, and someday I’d like to pair more Dragons Head with a trip to their orchard on Vashon Island!

And with that, I wish everyone a relaxing and happy end of 2019! 
Thank you so much to all of my cider friends new and old. Thanks very much to folks who invited me to great cider events, kind people who judged cider with me, tireless volunteers I worked with on state and national cider committees, and members of the friendly and generous online communities that make the cider community fun. I appreciate all of you! And I am so grateful for everyone growing apples, making cider, and promoting this fine beverage. May 2020 be filled with good fruit for all of us! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Cider Review: Mission Trail's Champagne Style Hard Cider and Kite and String's Green Man #1

Good morning, cider fans! This is the last post before the Winter Solstice! This means that very very soon, the days will stop getting shorter and soon start longer again. We may not be able to feel the difference at first, but we’ll be headed in my favorite direction before long. I will raise a glass in the coziness of winter for the eventual return of the sun!

I shared Mission Trail’s Champagne Style Hard Cider with the Tall One’s family when we got together for good meal recently.

Mission Trail is a small cidery out of Bradley, California (that’s Monterey County). I’ve only reviewed the Perry previously. The neat thing about this company is the range of fruit beverages they produce including port, cider, perry, and jerkum (an alcoholic beverage made from only stone fruit like plums). 


You can learn more about all of the beverages and the farm online:

Here’s the official description for the Dry Champagne Style Cider.

“A delicious dry, fruity sparkling cider, made exclusively from 29 apple heirloom varietals. A secondary fermentation create a great cider and champagne alternative. 9% ABV”

Elsewhere on the label, the cider making process is described as Charmat method. I’ll share a link because other folks can explain this elsewhere for those who which to geek out.

Appearance: brilliant, honey, bubbly

As one would expect, this cider is bubbly! It’s also brilliant with glorious shine. The color reminds me of mild clover honey.

Aromas: champagne, biscuits, minerals, and grapes

This cider smells absolutely like a champagne! Maybe it’s the higher ABV coming across, but the cider smells vinous, biscuity, with some hard edges of minerally. I also get clear notes of concord grape.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-sweet

I’d definitely call this a semi-sweet. The label says dry. I would have paired it differently had I known. 

Flavors and drinking experience: raisins, blackberry, full body, mild tannins, lots of bubbles

When tasting this cider I was at first surprised by how not dry the method charmat left this cider. Once I got into the groove with this cider, it really grew on me, The champagne style offers a lovely crystalline quality. The cider tastes like raisins, ripe apples, pears, and blackberries. 

I’m pleased to find this cider a little tannic with medium (but bright) acidity. The sweetness that surprised me along with the higher than usual ABV do give this cider lots of body and the bubbles lift that body effortlessly. The whole experience is creamy, relaxing, and languorous. I love the berry notes in the finish.

Next up, I want to share my latest treat from Kite and String: The Green Man #1. 

Kite and String is the cider that comes out of the Finger Lakes Cider House right here in the Finger Lakes region of New York. This company has been featured in quite a few reviews, so I'll leave the background there, if you'd like to learn more. 


Barrel Rye:


King of Hector:

The Hickok has  appeared a few times including:

Thanksgiving 2016:

and the Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website:

Here’s the description by the folks at Kite and String. This is pieced together from a photo of the label because I cannot find the full description online. My apologies if I got the line endings wrong! Please send me corrections!
The Greenman series are ciders created in the Pet-Nat style (petillant naturel) little intervention but with a lot of intention. Peter Hoover, our local Greenman has inspired generations of orchardists, pagans, and lovers of good food and cider. This cider grows out of all the kindness, curiosity and passion for the absurd that Peter poured over our roots over the years. Thank you, Peter. 8% ABV.
I was able to taste and purchase Green Man #1 from a little pop-up shop in the DeWitt Mall in downtown Ithaca. That was a treat, being able to find something new in my regular shopping rounds!

Appearance: Jack O'Lantern glow, hazy, mousse

This Green Man cider poured with an active mousse of bubbles. My tasting companion called the color Jack O’Lantern glow, and I think they are really on to something. The color is warm and orange but lit with something more bright. I’d not call the cider brilliant; it’s just a little hazy. 

Aromas: applesauce, citrus, juiciness

I have to acknowledge the amazing intensity of aroma the Green Man brings! It is a joy! I love it when I can smell a cider seconds after opening the bottle, without even needing to bring my nose to the glass! The cider wafts up soft juicy applesauce scents along with piles of fresh citrus. 

When I do inhale its fragrances, I add notes of raisins, tangerine and ripe apples to the melange. It’s utterly mouthwatering. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry cider, but it doesn’t feel bone dry because of the fruit and acid.

Flavors and drinking experience: Nectarine, tangerine, pineapple, high acid

This dry cider still brings a fruit party! I can taste nectarine, ripe apples, golden raisins, pineapple and tangerine. The Green Man offers up the region’s signature high acidity, this time balanced with medium tannins. I appreciate how dry and citrusy it manages to be.

In terms of texture, the cider has many small bubbles that make up a gentle sparkle. Petillant Naturel is another specific way of achieving a sparkler. (Please read more about this fabulous style of bubble here: )

This cider pleases from the aroma to it’s long fine finish. It’s an inspired start to a new series of ciders and a tasteful farewell to someone who was so generous to the local cider scene. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Cider Review: Silo Cider's Semi-Dry and Embark Ciderworks' The Northerner

I’m so excited to be headed down to Pennsylvania to judge the cider competition that’s part of the Farm Show there. While that experience is not open to the public, you can go to Harrisburg in January to find out the results and check out a dizzying array of other awesome stuff. 

The details are all here:

And that’s not all that’s exciting. Two adorable little kitten fluffballs got adopted into the family week. Obviously this means I’ve been hanging out at home trying to keep them from jumping off of high furniture or provoking the big cats too much. This also means I finally allowed myself to drink and review my Silo Semi-Dry cider because I needed something trustworthy for relaxing with.

Here’s some info on Silo and the Semi Dry. This is my first review of anything By Silo Cidery which is a new branch forming from Silo Distillery in Windsor, Vermont. I know the cider maker Nicole Leibon from her years at Farnum Hill and from the tiny wonderful world of cider. She’s a delight, and I always look forward to seeing her. 

Visit the Distillery and learn about the spirits and cider on the website:

The site includes lots of helpful information about the Semi-Dry cider. 
On the drier end of "semi-dry", this is the antithesis of sugary sweet.  Bright and tart apple flavors are balanced in this summer drink that will have you tempted by one more. 
Our flagship cider grown on North Pomfret apple trees--- each one lovingly pruned, picked, and pressed at Moore's Orchard. 
Nose: Lemon zest, green apples 
Flavors: Clean and tart  
Finish: Just one more 
INGREDIENTSNorthern Spy, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Fuji, and Mac

Appearance: bright corn gold, brilliant

The color of this cider reminds me of ripe yellow corn. It’s a pure bright gold. The cider has no haze to it, and doesn’t show much in the way of visible bubbles.

Aromas: paper dust, asian pear and butter cream

Ooh. These smells are tantalizing and interesting. I’m surprised to smell paper dust, asian pear and butter cream all together. Each of those smells is so different and associated with a completely different spectrum of flavors.  

Sweetness: semi dry

I’ll say yes to calling this cider semi-dry but some would call it off dry. I think Silo is right to say that it lives at the dry end of semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: dried apples, medium body, wild rice, nutty

This cider does exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted something enjoyable, relaxing, and low key to enjoy while I watch kittens. The kittens bring the excitement, so I wanted a cider that’s mellow enough to balance that out.

Silo’s Semi-dry is redolent with notes of dried apple, wild rice, and savory cooking herbs. There’s something almost savory even nutty in the flavors. The Semi-dry feels low in the mouth and aquatic to me.

More factually, the cider has a nicely medium-full body with pleasantly forward bubbles. This is a very approachable cider. I like and drink it, and I think I could give it to many people without a lot of cider experience and they would also enjoy it. 

Now for Embark Ciderworks’ The Northerner.

Embark feels like a neighboring cidery to me, even though they are just under 2 hours away. This Williamson, New York cidery is based in an orchard heavy area on the outskirts of Rochester. The cidery developed from a pre-existing apple farm, one of many in the vicinity. Jake Lagoner and Chris Gowan make the cider. You can check out my earlier coverage of Embark ciders to read more background on this near and dear cidery.

I have a few previous reviews for Embark. Here’s the list:

Golden Russet Reserve:

Crab Series #1:

The American Hopped:

You can visit Embark Ciderworks on the web and discover more about Embark Ciderworks, the tasting room and events:

Here’s how Embark describes The Northerner: 
The Northerner is a refreshing semisweet cider made of 100% Northern Spy apples. We derived our inspiration for the label artwork from the following history of the naming of the apple. 
One of the most famous of all American apples, Northern Spy originated in East Bloomfield, NY, around 1800. The apple was named for the 'hero' of that notorious dime store novel The Northern Spy. The book was written anonymously, published sub-rosa, and circulated among radical hard-core abolitionists circa 1830. The "Northern Spy" set up a series of safehouses from Virginia through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York State for runaway slaves to escape to Canada. It was a blueprint for the underground railroad. 5% ABV
I tasted this as part of Finger Lakes Cider week at The Watershed. I was hosting a co-tasting with anyone who wanted to come in and try some local ciders. 

Appearance: butternut squash, brilliant, few visible bubbles

The color is a far warmer than the gold, yellow, or amber color of many ciders. It goes so far as to remind me of the ripe flesh of a roasted butternut squash. My cider poured clear with absolutely brilliant color and no visible bubbles. 

Aromas: raspberry, ripe apple, baking spices

This cider reminds me of a warm kitchen in terms of it’s aromas. There’s plenty of fruitiness that reminds me of ripe apples and raspberries, but I can also smell baking spices and brown sugar. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

Some would call The Northerner sweet, others would call it semi-sweet. I care more that it’s in balance because there’s acidity as well as sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: full mouthfeel, creamy, sweet, fruity

This cider has a leisurely lingering finish. I know that might ought to appear last if I’m describing this cider chronologically, but it stands out. This is a well-balanced and full bodied cider with lots of fruit and oomph that last until the very end. I am not usually a big drinker of sweet ciders, but everyone in our group found things they really liked about this one. 

Some folks loved the subtle baking spice notes. It’s not enough to quite remind one of baking an apple pie or mulling hot cider, but there’s a sense of warmth and depth there. Other folks like the hints of berry that were presence in both the aromas and flavors. For me, I like it when a sweet cider can counter-balance its sweetness with a zingy but not punishing acidity and be full bodied but firm rather than droopy. The Northerner managed all of that with ease and aplomb. It was a fun cider and a crowd pleaser!