Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cider Review: Liberty Ciderworks Manchurian Crabapple SV Cider

Rick Hastings and Austin Dickey are the main folks behind Libery Ciderworks. They make cider, run a tasting room with bottle shop, and maintain a cider club for Liberty Ciders. All of this happens in Spokane, Washington. They care tremendously about local fruit and apple-centered cider. From looking at the website, it appears they make several single varietals.

This is how they describe themselves:
Located in the largest apple-growing region on the continent, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center. 
We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields to create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Sharing them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest.
Read more about this growing cidery online: http://libertycider.com.

Today's review is of their single varietal Manchurian Crabapple Cider.

I've not reviewed any Liberty Cider before, but this bottle was a review sample shared with me at Cider Con. It has been waiting far too long in my fridge, but there are enough unusual things about this cider that I wasn't quite sure when to open it.

The website's official description reads, “Manchurian Crabapple SV Cider - 12.5% ABV
Tiny Manchurian crabapples deliver intense black cherry and vanilla flavors in this port-style cider. Pair with cheesecake or other creamy dessert for an OMG moment. (GLINTCAP 2015 Silver Medal Winner).”

And on the bottle I found a slightly different description, “No larger than a cherry, the Manchurian Crabapple packs a huge flavor punch. Ready for one of the most full-bodied, intensely-flavored ciders you’ll ever encounter? This semi-sweet, single-varietal cider is for you. Enjoy on its own as a digestif, with soft artisan cheeses, or with rich, creamy desserts. Still (non-carbonated).”

These features, high ABV, single-varietal, and sure to be intense are both the pull to this cider but also why I wasn't quite sure on which occasion to bring it out. I expected it would be different and exciting.

Appearance: warm sunset orange, transparent, thick

Holy unusual closure, Batman! This cider has a reusable half cork under a foil. I don't see that very often. Looking at the cider in my glass, it's dark red-orange and obviously viscous. It looks like a dessert cider. I'd call it transparent for clarity.

Aromas: cooked apple, dust, caramel

The Manchurian Crabapple smells sweet and a bit oxidized, like cooked apples. I also get notes of cocoa powder, baking spices, stone dust and— something fiery, like a tanginess, or as my co-taster suggested, something a little dangerous.

Sweetness/Dryness: semi-sweet

I know the label says sweet, but this tastes like so much more than sweet to my perception. I'd call it semi-sweet tempered by extremly high tannins. Take that as you will.

Flavors and drinking experience: boozy, tannic, complex

This cider takes a moment to speak—the first second of tasting seems preparatory, but when it hits it's EXTREMELY flavorful. I notice both very high acidity and a high level of tannins. The acidity is not a thin piercing acid, but more of a broadly ardent one, while the tannins are earthy, thick and leathery. The mouthfeel is richly syrupy, not as sweet as advertised, but still a reasonable dessert cider in that it leaves your lips sugary.

I also noticed that this cider feels a bit hot—the high abv comes across clearly. The Manchurian Crabapple reminds one of sundried tomatoes as well as cooked apples. The aftertaste reminds me much more of apple cider syrup. There's dusty graham cracker element, perhaps oxidization, that does mellow the experience. Its a still cider and one that perhaps needs to be still in order to work. Bubbles might just make it too much. Both my co-taster and I deem this a sipping cider; its one to consume slowly and relaxedly. I tried a big swallow—large sips take on a woodier note, and are more or less overwhelming! Pair with anything creamy, rich, and mild.

I had my glass of cider with dark chocolate caramel brownies and the companionship of my favorite co-taster. We had our calendars open to start planning for fall, because it's already time to start doing this. This complex cider certainly did do a lot to help me relax into that idea.