Friday, March 21, 2014

Driving out for GLINTCAP judging...and sharing something new

I'm so pleased and grateful for the opportunity I get this weekend to help judge the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). We have the most entries in the history of the competition and it should be an amazing experience. You can read about the group and their activities here:

Saturday, I get an eight hour training in detecting faults and flaws in cider. This is something I've worked with some at Bellwether, but I'm beyond excited to increase my cider knowledge in this way. Then on Sunday, I'll be judging cider all day long with some of the best in North America and beyond. I feel floored and grateful to be included. Thanks so much to my readers, you guys helped make this possible.

In other apple and cider news...

This is a picture of me taken yesterday at Model Citizen Tattoo in Ithaca, NY. And yes that is an apple tattoo.

I wanted to celebrate my love of apples and cider. I've been tempted to get an apple related tattoo since 2004, the year my grandmother passed away. She and my papaw grew apples and throughout my entire childhood, she would pick and cut her home-grown yellow apples as a special shared snack. I thought of the idea again and again, as cider became a big part of my interests and again as this blog developed. So, for many many reasons, I finally got the apple tattoo I've wanted.

This is is the line work. My artist will add color in a few weeks. For now though, time to pack!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cider Review: Naked Flock Citra

I'm back to reviewing a New York state cider as my beautiful state gets pummeled with more winter weather. I know March isn't actually part of spring for upstate New York, so I'm reminding myself of what's great about New York with a cider made from 100% NY Hudson Valley apples. I'm returning to Naked Flock for their Citra cider. But someday, someday, it will actually be warm again here.
My previous reviews of Naked Flock Ciders feature their Original (check out the review here: ) and their Draft ciders (which can be found right here: .

Naked Flock's Citra does not appear on their webpage. I was able to get a small official description but it does not give much information, "Naturally fermented from fresh pressed Hudson Valley Apples, not concentrate. It is unpasteurized with no colorants, malts, spirits or grape alcohol added. Fermented with Champagne yeast and flavored with Citra hops." You can read more about the cidery here, but be forewarned that the information is limited: 

I'd actually recommend skipping the Naked Flock website and instead using their Facebook page for current information. This page does get updated regularly and features tastings and events as well as product information:

Okay! On to the cider!

Appearance: hazy very light yellow

This very bubbly cider looks like a perfect real lemonade in the glass. Light yellow and hazy with plenty of bubbles. Hazy ciders, including this one, can be so lovely. I wish more cider makers would not fear anything shy of brilliant clarity.

Aromas: no apple, only hops

Citra offers many exciting and zesty smells, but none of them are apple of any kind. This tends to be a characteristic of hopped ciders. No apple on the aroma and varied levels of apple in the ciders taste. What I did taste however was really varied, fresh, and exciting.  Aromas of fresh mint, lime, yellow green grass, and just bold summery freshness were all over the place. Mouthwatering good smells.

Sweetness: Semi-dry

Definitely the driest of the Naked Flock cider's I've tried. Perhaps I'm not tasting sweetness much in this one in particular because I am tasting so many other flavors, but this is definitely a cider that will work for those of us who are not very big fans of sweetness in cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Big citrus, acidity, other fruits, refreshing

Like many hopped ciders the Citra by Naked Flock tastes gorgously of lemons, limes, and grapefruits. My husband and assistant cider taster Alex noticed Lychee. I think he's right. The cider is super acidic, but I expected that because all Naked Flock ciders have very high levels of acidity. I think it works better in the Citra. This has to be my favorite Naked Flock so far and by a wide margin.

For food pairing recommendations, I have to go with a sandwich and awesome kettle cooked potato chips. The saltiness of chips and wonderful varieties of texture in a truly good sandwich will complement zesty and refreshing flavors of Naked Flock's Citra. I had a chickpea patty with mayo, tomato, and avocado with mine and it worked out beautifully. I'd also pair this cider with whatever makes you feel warm if you're going to drink it during cold weather. Ideally though this is a summer cider meant for drinking after hikes, by lakes, or after pick up summer games of kickball, Ultimate Frisbee, or what have you. For this not-so-athletic person, I'd drink mine after a big hike. In any case, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Citra!  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cider Review: AppelTreow Barnswallow Draft Cider

Winter is a busy time for the cider industry and for us hardcore fans. This sounds weird and the exact opposite of what most folks would expect because cider is a fermented agricultural product and so when things aren't growing we should be less busy. But this isn't the case because cider fits so many acitivites into this "off" season that winter has definitely caught up to spring and summer. People do tremendous amounts of orchard maintenance, planning, fermenting, tasting, competing and selling in the winter. Lately, I've been pleasantly embroiled in a few of these activities myself, and it's pretty neat stuff.

During a brief break, I did get to try cider from a part of the United States whose ciders I know much less well. I found a bottle of AeppelTreow's Barnswallow Draft cider. AeppelTroeow comes from its own winery/cidery/distillery in Wisconsin. You can read a bit about the products and processes on the company's website: The website has some useful information, but it is a bit more perfunctory than inspiring. More thrillingly, they do have a tasting room, so one can go visit AeppelTreow when in Wisconsin.

In looking at how AeppelTreow describes its own identity as a cider producer, here is the bullet list of points they emphasize online.
  • Use of locally grown fruits and crops.
  • Use of special purpose, heirloom cultivars.
  • A minimalist production approach
  • A lighter style that lets the subtle flavors come through.
I love how specific this list is. It really gives me a set of expectations for the cider and for their brand. Beyond the list, this is what AppelTreow says about themselves: "We back up this philosophy with great carry-through resulting is very drinkable products. We support it with a lot of education about apple and cider history, fruit growing, even politics and chemistry." A cider maker that focuses on  educating folks about cider! Count me in. I'm really hoping that their cider lives up to the high expectations I've formed based on their promotional materials. These folks just seem like people I'd really like a lot. Hopefully there cider will be a likeable. 

So the cider I'm trying today is AeppelTreow's Barnswallow Draft Cider.

Here's what they say about it: "Crisp and refreshing, Green apple, tart, slightly bubbly." Followed by another of their bullet point lists.
  • Body: Smooth
  • Sweetness: 2
  • Tartness: 5
  • Alcohol: 6%
  • Apples: Red Delicious, Cortland, Ida Red, Greenings
  • Available: 750mL, 5.16 gallon keg
This is the part where I'm definitely now sure what scale they're using or exactly what those numbers mean. But I do know those apples and three out of those four are really ones I adore in cider. Greenings are especially lovely.

Appearance: Brilliant, topaz, beautiful tiny bubbles on the glass

Apologies for the cheesiness of  using my husband's music paper for a cider shot, but I couldn't resist. The cider shows total brilliance, not even a hint of haze. The color is an intense definite topaz. More yellow than many ciders but a shade more leaning into green than orange, still a relatively pale non-green yellow. This seems perfect for a November birthday girl like me. Though the photo doesn't show them perfectly, this cider does have tight little bubbles that cling to the glass.

Aromas: applesauce, overripe apples,  sweet

Smells like one of the apples involved was brought in especially for aroma. I'd guess that to be one of the dessert varieties, either the Red Delicious or the Cortland. Both provide good aroma to cider. Perhaps yeast and baking smells are a distance second. Very approachable.

Sweetness: Semi-dry or Dry with a semi-sweet finish

I agree with AeppelTreow that their ciders tend dry, but so does my palate. The start of this even has some pleasant bitterness. But by the finish, I can taste a lot more fruit and it becomes a bit sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: bittersweet, medium low acid, mellow

I know I said a variation of this before when talking about sweetness, but it matters here too. A first sip of this cider starts with a bittersweet note that unfolds into mellow fruits. I really enjoy how it develops even in one sip. The fruits are soft and warm yet tart: like a tart apple you've let warm in your jacket pocket while taking a spring walk. Sorry to get a bit imagistic, but that's what it made me think.

The finish and aftertaste are sweet but subtle. It really does balance tartness and sweetness well. The level of carbonation is not as aggressive as even some craft producers which should suit lots of cider fans quite well as well as making the cider more appealing to those who don't usually drink cider.

AeppelTreow's Barnswallow is definitely a cider I'd drink again. I'd also happily bring it to a social gathering, though that might be a touch awkward because I have no idea how to say the cidery's name. Alas. In terms of food pairings this is a really flexible cider. You could have it with a creamy soup like I did. It worked really well that way. Or you could have it with something more casual like a hearty sandwich and good salty chips. I think the tart yet sweet combo means that many different foods would pair tastily with this cider. This makes me even more excited to try their other options.

For right now, I'd suggest drinking this cider with dinner and then bringing a second glass to the couch with a flower or seed catalog. This is the perfect time of year for dreaming of planting and planning a garden, and this cider seems just right for a little day dreaming. Happy March!