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.