Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cider Review: Thatcher's Green Goblin

I usually only review American ciders, but I do enjoy ciders from many different places. My palate doesn't discriminate by region. When I was on a trip home to Kentucky recently, I promised to look at what I could find in terms of local cider selection and write about it. The most interesting thing I found had to be Thatcher's Green Goblin. I got the very last bottle at a Liquor Barn in Louisville KY and I had to climb on the shelves to get. And this wasn't even on Black Friday! In any case, I was thrilled to see something I do not usually see, hence a review of a decidedly English Cider. Hopefully in coming years, I'll see some Kentucky ciders. We do have the apples after all. If you've ever heard of a Kentucky cider, please let me know!

Thatcher's Green Goblin has its own website at and for more information, this page has more detail The promotional copy isn't particularly descriptive, but it does emphasize that the apples are English and that the cider is oaked. Here's how they put it: "The Green Goblin from deep in the wood - 100 year-old oak vats, that is. Made with English apples, and matured in oak vats, Green Goblin cider is a full-flavoured, bittersweet blend, beautifully balanced to give a fresh character with a medium dry finish." When reading about their cider process, they list two apple varieties Somerset Redstreak and Dabinette both grown in the West County region. I know both of those apples from several US ciders that use them for tannins, so I'm even more curious than I had been before.

Appearance: brilliant, papaya, no foam

Seriously, the color is deep papaya. I've never seen another cider like it. When poured, this cider had no foam or head. As I hope the photo shows, it has no haziness and is instead clear and brilliant. What a beautiful cider!

Aromas: stone, wood, subtle aura of persimmon

This earthy smell is delightfully cidery but in an unexpected way because it offers almost no apple, and absolutely no yeast. Instead I smelled stone and wood with just a smidge of acidic fruit. Thinking about that fruitiness, ripe persimmon rather captures it.

Sweetness: Fairly dry

While the dryness is not extreme, this cider defnitely comes across more dry than sweet. I think the dryness combines with the tannins to emphasize those elements more than sweetness or fruit.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, low acid, dry. Woody.

I taste tannins most predominantly in the Green Goblin and I love it. The tannins are soft and not overly aggressive because they are balanced with some lovely apple notes and low acidity. The cider tastes very woody in that almost drying way. Some folks don't care for this, but I'm totally into it. I get hints of leather but those are restrained. Some subtle spicy fruits and farminess give character to the apple. The Green Goblin has fairly intense levels of carbonation, but they lighten up what is otherwise a fairly dark-tasting beverage, so I'm not complaining. The finish lingers with more wood and spice, but at this point the farmyard notes have all disappeared, giving it an evolving taste.

This cider strikes me so deeply enjoyable because of its maturity and balance. I shared the Green Goblin with my mother who doesn't usually care for cider, but she loved the complexity and drinkability of the Green Goblin. She's totally right; it is exceptionally good. I can now add oaking to my list of techniques that make a cider more likely to make my list of repeat buys. Nice.

When thinking of food pairings, I can see a few different directions suiting the Green Goblin. In summer, I'd drink this with a capese salad with loads of fresh mozzarella and some aged balsamic vinegar. In winter, pair the Green Goblin with pasta in cream sauce with walnuts and broccoli. In terms of activities, I'd bring this to a gathering full of new people. The cider has so many different nuances that it makes a great conversation starter, and I'm confident most folks who try would find it both enjoyable and interesting. Besides, I'm always looking to use parties as a way to make more drinkers into cider drinkers.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cider Review: Woodchuck Cellar Series Dry Hop

 Tonight, I get to reviewing a cider that came to me in the mail from Woodchuck, so this is not a cider I paid for. That's also how it happened to come in this really snazzy box. Woodchuck sure knows how to put together a nice package. I have reviewed a few of their ciders before, recently I checked out their Belgian White ( and my very first review here was their Winter cider (, but this is the first I've received from Woodchuck for reviewing.

Woodchuck began their cellar series this fall, and I'm reviewing the first Cellar Series Cider, the Dry Hop. First a little info about the Cellar Series: they will be released nation wide periodically; the line seeks to highlight several different innovative cider styles. Dry hopping a cider is just such a technique; several different small cider producers make a dry hopped, but this may be the first one that is available in many places. So for some readers, this could be the first hopped cider on your local shelves.

Here's what Woodchuck says about this cider, "The dry hop technique, by which the fermented cider is strained through a tank of fresh Cascade hops, infuses the cider with crisp citrus and pine notes. The smooth apple character of Woodchuck’s signature hard cider balances perfectly against the bitterness of the hops. It’s another category bending cider from Woodchuck." This isn't tons of information, but it is good to know that they use Cascade hops.

Color and Appearance: corn kernel, lotsa bubbles, some foam

This has foamiest head of any cider I've ever seen. The Dry Hop offers rich intense color like that of an un-popped kernel of popcorn. It is a really neat color. Even after the cider's head dissapates, the number of visible bubbles in the glass is truly unusual.

Aromas: beer

Yes, I can smell the hops, but more I smell the finished product, beer. This cider doesn't show off clear hop distinctions like citrus or pine but just smells like a cold fresh mildly hoppy beer.

Sweetness: semi-sweet

If not a first for Woodchuck, the semi-sweetness of their Dry Hop a near first. Enchanting! What sweetness there is comes in at the finish. It is so nice to be surprised in this arena by a cider company that usually sticks to sweet.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: Grapefruit, sweet finish, piney hops.

The hop characteristics come out more in the flavors of the Dry Hop than in its aromas. This cider really does taste so much more complex than it smells. I get strong notes of lychee, grapefruit and kiwi.  The Dry Hop opens with a soft floral fruit that is the Lychee but finishes with distinct ruby red grapefruit. With moderate minerals, the cider tastes pleasantly rocky. That aspect reminds me of the Belgian White, but I prefer this cider. Dry hopping continues to be a way for cider makers to win me over.

Overall, I have to declare this cider deliciously gulpable. If you see any on the shelves, get several and have them with the crazy amazing sandwiches we'll all be making with Thanksgiving leftovers on November 29th.

I'm curious about the rest of the Cellar Series releases. Hopefully I'll be trying their second one, the Smoked Apple before too long.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cider Review: Oyster River Winegrower's Hoboken Station Cider (including bonus cat + cider picture)

This cider showed up my collection recently after my husband went to our local cider store without me. I'd never heard of Oyster River Winegrowers, much less their Hoboken Station Cider. A cider from Maine! This is a first for me. Exciting! When I tried to find out a bit more about Oyster River Winegrowers, I used their Facebook page because their website does not appear to be current or operational. Oyster River Winegrowers' Facebook page however is full of interesting and useful information. They appear to be a small vineyard winery, farm, and cidery in Warren, Maine.  They say this about themselves, "We are a Maine vineyard and winery focusing on farming with draft horses and without the use of synthetic chemicals." And yes, the FB page has pictures of their horses. Too cute.

About this particular cider, their Hoboken Station Cider. I'll be piecing together information from a few different sources. The bottle says, "Produced in Warren, Maine from a variety of mostly esoteric apples chosen for superior cider quality. Dry and bottle conditioned." Bottle conditioned means that a second fermentation takes place over time in the bottle, allowing the cider to become naturally sparkling, in this case they use organic cane sugar for the bottle conditioning. One post on Oyster River Winegrower's Facebook page says this about the Hoboken Station Cider, "This Cider is dry, native yeast fermented from a blend of obscure more cider specific apples ( Golden Russet, Dabinett, Esopus Spitzenberg, Calville Blanc d'Hiver, Blushing Granny, Ida Red, and Golden Delicious) with heavier tannin content and high sugar content giving us 9% alcohol. It is a sipper, but surprisingly easy with wine like, or perhaps Belgian beer-like complexity and just a small amount, not so much to be distracting, of carbonation from a natural bottle fermentation."Let me add that the cider has a hefty 9% ABV; cider by winemakers, indeed!

Hoboken Cider with curious cat Amelia
Appearance: hazy,  intense mango

The color is more deep than with many ciders. When I look at my glass, I can see lots of still bubbles cling to all sides of the glass. A few move to the top almost by turns. This isn't a totally brilliant cider which comes as no surprise as it is unfiltered.

Aromas: ripe apples, dust, minerals

Primarily, I smell ripe apples that communicate a bit vinously. Slightly winey apples warmed in the sun. The secondary scent reminds me of mineral dust mingled with and followed by a hint of sweetness.

Sweet to dry: Semi-dry

Though this cider is plenty fruity, I'd cal it semi-dry. I really dig the level of tannins that balance out the fruits as I take my second and third sips. I can see the comparisons to both wine and Belgian beer. It does sort taste in waves and an early wine like wave of flavor is followed by a one that reminds me of yeasty slightly sour Belgian beer. This is pretty tasty, though I rather miss the smoothness that complex ciders can have.

Flavors and Drinking experience: apple, stone fruits, honey, hints of yeast

At first this cider tastes fruit forward and light. Winey notes bite the mid-palate a bit roughly.Honey whispers through the long finish. Pleasant amount of fine-bubbled carbonation. It feels warming because of the higher than average ABV. 

I'd pair this with heavier foods but nothing too spicy. Actually this would be a perfect cider to have with shepherds pie or a layered vegetable lasagna. This is also a great sharing cider. Invite people over and make this your pot luck cider of choice. Though everyone is putting out Thanksgiving recommendations, I'll add this one to the list as well. I think it's strength of flavor could really remain present and enjoyable through many of this holiday's big big flavors.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cider Review: Wandering Aengus Dry Oaked

It has been far too long since I've reviewed anything by Wandering Aengus Ciderworks out of Washington State. The last time I reviewed one of their cider, I took a look at the Bloom cider. You can check out my review here:  Their website appears to be undergoing a certain degree of transition right now, but you can still read about their ciders.

Tonight I'm reviewing their Dry Oaked Cider. I can provide the official stats and description as offered by Wandering Aengus:

Orchards: Hood River, OR & Lebanon, NH
Dry and spicy
“mild clove bite”
Pairings: Salami or Stinky Cheese
ABV 6.8% (2009) 8.4% (2011)
Available in 16.9oz and draft
1/2 & 1/6 barrel kegs – Limited Run Vintage 2011

It's very neat that they share where they sourced the apples, in this case from Hood River, Oregon and Lebanon, New Hampshire. I wish the description gave a bit more in the way of apple varieties or tasting notes, but this is still a nice amount of information. Let's see how this goes.

Appearance: Brilliant, Gamboge, almost no bubbles

Looking at the Dry Oaked cider, I had to find some webpages that list different shades of orange. This thrills me because I have so often referred to shades of yellow, but this is the first time I've gotten to refer to shades of orange. After delightfully thorough consideration, I'd say the color is Gamboge. That word was a new one to me; it refers to the deep orange/yellow pigment used to dye Buddhist monks' robes. What a wonderful excuse to learn new things.The cider is brilliant and pours with Belgian lace

Aromas: wood, fresh apples, light pear and honey notes playing in the background

What a delightful smell! At first the wood just dominates but after a moment and a few repeated sniffs, I could detect the apples, pears, and honey.

Drinking Experience and Flavors: Dry, tannic, acidic, woody

This dry cider tastes so cleanly farmy, which sounds odd because often farminess and gamey flavors go together with funk. But this remarkably different. The Dry Oaked cider gets it farm notes from the combination of acidity and tannins. So much wood! This enchants me because of how well the balance works. The cider gets its liveliness from the acidity, depth from tannins, and restraint from the dryness. Gosh, I'm impressed. I love love the woodiness. It tastes like almost sucking on a barn beam in a way.

Though the cider has some natural sparkle, it isn't at all distracting or overpowering. The finish lingers smoothly. Overall, this is a remarkably drinkable cider for one with real complexity, dryness, and body.

I recommend cooking with this and drinking it at the same time. My husband used it with some good butter to saute mushrooms. This brings out the farminess and earthiness beautifully. We then used those mushrooms on top of pasta with basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes (from my father's garden). Yeah. It worked out amazingly well for something fairly improvised.

 If you don't want to cook your own meal while drinking this cider, I don't blame you. Wandering Aengus' Dry Oaked cider serves up enough complexity to deserve its own focus. Perhaps then drink it while someone else is cooking something earthy, rich, and marvelous. Cooking is an excellent spectator sport afterall and this cider can keep anyone entertained.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Franklin County Cider Days 2013: A Few Photos and Highlights

Starting with a maple tree and not with apples? Sacrilege, I know, but I wanted to share the amazing atmosphere and weather that attendees of Franklin County Cider Days enjoyed. It was perfect, and all of the locations I saw were beautiful. I enjoyed the town of Shelburne Falls so very much with its cute local shops and classic rural MA houses and amazing fall foliage. It made a great setting for Franklin County Cider Days.

I'd been looking forward to this weekend full of cider events for a few months, and it did not disappoint. People were friendly, informative, and welcoming. I learned so much about cider and good event planning from this brilliant weekend, and I didn't get to see half of all the amazing events that had been put together. I recommend Franklin County Cider Days to any cider enthusiast. It is a mandatory event for professionals in any aspect of the industry. Next year will be the 20th annual Cider Days weekend, and I hope to see you all there.

The home brewers event was my first event of the weekend. People sampled home brewed cider, and discussed it. Judges critiqued and compared the ciders and folks got into the nitty gritty of fermentation science, fruit selection, and all sorts of facets to home brewing great cider. Since I've never made my own cider, I felt like an observer and not a participant, but this was a great window into a thriving and vibrant community that is clearly producing all kinds of interesting cider.

This picture is from the amazing apple table. At the marketplace, one vendor set this up and allowed people to taste from dozens and dozens of unusual and heritage types of apples. I must have fallen in love about ten times. This is a must try event for everyone because I know of no other way to try so many rare apples. It was amazing.

 Another fun thing worth mentioning, is the cool companies who represented their work in fun ways. I love this vehicle modification for the Urban Farm Fermentary, and though I didn't get a picture, Citizen Cider made a real impression by having a cadre of their folks all wearing the same cool shirt. This is a great opportunity for brands to build up enthusiasm before the Cider Salon, and it really added to the atmosphere.

The Cider Salon

Attending the Cider Salon has to be a highlight for almost everyone who comes to Franklin County Cider Days. It is one of the largest cider tastings that occurs anywhere with more than  75 cider producers and a handful of intrepid cider importers as well. The event is so popular that it has to be divided into two tasting sessions because the tent won't hold enough people for everyone to taste at once. Even with two sessions, people are crushed a bit. My brave companion and I attempted to work counter clockwise through the room, but didn't make it to all the tables. All the more reason to attend again next year.

I attended the second session and tasted ciders from all parts of the United States and a few from Canada, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. We got a tasting booklet with information on all of the companies who sent cider which helped guide our tasting choices. There were simply too many ciders there to taste them all. It was a cider lover's dream. I learned so much in that hour and a half and recalibrated my palate tremendously. For anyone who fears cellar blindness (changed expectations of cider because of much familiarity with one brand or style) this is exactly the kind of event to fix that.

The volunteers were crucial to making this work, and they poured with enthusiasm and good humor. Many thanks to them. They were facing a lot of empty glasses in those two sessions.

The Harvest Supper

Right after the Salon, we made our way to the Harvest Supper. Everyone sat at long tables in the Shelburne Buckland Community Center and made friends with our tablemates (or already had enough cider buddies to fill a table). Volunteers served us delicious food. I'll include the official description of the meal and menu for the sake of accuracy.

"The 2013 CiderDays Harvest Supper was held from 7 to 9pm on Saturday, November 2nd, and includes seasonal savory and sweet New England themed cuisine. Chef Paul Correnty celebrates the fall harvest by incorporating as many local ingredients as possible into our annual feast."

The 2013 Menu
On the Table Appetizers
: White bean and garlic dip with rustic bread from El Jardin Bakery
Seared sesame tuna with Real Pickles

Cup of Chunky Harvest Vegetable Soup

: Late Autumn Greens with Cider Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne with Rosado Sauce and a side 
of Italian sausage
Apple Crisp with Bart's ginger ice cream and cider syrup 
from New Salem Orchards and Preserves 

And much cider left over from the Salon was poured and enjoyed. I especially liked the soup and salad, but everything was lovely. The meat eaters at our table spoke highly of the Italian sausage, and I will vouch for everything else. I left well stuffed and well cidered and very satisfied.

Spanish Cider Tasting

Because my schedule had some limitations, I just got to try one event on Sunday, the Spanish Cider Tasting. This was led by James Asbel who has been inporting Spanish ciders for three decades as Ciders of Spain. He did a fantastic job along with two featured tasters and a moderator and of course a selection of 5 Spanish ciders that ranged from the genteel to the wild.

This event was a must attend for me because I feel like the Spanish style of cider that frequently focuses on acidity and funk without pronounced tannins is a weak spot in my range of cider experience. This tasting really contextualized Spanish ciders for me and, better yet, showed everyone who attended a range within the style. Sidras vary. Some are more woody, some have sparkle while others do not. Some are produced with the intention of export, others are not. The event deserves its own entry; I took copious notes. But I'll only make it an entry if it seems like someone besides me would find interesting. In any case, the event was marvelous and so educational.

Sadly, I had to leave after that and drive back home. But Franklin County Cider Days was an amazing experience that I cannot wait to repeat next year!