Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cider Review: New Day Craft's Johnny Chapman (Hard Apple Cider Sweetened with Sorghum)

It feels a little strange to be writing for the future like this, though I know that nearly all bloggers do it. So, when this goes live, I'll be in England with my fantastic husband Alex soon to meet up with his wonderful mom Ginny. The plan is to explore a bit of cider tourism followed by many days of hiking in Cornwall. But, I don't want my faithful readers to forget about cider while I'm gone, so I've left a few posts to take care of the blog in my absence. Now all I have to do is cross my fingers to avoid technical difficulties!

New Day Craft is a small company that makes cider and mead and operates a taproom in Indianapolis. Here's a link to their website: http://newdaycraft.com

 Here's how the company describes itself on the about page of its site: "New Day Craft specializes in craft mead and hard cider. Light, refreshing and full of flavor, our products are easily enjoyed. New Day Craft is the brainchild of Founders Brett Canaday and Tia Agnew. Starting in 2006, they have grown their business to provide the exciting, and tasty, line of beverages available on tap and in bottle today."

A dear friend of mine passed through this area and shared with me a bottle of Johnny Chapman Sorgum Cider by New Day Craft a few months ago. Many thanks to Kristen for the cider and for giving me access to a cider maker I've still never seen on store shelves.

Just as an aside, I want to make sure everybody reading know Johnny Chapman is also known as Johnny Appleseed. He is a hero to America's cider making and orcharding communities, but he was a lot weirder and more complicated than the cartoon image most of learned about as children. I like this article on him and his legacy: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/real-johnny-appleseed-brought-applesand-booze-american-frontier-180953263/?no-ist

That said, I like the idea of playing into the rural historical roots of Johnny Chapman by using sorghum as a backsweetener. I have no idea how that will taste, but I am ever so curious. This is all of the information I was able to find on New Day's website about this particular cider,"Johnny Chapman: Fill $12/Glass $5/Bottle $6.99, 4.5% Sugar, 6% ABV:  Rich hard apple cider sweetened with sorghum; caramel and malt notes with a sweet cider finish."

 Appearance: Intensely pumpkin orange, brilliant, so many visible bubbles

This deep coppery pumpkin color is an immediate signal that there is something unusual going on in this cider. I can see enough bubbles and even a lacey mousse such that I anticipate a whole lot of sparkle in the Johnny Chapman.

Aromas: malt, rich, sweet, dusty

The Johnny Chapman smells malty. Somehow that aroma also comes across as both dusty and rich and gives me a few hints to expect some sweetness in the beverage.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This has a fabulous balanced maple, caramel, sorghum sweetness that is anything but overpowering. Instead it is drinkable without being boring.

Flavors and drinking experience: malty, tangerine, strong carbonation, long finish

Wow! I love how Mapley and malty this cider tastes. It seems straightforward but not simple, in fact some of the richness almost crosses over into being both sweet and savory. In terms of fruit, I actually
get notes of tangerine or the sweeter sides of citrus. The low ABV is reflected in how not boozy this tastes. All of the flavors appear very integrated. It comes across as a well balanced sweet cider with a long narrow finish with lingering aromas of caramel.

The sorghum does give the cider a certain molasses old timey vibe that is consistent between presentation and taste. It is no secret that I'm more than a little bit fond of ciders that are strongly carbonated. This cider makes no exception.  So enjoyable.

I paired this with a light vegetable soup: one with more tomatoes, carrots, and celery, in a thin italian-esque tomato basil broth and slices of Colby and homemade wheat bread. The full-bodiedness of this cider made it perfect for a lighter spring soup while the sweetness brought out the sweetness in my homemade bread. I could also see having this with fried catfish and beans and rice to use the sorghum sweetness to balance out some spice. You could do a lot of different things with this cider; New Day Craft did something very right with their Johnny Chapman.