Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cider Review: Eve's Cidery's Autumn's Gold

Today, I'm reviewing Eve's Cidery's Autumn Gold. Maybe because it is very warm right now and I'm craving anything other than hot hot summer. No matter my reason, Eve's Cidery is another fabulous small cider producer in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Can you tell how excited I am to move to the area? I first discovered them during New York City's 2012 cider week, and again when I stumbled on their booth at the Union Square Farmer's Market in New York City. The cider started in 2002. They have a great website. Here's what they say about themselves, "Eve’s Cidery is a small family run orchard and cidery located in Van Etten, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. We grow apples and other tree fruits and ferment artisanal ciders. We believe in nature, art, good food and hard work. These beliefs influence the way we farm, make cider and sell our product. We hope you can taste some of it in the bottle." I suppose we'll soon find out.

Autumn's Gold fills my glass today, and I'm curious what in particular about it can bring autumn to mind. Anything along those lines would be appreciated. The cider is listed as 9% ABV on the bottle but 10% ABV on the website, so I imagine it varies slightly year to year. This is what Eve's Cidery says about this variety, "Naturally sparkling, off dry. This cider is a blend of English, French and American cider apples. Autumn’s Gold is golden, bubbly and off dry. It has a distinctive fruity nose that comes only from bittersweet apples, smoky, tannic undertones and a rich, warm texture and lingering finish. One of the great delights of this cider is pairing it with cheese. Cave aged cheddar, stilton, smoked gouda or a unique raw-milk cheese from your local dairy. Serve Autumn’s Gold with your main course alongside savory foods such as home-made pasta with truffle butter, parsnip soup and anything with bacon." While I won't be trying the cider with bacon, I love the other food suggestions. Very autumnal and pleasant.

On Eve's Cidery's webpage about making sparkling cider, I found even more interesting factual information about the Autumn's Gold. They tell us about their aims and apple selection, "But for the Autumns Gold and Bittersweet ciders, we aim for a ratio of between 60% and 75% cider apple to desert apple varieties.  We conceive of the Autumns Gold as a rich, dry, tannic cider.  So two 260 gallon tanks after a long day of pressing in October might hold a 60:40 combination of bittersweet varieties such as Brown Snout,  Medialle D’ Or and Chisel Jersey and desert varieties such as Jonagold and Ida red." I cannot tell you how happy it makes me when a cidery tells us this kind of information about their apple choices and rationales. Two thumbs up!

Appearance: absolutely brilliant, pale honey, cornbread

Pours with a light mousse that dissipates quickly. The honey-like color so intrigued me that I wanted to look at the specific colors of different types of honey. I matched a few and found that this looks to me most like sage honey. Now I really want to taste sage honey.

Aromas: ripe apples, green grapes, sugared walnuts

The list of aromas catalogues the nature of the apple smell, the secondary fruit scents, and other associative aromas. To be a bit more abstractly descriptive it smelled fresh and fruity, but also tangy and zesty, with a bit of yeast

Sweetness: off dry

The particular type of off dry in this cider has to be a beery near dryness. It hints at richness without really being sweet.

Flavors: grapefruit, barrel

The cider has medium high tannins and quite high acidity. These contribute to my sensing pithy white grapefruit as I drink it. Very enjoyable but intense. The barrel notes come from the tannins and are a little more relaxed than the acidity but still come across in a pronounced way. It comes together as a very grown-up cider.

Drinking Experience: This is most definitely a sipping cider. The Autumn's Gold contains some of the bitterness of beer. The level of carbonation is notably high, to the point that it gives the experience of drinking a dry apple champagne. This could be a cider for something formal. Make this a wedding toast cider.

In terms of food pairing, I could go in one of two directions. For nibbling, I'd pair it with an aged gouda, preferably the ones that are old enough to having a fairly hard and slightly crystalized texture, like a 5 year. Or if you do want to pair it will a meal or course, put it with a summery salad that has both fruit and avocado.

I find the cider to be very good, but don't pair it with a thirsty meal or try to drink it by itself. This is a cider to be considered and enjoyed slowly with other flavors and textures that can stand up to the tannins and acidity.

Lastly, I also want to recommend a specific section of Eve's Cidery's website. Their section about making cider is clear, well-written, and educational. I have to recommend it to anybody who wants to learn more about the cider process as well as enjoying its rewards.

Eve's Cidery: Making Sparkling Cider

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cider Review: Slyboro Cider's Old Sin

Slyboro Cider makes cider in Granville, New York. They use apples from their own property, Hicks Orchard. Their website is attractive and reasonably informative, giving info about cider in general, the brand's different offerings, places to buy the cider, and their appearances in print and digital media. I notice the beautiful photography they used; I'm a complete sucker for good photos. 

Old Sin is the dryer of their two sparkling ciders. Here's Slyboro's official description: "Deliciously dry! A pure apple temptation from the intertwined flavors of delicately floral McIntosh, spicy aromatic Russets with a splash of warm, richly fruited Ice Harvest Cider. Serve chilled. 8% alc/vol 1.5% residual sugar. 750ml." What I find most interesting here is that they sweeten the cider with a different sweeter higher alcohol cider. This is an experience I've not had before, so I'm curious to see what the effect will be.

Appearance: Brilliant clarity, goldenrod, yellow mango

After learning a bit more about the language of a cider tasting, I'll be trying out a bit of what I learned in this entry. The term that emphasizes the highest degree of clarity in a cider is brilliant, and that is definitely the right term for Slyboro's Old Sin. When poured, this cider has loads of visible bubbles, to a degree that forced carbonation is likely. In terms of color, I'd call it either goldenrod or yellow mango.

Aroma:  overripe apples, sweet baked fruit, caramel, maple, cheddar

Many different scents are discernible in this cider. The apple scent comes across as overripe apples. Think of freshly picked apples that have been riding in a warm sunny car for an afternoon. It is a pleasant strongly fruity smell. For me, the yeastiness comes through as well and combines with the fruit for a baked-fruit aroma. I also detected a bit of maple, caramel and cheddar. The scent is very full and a bit heavy.

Sweetness: Though Slyboro considers this cider dry, I'd call it off dry to semi-sweet.

This cider isn't traditionally sweet, but its flavors are so fruit forward that it could lull someone who prefers sweet ciders into real comfort with an off dry cider. That's exactly what happened at my house when I shared the cider with friends.

Flavors: minerality, caramel, bright initially then richer

Here's where I'm going to try to use more of what I learned from my cider tasting at Murray's. When thinking about flavor it can be useful to clock not only sweetness but also tannins and acidity. In terms of the tea-like Tannins, Old Sin offers pleasantly medium tannins. Similarly I found the acidity at a fairly moderate level, but all of our tasters did not agree. The wine drinker found it more acidic.
As I said before, in terms of sweetness, this cider is semi-dry. Additionally, the bright flavor that hits right up front does develop into richness in the mid-palate.

Drinking Experience: fruity and lots of sparkle

The level of carbonation plus the appearance lead me to think this cider uses forced carbonation. Not a bad thing, but perhaps a bit too much carbonation for my preferences. Overall, I found this cider very satisfying. Old Sin is a great conversation cider and an interesting one to share with wine drinkers. I got the pleasure of enjoying this with two of my out of town friends. So that's how I'd best recommend it, drink at leisure with a few light nibbles but lots of conversation.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pairing Ciders and Cheeses: Inspiring Palate Education at Murray's Cheese Shop

Tonight I gleefully took advantage of the "Ciders of the World: Pairing Ciders and Cheese" workshop at Murray's Cheese shop on Bleeker Street.  Many thanks to Gregory Hall of Virtue Cider and Jordan Zimmerman of Murray's Cheese Shop for putting this together and guiding us all. 

This experience taught me so much in terms of standardized and evaluative terminology for cider tasting. I also learned from Jordan some principles of cheese pairing that I think will make my future cheese trays and pairings much more dynamic and exciting. She really reinforced the importance of both texture and contrast  in pairings. I've thought plenty about how food flavors interact and to some degree about mouthfeel, but I feel like my appreciation for cheese textures really grew after the tasting.

In terms of cider, I really learned the most from the international focus of the tasting. I've really not had very many French or Spanish ciders. Greg had truly impressive knowledge of each cider that we tasted, so we got a fascinating look at not only the ciders but also the producers and international cider cultures.

Beyond this, getting to just taste ciders with other people and hear them talk about their experiences was enlightening. It reminded me a bit of my days at Volta Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate when we did so many staff coffee cuppings and palate exercises. I owe a ton to Anthony and Janet and my coworkers there for early experiences learning to talk about what I'm seeing, smelling, and tasting. 

We tried six beverages and six cheeses. Here's the list in order with very brief descriptions.

Farnum Hill Kingston Black: This was my favorite cider. I was really impressed by how well balanced this varietal cider tasted. The dryness, acidity and tannins all work really well together in the style of a hearty English cider. This deserves its own review at a later date.

with Ossau-Iraty Vielle: a really nutty sheep's milk cheese from the French Pyrenes.

Foggy Ridge Serious Cider: A more acidic and high tannin cider from Virginia. Still English style and very good. It uses the Dabinett apple which is a very distinctive English cider apple. 

with Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole (best cheese of the night): This beautiful goat cheese from Vermont just bowled me over. I cannot say enough about its richness and textures. The fresh creaminess and density just made me close my eyes in bliss.

Etienne Dupont Cidre Cuvee Colette: This was the most popular cider of the night. It is a really excellent Normandie Cidre made with the fascinating keeving process.

With Etivaz: this cow's milk cheese is the group effort of 37 milk producers in the Swiss Alps. It is only available for four months of a year. 

Sarasola Sidra Natural: My first Spanish Sidra. This Basque cider is definitely more acidic than most ciders I've tasted. Very still and low in tannins. Our group had a mixed reaction to such a totally different flavor profile. I cannot say that I loved it, but I'm very glad I got to try it.

with Salva Cremasco, an amazing cheese but not the most harmonious pairing of the night. This cheese smells and tastes like either bacon or sauteed mushrooms. The rind looks fairly funky but tasted so interesting and good. Be brave. Eat the rind. The Umami was out of this world. If you get the chance to try this cheese, I highly recommend it.

Christian Drouin Pear: This was a real education for me. I'd never had a perry quite like this before, and I enjoyed it so much more than I expected I would. Perry is a beverage I came into the class not knowing a lot about, so hearing about crazy challenges was fascinating. Pear trees take a very long time to mature enough to bear fruit. The waiting game continues even past that point because the window for processing the pears is very short; first they are far too hard to crush and then they are only good for about 48 hours before going too soft. Crazy.

with Le Chevre Noir: an amazing fruity granular goat cheese. We didn't get to see the distinctive black wax rind, but we certainly enjoyed the unique texture of this cheese. Beautiful pairing.

Christian Drouin Pays D'Auge: this was the last cider of the night and a very good one. Wild yeasts and ripe apple aroma. Farmy with a buttery caramel mouthfeel.  Medium tannins. Low acid.

with Chiriboga Blue: a very earthy creamy, almost satiny, blue cheese. Jordan described it as black peppercorns in heavy cream. She is completely right. An outstanding cheese that would be great to change the mind of anyone who thinks they don't like blue cheese.

Afterwards, I chatted a bit with two brothers who work in cider distribution to bring Spanish ciders to
America, Jordan, and Greg. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cider Review: Angry Orchard's Elderflower and an NYC cider event!

Angry Orchard Hard Cider is a company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio (not too far from where I grew up). They are owned by Boston Beer Company; that's the company behind Samuel Adams beers. Their core ciders and seasonals sell in six packs of 12oz. bottles with twist-off caps. Their website www.AngryOrchard.com is very visually attractive, but a bit light on information about the company. Here's what they do say about their general apple selection, "bittersweet apples from France and culinary apples from Italy." That at least lets us know that they blend dessert apples and cider apples.

Rather than starting with any of their core flavors, the crisp, the traditional, or the ginger, I wanted to review their seasonal, the Elderflower. This cider has a relatively low ABV of 5% which isn't unusual for cider sold in six packs, but it noticably lower than a lot of the regional and independent ciders I've been tasting lately. The Angry Orchard website does offer a few tasting notes, "This cider has tropical notes from the elderflower balanced by a fresh, bright, fruity flavor reminiscent of  lychee,  pears, and citrus. This flower complements the crisp apple flavor resulting in a balanced sweetness that brings the fruit and flower together." Unusual words for a cider. I'm especially curious to taste for any tropical notes. I am definitely expecting a sweet cider based on the description.

The most interesting and surprising element of the website for me was their list of what apples Angry Orchard uses to make the Elderflower. Here's their list as they present it, "Amere de Berthecourt, Beden, Medaille d’or, Michelin, Binet Rouge, Brairtot Fuji, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Joana Gold, Elstar, Granny Smith, Gala, Braeburn."

Appearance: warm amber, just a bit hazy

The transparency is just off clear. It's color a warm amber. Angry Orchard Elderflower shows very few visible bubbles. Those that appeared all kept moving up toward the top of the cider.

Aromas: cheese then fruit

The cheese aroma came out at first when the cider was at its coldest. When slightly warmer, the elderflower scent and apple come through more together. My husband smelled wheat, yeast strawberries and grapes.

Sweet to dry: sweet

The type of sweetness is decidedly floral. It feels like a cool, refreshing type of sweet to me. I'm sure many cider afficianados would find it far too sweet. Then again, I've heard just as many casual cider drinkers recommend this cider to me. For many of them the sweetness is a positive feature rather than a weakness.

Flavors: Fruit forward, floral, fresh

In the Elderflower the apple taste appears upfront. It is fresh and bright. After the fruit, the elderflower comes through easily. Both flowers and fruit shine through either a sip or swig. The mild fruitiness is watermelon fresh. It is a very easy drinking cider. The level of carbonation isn't distracting.

Drinking experience: Notably pleasant carbonation level. Very picnic appropriate.

Again, this cider comes across most as refreshing and just right for summer. It coats the tongue for a medium mouthfeel. The finish offers a second bit of fruitiness, this time a meld of tart juicy blackberries and darker sweeter figs.

Drink this outside.

Also, in local cider news. Murray's Cheese and Virtue Cider are joining forces for a class on cheese and cider pairings. The class takes place in their Bleeker Street store Thursday June 13th, 2013 from 6:30-8pm. I really hope I see some fellow cider lovers there.


I am very excited about getting to go to this!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cider Review: Harvest Moon Heritage Hops Hard Cider

I'm reviewing Harvest Moon Cidery's Heritage Hops Hard Cider. This is a relatively new company that just started selling hard cider in 2011, but they've already accrued awards for a few of their ciders. The Harvest Moon Cidery is a small farm winery in Cazenovia, in central New York run by the husband and wife team of Matthew and Juanita, Critz. They currently make eight different ciders, mostly blended after fermentation with various natural flavors and sweeteners like honey or raspberries. Their website has a ton of great information: http://harvestmooncidery.com. The most interesting facts I found is that Harvest Moon uses one of the last functional four screw cider presses in the State, a machine that was originally made in the 1890s, not far away in Syracuse. How cool is that?

The Heritage Hops Hard cider is dry- hopped. It's ABV comes to 6.75%. I wasn't able to find a tremendous amount of information on this cider, but what I did find does shed some light on the cider. The description from Harvest Moon Cidery says, "Our Heritage Hops Cider is a tribute to the early hop growing history of Madison County, dating back to the mid 1800s. Using a strain of locally grown hops, propagated from those originally grown nearby, we 'dry hop' the cider after fermentation. It is aged for several months, then lightly carbonated." I'm glad to know about the type of hops and that the carbonation is forced. Let's see how it tastes.

 Color and appearance: unripe straw, yellow-green

The Heritage Hops looks light and bright in the glass. The color is straw with a hint of melon green. A ring of bubbles formed at first pour and again after a few minutes in the glass. Tremendous numbers of visible bubbles.

Aroma: farmy, yeasty wild, fruity

The scent strikes me as a bit vinous. You can definitely smell the hops. They come through as  lemon and Citrus notes. As usual, when I smell a bit of farminess, I get excited.

Sweet-dry scale: off-dry

This cider offers a very wet off dry. That sounds strange, but I'm trying to describe a wet raw tartness that isn't very sweet, but also isn't drying.

Drinking experience and flavors: Hops, bright acidity, herbaceous 

The predominant flavor is capital h Hops! Then the cider expresses a fairly aggressive acidity. Almost too much acidity for my preferences. I can also taste minerals. The last big impression from the Harvest hops is springy, sappy, greenness. It makes it herby or almost vegetal in a super refreshing way. The tartness and acidity make this a slow drinking cider.

Finish: almost tannic and puckery, zingy

Very lively cider that finishes with a tiny zingy bite.

Drinking Notes: best with bready foods

Drink this cider when you have buttered bread and time. I'd choose it for a leisurely picnic cider, for a canoe ride, or for the indoor folks, set yourself up with the new season of Arrested Development or some other large-scale undertaking. It is a very tasty cider for those who enjoy the tart side of the beverage. I'd not use this as an introduction to cider though because the hops change the drinking experience so completely.

I was very curious to try this cider because of the one other hopped cider I've tried, Anthem with Hops. The two are substantially different, but both very pleasant. The dry hopping of cider seems to be something I quite like for flavor and depth. I look forward to trying another of the Harvest Moon Cidery's offerings soon.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trying Virtue and Oliver's Ciders at The Queens Kickshaw and having a blast

I'm really sorry, but every reader is about to get jealous.  My husband and I finally made it out to The Queen's Kickshaw in Astoria last night to sample their extensive and thoughtful cider menu. We knew we'd have a good cider or few and a nice time, but we were simply blown away. The experience was so great, I had to write it up in a whole new style. There are some cider reviews imbedded here, but I want to share what a fantastic evening we had at The Queen's Kickshaw.
First a few facts. Here's the restaurant's website: http://thequeenskickshaw.com/ They can be found at:

40-17 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103

The atmosphere in this small restaurant is very homey and understated yet up to date. I love their embellished hardwood floors, their mix of seating, and the fun music choices.

What we drank:

Virtue Red Streak. 5.2% ABV http://www.virtuecider.com This is what Virtue's official description says, "RedStreak is a proper English style draft cider. With its hazy lemon hue, scent of ripe apples and just a touch of oak, RedStreak has a crisp, tart finish that pairs perfectly with your favorite mature cheddar. First discovered in Herefordshire in the 1630s, the Redstreak bittersharp apple produced a cider so delicious it was deemed to be ‘fit for kings.’"

There is description is largely spot on. The Red Streak is a barely cloudy lemon color with almost no visible bubbles. The scent also evoked lemons, but with a creaminess that takes it from lemon into a lemon dessert with whipped cream. I also smelled minerals in a pleasant almost vinous way. The taste is floral and grassy. I thought of fresh pea shoots. It rewards big full drinks that fill the mouth. The farminess is understated but adds to the pleasure of the cider. The finish gives a brief impression of dark concord grapes. A lovely fresh springy cider! All of the good things I've heard about Virtue's RedStreak are true and all of the anticipation I had for trying this cider completely paid off.

Oliver's Gold Rush http://www.oliversciderandperry.co.uk/ 

This comes from a collaboration between UK cider maker Tom Oliver and Virtue Cider's Greg Hall. The ABV is 6.8%. Here's some information from the press release: "The 6.8% sparkling, medium dry cider with a deep, burnished color was made from 100% bittersweet and sharp vintage cider apples from traditional Herefordshire farms. The juice was slow fermented by wild yeasts in old oak barrels through a cold winter and underwent malolactic fermentation in the warm spring.  Oliver then added fruit sugar and lambic yeasts for a second alcoholic fermentation, adding a touch more alcohol and complexity. It was finished in oak, for maturity, before final blending and bottling."

In terms of appearance this was fairly dark and red brown; the color reminded me of some teas. The aromas that came from this cider were fascinating: wood, pickled ginger, and farminess. After a bit of time a second smell drifted to the fore, a spicy leather scent. I knew I'd be in for something exactly up my alley when I could smell the wildness of the cider. When drinking the flavors include sour cherry and tons of tannins all supported by the dry oaky farminess that makes English-style ciders my favorite. The level of sparkle hits just right in that it does not prevent a drink from enjoying a big gulp, but it livens the taste. The finish is dryly effervescent and fast. The cider tastes complex and mellow at the same time.

All in all, the Gold Rush has to be the best cider I've tasted in 2013.

What we ate:

Fontina and Hard Cider Arancini: I loved this. Arancini are little fried balls of risotto, which basically takes my favorite food in the world and adds to it the sinful deliciousness of being fried. The Queen's Kickshaw version was made utterly mouthwatering by using cider in the risotto and pairing that sweetness with a tomato spiciness and Fontina cheese. Eat it and die happy.

Polenta Cake: This was the biggest risk for me because I have a love/hate relationship with mushrooms, and this dish uses a mushroom sauce. It worked out really well because of how the sauce added richness to the roasted vegetables and polenta cake. The cake itself was super tasty with the egg yolk confit and sauce.

Gouda Grilled Cheese, but the title does not begin to describe it. The bread was sweet and the sandwich had not only gouda but also black bean hummus, pickled jalepenos, and guava jam. Totally insane. I'm a sucker for pairing sweet and savoury (as if that isn't obvious from what dishes we chose)

Apple Cobbler with fresh whipped cream: since there was an apple dessert, we just had to try it. The apple cobbler was delicately-spiced, rich and crumbly and the whipped cream was so light and fluffy. It had a tasty garnish that I think was micro-grated chocolate.

Many thanks to Chef Youngsun Lee!

Last but far from least, I got to meet one of the owners, Ben. Sadly I didn't get to meet his wife, but we had a great conversation. I heard a bit about his cider-loving staff, distribution, and the growing enthusiasm for cider he's experienced as a restauranteur. We talked a bit about cider in the sphere of social media and blogging.

 What a wonderful night! I hope to go back soon and try their brunch and breakfast menus and even more ciders. The Queens Kickshaw cider menus is deep and international, it has a lot to keep cider fans coming back.