Friday, October 30, 2015

Cider Review: Tieton Ciderworks' Smoked Pumpkin Cider

Okay, I know I give pumpkin stuff a hard time. It's not that I don't absolutely love the orange gourd that has come to represent all of fall. Therefore, I'm not going to apologize for trying most pumpkin ciders that I see anywhere and anywhen. Finding one I actually really like doesn't happen even half of the time, so its a difficult hurdle and yet and interesting one.

Perhaps I've tipped my hand too soon, but here's my review of a fall seasonal by Tieton Ciderworks. 

That's alright.

You can visit their website here:

My only previous review of anything by Tieton Ciderworks has more of a company intro there:

Smoked pumpkin by Tieton cider works

Official description
An earthy nuanced cider filled with tannins and acid and smoked over apple wood – the same wood that produced the apples – which gives it a light sweetness. the earthiness of pumpkin is your first experience The apple juice steps back, allowing the smoke to be your first experience, followed by a light smoke and finishing with the acid of the cider.

This cider has the familiar 6.9% ABV of many craft ciders. at this point, its almost reassuring that this is the fermented juice of apples instead of a blend leaning too heavily on unfermented ingredients.

Appearance: aged intense gold

Like popcorn kernels and the eyes of certain cats, this cider offers a mesmerizing intensity of old gold. Its an exciting cider to see with all of those big clinging bubbles and gorgeous clarity. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry/semi-sweet

Tieton's Smoked Pumpkin falls in the middle of the road in terms of sweetness, at least to me.  Truly, I'd be hard pressed to say if its more a semi-dry or a semi-sweet. Tieton calls it a semi-dry and I think most cider drinkers would find that a reasonable description.

Aromas: spicy, peppery, fruity, dusty 

Smells sweet dusty peppery

There are good notes of anticipation in here. So often I love the ciders that smell both spicy and dusty. This has that going on but also sweet and peppery.

Flavors and drinking experience: spicy, vegetal, tart, woody

I'm not sure the official description gives a guidebook the my experience of this cider! It rather rates a guidebook though because it does have multiple stages and plenty of complexity. I can taste lots of smoke, plenty of pumpkin and what feels like savory spices. Before I read the description I would have called white pepper, nutmeg, and clove but not in a "pumpkin spice" way. I taste these spices are bitterness, heat, and savory because the cider isn't very sweet and there's no cinnamon brown sugar softness to sand down the angles. But once I read more, I learned it's just pumpkin juice. Fascinating.

My tasting companion instead found tons of squash and vegetal notes and much less smoke. he noted the tension between sweet and bitter with fibrous woodiness.  Our different impressions were far more distinct than usual. 

We did agree about the full mouthfeel and medium sparkle. I'd say its tastefully fizzy but that could be even stronger.

This pumpkin cider definitely pairs well with food. I'd recommend it with a fall quinoa salad and the first roasted brussels sprouts of the season. Or have it for yourself when you open up your door for tricker-or-treaters this weekend!

Happy Halloween


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cider Review: Awestruck Premium Hard Cider Hibiscus Ginger

The weekend before Halloween seems like the perfect time to talk about Awestruck Cider because a couple of their ciders are like apples transformed by more than simply fermentation! Today I'm sharing my review of Awestruck Cider's Hibiscus Ginger.

Here are a few things about Awestruck Cider. They are based out of Walton, New York. Awestruck is a relatively young cider company. They use an intelligent tone in their prose and use a cleanly modern graphic design to great effect. This is what I found most worth dissecting a little bit from their description of how they got into the cider world.
 But here’s the truth, we got into this because hard cider is a delicious, confusing mess right now and we wanted to sort it out while bringing some new hotness into the mix.  Really, how can one dry cider contain 8 percent sugar, while yet another dry cider is so completely lacking in sweetness it will suck the teeth from your head?  We don’t think either is bad, its just all a bit unclear.  So we stepped in to help out.  We want to guide you and hold your hand right at the shelf.   In addition to lengthy verbal descriptions, every bottle comes with its own set of slider bars to help you graphically decide if this is the right cider for you. 
It sounds casual and zippy, not unlike a lot of promotion writing in the beverage field, but it also addresses a real issue in the market: clarity. I love that they set themselves apart by identifying a problem and offering a solution: a relative graphical representation of 3 different elements of the cider. Yep. I'm curious at this point.

Awestruck Cider also makes a point that they use New York state apples and name a few  dessert varieties, but they don't seem to base ideology or brand identity on it.

They have a cleanly designed website with good information and no clutter. Find it at:

The first cider of theirs I'm reviewing is their Hibiscus Ginger; it was sent to me this spring along with their two other varieties: Eastern Dry, and Lavender Hops. Their brief teaser for this cider says, "We crafted Hibiscus Ginger to excite and refresh the  palette." This makes sense when one thinks about either hibiscus or ginger as ingredients.

Here's the full description: 
As a result, inside this bottle you’ll find 750ml of liquid gusto – a delightfully piquant, refreshingly tasty, beautifully rosy-hued, impossible-to-resist hard cider. We tint our cider naturally by steeping it with dried hibiscus calyces and, for a dash of zing, we lightly infuse it with freshly peeled and sliced ginger root.

 This cider is perfect served chilled, garnished with the fresh slice of citrus, and enjoyed with friends.

Appearance: hazy, few visible bubbles, fascinating orange/pink color

I love this color; it reminds me of persimmons, watermelon, and copper. The photo doesn't come close to representing this bewitching shade. You couldn't read text through it, but the cider didn't show sediment. it just wasn't completely clear. A few bubbles appeared but not many.

Aromas: ginger, spicy tropical flowers, apple

The way it smells like both ginger and flowers, its like an exotic mixed drink, a little apple if you're looking for it. The floral notes though are very particular more like plumeria or orchid rather than rose or lavender; plenty of tropical spicy florals.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I'm not going to mince words. This cider is decidedly a semi-sweet, but it's really a lot of fun with just little bits of bitter and dark to the flavor. This really is a halloween cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: Ginger, spice, bitter, honey, orange, fall berries

Wow! The Hibiscus Ginger has a very aggressive ginger, to the edge of spicy, with a little bitterness; honey and brown sugar sweetness—a lot like molasses.  The overall effect is like a powerful ginger beer or a gingersnap cookie, but more floral than either. The hibuscus is part of the bitter tartness, like a zinger note or an agua fresca: a citrusy bitter edge.  Notes of orange and peach and tart red berries—raspberry and cranberry.  Good for autumn.  The complex notes die away, leaving a dark sweetness.  Lots of little sparkles, but not overly carbonated. It shows higher levels of acid and no tannins. Neither of these fact should be a surprise.

I paired it with my last rhubarb strawberry pie (rather out of season) and it was crazy good. I'd have it again gladly alongside a veggie roast with cauliflower, brussel sprouts and butternut squash.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Stone Dry

The most common complaint I hear from casual cider drinkers is that there is not a good option for picking up a six pack of dry cider in most grocery stores. I cannot count the number of times I've heard a variation of this comment. I've been suggesting cidermakers fill in this market gap for almost as long as I've had this blog. Several brands have released ciders that approach this idea, but none have yet met the mark. Angry Orchard is the latest attempt, and I'm curious to see what they are offering as a dry six-pack cider.

We're all familiar with the Angry Orchard brand; they sell more cider in the United States than any other. Angry Orchard appears everywhere, so if they could make a dry six pack cider, it would be big news. And with a name like Stone Dry, it sounds like they are trying.

I'll share a link to Angry Orchard's website, so readers can find out about Angry Orchard ciders and their process as well as swag and recipes.

Here's a chronological list of my previous Angry Orchard reviews:

My first Angry Orchard review tasted the Elderflower Cider:

Roundup review of multiple Angry Orchard styles, including Strawman, Traditional Dry, and The Muse:  

Then I tried the Hop'N'Mad Apple:

Most recently, I reviewed their Summer Honey:

That makes this review the seventh Angry Orchard cider I'm sharing here. Today's variety won't surprise anyone who has been watching the newest cider releases; Angry Orchard's Stone Dry debuted most recently as an addition to Angry Orchard's cider lineup. 

I got my two bottles of Angry Orchard Stone Dry as a review sample from Angry Orchard. So, thanks guys! They also sent a helpful fact sheet and a note from the new head of Research and Development, Ryan Burk. I'll include as much information as I can to best frame my review.

Here's the official promotional copy describing this cider: "Angry Orchard Stone Dry – the driest cider in Angry Orchard’s core collection – is our twist on traditional English dry ciders. This cider balances the acidity of culinary apples with the tannins of traditional cider making apples, for a cider that is clean, refreshing, and slightly puckering on the finish."

That reads similarly to the fuller description included in my fact sheet, but they aren't identical. 
Angry Orchard Stone Dry-- the driest cider in Angry Orchard's core collection -- is an American interpretation of the traditional English dry cider style. It offers bright apple aroma, juicy flavor, and a clean dry finish, showcasing an intricate balance between the sweetness and acidity of culinary apples and the tannins of traditional cider making apples. The traditional apples chosen by the cider makers are European bittersweet varieties like Dabinett, Binet Rouge and Harry Masters Jersey, which contribute to the cider's high tannic character and dry finish. The result is a refreshing, slightly puckering cider with drying finish, most often felt on the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth.

While most of the juice from apples in the cider is fermented, Angry Orchard's cider maker add a bit of non-fermented bittersweet apple juice into the cider during the post fermentation stage to help achieve this cider's balanced, dry taste. This results in Stone Dry's fuller tannic mouthfeel as well as percieved dryness and robust bittersweet aromatic notes -- much like a very ripe apple.
the last few facts I need to include are that the cider has 5.5% ABV, and this will be offered year round, both in six packs and on draft.

Appearance: maple syrup color, ring of bubbles around the top of the glass, clear and uncloudy

Though this color would not strike one as particularly dark for maple syrup, it looks impressively dark for a cider, especially an American cider. I also noticed a persistant bubble ring around the top of my glass. Again, not a usual cider characteristic.

Aromas: yeast, beer-like, fruity with notes of grapes and apples

The first thing I noticed about how this cider smells, is how very beer-like the aromas are. I smell more yeast than fruit. It smells pleasantly cleanly bready. This isn't to say that there aren't fruit notes too. I smell plum, apple and grape in this cider too.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

While this isn't strictly dry, it is certainly off dry. That's my second to driest category as I perceive levels of dryness and sweetness. This also has characteristics that will most likely influence folks to think that this cider is completely dry. I'll get into those later.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, nice acidity, bold first note and mild finish

This cider at first tastes bitter yet then gets distinctly fruity. It tastes dusty, stony, crisp and acidic. This has to be the best Angry Orchard cider I've ever had, hands down. I'm that impressed! I liked some elements of their Elderflower and the Strawman previously, but this is more balanced and enjoyable. Stone Dry offers up a pleasantly fiesty level of fizz. As promised there is some presence of tannins, but they aren't dominant in the experience. And some acidity. And these are the reasons, I think many drinkers will find this cider dry. It offers tannins, bubbles, and acidity without scads of sugar. This will be familiar to most fans of American craft cider, but not necessary to those who haven't found much in the way of tannins or dryness before.

For a distinctly not-beer person, I love the ways in which this cider reminds me of the best parts of beer. I like the yeasty aromas and first bitter edge. But I know a beer aficionado would differ from my opinion, but perhaps like this cider more than other grocery store ciders.

Suggested pairings from the fact sheet include root vegetables, seafood, and charcuterie, but my recommendations will be a bit more everyday. This is a sandwich cider because it is so well balanced. Have it with your hummus and red pepper and sprout wrap if you like, egg and tomato on a croissant, or a veggie burger or even a pile of marinated mushroom with melted provolone on a baguette. 

I mean to show flexibility when I say have this with a sandwich. Beautiful sandwiches come in many forms and flavors, and this cider could accompany many of them! I would also pair this cider with game nights, all the better to share with your friend who haven't had a cider like this before.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cider Review: Cider Creek Hard Cider's Fall'n'Cherry

 Finger Lakes Cider Week is upon us! This means that those of us lucky to be visiting or dwelling in this region of New York state can enjoy fabulous cider events from now through October 11th. There are more events than their are days between now and the end. It is a cider lover's dream.

To find out about Cider Creek specifically you can find them on Facebook:

Or on their own website:

I have reviewed Cider Creek Hard Cider before. Here you can read about my wonderful trip to the production facility as well as what I think of the Cascade Hopricot.

Tonight I'm reviewing Cider Creek's Fall'N'Cherry. This cider is not listed on their official website as it is a short term fall seasonal, but I was able to track down an official description. Here's how Cider Creek writes about this special limited release: "Smoked apple & cherry saison cider aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels." 

They are considering it a fall seasonal with 6.9%ABV and advertising this as an alternative direction for a season than the ubiquitous pumpkin everything. Let's see how it tastes.

Appearance: slightly hazy, carnelian red, very few visible bubbles

This gorgeous deep red color is smoky red with hints of spicy orange more than purple. It isn't cloudy, but neither is it brilliant; the haze makes it look substantive.

Aromas: Cherry, maple, barrel, cinnamon, nutty

The first smell recalls cherry smell, phenolic but not troublingly so. There's also a wave of cinnamon-dusted french toast. This makes the whole cider smell juicy, breakfasty, and sweet. I do not think it will taste as sweet as it smells.

Dryness/sweetness: Off dry

Off dry and extremely complex and taste packed. Whoa! This hits rather harder than most off-dry ciders.

Flavors and drinking experience: ham, cherry, jam, warm apples

The first taste washes over the tongue as a wave of bacon, ham, cherry, and jam. I also get maple, warm apples, bourbon, and sweet corn. The bitterness comes in a brief crest of fizz and yeast. More specifically, this cider high acid, Medium barrel-y tannins, but those characteristics are dwarfed by the plethora of other flavors. They dry the tongue. On draft, the Fall'n'Cherry has medium to gentle carbonation.

Cider Creek has a point; this cider is seasonal but different. I think its impressive in that it's warm but without being either boozy or just based on mulled or cake-like notes. I had this with butterut squash risotto and whipped chevre. I heartily recommend that you do the same.

Even if you can have this cider with that food fabulousness, go find it at Cider Creek's Grand Opening of their tasting room!

Saturday, October 10th from 1-10p
6459 Cunningham Creek Rd. Canisteo NY 
This sounds like quite the festive opening with live music, food trucks, cheese pairings, fireworks, as well as other local NY beverages. Speaking of Cider Week Activities. I have a partial list of the events near-ish to my neck of the woods. Please don't treat this list as exhaustive! Find out about the FLX cider events near you!

Tuesday, I'll be helping out with...

Science Cabaret- The Cream and The Crop; Cider, Cheese, and the Perfect Pairing
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6 @ 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM   | FREE
The Space @ Greenstar | 700 W. Buffalo St. Ithaca, NY , 14850
The Science Behind the Perfect Pairing: FLX Hard Cider and FLX Cheese! Join Cornell University’s flavor scientist, Gavin Sacks, cider maker Autumn Stoscheck and cider blogger Meredith Collins for an evening of engaging conversation followed by a walk around tasting of ciders and cheeses like never before.  Cheese and Cider will be available for purchase as well.  This year’s cider based Science Cabaret will be hosted at The Space @GreenstarCoop.
Ithaca’s Science Cabaret was inspired by the Cafe Scientifique movement, which started in Europe in the late 1990’s and has spread rapidly.Cafes Scientifiques are informal talks in bars, cafes and other public venues that give like-minded people a chance to discuss current and sometimes controversial topics in science.  In Ithaca we meet one Tuesday a month. October’s Science Cabaret is jointly produced by Finger Lakes Cider Week.

And this weekend...

Saturday Oct. 10
Black Diamond Farms Orchard Tours, 11am and 2pm
Black Diamond Farms | 4675 Seneca Road Trumansburg, NY , 14886

Saturday Oct. 10
Cheese & Cider Saturday!
Finger Lakes Cider House will be hosting Kenton’s Cheese Co., Keeley’s Cheese Co., and Finger Lakes Dexter and Englebert Farms (11am-6pm)
Bellwether Hard Cider will be serving Side Hill Acres’ Chèvre throughout the day 
Englebert Farms will be hosting the cider producers of the Finger Lakes Cider House 
Muranda Cheese Co. will be hosting South Hill Cider 
Three Brothers’ Winery and Bombshell Cider will be hosting Shtayburne Farm Cheese
Harvest Moon Cidery will be hosting Crosswinds Farm Creamery
Cider Creek Hard Cider will be hosting Heaven Scent Farm Cheese
Sunset View Creamery will be hosting (10am-3pm)
Side Hill Acres will be hosting Eve’s Cidery
And this isn't all of them.