Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cider Review: Original Sin Elderberry

Original Sin has been around making cider since 1997. This New York City cider company got its start with hand delivery and a well-balanced six-pack cider. Over time, they have become an award-winning company with some very nice ciders and the best iconic style in the industry. To check out that style take a look at all of their posters available in their online shop:  I first reviewed one of their specialty ciders, the Newtown Pippin a few months ago:

 Here's what Original Sin has to say about their newest cider, "Elderberry is a common fruit used in wine making. Its unique tart qualities make it an ideal fruit to use in the cider making process. Much of making a good cider is finding the perfect balance between acid, sugar and tannins. With Original Sin Elderberry, the Company believes it has achieved this balance. There is a long history of Elderberries being used in cider production. In fact, in the 1822 book ‘The American Orchardist’, it suggests adding Elderberries to give 'cider a fine colour as well as flavor." I can vouch for the fine color, let's see about the flavor.

Appearance: claret, brilliant, dark

The Elderberry briefly has head that disappears entirely just seconds after it is poured. This cider has quite a number of visible bubbles that entirely coat the sides of the glass. It's deep claret red is very appealing, but definitely on the unusual side for a cider.

Aromas: Not a lot of aroma

Though I didn't get a tremendous intensity of aroma from this, I could smell berries for certain. It's secondary notes come across most immediately as stone and citrus.

Sweetness: sweet

I think there is a key to making sweet ciders that I enjoy, acidity. When a cider balances this well, a cider can be sweet but not troublingly so because the sweetness has a fruit character and depth rather than stickiness. This is still a delicate balance, but one that Original Sin has handled well in this cider. Very easy drinking.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: tart, light, fun

Original Sin's Elderberry Cider has a hint of the berry bitterness that I saw in Julian Cider's Black and Blue but with less deep dark flavor. The tartness pleases my palate very much. Overall, the cider offers a sweetly tart cider with a light refreshing mouthfeel. I highly recommend having the Elderberry with nutella toast or other similarly yummy sweet comfort foods.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cider Review: Albemarle Ciderworks Pomme Mary

Today I'm sharing my review of Pomme Mary by Albermarle Ciderworks. This was another one of my vacation ciders. As I'm seeing my second frost warning of the season and the start of fall foliage, it is lovely to revisit my experience with this cider, enjoyed at the peak of summer. My first Albemarle Ciderworks review can be read here: I write more in that review, introducing the company and their website in that post, but for a quick refresher, their website can be found at My last quick addendum is that my reviews are all of 2010 ciders; folks purchasing at Albemarle's tasting room will be getting more recent ciders.

When reading about this cider on Albemarle Ciderworks' website, this is what I found about the Pomme Mary: "This fruity cider is made from vintage American cider apples and is enhanced by a bit of sweetness. We named it to honor our mother, Mary Margaret, who prefers a less dry profile. It sports mellow notes of tropical fruits – mango, pineapple, or kiwi. This cider is very palate friendly and is enjoyed with lighter spicy foods, fried chicken dinners or on its own." I'm not often a big fan of sweet ciders, but since I even more rarely get the chance to try Virginia ciders, I didn't want to judge this one before tasting it.

Taking a moment to share a picture highlighting the label on the Pomme Mary (and gorgeous Outer Banks summer sun). I enjoy how it balances the rustic old-fashioned notes that many cider makers want to highlight, while maintaining a sense of sophistication. Nice job.

Appearance: brilliant, visible bubbles, white gold

I noticed how pale the shade of this cider is immediately when I poured it. The Pomme Mary is unmistakably a white gold color with brilliant clarity. In terms of visual signs of fizz, I could see some clinging bubbles but the cider did not form any head or mousse in the glass.

Aromas: Overripe apples, yeasty, fruit dust
Smelling the Pomme Mary is an experience in and of itself! I loved how appley and yeasty and dusty it smelled. It made me think of steaking up to an attic somewhere with some warm fresh apples and warm homemade bread. This doesn't let me forget that some sweetness is coming, but we'll see what sort soon enough.

Sweetness: sweet
This cider is full of sweet fruits! Copy on the bottle mentions notes of mango, pineapple, and kiwi. To my palate the mango is clear, but I also tasted as much peach, cherry, and pear as kiwi and pineapple.  Despite the sweetness thsi cider is pleasantly crisp. I'd go so far as to say this is a fantastic sweet cider.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: ideal sweet cider

My description of the fruits really gives a good overview of the flavors of this cider. It is fruit forward indeed! I enjoyed Albemarle's Pomme Mary without any food accompaniment and found that a lovely experience. For a devotee of dry ciders, the Pomme Mary is worthy of making an exception. The finish is clean and the mouthfeel never gets sticky. Such a rare treat for a sweet cider.

My recommendation would be to try this one no matter your usual taste in ciders. Bring it to someone who isn't very familiar with ciders and share it with some good conversation or with some of the last of the summer vegetables. I think this would taste just stellar with summer squash, corn, and tomatoes.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pair some ciders and cheeses at The Cellar D'Or with me!

Watch this space for more details...

For a long while, I've wanted do start doing in person events for Along Came a Cider. It looks like the first one will be happening in October as part of Finger Lakes Cider Week. We'll taste a variety of ciders and cheeses at The Cellar D'Or in downtown Ithaca, NY.

And simply because Ithaca is too beautiful not to show off, here's a picture of a waterfall I walked to from my house this week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cider Review: Julian Hard Cider's Black & Blue Cider

Tonight I'm reviewing my second cider by Julian Hard Cider. You can see their website here: and my first review of their Harvest Apple Cider here: I include more brand background and information there. I'd been curious about this cider ever since I heard that they make a cider with blackberry and blueberry juices. I eventually ran across a few bottles in a New York City Whole Foods. I nabbed one and saved it for a rainy night.

When reading about this cider, I found this official description on the Julian Hard Cider site: "Get ready to rumble with our new Julian Hard Cider Black and Blue! 100% fresh-pressed, with no apple juice concentrates, we make all our hard cider from the freshest apples in the United States. This gluten free, 100% natural hard cider is infused with the juice of American-grown and sustainably farmed Blackberries and Blueberries. All our recipes have their roots in the rich, Colonial American tradition of cider making. Julian Hard Cider’s Black and Blue is bringing the fight to the present day!  At 6.99% ABV, this cider definitely packs a wallop!" This isn't a lot of useful information, but I'll judge the cider by its taste. I do love blackberries and blueberries, so if it isn't overly sweet, this cider could be just exactly up my alley.

Appearance: deep blackberry, visible bubbles

I had trouble photographing this cider because the color is very difficult to capture. The Black and Blue Cider is a very dark red-purple. The color obviously comes from the blueberries and blackberries because it simultaneously has the reddish and blueish notes of each juice. A fascinating color. I couldn't really decipher the clarity because of the color and the bubbles, but I can say it looks beautiful in the glass.

Aromas: blackberry, blueberry, apple, citrus

The smells don't surprise me, but I love how much fresh fruit is coming through. No notes of candy or anything articificial here! It is easy to smell both berry types and fresh apples quickly followed by a ghost of citrus. This cider smells promising.

Sweetness: semi-sweet, complex, bitter

The Black and Blue Cider tastes darkly bitter and also sweet. This is so interesting! I imagine the cider comes across this way because of the different sugars and acids at play together, but I love how it works.

Flavors: fresh blackberries, citric acid, apple

Julian Hard Cider has made a fruity cider so freakin' delicious. This is not my usual thing, but the acidity dark fruit flavors make it soard above average. Bitter, sweet, and zingy! The flavors are all fruit. This probably limits the cider a bit in terms of food pairing, but I don't even care. Yum.

Drinking Experience: For desserts and snacks

I had this with double-chocolate cookies while listening to rain drizzling against my windows. I am in love. As for more traditional pairings, I would suggest this cider either on its own, with cheese, or with dessert. It isn't really a meal cider, but it does not need to be. In terms of activities, you could enjoy this cider while doing almost anything fun. I wouldn't pair it with doing taxes or chatting with dullards, but it sparkles alongside good conversation or peaceful loafing. I recommend the loafing.

This just in! I checked Julian Cider's Facebook Page ( only to see that they have three more exciting varieties coming soon. So now, just on the heels of satisfying my curiousity so happily, I'm already excited for the next mystery cider. Such is life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cider Review: Naked Flock Draft Cider (also, Finger Lakes Cider Week is Coming!)

Back in May, I reviewed the first Naked Flock cider to come my way, the Original. Here's a link to that review along with its introduction and background for the brand, Naked Flock. You can read about Naked Flock on the Applewood Winery's page which has a section that serves as Naked Flock's Website. Their Facebook page is even more active and full of information: For example, that's how I learned that Naked Flock was just named the best Cider in the Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley Magazine.

This is what Naked Flock says about this particular cider, "Draft is a drier style fermented with Belgian Trappist Ale yeast and smoothed over with organic Maple syrup." We'll see how a cider can be dry but also use maple syrup as a sweetening agent, but I'm curious. I know one commenter on my previous Naked Flock review mentioned the noticeability of the ale yeast in the finished cider.

Appearance: Brilliant, intense goldenrod

The brilliant clarity of this cider shows lots of bubbles clining to the glass. Its intense yellow color reminds me of the goldenrod I see blooming everywhere. I was shocked by how bright the color looked in my, jar.

Aromas: cooked apples, hint of apple candy, pear syrup

Having heard that Naked Flock's Draft is drier and more beery than the original, I was surprised a second time when I smelled it. The apple smell is definitely more like a baked apple than a ripe or even overripe raw apple aroma that comes with many ciders. Still, aromas do not necessarily directly translate into tastes. But since the secondary aromas are more sweet things, candy and syrup, I know to expect a fairly sweet to very sweet cider.

Sweetness: Sweet

Not really a drier cider. The sweetness has some bright acidity along with the sweetness. I can definitely perceive the maple syrup in the cider's finish.

Flavors: apple, orange, ripe melon

Naked Flock's Draft Cider is very fruity and sweet. Its pleasant acidity almost veers into the too-much-for-me camp, but at the same time, this cider needs its acidity because otherwise the sweetness would be overwhelming. This is a tense balancing act, but one perhaps not yet quite perfected. It doesn't however fall into either of the duelling traps of extreme acidity or sweetness but it does flirt with both.

Drinking Experience: needs to be chilled, pair with food

Tastes best cold. Mind you, on these warm spells that periodically interrupt my happy progress towards fall, most things taste best cold. The Draft pairs with casual dinner fare. Definitely a cider that could pleasantly accompany many classic American dishes, but something more hearty and and less delicate than sushi or salad. Perhaps a veggie frittata with cheddar or a mushroom soup with wheat rolls. Activity wise, this is a fine after work beverage for relaxing. At least that's how I enjoyed mine.

On a totally different note, I'm really excited to be hearing about the cool cider events happening all over the country. The numbers and excitement are building in all kinds of places. What I'm curious about is will any readers be enjoying Finger Lakes Cider Week ( or NYC and Hudson Valley Cider Week (

Both series will be simply bursting with great opportunities to taste cider, meet folks, and learn about our favorite beverage. I'd love to meet fellow cider fans there. Let me know who you are and what you'll be doing. Let's drink cider together!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cider Review: Farnum Hill Summer Cider

I cannot believe I've been keeping a cider blog for nine whole months without talking about any Farnum Hill Ciders. This is a grievous error on my part not only because they have played such a pivotal role in America's cider renaissance (which they undoubtedly have), but also because they were one of my early cider life-lines when I came back to the United States after trying and enjoying ciders during my study abroad at the University of East Anglia. (Here's my mostly unrelated shout out with affection to my nefarious guides to the wonderful world of pubs and cider, the UEA Games Soc.) Anyhow, I've been enjoying their ciders for almost ten years, so this review should have come earlier.

Farnum Hill Ciders come from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire. They make many ciders and sell apples, including unusual varieties of apples that are otherwise hard to come by. You can visit their fabulously informative website at: Stephen M. Wood and Louisa D. Spencer have run and owned Poverty Lane Orchards since its start in 2000. These folks are serious about apples, science, and cider. I highly recommend checking out their Cider Facts page to learn some interesting things about apples and climate and also to get a good feel for the brand's unique personality.  Fascinating stuff; I certainly didn't know anything about "Dosage" before reading about it there.

Before summer ends, I want to review Farnum Hill Summer Cider.  This cider has an ABV of 7.8% and like all Farnum Hill Ciders prides itself on using carefully chosen blended and cider apples. Rather than list their entire three paragraph orientation to the cider, I'll point my readers to it here:
and quote a bit about the cider itself. The folks at Farnum Hill say this, "Farnum Hill Summer Cider is golden and gently sparkling, blended to remind people in the States that good ciders make ideal summer “wines,” something the wider world never forgot. So in this one we go for prominent fruit and keen acid, soft-pedaling the tannic, earthy notes common to the other FHC blends. In Summer Cider the fruits are rich, the citrusy notes are strong, with gentle sweetness in the background. It’s a bit like whiskey sours, without the alcoholic whack."I'm not quite sure the digs at both United States drinkers and whiskey sours need to be there, but I'll be on the lookout for the acidity and lightness specifically.

Appearance: brilliant, cool blonde

Please forgive me for thinking of this cider's color as one of Alfred Hitchcock's leading ladies (specifically Tippi Hedron in The Birds), but that's always what cool blonde says to me. This Summer Cider has visible bubbles, most dissipate fast, but small fine streams continue through the liquid. Beautiful brilliance as well.

Aromas: fresh apples, banana, cake

Apple smells definitely come through first and foremost. The secondary fruits I sense most are banana and blueberry.  I could also detect bits of cake and walnut. This smells like a complex and lovely buffet of sweet flavors, but we'll see if the cider is as fruity and sweet as it smells.

Sweetness: Semi-dry to Off-dry

Actually separating the sweetness from other elements of enjoying this cider is fairly difficult. I can smell sweet fruits, but the taste is far more bright and acidic. It is definitely not bone dry, but it isn't a semi-sweet either. I'll say a gentle off dry or a more hardcore semi-dry. Hopefully that's not too confusing.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: high acidity, low to medium tannins, off-dry 

The Summer Cider tastes good to sip, but it tastes even better in big drinks. The flavors come in two distinct waves: first sweet, bright, second is dark, bitter, plummy flavor at the mid-back of the tongue.  Clean finish. The acidity is what makes it summery, and it contributes to the sense of  near dryness while also offering some enjoyable fruitiness. This is one of the lightest bodied ciders they make, perhaps the Summer Cider is giving a nod to the Spanish cider tradition.

I can definitely recommend this cider with all sorts of light summery foods and activities. Try the Summer Cider with bruschetta and fresh corn or lobster rolls. Bring a glass to a hammock, sneak a bottle into your canoe, eat a few more dinners outside with this cider before the weather gets too cold. Fall is coming soon, and I think Farnum Hill is more than right to think of this cider as uniquely suited to summertime. Whatever version they make each year, they attempt to make it available May through September where their other ciders are sold.  If you see this one, give it a try.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cider Review: Alexander Keith's Original Cider

I like to review a wide variety of ciders. That's one of my primary goals for this blog, so when I got a cider unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to review it. A Canadian tourist passed it along to a group of us United States cider folks, saying that it was a new Canadian cider. That's how I got access to Alexander Keith's Original Cider. It looks pretty sleek with that uber professional logo and graphic design, so I wonder how it has flown so completely under my radar.

Maybe I've just missed something, or perhaps I don't hear enough news of the Canadian cider scene. What's really interesting though is that as soon as you look at the back of the can, you can see that it isn't actually produced in Canada. Alexander Keith's Original Cider looks to be made in Baldwinsville, New York. Interesting. Also, when I looked up Alexander Keith's brewery, I discovered that after a long Canadian history it now belongs to Labatt which is owned by Anheuser–Busch InBev. Obviously, neither of these companies has much of a history with cider.

The company has a great website: Again, beautiful graphic design, super quality photography(way to make me look bad, guys), and excellent functionality. It even has an interactive wheel that helps you generate tasting notes and suggested food pairings for all of their products (all of the rest or which are beers). Kinda neat! I do get some hesitation when I first see the suggestion, "Best served over ice," because that is not usually a good sign. A cider that needs ice is a cider that will benefit from being tasted less and less accurately.

Here's what the company says about their cider, "With a light and refreshing taste, Alexander Keith's
Original Cider has just the right balance of sweet and tart, and is best served over ice." The ABV on this is 5.5% and the cider can be purchased in pint cans, bottles, and on tap in some locations. Let's find out how it tastes.

Appearance: Brilliant clarity, light straw color, lots of bubbles

As the picture shows, Alexander Keith's Original Cider is very very bubbly in appearance. The bubbles cling to the side of the glass, form a ring at the surface of the cider, and rise profusely all through the liquid. I expect lots of carbonation.

Aromas: green apple candy, Malic acid, overripeness

I primarily smelled apple candy which is a very acidic sweet smell. One of my fellow tasters got notable levels of Malic acid which is associated with fruity sourness. Sometimes this is added to foods or drinks to enhance their flavors.

Sweetness: Sweet!

Again that candy and sour sweetness from the aroma really comes through when drinking this cider. 

Flavors: sweetness, apple, and chemicals

The carbonation levels are high but not shockingly so. The apple taste is dominated by sugar and doesn't fill the mouth. I feel like this is a thin beverage. The finish includes chemicals and shampoo. After thinking a it, I could taste hints of Ammonia. Again one ofmy fellow tasters was able to give me some more detailed information. What I smelled as Ammonia is diamonium phosphate which is used in place of yeast nutrient sometimes in brewing. This isn't a very enjoyable beverage for me, I'm sad to say.

To be fair, I think folks who enjoy commercial 6 pack ciders or who like other InBev offerings might add this to their repertoire. As for me, I'm glad to have gotten the chance to try something for free that is being marketed in Canada. I also definitely see a value in checking out both the artisanal and commercial extreme ends of the cider spectrum periodically to what is going on all over the market. Thanks also to my fellow tasters, I learned a lot.