This week's review is something a little different and a little special. Every year at CiderCon, I meet all sorts of folks who are just as obsessed with cider as I am. Its amazing. During CiderCon 2016, I was chatting with a new friend about super dry ciders when he pulls a bottle out of his backpack to send home with me. It was one of the last of a batch made a while earlier.
I stored the cider in my cellar (dry basement) until this past winter. Now, with long days and warm temperatures, I feel the need to return to that winter night and Alpenfire Cider's Flame.
But before we get into the cider itself, I'd love to share a bit about Alpenfire. This is a small organic cidery out of Washington state and one with more history than many. Founders Nancy and Steve Bishop planted their orchard in 2003 and started harvesting organic apples in 2008, though the owners had dreamt of cider making for much longer.
Find out more at the website: http://alpenfirecider.com
Today's review is of Flame. This is how it is described,"A true 'Methode Champenoise' cider. Made Primarily with Fox-whelp and Muscadet de Dieppe apples. We use Champagne traditions to develop a crackling carbonation with bright acidity and dryness."
Right now, this cider isn't available as it hasn't been made in a few years, but take heart. It's coming back in September. The bottles are currently awaiting riddling and disgorging. As any fan of champagne or champagne style ciders knows; there are a tremendous number of touches and steps necessary to make this style of beverage.
I wrote back and forth with Nancy; she encouraged me to consider the age of the cider, and I think she's completely correct. Most ciders, even method champenoise, aren't meant to be aged. We don't have a ton of data about cider aging, so please keep that in mind and try the new one when it comes out!
Appearance: warm straw, brilliant, bubbly
The Flame looks bubbly like a champagne when poured
Aromas: ripe apples, boozy, wood
The aromas of this cider remind me of warmed or even cooked apples, lots of yeasty fermented notes, and some wood. The smells are also a bit caramelized and softened, like apple pie but both fresh and boozy rather than sweet
Sweetness/dryness: Brut indeed
The flame is so very very dry, it says extra brut and they're not lying. This is the sort of dryness that I get excited about!
Flavors and drinking experience: complex woody flavors, high tannins, high acid
The Flame wows the drinker right away with lots of lingering complex woody flavors, both green and smoky, hence the flame name perhaps. This cider offers up medium high acidity and very high tannins. I can certainly taste those special cider apples! At this age, the cider remains bubbly but not so much as it probably was a year or two ago.
Flame exhibits a nice wet mouthfeel that plays well with the cider's dryness. I found it a little acetic but that was more than balanced out with lots of minerals. I can certainly taste that 8% ABV. It is a boozy cider.
Eating dark chocolate mint cake with this dry tannic pleaser goes shockingly well. I'd not necessarily have predicted that particular pairing but it was lovely.