Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cider Review: Square Mile's Spur and Vine Hopped Apple Cider

I can see fall around me, but I can only feel summer because of the heat. Leaves are falling to nearly dry creek beds. Every morning, I can sit on my porch reminded of the cool humid mornings of summer camp in the mountains. I suppose I should press that luck while I have it and keep reviewing the ciders that have some connection to summer and warm weather. It won't last forever.

Square Mile's slogan is the bold imperative, "Stake your claim" which strikes a rustic, frontiersman, note. This makes sense to me because of their identity as an Oregon cider company whose frontier days are not as historically distant as those nearer here. The packaging, brand name and product names create a more understated image, though not one that necessarily undercuts the slogan.

This is the bulk of the introductory copy on their website.
Inspired by the pioneering spirit of those who traveled the Oregon Trail in the pursuit of a dream, we offer Square Mile Hard Cider.  We set out to reinvigorate an enduringly classic American beverage with a blend of apples hand-selected for the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Our hard cider pays homage to the fortitude and perseverance of the original pioneers.
You can see their ciders, find where they are sold (mostly west coast), and see the brands' Tumblr all on their website:

It's a visually appealing website with great photo imagery and clean design. It's both very modern and very nostalgic with that Instagram photo filter vibe.

Square Mile sent me a sampling of both of their ciders, and tonight I'm reviewing the Spur and Vine Hopped Apple Cider. Many thanks to them for these! Since I'm sticking with summery ciders while the warm weather holds, I thought starting with a hopped cider makes sense.

Here's how Square Mile introduces their Spur and Vine:
Spur & Vine puts a Northwest twist on our classic American hard cider.  Starting with the same apples and yeast as The Original, we added a generous amount of Galaxy hops during cold conditioning.  Since no heat is applied to the hops, our cider takes on flavors and aromas of peach, melon and honeysuckle but none of the traditional hop bitterness.  Spur & Vine is best served straight up to allow the complexities of this cider to shine.
Looking to their Original's description, those apples are eating apples: Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonagolds, all from Oregon. The yeast is a beer lager yeast, which is going to affect the flavor in a major way. 6.7% ABV for the Spur and Vine, making it stand out from the vast vast majority of ciders sold in 12oz bottles.

Appearance: Dark popcorn gold, brilliant, very few visible bubbles

As the photo shows, this has tons and tons of color. I like how the warm depths of color remind me of smooth kernels of unpopped popping corn. This cider shows brilliance and very few visible bubbles with no mousse at all when poured.

Aromas: hoppy in a very cool green herbal way, soapy. stony, grassy

Yum! Though they sell you this cider in a bottle, please pour in a glass to enjoy it! The smells are too good to lose. I like how green it smells, how soapy, piney, and grassy come together.

Sweet/dry: off dry

Here's where the beer yeast comes in! This cider has bitter notes that change the perception of sweetness. I cannot tell exactly where this falls in terms of its residual sugar in the semi-dry to off dry range, but it tastes off dry. This is a very neat thing to be doing in a hopped cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: hoppy, beery, balanced, not too bubbly

Summery! I'm glad that this timing worked out so well. This cider presents a beautifully balanced drinking experience that really doubles down on exploring the similar possibilities available to beer and cider. I like the hoppy aroma, gently bitter notes, dryness, and mild carbonation. Although if you want it to taste more fruity and cidery and less beer like, consume in a glass rather than straight from the bottle. I tried one each way, and I can see the benefits to both.

This is a genuinely enjoyable off dry cider sold in a 12 oz bottle. This is a nearly unique combination of taste and packaging. I wish this was sold in New York state, though we have cideries a plenty there really isn't anything filling this particular niche. Great job, Square Mile!