Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cider Review: Downeast Craft Cider: Cranberry Blend and Counting Down to CiderCon

Today, I wanted to share my first review of anything by New England's Downeast Craft Cider. I'm starting with their Cranberry Blend. Though they've not appeared on the blog before, I've had a few of their ciders. The company is based out of East Boston, but their cans appear all over the North Eastern United States. They have a tourable cidery and a tap room.

I found a funny thing on the website too good not to share.

One one passes this gatekeeper, you can learn about the company and their ciders online. They were founded by college friends in 2011. The focus, as they describe it, is as much about what they don't do or add to their ciders as what they choose to do. Here's the priority directly in the words from Downeast.
where others have used juice from concentrate, “natural flavorings,” “essences,” artificial sweeteners, and an endless list of excuses, downeast cider house has a firmly established policy of NO SHORTCUTS. no matter the cost to us, we are fully committed to using only fresh-pressed juices and pure, natural ingredients in our cider. when it comes to flavor, there’s no substitute for the best, and that’s what we stand by: simple, honest, authentic.
One other element one the website struck me as particularly interesting is that they have two sections about their cider: fresh cider pre-fermentation and hard cider after production. 

Check out the website for yourself here: http://downeastcider.com/?ao_confirm

And this is how they describe what I'm reviewing this evening: Cranberry Blend
FRESH-PRESSED CRANBERRIES MAKE FOR A TART, CRISP FINISH.after every batch of cranberry blend is finished and ready for the conditioning tank, a cider-maker finds tyler and hands him a small cup. tyler takes a sip – contemplating the flavor, the body, the finish, the metaphysical implications of spinning around a dying star on this piece of rock we call planet earth – before making the declaration as old as time itself: “more cranberry.” and so it goes, a ceremonial dash of cranberry caps the batch and it’s whisked off to a cold, bubbly destiny.

This cider has a relatively low ABV at 5%.  The ingredients listed are: "freshly pressed apple cider, fresh cranberry juice, and ale yeast".  Downeast describes the cider as being lightly carbonated. Knowing all of these things helps me form more specific expectations when approaching the cider, something I always appreciate.

Appearance: watermelon, cloudy, many visible bubbles

The first thing I noticed was how pretty the color looks; it reminds me of  watermelon flesh  or tangerines. Its just gorgeous. I also saw tons of great big bubbles. Significant debris at the bottom of the glass, like the size of fish flakes. All of their ciders are described as unfiltered, so this isn't a huge surprise. 

Aromas: fruity, applesauce, butterscotch, cranberry

This cider smells very fruity, like applesauce but also dusty in that uniquely cidery way. the second thing I notice about the aromas is how very ripe the fruit notes. They almost meld into a butterscotch or jammy sort of smell. There are definitely cranberry notes, like a cranberry butter. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Cranberry Blend tastes sweet from start to finish, it does not have the controversial zing of cranberry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruit punch, hint of tart

Interesting! This cider reminds me of fruit punch or summery sangria with notes of cranberry. But the specific cranberry notes taste cooked more like a homemade cranberry sauce. I'd definitely call this cider sweet and straightforward, but not unbalanced. There's  no funk and no bitterness. Several cider lovers out there are cheering as they read that because not everyone like bitter in their cranberry. I do get a little sourness, but not like actual cranberry juice. There are low but present levels of tannins.

This cider tastes best in big sips. Its very sessionable and easy drinking. The other thing that immediately strikes me is how good  this would be for a cocktail component. This won't be the cider for everyone, and I do miss the aggressive bite that I associate with fresh cranberry, but for other folks this will be just perfect. 

And...I'll  be headed to CiderCon 2017 in Chicago in 8 days! If you are joining us (and I hope you are) come say hi! And if you can't make it, follow along by seeing what's happening on social media. I know a few of us will be sharing with @cidercon or #cidercon on Twitter and Instagram.