Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cider Review: E Z Orchards' WIlliamette Valley Cidre

I guess in some ways this post is my last little ode to summer. I had this just as the seasons were turning from spring to summer

Tonight, I'm sharing my first review of an EZ orchards cider. I can scarce believe my blog has made it this long without one! I hear consistently fantastic things about this cider and the people who make it.

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. They are still a destination for fresh apples, shortcakes, seasonal produce, and delicious-sounding events. According to their website, they started producing apples specifically for cider in the year 2000. Now they are known for not only producing quality cider but also being a fantastic community resource in their region for growing quality cider fruit.

You can find out some more here:

Tonight's review is their 2011 Cidre Willamette Valley.

The official description reads:
E.Z. Orchards Willamette Valley Cidre is the culmination of 10 years effort to develop our orchard and refine our fermentation technique. We grow a selection of French, English, and Early American apple varieties. The fruit contain essential characteristics, necessary to impart structure and aroma in our Cidre. The predominant characteristics are attributed to French varieties (85% of the blend) contributing tannin for structure, fermentable sugars, and aroma. We use one low acid English variety with similar dynamics. The balance of the fruit is tart to achieve the acidity necessary to complete the structure and provide stability.
The only fact this leaves out is the 6% ABV.  

Appearance:  Hazy, warm brass color. Few visible bubbles.

This cider looks very rustic. I'd call it hazy to cloudy, but I didn't follow the special pouring instructions to get a clearer glass of cider. It isn't a priority for me. The other thing to note is that I'm drinking a 2011 cider in 20016, so its no surprise really that its a gusher. Interestingly, though the cider seems to have plenty of bubbles, they aren't really visible.

Aromas: Berries, pears, phenolics, acetic acid

Primarily, I think the Willamette Valley Cidre smells like pear juice and berries, but the phenolics aren't too far behind. I can also detect a slight acetic acid edge.

Dryness/sweetness: off dry

There's a ton of flavor here and almost no sweetness

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, tannic, fruity, sharp

This cider is a complex journey that starts with high acidity then adds high tannins, and some decided funky flavors. Whoa. I like it, but I like lots of my ciders on the earthy, and this fits that bill.

Lets get specific about flavors though: I can taste pineapple, apple, melon, pear and all manner of light fruit. But that's not all I taste. Surprisngly some notes remind me of nachos or perhaps spicy peppers with a little creamy sweetness. 

Part of what makes the drinking expereince so complex is that the pepper-related flavors and the fruit-related flavors do not combine. Over all, I get an impression of high spicy notes and down low on the palate this feels like a medium bodied off dry cider. 

It hits more sweet and high and then rapidly spreads over tongue and gets spicy. I cannot get over the notes of jalapeƱo and orange peel. 

The finish and aftertaste stay with the acidity of and off dry cider mixed with sweet bell pepper flavor. I find the cider entirely likable, partly become the experience requires thought and focus. Though I've hung on to this bottle too long to consider this, my experience offered up moderate carbonation; the bubbles are part and parcel of the pleasant assault on the tastebuds. Its hard to imagine what it would be like without carbonation.

It tastes seemingly different with every sip. I found the Williamette Valley Cidre sensitive to other foods, so I'd recommend eating something gentle with it. Watermelon was especially good in my experience.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's June and Juice Juniper Hard Cider

I keep tabs on Woodchuck's Out on a Limb series and they make it really easy for me by sharing many of these new limited-release ciders with me. Today's review is one of these: the June and Juice a gin botanical inspired cider. 

This cider builds more anticipation for me than lots of flavored ciders because I love many gin botanicals, and gin is my favorite spirit because of its limitless range and herby flavors. Fellow gin lovers, comment with your favorites! I'm definitely game to try a couple of new ones.

I've reviewed a lot of ciders by Woodchuck; they have been around a long time, and they make a wide variety of beverages. Much of what they release is sweeter than I like to drink most of the time, but sometimes they make something pretty exciting. I'm hoping this is going to be one of those times, but first, here are a few links to previous reviews.

Most recently, I toured the Woodchuck facility as part of my cider vacation this summer:

My very first cider review was Woodchuck's Winter back at the start of 2013:

A cider that I've tried with a wide variety of foods is their Barrel Select:

To find everything I've tagged with Woodchuck, follow this link:

And my most recent actual Woodchuck review is of their Local Nectar:

You can read the June and Juice's introduction, "Like a classic gin, we steeped fresh juniper berries into our small batch hard cider for this new concoction. The Cider Makers filled our custom extraction tank with juniper berries, rose petals, and orange peels, yielding a fresh botanical aroma. June & Juice has a refreshing semi-sweet apple taste with notes of juniper and citrus, a perfect alternative to your Friday night G&T!"

And here's a link to the main Woodchuck website with even more information:

Appearance: brilliant, marcona almonds, some visible bubbles

There's a cool tone to the color that it hard to describe because most shades of yellow, amber, and gold are warm colors. This however seems like the color of Marcona Almonds, yes it is a pale shade of creamy yellow, but the color is a cool one. Its easy to see that the cider is completely brilliant, showing of a nice number of active bubbles. 

Aromas: freshly cut apple, juniper, lavender, citrus, rose, 

These aromas are more complex than most Woodchuck ciders; I smell the fresh juicness of a freshly cut apple, meyer lemon, juniper, and the sweetly clean smell of lavender. I do smell notes of rose but they are subtle. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a sweet to seme-sweet cider. Woodchuck calls it a semi-dry, but I found it sweeter. Compared to other ciders by the brand I'd move it to semi-sweet. The sweetness is a fruity one.

Flavors and drinking experience: apple, citrus, herbs, loads of fun

This cider tastes a lot like it smells. Yes, there are notes of rose and lavender but the juniper and citrus stand out more. Everything is well blended with lots of fresh apple flavor. No tannins. Medium bubble. I like the acidity; it balances the sweetness but doesn't dominate the experience. 

I paired this cider with cat cuddling and eating rosemary olive oil bread topped with slivers of Goblin cheese by a local creamery (*NEW*_Goblin_.html). Crosswinds Farm and Creamery makes this amazing alpine style cheese with tons of nutty richness and those simply flavors brought out all of the fresh herbal deliciousness in the June and Juice. All in all, I was more than satisfied by the experience. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cider Review: Rootstock Ciderworks Hopped Hard Cider

Things are pretty rough at Along Came A Cider HQ because we have a very sick kitty. I can blog with a cat on my lap; she's sure not getting up, so I can share a review that has me pretty excited.

 I was at Cornell Orchards for a recent FLX Ciderweek event, and I was offered a taste of a hopped cider that won gold in its GLINTCAP category. The fine folks at Rootstock offered me a taste and later a can of their Hopped Hard Cider. Here are my thoughts, but first a little background on Rootstock.

Like my last review, this cidery was born after a family had been working a fruit orchard for multiple generations. Rootstock Ciderworks is the project of fourth generation DeFisher Fruit Farms in Williamson, NY near Lake Ontario. The cidery was founded in 2012 by David DeFisher and the cidermaker is Alex Robb. From reading the website I can glean a few priorities that seem to stand out for Rootstock. They care about using their own New York apples, but their commitment to local production extends beyond their fruit to equipment and as much local economic integeration as possible and running an extremely low waste cidery. There are a lot of different ways to commit to sustainability and environmental support, and this is a crucial one.

Read more at the site,

I'll lead with the official description: 
Hopped Hard Cider is a semi-dry cider made from estate grown Crispin apples and locally grown Cascade hops. This heavily aromatic cider exhibits a bouquet of fresh lemon and pine paired perfectly with the taste of fresh picked apples. With its balanced sweetness and acidity this unique cider is sure to please beer and cider drinkers alike.
And on the front page there's more information leading to the announcement that this cider will soon be available at several Wegmans' stores. Hey, anything for more cider info.
Hopped Hard Cider is a unique handcrafted semi-dry cider made from estate grown Crispin apples and locally grown Cascade hops. This heavily aromatic cider exhibits a bouquet of fresh lemon and pine paired perfectly with the taste of fresh picked apples. With its balanced sweetness and acidity this small batch cider is sure to please beer and cider drinkers alike. Available at bars, restaurants, and stores throughout the Upstate and Western New York regions.

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, nearly green

Looking at this cider, I notice that it's brilliant with a color like pale summer hay—nearly green! pours with a head that quickly dissolves

: pear, pine, fresh

I love how fresh and herbal this hopped cider smells. I also get lime citrus. The overall impression is enticing, friendly but not simple, pears, tons of pine but its really not soapy. Alex and I agree that this is one of the best smelling hopped ciders: deliciously inviting.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

This cider has some perceivable sweetness, but it isn't out of balance with any other element. If I had to characterize the sweetness I'd call it both fruity and honey like, but somehow fresh.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, medium bubble, very clean

Lucky for us, this cider tastes like just exactly it smells. There's a tremendously fun interplay of flavors that somehow feel  pyramid shaped: a strong base that tapers toward the acid. The Hopped Hard Cider offers up pleasurable mouthfeel and tremendous balance. Flavors include Tropicals fruit, pear,
 pine, and basil. This has a super clean fermentation. I find the acid medium high (but not ultra-high) and in tune with other flavors. It's just a little sweet but theirs some not quite bitter playing in there too. Hops are front and center, with just a bit of their characteristically grapefruit note. 

Its lightly sparkling, but the bubbles fade fast. Big sips sweeten and darken the flavor with notes of honey—maybe the tiniest boozey note, but no real funk. Unlike some west-coast hopped ciders, this doesn't use a beer yeast. I find this cider both refreshing and compelling. I can taste why it won gold.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Double Cider Review: Sietsema Lemongrass Hard Cider and Slightly Sweet Hard Cider

Today I'm reviewing two canned ciders that were part of a trade I made with the amazing Darlene Hayes of Turn Them All Into Cider and author of Cider Cocktails Another Bite of the Apple (a book I highly recommend). She managed a visit there on her way to GLINTCAP where we both judged this past spring. Thanks, Darlene!

Sietsema is not just a hard cider company but also an orchard business now being operated by the fourth generation of one family. The orchard was originally just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan in an area known for both apples and cider and now is only 1o miles away in Ada, Michigan. 

You can find out more about the orchard and the cider company on their Facebook page:

I looked for more cider-centric information on Sietsema Orchard's website, but I didn't find much about their current cider offerings. You're welcome to see plenty about their orchard there though:

Slightly Sweet which is the same as their red label, according to the internet.

Official Description: "For those who like their cider sweet. We stop fermentation just in time to retain the apples’ residual sugars; and you get a complex blend of citrusy sweetness with an underlying dryness with notes of pineapple and banana."

To me, the most interesting part of this description is the mention of stopped fermentation. This is a fairly advanced cidermaking technique that avoids fermenting to dryness and backsweetening for some sweetness to the beverage but instead using one of a few strategies to halt the fermentation while the juice has some of its own natural sugars intact. This is tricky because it goes against how yeast wants to work.  Yeast survives by eating sugar and creating alcohol, so you have to get rid of the yeast to keep that cider from starting to ferment again. Actual cidermakers are more welcome to add to this explanation in the comments. I just wanted to give the heads up that this isn't the easiest way to make a slightly sweet cider; its relatively ambitious but can give strong results. 

On to the cider!

Appearance: Hazy, deep coppery color, some visible bubbles

This cider looks more like fresh juice than many United States ciders. Its hazy and a dark coppery brown red. This could come from the arrested fermentation or some apples just produce a darker juice. It looks more like many English ciders to me. I can see some bubbles, but not a ton.

Aromas: sweet dusty lemon

Not to get ahead of myself, but the Slightly Sweet smells much sweeter than it tastes, but there's a specific cast to the sweetness. It remindes me of old-fashioned
 rock candy in the sweetness of its smell and also candied lemon peel. A very appealing aroma. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

They are right to call this slightly sweet. It isn't very sweet. The initial taste is one of apple sweetness, but that isn't the only note of the beverage. See below.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemongrass, grapefruit, medium tannin

As I said earlier this cider tasest sweet almost only at first followed by interesting bitterness. Medium tannins. The fruit notes are more citrusy than anything else and there are some grassy herbal elements as well.  The cider's acidity tastes like a blend of different acids and not just malic.

The body is lively but a bit on the thin side. There's a very different shape to the whole flavor experience. An interesting cider to be sure. I paired this with a vegetarian chili with chickpeas and delicious faux-pork crumbles. Very tasty.

And now for Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider

Sietsema's Lemongrass Hard Cider's official description reads: "For those with a taste for brightness. A bold blend of refreshing local Lemon Grass combined with our the crisp apple zest taste of our cider creates a unique taste of citrusy, zesty, sweet fruitiness"

Appearance: hazy, lots of visible bubbles, cheerful sunny gold

This cider is lovely to look at; its almost a shame to see it in a can. I like the rustic haze and sunny golden color. I also get a real sense of anticipation when I see that many visible bubbles.

Aromas: lemon and lemongrass, herbs, applesauce

This cider smells like lemon, lemongrass, sun-warmed apples, green zesty herbs, and homemade applesauce. This is a great set of aromas. They meld well together and yet I can identify all five notes distinctly.

Sweetness/dryness: tart and semi-dry

This cider is an easy to identify as semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: clean, tart, good balance of lemongrass and apple

Wow! This cider tastes so clean and tart that it makes the insides of my ears feel like they are curling. I'm getting a strong salivary response as well. The lemongrass characteristics reminds me of a hopped cider. I had this with a mexican-inspired tomato and rice dish and the pairing worked well.