Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cider Review: Rev Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot (Pt 2 of the Hops+Apricot Cider Showdown)

Alrighty, now that we Americans have celebrated our independence and many fireworks have dazzled and barbeques sizzled, we return to the Hops + Apricot Cider Showdown with Pt 2:  Rev Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot! In Pt 1, I reviewed Cider Creek Hard Cider's Cascade Hopricot and found it delightfully different. Can the irreverent Rev. Nat's Hard Cider wow me as well? East coast and west coast ciders with their very different apples tackle the same flavor combinations with both hops and apricot.

This encounter with Rev Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot is my first review of any of their ciders. Rev Nat's Hard Cider is based out of Portland Oregon, where they produce cider and have a very active tap room. Though I've met the cidermaker himself and followed his progress online, I want to see how he presents the company on the website (http://reverendnatshardcider.com).

Strong writing and a passionate voice characterize the brand identity on Rev. Nat's Hard Cider's website. It is a bombastic yet personable tone filled with giant claims and major statments. I find it engaging and persuasive. This one comment though seems to sum up so much of Rev. Nat's story: 

Permeating all these experiments was a desire to make ciders that no one else will make. I would cook a dish, eat at a restaurant, drink a beer or a cocktail, or peruse the farmer’s market, and be unable to contain my excitement for flavors. After making cider for nearly a decade, I concluded that, while apple-only ciders define cider for most of my fellow countrymen, my passion was in creative flavor combinations making cider in the spirit of craft beer geeks.

Let's tease out a few key things to note here. The company plans on focusing on flavor and additive experimentation. Different is the goal. Craft beer is a major inspiration. Good to know. I won't expect traditional or even necessarily apple focused. It sounds like Rev. Nat uses apples as a base and a medium, but doesn't view them in the same way as most cider makers.

Here's the official description of the Hallelujah Hopricot:
This is my flagship cider, the cider I love to love. The making of Hallelujah Hopricot starts with classic American apples as a Belgian wit-style cider steeped with coriander, bitter orange peel and paradise grains, fermented with a Belgian saison ale yeast. On top of that rich base, I add pure apricot juice and finish with Oregon-grown Cascade and (whenever I can get them) Amarillo hops. A fresh and fruity concoction not dulled by sweeteness, THIS OFF-DRY CIDER IS MY BEST-SELLER, AND FOR GOOD REASON.
Wow, there's a lot going into this cider. The mention of paradise grains confused me at first because of cider's usual gluten free fame, but I looked up the ingredient and learned some cool stuff. It appears that paradise grains are actually part of the ginger family and not grains at all. Celiacs can rejoice! (You can read more about paradise grains here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aframomum_melegueta). But yes, stuff to look for includes, ginger, spice, orange, interesting yeasts, plus the apricot and hops.

Appearance: hazy, deep color, foam at first but dissipates.

Aromas: Hops, pine, grapefruit, lemon, spices

Oh my goodness, this cider smells like hops. Super hoppy smells and not much apple or apricot. Instead, I get notes of soap, pine, grapefruit, lemon, and rosemary. Those are completely distinct. There's a secondary spice that really wakes up the nostrils. No apple smell at all, but perhaps I shouldn't expect one.

Dryess: Dry

I imagine that this is off dry  by the numbers, based on the official description, but when you combine bitterness and acid with off dry, it perceives as completely dry. That's how it comes across to me.

Flavors and drinking experience: super tart, bitter, HOPS, little bit of fruit

The first impression I get is one of tartness. Secondarily I get citrus bitterness. No apple at all and almost no apricot. The hops dominate to an extreme degree. The pine flavor is the mid-palate experience and it resolves into pleasantly bitter grapefruit/hops. Really this cider is hops from start to finish. I like it, but, wow, this is hopped cider taken to its perhaps illogical conclusion. No sweetness. No tannin. Lots of acid. It is extremely lively, which is not a surprise given its acid and the high level of carbonation. In some ways this is like an extremely dry lemon herbal sparkling water. But much more exciting than that sounds.

Whoa whoa whoa, I finally tasted the apricot! It shows up late to party, once I'm well into the finish, barely there at all. But what's there is nice. Better fashionably late than absent!

 This absolutely achieves what it sets out to do. It is boldly experimental. It uses cider as a starting place more than a finishing point. I quite enjoyed it, accompanying a light summer soup with tomatoes, zucchini and corn. It is aggressively adventurous and good, but less cidery than many other ciders, even other hopped or fruited ciders.