Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cider Review: Crispin Cider's The Saint

I am surprised at how long Along Came a Cider has been reviewing without including a review of any Crispin Ciders, though I've been drinking their ciders for a couple of years now. The brand has several artisanal reserve ciders that I find consistently interesting. The company has a wider range of cider than many with several distinct varieties that use adventurous choices for yeasts and natural sweeteners. Very neat stuff. Furthermore, they present themselves well. I recommend checking out their website which has loads of information: Here's what Crispin says about their ciders in general, "Crispin Hard Ciders naturally fermented in the USA use fresh pressed apple-juice, not from apple juice concentrate, from a premium blend of US West Coast apples, with no added malt, grape wine or spirit alcohol." The company was formerly based out of Minneapolis and has since moved its headquarters to Colfax, California. They were founded in 2004 by Joe and Lesley Herdon, but are now owned by a very large company, MillerCoors.

What I wish they talked about more are their apple choices. There's not much info about what varieties they use. What can I say? Apples are pretty key to ciders. I was able to find one article online that lists several American dessert varieties as key components in Crispin ciders: Granny Smith, Washington, and Golden.

Tonight I'm reviewing The Saint. Here's a link to Crispin's page on this particular offering. Their descriptions claim some pretty lofty things about themselves, so I read them with a grain of salt. Here are the useful facts to be gleaned about The Saint. It has 6.9 percent ABV. Crispin uses organic maple syrup in this cider for sweetness and smoothness. Most interesting to me is that this cider uses Belgian Trappist beer yeasts for its fermentation. In terms of awards, this did pick up a Silver in its category in the 2013 GLINTCAP.

Color and appearance: slightly cloudy, green gold

I enjoy cloudy ciders. Surprisingly, the cloudiness was accompanied by lots of visible bubbles. 

Aroma: apple, straw, floral

The main scents that immediately jumped out at me were apple and a bit of hay. Secondarily I noted some floral notes and a hint of the maple syrup to come. Mostly appley though in a very fresh and juicy way.

Sweet-dry scale: sweet

The first impression is apple juice, but then a bit of straw and maple come in. The just-a-touch level of farminess and maple go really well together. I enjoy the type of sweetness in this cider very much. It is notably natural and juicy and has not a hint of stickiness or chemicals. Instead, it is fresh and wet. The acidity likely comes from the inclusion of Granny Smith apples; it is distinct from more tannic pucker from cider apples.

Drinking experience and flavors: caramel, apple juice, maple, pumpkin

The warmth of this cider is astounding. Honestly it might make The Saint more of a winter cider than a spring one, but I enjoyed it. The level of carbonation is neither too weak nor too strong, but instead keeps the cider light and lively.

Finish: toffee and more maple

Is it totally bizarre to say that this cider makes me feel like I have delicious maple breath? It isn't a super clean finish, but it is a pleasant one.

Drinking Notes: drink with goat cheese and other rich flavorful snacks

This is a great cider for a whole range of appetizer type foods. Nibble some nuts, crackers, cheeses, and dried fruits while you share a big bottle of The Saint. I'd not recommend it for out of doors fun this time of year, but it could be great for that in cooler weather. For now, I'd put on some mellow music in the house, set up a savoury and sweet snack tray, and enjoy The Saint with some friends who happen to share your sweet tooth.

 I know I had some interested parties in my little apartment. Sorry Pie May, cider isn't for you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cider Review Doc's Draft Cranberry Spice

This is probably far later than anyone was expecting to see a review of a holiday cider, but I ran into this at a New York wine store randomly the other night. We happened to have a cold drizzly night not long after, and I felt like I could really enjoy something both fruity and spicy.

I've reviewed Doc's Draft and written a bit about their brand before, Here is a link to their cider page: but to stay up to date on their news, I'd suggest their Facebook page instead:

The Cranberry Spice is their winter seasonal, and I looked for it casually for months before catching one in May. Here's what they say about their own special flavor, "A unique, hand-crafted holiday spiced hard cider. Made from pressed NY state apples, fresh cranberries and spices fermented with champagne yeast and malice acid to excite the action." I'm curious what the very unspecified spiced blend will include, let's find out.

ABV: 6%

Color and appearance: clear dark pink

When poured, this cider gives a brief appearance of a head that dissipates quickly. Lots of visible bubbles all along the glass at first but these too disappear quickly. The color is lovely.

Aroma: Spice! Cranberry and a surprising hint of wintergreen

The scents of baked goods, especially cinnamon, dominate the cider. I did not smell much apple or fruit, but I did note a secondary element of wintergreen in the spice. A nice wintery smell that does make me think of holiday celebration more than a cool spring night.

Sweet to dry: semi-sweet

The cranberry makes the sweetness very different from most ciders. The sweet and tart come together to keep it from being a true sweet. The Sweet-tart candies actually show some pleasant similarities here.

Flavors and drinking experience: punch-like, tart

This is a beverage more than a cider. Between the cranberry and the spice, there is not much apple flavor. Some cider drinkers would find this to be a fault. I think it merely specifies what this cider is. It is a cider-based punch. Very appropriate for winter parties.

Finish: sour candied apple

The finish on this cider continues to keep sweetness and tartness absolutely side by side and feels like a sour apple candy finish with a shadow underneath of minerals.

Pairs with: Creaminess! Tofurkey! Parties! Though I might have enjoyed this on the last cool night of spring, it truly is a winter cider. I'd drink it with foods with cream sauces. My husband's side of the family (shout out to the amazing Reeds, Laytons, and Troys who share this with me every year) makes Béarnaise sauce a special part of Christmas dinner and I think this could taste very very good with the rich herbed butteriness of Béarnaise sauce. For more info on this wonderful sauce:

As far as ideal activities, take this to an office holiday party; it will be an excellent conversation starter and add something genuinely pleasant and bright to a mix that may or may not be satisfying on its own.

In Conclusion, the Doc's Draft Cranberry Spice's strength of cranberry and spice notes make it really unusually. So unusual that it tastes not very much like a cider, but tasty nonetheless. I enjoyed it for a treat, but I doubt I could make this a staple.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cider Review: Julian Hard Cider Harvest Apple

This cider company certainly has an image in mind: a wild west hard cider that is very American and very masculine. Check out their snazzy website. While this is not exactly my scene, (it primarily reminds me of the old show Deadwood) having a strong identity is a good thing. Their design and copy establish them very successfully as the Gold Rush Cider Men, and it isn’t a bad look. The cider is made with American apples in Julian, California with no added sugars or any juice concentrate. Those particulars are some I can get behind. The brand makes a few ciders: Harvest Apple, Cherry Bomb, and Black and Blue. I’ve only seen the Harvest Apple in New York City, but I admit to a huge curiosity about the Black and Blue since it incorporates black berries and blue berries. Ooh! But, back to the review at hand…

The ABV for the Harvest Apple is listed as 6.99%. Their official description reads as follows, “Julian Harvest Apple Cider is lightly carbonated, slightly tart, perfectly blended cider with a clean, dry finish.” I will be on the lookout for all of these characteristics and see what I find.
Color and appearance: Bubbly, pale, good clarity

After I poured the Harvest Apple, the glass became lined with very tiny still bubbles. This cider is clear and very pale. The color is almost like white gold.

Aroma: beery, yeasty slightly minerally

Different. Not fruity. This is definitely not the cider for someone looking for a sweet beverage, but if one likes British style semi-dry ciders, I’m guessing that this will fit the bill. I love this style, so I’m excited.

Sweet-dry scale: semi-dry

If one reads reviews online outside of the hard cider community (do so at your own peril), no one can make up the internet’s collective mind on how sweet Julian’s Harvest Apple is or is not. Some folks find it unpleasantly dry in a white wine style and others call it sweet. I can see the white wine connection because it does have a tart mineral element, but it isn’t face puckering or bone dry. I’d call this a very friendly semi-dry.

Drinking experience and flavors: beer like, tart, zesty

Refreshing. This cider has a light mouthfeel. It is acidic with a tartness that borders on the pleasant side of sour. This is a convoluted way to say that It all really adds up to being very lively, refreshing, and crisp beverage. It is very summery in a wonderful way. Not very appley though. I might fault the promotional copy’s accuracy a bit on that score.

Finish:  sweetest part of the taste

Though the finish sweetened up the cider a bit, it remained very clean. Not a tremendously long finish.

Pairs with: spring soups, snacks, versatile

I had my Julian Harvest Apple with creamy red pepper and chickpea soup, and then again later with my version of trail mix (roasted almonds, cashews, craisins, then half servings or less chocolate chips and sometimes Reese’s Pieces). It went well with both, but I think it could be enjoyed with many foods. As for the ideal activity for this cider, I must recommend reading outside.

I’d heartily recommend this cider as one to bring to potlucks. Mind you, I’m also likely to buy a 22oz bottle and not share with anyone while I read all afternoon once the semester ends. This is why teachers love summer. The Julian Harvest Apple is a great cider for those who enjoy a crisp cider with some beery characteristics. I do, so I enjoy Julian Hard Cider’s Harvest Apple very much.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cider Review: Naked Flock Original (and a link)

Naked Flock is Jonathan Hull’s small line of Hudson Valley ciders. The company uses only local apples from the Hudson Valley region of New York State.  The ciders come 3 varieties Original, Draft and Pumpkin. I’ve seen Original and Draft, but sadly I’ve het to see the Pumpkin in stores.  A quote from Hull on the website makes his priorities apparent: "We don't add water or grape spirits, flavorings or colorants and that's why when you open it and you smell it you get a big Apple nose. It gives it a look and feel that sets it apart from the competition." What also sets the cider apart in my mind is their very unique cartoon bottle art, featuring barrel-clad fowl and a confused minister along with the more typical apple-laden trees. The website tells the full story behind the name and the art.

Here’s the official description of the Original, the cider that I’m reviewing today, “The Original Cider is fermented with Champagne yeast and sweetened with a touch of local honey.” I’ve tasted several ciders that use honey at this point, and it isn’t always my favorite source of sweetness, but we’ll see. The ABV is listed as 6.8%.

Color and appearance: almost greenish yellow, just off clear, no visible bubbles

Though this cider isn’t perfectly clear, it isn’t near to cloudiness. No head, no sediment. The color is bright and light and sunny.

Aroma: grape, minerals, flour

Very gentle smell. The Naked Flock Orginal’s predominant aroma is white grapes. The flour and minerals combine easily with the grape smell to remind me of slightly dusty green grapes. Pleasant, but not strong.

Sweet-dry scale: sweet

The Naked Flock Original tastes sweet in a decidedly apple-y way. It tastes light and bright along with the sweetness. That keeps this cider from becoming sticky or heavy. Grapes, apples, and very wet fruits characterize the sweetness. Even so, it may be too sweet for some fans of craft ciders.

Drinking experience and flavors: bread, apples, easy

The most dominant element of the experience for me is how easy drinking it is. The cider is only lightly carbonated. The flavors are well balanced though not challenging. As the cider maker describes his own beverage, apples are the predominant flavor.

Finish:  sweet fruits and peanut

The finish surprises me more than any other facet of this cider in that a full two seconds after the drinking is done, I am reminded of the deep south delicacy boiled peanuts. It is earthy, tasty, and unusual. Frankly, I’m glad because otherwise this cider might suffer a bit from a lack of strong characteristics.

Pairs with: pancakes or waffles

At the risk of sounding strange, I want to call this a breakfast cider. Mind you, I didn’t have mine first thing in the morning, but I could easily see it tasting delicious with many breakfast foods. Drink it with pancakes and cooked apples, yoghurt and granola, or even a savoury omlette. It is a light cider in a way that seems more right for breakfast foods more than pastas or casseroles. Make of that what you will.

The cider comes in 22oz bottles, a good size for sharing. Whether or not you decide to take up ciders with breakfast, this is a tasty sweet cider. I’m curious to try the draft since it is described as drier, but this one certainly has its place in the cider world. 

Last but not least, I really want to share a link to one of my Twitter friends: American Hard Cider. This website is a really nicely put together directory of American cider makers and cideries with clear indications of their locations. If you want to go cider exploring in the states, this is a great starting place: American Hard Cider Directory.