Thursday, June 29, 2017

#PickCider Review: Nine Pin Ciderworks Peach Tea

Last post before the 4th of July! I hope you have you plans made for how to celebrate the most picnic, cookout, fun, food, and firework's holiday in America's calendar year. I hope you've thought about how you'll #pickcider as part of this awesome occasion. Here's one last review of a new release seasonal cider that's just tailor made for summer parties. 

One of the coolest things about Nine Pin is their amazing range of specialty and seasonal ciders. Looking at the website just now, I counted 17 available ciders. That's impressive, and even more so once I tasted several of these and found out how good they are. 

You can read the whole list and find out much more here at their site:

I couldn't finish up my series of #PickCider reviews without Nine Pin Ciderworks' summer seaonsal release: Peach Tea. They were kind enough to share some samples with me just in time!

Here are my previous reviews of Nine Pin Ciders:

I first reviewed their Signature Blend:



Though not a review, Nine Pine Ciderworks is part of my cider event calendar every winter, and this is the writeup when they launched the annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries, which is an amazing event every year in Albany:

Official description: 

Peach Tea is Nine Pin’s take on a classic summer drink. This cider, crafted from a farmhouse blend of New York apples from Kinderhook, N.Y.-based Samascott Orchards, is cold-infused with a custom peach tea blend from Short and Stout. The infusion of these ingredients creates a bright, refreshingly tart, and delicious peach cider. Peach Tea pairs well with sunsets and warm summer nights.

I got some amazing pairing recommendations from Alejandro for this cider including tire swings and puppies. It was charming, and I'm curious to see if I'll agree. The ABV is a middle of the road 6.2%.

Appearance: transparent, very few visible bubbles, warm apricot color

One of my co-tasters said that the cider's appearance reminded her of the warm orange tones of peaches, and I think that's completely fair. I found it reminiscent of dried apricots.

Aromas: Peach! More peach!

This smells completely like peaches and unfermented peach juice. I can envision the drips of peach juice running down my chin when I smell this. Its almost mind boggling.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet and juicy cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: peach, hints of tea, bit of creaminess

Rather like the aromas, I was surprised by how very juicy the Peach Tea is! The cider tastes a tiny bit creamy as well. To be more specific, its a sweet sort of juicy- not very tea like, to me One out of three tasters, one could pick it up clearly, and guided the rest of us to noticing a bit of tea. Maybe the tannins mid palate were from the tea, but I found my impresions of tea growing as the taste matured. It comes out mostly on the finish - as a sustained note.

Something else, we all noticed about the Peach Tea cider is that the drinking exeperience is light and not very boozy to the tastebuds. Somehow the balance sweet and fruity with high acid stayed very friendly. The cider is easy drinking and not punishing or sharp at any moment of the taste journey. Maybe it is as cider for warm nights and cuddling puppies.

For us it was an evening on the porch with chevre and strawberry short cake and good conversation. There are endless ways to #pickcider but it is always best with good company.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#PickCider Review Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider

This is my first review of a anything by Stem Ciders. They are based out of Denver, Colorado and have operated since the start of 2014. I first ran across their beverages at Cider Summit Chicago 2017. I was pleased to stay in touch and get a few review samples this month.

You can learn all about Stem Ciders on their website here:

This is Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider and it could have fit into my Very Perry May, but I'm glad to have a canned pear-apple blend for this #pickcider for the 4th of July series.

Made with Bartlett pears from Colorado's Western Slope. Rich golden hue, caramel and fresh fruit on the nose with a surprisingly tart finish 5.3% ABV Released April 2017. Suggested pairings include, “pork chops and apple sauce, spicy thai, lobster rolls” But we'll see if my sense of vegetable oriented pairings matches up.

Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles, deep roasty gold

This cider has a deep roasted quality to its goldenness. It reminds me of English or French ciders in color. I don't see many bubbles, but it is brilliant.

Aromas: cooked apple and pear, yeast, custard

The scents are rich, oxidized, and dusty. The cider smells sweet, warm, and rich. These aren't characteristics I associate very much with pear ciders, so I'm curious. The creamy custard smell is most intriguing.

sweetness/dryness: sweet

This cider drinks sweetly but remains complex and dessert like. The fruitness and sweetness taste all natural to me.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, fruity, high acid, bubbly

Richness and mouthfeel are a pair of interconnected qualities that can make or break a cider, and the Pear Apple by Stem Ciders offers up a delightful experience in those crucial characteristics. Mind you, part of what makes the richness so enjoyable is that it's balanced by high acid. The contrast is not artificially extreme, just dynamic and buoyed up with medium to high fine bubbles.

I found this cider deeply enjoyable.

Its fruity but not in a raw fruit salad way. Instead it reminds me of a fruit tart drizzled with caramel. This apple pear blend, just oozes dessert, while still being sharp in a spectacularly nice way.

My recommended pairings for this cider include summer thunderstorms, chilled grain salad with cheddar, corn, tomato, and avocado, Twin Peaks, or caramel shorbread cookies. I've not gotten to try it with lobster roll, but give me a chance and I will! What this list is attempting to demonstrate is a certain flexibility that I suspect this cider is capable of providing. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

#PickCider Review: Austin Eastciders' Blood Orange

Bonus review this week just to help us count down to July 4th! I want to highlight as many summer ciders as possible, so we can all #pickcider for the upcoming holiday.

Here are my previous special Summer #PickCider reviews.

Gumption's Citrus Freak:'s review is Austin Eastciders' Blood Orange. 

This review marks my first taste of Austin Eastciders
, and my first experience of cider with orange included, so I'm pretty excited to taste something doubly new. Again, an aside, This was shared with me as a review sample. This doesn't ever change how I interpret a cider.

The official description reads, "We blended blood oranges from Italy with bittersweet heirloom apples to create a cider with a zesty twist. With just the right amount of sweet and citrus flavors, our Blood Orange Cider is sure to brighten your day." 5% ABV

The other fascinating feature on the page about this cider is a simple mixed drink recipe designed to use this exact cider. It's called The Bigger Better Cider and its worth a trip to the website just to check this out. 

I took a can of this cider to a casual wedding reception, just so I could get in a review with some awesome summer party food pairings. Congrats again Sarah and Mara! The beautiful table decorations were a bonus.

Appearance: Cloudy, sunny orange, ring of small bubbles

This is one of the more cloudy ciders I've seen from the United States. As the photo shows, the color is a fun sunny orange and the only visible bubbles ring the glass at the cider's surface.

Aromas: champagne, mimosa, orange, wood

The Blood Orange smells like apple, orange, wood. Not like orange juice, but instead with a slightly champagne-esque note. Pleasant.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet but after an initial zing of bitter

I love the action in this sweetness curve. The Blood Orange pops with a gentle hit of citrusy bitter that soon mellows into easy honeyed sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, peppery, lots of orange, fruity

The first note is bitter and black peppery, and that quickly gives way to sweetness that lingers pleasantly. High acid but the acid is citric, not malic. My tongue puckers a bit. A long aftertastes that reminds me of Orangina.No tannins, despite the bitterness. Manages to be both crisp and warm in its taste. 

This cider is only mildly bubbly. I'm starting to think this is a feature of ciders in cans. Can other canned cider drinkers weigh in on this? 

Overall,  my impressions centered around this cider as sweet, very blood orange and pleasantly complicated by the hint of  bitter and peppery spice.

For pairings, I had this with so many good foods! I had pesto pasta, fresh green salad with pomegranate seeds, Thai-style summer rolls, brie and watermelon. And then cinnamon sugar popcorn and wedding cake. There were so many amazing summer party foods at this wedding potluck! Of those, I really liked the Blood Orange with the summer roll and peanut dipping sauce. Something about sweet citrus plus rice paper, tofu and veggies was out of this world!

As an aside, I feel like I have to share a funny video inspired by my friend Jonathan Honefinger. He makes sommeliers try Malort and captures their reactions. At this reception, I spied a bottle of Malort. Curiousity won the day. Or perhaps the Malort did.

Watch and see...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#PickCider Review of Gumption Hard Cider's Citrus Freak

We are now only two weeks away from the 4th of July! I hope you're starting to think of your plans: friends, swimming holes, grilling pizza, fireworks. For me, it all goes with cider, so I've been spending a few entries focusing on the kinds of ciders I think work especially well for warm weather and celebration. I am all about the ways we can #PickCider for the 4th of July!

If you want to look at some fabulous recipes involving cider, think about cider party pairings, and just enjoy some seriously glamour cider shots, please visit:

For today, I want to share thoughts on a cider that was recently shared with my by the fine folks at Gumption: The Citrus Freak. This cider was a review sample, so I didn't buy it, but as always that doesn't ever change how a cider tastes. My opinions stay mine.

You can visit the website here:

I have tried Gumption's flagship cider before, back in July of 2015. Then they were a line under the Woodchuck umbrella instead their own product. Here's that review that focuses on the drink's aim for a higher tannin mainstream cider:

Here's the official description, “Part prankster, part gangster, Gumption’s right-hand man is the Citrus Freak. A perfect pairing of eating apples, grapefruit, and Cascade hops, this semi-dry cider delivers an all-day enjoyable citrus experience.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: medium straw, brilliant, not a lot of visible bubble

This cider looks like a traditional American cider but without the haze that hops can often add to hopped ciders. Instead, this is a brilliant, a medium straw color, and not super bubbly looking.

Aromas: strong grapefruit, hops, candied citrus peel, dust

The Citrus Freak smells sweet and citrusy. The presence of grapefruit on the nose is strong.
I can also smell that hint of stony dust that accompanies a lot of ciders. The sweetness and citrus combine to remind me specifically of the smell of candied citrus peel. Yum!

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

The sweetness of the cider still reminds me pleasantly of candied citrus peel or those citric acid powered candies that recall my 80s childhood and long long days spent by the community pool.

Flavors and drinking experience: cool, lemon, grapefruit

Interesting! This cider does really bring out the fusion of grapefruit and hop flavors in a way that shows how herbal grapefruit can be and how citrusy aromatic hops often are! Its almost spooky how one flavor transitions so smoothly to the other. This cider has a medium body and relatively low level of carbonation. I crave more, but then again, I usually do.

There are some notes of more specifically hop and apple flavors, but these all play so nicely together that its harder than usual to pick them apart. There are no real tannins, medium acidity, and a clean fermentation. I find that the cider dries out a touch on the finish, also feels drier altogether when drunk from the bottle instead of poured into a more open glass. Take that as you will.

For pairing, I'd put this cider with simple veggie burgers, really sharp salt and vinegar chips, and raw veggies dipped in a creamy pesto sauce. Its all easy and delicous which works for a really easy going session-able cider like this. What a way to relax! 

See you Thursday for a bonus review this month to help us #pickcider before the 4th of July.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#PickCider Review of Ricker's Hard Cider Mainiac Blueberry

As we keep on gearing up to #PickCider for the 4th of July, I wanted to share thoughts on a cider I was given at CiderCon this past February in Chicago. But, as soon as I saw the Ricker Hill Mainiac Mac Blueberry, I knew this was a cider for summer. So, I waited.

And I waited and waited some more. But, finally, its downright hot and sunny outside. We are 10 days from the official start of summer just a few weeks from the 4th of July. Now I'm definitely thinking summer every time I #Pickcider.

Last week, I enjoyed a tart cherry cider from Citizen Cider out of the Vermont at a deck party:

 This week I'm sitting on my porch to enjoy the Mainiac Blueberry from Mainiac Hard Cider out of Turner, Maine.

This fruit wine business grew out of Ricker Hill Orchard. They pride themselves on doing everything on the orchard from growing the apples to bottling, canning, and serving the cider.

You can learn about Mainiac Cider at the website:

The official description reads, “Mainiac Blueberry is a filtered, mildly carbonated hard cider primarily made with McIntosh apples with a special blend of other varieties of apples as well as blueberries. The result is a sweet, fruity drink – one full of refreshing blueberry goodness. This drink embodies the Maine wild blueberry taste that so many people love.” 5% ABV.

Appearance: dark purple, brilliant, fizzy

When first poured this billowed into a tall foamy head with a fun fuchsia color. The head didn't stick around, but it was definitely the tallest I've ever seen on a cider!

Aromas: grapes, blueberry muffines, red wine

Oh my! This smells so interesting: like grapes, red wine, and blueberry muffins. The smells are sweet, fruity, and summer.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Mainiace Blueberry is a sweet and fruity cider. It does not use tartness or bitterness in any way; its blueberry and apple notes are easy-drinking sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: blueberry, fresh, sweet, soda

This gorgeous dark purple cider tastes astonishingly like blueberries. I don't get a strong apple flavor or many notes from yeast or fermentation. The bubbles make the experience zingy and light and fun. The experience of drinking this cider is somewhat reminiscent of a slightly-grown-up berry soda.

I found the Mainiac Blueberry pleasant but not challenging. Not even tart. Says it in the can. Very sweet but kinda fun. 

I would pair this cider with a plate full of fresh veggie and fruit-forward flavors. It would go excellently with corn on the cob, fruit skewers, and a heavily loaded leafy green salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and shredded carrots. This is one that was simply designed for the chance to #PickCider for the 4th of July.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

#PickCider Review: Citizen Cider's Companion Sour Cherry Cider

I've explored perry for a month and really enjoyed it. I think I'm ready to start including perries more regularly and knowledgeably here since taking some time with them, but what I missed in May was cider made from apples. Plus, we're headed into summer which is a gorgeous time for cider. So, I'm super excited to #pickcider again! 

What's with the hashtag? The United States Association of Cider Makers introduced the #PickCider hashtage before Thanksgiving last fall to encourage folks who were putting cider on their holiday table to share their recipes, pairings, and photos. Now that's its summer, its time to bring it out again so we can all #PickCider for the 4th of July! 

I'm really stoked about this for a few reasons. I love that summer (and July 4th) gives us the excuse to eat outside, to picnic, to grill, and cider goes perfectly with all this outdoorsiness! Its also a chance to think about casual food pairings, seasonal ciders, and cooking with cider in a whole new way.

The first cider that really demanded summer in my mind has to be Citizen Cider's Companion Sour Cherry Cider.

You can learn about the company Citizen Cider on their Website:

They are a neat growing regional powerhouse out of Burlington, Vermont. I've gotten to taste a few of their ciders.

Previous reviews include:

Wit's Up:

Barrel Aged:


And I did get to tour the facilities at Citizen when I made my Vermont Cider tour last year:

The Companion's official description reads:
Apple trees and tart cherry trees make good companions in the orchard. They bloom and harvest at different times throughout the growing season, which is good for the land and good for the farmer. We figured they might make nice companions in a fermented cider as well. It turned out to be true, which is good for us, and good for you. Be a Good Companion and enjoy this very limited sour cherry cider. ABV 5.5%

Additional facts Citizen Cider include: 
•No added sugar, never from concentrate.
• Apples pressed at Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, VT.
• Finished with fresh sour cherry juice from Monmorency and Balaton sour cherries.
• Manufactured in Burlington and Middlebury, VT.
This cider is available for a limited time both on draught and in cans. Citizen Cider was kind enough to send me two cans and this nice bit of contextulizing information for review.

Appearance: watermelon, brilliant, lots of bubbles

Apologies for the red party cup, but I was at amazing Deck Party complete with corn hole, fire pit, pond, and piles and piles of foods and friends, so it accepting the occasional party cup might just be part of summer.

This pretty cider though really benefited by being poured out of the can into a vessel that shows off its gorgeous watermelon color. This cider also has lots of bubbles and nice clarity.

Aromas: cherries, dried fruit, cinnamon, and limestone.
Citizen Cider's  Companion smells like immediately cherries, but also dried fruit, cinnamon, stone, dust, something tropical—guava?

sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Distinguishing the sweetness in this cider is a fun game because the first hit is more tart and bitter but it does sweeten up quickly.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, clean fermentation, fruity, spicy

The Companion strikes me as both sweet and very tart—nearly made my eyes water. Very clean. First bitter with slight tannins. and spicy, then sweet. This progress feels natural and oh so pleasant: no weird cough syrup flavor, more like a good cherry pie. 

For me, this tastes best on big sips. There's not a lot of apple flavor but more the melded experience of cherry and apple together. But the best part has to be the cleanly floral finish.

I'm not usually a big cherry fan, but this tart cider was thrilling. It would be a perfect choice for lots of cookout and picnic foods. I had mine with chickpea salad, sharp cheddar, baked beans,  veggie crudites, and brownies. It worked with all of them. Next time, I'd love to try it with grilled pizza or salmon. I have a suspicion those would work extra well.