Monday, March 4, 2013

Cider Review: Arsenal Cider Fightin' Elleck

The Arsenal Cider Cellar and Wine Bar is a very local Pittsburgh cidery, and it was my pleasure to visit them recently. They run a unique business with a strategic design to reward return customers. Their focus is on making several distinct and delicious ciders, which they sell out of a civil war themed cider cellar. They primarily sell refillable growlers which are labeled as "Daily Rations." When customers buy a growler of cider or mead, they are asked to grant themselves civil war military ranks which become part of the individualized cider label. The theme is continued in how this Pittsburgh rowhouse’s interior is transformed into a log cabin with antiques and old-timey music. It is a great destination for cider tasters since four tastes are available for free to anyone coming in to learn about their ciders.

This is only the first of a few posts on Arsenal Ciders, but today I want to talk about their signature cider, the Fightin’ Elleck. It has a fairly high ABV at 8%. I'm curious how that will affect the drinking experience. Sometimes a higher ABV makes more a cider that demands to be enjoyed more slowly. One of the interesting features is that Arsenal ciders are carbonated right at the bar before the growlers are labeled.

Color and appearance: pale clear maize

Very few visible bubbles. Beautiful clarity.

Aroma: honey and flowers

I admit that I had a moment of fear when I first sniffed this cider because the smell did come across as sweet and honeyed at first. Tasting soon changed that impression and soothed my fears.

Sweet-dry scale: true off dry

The cider is much less sweet to the taste than I was prepared for by the aroma. This cider has enough sweetness to make a reasonable introduction to the brand,  but it is not the dominant impression. The sweetness is of a floral character, perhaps honey and elderflower. A very good level and type of sweetness for many cider drinkers.

Drinking experience and flavors: golden raisins, warm, vanilla, and wood

This tasted more like plump golden raisins to me than either honey or apples, both of which I somewhat expected. Further notes include smokiness, vanilla, and a strong woody element. Overall it has a notably warm character, suiting it well to this time of year. The added carbonation is plenty strong.

Finish: sweeter than the rest

This is where the long anticipated sweetness finally speaks, and here it works.

Drinking Notes: I decidedly enjoyed this cider and wish I could add it to my rotating cast of ciders to share with those not yet aware of how complex and satisfying craft ciders can be.

Their website is a bit basic, but there’s some more information on their Facebook page. The cider is available in house and at some local Pittsburgh bars and restaurants, but the cidery offers a great experience. I highly recommend giving it a visit.