Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cider Review: Virtue Cider's The Mitten (and color for my cider apple tattoo)

Before I get too deep in any cider reviewing, here's the tattoo that I first shared here: but now it has color! I'll get one more coloring session in before I can call it complete, but I'm pretty thrilled with all of Phoebe's hard work. Anyhow, I'm here celebrating my anniversary with my charming husband. Of course when we drove to Albany (to see Eddie Izzard) we had to see if there was a way to try an interesting cider. The City Beer Hall had just what we were looking for, so we stopped there.
For those who want to check out this charming restaurant/bar

The Beer Hall had a whole page of ciders including a few on tap. We chose our meals and cider to complement one another. So, to go with a quinoa and lentil burger with wasabi dusted fries and a beet and blackberry salad, we chose to go with a Virtue Cider. I know their ciders really emphasize acidity and brightness, so I thought it would pair especially well with the house veggie burger. If you've not visited Virtue's website, you can find it here Virtue makes adventurous ciders and features beautiful graphic design and the most attractive cider merchandise. They are a cider business truly pulling out all of the stops in order to support their ciders. I know it isn't easy to make everything look as polished and yet funky and original as Virtue does, so kudos to them.

The City Beer Hall had Virtue Cider's The Mitten on tap, so I chose to give that cider a try. Here's what Virtue says about this particular cider.
When the leaves fall, there’s a chill in the air and the evening greedily takes hours from daylight, we stand strong and embrace the wintertime. It’s a time of rich foods, roaring fires and our favorite sweaters. Drinks change from refreshing to intense and satisfying. The Mitten is a Winter cider, a blend of last season's best, aged in bourbon barrels, with the new season’s fresh pressed apple juice. Straight cider, aged for 3 seasons, finds notes of vanilla, caramel and charred American oak, balanced with the best of the orchard, over-ripe apples and their sweet, tart, earthy juice. Many barrels are filled, but only a small portion, the very smoothest, will find their way into The Mitten. We love wintertime, especially when we have The Mitten to keep us warm and happy through the long, cold night.

Appearance: brilliant, rich custard color, small numbers of visible bubbles

This cider pours with some mousse that dissipates almost immediately; all it leaves is a subtle ring around the glass. Totally brilliant in terms of clarity. The color is a rich yellow custard. Alternately, my husband calls it muted pale brass. I could see a consistent pattern of upward-drifting bubbles, but just a few dozen at a time. The picture shows the effect fairly well.

Smell: Overripe apples, richness, spice

The Mitten has such delightful overripe apple notes that I'd make a strong guess that some Northern Spy apples went into this cider. I love their aroma. It is a rich and intense smell, but I do get the barest hint of apple candy. This could indicate some acedification, but overall the smell is completely inviting.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

Honestly there is so much flavor in Virtue's Mitten that I can barely tell if it is sweet or dry. If forced to choose, I'd say semi-dry but the excitement comes from other particulars.

Flavors and drinking experience: plenty of acidity, light bourbon flavors, warming

Immediately, I can taste bourbon barrel melded with high acid apples. This is exactly how Virtue would approach a bourbon barrel aged cider. It tastes warming on its way to the stomach in a way that seems like a higher ABV than its 6.8. The Mitten's acidity is slightly puckering on the salivary glands and yet still smooth. A larger gulp makes this cider taste really woody. I get so many flavors in multiple waves. Virtue's Mitten is much more balanced than most bourbon barrel ciders.

This tastes Really Good. Alex says that it feels like it centers on the tongue, swirls, and then sublimates upwards.  I'm not entirely sure about that, but he's usually on to something. There's some deeply buried sweet note in there like coconut or maple, but it's a ghost of a flavor. This cider is not bitter at all; low tannins. I can taste caramel and vanilla notes from bourbon plus woodiness and somehow this all equals maple, plus the cider's buttery mouthfeel equals waffles. Yay for cidery grown-up waffles.

Overall Impression: Wow!

I really enjoyed this cider. It goes well with veggie burgers and good conversation, but I'd also treat it as a salve to the winter cold as Virtue's promotional copy suggests. This is definitely one I'd like to try again.