Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reviewing Ciders for Winter: Schilling Spiced Cider

Welcome to my series of posts reviewing ciders especially suited to winter! Though February is more than half over, I feel like much of the United States is buried deep in a winter. Right now winter feels so deep that it makes many of us think of Westeros and that Winter has finally and actually arrived. Anyhow, geeking out aside. It is cold and snowy and for some folks very cold and very snowy.

We need ciders that can somehow complement this insanity. Hence, I've looked through my collection and identified a handful of ciders that for one reason or another seem like they are best enjoyed in winter. I'll be reviewing through these types of ciders: spiced, oaked, things with flavors of bourbon, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. etc. and saving my summery stuff for later.

My first winter-friendly cider is Schilling Spiced Cider. This is one my amazing husband brought back from his trip to Oregon last fall. The company is not from Oregon, but from Seattle, Washington. They also make a point to use only Washington State apples.

Since I didn't know very much about this company, I visited their website:

The site has plenty of information presently clearly with a warm and pleasant aesthetic.I actually found far more interesting material than I can use in one post, so I though I'd start with Schilling's first statement about themselves, "Here at Schilling Cider, we believe in minimizing our impact on the environment." First statements make first impressions and tend to show a company's primary focus. In this case, Schilling identifies themselves as a cidery invested in sound environmental practices.

The other thing I like to include is a company's last statement about themselves because it often underscores something of particular importance in a clear way. Schilling's final statement on their about us page says, "We founded Schilling Cider to bring great cider to the masses by crafting high quality cider in affordable packaging and offering it at a fair price." This presents a very different identity than one solely based on environmental concerns; it taps price, value, and, oddly enough, packaging. (Side note: if I'm not mistaken, I think this refers to their use of cans in addition to bottles. Lots of people have opinions about cider coming in cans. They fuss about it. Eh. That's not what we're talking about today.)

More interesting to me and perhaps to other cider geeks, this is what Schilling says about their cidermaking process:
We believe the yeast selection and fermentation processes play a major role in the characteristics of the final product. We focus our energy accordingly. We use several yeast strains across our different ciders, sometimes multiple in a single batch. We carefully select the highest quality and most unique adjuncts for recipes that call for them. We also always choose quality ingredients including local hops, raw ginger puree, and American white oak. We don’t believe in following tradition. We believe in innovation.
Sounds like they focus on yeast choice and creative additions. They aren't as focused on apple varieties. Good to know and very logical for their location.

One last thing I learned is that Schilling both sells their own cider and runs a cider tap room in Seattle seven days a week. If you want to learn more about their tap room as opposed to their house brand, their Facebook page is the way to go: https://www.facebook.com/SchillingCiderHouse
Schilling Spiced Cider

Here's some more specific information from Schilling about their Spiced Cider
  • Our “taste of the holidays” cider!
  • Warming notes of cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom
  • 6.9% ABV
Appearance: brilliant, lots of visible bubbles, persimmon

It looks very deeply flavorful and spiced in the glass because of its intense color. I can see through the cider easily, so I'd call it brilliant. As the photo shows, we can see some small bubbles but no foam or head.

Aromas: Maple, oak, apricot, dust

Frequently when I smell dustiness in a cider I also smell cooked apples and stones. Not so for the Schilling Spiced Cider. I can smell mostly maple, molasses, oak, and apricot. I don't really smell apples much at all.

Sweetness: Semi-sweet, especially at first

This cider hits with an immediate sweetness that backs off as I can taste more of the spices.

Flavors and drinking experience: mace, allspice, nutmeg, a bit of ginger; some bitterness

First and foremost this cider gives me a progression from sweet to spicy. At first it can taste that maple sweetness that comes across in the aroma, but it is quickly replaced by a strong blend of wintry spices. Next, the cider tastes oaky, boozy and lingering. It stays more than a little spicy. I can detect shades of minerals.  Big sips give complex notes, with nice bitter, almost leafy, papery back-end bitterness.  This isn't the smoothest cider, but it is so far from boring.

This cider is entirely appropriate for winter. The spices are enticing and exciting. It doesn't feel sleepy. As my photos reveal. I enjoyed this cider while playing Scrabble. The pairing worked well. I tried it also with two desserts, first chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and then cranberry oatmeal cookies. It paired much better with the oaty and hearty cookies that offered up their own dose of wintery spice.