Thursday, December 28, 2017

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2017

This is my fifth annual roundup of favorite ciders for the year. Wow! That's 50 favorites recorded here, and my heart knows that there are many more. 2017 was a challenging year; I don't want to understate that. For me, though, it was also a healing and exploring year. I did more with cider than ever before: volunteering, pouring, teaching, writing, speaking, and consulting. I'm so grateful for all of those opportunities.

My cider highlight had to be judging two more cider competitions for the first time: The Pennsylvania Farm Show Competition ( and the cider category at the Good Food Awards (

But one of my favorite at home cider activities each year has to be compiling this list of my 10 favorite ciders of the previous blogging year.

For context, here are my lists for the previous four years:

And I'll quote my own rules. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 2016. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

10. Virtue Percheron

Virtue Cider was started in 2011 by Greg Hall; This cidery is based out of Fennville, Michigan. They use a lot of international inspiration for their ciders and aren't afraid of a little funk.

My tasting notes include leather, dried tropical fruits and raisins, all as an overlay to overripe apples. The scents include something a little floral and a little spicy. The french oak barrel aging gently steers the flavors of the Percheron. The definites are high acid, medium high tannins, with a low intensity of bubble. What I especially like about this cider is the mutually supportive spice and richness.

9. Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider

Dunkerton's Cider is the only English company to have made the list this year. They make cider in Pembridge, Herefordshire and have done so since 1980. That has allowed them to see a lot of changes in the cider market both in the UK and abroad in that time.

The cider looks like dark tea but hazy; it had only a few visible bubbles. Gorgeous. When I first tasted it, I said the drinking experience like getting mildly whacked in the head, but assuredly in a good way. This is so dry and tannic that its level of bitterness was almost provoking, but since it offered up medium acid to go with those tannins, it brought me round. The aromas bring richness, and the whole experience is heavenly but this one is not for beginners.

8. E.Z. Orchards Poire

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. Now, they make Cidre and Perry as well, in a style much inspired by French ciders and perries. With the Cidre part of the business founded by Edward Zielinski, E. Z. Orchards has made a name for itself in the region for trees, fruit, Cidre, and shared knowledge.

The first thing I noticed after pouring this cider, is how it was ambiently sizzling with effervescence. The Poire reminds me immediately of French ciders and perries in its farmy yet fruity aromas. The keeving fermentation process can create some reductive notes in the aromas like fallen leaves, warm wet wood, and farmy scents. After the funky aromas, I was shocked by how cold and clean tasting it was. Sweet and distinctly like fermented fruit sweetness; its the only perry on this list, but it's here for a reason.

7. South Hill Prelude 3

I know, perhaps it seems unfair for them to get the stop spot last year and yet still appear on this year's list. I can't help it. I like South Hill's ciders. These are simple apple-centric ciders that only tweak or adjust in ways that I tend to enjoy. This cider is from a single tree, yet it still tastes great.

The Prelude #3 is dry and sparkling, but it's so much more. It smelled honeyed and floral. Other aromas include orange, but concentrated like Seville oranges or tangerines. The Prelude #3 offers up a strong tannic presence, but overall the cider is round and soft. The tannins are beautifully balanced with bright golden acidity. For flavors, I taste vanilla, citrus, ripe apples, and just a bit of soft leather.

6. 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cidre Bouche

2 Towns Ciderhouse has been operating as a cidery in Oregon since 2010. 2 Towns was founded by Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, focusing on local fruit and innovative cider processes and experiments.

This is a French inspired cider through and through. Its semi-sweet, smelling of overripe apples, lemons, leather, hay, and wood. I love this ciders fine bubbles and full mouthfeel. It's my absolute favorite from this producer!

5. Champlain Heirloom

The Heirloom comes from Champlain Orchards out of Shoreham, Vermont. This cidery is truly a fruit farm that happens to make really great cider, among other things, on stunning land. All of the stages--growing, milling, pressing, fermenting and bottling--happen right there. They grow many fruits and more than 100 varieties of apples.

This semi-dry cider smells bready and tart but tastes stony and grassy with notes of green grapes. It absolutely wowed me. I love the light and vivacious body on the Heirloom. The esters from the smell remain as pleasant and clean flavors, and I find the acidity bright and high without ever being sharp or pointed. This is fruity sort of acid, balanced with medium tannins. Such a pleasurable and drinkable cider.

4. Blue Bee Charred Ordinary

Blue Bee is Richmond's first urban cider--in fact, it's Virginia's first. They focus on heritage fruit, incorporating varieties that can bring both acidity and tannin to their finished ciders. You can visit their tasting room year round.

The Charred Ordinary's aromas remind me of barn wood, barrel, and overripe cider apples. This aroma is extraordinarily rich: frankly outstanding. There's definitely something citrusy going on, specifically lemon. Once I tasted it, I could tell that the Charred Ordinary is 100% New World in style and not old. This cider is defined by high acid, mid-level tannins, and almost no sweetness. This cider ZINGs and keeps on zinging. And that's a very good thing.

3. Quebrada del Chucao Sidra Espumante Brut Nature

The company, Quebrada del Chucao, has been around since 2010 in Chile. It is a collaboration between a fruit-producing family and a university-trained winemaker. The back of the bottle describes the orchards from which the apples came as being more than 60 years old.

Though I expected sweeter, this cider is on the dry side of off dry with 7.5%ABV. I love how bubbly it is, and we can thank bottle conditioning for that natural sparkle. I'd expected it to be sweet because the sidra smelled both sweet and briney reminding me a little bit of both French and English ciders.

2. Black Diamond Solstice

Another strong cider maker from the Finger Lakes Region, Black Diamond is the small family cidery of Ian and Jackie Merwin. They have had a cidery since 2003, and a 150+ variety strong orchard near Trumansburg, New York since long before then. Cider is a natural focus for Ian Merwin as a Pomology Professor Emeritus at Cornell.

In this cider, the aroma notes included overripe apples, sun-warmed rocks, late-summer dust, and caramel. The Solstice tastes fruity, beautiful, and complex while also being uncompromisingly dry. The mouthfeel is fully and boozy. The Solstice's high acids are balanced with high tannins, making the Solstice come across as astonishing and rich. This is a mature and balanced cider, an absolute favorite.

1. Eden's Imperial 11 Degree Rose

Their logo reads “Unique expressions of extraordinary apples,” and Eden Specialty Ciders certainly supports that by making some of the finest cider I have ever tasted. It's astonishing to me that this is their first appearance in a top 3, but it wasn't hard to choose this cider as my absolute favorite of the year. Eleanor and Albert Leger have been helming their cidery since 2007. But for this year, I have to pay homage to the Imperial 11 Degree Rose, which is a blend of heritage apples and red currants.

This cider is off dry, dripping with fruit, and 11% ABV, making the Imperial 11 Degree Rose a big big cider. It's zesty, sprightly, tart and extremely bubbly. I love its flavorful intensity, and I know I'm a sucker for really good bubbles. High acid ciders with lots of fruit and some tannic structure are often among my favorites, so my love for this cider should come as no surprise. I could drink this all the time and never be sad about it.

But most of all, I want to end this post with gratitude for the cider experiences and people. From farmers to restauranteurs and every flavor of cider maker, cider writer, cider seller, and cider fan in between, you all enrich my life so much with your ciders and your stories. Here's to even more in the coming year! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cider Review: Blue Bee Cider's Hopsap Shandy

I know most folks associate hops with beer and with summertime. But a hopped cider doesn't have to wait for warm weather. This style is one of my favorite modern variations on cider, so I make an effort to include them in my personal rotation year round. Perhaps a way to think of it would be drinking a brief window onto bright skies and sappy green leaves. That sounds nice to me.

Today's hopped cider is from Blue Bee Cider in Virginia. This is the first urban cidery in the state, near Richmond. They have a tasting room and give tours when scheduled in advance. Blue Bee Cider earned a Good Food award for 2016.

Check out the website here:

You can also learn about their processes by reading their blog:

You can see my previous review of the Charred Ordinary from this March:

This is Blue Bee's official description for the Hopsap Shandy: 
Cascade hops and heirloom cider apples unite in Blue Bee Cider’s HOPSAP SHANDY, a traditional cider with a modern twist. After a light dry-hopping, this Winesap blend takes on floral, grassy and zesty citrus notes with an assertive apple finish. Borne of a whim, Hopsap Shandy is something refreshingly unexpected that can appeal to aficionados of beer, wine and cider alike.

Appearance: hazy, visible bubbles, warm nectarine flesh

Aromas: grapefruit, green, wet, green

This cider smells burstingly grapefruity, like the grapefruit is about to climb out of the glass! It's juicy herbal, green, wet, and cold. So interesting! All of these notes are solely from the aroma of this and not yet from drinking. I find this intensity and this zooming freshness utterly compellingly. Like a truly good perfume, you just want to keep sniffing it. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is one dry hopped cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: dry, high acid, lemon

Oh wow. Drinking this cider tastes tremendously good. It's lemony, citrusy, and fruity. Some drinkers might say that this level of acid is too high, but not me. I like that it has a little fun yeasty character. The first note is dry and dark and almost sweet, but then a wave of real tannins and acids hit. It gets brighter immediately and the tannins linger.

Tannic hopped ciders are rare (in some ways this cider reminds me of Tom Oliver's English hopped cider, which is also fantastic). I can taste lots of wood flavors. There are a relatively small number of little bubbles (but that maybe age?). The 8% ABV is apparent when drinking it, but its not hot. The Hopsap Shandy offers up citrus bitterness that's both quick-acting but also has some lingering power.

The cascade hops and Winesap apples make for that insane aroma. This cider is simply too good not to share even outside of this style's usual season.

A thing to note is that Blue Bee has done multiple version of their Hopsap Shandy, and mine is of an older edition, but I cannot imagine that either the age has hurt it or that their current edition would be any less interesting.

I had mind through a peaceful late afternoon with a fun fantasy novel and a little plate of cheese and crackers. One could pair this in a dozen more sophisticated ways, but the satisfaction of that simple spread was ideal. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cider Review: Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse's Pippins

I don't actually get to taste very many ciders from Canada even though the border isn't that far away. I always get excited about anything new and out of the ordinary, so picking up this bottle of Sea Cider when traveling to San Francisco was an easy choice. I've heard about Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse for years, but this is the first time they've been reviewed here. 

For a bit about the cidery, Sea Cider joined the Canadian cider scene in 2007. Sea Cider is a farm and cidery on Vancouver Island, in Western Canada, growing more than 50 varieties of organically-grown heritage apples. They have a tasting room open to share cider and tours year round. I've heard great things, and many of their ciders are covered in medals from GLINTCAP and other cider competitions.

I love that Sea Cider has an explicitly stated mission, “Sociability, sustainability, and community involvement have been the three pillars of Sea Cider’s business philosophy and mission.” And what a lovely one at that.

Here's a link to the website where you can read more about them:                         
The official description of Pippins reads, 

Pippins is a “sharp” style cider, thanks to the Yellow Newton Pippin apples we use and cool fermentation from champagne yeast. Off-dry and chapitalized to 9.5%, it is an example of a New England style of cider that was meant to be as strong and robust as North America’s pioneers. Pippins features pineapple and confectionery notes, and is incredibly food friendly. It fits just about every occasion and its crisp bite will pair perfectly with everything from steak and salad to spicy curries. 9.5% ABV.
Let me just draw attention to that higher than usual ABV and suggest pouring this one is a more wine-like serving size.  

Appearance: radiant, bright, jewelers brass

This cider shines. I forget sometimes the difference between a transparent cider and a truly brilliant one until I see something like this. The radiance is enticing. I could see many bubbles in the clarity.

Aromas: overripe apples, vinous, vanilla, spices

This smells dusty, vinous, and apply. Aromas include caramel, baking spices, and vanilla. The overall impression is boozy, barreled, powered overripe apples. Based on the aromas, I anticipate that this cider will be very tart indeed and on the drier side of off-dry.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

I was misled by the tartness in the aroma! This is a semi-dry cider but not as dry as I expected at all. The sweetness is very natural: all apples. There's more going on though than either the sweetness or dryness of this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, rich, fruity, tart

I found Pippins complex and sweeter than the smell had prepared me for. Though the description doesn't include it, something about both the aromas and the flavors struck me as barrel related. That could be the higher than usual ABV, but more likely the richness, vanilla, and maple notes that accompany the fruit. Pippins offers up high acid, as described but that was less striking to me than the balanced maple finish. 

So much about this cider was warm, pleasant, rich, and more than simple. It reminded me of some white wines in its weight and fermented fruit esters. The mouthfeel was full and satisfying. The texture was crisply bubbly. I so enjoyed drinking it.

I had this cider with fantastic homemade black-bean burritos. Perhaps not the most predictable combination for a Canadian cider, but the sweetness of corn and beans was absolutely delightful with the richness of the cider. I'd absolutely recommend this pairing to anyone. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cider Review: South Hill Cider's Prelude Cider #3

Perhaps you don’t care for the holidays, or current events have gotten you down, way down. I hear ya; I’m feeling it. But I refuse to let my blues keep the cider reviews from their weekly date with the internet. Thanks, Readers. You keep me going. The cider world gives me so much to be thankful for. Many special thanks to the Cider Guild of Pennsylvania and the PA Farm Expo for giving me a chance to judge cider last week. It was a great time. I'll share more about it once we're closer to the Farm Show.

Recently two good friends of mine shared one of their Cider Club bottles from South Hill Cider with me. That’s how I got to taste a cider so specialized that all of its apples come from one tree.

Here’s how South Hill Cider describes themselves and their cidermaker, “Fine and well-crafted hard cider from the Fingerlakes. Made in small batches, with attention to detail. Steve Selin: apple-hunter, cidermaker, orchardist.”

I've previously reviewed a few ciders from South Hill Cider:

Most recently, they appear in my Finger Lakes Cider pairing dinner:

My top cider of 2016, the Stone Fence Farm:

I also really enjoyed the 2014 Packbasket:

And my first review for them was the hyper-limited Hypothesis:

The back label describes the Prelude series; here’s the official description from the website.
#3- (2015) Sparkling and dry. This rare cider is produced from one single mysterious tree whose origin and variety are unknown. It is located in West Danby, NY and Steve has been making single tree cider from it since 2013. It is now being propagated for South Hill’s orchard and in a decade we can look forward to more than the 4 cases per year average that this one tree produces. The prelude label was glued over the original label which was printed as a private label - we never expected to be able to share this cider as widely as the cider club allowed. Thank you, cider club member for giving us the opportunity!

Apologies for not getting more pictures.

Appearance: transparent, warm straw, not many visible bubbles

This cider looks very true to the appearance of most South Hill Ciders. It isn't brilliant, but it is transparent. I don't see much in the way of bubbles but it does have a warm creamy straw color.

Aromas: floral, citrus honey

This is where this cider starts becoming magical. It smells so floral with intense honey notes. There are summer flowers like jasmine and honeysuckle all over this. Other aroms include orange, but concentrated like Seville oranges or tangerines. 

Sweetness/dryness: dry

This doesn't have a dry first edge, but the cider seems to become dry in the mouth very quickly.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, bubbly, soft yet structured

Mmmm, what a delight. The Prelude #3 offers up a strong tannic note, but overall it is still round and soft. The tannins are beautifully balanced with bright golden acidity. For flavors, I taste vanilla, citrus, ripe apples, and just a bit of soft leather. All the citrus one smells is here in the taste too. Wow. 

The texture offers up a plenitude of small bubbles. The Prelude's mouthfeel is a little astringent with a nice mouthcoat that is rich but not syrupy. Overall, this is just a fantastic cider. I know I'm biased toward ciders that are both tannic and strongly bubbly, so this is playing to just about my favorite flavor profile, but the fermentation is clean without being sterile, the cider is balanced yet interesting. I loved it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Cider Review: Blake's Hard Cider's Snapdragon

I feel that hibernation season and the holidays are both upon us. Perhaps, I am not alone in feeling like we’re living in the land of eternal 9pm, and more offers for ways to spend our time than we have time to spend. This time is chaotic and demanding, but it’s also full of surprises and little lights in the cold dark. I'll take all the brightness the world can muster, even if I'm run off my feet. On one such a night recently, some friends and I took a breath and quiet night for ourselves to drink cider, catch up, and generally be cozy.

One of the select ciders that evening was Blake's Hard Cider's Snapdragon. Blake's Hard Cider comes from Armada, Michigan, where the company produces 19 varieties of cider, runs a taproom and restaurant, and grows 45600 apple trees. I found out these little nuggets of information on the website, and there are descriptions for all of their ciders there also.

You can learn more about the company on the website

My previous reviews of Blake's have included:

I got my bottle in a cider trade with an illustrius friend (Hi Darlene!) who was travelling that direction. 

Blake's official description from the website:
Intentionally burning your mouth by plucking a molten hot raisin out of a fire and eating it used to be considered a fun game enjoyed all over the world, in fact people would do it in an attempt to mimic the face of a dragon. Snap Dragon, a game played only by the brave for centuries has now been captured in this handcrafted concoction. Enjoy the warm taste of burnt rum-raisins with the crisp taste of apples from Blake’s. 6.9% ALC. BY VOL.
and from the bottle:
Here at Blake’s Hard Cider Co. we’re steeped in tradition and as such our games are a bit old fashioned, but no less sophisticated. Our own version of the famous Snap-Dragon game involved the blue flames of rum from which the raisins used in our cider were skillfully procured. With their plumpness regained, a prolonged cider bath developed a lingering rich finish with just the right hint of warmth as though the flames were clinging to the fruit all along.

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, no visible bubbles

I don't see any bubbles in this slightly hazy cider. It looks warm and lazy like the color of warm straw tinted by the afternoon sun. 

Aromas: honey, flowers, sweet, fresh apple

The Snapdragon smells floral, with lots of honey notes. I find the aromas pleasantly sweet with just an edge of bite to the smells. I’m guessing that comes from the rum, but I’ll know more once I taste it.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I found it sweet, but among my fellow sippers, there was some disagreement between sweet and semi-sweet. I think the rich boozy notes and the hints of rum might affect how we perceive what sweetness is there.

Flavors and drinking experience: Raisins, concord grapes, bruised apples, booze

Tasting makes everything clearer, yes, we absolutely tasted raisin notes and a bit of booze, Concord grapes, and bruised apples. The most pronounced notes include honey, caramel, and flowers. Everyone did agree on how nicely balanced we found the cider.

The Snapdragon isn’t subtle, but its complex and I think pairing rum and raisin together did more for the cider than either of those additions would have done on its own. The mouthfeel is decidedly thick, to the point of feeling a bit syrupy after a small glass. It has enough acid to keep one going back for more sips, and the rum notes bring just a whiff of bitterness which helps that crucial balance. It’s a fun cider, and a perfect one for winter nights. 

We paired it with goat cheese, crackers, and conversation. You would have to look long and hard to do better. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

#PickCider for Thanksgiving, Vermont Cider Co.'s Ingrained Review

My last review before time to #PickCider for Thanksgiving! I wanted to choose a cider both seasonal and food friendly, so I'm taking a chance on the new Vermont Cider Company offering, Ingrained. This is a barrel aged cider, and those tend to have enough mouthfeel to be great food pairing ciders. We'll see if my suspicions are correct.

In the past, I've reviewed two ciders by the Vermont Cider Company.

Find out more about Vermont Cider Co. on the web:

The official description  tells us something about how Ingrained was crafted.

Ingrained uses 100% local apples from Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, VT.  After fermentation, this cider was aged for nine months in WhistlePig Rye Whiskey barrels from Shoreham, VT for an incomparable taste experience. Ingrained has balanced botes of American oak & rye whiskey over a crisp New England apple backdrop.

Appearance: shining, bright gold, few visible bubbles

This color is intense! The shining gold is just riveting to look at. Of course its brilliant. There aren't many bubbles to see either, just shining color.  

Aromas: vanilla, barrel, booze, and ripe apple

This smells mouthwateringly of vanilla, barrel, and rich booziness. I get secondary notes of caramel, apple, and spice.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet and rich cider, redolent with dessert qualities.

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, complex, thick mouthfeel

This cider has a nice balance of body, sweetness, and acidity, but in an equilateral way. This is a pyramid with a strong base of sweetness, lightened by medium acidity, topped of with some barrelly tannins. The flavors are complex and roll through a bright sweetness through a mellow mid-palate and long luxuriant finish.

Ingrained has a thick mouthfeel and a sweetness that remind me of an ice cider, but it has an ABV that allows it to be consumed very differently. The Ingrained is easy pleasant drinking, perfect for an evening by the fire with a good book or a riveting movie, something scary or with lots of action. I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde, especially with that soundtrack. Let the holiday movies wait another week. 

My food pairing recommendations would be glazed carrots, vegetarian roast, and mashed potatoes. This is a great choice to #pickcider for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#PickCider Review Wild Hare Hard Cider's Hopscotch, & I'm off to judge cider again!

Its time to start thinking about how to #pickcider for Thanksgiving, and I wanted to challenge myself to think about taking this really delicious easy pairing and give it a fun challenge. I want to find out if a hopped cider can work for the Thanksgiving meal, so I'm trying Hopscotch by Wild Hare Ciders out of Virginia.

Based on the way that Wild Hare introduces themselves, I can see that they also care about variety and challenge in their ciders. This is what Wild Hare says by way of introduction, “From classic dry ciders to more modern ciders infused with hops and herbs, we craft cider with a variety of personalities. Throughout the year we will have our standard offerings, and also seasonal batches and experimental flavors. Come in to find the cider that is the perfect match for you”.

I also found out online that this micro Virginia cidery sources apples from the Shenandoah Valley. They pride themselves on producing ciders different from folks will find on grocery store shelves. This boutique micro-cidery talk about both modern fermentation techniques and the long history of cider. The founder is Jay Clement, and the cidermaker is Nathan Briggs. They do have a tasting room where visitors can try their current selections.

Find out more on the web at:

Today's cider is their Hopscotch; it's label describes it as “a lightly dry-hopped cider.” This grammar nerd found that an interesting order of modifiers. In the end it looks like the level of hopping will be light and the method of hopping is dry hopping, but we'll see whether or not tasting the cider bears this out. As for a Thanksgiving pairing, I tend to think the fresh lightness of a hopped cider, provided it is a balanced beverage, would complement many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, including sweet potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts.

The full official description reads,

This small batch cider gives a nod to beer making and does so by dry hopping a special blend of finished cider. With a variety of aroma hops, the process imparts a floral & citrus aroma, creating a truly unique product that is not bitter, but has the spirit to stand up to beer and wine.

This cider is a 2017 GLINTCAP Bronze medalist. Its ABV is 6.9%

What I don't know about Wildhare Cider's Hopscotch is much about the apple varieties used to make it. But the best way to find out more about this cider will be to taste it.

Appearance: hazy, vibrant straw, no visible bubbles

This definitely looks like a hopped cider. They are more likely to be hazy and appear less bubbly. 

Aromas: mildly hoppy, sweet, fruity, lychee

I'm digging the mildly hoppy cider aroma; its pleasing and mellow. The notes are sweet fruity with lots of lychee smell. I'm anticipating a bright cider based on these smells.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

You could call this cider medium dry or more precisely off dry. The sweetness is balanced by acidity and fruitiness. Yes, I'd definitely call this balanced. The Hopscotch tastes less sweet than it smells.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, green fruit, spicy,

This cider tastes like green or light fruits: pears, lychee, and golden apples. I'd say its surprisingly less sweet than I expected based on the aromas. The Hopscotch offers up plentiful acid and a very nice amount of hop flavor. There are no tannins to speak of.

I found its light body and medium sparkle very appealing. One of the more exciting flavor notes for me in this cider is the subtle spiciness. The hops are indeed aromatic hops but there's just enough bitterness to remind me of a fresh tonic with apple and Quinine. Its pleasing and not as cooling and summery as some hopped ciders. I do think it would pair well with some vegetable sides for Thanksgiving.

Also, I will be judging at the Pennsylvania State Farm Products Show (or just the PA Farm Show) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania later this month. And its not too late to enter!

Their cider entries must arrive by November 17th, so the deadline is coming up very soon. Read more here:

This is a first year for this competition, so I’m super excited to be judging. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse's Cidre Bouché French Style Keeved Cider

Today, I want to raise my glass to a cidery stretching its own boundaries and doing a lot with its multiple different lines of ciders. To this end, today's review is of 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cidre Bouché from the Traditions line.

2 Towns Ciderhouse is a cidery based in Oregon, started by Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood . They've been producing ciders since 2010. Their focus is very local and process oriented. I've had the honor of meeting lots of folks from 2 Towns at various cider event over the past five years. When describing their approach to making cider, the website emphasizes that 2 Towns Cider house does not use any artificial flavors, concentrates, or processed sugars. 

To focus in a bit more on the Traditions lineup, I read more about it on the company website, learning that it focuses on heirloom apples, barrel aging, and other historically inspired cider-making techniques. I received this sample of the Cidre Bouché for review and didn't pay for it. But, when i get the chance to buy 2 Towns Ciders, I also do.

Find out more about the Traditions line, as well as their Flagship and Seasonal ciders online:

My previous reviews for 2 Towns Cider House have included:

and the Brightcider was part of my roundup of vacation ciders:

To be prepared for the Cidre Bouché, I read the official description to see exactly what french style means to 2 Towns Ciderhouse. Here it is:
Inspired by the bittersweet ciders of France, Cidre Bouché is made using an old-world process called keeving. Starting with 100% traditional cider varieties like Kingston Black, Michelin, Reine des Pommes, Dabinett and Muscat de Lense, we let the fruit ‘sweat’ and intensify in aroma. The apples are crushed and left to soak on the skins before the juice is fermented slowly over the course of a year, and aged in French oak casks. When finished, this keeved cider is rich, thick, and brimming with overripe bittersweet apple character. 6.9%ABV

Appearance: dark red, hazy, very very bubbly

This photo is totally unfiltered. The cider really is this dark and intensely autumn colored. The shade reminds me of strong tea and falling leaves. I'd call the cider slightly hazy and very very bubbly, which I hope comes through in the picture.

Aromas: overripe apples, leather, hay

I smell those bittersweet apples like whoa. Notes include leather, overripe apples, lemons, hay, and something woody. You could also say applesauce and a cedar aftershave. This is a gentle mellow and rich set of smells. Holy anticipation.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This semi-sweet cider still has bitterness, and in the best possible way. I think folks who like semi-sweet ciders will enjoy it, but as a habitual dry drinker, I also find it very satisfying.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich overripe apples, bubbles, full mouthfeel

Wow! Wow wow wow. I know, that's not terribly informative or articulate, but I need to lead with that holistic first impression.This cider offers up high tannins, medium low acidity, and a rich full mouthfeel. The Cidre Bouché is very much like a french cider, but somehow just a bit more balanced with acid and very freshly bubbly.

I paired this cider with a rustic bean and vegetable stew topped with fresh green onions. The stew emphasized acidity and strong salty, earthy flavors. The rich and sweet cider made for the perfect counterpoint. To say I recommend this pairing, or something like it, would be an understatement.

This is without any doubt my favorite cider from 2 Towns Ciderhouse. They consistently make innovative and drinkable ciders, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. They really knew just what to do with those bittersweet apples. Yum!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cider Review: Two Metre Tall's Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider

I'm starting from scratch with the Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider as I have no background knowledge of either apples or cider from Tasmania or anywhere in that segment of the globe. When I spotted this cider on the shelf Finger Lakes Beverage Center ( I knew I had to try it.

The company that makes this cider is Two Metre Tall; they create a number of different farmed and fermented products. Here's how they describe themselves, “We are farmers brewing farmhouse ales & ciders in unique batches using farm grown ingredients from our own 600ha property in the Derwent Valley of Tasmania as well as ingredients sourced directly from farmers across the state. Barrel aging, spontaneous fermentations, experimentation and everything in between. Fruit in ale, sour cherries and more.” Ashley and Jane Huntington are the primary folks behind this farm, brewery, and cidery. Ashley has a background in wine which will doubtless influence the cider.

Read more and see some glorious pictures of the farm on their website:

The cider I'm trying today is their Farmhouse Dry. Here's the official description.

When we discovered the Griggs family at Lucaston Orchards in the Huon Valley were still growing the famous old English cider variety, Sturmer Pippin that was all the motivation we needed to produce a traditional, unfiltered, bottle fermented farmhouse cider made using only apples and yeast. 7.5% alc. vol.

What intrigues me most are the bottle conditioning and the unfamiliar variety of apple: the Sturmer Pippin. Both of these factors would be tremendously exciting, even independent of my first chance to taste a Tasmanian cider.

Appearance: hazy, bubble, warm glowy color

This cider has so many beautiful bubbles. I'm not surprised by the little haze in the cider because it is bottle fermented and therefore unfiltered. The color looks warm and a bit glowy because of the creamy haze.

Aromas: stone fruit, fresh apples, flowers, hint of volatile acidity

When I first poured this cider, the smells included a hint of volatile acidity, but also flowers and fruit. None of the aromas struck me as particularly intense. The scents were angular and pointed, so I predict a very tart cider.
Dryness/Sweetness: Dry

This is unambiguously a dry cider. And if you read on the website about the brand's style, it sounds like they are only ever going to make very dry ciders. I caught a bit of a good humored attitude about this choice, see if you can find what I saw.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemon, twiggy, vegetal, acidic

So my expectations based on aroma were decidedly met when tasting this cider. The Farmhouse Dry sure tastes dry. I like that this level of dryness is a presence rather than just an absence of sweetness. It tastes gently bitter and tart like lemon juice. Other flavors intersect with this dryness; the cider tastes cold, twiggy, and just a bit vegetal. This cider is very interesting and different.

The body and mouthfeel come from the cider's very pleasant active sparkle. The Farmhouse Dry also shares some pointed acid but not too much in the way of tannins.

I served this cider with a fun dish. My husband incorporated a bit of the cider into a cheese sauce over pasta with cannelloni beans and roasted cauliflower. The cider really made the depth and zing of the sauce perfect, and the combination was a warm and roasty delight.