Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cider Review: Two Metre Tall's Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider

I'm starting from scratch with the Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider as I have no background knowledge of either apples or cider from Tasmania or anywhere in that segment of the globe. When I spotted this cider on the shelf Finger Lakes Beverage Center (http://www.fingerlakesbeverage.com/) I knew I had to try it.

The company that makes this cider is Two Metre Tall; they create a number of different farmed and fermented products. Here's how they describe themselves, “We are farmers brewing farmhouse ales & ciders in unique batches using farm grown ingredients from our own 600ha property in the Derwent Valley of Tasmania as well as ingredients sourced directly from farmers across the state. Barrel aging, spontaneous fermentations, experimentation and everything in between. Fruit in ale, sour cherries and more.” Ashley and Jane Huntington are the primary folks behind this farm, brewery, and cidery. Ashley has a background in wine which will doubtless influence the cider.

Read more and see some glorious pictures of the farm on their website: http://2mt.com.au/farmhouse-cider.html

The cider I'm trying today is their Farmhouse Dry. Here's the official description.

When we discovered the Griggs family at Lucaston Orchards in the Huon Valley were still growing the famous old English cider variety, Sturmer Pippin that was all the motivation we needed to produce a traditional, unfiltered, bottle fermented farmhouse cider made using only apples and yeast. 7.5% alc. vol.

What intrigues me most are the bottle conditioning and the unfamiliar variety of apple: the Sturmer Pippin. Both of these factors would be tremendously exciting, even independent of my first chance to taste a Tasmanian cider.

Appearance: hazy, bubble, warm glowy color

This cider has so many beautiful bubbles. I'm not surprised by the little haze in the cider because it is bottle fermented and therefore unfiltered. The color looks warm and a bit glowy because of the creamy haze.

Aromas: stone fruit, fresh apples, flowers, hint of volatile acidity

When I first poured this cider, the smells included a hint of volatile acidity, but also flowers and fruit. None of the aromas struck me as particularly intense. The scents were angular and pointed, so I predict a very tart cider.
Dryness/Sweetness: Dry

This is unambiguously a dry cider. And if you read on the website about the brand's style, it sounds like they are only ever going to make very dry ciders. I caught a bit of a good humored attitude about this choice, see if you can find what I saw.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemon, twiggy, vegetal, acidic

So my expectations based on aroma were decidedly met when tasting this cider. The Farmhouse Dry sure tastes dry. I like that this level of dryness is a presence rather than just an absence of sweetness. It tastes gently bitter and tart like lemon juice. Other flavors intersect with this dryness; the cider tastes cold, twiggy, and just a bit vegetal. This cider is very interesting and different.

The body and mouthfeel come from the cider's very pleasant active sparkle. The Farmhouse Dry also shares some pointed acid but not too much in the way of tannins.

I served this cider with a fun dish. My husband incorporated a bit of the cider into a cheese sauce over pasta with cannelloni beans and roasted cauliflower. The cider really made the depth and zing of the sauce perfect, and the combination was a warm and roasty delight. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cider Review: Slyboro Hard Cider's Kingston Black

I'm sitting in my attic listening to the wind howl tonight. I love the swoops and marches of noise against my windows. I usually think of the comforts of fall, but this is its un-tamed side, weather racing across the region under cover of night. 

Slyboro Cider comes from the Hicks family orchard in Granville, NY.  Hicks Farm has been a public U-pick farm since 1905. Dan has been adding bittersweet and bittersharp varietals from England and France steadily. You can visit to try cider and on some nights also enjoy pizza, music, painting nights and other events.

Find out more about this company at the website: http://www.slyboro.com/

Previously, I've reviewed a few of their ciders. 

My first Slyboro was their Old Sin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-slyboro-ciders-old-sin.html

When travelling last year, I got to visit the orchard and tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html

More recently I tried the Black Currant: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-slyboros-black-currant.html

I also used their Ice Cider in my Thanksgiving lineup last year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on their single varietal Kingston Black Cider. I remember trying it at the cidery, and I was impressed. Full disclosure, this bottle was shared with me for review.  I know this is what I said about it before, "The Kingston Black is one of the best single-varietals and one of the best still ciders I've had, period. Its notes are almost steak-like." Its been a while, so I'm curious how this will taste when I get to focus on it alone.

Appearance: Warm straw, brilliant, no bubbles

The Kingston Black is a still cider, so I'm not surprised not to see any bubbles. I'd describe the color as warm straw. The cider is perfectly brilliant in clarity.

Aromas: overripe apples, tropical fruit, green twigs

I noticed notes of under-ripe bananas, clean brine, pineapple, overripe apples, and something herbal and twiggy and green. There are a lot of aromas wafting from my glass here. 

Sweetness/dryness: dry

Yes, this is a dry cider, but its so much more than just a dry cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: green, tropical, zesty, funky

The Kingston Black tastes oaky and green but still fruity. I was surprised that its a bit on the funky side, but I like that in a cider. Its lingeringly tannic with a long finish. Its acidity is light and zingy. The tartness is necessary with this big structural tannins. 

This cider is completely still. The Kingston Black feels like a serious cider for those already well versed in the cider world. I found drinking this one slowly and thoughtfully best allowed it to shine. Drink this with a mushroom dish or some music you want to enjoy in a focused way. I had it with Takoyaki (altered to include sweet corn, cream cheese, scallions, shrimp, and sushi ginger rather than octopus. It was a a wonderful contrast to this light, crisp food.

More tasting just lead to more admiration of this complex and gripping cider.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cider Review: Dunkerton's Dry Organic Cider

Today, I miss my times in England, so  I’m sharing my thoughts on Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider. Though I've spent parts of summer, winter, and one whole spring there, I've never seen apple season in Somerset, Herefordshire, or anyplace outside of the United States. I think that comes from spending most of my thinking years thus far in school or heavily involved in U. S. cider seasons. I'll dream of it for a future year, and while I do, I'll break out one of my English Ciders.

For my non-UK readers, I found out some background from their importer Winesellers Limited who were kind enough to share this cider with me:
The Dunkerton Cider Mill is set in the ancient parish of Pembridge, an area of farmland, woods and hedgerows, where medieval half timbered villages meet the stone market towns of Wales. Dunkertons history reaches back to 1980 when Ivor and Susie Dunkerton made the decision to escape London and buy a small holding in Herefordshire. The unique blending method uses traditional varieties of organic cider apples and pears grown on estate owned orchards. Only the finest tasting traditional varieties of certified organic apples and pears are sourced. It is this careful selection of fruit that gives our drinks the delicate and aromatic characteristics required to be award winning.
I have reviewed one beverage by Dunkertons previously. I featured their Organic Perry in week two of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-2-woodchuck.html

Find out more online at the Dunkertons website: https://www.dunkertonscider.co.uk/

The official description for the Dry Organic reads as follows. 
An offering of a drier, crisper blended cider for the connoisseur, or more adventurous enthusiast. Sharp, crisp and to the point. This cider is definitely one for the cider connoisseur, or more adventurous enthusiast. Sharp, crisp and to the point. Pours with a red hued gold with a very slight haze. This cider is full-bodied with a short-lived fizz from a light carbonation leading to a slightly sparkling drier cider with a rustic cider apple feel. 6.9% ABV.
And a bit more from the importer, “Moderately strong aromas of toffee with hints of farmhouse/blue cheese character. Tannins from the bittersweet varieties balance the fruit flavors of freshly picked apples, honey, and wisps of smoke. Full bodied with a carbonation that makes a strong first impression before finishing with a clean dryness.”

I was also able to find a partial list of apples in the Organic Dry: Brown Snout, Sheeps Nose, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill. The fact sheet describes them as “varieties that are centuries old, many going back to Celtic times.”

Appearance: dark tea, hazy, few visible bubbles

This lovely cider appears very true to style. I don’t see many bubbles and the color is nearly that of a slightly clarified un-fermented cider. Its warm and tea like in hue. The opacity is hazy rather than a full cloudy or transparent.

Aromas: Sweet warmed leather, overripe apples, salt water

What delightful smells. I get sweet warmed leather, overripe apples and something between clean ocean water and salt water taffy. Those richly  warmed overripe apple notes promise richness and tannins ahead.

Sweetness/dryness: dry!

This cider is unmistakably dry! There's more going on, but the dryness is a pronounced presence. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Dry, tannic, medium acid, 

Yowsers! This is so dry and tannic that its level of bitterness provoked one of my co-tasters to call it rude! I'd not go that far, but this is a cheeky cider that swells in the mouth! Unlike many dry english ciders, this one has medium acid to go with those Hiiiiiigh tannins. The aromas bring richness, but this one is not for beginners. The drinking experience like getting mildly whacked in the head but somehow in a nice pleasant way.

The level of sparkle is important to the drinking experience. It isn't an overwhelmingly strong bubble, but it lifts and lightens the flavors pleasantly. The flavors just keep unfurling across my palate! What an experience!

I'd pair this cider with a sturdy creamy soup: leek and carrot or perhaps a sweet corn chowder. It was a lovely bit of brazen cider bravado, and I look forward to drinking it again. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cider Review: Devoto Orchards Save the Gravenstein...and an announcement

I've been so excited about Finger Lakes Cider week. Every event was a real chance to connect with local ciders. Frequently, they were also great times to learn about cider making processes and the unique landscape of food and drinks developing here in the region. I loved it.

But, at the same time, I don't want to neglect other cider areas. I have a lot of fondness for ciders made in many places. Today, I am sharing my thoughts on a west coast cider from Devoto Orchards. It feels over due after my recent trip to San Francisco to judge cider for the
Good Food Awards.

Susan and Stan Devoto were back to the land folks who bought a farm in the 1970s (so were my folks). I am so grateful for this generation's hunger to explore new ways of farming and living. This orchard and farm is near Sebastopol, California. This family company released their first hard cider in 2012, now incorporating the talents of a second generation: Jolie and her husband Hunter. The farm is organic, and they specialize in heritage apples.

Find out about all of the ciders on the website: http://www.devotocider.com/

I found this cider in a grocery store in San Francisco. I chose this one because of the fascinating history of the Gravenstein Apple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravenstein

Devoto Orchards' official description of the Save the Gravenstein includes some historical background as well as tasting notes and pairings. I appreciate the completeness.
In August, when our Gravenstein apples are at the peak of their ripeness, we pick them, press them, and pour ourselves into every drop. We are proud to offer this food-friendly, dry cider from our family farm to you.

Profiles: Aromas of lemon, sage, yeast, and mint on the nose lead to bright acidity and a smooth finish.Pairings: oysters on the half shell, dungeness crab, surf and turf paella.Cheese Pairings: Point Reyes Farmstead Bay Blue (CA) Andre Artisan Cheese Willow Del Rustique (CA), Bohemian Creamery \ The Bomb (CA), Valley Ford Estero Gold Reserve (CA)

This specifically mentions that the apples were certified organic and harvested in fall 2014.

Appearance: Pale, brilliant, no bubbles

This cider looks fairly innocuous. Its pale and beautifully brilliant with nary a bubble in sight.

Aromas: spicy, dusty, stony

The smells in the Save the Gravenstein are fun! There's lots of spice and just a hint of citrus. The aromas are a little sweet. It smelly dusty and stony like a lot of my favorite ciders.

Sweetness/dryness: Off-dry to dry

This has just enough sweetess to be not totally dry. The Save the Gravenstein is definitely on the dry side though. The tinge of sweetness is just enough to bring out the other flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, petillant, intensely flavorful

My first impression of the Save the Gravenstein is of its high acidity. Though the cider is described as still, the acidity is enough to create the impression of slight effervescence. I love how intensely flavorful this cider tastes. The Save the Gravenstein is cleanly yeasty like walking past a small bakery first thing in the morning.

My impressions remain acid driven as I keep sipping. There's not any tannin to speak of. It has a light body and springy zesty balance. This is a very wine like cider in some ways. Perhaps that's not a useful comment, but that's part of the drinking experience for me. 

I had this cider with what will probably be nearly my last caprese salad of the year. My CSA has almost stopped giving us tomatoes for the season.

And now, for my announcement! I'm thrilled to share that I'll be speaking at Cider Con 2018 in Baltimore! Stay tuned for details, but I hope I'll see plenty of familiar faces at Cider Con and make some new cider friends as well. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cider Review Virtue Cider's Percheron

I'm writing about a Virtue cider today for two reasons. First, my dad brought some Percheron to share with me when he visited this past weekend. And second, AB InBev came back for a second round of purchasing and bought up the rest of Virtue. I have no idea how this will change the company, or anything about the company's inner working. But did I want to write about bottle that was recently in front of me before much could change or change again.

Here's Brew Bound's take on the story:

For those who don't know, Virtue Cider was started in 2011 by Greg Hall. This cidery is based out of Fennville, Michigan. They use a lot of international inspiration for their ciders and aren't afraid of a little funk. My main connection was having my first cheese and cider pairing class from Greg Hall in 2013 at Murray's Cheese in New York City. I'll remember that evening with fondness for a long time to come. 

Read more about Virtue: http://www.virtuecider.com/ 

Official description: This Norman-style blend of last season's high-acid Michigan apples is aged in French oak and refermented with wild yeast. We finish Percheron with fresh pressed apple juice for a touch of sweetness. ABV 5.5%

The official description also includes a section on tasting notes and pairings. They say, “Percheron has notes of vanilla and a wonderful aroma of apple blossom with a hint of orange. It is gentle, tart cider with a tannic finish. Food Pairing: Percheraon is best enjoyed with a stinky French cheese like Livarot, or with roast pork, wild boar, or a hearty beef stew.”

Appearance: Brilliant, no visible bubbles, cool gold color

Apologies for no in the glass photographs. I was pinned to the couch with a sleeping cat on my lap. It happens. The cider was lovely though, brilliant and an icy gold.

Aromas: dried fruit, leather, raisins, overripe apples

I know the Percheron's style is inspired by french ciders but to me these smells connote English ciders. Notes are leathery, dried tropical fruits and raisins, all as an overlay to overripe apples. The scents include something a little floral and a little spicy.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This cider has a hint of sweetness, but it doesn't dominate the flavors. Instead the level of dryness/sweetness is approachable and pleasant. The sweetness I do get is subtly fruity and caramel tinged.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium high tannins, tea, barn, melon

The french oak barrel aging gently steers the flavors of the Percheron. The definites are high acid, medium high tannins, with a low intensity of bubble. To be fair, my bottle is a bit on the elder side and maybe the effervescence has partially aged out. The wild yeast brings with it a little funk, but it remains in balance with the other characteristics of the beverage.

My overall impression is like a combination of traditional English, French and Heritage North American styles. I enjoy how the Percheron remains just off-dry (with some sweetness) and glimmers with notes of tea, salt, barn wood, melon and mandarin orange. This cider is mellow, complex and refreshing—quite pleasant.

Who knows what the future will bring. It can be sentiment of trepidation, but I prefer to think of it as an encouragement to enjoy what we can of the present.