Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cider Review: Blue Bee Cider Charred Ordinary

Happy Spring, everyone! We made it! *crickets* Okay, so for many of us it does not yet look like Spring has sprung. That's okay. It will. I promise.

This is my first review of anything by Blue Bee Cidery. They are an urban cidery (Virginia's first) out of Richmond. They describe their ciders by talking about what apples they use, saying, "Our ciders are made with rare and heirloom variety Virginia apples that are prized for their tannin, acidity and flavor." This doesn't denote cider varietals, but shows a focus on many fermentation qualities that make for good cider apples.

Take a look at the website. Its simple and attractive in design, describes their ciders, and allows for online purchasing. Basically, it has everything you need.


Their exciting upcoming news is the Harrison release later this week. Yes, that Harrison. The apple formerly thought to be extinct. You can read more about that here: http://www.bluebeecider.com/event/harrison-release Pretty cool.

Today I want to share my thoughts on their Charred Ordinary. Here's the official description:
Served all day long at colonial-era taverns, or ordinaries, cider was the refreshment of choice for Virginians of all classes and walks of life – man, woman, child, rich and poor. 
CHARRED ORDINARY is semi-sparkling and made from heirloom variety apples to create an old-fashioned Virginia cider, dry and sharp. It pairs well with salty hams and cheeses, rich poultry dishes, and other traditional Virginia fare. 0.5% RS, 8.3% ABV.

This might be the first cider I've ever seen that billed itself as semi-sparkling. I've heard and read lightly sparkling or petillant, but this is new. We'll see what that means. The other thing to note in particular is how high this ABV is: 8.3%. I may end up glad that I only bought a 500ml.

Appearance: visibly bubbly, vibrant saffron color, brilliant 

This cider pours with a mousse that dissipates quicky, but adding excitement to those first few seconds. I'd call the color saffron and its deeply pigmented. Though the bubbles might make the photo unclear, the cider is brilliant.

Aromas: soft mushy apples, rich, a hint of barrel, hint of citru

The Charred Ordinary is very English smelling. From me, this comes as a high compliment. I smell something that reminds me of barn wood or barrel and overripe cider apples. This aroma is extraordinarily rich: frankly outstanding. There's definitely something citrusy going on; I think I can smell lemon. Overall, this recalls the Aspall Imperial. 

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This is an unambiguously dry cider. It has just enough residual sweetness to unfold its other flavors, but dry cider fans, this is a winner.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, citrus, sparkly, dry, savory

Though this smells like an English cider, the Charred Ordinary tastes quite surprising given smell. It's 100% New World, not old. This is defined by its high acid, mid tannin, and almost no sweetness. This cider ZINGs and keeps on zinging. 

Dry. Tart. Specifically Malic acid. Agey. In terms of notes, I get lots of lime, crisp raw tomato, and a bit of raisin. It sounds like a strange combination but it works. The Charred Ordinary also shares a surprising mushroom note and savory aftertaste. The cider manages to be funky and clean at the same time. In the mid palate it tastes nearly sour, but not vinegary at all. Some might find it slightly challenging, but its decidedly rewarding. The tartness is most extreme in small sips. For mouthfeel, there are lots of small bubbles, so I'm not quite sure why semi-sparkling was the term used.

I enjoyed my bottle first with veggie chili, then a 2nd glass while under a pile of cats and watching an episode of Mr. Robot. You can go simpler with a cider this good, but a tomato dish that has plenty of Umami flavor is actually very very tasty with it. The Charred Ordinary can help keep us all in good company till Spring actually shows up.