Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Birthday Pairing Dinner with Sur La Mer, Whitewood Cider Co, Castle Hill Cider, Aeppeltreow, Virtue, and Champlain Orchards

My dear friend El just had a birthday. For some strange reason, this means she wants to hostess an elaborate dinner party. She loves to cook and share delicious food with friends (it’s something we have in common, but I’m somewhat more low key in my cooking ambitions). She also loves a good cider; it’s the preferred beverage for most of my closest friends. So I pair a cider with each course. It ends up being a lot of food and a lot of cider, and a lot of fun. 

I chose all Finger Lakes Ciders last year, and I wrote about the event as part of my lead up to Finger Lakes Cider Week: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

This year, she wanted to do it again, so I happily volunteered to another set of pairings. I did want to switch it up a bit, so I choose 6 ciders from 6 different states beyond New York. I love my home state’s ciders, but I wanted a 100% different lineup. Elizabeth also wanted to switch it up this year by sharing a only creative partial menu before the food was actually revealed at the table.

1) Chips and salsa

Drew Family Wines "Sur La Mer" Brut Cider, California

Here’s how El describes the course, “a panoply of heirloom tomatoes from Jackman Vineyards...a raw salsa fresca made by combining them with some local jalapenos, cilantro, onions and a bit of lime juice to create a bright, fresh salsa including black icicles, bolsenos, and green zebras.”

And the cider’s official description: 
A preservation project, a way to preserve a farming heritage  A blend of three varieties:  Gravensteins, Philo Golds and Rhode Island Greenings for some acidity.  We've gone old school in our approach with a native yeast primary fermentation and dosaged with a champagne yeast  (no forced carbonation here) before bottling as a traditional sparkling wine is made.  We find the bubbles are finer this way.  Notes of green apple, citrus, bread yeast and salinity and seaweed due to our coastal proximity are evident here.  A perfect summer glass of bubbles to accompany so many foods.  We love creamy and salty cheeses or roast chicken with this lovely handcrafted Brut Cider.
The Sur La Mer cider smells of cooked apples and minerals. It was very dry and tart. I paired this dry high acid cider with salsas because of the mention of salinity in the description. Luckily it came through and a little extra saltiness along with super fresh salsa and local tortilla chips was delightful. The salt really brought out the sweetness of all the fresh tomatoes. The cider also brought just a little gentle funk to the table to help perk up everyone’s appetites. 

2) Pasta and pesto 

Whitewood Cider Company’s Kingston Black and Wickson Apple

Fresh pasta is one of El’s favorite things to make. I love it when she cooks this because homemade pasta is just miles better than dried.  She says, “I wanted to give it a sauce that was both packed with flavor and relatively light, and a simple pesto was an obvious candidate. I just used basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and a mix of pecorino romano and parmesan cheese.”

And the only description of the cider I was able to find online of this limited release cider, “Dry, fruit forward, sophisticated, big cider aged in a semi-neutral second use gin barrel. Flavors of very ripe tangerine, oak, vanilla and a touch of the gin botanicals.”

I anticipated this course of food being my favorite as I am a passionate pesto fan. I wanted the gin botanical notes of the cider to complement the basil of the pesto, and it did! Everyone gushed about this course paired with the Kingston Black and Wickson Apple. 

3) Duck Confit and Tomato Confit 

Castle Hill Cider’s Terrestrial, Virginia

I'm deferring to El’s description for this course, “Duck confit is one of my favorite treats; it’s rich and salty and just incredible...Because I had two pescetarians at my table, however, I knew I needed something satisfying to accompany the duck. Tomato confit is actually a completely different thing; meat confits are poached in fat, whereas vegetable confits are just silky and richly flavored sauces. This recipe used local ginger, garlic, shallots, and herbs from my wife’s garden to make a delightful bowl of dipping sauce for bread.” And that dipping sauce wasn’t just delightful, it was divine!

Castle Hill’s official description for the cider, “Like a cold pool on a hot day, Terrestrial’s acidity gives this cider a crisp finish. Made with a blend of Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apples, this cider pairs nicely with oysters or aromatic dishes and makes a cleansing counterpoint to rich cheeses.”

I was least certain of this pairing going in, but I knew how much I love the Terrestrial and had faith in the classic pairing logic of umami flavors with high acidity and tiny bubbles. The cider lifted all this food richness and aerated rich apple, pointed acidity, and firm structure too. For many folks either a dark meat or tomato sauce would call for red wine, but for me a structured and tannic dry cider with plenty of acidity will do the job for any tomato sauce I’ve met.  

4) Taco platter 

Aeppeltreow’s Americana

The taco platter was in reality a table groaning under the weight of food choices. This course could have been the entire meal and everyone would have eaten bountifully. Options included Ancho-rubbed steak, tequila-lime chicken, Mahi-mahi marinated in ancho, lime, and jalapenos, and marinated tofu in the style of Chipotle. These were surrounded by a tomato salsa, a roasted salsa verde, a corn salsa, and a spicy peach salsa. And four cheeses. And peppers and onions. And shredded cabbage. And the base of hand pressed tortillas. 

The Aeppeltreow Americana’s official description declares, “Estate grown apples of Jeffersonian provenance. Our attempt to re-create Colonial American cider.  Crisp and clean. Zero residual sugar.”

I’m fond of many ciders from Aeppeltreow, so I hoped to find a special occasion for this very special cider. It’s aromas were very wine like: much more fermentation than fresh fruit. I loved the soft tannins and mellow acidity. I chose it for this meal because I wanted a still cider that would have plenty of body. The body is to stand up in the presence of all the strong food flavors, and I chose a still because bubble can really up the perception of spiciness. While some folks at the table have a spice tolerance, several did not. The Americana helped us enjoy this course ever so much. 

5)Maple Apple Donut Cake 

Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries


Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition 

The cake starts out with sponge that’s is much less sweet and tastes predominantly of buttered cinnamon. This was topped with a cooked blend of Tango and Macintosh and a sweet maple glaze.

The Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries is described online as, “Virtue ciders orchard series pays tribute to our partnering farmers by featuring a single growers finest fruit. Michigan seedling orchard is a friend to chefs and farmers markets for their quality hand picked heirloom fruit.”

While the Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition is introduced, “Our single-varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider has a wonderful pure apple flavor as well as the characteristic sweetness and zesty finish of the Honeycrisp apple. It is excellent with sharp cheese before or after dinner, or to complement desserts. We also love to pour it over ice cream.”

To be completely  honest, no one chose between the two ciders. We just started out with small tasting pours of each. The Virtue was phenolic, leathery and dry. It brought out the apple beautifully. There’s classic cider wisdom of putting cherry and apple together for a reason. For folks afraid of doing a dry cider with a sweet dessert, don’t be. Just choose a cider that has lots of flavor in addition to being dry. 

And the Champlain Honeycrisp started off with aromas of golden raisins and melted into twingey acid and beautifully balanced sweetness. Alex says it’s the best ice cider he’s had in his life. It was as much a pairing for the maple notes of the dessert as the apple, and that was heart-stoppingly good.

The whole dinner and birthday celebration was such a wonderful time. I feel so lucky to share evenings of food and cider with my amazing friends. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cider Revew: Kurant Earth and Weston Cider's Stowford Press

We had rain all day today and I loved it. Last week’s heat is gone, and I could even get out in my yard to work on the autumnal clean-up tasks. But enough about that. The real new is that apple season has arrived where I live. I can buy this year’s local fresh apples again! And it means that cider makers are super busy preparing for and starting harvest season. I even joined an apple CSA with a dear friend (from amazing orchard and apple power orchard Black Diamond Farms: https://www.incredapple.com/). As much as I love cider, I also adore eating apples. So, I’m going to enjoy this season wholeheartedly.

And before we get too far into Fall, I want to taste a few more of my hopped ciders including Kurant’s Earth. 

Kurant is a Philadelphia based cidery. I ran across Kurant ciders when I judged the Pennsylvania Farm Show last year. I was able to snag a few cans for review then. 

Read all about the cidery on the website: http://www.kurantcider.com/

You can read a little more background about the company in my first coverage of Kurant. I reviewed Kurant’s Spice back in July: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-citizen-ciders-wood-and.html

Here’s the official description.
We take a crisp blend of fermented apple juice and dry hop it just before packaging using 100% Mosaic hops sourced from the western United States.  The Mosaic hops add a light citrus and melon character on top of the crisp notes found in the juice blend.  The hop character is light and not overpowering.  By using a dry hopping technique, only the hop flavor and aromas are infused into the cider.  Don't be afraid to try Earth even if you aren't usually a hop head. Available in 12oz cans in cases or 4 packs at local retailers.
PAIRINGS:  Grilled White Fish, Sauteed Shrimp, Pulled Pork 
ABV:  5.8%       SWEETNESS:  Dry

Appearance: sunny, hazy, no bubble

This cider has an intensity to its sunny yellow color that I attribute partly to the slight haze in this cider. It isn’t brilliant; most hopped ciders aren’t. I don’t see anything in the way of bubbles though.

Smells freshly appley then clean soapy hops grass grapefruit bubble gum and green pepper

Sweetness/dryness: dry

As promised, this cider is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: green, bitter, clean

The Earth tastes Bitter, green, and clean. This cider has a light mouthfeel and some notes are cucumber-y. The finish has a fast fade. I find this cider so pleasant. It dodges some of the issues that a hopped cider can have. It’s piney and green without being soapy or sweaty. The Earth is totally confident and enjoyable; it knows exactly how to be a dry, hopped cider. I can appreciate that.

The Earth’s acid is exceedingly well integrated into the overall taste experience. It has low tannins, but I didn’t really expect any. What does linger is an intriguing green pepper note. Overall I find this cider quite refreshing and exhilarating.

You'll have to forgive the thistle wallpaper picture. It was a lovely detail in this pub and getting good cider pictures in pub lighting isn't easy!

Weston’s Cider owns and or makes a number of well-known cider brands in England, but this is my first review of anything by Weston’s. I’m surprised! I’ve been drinking these ciders for years, but I’ve never reviewed: Old Rosie, Mortimer’s Orchard, Henry Westons, or until today Stowford Press. 

Read about all these brands online: https://www.westons-cider.co.uk/ciders/#

I tried the Stowford Press most recently when travelling in Scotland this past July. I had it at a pub in Edinburgh.

Here is a lot of information on the Stowford Press from Westons.

Stowford Press combines century-old traditions with a flavour designed to appeal to more modern tastes.
Stowford Press began its life as one of our traditional cider blends, originally called ‘Vat 53’; the name of the oak vat that the liquid was matured in. It was over 30 years ago that the recipe was carefully crafted into a refreshing medium dry cider and today, Stowford Press is one of our best sellers.
Their descriptions continue with a brief guide
See: Pale straw, bright and luminousSmell: A fruity aroma, developed during the slow maturation periodTaste: A refreshing medium-dry sparkling cider that is bursting with the delicious flavour of crisp cider apples
And then sweetness was represented on a scale of 5 with this being a 2. 

Appearance: brilliant, lacey mousse, straw

The color reminds me more of many American ciders rather than most Englishe ones. The color is more yellow and less orange. It’s a straw color. The cider is brilliant and poured with a lacey mousse.

Aromas: dried fruit, hay, funky, bready

This cider has so many of the smells I really emjoy. The Stowford Press smells leathery, farmy, and funky. Notes include hay, dried fruit (most specifically orange and apple) and bread. This is classic British tannic cider smells. My mouth was watering as soon as I sniffed it.

Dryness/Sweetness: semi-sweet

This could be described by the English category Medium or Medium Sweet, but in the states most folks would cast it as a Semi-sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: smoky, cooked fruit, tannic, low acid
The Stowford Press stays as true to mainstream English style in flavor as it did in aromas. This cider is low acid, medium high tannins, and petillant rather than strongly sparkling. I got notes of maple, cooked apple, mandarin orange, and smoky bacon. 

Everything about this cider is soft and round. I’m thinking in particular of the low acid and softer tannins when I write that. It has night mouthfeel and the low abv was easy to note. It was also astoundingly easy to drink.  Yum!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cider Review: Blake's Hard Cider Company's Wakefire and Peckham's Wild all the Way

I hope no one reminds me how finished I feel with summer right now when I’m freezing in March. We had two beautiful days of mild weather last week, but we’re already back into another uncomfortable heat wave. Still, I took advantage of those two days and spent one almost entirely outside and on the other day, I enjoyed a classic southern meal on my porch with a beautiful cider.

This week’s first cider is Wakefire by Blake's Hard Cider Company. The company shared a nice blend of their ciders with me earlier this year, but since I can’t really get them locally, I’ve been spacing them out. Once these are gone, it may be a while. 

Blake’s ciders are not easy for me to get  because the company is based out of Armada, Michigan. Blake’s makes a large variety of different ciders: a core lineup, a full calendar of seasonal releases, limited releases of experiments from the taproom, and a signature series of all traditional cider methods including keeved, champagne-style, and ice cider.  

I’ve reviewed several Blake’s ciders over the years of this blog.

Most recently, I got to taste the long-awaited Black Philip(cranberry and blood orange): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/04/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-black.html

Back in March 2017, I paired The Tonic (cucumber & ginger) with asian-inspired home cooking: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

As part of my first Very Perry May, I tried the Grizzly Pear(pear, prickly pear cactus, & elderflower):

Before that I tried the Snapdragon (rum raisins): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-ciders.html

My first Blake’s cider was the El Chavo (habanero and mango): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s a link to the Blake’s Hard Cider Company website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

This is Blake’s description of the Wakefire, “It’s impossible to replicate a Michigan summer. Recreating a northern night under the stars would be a futile endeavor. So, we’ve done the next best thing – we’ve crafted summer’s perfect ally. Experience WakeFire, a comforting blend of Michigan-grown cherries, orange peel and our famous Blake’s apples.” 6.5% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, shell pink, almost no bubbles

This cider looks lovely in a glass. I understand that cans are practical, but if you are able pour the Wakefire in a nice clear glass to appreciate its brilliance and delicate shell pink color. I saw very few bubbles, but there were enough such that I don’t expect a totally still cider. 

Aromas: cooked apples, orange, minerals , barest hint of cherry.

I almost wish my friends and I could have smelled this cider blind and not known what to be sniffing for. I’m curious how many people would have identified cherry on the nose. It was present but only subtly so. I smelled more mineral, cooked apples, and orange peel. The aromas weren’t very strong in a wine glass; I’m not sure if they would come out at all in a can.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

Again, because I shared this with two friends, we were able to get a range of interpretations on the sweetness level. Our thoughts veered from off-dry to semi-sweet, but our average came out to semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, orange peel, good mouthfeel, balanced

I so enjoyed getting to quiz folks on this cider as we were tasting it. We agreed on a substantial mouthfeel and pleasant tartness. I perceived a lot more cherry in flavor than in aroma. Everyone noticed a predominance of orange peel on the finish. Folks agreed on a nice clean fermentation that left some yeast character that is more like a bakery than farm. 

The cider has plenty of fruitiness. The fruit notes include cherries, strawberries, tropical fruit, and jam. All of the fruit was a nice blend of both sweet and tart. I’m not the biggest cherry fan in the world; that’s why I enlisted the help of some friends more fond of this very popular fruit. They all agreed that they could have handled even more cherry, but I appreciate how much apple remained in this fruit blended cider. 

Peckham's Wild all the Way

My only previous coverage of Peckham’s Cidery and Orchard is from this year’s CiderCon. The international guest contingent was from New Zealand, and I got to taste this cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

I didn’t get to write up a full review then and there, so I was glad to snag an unopened can from the festivities and bring it home. 

You can learn about Peckham’s more from the website: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

Here’s the official description for Wild all the Way, “2017 NZ Champion Cider. A blend of three wild ferments that have been maturing for over a year; a rich, caramel Kingston Black single variety, a gentle yet tannic bittersweet blend, and a complex oak fermented and matured Perry. The result is a rich Kiwi cider with deep English cider country roots.” 6.2% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, small ring of bubbles, carrot

I don’t know if a cider’s color has ever reminded me of a carrot’s hue before, but that’s what I’m seeing. The cider is brilliant and poured with a petite ring of bubbles just where the liquid meets the glass. It looks very much like a cider made from cider specific fruit.

Aromas: apple sauce, straw, iron, water

I so enjoy the smell of this cider. I could smell it as soon as I cracked the can open, but it was so much more pronounced once poured into a proper glass. I can smell apple seeds, water, iron, sweet apple sauce, and warm straw. There's a lot of complexity and UK influence here.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

This cider has a nice balance of sweetness. It’s enough to open up some of the fruit flavors and add to the mouthfeel, but not a touch more. 

Flavors and drinking experience: mellow, fruity, extra-tart

This cider manages both to taste extra tart in the beginning but fruity and mellow for the rest of the journey. The Wild all the Way has big satisfying mouthfeel and a tannic finish. I taste ripe apples and ripe pears with some tea and leather. There’s not a lot of bubble going on; I’d call it petillant more than fully sparkling. Other flavor notes include metal and wood.

I adore how much the pears come through. I expected more of an English style cider from the appearance and the ingredients, but the Wild all the Way is not quite like most United Kingdom ciders, while still showing the influence of those UK cider varietals.

I had this cider with veggie chicken nuggets, corn on the cob, and southern style green beans (They are the best. I will fight you.)The cider had a strong presence that complemented the meal beautifully. It was not a changing flavor after that initial shift from acidity to fruitiness. The Wild all the Way sustains it flavors and remains consistent but is simply excellent. I particularly appreciate how balanced in sweetness, tannins, and acid, it is, all with some nice dark flavors too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Cider Review: Bantam Cider's Americain and Slyboro Ciderhouse's La Sainte Terre

Alrighty! All of the students are moved into both of the local colleges. I’ve been to the New York State Fair(where I definitely saw people enjoying plenty of New York cider). Apples are starting come into season. Halloween stuff has started appearing in store around. All of these signs tell me that fall is coming. The temperature however has other plans. The weather often does. This time, we’re headed into a brief heat wave just as I’ve been thinking about how to say goodbye to summer. But on my way this week, I’ve enjoyed two forward thinking ciders. 

The first of these comes from Bantam Cider. I found this can when I was travelling and picked it up a few months ago. Bantam Cider hails from Massachusetts. I found this introductory paragraph on the website’s Mission Statement to be an excellent introduction, “We are committed to making creative and distinctive crafted cider using fresh pressed apples and high-quality, all-natural ingredients.”

A long while ago, I had the chance to review Bantam’s Wonderkin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-bantam-ciders-wonderkind.html

You can read more about this company and all Bantam ciders on the website: http://www.bantamcider.com/

Today, I’m reviewing the Americain. Here’s it’s official description.
Contrary to popular belief, The Americain was born in the spring, not the fall. It was first made to remind us of the rich and amazing flavors we experienced in our friend’s homemade batch of apple butter. Green Cardamom, Coriander, Clove, Cinnamon and Rose Petals create a rich and aromatic character that is luscious and deliciously edible. And why the French name? Well, anything said in French sound sexier, don’t you agree? And while this cider takes its name from the French, it’s cloudy like English Scrumpy and features traditional Persian spices, its taste is truly American; as American as apple pie.
The Americain is the perfect easy-drinking cider that's just as enjoyable during the dog days of summer as the chilly nights of Autumn. Cheers! 5.2% ABV.

Appearance: cloudy, citrine, no bubbles

This cider looks totally cloudy and very cheerful citrine color. I couldn’t see any bubbles in the glass

Aromas: spicy, ripe red apples, brown sugar, chai

The Americain smells spicy but not quite like apple pie. Instead the spices remind me of Middle Eastern cuisine. Though the palette includes cinnamon the overall effect is still almost savory. But spices aren’t the only part of the story; the cider smells of ripe red apple too. I definitely got a salivary reaction.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

The lusciousness of the aroma is met with a semi- dry level of sweetness; it’s not too sweet but not to tart either.

Flavors and drinking experience: spicy, caramel, medium high acid

What a fun cider and what a change of pace. I haven’t had anything with this realm of spices for months, and I feel ready for them. I can taste cinnamon, allspice, clove, and cardamom. But in addition to those spicy notes this semi-dry cider is caramelly even as it’s semi dry.

The cider has medium high acidity and lovely tiny bubbles. The whole experince is very balanced. The Americain tastes full of flavor; it’s juicy but mature. And it finishs with a quick lick of brown sugar. I paired it very simply with a movie (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) and popcorn. It made for a nice night.

Slyboro Sainte terre

In a lovely hamlet of New York near the Vermont border, Slyboro Ciderhouse makes its home in Hick’s Orchard. I’ve visited the cidery and tasted most of the ciders. Here’s how the website introduces Slyboro.
 Named for the centuries-old hamlet that is home to Hicks Orchard, Slyboro Ciderhouse re-introduces the lost craft of traditional American ciders. Just as grapes are transformed into wine, our ciders are fermented from our own orchard-grown apples; unlocking the full potential of the apple by creatively blending a a distinctive range of delicious, award-winning ciders. 
We at Slyboro Ciderhouse are dedicated to reclaiming cider - "true cider" - as America's favorite drink. We invite you to explore and discover the flavors and delights of Slyboro Ciders. In any season, for special occasions, or to enrich the moment, "consider cider."
Previous review include: 

Most recently, I reviewed the Hidden Star: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/04/cider-review-slyboro-cider-houses.html

Before that I tried the Kingston Black: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-slyboro-hard-ciders.html

I also used their Ice Cider in my Thanksgiving lineup two years ago: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

In 2016, I had the pleasure of visiting Hick’s orchard and the Slyboro tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html

I tried the Black Currant as soon as I found it: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-slyboros-black-currant.html

My first Slyboro review was the Old Sin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-slyboro-ciders-old-sin.html

A late season saunter to a lost corner of the orchard leads to the chance discovery of pomological perfection. La Sainte Terre blends the crisp and floral notes of Golden Russet and MacIntosh with a hint of earthy bittersweet apples and a voluptuous dose of ice harvest ice cider.

La Sainte Terre celebrates our connection to the living world, the unhurried moment, the long 'path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal world,' as Thoreau once said. You must lose yourself before you find your way to La Saint Terre, the Sacred Earth." 8% ABV.

Appearance: dried apricot color, brilliant, no visible bubbles

I'm loving the rich color in this cider, even in a non-traditional glass. The cider is brilliant. I don't see many bubbles. 

Aromas: black pepper, fresh grapes, overripe apple

How very interesting. La Sainte Terre smalls astonishingly of black pepper and grapes. These aren’t notes I’m used to noticing, but I’m intrigued. These aromas are layered with wet cool overripe apple.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi sweet

This cider is unambiguously a semi-sweet cider. The concentration of sweetness of the ice cider used to give it sweetness comes across beautifully. 

Flavors and drinking experience: High acidity, raisins, watermelon

La Sainte Terre has a lot going on. I first noticed that the black pepper aromas were matched with black pepper flavors too. That savory is balanced by golden caramel brown sugar and high acidity and medium-low tannins. There’s some fruit notes as well, notably raisins, watermelon, and more ripe ripe apple. La Sainte Terr simultaneously offers up some fermentation almost barrel-like notes that run the gamut from wood to turpentine. This cider has a thick mouthfeel; its acid mellows out in the finish.

I enjoyed this cider with a feast! My dear friend had a garden party to celebrate the season and the fact that deer can no longer destroy her vegetables and flowers. The caprese salad was an especially nice pairing with this complex delicious cider. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Cider Review Grand Illusion Hard Cider Mystic Citra Pineapple and Stowe High and Dry

This past weekend was one of the local school’s move-in weekends. That means our sleepy little town swelled in population not only because of thousands of incoming students returning, but many of them came accompanied by family and all of their worldly possessions. It’s intense. That made it a great weekend to make a point of sitting on my back porch with cider and cats. I’m happy to say that I survived and tasted some delicious stuff.

For the first time, I’m reviewing a cider by Grand Illusion Hard Cider. The company is from Carlisle, PA. The company both makes hard cider and also runs a restaurant/taproom with weekly table magic event. The whole operation sounds fascinating.

Visit Grand Illusion on the company’s website: https://www.grandillusioncider.com

Before I start my review, I will give the usual caveat that this cider was a sample shared with me for review. That doesn’t change what I taste, but I think it’s important to let folks know when I’m drinking a review sample.

Of the cans Grand Illusion shared with me, I am starting with the Mystic Citra Pineapple. I chose it because it sounds quite summery: just the thing for hiding from crowds in my own backyard.

The official description of the Mystic Citra Pineapple reads, “Has a pineapple ever played tricks on you? This cider will. Floral and fruity with passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple and lemongrass overtones. Dry hopped with a combination of Cascade and Citra hops.” ABV 6.5%.

Appearance: cloudy, pineapple color, some bubbles

This cider is too cloudy to show many bubbles, but it did froth a bit when poured from the can into a glass. The color reminds me of pineapple, and as the photo shows, this is decidedly opaque.

Aromas: wet green hops, pineapple, sweaty

The Mystic Citra Pineapple certainly lives up to its name in terms of aroma. I can smell hops that are more wet and green grassy than either soapy or piney. My drinking companion detects some sweat notes, which is not uncommon for hopped ciders, but it didn’t strike me as strong. It does also smell like pineapple, but more like canned than fresh.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry

This is on the dry side of semi dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, lots of pineapple, bubbly

The Mystic Citra Pineapple tastes a little different than how it smells. Though it smells very hoppy, the flavors include more pineapple than apple or hops. It’s still plenty fruity and herbal. Though the cider tastes juicy, it’s not too sweet. There’s plenty high acid to balance out what sweetness is present, but it’s not crazy high.

The drinking experience changes a little bit as it goes. At first sip, there’s a hint of bitterness that flares first and then fades. The mid palate is mostly pineapple and the after taste reminds me of all the hops I smell in those green aromas.

The cider’s texture is nice and bubbly like a canned cider should be. I think the Mystic Citra Pineapple has a fair amount of body, probably because it's not filtered. This cider is super approachable and easy to drink and fun.

Next up is Stowe Cider’s High and Dry

I’ve had Stowe ciders occasionally since I visited the tasting room two years ago. The company has been around since 2013 in Vermont. The company focuses intently on local ingredients and local collaboration.

I talked about Stowe back in 2016 when I visited the tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-1.html

I tasted the Local Infusion Snow’s Raspberry Hard Cider back in March: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

Learn all about Stow Cider online: https://www.stowecider.com/home
The High and Dry is one of the company’s three flagship ciders.
Stowe’s official description reads, “A Super Dry, Brut Like Cider. Apple Forward, Crisp, And Refreshing. 100% Locally Sourced Apples.” ABV: 6.5%.

Appearance: Transparent, warm straw, visible bubbles

This cider is totally transparent. It has a very familiar warm straw hue. I could see bubbles very clearly in this cider.

Aromas: minerals, cooked apples, fermentation, mild funk

From what I can smell, I anticipate this cider being complex. The aromas are slightly reductive, slightly funky, but mostly like cooked apples and fermentation. The High and Dry has lots of nice mineral notes. There's enough going on in the smell that drinking this in a can would be a waste

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This cider knows that it’s dry. It leans into that dryness and makes it work.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium funky, light mouthfeel

The first thing I notice when drinking this cider is its high acidity. Wowza! The High and Dry showcases a medium level of funk. It’s not really tannic, but there's something good about these apples. I like that this cider is dry and astringent. The High and Dry is an austere cider.

In terms of texture, the cider has medium bubble and a pleasantly light mouthfeel. This would be a great cider for people who say they aren't into cider. I think the yeast characteristics could win over some beer fans. It tastes like fermentation and not like raw fruit. I like how bright it is. Overall, this is definitely a winner!

And next weekend the other school has move in! Wish us luck.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Cider's Understood in Motion 3 & Big Fish Cider Co. Highland Scrumpy

We’re halfway through August. And for once, I can believe that the month is half over. It’s been hot. It’s been humid. It’s been rainy. There’s even a flash flood watch. Summer has lots of weather drama, and that gives me every excuse to enjoy my screened porch and a cold glass of cider. This week, I wanted to try two ciders that I had really high expectations for.  I may be running out of recipes that don’t require turning the stove on, but I know that Autumn is coming. 

For the first of these a good feeling about, I chose a compilation cider put out by Angry Orchard. This is Understood in Motion 3 created by Angry Orchard Cider’s Ryan Burk and  and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. 

I have one previous review of an Oliver’s Cider collaboration, this one also with Ryan Burk but when he was affiliated with Virtue Cider. That’s Gold Rush.

I reviewed the Gold Rush (as part of my first visit to The Queen’s Kickshaw) http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

Gold Rush also made my first ever top 10 list of ciders in 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html

If you don’t know at least a bit about Angry Orchard, then you’ve not been drinking cider in the United States recently. The company burst onto the national cider scene in 2012. Three years ago, the company opened an orchard, research and development facility, and beautiful treehouse to the public in Walden, New York. 

You can visit the website to learn about the company, the Walden orchard, and everything Angry Orchard is up to: http://www.angryorchard.com/

I’ve reviewed a large number of Angry Orchard ciders: too many to post all the links here, so I’ll just share a few recent ones.

In May, I reviewed the Pear as a part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-greenwood.html

And in March I checked out the Rose which has been making a ton of waves: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

I had the Angry Orchard Spiced Apple as a recent winter was hanging on too long: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

And I did get a chance to review the Walden Hollow which was an early release from the Walden Orchard project: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

Tom Oliver of Oliver's Cider and Perry is a legend in the cider community and a genuinely fun person. He's also a cider maker who respects the fruit he works with while remaining open to innovation. That's shocking special. I can scarcely believe I’ve not properly reviewed any Oliver’s Cider. That’s something I will rectify soon. Watch this space.

Find tons more information online: https://oliversciderandperry.co.uk/

Understood in Motion 3

Here’s the cider’s official description: 
Understood in Motion 03 started over two years ago, as two different natural ciders fermented with wild yeast. The Dabinett apple was the principle apple variety used in this collaboration, an 18th century English bittersweet apple that is favored for its reliability to yield fruit annually, and is now grown in the United States. The result, a still, tannic, dry, wild and funky cider that pairs well with a hearty meal enjoyed with friends. 7.2% ABV

Appearance: pumpkin, hazy, few visible bubbles

This has the deep warm color of many ciders made with cider specific apple varieties. It looks like pumpkin flesh. Based on the description, this isn’t a surprise. I don’t see a lot of bubbles, but that’s hard to do in a hazy cider. 

Aromas: cooked apples, leather, yeast, gentle funk

This cider smells yeasty in a very appealing way. I anticipate something I will love because Understood in Motion 3 also smells very much like leather and cooked apples. I’m anticipating something rich and wild.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is on the drier side of semi-dry. It’s still plenty fruity and full bodied though.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, high acid, funky but not too funky

I like my ciders high in tannins, and the Understood in Motion 3 delivers beautifully here. The tannins add structure but not harshness. What I sometimes miss in high tannin ciders is the sharpness and zest of high acid, but I was not disappointed here. The Understood in Motion 3 combines the cider apple mellowness with some American heritage apple acidity to great effect. 

Holistically speaking, I love so many things about this cider. It has a lovely body and a long funky finish. From the great perfume of the aromas to that finish, I was a happy cider drinker. Flavor notes I noticed include tea, orange, lots and lots of mushy ripe apple, leather, wood, and smoke. All of these were balanced together such that none dominated.

Just like I loved the aroma, I really enjoyed drinking this cider. I had it with a beautiful summer meal of deconstructed kebabs(long story) with lots of peppers and zucchini. 

Big Fish Cider Co.'s Highland Scrumpy

Founded in 2015, Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Monterey, Virginia where the company creates a variety of ciders from the traditional to modern inventive cider styles.

I tried (and enjoyed) the Church Hill Blush back in May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

Read more about the company here: http://www.bigfishcider.com

I am excited to try Highland Scrumpy; this bottle is a review sample from Cider Con. I’m always extra curious when folks (particularly United States cider makers) use the term. It doesn’t have one clear and unambiguous definition. 

The Highland Scrumpy’s description is pleasantly informative.
Sparkling gold clear Semi-Dry cider featuring over 20 varieties of locally sourced apples.  This is a blend of ciders using 2 different wine yeasts, but the character of this cider really comes from the wild yeast ferment that one of the blends went through. 
This cider is made from apples donated during our Community Apple Drive.  There are many trees in Highland that were planted or grafted by Highland residents 50 plus years ago.  The names of the trees have long been forgotten, but the trees still fruit. We cannot tell you the varieties, no one can.  But we can tell you it’s all Highland apples, and we think you’ll enjoy. 
This wild ferment makes our most complex cider.  It has pear and floral notes on the nose.  This well balanced cider has a clean yet creamy mouthfeel, combines the sourness of crab apples, with a hint of sweetness, a wonderful blend of earthy notes, some melon and citrus notes.  The fruity esters come alive in this cider more than most. 
This is the favorite cider of the crew here at Big Fish. This cider is best enjoyed by itself. But due to the complexity pairs well with many types of foods, including oysters, clams, quiche, poultry, green salads, and of course just about any cheese.
This cider did win a Gold Medal in the heritage category at GLINTCAP this year.

Appearance: saffron, brilliant, no visible bubbles

This is a pretty pretty cider. I can see through it easily. The glow in the picture is from condensation; I assure you that the cider brilliant. It didn’t show off any bubbles, but had a lovely saffron color.

Aromas: wet, ripe apples, green

The Highland Scrumpy smells like wet fruit. It’s very ripe appley and super fresh and almost green in my  mind.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I feel totally confident calling this a semi-dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, mellow acid, floral, citrus

Oooh. The first thing I thought when first tasted this cider was, that big apple blend certainly included some very quality apples. The Highland Scrumpy offers up medium tannins and pleasantly mellow acidity. What smelled green in the aromas tastes golden
To me on the palate. I get tons of flower and herb notes.

The sweetness that’s present is bright, with a burst of grapefruit bitterness and then a quick turn to warmer and more herbal flavors. The cider has a neat finish: short, clean, and wet. I know some of that’s far more associative than scientific, but that was my experience. 

I had this cider with fresh grapes, brie, homemade cider bread, and a good movie with friends. I must say that I recommend the experience. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cider Review: Descendant Cider Company English Kills and Stormalong Cider’s Light of the Sun

It’s hot where I live right now. Too hot. And there are plenty of other places that are too hot right now too. Don’t turn on your oven hot. All the pets have melted hot. Go places just to enjoy the air conditioning hot. I’ve been waiting until after dark to take my daily walks and get my steps. (Yes, I am one of those people). It changes what ciders are the most appealing, so this week I’m sharing two ciders I’ve enjoyed during this most recent heat wave. 

The first is a dry sparkler by Descendant Cider. The one thing about this Queens cidery I will highlight is from the page of the website introducing the cidery, “At Descendant Cider Company we press, ferment and bottle our cider using fresh New York State apples in our blends and why wouldn't we? New York is the second largest apple growing region in the country producing a wide range of excellent apple varieties that we love in our ciders.”

Read all about the company on its website: http://www.descendantcider.com/

I have previously reviewed Succession by Descendant: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/01/cider-review-descendant-cider-companys.html

And the Dry by Descendant makes a brief appearance in my write up of this year’s Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

Today I’m excited to be reviewing a cider I picked up at that event, the limited edition English Kills. I suspected because of its dryness and particular apple blend that it would suit this monstrous heat well.

Here’s how Descendant introduces it: 
ENGLISH KILLS (7.2%ABV) - 2015 Harvest availableThis dry English Bittersweet cider is a blend of vintage English cider apples fermented long and slow over four months then aged for another six months.  Rich tannins and ripe fruit aromas combine in this traditional approach to English cider making.  A rich golden appearance this cider is completely unfiltered or clarified in anyway.

I have a feeling that some of these characteristics will make for a particularly refreshing choice of cider.

Appearance: deep orange, transparent, few visible bubbles

This cider doesn’t look like most American ciders. The color is deeper and warmer. Those orange hues don’t tend to show up in dessert apple ciders, and this is full on pumpkin colored. The cider is transparent rather than brilliant, and I can see very few bubbles.

Aromas: overripe apples, melons, limes, white wine, and bread

I found this array of aromas fascinatingly complex. I first smell overripened apples, but they don’t show up alone. Other fruits like melons and limes round out the picture. The cider also smells like fermentation by showing facets of white wine, bread, and yeast all in a smooth aroma. Something about the whole is round rather than crystalline. The images these aromas call to mind are sleek and dark; they remind me of mushrooms the best possible way. 

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This cider is not kidding around with dryness. The English Kills is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, medium acidity, austere

This cider tastes quite different than it smells. Though it smells plentifully fruity the tasting experience is more austere. The English Kills is very dry, quite tannic, with medium acidity. Instead of fruit, I get taste notes like wild rice, toast, and wood. The name says English—and I can taste why—but this is also New York with that powerful acidity. The tannins linger, and though they add structure, the cider has a fresh light mouthfeel. The texture is shaped by many medium-small bubbles. The English Kills has some astringence which only makes me love it. 

I had this cider with corn on the cob, a crazy loaded salad, and my favorite vegetarian version of barbecue wings. It was a summery delight. 

Stormalong Cider’s Light Of the Sun

Next up, I want to talk about Stormalong Cider’s Light Of the Sun. This is a hopped cider by a Massachusetts cidery. Stormalong combines a lot of nearly mythic imagery in the branding: oceans, sea captains, orchards, a forgotten heydey of cider, and even Paul Bunyan. I enjoy these larger than life images and ideals. I’m hoping the cider will live up to them. 

I reviewed the Legenary Dry in 2016:  http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

You can read more about the company on the website: http://stormalong.com/

I enjoyed the history section especially. It speaks to Sherborn’s particular relationship with cider over time, including this fact; “Sherborn in fact supported more than 20 cider mills in the 1800s that were productive enough to be taxed.” Fans of cider must check it out! 

Official description: “A refreshing cider double dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops.  We then add blood orange and ruby red grapefruit zest in the second dry hopping addition to enhance the citrus notes.  Crisp.” The cider contains 6.5% ABV (which could be considered a bit high for a 16 ounce can unless you split it). The apples used for this cider include:  Northern Spy, Idared, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold.

Appearance: pale wheat glow, brilliant, bubbly

This cider pours with a head, but it doesn’t stick around. The color reminds me of ripe wheat, with that cool blonde color. The cider is brilliant and decidedly bubbly.

Aromas: hoppy, lemon, dust,

The Light of the Sun smells hoppy in a particularly lemony way. The cider also smells like dust and stone. All the aromas present are mild. I also get hints of rain and lemongrass.

Dryness/sweetness: Off Dry

While this cider isn’t fully dry, The Light of the Sun is close. I’d call it a very zesty and flavorful off dry. 

Flavors and drinking experience: lot of citrus, high acid, no tannins, lots of hops

This cider was made for summer! The Light of the Sun is refreshing and crisp. The hopped and citrus notes play well together and with the high acid. I love how lemony and hoppy it tastes, like some other hopped ciders, it does include one soapy note in the mix.

Though I get some citrus, overall, this cider is not very fruity. It's just fresh tasting! The strongest citrus notes associate with the hops, but in terms of strict fruits I can taste lime. The cider tastes like it had a clean fermentation and lots of carbonation. The Light of the Sun does have a quick finish and a light body. These factors work together to make a supremely summery cider. 

I had this with veggie filled burritos and it was astoundingly good with creamy avocado, sweet corn, and zucchini.