Monday, December 30, 2013

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2013

 2013 has been a huge year for me. I mean it. Huge! And Along Came A Cider has been a big and wonderful part of that, making 2013 my best cider year ever. Meeting cider makers. Going to Cider Days. Actually having cider makers want my feedback! Most of all, I'm just learning so much about cider from this wonderful friendly community. I'm so thrilled and grateful. So, thank you.

That said, I hope it will be a fun thing just to informally share my top ten ciders of the year. The caveat is that I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I'm not limiting myself to ciders that have full reviews on the blog. Sorry, but it is really hard to get good photos and complete notes each and every time I sit down (or stand up) with a new cider. Some of these that don't have full reviews now will get them in the coming months. Let's hope anyway.

Anyhow, this is in no way definitive or complete, just a way for me to revisit my year in cider exploration and highlight a few of the very special ciders that really impressed me. Ordering these was really really difficult and completely subjective. Actually, remind me not to do this next year...

Along Came A Cider's Ten Favorite Ciders of 2013

1. Anthem Hopped

Purists are going to hate this choice; I just know it. Oh well. I really enjoy hopped ciders. Their aromas and complexities just bowl me over again and again. And Anthem (whose parent cidermaker is Wandering Aengus) makes the best of the lot. I definitely wish I had a way to get this in Ithaca. You can read the full review here:

2. Bellwether King Baldwin

I know. I know! I work for Bellwether, so I must be biased. Eh. Probably. But I love our ciders and I think they are truly top notch. Not reviewing them here and shouting their praises from my tiny blog's rooftops is sometimes crazy hard. This cider is just lovely. It has two antique American apple varieties: the Tompkins King and the Baldwin. Pairs really well with all kinds of food. I love its balance of fruit and crispness. When I got to go to a bonfire party back in the fall and recline outdoors with a warm fire and a cold cider, I went to the King Baldwin, and it was perfect. Since I don't have a review, you can read about it in this Edible Finger Lakes review:

3. West County Reine De Pomme

I absolutely adored this cider and the elegant and educational way in which is is presented both in the bottle and on West County's website. Try this one in a gorgeous big glass because the color is something special to behold. Gotta love the minerality in this one. My review says far more about the experience:

4. Oliver's Gold Rush

Though I don't have a full entry dedicated to just this cider, I give some pretty thorough notes in this writeup of my first visit to The Queen's Kickshaw. This cider is for fans of highly tannic very British ciders, and since that is exactly what I love, I was pleased beyond words with this cider.

5. Thatcher's Green Goblin

This is the cider that reminded me of how much I like oaked ciders. I also really enjoyed getting to share this with my mom and really show her a cider with enough complexity to really impress. There are many, so I'm just getting started sharing some good ones. My review says more:

 6. Farnum Hill Kingston Black

I really owe this cider a full review of its own. I love so many of Farnum Hill's ciders, and this one particularly stood out to me when I tried it as part of a cheese and cider pairing workshop back in New York City. Here's my entry all about that whole evening: Hopefully, I can track down a bottle of this so I can focus on it properly soon.

7. Julian Black and Blue

This was a surprise love for me, and one I'd really like to taste again. I am not always super into fruit additions to cider, but I loved the deep bittersweetness of this. Deliriously good. I keep coming back to Julian Cider with very good impressions.

8. Distillery Lane Ciderworks Traditional Dry Sparkling Cider

This is one of the most traditional ciders on my list and Distillery Lane does it so well. I loved their Dry Sparkling Cider. It was the first cider I got to enjoy in my Ithaca apartment very very shortly after moving in, so the good memory also helps it to stand out in my mind.

9. Albemarle Pomme Mary

Despite my usual preference for dry ciders, Albemarle won me over with their entire line and most especially with their Pomme Mary. It is a beautifully balanced and truly lovely sweet cider. I reviewed this one on vacation in the Outer Banks which was also just a wonderful experience. Vacations are the best time to catch up on reviewing.

10. Arsenal Cider Fightin' Elleck

I have so much affection and respect for Arsenal Cider. Mind you, they are bringing cider to Pittsburgh, and for that alone they deserve some major credit. But not only that, they are making some really neat creative ciders that taste fantastic. I have reviewed a couple of theirs, but the Fighting Elleck made such a good impression, I have to include it here:

Thanks again everyone. Thanks especially to photographer friends who lend a hand, friends and family who cider hunt for me 24/7, cider sellers (The Cellar D'Or!), cider makers, my fellow Bellwether crew, cider lovers nearby and faraway, all the cider ambassadors on Twitter, and everyone who has ever stopped by Along Came A Cider. You guys have all been a tremendous highlight to my 2013. Thank you.