Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cider Reviews: Big Hill Ciderworks Little Round Hop and Black Diamond Cider's Slatestone

My weekend started with some surprise snow on Saturday morning! One moment, I’m admiring the sunshine and sipping coffee, only to look up again and see swirling snowflakes on a cold wind. As much as it feels like a surprise, it is time for the approach of winter here. Thanksgiving is next Thursday! I can barely believe it. I hope you’ll be setting your holiday table with some ciders. I have two very food-friendly ciders to share this week to lead us closer to the dinner table. 

We’re starting today with a hopped cider from Big Hill Ciderworks. 

This Adams County Pennsylvania cidery was started in 2013 by two men who met years earlier in a very different industry but who both dreamt of farming. Therefore the cider company makes very clear that farming is the priority. That doesn’t mean it’s all they do. They grow their own apples, make and bottle the cider as well as doing their own sales and distribution. That’s quite a lot ot master in 5 years, and yet the company has a fantastic reputation, even outside of the state. 

I got to take my sample bottle home after a cider competition when I was judging. Sometimes we get lucky like that. I cannot buy most Pennsylvania ciders anywhere near Ithaca, so I was very excited to get to try this one a while ago. 

You can learn more online about Big Hill Ciderworks here: http://www.bighillcider.com

Here’s the official description for the Little Round Hop, “To elevate this cider’s bright, citrusy personality, we’ve dry-hopped it, using a blend of whole leaf Columbus, Centennial & Cascade hops – the legendary “three C’s.”  Organic lemongrass focuses the hop overtones and adds a citrusy finish to this light and effervescent cider.  Available year round.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: Brilliant, bright corn, no visible bubbles

This cider offers  such a lovely brilliant clarity. I don’t see any bubbles when I pour it, and the color is a like ripe bright corn on the cob.

Aromas: pear, piney, grapefruit, ripe apple

The Little Round Hop smells fruity, juicy, like pear and ripe apples. But it also smells like hops peppery, piney, grapefruit rind—a little sweaty. I love that the ripe apple notes come through alongside the hops. 

Dryness/sweetness: semi-sweet

You’ll find out a lot more about this cider from the tasting notes, but I taste this one as a semi-sweet in a pleasant balanced way.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, fruity, high acid, sweet finish

The Little Round Hop makes a big impression with its strong acid and citrus flavors. These notes are accompanied by some dark cooked apple presence and a maple finish. The cider delights me with intense bubbles! Two thumbs up for a very clean fermentation and good balance overall.

 Though the cider is fruity, it’s also hoppy but not overly so. I detect a notes of pine and green tea. The fruit reminds me of ripe apple at the start. Very little yeast characteristics is separately distinguishable. I enjoy the round and notably pleasant mouthfeel. As my tasting companion noticed; this works well  in big drinks.

I had this cider over the course of two nights. The first glass was simply paired with good conversation after dinner and the second night I had a glass with a brownie. I think you could pair this cider with a wide variety of foods, including a number of comforting Thanksgiving-appropriate side dishes like savory dressing or honey-butter carrots. 

One of my absolute favorite cideries in the Finger Lakes has to be Black Diamond Cider. If you aren’t already familiar, here’s the briefest of backgrounds  Ian and Jackie Merwin, long-term home cidermakers, orchardists, and farmers, founded this company in 2014. Dr. Ian Merwin is a Professor Emeritus at Cornell University in Pomology, specializing in cider. He and Jackie founded their own fruit orchard in the finger lakes, near Trumansburg, New York. These apples go into Black Diamond Cider. 
You can read much more about them and their ciders at Black Diamond Cider's Website: http://blackdiamondcider.com

I'm concluding this week’s reviews with the Slatestone. This cider was shared with me for review by the generous souls at Black Diamond. I've tasted it many times and taken my impressions from more than handful of tastings.

I have reviewed a couple of the company’s ciders previously. 

This cider was my #2 favorite cider of 2017!

The Hickster:
This was my #3 favorite cider in 2016

And the Pommeau made an appearance at the Locavore Birthday pairing dinner in 2017:

The Slatestone’s Official Description is helpfully complete. 
2017 SlateStone Cider is our “terroir” blend made from heirloom apples, fermented slow and cool, and bottled without filtration or preservatives. This cider is crisp and completely dry with no residual sugars. It has aromas of russet green apples and limes, and can be paired with many different foods. It tastes best when chilled before serving. 
Tasting Notes: Soft tannins, minerals, limes, and tart green apple with a dry, sharp finish 
Alcohol: 7.5%  Residual Sugar: 0% (Dry)  PH: 3.6  TA:  7.5 g/L 
European Bittersweets  – 40%             North American Heirloom Sharps – 60%
2017 Harvest: Goldrush, Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey, Zabergau Reinette
The other background that’s really amazing is not only the Gold Medal from GLINTCAP in 2018 but that this cider made #3 best in its category, Heritage Dry. This is a big deal!

Appearance: deep butternut color, transparent, no visible bubbles

Oh my, my mouth waters just as soon as I pour this one. The color on the Slatestone is so deep and vibrant. In this season it reminds me of a just peeled butternut squash. I don’t see any bubbles, though I know they will be there. This is an unfiltered cider, and I’d not call it brilliant or hazy. It’s simply transparent. 

Aromas: soft overripe apples, Meyer lemon, Persian lime

Luscious aromas are the number association I have with Black Diamond ciders and the Slatestone exemplifies this beautifully. This one smells like overripe apples softened by the warm afternoon sun. But it also smells like a zest of bright citrus, like Persian Lime and Meyer Lemon. I get a strong salivary response just from smelling the Slatestone.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

What a lovely dry cider! It has so much flavor and intensity while remaining unambiguously dry. Some of this is the decadent big blend of apples, but I think it’s also in how Black Diamond crafts the cider.  

Flavors and drinking experience: intensely sparkling, pointed acid, round fruits

Use this cider for Thanksgiving. Just do. It’s a high acidity cider with strong sparkle that will lighten heavier foods. These bubbles also help carry and expand flavors, giving it a lot of flexibility for pairing. I’ll have it with a Celebration Roast, but one could serve it with the more traditional turkey for Thanksgiving. 

The same apple and citrus flavors that were evident in the ciders aromas come through for flavors as well. The scintillating freshness comes with the citrus and minerality. That wasn’t as present when only smelling the cider but the flavors do include sharp minerals and even peppery notes. These sharp flavors are balanced beautifully with the richness of ripe fermented apples.  

The overall impressions of this cider are sophistication, balance, and lightness. The Slatestone makes some big promises with its gorgeous aromas, and, thankfully, it delivers.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cider Reviews: Finnriver's Lavender Black Currant and Peckham's Cider with Boysenberry

Hey cider friends. I am so sorry to have a late blog post up this week, but I’m glad it’s here late rather than not at all. I got knocked out with a cold late in the weekend, and I’m only just now crawling out from under the germs. But before falling ill, I was able to try two really intriguing ciders this week. But before we get to the reviews I do want to give one last show out to Cider Week NYC!

It's happening all over the city from through November 11th. Read about it here: https://ciderweeknyc.com/nyc/

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest coming up November 8th! There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lower-east-cider-fest-tickets-50910466576

On to Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant Cider!

Finnriver is a farm based cidery on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in the Chimacum Valley. The cidery is organic and very locally minded. They have a year round cider garden and an active events calendar for visitors. 

You can find out all about the company on it’s website: https://www.finnriver.com

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

The official description of Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant is divided into sections online, so I will share a few including the Cidermaker’s Notes.

 “Our botanical ciders share the earthy essence of life in the fields and forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Small batch seasonal production features cider fermented on the farm, blended cider with organic black currant, and then steeped with organic lavender flowers sourced from local farms (Jardin de Soleil and Wilderbee Farms) A final addition of unrefined organic cane sugar adds depth, sweetness and flavor. Lightly carbonated.” 6.5% ABV

And the aromas and flavors are described, “Bright apple fruit balanced by berry complexity and the rich, floral depth of local, organic Royal Velvet lavender. Notes of purple and chocolate.” The apples aren’t listed super specifically, but they are organic eating varieties from Washington state. 

Appearance: Deepest glow of purple, impossible to tell clarity, few visible bubbles

Wow! I am amazed by this cider’s impossibly deep color; it looks black at most angles. I can see deepest purple color when light shines through the cider but only then. I cannot tell how brilliant versus hazy this cider is. The color is so dark that the question is difficult. There aren’t many visible bubbles.  

Aromas: lavender, black currants, and ripe apples

This cider smells like all of its constituent parts: lavender, dark berries, and apples. I appreciate that all elements are distinct and notable. The overall impression is one that’s primarily herbal but also fruity. I also get hints that make me think this cider will be semi-sweet. For those who fear that lavender might smell too soapy, rest assured it’s only one note in the whole.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider that might perceive as semi-dry to some drinkers. The level of acidity and complexity of flavors make this one a little challenging to quantify.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, lots of black currant flavor, medium-low sparkle

The first thing I notice when I sip the Black Currant and Lavender is the different balance of the three elements when compared to the cider’s aroma. The cider loses intensity of apple flavor as compare to its aroma, but it increases the black currant flavor and maintains a consistent lavender presence. Both levels are lovely, but they are distinct.

Other elements of the drinking experience that stood out to me is how the cider is a medium-low level of bubbly but with lots of body. Again and again the cider’s tartness makes its presence felt. The very first hint of flavor introduces that tart zing and it lasts through to the cider’s finish.

I had mine with a dinner of a fried egg with savory carrots and little broccoli and cauliflower patties. The cider’s sharpness was a pleasurable contrast to my salty, garlicy, vegetables and egg. I like the body and tartness very much, and I appreciate that the lavendar isn’t overpowering. I could still enjoy a bit stronger apple presence to balance both of the adjunct flavors, but it was plenty tasty as is. 

Peckham’s cider with Boysenberry

I found this cider on a trip home to Louisville to visit my family. After having tasted some of Peckham’s ciders at CiderCon, I was thrilled to have the chance to try another one. Finding these ciders is something of a rarity because the cidery is in New Zealand. Luckily Shelton Brothers imports some varieties, but they still aren’t seen everywhere.

Caroline and Alex Peckham planted their current orchard in New Zealand in 2007, but the couple has been orcharding in New Zealand since 2004. Though the company is now bigger than its roots as a two person operation, it still has the feel and approachability of a small family agricultural business.

Here’s a link to  the Peckham’s website which describes all of the company’s ciders: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

I have reviewed one Peckham’s cider before, the Wild All the Way: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s the Official description: “This delightful cider is made with heritage Moutere apples and boysenberries grown in the Peckham’s orchard. 120 grams of Riwaka Choice boysenberries in a pint deliver a fresh-picked, intense berry taste, but the background cider still comes through. It pours a rich deep red.” ABV of 5.7%.

Appearance: deep deep red, brilliant, no visible bubbles 

This is a lovely cider to see. It looks like a rich red wine with its deep dark red color. When looking carefully I can see that it’s brilliant, and it doesn't show much in the way of visible bubbles. 

Aromas: grape, black currants, malic acid

The cider with Boysenberries smells to me  like grapes and black currants. I don’t know Boysenberries particuarly well as a fresh fruit. I’ve eaten them but not more than a few times. It’s a tart berry not unlike a blackberry, but I’ve found them often less sweet. 

Certain smells in the cider remind me of both citric acid and malic acid. A few notes add depth and darkness like dark malt and chocolate too. It’s a wholly intriguing smell that makes me even more excited to try the cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

Like many berry balanced ciders. It it almost certainly more sweet than it tastes because the berry notes add so much flavor that’s not in a traditional apple-only cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, burnt sugar, dark berries

I can definitely still taste a dark berry flavor, but something I didn’t expect from the aroma is a fun burnt sugar note. This is not an American berry cider. There’s some different flavors and the overall profile is much less acid based. 

I think this cider has a beautiful balanced finish. Maybe it’s because I am American, I do find it a teensy bit low on acid, then a full second later the apple flavor comes through to give the finish a great boost. It gets plenty of tannins from berries and likely some of the apples as well.

Overall, I find this cider very pleasant and balanced. I had this cider with a homemade hearty vegetable soup, and it was excellent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cider Reviews: Woodchuck Ciders' Bubbly Rose & Awestruck Cider's Hometown Homicider + NYC Cider Week

October starts getting dark and darker and darker still. But with Halloween, we balance out all things dark and scary with plenty that’s sweet and fun. So, in honor of the sweet side of the season, I want to review two fun semi-sweet or sweet seasonal pics! Hopefully that’s not too scary for the cider purists out there! ; ) I promise I’ll be back next month with some love for ya!

I’m excited to finish up the month with one last Halloween pick for the year, Awestruck Cider’s Hometown Homicider! When we get there, don’t forget to check out the minimal yet totally evocative label! But to begin with a semi-sweet  look back to summer with Woodchuck Ciders’ Bubbly Rosé. This cider is all dressed up in pink and ready for a party!

I’ve reviewed a number of Woodchuck’s ciders over the year’s of the this blog. Here are just a smattering of the more recent reviews. 

I still miss Woodchuck’s June and Juice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cider-review-woodchucks-june-and-juice.html

There are a couple different versions of the Local Nectar: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-woodchucks-local-nectar.html

I reviewed the Pear Ginger as part of Very Perry May this year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-woodchucks.html

And I also liked their pepper-blended Hot Cha Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

You can read all about Woodchuck’s ciders and events online: http://www.woodchuck.com

Woodchuck Bubbly Rosé

The official description is relatively short, “A bubbly, fruit-forward blush cider made with a blend of red apples delivering a crisp mouth feel” so i want to include a few quotes from the press release that I think give some helpful background. 

I really enjoyed how this quote contextualizes both of the new can releases, “with our newest offering, we are inspired by wine. Woodchuck is excited to introduce Bubbly Rosé and Bubbly Pearsecco ciders.” Woodchuck is framing these ciders in reference to popular wine styles. And here’s just a little more about the cider itself, “Taking a bite out of the Rosé wine category, which is experiencing meteoric growth, Woodchuck’s Bubbly Rosé is crafted using a blend of red apples and back sweetened with fresh juice to deliver a balanced cider with a pink hue and elevated carbonation for a sparkling crisp fruit forward taste.” The ABV for the Rosé is 6.1%

For full transparency, this is a sample that was shared with me for review. 

Appearance: deep pink, brilliant, some bubbles

This is one pretty cider! The clarity is just so brilliant. It shines. It’s a deep rich pink with a few visible buttles. They use purple carrots to enhance the color. 

Aromas: hibiscus, minerals, berries, dust

The Rosé smells very much like hibiscus. For those unfamiliar, all of the red tart notes in any of the classic zinger herbal teas. I also get notes of minerals in that dusty stony way. I can also smell blackberry notes.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This will taste either like a semi-sweet or sweet cider depending on who tastes it. If you notice initial flavors more it will come across as semi-sweet, but if you are particular sensitive to how ciders finish, this will taste sweet as the finish is sweet.  

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, high acid, fruity

As promised and to my delight, the Rosé is very bubbly. That light and springy feeling is underscored by how high the acid levels are in this cider. Yowza! THought it’s mildly tart it isn’t at all sour. I enjoy the bubbly and tart qualities about it plenty. The cider tastes fruity like blackberries and strawberries. There’s also an almost a classic old-school bubblegum note, but that could just be my brain’s susceptibility. 

I find the Bubbly Rosé pleasant! I enjoyed mine with the first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Though I enjoyed it and the show plenty, the cider is not of a style I usually prefer.  I like how the tastes attack, and I appreciate those bubbles. The finish is a touch on the sweet side for my personal preferences. Still if you like strawberries, blackberries, or crave one last hint of summer, this is a fine Rosé choice!

Awestruck Ciders' Hometown Homicider

Now for my last Halloween cider of the year and perhaps the most seasonally apt of them all. 
The Hometown Homicider is a cider with Pumpkin aged in a bourbon barrel Not only is this cider sweet and pumpkin-y it’s also just a bit scary with the name and label. Awestruck is based out of Sidney, New York. The company has been around since 2014. 

I have previously reviewed the Hibiscus Ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-awestruck-premium-hard.html This one even made my top ten in 2015!

You can visit Awestruck Ciders online: https://www.awestruckciders.com/

Check the FAQ, it’s hilarious: https://www.awestruckciders.com/faq.html

The Hometown Homicider’s Official description reads, “Lightly spiced, vanilla bean, ripe pumpkin, in a warming Bourbon Barrel finish” ABV of 6.8%.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, caramel color

This just looks like when I make caramel. It’s the right color, hazy and bubbly. And if you’ve not made homemade caramel, I highly recommend trying it for popcorn or to pour over a spice cake. 

Aromas: brown sugar, cheesecake, caramel, melon and flowers

Holy autumnal dessert aromas! The Hometown Homicider smells strongly of brown sugar, caramel, and cheesecake. These are the aromas I expected but the cider also includes notes of melon and flowers. Neat!

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet!

This is a sweet cider. Do not expect anything different than rich desserty sweetness!
Flavors and drinking experience: rich, sweet, roasted fruit, caramel, medium acid

THe strongest impression I get when I drink this cider is how rich and very flavorful it is.
The Homicider has Medium acidity, but all of the acids taste rounded out. I get the roasted pumpkin but more than that the pumpkin is melded with roasted apple, caramel, and brown sugar. It has a nice full body, probably because of that sweetness.

I enjoyed this cider with a simple meal, all the better to let the complexity and intensity of this cider shine through. It paired with cajun-spiced tilapia, steamed cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and brown rice. I thought the moderate spiciness of the fish was brought into excellent harmony by the sweetness of this cider.

Though it’s not a cider review, I cannot forget to talk about Cider WeekNew York City! It's coming up soon from November 2nd through 11th.

Read about it here: https://ciderweeknyc.com/nyc/

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest. There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lower-east-cider-fest-tickets-50910466576

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cider Reviews: Blake's Hard Cider's Apple Lantern and Orchard Pig Reveller

It’s nearly Halloween, but I am not done with pumpkins, costumes, and horror movies! And I’m not done drinking autumnal ciders. This week I want to share one extra-seasonal choice and one traditional English cider, just to keep things balanced. I’m starting with my Halloween ready cider from Blake’s Hard Cider.  

I’ve reviewed several Blake’s ciders over the years of this blog. It’s a Michigan cider that makes many different ciders in broadly ranging styles. Here are links to all previous reviews. This range I think best introduces folks to what Blake’s Hard Cider is doing.

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

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

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

I paired The Tonic (cucumber & ginger) with a meal of asian-inspired dishes: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

During Very Perry May 2017, I sampled the Grizzly Pear(pear, prickly pear cactus, & elderflower):

Just about a year ago I shared the Snapdragon (rum raisins): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-ciders.html

Most recently, I tried the Wakefire (cider with sour cherries and orange peel): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Find out more about the company by following this link to the Blake’s Hard Cider Company website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

I’m starting today with the Apple Lantern by Blake’s. Here’s the official description, “It's the season of campfires, sweaters & pumpkin carving. Experience the warming flavor of our handpicked apples balanced with the oven roasted richness of pumpkin. Refreshingly crisp & perfectly spiced our Apple Lantern brings you the taste of autumn that can only come from Blake's Orchard.”

Appearance: mandarin orange, almost still, brilliant

This cider looks very pumpkin indeed! The color is orange like the classic fall vegetable or like the flesh of mandarin orange. The clarity is brilliant. The cider looks like it might have a very low level of sparkle because of how few bubbles I can see.

Aromas: cooked apple, caramel, molasses, tropical fruit, woodsmoke

The Apple Lantern smells just perfect for its’ name in that it smells fruity, warm, and just a hint smoky. The cider smells like cooked apples or a ripe apple dipped in caramel; I think that’s the molasses coming out. My tasting companion smelled oakiness and wood smoke but more sweet than sharp. It definitely reminds me of fall and campfires with aroma notes that range from pineapple to marshmallow.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet dessert cider. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s luscious and confident in it’s sweetness. I think using molasses to provide both body and sweetness has a really lovely effect here.

Flavors and drinking experience: molasses, creamy, petillant

If you are even mildly amenable to sweet ciders, please try this! It isn’t the usual profile of a pumpkin cider; it doesn’t taste like pumpkin pie spices but like richness, vanilla, custard and molasses. The Apple Lantern is intensely pleasing with its long finish and gentle bubbles.

There’s something so seasonal about the notes of burnt sugar and cooked fruit. The roastiness of pumpkin really comes through. It’s not really high acidity or very tannic, but it has a thick mouthfeel; everything about this cider is just creamy and rich. It isn’t cloying, but it’s straight up dessert.

Now, back to my summer trip to Scotland where I was lucky enough to eat dinner at a place serving Orchard Pig cider on Draught. Orchard Pig is a Somerset cider company. Though the company was started in the early 2000s, the affiliated orchard, West Bradley Orchards can trace its history back to the 1850s! To this American, that’s pretty impressive.

I’ve had this cider before, but it was part of a whirlwind of ciders experienced at the Euston Tap, so I only got a mini review: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/along-came-cider-goes-to-england-pt-3.html

Read more about Orchard Pig here: https://www.orchardpig.co.uk

Here’s the official description, “Reveller is a celebration of Somerset! The generous
apple aroma draws you into a crisp, refreshing cider with a tangy note
of freshly squeezed lime in the finish. The gentle sparkle enhances the
flavours giving a light, moreish cider – less bubbles means more apples…” 4.5% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, fine visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider. It had a familiar warm straw color though not as orange and intense as some UK ciders get. I don’t seen any cloudiness and only a few bubbles in a ring around the top of the glass and in a little continent on the cider's surface.

Aromas: ripe apples, bready, clean, nectarines

This fresh and bright cider smells like ripe apples and nectarines. It has a warm and clean breadiness to it that’s very friendly and inviting.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I’d call this cider semi sweet in a particularly fruity and approachable way. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, apply, tannic finish

The Reveller tastes as bright and appley as it smelled. The notes of nectarines, grapes and other clean fresh fruits certainly remain. This semi-sweet cider is highly acidic, especially for a Somerset cider. Though I may risk shocking some folks, I would almost call the Reveller influenced by some characteristics of American ciders. It just has that nice tannic finish that comes from cider apples.

The fruity warmth comes through best in big drinks. I enjoy the pleasant, tannic aftertaste, and I’m glad the ABV is only 4.5% because this is easy drinking. I call this cider balanced, approachable, and fun! I had this cider with vegan macaroni and cheese on one of the last nights of my trip and it was perfect with a rich mild dish like a creamy pasta.

I would recommend both of these ciders even though they are sweeter than my usual preference. The Reveller is fun and balanced while the Apple Lantern is just decadent. Yum!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cider Reviews: Castle Hill's Levity and Treasury Cider's Burr Knot

Last week, I shared two ciders with extra seasonal ingredients. But I can’t leave heritage orchard-based cider out in the cold. As much as I love experimentation, my fondness for this cider style cannot be matched. Apple only ciders can be so much more than the familiar flavor of the fresh fruit. Often these ciders are the most wine like in the cider world, and like many wines, one cider will offer up dozens of aromas, flavors, and scintillating nuances.

Let’s start today with Castle Hill’s Levity. Castle Hill is an orchard-based Cidery in Keswick, Virginia. This cidery was founded in 2011, but many of the trees that grow its apples are more than eighty years old. It’s history is closely connected with the Albemarle Pippin apple. Many of the apple choices and fermentation techniques at this cidery appear to be inspired both by history but also by technical exploration, seeking traditions from around the world and local apples to make their cider.

Read about Castle Hill on the cidery website: https://www.castlehillcider.com/

I’ve had a few Castle Hill ciders before.

Most recently, the Terrestrial had a place on the table for my friend Elizabeth’s pairing birthday dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first review of Castle Hill was their Celestial in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-castle-hll-ciders-celestial.html
That cider made it to #5 of my favorites list of that year.

And I did get to taste the Levity at CiderCon this past winter as part of the Heritage Cider track: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

This bottle was shared with me as a sample. Here’s the official description:

“A feral yeast fermentation of traditional high-tannin cider apples, high-tannin and high-acid crabs, and heirloom varieties --some gathered from 80+ year old trees. Levity is fermented in buried beeswax lined terra cotta fermenters called Qvevri-the world’s oldest known fermentation vessels. We draw Levity out of its earthen womb and place in bottles before fermentation completes, allowing the yeast to naturally produce a sparkling cider. Enjoy at cellar temperature.”

Appearance: very bubbly, rich butternut color, brilliant

Thought this cider is super bubbly, it’s also brilliant. One could easily read straight through that rich butternut color. What a lovely sight.

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apple, Baking spice

I have to make known that glorious intensity of the Levity’s aroma. Wow! It smells just divine. I love the cooked apple, baking spice, and cinnamon notes. What’s harder to describe is the warm clean fermentation character I’m also picking up on.

Sweentess/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Yes, it’s rich and lucious and fruity, but it’s also dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: Golden, tiny bubbles, high acid, tannins

Ooh! I get shivers just thinking about how good this cider is. Wow! The baking spice notes I detected as aromas also approach as flavors, but they aren’t alone. The Levity also tastes of fall flowers, cooked fruit, and quince. I don’t know how to say it exactly but there’s something light and silvery to the flavors also.

Dry, yes. High acidity and medium high tannins, yes but fresh and fruity. No one characteristic can fully describe this cider. It’s light and playful yet rich and complex. The bubbles are so fine and numerous. Of any individual note, quince probably comes through the most clearly. It’s just such a lovely cider.

From Virginia to New York, I want to share my thoughts on Treasury Cider’s Burr Knot next. Fishkill Farms is the home orchard for this relatively young cidery. They use heritage, crab, and eating apple varieties. I love the simple yet sophisticate sense of graphic design I get from both their labels and website.

Visit Treasury Cider online: http://www.treasurycider.com/

I have talked about this cider briefly in February when I wrote about the Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

The Burr Knot’s official description reads:

A careful mix of apples from our family orchard, Fishkill Farms, was selected to make the hard cider in this bottle. Heirloom varieties, proper harvest timing, ecological farming, and traditional wine-making methods all come together in our cider. Our name is an homage to the farm's founder Henry Morenthau Jr., who served as Secretary of the Treasury under FDR. It also celebrates the revival of hard cider in America. 8.4% ABV

Other descriptors include, “Dry and unfiltered / orchard cider / traditional method” and a list of apples, “Hyslop crab / Granny Smith / Pink Lady / Old-Growth Golden Delicious / Jonamac”

If you have the chance I do recommend looking at the cider descriptions online because you can click on any variety and get some incredibly rich detail on the orchard and the cider making info.

Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, goldenrod

This unfiltered cider has a harvest glow about it, as it’s hazy and warm hued. I love the goldenrod color. I didn’t see any bubbles when I poured.

Aromas: Stony, melon, quince

The cider smells like apple juice splashed onto limestone; it’s all fruit and minerals. Those gorgeously stony smells appear at the same time as fruit notes, but they never compete. I get tons of quince and melon with a delicate creamy background of velvety yogurt.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

I love how dry dry dry this cider is.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, funky, milk chocolate

Even though I expected relatively high acidity, this tartness was striking! But I also got some of the creaminess I smelled in a new rich milk chocolate note. What a fun and surprising facet.

This intensely flavorful is fruity and funky! There’s peach and strawberry but also savory notes like sesame seeds and toasted grain. The Burr Knot goes everywhere, powered by that zesty acid and structured by medium tannins. Needless to say, I adore this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cider Review: Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice and Shoal Hope Ciderworks Little Tart

This morning I walked down the hill to my office in autumn fog. I could see yellow foliage glowing through the grey mist, and it was cool and peaceful. I feel grateful for these calm moments and lovely sights, perhaps especially so when the wider world is full of bad news and discouragement. And in addition to the coming of fall color and cooler temperatures, the season of fall flavors is here! I’m reviewing two ciders that really embody the season, Pumpkin Spice by Portland Cider Company and a Cranberry cider from Shoal Hope. 

Portland Cider Company stakes it’s identity on being a hybrid of two cider cultures: the pacific northwest and England. Those are very distinct identities. The people behind the brand are Jeff and Lynda Parrish who are from these two regions, respectively. They started Portland Cider Company in 2012. While I cannot speak precisely to the melding of regions, I’ll be curious to see if any of that comes through in the ciders from Portland Cider Company that I try. 

Visit Portland Cider Co online: https://www.portlandcider.com

I have reviewed a few ciders from this company before.

The Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

The Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Today, I’m reviewing Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice. This was a review sample shared with me just in time for the autumnal craze for all things Pumpkin.

Here’s the company’s description of the Pumpkin Spice.
Take the flavors of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, and Ginger, blend them in just the right proportions, and you get our Pumpkin Spice cider. Full of all the spices of your favorite pumpkin pie, this cider is a delicious tribute to the flavors of autumn. A familiar Fall spice blend blended to pair perfectly with a classic American semi-sweet apple cider made with 100% Northwest apples. 5.5%ABV 

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, popcorn

The color reminds me of popcorn kernels not yet popped. It’s warm and richly hued. The clarity is brilliant and shows off lots of bubbles. 

Aromas: ginger, cinnamon, clove, ripe apples

This smells distinctly like Pumpkin Pie spices. The aromas foreground ginger and cinnamon, but I can also smell clove, nutmeg and ripe apple. Secondarily, I get notes of lemon and peach too. For fans of this profile, this cider will be seriously appealing. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is right on the line for be between perceiving as semi-dry or semi-sweet. The brand calls it a semi-sweet, so I’m happy to trust them on it.

Flavors and drinking experience: cinnamon, peach, nutmeg

Almost everything I noticed in the Pumpkin Spice aromas comes across in its flavors. I can taste cinnamon, peach, nutmeg, and ripe apples. The cider has a medium intensity of sparkle. I didn’t notice much in the way of tannins, but it offers plentiful high acid. The cinnamon notes give a textural experience somewhat like tannins.

I enjoyed this cider after dinner because I knew all of the complex flavor notes might be too much for many foods. Instead of a food pairing, this cider was complemented by David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977). It’s October, a perfect time to curl up for some scares.

The next cider I want to highlight for fall is by a relative newcomer to the cider world: Hope Shoals. This Massachusetts company was founded in 2015 in Provincetown with the first cider releases in early summer of 2017. I received a few samples from them this year, and I’m excited to try these new ciders. From what I can see on the web, this company focuses on their local identity.  This is my first review of anything By Shoal Hope Ciderworks.

Find out more about the company on the website: http://www.shoalhopeciderworks.com/

The cranberry cider is called Little Tart, which leads me to expect that it will taste at the very least a little tart.

The official description reads: “LITTLE TART is a blend of apple and cranberry juices fermented together and then back sweetened with cane sugar. The sugar enhances the sweetness of the apple which then gives way to a tart, tannin cranberry finish. 5.3% ABV”

Appearance: transparent, true ruby, no bubbles

This color is drop dead gorgeous. It is a true ruby shade with no visible bubbles. I’ll call it transparent but the color is so deep, it’s almost hard to say.

Aromas: Ripe apples, cranberry, autumn leaves

Wow, this smells so seasonal! The first note is of ripe apples, but I can also smell cranberres and something that reminds me of freshly fallen autumn leaves.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This is so tart it’s difficult to accurately note the sweetness/dryness of this cider. I’ll call it semi-dry, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess on its residual sugar level.

Flavors and drinking experience: off the charts tart, minerals, cranberry

This cider is not a little tart; it’s hugely tart! I’m not surprised that this cider tastes so much like cranberry juice; there’s a ton of cranberry here. The autumn leaves I smelled are present but less distinctly so in drinking this cider. I do get lots of mineral notes. 

While the cider tastes kind dry, I think I’m being fooled by how very tart it is. With every sip, I notice the fruity tartness again. The cider has an extravagently long finish of exceeding high acid. The cranberry brings both astringence and bitterness in addition to the tartness, making them function somewhat like apple tannins. It’s light bodied and zesty with only a medium to low level of sparkle. 

I enjoyed this cider with roasted broccoli, salmon, and butternut squash. It was a harvest feast of a sort I look forward to eating many times this season. 

Both of these ciders were more on the adventurous side of the cider spectrum. And though I love orchard-based heritage ciders, there’s also a lot of to be said for innovation, excitement, and seasonal variation. There’s room at my table for many different kinds of ciders, and these two really bring some fall spirit!