Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cider Review: Good Life Cider's Barrel Rye

One of the biggest cider stories in my neck of the woods this year has to be the Finger Lakes Cider House. This shared tasting room and cider shop lays just a little way back from Cayuga Lake on Good Life Farm. When driving up to the building, you’ll see crops, geese, greenhouses, and horses, making it farmy and comfortable. Several local brands can be tasted and purchased there, but the in house brand is Good Life Cider.

Good Life Farm produces a wide range of crops on Small organic plot. Garrett Miller and Melissa Madden own the farm while the cider comes from the hands and brains of Garrett and Jimmy Miller. Don’t let that make you think that Melissa is any less a part of Good Life Cider; I can assure you that she’s involved in the whole process from apple to glass to sales and events. Good Life Cider has been selling their own commercial ciders for a relatively short time, starting just this year.

Here’s how they describe their mode of cider making.

Our ciders are distinctly American in style, which means we’re not afraid to borrow from the world of traditions and styles. Good Life Cider creatively blends international influences with a taste of the Finger Lakes through our mineral-rich, acidic apples. Our cider line ranges from tannic and dry to bright, fruit-forward and sweet; in sparkling, champagne and barrel-aged styles.  Our range is based on traditional bittersweet apples and sharp, acidic heirloom fruits.

They don't have a dedicated website but you can read about their cider on part of the Finger Lakes Cider House website:

And if you live in driving range of the Finger Lakes, I highly recommend finding The Finger Lakes Cider House on Facebook. That's where they announce cider releases, musical performers and all of their events: 

Today's cider is their Barrel Rye. While I could not find much information about the process going into this cider, here's what I could find on the back of the bottle.

The Barrel Rye bottle says "Pair this cider with a friend." What a lovely sentiment. Here’s the whole description.

 “Buttercream with a backbone. Oak and smoke and shalestone. Pair this cider with a friend.”

“Good Life Cider is a family of farmers and cider makers. Hard working dreamers touched by more than a little madness. Our focus is the growing of a living soil, to feed a wildly diverse ecosystem of fruits, animals, microbes and ideas. We are increasing in resilience, diversity, and health each day. Come visit us. Learn more:”

Aside from this sounding a bit more like health and farm evangelism than like most cider bottles, I can appreciate the sentiment and it does resemble what one sees on a visit to the Finger Lakes Cider House.

More interesting to me is their graphic of a sweetness to dryness scale, with the particular cider’s spot indicated by an adorable bee. This cider shows up at nearly dry on that scale.

Appearance: clear, almost no visible bubbles, golden

The color is more like a deep flaxen hue but still brings a warm tawniness to mind. In terms of clarity this is clear leaning into hazy, but that’s not uncommon with barrel-aged ciders. I can see almost no bubbles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Aromas: grain, booze, wet fruit

The first smell, I notice reminds me of when I toured a bourbon distillery with my grandma. I loved that warm mash smell that marries graininess and barrel. With the Barrel Rye I also smell lots of wet fruit like apple and peach. Last of all there’s a note of caramel to the assembly that I look forward to tasting. 

Dryness/sweetness: semi dry

I find this a bit more semi-dry than the little bee told me that I would, but that is often the case when I see similar indicators on wine bottles. The Barrel Rye’s semi-dry is complicated by really nice dark and light notes at the same time.

Flavors and drinking experience: coconut, acidity, clementines, barrel

I enjoy this cider’s bright acidity with caramel oxidation. In terms of specific flavors, I can taste maple, lots of coconut, and sweet clementine. Booziness lingers with a low bitterness comparable to grapefruit. The Barrel Rye is both mellow and complex. All of us tasting around the table found it really really good.  

In terms of texture, the Barrel Rye is enhanced by many light small bubbles. When drinking, big sips reveal an oakiness that borders pleasantly on funk.  What's really impressive is how clear all of its disparate notes are. This cider is complex but not muddy. That alone is an accomplishment and overall, I find it drinkable and lovely.

And this is the cider to wrap up in and wrap up on for 2015. For my next post, look for my top ten ciders of 2015. I look forward to sharing that with you just before the New Year. Happiest, bubbliest, and tastiest of holidays to you!