Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cider Review: Millstone Cellars Hopvine

Today makes Millstone Cellars' third appearance in this blog. I'm lucky to have friends in the Maryland DC area and a phenomenal local cider seller (https://www.thecellardor.com of course!) who hosted the cidermaker from Millstone (bringing in the current line of ciders for tasting and sale) because normally these ciders are only available in the Maryland and Washington DC areas. Ask me another day about the extremely difficult hurdles of distribution for small craft cider producers. I'll talk your ear off. Anyhow...

Here are my two previous reviews of Millstone Cellars ciders.

Millstone Cellars makes really interesting ciders. You can read about them on their website here: http://www.millstonecellars.com/artisanal-cider/ They aren't afraid to try interesting additives, unique apple varieties, and the most nuanced use of honey as a backsweetener that I know. Combine my good feeling for Millstone Cellars' style with the fact that I love hopped ciders. They are the absolute best for hot summer afternoons. The world can consider me very excited to try Millstone's Hopvine.

Obviously the Hopvine is an apple cider with hops, but we can do better than that for some useful information. Here's what Millstone says, "Cask cider aged with Maryland dry hops and blended with a touch of raw honey. Wrap your taste buds around a cascade of lemony and spicy hop flavors." Further reading or even just admiring of the beautiful label shows that this cider uses York Imperial apples, wildflower honey, and Cascade hops. This cider has an ABV of 8%. It is also listed as being bottle conditioned and dry.

Prepared with this details, let's pour and taste. Today is 88 degrees in Ithaca, perfect for hopped cider.

Appearance: Hazy, lemon curd color, not too many visible bubbles once the initial head disappears
The Hopvine pours with some belgian lace that quickly dissipates.

Aromas: Wow, alfalfa, citrus

The reason for the wow is that this cider is intensely aromatic. I love it when a cider gives me plenty of good smells! This one has alfalfa, hay, citrus, grapefruit pith, and a background of apples. But as it warms up a bit, the smells develop and give me additional notes like baseball glove or soft patent leather. Mmm! Wow indeed.

Dryness: Dry

Like many bottle-conditioned ciders, the Hopvine manages to exhibit loads of flavor while being bone dry. I really appreciate this in a cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: zesty, astringent, sour, fruity

I must preface my description with the fact that this cider tastes milder than it smells. It is dry, phenolic, and astringent. I love the intensity that astringency brings to mouthfeel; it makes everything zesty. The cider finishes with notes like straw, leather, and sour yeast. The hops make it spicy yet vegetal or herbaceous. I love how totally insane the Hopvine is with leather and acidity. This does not strike me as a sipping cider. I was tasting with a few friends who faulted it for moments of bracing funk that approach sweatiness, but I really enjoyed those facets. What can I say? I like a little stink in my cider. I like it a lot.

What we can all agree on is that Millstone's Hopvine pairs with strongly flavored aromatic dishes. Bring out the Rosemary bread, olives, and feta. I flipping love Rosemary and never get to eat it often enough, but the salty rosemary bread and briny feta just complemented this cider perfectly. My love for hopped ciders continues! This is probably one for the lovers of sour beers, unusual ciders, and deliciously complex tastes. I'd not share this with just everyone, but then again I say that about most of my favorite discoveries.


  1. Hi,
    I'm fairly new to thinking about the cider I drink, and I was hoping for some clarification on your tasting notes, particularly the "sweatiness" you mentioned. I understood what you meant by bracing funk. In fact, I'm trying to find anyone who shared my particular take-away, which is that it was like drinking cider that had been spiked with dry aged beef fat. I've had a decent amount of dry aged beef in my time, and the flavor was incredibly disconcerting in my cider--and I like it when they bring the funk. Anyway, can you explain what you meant by sweatiness, and help me understand why I had such a distinctive taste (that no one else who's had this particular cider seems to share).

    1. Hi Charles, thanks so much for writing.

      1. When I say sweaty, what I frequently taste or smell is a (hopefully) clean tangy saltiness. Some beer folks use a whole vocabulary to talk about hop flavors, but I don't feel like I have enough hop experience or other frames of reference to play along with that language. To be more subjective, I am frequently thinking in particular about the sweat that happens when you are basically clean but then mowed the lawn and got warm and sweaty. Its a green and slightly salty flavor.

      2. While I cannot tell you why you in particular tasted that I can direct you to part of Charles McGonegal's cider chemistry presentation that does discuss meaty flavors. I wrote about it here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cidercon-2015-sensory-analysis-training.html

      This paragraph seems relevant, "Sample 12 Super meaty, bacon, smoky, beef jerky, 3 phenolics. Different groups of phenolics smell like different things including mothballs, smoky ham, and horseblanket or barn. In many english ciders this is a feature of maturation. This is very difficult to control but a dangerous one because some variants are quite tasty and desirable but others are simply foul. Chlorogenic and lacto bacillus but again not easy to control."

      I hope this helps! Please let me know.