Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cider Review: Wandering Aengus Bloom

I’m lucky to have access to a few varieties of cider made by Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, a Pacific Northwest cider maker. Tonight I'm reviewing the Bloom. The 2011 Bloom’s ABV is 6.5%, a bit more than many ciders put out by larger operations. The company specifically mentions using cider apples from Oregon and Washington in their blends. I’m curious to see if this will taste different from ciders that use more dessert apples or have a more Northeasterly origin.

Color and appearance: Intensely amber yellow, lots of still bubbles

I was surprised by the vibrance of the color The bubbles are small and appear to nearly hang in the poured cider. It is a beautiful drink.

Aroma: Definitely Floral, tangy and sweet

Though the smell is sweet, it hints at a more challenging cider. The aroma is one of pure anticipation caused by the bits of golden flower, honey, and forest mustiness.

Flavors and drinking experience: Apple skin, Tannins, gaminess

This cider’s flavors open sharply with some bitter and sweet all tangled together. It puckers the cheek a bit, but only pleasantly. It is just a bit challenging as I hoped it would be.  What smelled floral turns wilder and a bit gamey on the palate. The level of carbonation plus the wilder flavor notes make this a slow-drinking cider.  Since the bottle is a not inconsiderable 22 ounces, one bottle of this cider is perfect for sharing.

Sweet to dry: semi-sweet/semi-dry

The sweetness is present behind the gamey tanginess, but far less than in the cider’s aromas. While it isn’t necessarily honey-like, for anyone who has tasted wildflower or kudzu honey, this shares its sprightly wildness.  The Wandering Angus bloom has depth and dryness more than sweetness as one drinks it.

Finish: A flourish of sweetness at the end. 

Pleasantly lingering rather than clean.  Sweetness reappears at the last moment.  It almost numbs the tongue slightly for just a moment before it fades. Again, a reason to savor the drink rather than quaff it quickly.

Pairs with: cheese or fish, salty dishes

This cider can balance strong flavors and plenty of salt. It could also bring liveliness to a starch-heavy meal. I think a chowder or a potato soup would be a great meal to eat alongside the Bloom. If folks would like a cider to introduce at a leisurely brunch with friends, this could suit the situation nicely.

Overall, this cider is quite the experience. A small group of key words keep coming to mind (wild, gamey, floral), but they feel like the right ones for Wandering Aengus’s Bloom cider.  Drinking the Bloom can be divided into three phases: sweetly floral, aggressively tangy, then a honeyed finish. This is a very good cider. I highly highly recommend it. It could make an excellent gateway into more serious ciders for someone who has previously only enjoyed the sweeter lighter side of the beverage.