Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cider Review: Foggy Ridge Cider's Serious Cider

I love living in cider country. There are many quality cider makers working less than an hour from my porch. They release new cider several times a year. We have a most excellent cider week.There's a lot of be grateful for, but its no excuse for me not to know about serious cidermakers from other places. So, I'm excited to share my review of a cider I tried on a trip to New York City a while ago. 

To set the scene, it was an unseasonably cool and gray day for being a tourist, and I knew someplace that would feel warm and welcoming and gorgeous while having a stellar cider selection. So, I made plans to meet up with a friend at Gramercy Tavern (http://www.gramercytavern.com/) to get to know the cider menu. 

Gramercy Tavern is everything I hoped it would be: comfortable and welcoming yet decadent. There, I was able to try a few cider I'd not seen elsewhere. This is how I got my hands on a Foggy Ridge Cider. The only downside was that the lighting was not very conducive to reasonable pictures. Please accept some my one relevant picture with mercy.

Foggy Ridge Cider makes serious cider, so much so that they've named one of their ciders that. Diane Flynt grows cider apples in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Foggy Ridge has been her cider company since 1997. For them, its all about apple variety and bringing out what's inside the apple rather than additional flavor notes from any other source. You can read more about Foggy Ridge on the website here:


I'm including the "Cidermaker Notes" on Serious Cider so we can know how it is being introduced: "Rich apple and citrus aroma with a touch of apricot and jasmine blossoms. Serious Cider is bright and lively with a creamy mid-palate. Full bodied with soft minerality and hints of peach skin and lime zest. Focused acidity combined with textured, dusty tannin create a long and pleasantly dry finish."

Here's a bit more background, including apple varieties:
Foggy Ridge Cider grows many "spitters"—high tannin apples that taste like unripe persimmons but contribute tannin to all our cider blends, especially Serious Cider, our most dry hard cider. Classic English cider apples like Tremlett's Bitter and Dabinett combine with fruity aromatic varieties such as Grimes Golden, Newtown Pippin and Gold Rush to create a cider that drinks like Brut Champagne.
Some cider geeks might experience some mouth watering just at reading those variety names. I am definitely in that group, so my expectations were pretty elevated before a glass even reached my table.

Appearance:  brilliant, no visible bubbles, yellow green

I enjoy this pale shade of greenish yellow. Its the paler version of chartreuse. Or how I imagine undersea treasure to look.

Aromas: savory, peppery, warm applesauce

It is obvious that this cider will have high levels of tannin from the fascinatings smells. Its so savory! Do I smell pepperiness or even something like smoke? All this amid gentle warm applesauce aromas. Even if I hadn't read the apple varieties, these scents say russets and bitters.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

Serious indeed! This cider is dry and just so filled with flavor! This might be a bit much for someone new to cider, but what a delight!

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannin, balanced, just a little funky

Quite high tannins and piquantly strong acid make this cider decadently exciting. The  astringence is pleasant and the finish lasts forever. I'd say its almost assuredly bottle conditioned in that its gently sparkling but very finely so. The finish remains unchanging for a very very long fade of flavor. This just lingers forever. Wow! As Alex said, it makes memories  

In terms of flavors, there's a friendly ghost of apple bitterness peel and core. The Serious Cider remains interesting and well balanced if a slight challenge for someone who doesn't like intensity. The acidity makes it a bit more than tart and maybe even ever so slightly funky but neither farmy nor off kilter.

Yes, this cider is serious. It would be sorted into house Ravenclaw. But so deliciusly appealingly serious. Drink this with a good book or a smart companion. This cider deserves it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's Day Chaser

This past weekend, I celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary with my husband and best friend. I thought it only fitting that the first review I post after this momentous celebration was a Woodchuck cider because that's the only cider that's been with us not only for the ten years we've been married, but most of them before that. I'd say the first ciders we ever shared were Woodchuck and Farnum Hill. 

I'm sure most folks who drink cider are aware of Woodchuck because of either their long history or extensive distribution. But visit the website and see what's new here: http://www.woodchuck.com/

I've reviewed enough different Woodchuckciders, that I don't need to delay this review long enough to go through all of them (but they are all tagged Woodchuck if you want to track them down). I'll just share three select previous reviews.

Most recently, I reviewed Woodchuck's Hot Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

The first time I had a smoked cider it was Woodchuck's Cellar Series Smoked Apple:

A cider that only comes around for a few months of the year is Woodhuck's Belgian White, a cider inspired by Belgian beer making traditions:

But today isn't about those lovely ciders from the past, its about a new cider Woodchuck just released in 2016: Daychaser. Here's how the website introduces it.
Day chaser celebrates those adventure seekers that never let a minute slip by. This sessionable cider combines bitter and sweet apples to deliver a semi-dry cider that is not too sweet and leaves you thirsty for another. Get the most out of every day and reward yourself as you welcome the night.
To interpret, I think Woodhcuk is going for a sessionable middle-of-the-road cider that's good for as a sidekick to your plans rather than a centerpiece. There are a few other tidbits to shape our expectations. On Woodchuck's visual scale, this cider is placed between dry and semi-dry, but nearer to semi-dry. In terms of flavor, we are asked to expect, "Ripe apple fruit, low to moderate acidity, light tannin." Nice framing, let's see how this translates from copy to glass.

Aromas: bread, apple, peach

Interesting, this smell just exactly like my homemade cider bread. So, I guess I can draw bread, yeast, and apple out of that. It also smells a bit peachy.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

As is often the case a semi-dry on the label translates to a sweet in my perception.  Its a fruity sweetness, but there is no getting around it.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acidity, quite fruity, drinkable

The Day chaser is reasonably balanced with medium bubble and a flavor that somehow comes across as ripe and golden. The cider offers up a sweet fruity finish. It has medium low tannins, but not zero tannins. I quite like what they add to the cider. The Day chaser's moderate acidity helps make it truly a sessionable cider. I'd not call it particularly extreme or exciting, but oh so drinkable.

I had it with blue corn chips and medium roasted pepper salsa and it totally worked. Pair this cider with any number of activities; take it canoeing, enjoy a bottle while touching up something outside that needs to be painted. It definitely fulfills the role Woodchuck designed it for, bringing some fresh balanced apple to any cider-friendly activity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cider Review: Julian's Hard Cider Apple Pie

The fickle sweetness of spring is upon us in Ithaca. This means that the weather and the weather report change hourly. We can go from needing our scarves and winter boots to shedding layers and reaching for sunglasses and back in a day. I enjoy the aptness of Mark Twain's quote on the matter, "In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours." I think it makes this a perfect season to reach out for something just a bit more reliably pleasant than the weather.

Mark Twain serves as an excellent figure of particularly American wit and wildness. He fits right in with the image that Julian Hard Cider has created for itself for the past several years. 

Even if you've looked at the Julian Hard Cider website before, check it out again. It has beautiful pictures and a nice easy to navigate layout. Very nice. http://www.julianhardcider.biz/

My first review of Julian's was for the Harvest Apple, and a relatively early cider review I wrote for this blog: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/05/cider-review-julian-hard-cider-harvest.html

But now, I'm taking a moment for something familiar and comforting: apple pie. Here's how Julian Hard Cider introduces this treat.
Apple Pie: Festive 
100% fresh-pressed hard apple cider blended with the spices of Grandma’s secret pie recipe.  No added sugar.  6.99% ABV. 
Apple Pie’s cheery spice notes and lively effervescence accompany a harmony of tart and sweet apple deliciousness. 
Pour yourself a slice!

Time to check out Julian's Apple Pie for myself.

Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles, medium warm gold

My lighting wasn't perfect, but the brilliance of this cider certainly is. Not a hint of haze to be seen. The color is a nicely rich and warm tone of gold. Almost no visible bubbles

Aromas: sweet, spicy, citrus

The cider smells sugary, with an edge of burning sweetness. bright; cinnamon, lemon and caramel. graham cracker. clove, allspice, a little ginger

Sweetness: Sweet!

Don't fight it. Its a sweet spiced cider that tastes like apple pie. There's no pretending here.

Flavors and drinking experience: A
pple pie, for real, balanced, cola

The Apple Pie starts off with a strongly spicy ginger/cinnamon note—real in its bite that blends with the slightly yeasty note. It contributes nicely to a textured but not distracting mouthfeel. I get medium to med-low carbonation. There's also a slight sourness is somewhat separate from the apple flavor. I enjoy the somewhat mineral and cola-like note baseline.

Overall, the cider offers high acid, no tannin, and a well balanced spicy sweet apple pie flavor. The finish is pleasant while being sweet-and-tart lingering. My tasting companion found smaller sips better, saying that larger ones have a slightly clove-intensive flavor. I noted the dominance of clove in big drinks so, but I say bring it on! Clove is amazing and under appreciated.

Because of the intensity of flavor I'd recommend pairing it like actual apple pie. You can have it on its own, make it a la mode with a little vanilla ice cream, or be awesome and have it with a powerful cheddar. The choice is yours. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cider Review: Cider Riot's Everybody Pogo Hoppy Cider

Hey, cider fans. I've been home from GLINTCAP for a week, but that competition is still buzzing around in my brain. Something about dig in to those categories for cider style really jives well with how I think about cider. The cider that I'm reviewing tonight got a bronze medal in the hopped/herbal cider category. That's a category I wish I could have judged, but there's always next year!

But for tonight, I'm reviewing a cider that was a gift from the kind folks at Cider Riot in Oregon. This is the last of the few they gave me in Chicago at CiderCon 2015.

I love what Abram Goldman-Armstrong says about how own impetus to make cider:
So why cider? As passionate as I am about beer and brewing, there is something magical about cider. Picking bittersweet apples in Alan Foster’s orchard at White Oak Cider on a clear autumn day. Traipsing through the wet woods of my family land in Yamhill to seek out wild seedling apples. These experiences ground me to the land. Cider challenges me, it inspires me, and there’s nothing quite like the dry tannic flavor of a well made cider.
You can find more about Cider Riot on the website here: http://ciderriot.com

I have once previously reviewed something by Cider Riot, their Never Give an Inch Blackberry Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/01/cider-review-cider-riots-never-give.html 

Tonight's review is for Everybody Pogo  Hoppy Cider. Here's what the website has to say about it.
Hoppy Cider 6.7% abv- A refreshingly dry cider that’s got hops. Our roughcut tribute to football terraces and punk rock shows, dry and quenching with a hint of sweet apple flavor, as organically grown Goldings hops do the pogo dance across your taste buds. A distinctly Oregonian product, Everybody Pogo mates Hood River apples and Willamette Valley hops. Unfiltered and lightly carbonated.

Appearance: Hazy, deep apricot, ring of bubbles around the rim of the glass

I can definitely see that this is an unfiltered cider by the gentle haze. The color looks like dried apricots. It pours with a little mousse, but that turns into just a ring of bubbles.

Aromas: fruity, sweet, dusty, yeast, hint of sweat

Everybody Pogo smells sweet and dusty in a way that makes me think that lot of the aromas come from the yeasts used. I can smell some apple and the hops come across in clean yet gently sweaty way. Its intriguing. 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

This isn't a truly dry cider, but its close. I'd call it just off dry with some very prominent fruit and herb flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: fresh apples, pears, herbs, lemon, and hops

I absolutely adore that this cider tastes like apples and a bundle of herbs. This cider is off dry, with medium acidity, and no tannins to speak of. Everybody Pogo offers up plenty of yeast and hopped character that somehow cumulatively feels like it has a menthol cooling effect. The finish fills out like a sourdough some some really fun bready flavors.
In terms of fruit, I get fresh apples, underripe green pears, and a bit of lemon. The carbonation level felt middle of the road to me, but my sampling companion found it much higher. Small sips taste especially good,  but this cider is refreshing and flavorful however you drink it.

This cider was built for food, so there's a lot of flexibility for pairing. I'd pair it with spicy tofu wings, or something else highly flavored. Let the cooling and refreshing elements do the work to make your food even better.

What do I recommend you do while drinking this cider? Not moshing as the picture on the bottle seems to imply, but listening to Beyonce's Lemonade. Everyone is talking about this album, and its put more of a smile on my face than any music in months. This cider and this music are simply perfect for taking some time for yourself. Enjoy it!