For the time being though, let me share my most recent adventure with a Farnum Hill cider.
Let us begin with the fact that Farnum Hill is serious about cider and about using cider apples. If you want to see this for yourself, you can find evident all over their website:
On the one hand, I love that. Cider is worthy of being taken seriously. It is a seriously delicious and complex beverage. Different apples make for different ciders, and Farnum Hill has invested in cider apples much to the benefit of their ciders. But to represent that other hand, I have to say that I'm not completely into the tone that their seriousness takes. For example, "On Farnum Hill, we stick to the true meaning of the word 'cider:' an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as 'wine' is fermented from particular grapes." Anyone who starts talking about true this or true that starts to lose me, I must say. There are a lot of ways to do anything, and calling one way true starts to mean calling all other ways false, and that sounds a bit limited and unnecessarily disdainful.
Consider me a rebel, but this seems a bit silly. The cider world has room for many style and even more bottles. I will absolutely line up to taste and try what Farnum Hill offers, but I'm not going to sign up for a "one true way" for cider.Speaking of my fondness for their actual beverages, I have reviewed one Farnum Hill cider in the past. Find my review of their 2013 summer cider here:
But for tonight, it is all about Farmhouse Cider.
Farnum Hill ‘Farmhouse’: Alcohol content: 6.5% by volume. Available in 750 ml bottles with mushroom cork & wire hood.
Our most casual cider, pale gold and bubbly, with a stroke of sweetness along with the tart, bitter, and fruity elements that good cider offers: citrus, pineapple, bittersweet apple, and a whiff of good barnyard funk. Farmhouse astringency is nowhere near the extreme, but shows a certain tannic edge. Agreeably versatile, it shares certain flavor elements with both beer and wine. A clean, appetizing finish makes it congenial with many kinds of food, from the snackiest through the meatiest to the whole-grainiest and back.
People fond of English or Irish commercial ciders often like our Farmhouse, though its sweetness is a fraction of theirs. Imagine a fresh-tasting second cousin to Magner’s (alias Bulmer’s Ireland), and subtract the sugar. ‘Farmhouse’ is more of a pub cider than our others. It varies a bit more from batch to batch, shows less complexity less alcohol than our others, and of course is less filling than beer. It and Semi-Dry are the most popular of our regular ciders. ‘Farmhouse’ is blended from a group of real cider apples that ripen earlier than most. So it’s a bit easier to make and less expensive to buy.
The tannins in the Farmhouse Cider taste more bitter and feel more rustic (rough?) than those in our more elegant blends. You who wince at the tannins in Farmhouse might find pleasure in our smoother, more complex Semi-Dry.
(For the ultimate in tannic astringency, journey to certain farmstead operations in the West of England. Any of their serious bittersweet ciders convulse the oral membranes with eerie power. Ageless residents of rural Somerset or Hereford can chat and sip all day, gently propped against barrels, freed by cidrous tannins from time and harm. Or that’s how it looks.)Whoa. That's a mouthful. Let's dig out a few concrete specifics to use when tasting this cider. I'm guessing this will be an off dry cider (meaning not entirely dry but also drier than a semi-dry) with medium to high tannins. I anticipate some bitterness but not enough to entirely crowd out fruit notes. Sounds enticing enough. I'm curious.
Appearance: deep topaz, not many visible bubbles, brilliant
This is a lovely cider in the glass. That depth of colors supports the description of tannins and heritage fruit, but none of that is a surprise. Though the photo doesn't reveal this, when first poured, I can see that this will be a slightly sparkling cider, but the bubbles calm down quickly.
Aromas: overripe apples, dust, summer storms
Luscious smells. This cider makes my mouth water with that combination of warmed overripe apples and mineral dust. This is my second clue that this cider will taste tannic, so that's consistent with its appearance and description. But now I'm getting in a hurry because it smells so good that I want to taste it absolutely right now.
Sweetness: off dry
This cider, as predicted, tastes more than semi-dry but not completely dry and not at all harsh. This truly is a drinkable off dry.
Flavors: Tannins! Slight bitterness, good structure, woody
The Farmhouse Cider tastes highly tannic, but it balances that out with plenty of fruits and medium acidity. What the tannins contribute are good structure and body with some delightful drops of mild bitterness. My only complaint is purely personal. It has not very strong petillance, meaning it sparkles just a touch on the tongue but I would like perhaps a touch more. This is decidedly an easy drinking cider for the aficionado, and at the same time a beautiful and complex education for the more casual quaffer. I keep noticing the slight levels bitter astringency, but you know that's how I like it.
This cider offers a long woody finish that gets a bit sweeter at the very very end. Friendly.
In terms of pairings, I think I want both some fattiness and some mild sweetness to best highlight what I enjoy about this cider. If I were near the ocean that would mean lobster roll and homemade potato crisps. *swoon* Since I am significantly land-locked, avocados spring to mind. Perhaps an avocado and tomato salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a lemony drizzle. Or roasted corn on the cob with feta cheese and veggie burgers. Lots of summer foods would match this beautifully.
Farnum Hill didn't get their intense reputation by making mediocre cider. This is an elegant and deeply enjoyable experience. I am grateful for the apples and expertise that went into this. If they could relax a tiny bit about themselves, they'd be pretty much perfect.
**Don't forget! If you need my address for any cider-related reason, particularly if you want to send me your delicious cider for review, contact me via email or comment to get my new address!**