Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cider Reviews: Castle Hill's Levity and Treasury Cider's Burr Knot

Last week, I shared two ciders with extra seasonal ingredients. But I can’t leave heritage orchard-based cider out in the cold. As much as I love experimentation, my fondness for this cider style cannot be matched. Apple only ciders can be so much more than the familiar flavor of the fresh fruit. Often these ciders are the most wine like in the cider world, and like many wines, one cider will offer up dozens of aromas, flavors, and scintillating nuances.

Let’s start today with Castle Hill’s Levity. Castle Hill is an orchard-based Cidery in Keswick, Virginia. This cidery was founded in 2011, but many of the trees that grow its apples are more than eighty years old. It’s history is closely connected with the Albemarle Pippin apple. Many of the apple choices and fermentation techniques at this cidery appear to be inspired both by history but also by technical exploration, seeking traditions from around the world and local apples to make their cider.

Read about Castle Hill on the cidery website: https://www.castlehillcider.com/

I’ve had a few Castle Hill ciders before.

Most recently, the Terrestrial had a place on the table for my friend Elizabeth’s pairing birthday dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first review of Castle Hill was their Celestial in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-castle-hll-ciders-celestial.html
That cider made it to #5 of my favorites list of that year.

And I did get to taste the Levity at CiderCon this past winter as part of the Heritage Cider track: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

This bottle was shared with me as a sample. Here’s the official description:

“A feral yeast fermentation of traditional high-tannin cider apples, high-tannin and high-acid crabs, and heirloom varieties --some gathered from 80+ year old trees. Levity is fermented in buried beeswax lined terra cotta fermenters called Qvevri-the world’s oldest known fermentation vessels. We draw Levity out of its earthen womb and place in bottles before fermentation completes, allowing the yeast to naturally produce a sparkling cider. Enjoy at cellar temperature.”

Appearance: very bubbly, rich butternut color, brilliant

Thought this cider is super bubbly, it’s also brilliant. One could easily read straight through that rich butternut color. What a lovely sight.

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apple, Baking spice

I have to make known that glorious intensity of the Levity’s aroma. Wow! It smells just divine. I love the cooked apple, baking spice, and cinnamon notes. What’s harder to describe is the warm clean fermentation character I’m also picking up on.

Sweentess/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Yes, it’s rich and lucious and fruity, but it’s also dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: Golden, tiny bubbles, high acid, tannins

Ooh! I get shivers just thinking about how good this cider is. Wow! The baking spice notes I detected as aromas also approach as flavors, but they aren’t alone. The Levity also tastes of fall flowers, cooked fruit, and quince. I don’t know how to say it exactly but there’s something light and silvery to the flavors also.

Dry, yes. High acidity and medium high tannins, yes but fresh and fruity. No one characteristic can fully describe this cider. It’s light and playful yet rich and complex. The bubbles are so fine and numerous. Of any individual note, quince probably comes through the most clearly. It’s just such a lovely cider.

From Virginia to New York, I want to share my thoughts on Treasury Cider’s Burr Knot next. Fishkill Farms is the home orchard for this relatively young cidery. They use heritage, crab, and eating apple varieties. I love the simple yet sophisticate sense of graphic design I get from both their labels and website.

Visit Treasury Cider online: http://www.treasurycider.com/

I have talked about this cider briefly in February when I wrote about the Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

The Burr Knot’s official description reads:

A careful mix of apples from our family orchard, Fishkill Farms, was selected to make the hard cider in this bottle. Heirloom varieties, proper harvest timing, ecological farming, and traditional wine-making methods all come together in our cider. Our name is an homage to the farm's founder Henry Morenthau Jr., who served as Secretary of the Treasury under FDR. It also celebrates the revival of hard cider in America. 8.4% ABV

Other descriptors include, “Dry and unfiltered / orchard cider / traditional method” and a list of apples, “Hyslop crab / Granny Smith / Pink Lady / Old-Growth Golden Delicious / Jonamac”

If you have the chance I do recommend looking at the cider descriptions online because you can click on any variety and get some incredibly rich detail on the orchard and the cider making info.

Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, goldenrod

This unfiltered cider has a harvest glow about it, as it’s hazy and warm hued. I love the goldenrod color. I didn’t see any bubbles when I poured.

Aromas: Stony, melon, quince

The cider smells like apple juice splashed onto limestone; it’s all fruit and minerals. Those gorgeously stony smells appear at the same time as fruit notes, but they never compete. I get tons of quince and melon with a delicate creamy background of velvety yogurt.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

I love how dry dry dry this cider is.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, funky, milk chocolate

Even though I expected relatively high acidity, this tartness was striking! But I also got some of the creaminess I smelled in a new rich milk chocolate note. What a fun and surprising facet.

This intensely flavorful is fruity and funky! There’s peach and strawberry but also savory notes like sesame seeds and toasted grain. The Burr Knot goes everywhere, powered by that zesty acid and structured by medium tannins. Needless to say, I adore this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cider Review: Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice and Shoal Hope Ciderworks Little Tart

This morning I walked down the hill to my office in autumn fog. I could see yellow foliage glowing through the grey mist, and it was cool and peaceful. I feel grateful for these calm moments and lovely sights, perhaps especially so when the wider world is full of bad news and discouragement. And in addition to the coming of fall color and cooler temperatures, the season of fall flavors is here! I’m reviewing two ciders that really embody the season, Pumpkin Spice by Portland Cider Company and a Cranberry cider from Shoal Hope. 

Portland Cider Company stakes it’s identity on being a hybrid of two cider cultures: the pacific northwest and England. Those are very distinct identities. The people behind the brand are Jeff and Lynda Parrish who are from these two regions, respectively. They started Portland Cider Company in 2012. While I cannot speak precisely to the melding of regions, I’ll be curious to see if any of that comes through in the ciders from Portland Cider Company that I try. 

Visit Portland Cider Co online: https://www.portlandcider.com

I have reviewed a few ciders from this company before.

The Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

The Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Today, I’m reviewing Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice. This was a review sample shared with me just in time for the autumnal craze for all things Pumpkin.

Here’s the company’s description of the Pumpkin Spice.
Take the flavors of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, and Ginger, blend them in just the right proportions, and you get our Pumpkin Spice cider. Full of all the spices of your favorite pumpkin pie, this cider is a delicious tribute to the flavors of autumn. A familiar Fall spice blend blended to pair perfectly with a classic American semi-sweet apple cider made with 100% Northwest apples. 5.5%ABV 

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, popcorn

The color reminds me of popcorn kernels not yet popped. It’s warm and richly hued. The clarity is brilliant and shows off lots of bubbles. 

Aromas: ginger, cinnamon, clove, ripe apples

This smells distinctly like Pumpkin Pie spices. The aromas foreground ginger and cinnamon, but I can also smell clove, nutmeg and ripe apple. Secondarily, I get notes of lemon and peach too. For fans of this profile, this cider will be seriously appealing. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is right on the line for be between perceiving as semi-dry or semi-sweet. The brand calls it a semi-sweet, so I’m happy to trust them on it.

Flavors and drinking experience: cinnamon, peach, nutmeg

Almost everything I noticed in the Pumpkin Spice aromas comes across in its flavors. I can taste cinnamon, peach, nutmeg, and ripe apples. The cider has a medium intensity of sparkle. I didn’t notice much in the way of tannins, but it offers plentiful high acid. The cinnamon notes give a textural experience somewhat like tannins.

I enjoyed this cider after dinner because I knew all of the complex flavor notes might be too much for many foods. Instead of a food pairing, this cider was complemented by David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977). It’s October, a perfect time to curl up for some scares.

The next cider I want to highlight for fall is by a relative newcomer to the cider world: Hope Shoals. This Massachusetts company was founded in 2015 in Provincetown with the first cider releases in early summer of 2017. I received a few samples from them this year, and I’m excited to try these new ciders. From what I can see on the web, this company focuses on their local identity.  This is my first review of anything By Shoal Hope Ciderworks.

Find out more about the company on the website: http://www.shoalhopeciderworks.com/

The cranberry cider is called Little Tart, which leads me to expect that it will taste at the very least a little tart.

The official description reads: “LITTLE TART is a blend of apple and cranberry juices fermented together and then back sweetened with cane sugar. The sugar enhances the sweetness of the apple which then gives way to a tart, tannin cranberry finish. 5.3% ABV”

Appearance: transparent, true ruby, no bubbles

This color is drop dead gorgeous. It is a true ruby shade with no visible bubbles. I’ll call it transparent but the color is so deep, it’s almost hard to say.

Aromas: Ripe apples, cranberry, autumn leaves

Wow, this smells so seasonal! The first note is of ripe apples, but I can also smell cranberres and something that reminds me of freshly fallen autumn leaves.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This is so tart it’s difficult to accurately note the sweetness/dryness of this cider. I’ll call it semi-dry, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess on its residual sugar level.

Flavors and drinking experience: off the charts tart, minerals, cranberry

This cider is not a little tart; it’s hugely tart! I’m not surprised that this cider tastes so much like cranberry juice; there’s a ton of cranberry here. The autumn leaves I smelled are present but less distinctly so in drinking this cider. I do get lots of mineral notes. 

While the cider tastes kind dry, I think I’m being fooled by how very tart it is. With every sip, I notice the fruity tartness again. The cider has an extravagently long finish of exceeding high acid. The cranberry brings both astringence and bitterness in addition to the tartness, making them function somewhat like apple tannins. It’s light bodied and zesty with only a medium to low level of sparkle. 

I enjoyed this cider with roasted broccoli, salmon, and butternut squash. It was a harvest feast of a sort I look forward to eating many times this season. 

Both of these ciders were more on the adventurous side of the cider spectrum. And though I love orchard-based heritage ciders, there’s also a lot of to be said for innovation, excitement, and seasonal variation. There’s room at my table for many different kinds of ciders, and these two really bring some fall spirit! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cider Reviews: Redbyrd Orchard Cider Workman Dry and Grisamore Ciderworks' Currantly

We are now in the midst of Finger Lakes Cider Week 2018! I started my cider week celebrations at Ithaca’s Apple Harvest Festival on September 28th, but the fun will go on through October 7th all over the region. 

Find out what events are featuring your favorite ciders here: https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/events/

My highlight so far was enjoying Cider Sunday at Cornell. There were two walking tours of Cornell Orchards as well as the chance to taste and blend soft ciders on site and taste the finished products of eight different Finger Lakes Cider producers, paired with beautiful bites of food from Cornell Catering. I tasted a few ciders there and wanted to share impressions of two local ciders for this week’s blog post.

I’m starting today with the Workman Dry by Redbyrd Orchard Cider. This cider comes from Trumansburg, New York. It was founded in 2010 by Eric Shatt and Deva Mass. This cidery focuses on developing their own biodynamic orchard and farm. 

Visit Redbyrd Orchard Cider online: https://redbyrdorchardcider.com

I’ve reviewed several Redbyrd Orchard Ciders over the years:

The Wild Pippin was my favorite cider of 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

I tried their North Star in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

A long while ago I enjoyed the Harvest Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html

And my first review of anything by Redbyrd Orchard Cider was their Starblossom: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html

But today I’m sharing my impressions of one of their core ciders the Workman Dry (the 2017 batch).

It’s official description focuses very much on the apples used for the cider.  

Workman Dry ’17 – A floral nose of Rose, Honeycomb and Palo Santo.  Mineral, Slate, Lemongrass and Ginger, finishing with bright Citrus and Lemon Zest. Bright , Crisp, Playful. 20% Cox Orange Pippin, 14% Goldrush, 10% Margil, 9% Newtown Pippin, 9% Spigold, 8% Dolgo Crab.  Also containing – Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russett, Rubinette, Zabergau Reinette, Baldwin, Freedom, Macfree, Honeycrisp, Zestar, Browns Apple, Dabinett, Brown Snout, Bulmers Norman, Ellis Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, Harrison Crab, Tremblitts Bitter and unnamed wild apples.

Appearance: Transparent, straw, fine bubbles

This cider looks transparent rather than brilliant with a clean straw color. I see some bubbles at the top of the glass. 

Aromas: Peanuts, white grape, ripe apples, meadow flowers

What delightful and surprising aromas! This cider not only smells like fruit in the form of ripe apples and white grapes, but it also smells like delicate meadow flowers, and peanuts. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry 

This is a dry yet fruity cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, wine like, balanced

I like how this extra tart tastes dry but fruity for every microsecond I am tasting it. The cider has a distinctly vinous finish that reminds me both of crisp white wines and freshly cut nectarines.It has a medium body with good balance. Though there’s some tannin present, the primary driver of the drinking experience is the acidity.

In terms of texture the Workman Dry has a deeply pleasurable bubble. I so enjoy fine and tiny bubble like these. The overall intensity of sparkle comes across as on the higher side of medium. It’s a flexible and approachable cider for one as dry as it is. I’ve had several batches of the Workman Dry and this is definitely the best one I’ve tried yet.

Grisamore Ciderworks Currantly

I like how Grisamore Ciderworks introduces themselves on the cider labels. “In 1975 Paul and Christine Grisamore planted their first apple orchard. As their grandchildren we are using the same apple trees to make Grisamore Cider Works hard cider today. We are fermenting small batches including a wide variety of flavors. Our goal is to provide an affordable hard cider for all to enjoy.”

Check out the website for lots of picture of orchards and cidermaking: http://grisamoreciderworks.com

Or, you can also find them on Facebook for product updates and the most up-to-date information: https://www.facebook.com/grisamoreciderworks/

Previously I reviewed their 24.4: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/04/cider-review-grisamore-cider-works-244.html

I was able to taste the newest release Currantly at Cornell’s cider event.

Grisamore’s official description is brief, “An aromatic semi-dry cider aged on our astringent currants.”

Appearance: hazy, pearly pink, bubbly

This cider looks hazy and delicately pink. It’s charming and different, not as intense as a rose hue but something distinct. I can also see lots of bubbles in the cider. 

Aromas: Cool, peppery, fruity

This cider greets me with a bracing salivary reaction. It smells like fresh apples, but it’s a blended with cool and herbal aromas. Something reminds me of mint, rosemary, and pepper.

Dryness/sweetness: off-dry

This cider is off dry but will come across to many people as dry. Read on to find out why.

Flavors and drinking experience: Astringent, savory, high acid, 

This cider is exciting! That’s my overarching impression as I drink it. Though it’s just off-dry, I think many folks will taste it as dry because it’s both high in acidity and astringent. That doesn’t mean the Currantly is simply austere. The cider has lots and lots of flavor ranging from fruit notes including quince, orange, and currants but also spicy and savory like peppercorns. The acidity powers an intense experience.

 Something about this cider encourages me to pair it with rich cheeses and dried fruits. I enjoyed it tremendously. The currants only come through relatively indirectly, but they add something special with that tart astringence.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cider Review: Farmhaus Crushable and Savanna Dry

After a few fluctuations, I think Fall has well and truly arrived here in the Finger Lakes. The Autumnal Equinox ushered in the season meteorologically on Saturday, and conditions outside match the official season. I’m ready. It’s time for all things crisp, bright, and autumnal. And this is a time when cider shines.

I’m also ready for Finger Lakes Cider Week which is coming up soon. Read all about the many exciting event happening from Sept 28th through October 8th here: https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/

I know I’m particularly excited about all of the orchard tours being offered this year! From the schedule it looks like we’ll get the chance to see Black Diamond’s orchard, Cornell Orchards, Kite and String Orchards (Good Life Orchards), Redbyrd Orchards and Eve’s Cidery Orchards. There’s also a cheese based pairing dinner with South Hill Ciders that I’m pretty thrilled to be attending.

Before all of that wonderful stuff begins though I have two more summery reviews I want to share before the season gets too thoroughly behind us.

Farmhaus Crushable 

Farmhaus cider comes from Michigan where the fifth generation of an orcharding family make cider and run a Cidergaarten. You can find the ciders all over western Michigan. 

Find out all about the company on the website: http://farmhauscider.com/

I have one previous review of a Farmhaus Cider. I reviewed their Classic in June of this year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-aeppeltreow.html

This can was shared with me for review, but my opinions remain my own. 

The Crushable is a limited release. Here’s the official description.
Refreshing. Cucumber. Great Mixer.You know that amazing feeling when you jump in the water on a hot, sunny day? Well, we canned it for you to enjoy – whenever! Cool, crisp and refreshing, it’s like a poolside afternoon for your taste buds. Freshly picked cucumbers straight from our garden combined with all local apples create an easy-drinking cider that will quench your thirst and leave you craving that next sip. Enjoy it straight or use it as a mixer. Try and savor it if you can, but be warned: this cider is completely crushable.

Appearance: hazy, butter yellow, few visible bubbles
The cider poured with a bit of fizz, but that settled down quickly. I’d call Crushable’s color an easy butter yellow and it’s on the opaque or hazy side.

Aromas: cucumber, floral, bubble gum, fresh apple

I am astonished by how many smell make up the aroma for this cider. The Crushable smells like flowers, cucumber, wet raw apple, bubblegum, spearmint, hay, smoke, hops, and maybe a bit of volatile acidity. It’s fresh and spiky and exciting!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider perceives as semi-dry. There’s a lot more going on though than just the level of sweetness. Keep reading.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbal, medium acidity, cool and hot, peppery

As exciting as the aromas were, it tastes even better than it smells. I wouldn't have noticed rosemary as an ingredient if I'd not read it. The cider’s cucumber comes out even more tasting than smell; it’s all very vegetal and herbal. 

The Crushable displays a much more intense sparkle than what I anticipated from how it poured. The cider has middling acidity, low tannins, and a reasonably full mouthfeel.  semi dry.  cleaner from the can than a glass.  I found it a curious blend of cool and hot—6.4%ABV, but a slightly peppery note. It’s very summery indeed, so I’m glad I tried it before Fall arrived.

This is a throwback to one of the ciders I found in Scotland on vacation this summer. I’d been seeing social media about Savanna Dry for years, but I’d not ever seen it for sale until I was in a Mexican restaurant in Scotland. The international connections continued when I found out that this South African cider brand produced my cider in Belgium.

You can see loads of pictures and learn about Savanna Dry online here: https://savannacider.com/welcome

I found some information about the cider, but not a tremendous amount. Here's the page about this cider on the Savanna website.
Savanna Dry Premium Cider Bottle
         1996 – The year we corrupted the apple!
We started making cider all those years ago from the juice of the tastiest apples around. 
But not that kind of cider that smacks of sweetness, we knew that
you were looking for something unique… something crisp, refreshing, balanced and most importantly something with a bit of edge. 
That's why we created Savanna Dry which is still crafted in the same way it was all the way back then. 
The cider equation: Apples + fermentation + micro-filtering + chill-filtering = Savanna Dry
Other sources online from a few years ago indicate that this cider is made with Granny Smith apples, but I don't want to count on secondary sources from a while back. Other parts of the Savanna website recommend serving the cider with a wedge of lemon in the bottle neck.

Appearance: Brilliant, deep straw, no bubble

I love the brilliance and deep straw color of this cider. The Savanna website mentioned two types of filtering, so clarity seems to be a priority for the cider brand. I couldn't see any bubbles in the bottle or glass. 

Aromas:  yogurt, raspberries, cheeries

These smells are fascinating! It's very fruity. The cider smells like yogurt, raspberries and cherries. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a cider called dry that tastes sweet. 

Flavors and drinking experience: vanilla, raisins, green apple candy

This cider tastes very much of vanilla and raisins. I get some green apple candy as well. The flavors are more intense than the aromas were, but there's perhaps something a bit artificial in the mix. I do taste tremendous direct flavors of unfermented green apple, and waves of green apple candy. 

Secondarily I get notes of Watermelon, Pixie Stix, and malic acid. I had this cider with spicier than expected Mexican food. The spice did a lot to help cut the sweetness, but it was still notably  green apple candy flavors. The cider had medium high acidity and no tannins. The level of sparkle was moderate. The cider has an overall profile that would be familiar to many United States cider drinkers. It resembles many other sweet to semi-sweet relatively low ABV ciders sold in 12ounce bottles. For many people, this is their preferred style. 

 Enjoy the start of Fall, cider lovers!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Birthday Pairing Dinner with Sur La Mer, Whitewood Cider Co, Castle Hill Cider, Aeppeltreow, Virtue, and Champlain Orchards

My dear friend El just had a birthday. For some strange reason, this means she wants to hostess an elaborate dinner party. She loves to cook and share delicious food with friends (it’s something we have in common, but I’m somewhat more low key in my cooking ambitions). She also loves a good cider; it’s the preferred beverage for most of my closest friends. So I pair a cider with each course. It ends up being a lot of food and a lot of cider, and a lot of fun. 

I chose all Finger Lakes Ciders last year, and I wrote about the event as part of my lead up to Finger Lakes Cider Week: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

This year, she wanted to do it again, so I happily volunteered to another set of pairings. I did want to switch it up a bit, so I choose 6 ciders from 6 different states beyond New York. I love my home state’s ciders, but I wanted a 100% different lineup. Elizabeth also wanted to switch it up this year by sharing a only creative partial menu before the food was actually revealed at the table.

1) Chips and salsa

Drew Family Wines "Sur La Mer" Brut Cider, California

Here’s how El describes the course, “a panoply of heirloom tomatoes from Jackman Vineyards...a raw salsa fresca made by combining them with some local jalapenos, cilantro, onions and a bit of lime juice to create a bright, fresh salsa including black icicles, bolsenos, and green zebras.”

And the cider’s official description: 
A preservation project, a way to preserve a farming heritage  A blend of three varieties:  Gravensteins, Philo Golds and Rhode Island Greenings for some acidity.  We've gone old school in our approach with a native yeast primary fermentation and dosaged with a champagne yeast  (no forced carbonation here) before bottling as a traditional sparkling wine is made.  We find the bubbles are finer this way.  Notes of green apple, citrus, bread yeast and salinity and seaweed due to our coastal proximity are evident here.  A perfect summer glass of bubbles to accompany so many foods.  We love creamy and salty cheeses or roast chicken with this lovely handcrafted Brut Cider.
The Sur La Mer cider smells of cooked apples and minerals. It was very dry and tart. I paired this dry high acid cider with salsas because of the mention of salinity in the description. Luckily it came through and a little extra saltiness along with super fresh salsa and local tortilla chips was delightful. The salt really brought out the sweetness of all the fresh tomatoes. The cider also brought just a little gentle funk to the table to help perk up everyone’s appetites. 

2) Pasta and pesto 

Whitewood Cider Company’s Kingston Black and Wickson Apple

Fresh pasta is one of El’s favorite things to make. I love it when she cooks this because homemade pasta is just miles better than dried.  She says, “I wanted to give it a sauce that was both packed with flavor and relatively light, and a simple pesto was an obvious candidate. I just used basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and a mix of pecorino romano and parmesan cheese.”

And the only description of the cider I was able to find online of this limited release cider, “Dry, fruit forward, sophisticated, big cider aged in a semi-neutral second use gin barrel. Flavors of very ripe tangerine, oak, vanilla and a touch of the gin botanicals.”

I anticipated this course of food being my favorite as I am a passionate pesto fan. I wanted the gin botanical notes of the cider to complement the basil of the pesto, and it did! Everyone gushed about this course paired with the Kingston Black and Wickson Apple. 

3) Duck Confit and Tomato Confit 

Castle Hill Cider’s Terrestrial, Virginia

I'm deferring to El’s description for this course, “Duck confit is one of my favorite treats; it’s rich and salty and just incredible...Because I had two pescetarians at my table, however, I knew I needed something satisfying to accompany the duck. Tomato confit is actually a completely different thing; meat confits are poached in fat, whereas vegetable confits are just silky and richly flavored sauces. This recipe used local ginger, garlic, shallots, and herbs from my wife’s garden to make a delightful bowl of dipping sauce for bread.” And that dipping sauce wasn’t just delightful, it was divine!

Castle Hill’s official description for the cider, “Like a cold pool on a hot day, Terrestrial’s acidity gives this cider a crisp finish. Made with a blend of Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apples, this cider pairs nicely with oysters or aromatic dishes and makes a cleansing counterpoint to rich cheeses.”

I was least certain of this pairing going in, but I knew how much I love the Terrestrial and had faith in the classic pairing logic of umami flavors with high acidity and tiny bubbles. The cider lifted all this food richness and aerated rich apple, pointed acidity, and firm structure too. For many folks either a dark meat or tomato sauce would call for red wine, but for me a structured and tannic dry cider with plenty of acidity will do the job for any tomato sauce I’ve met.  

4) Taco platter 

Aeppeltreow’s Americana

The taco platter was in reality a table groaning under the weight of food choices. This course could have been the entire meal and everyone would have eaten bountifully. Options included Ancho-rubbed steak, tequila-lime chicken, Mahi-mahi marinated in ancho, lime, and jalapenos, and marinated tofu in the style of Chipotle. These were surrounded by a tomato salsa, a roasted salsa verde, a corn salsa, and a spicy peach salsa. And four cheeses. And peppers and onions. And shredded cabbage. And the base of hand pressed tortillas. 

The Aeppeltreow Americana’s official description declares, “Estate grown apples of Jeffersonian provenance. Our attempt to re-create Colonial American cider.  Crisp and clean. Zero residual sugar.”

I’m fond of many ciders from Aeppeltreow, so I hoped to find a special occasion for this very special cider. It’s aromas were very wine like: much more fermentation than fresh fruit. I loved the soft tannins and mellow acidity. I chose it for this meal because I wanted a still cider that would have plenty of body. The body is to stand up in the presence of all the strong food flavors, and I chose a still because bubble can really up the perception of spiciness. While some folks at the table have a spice tolerance, several did not. The Americana helped us enjoy this course ever so much. 

5)Maple Apple Donut Cake 

Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries


Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition 

The cake starts out with sponge that’s is much less sweet and tastes predominantly of buttered cinnamon. This was topped with a cooked blend of Tango and Macintosh and a sweet maple glaze.

The Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries is described online as, “Virtue ciders orchard series pays tribute to our partnering farmers by featuring a single growers finest fruit. Michigan seedling orchard is a friend to chefs and farmers markets for their quality hand picked heirloom fruit.”

While the Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition is introduced, “Our single-varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider has a wonderful pure apple flavor as well as the characteristic sweetness and zesty finish of the Honeycrisp apple. It is excellent with sharp cheese before or after dinner, or to complement desserts. We also love to pour it over ice cream.”

To be completely  honest, no one chose between the two ciders. We just started out with small tasting pours of each. The Virtue was phenolic, leathery and dry. It brought out the apple beautifully. There’s classic cider wisdom of putting cherry and apple together for a reason. For folks afraid of doing a dry cider with a sweet dessert, don’t be. Just choose a cider that has lots of flavor in addition to being dry. 

And the Champlain Honeycrisp started off with aromas of golden raisins and melted into twingey acid and beautifully balanced sweetness. Alex says it’s the best ice cider he’s had in his life. It was as much a pairing for the maple notes of the dessert as the apple, and that was heart-stoppingly good.

The whole dinner and birthday celebration was such a wonderful time. I feel so lucky to share evenings of food and cider with my amazing friends. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cider Revew: Kurant Earth and Weston Cider's Stowford Press

We had rain all day today and I loved it. Last week’s heat is gone, and I could even get out in my yard to work on the autumnal clean-up tasks. But enough about that. The real new is that apple season has arrived where I live. I can buy this year’s local fresh apples again! And it means that cider makers are super busy preparing for and starting harvest season. I even joined an apple CSA with a dear friend (from amazing orchard and apple power orchard Black Diamond Farms: https://www.incredapple.com/). As much as I love cider, I also adore eating apples. So, I’m going to enjoy this season wholeheartedly.

And before we get too far into Fall, I want to taste a few more of my hopped ciders including Kurant’s Earth. 

Kurant is a Philadelphia based cidery. I ran across Kurant ciders when I judged the Pennsylvania Farm Show last year. I was able to snag a few cans for review then. 

Read all about the cidery on the website: http://www.kurantcider.com/

You can read a little more background about the company in my first coverage of Kurant. I reviewed Kurant’s Spice back in July: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-citizen-ciders-wood-and.html

Here’s the official description.
We take a crisp blend of fermented apple juice and dry hop it just before packaging using 100% Mosaic hops sourced from the western United States.  The Mosaic hops add a light citrus and melon character on top of the crisp notes found in the juice blend.  The hop character is light and not overpowering.  By using a dry hopping technique, only the hop flavor and aromas are infused into the cider.  Don't be afraid to try Earth even if you aren't usually a hop head. Available in 12oz cans in cases or 4 packs at local retailers.
PAIRINGS:  Grilled White Fish, Sauteed Shrimp, Pulled Pork 
ABV:  5.8%       SWEETNESS:  Dry

Appearance: sunny, hazy, no bubble

This cider has an intensity to its sunny yellow color that I attribute partly to the slight haze in this cider. It isn’t brilliant; most hopped ciders aren’t. I don’t see anything in the way of bubbles though.

Smells freshly appley then clean soapy hops grass grapefruit bubble gum and green pepper

Sweetness/dryness: dry

As promised, this cider is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: green, bitter, clean

The Earth tastes Bitter, green, and clean. This cider has a light mouthfeel and some notes are cucumber-y. The finish has a fast fade. I find this cider so pleasant. It dodges some of the issues that a hopped cider can have. It’s piney and green without being soapy or sweaty. The Earth is totally confident and enjoyable; it knows exactly how to be a dry, hopped cider. I can appreciate that.

The Earth’s acid is exceedingly well integrated into the overall taste experience. It has low tannins, but I didn’t really expect any. What does linger is an intriguing green pepper note. Overall I find this cider quite refreshing and exhilarating.

You'll have to forgive the thistle wallpaper picture. It was a lovely detail in this pub and getting good cider pictures in pub lighting isn't easy!

Weston’s Cider owns and or makes a number of well-known cider brands in England, but this is my first review of anything by Weston’s. I’m surprised! I’ve been drinking these ciders for years, but I’ve never reviewed: Old Rosie, Mortimer’s Orchard, Henry Westons, or until today Stowford Press. 

Read about all these brands online: https://www.westons-cider.co.uk/ciders/#

I tried the Stowford Press most recently when travelling in Scotland this past July. I had it at a pub in Edinburgh.

Here is a lot of information on the Stowford Press from Westons.

Stowford Press combines century-old traditions with a flavour designed to appeal to more modern tastes.
Stowford Press began its life as one of our traditional cider blends, originally called ‘Vat 53’; the name of the oak vat that the liquid was matured in. It was over 30 years ago that the recipe was carefully crafted into a refreshing medium dry cider and today, Stowford Press is one of our best sellers.
Their descriptions continue with a brief guide
See: Pale straw, bright and luminousSmell: A fruity aroma, developed during the slow maturation periodTaste: A refreshing medium-dry sparkling cider that is bursting with the delicious flavour of crisp cider apples
And then sweetness was represented on a scale of 5 with this being a 2. 

Appearance: brilliant, lacey mousse, straw

The color reminds me more of many American ciders rather than most Englishe ones. The color is more yellow and less orange. It’s a straw color. The cider is brilliant and poured with a lacey mousse.

Aromas: dried fruit, hay, funky, bready

This cider has so many of the smells I really emjoy. The Stowford Press smells leathery, farmy, and funky. Notes include hay, dried fruit (most specifically orange and apple) and bread. This is classic British tannic cider smells. My mouth was watering as soon as I sniffed it.

Dryness/Sweetness: semi-sweet

This could be described by the English category Medium or Medium Sweet, but in the states most folks would cast it as a Semi-sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: smoky, cooked fruit, tannic, low acid
The Stowford Press stays as true to mainstream English style in flavor as it did in aromas. This cider is low acid, medium high tannins, and petillant rather than strongly sparkling. I got notes of maple, cooked apple, mandarin orange, and smoky bacon. 

Everything about this cider is soft and round. I’m thinking in particular of the low acid and softer tannins when I write that. It has night mouthfeel and the low abv was easy to note. It was also astoundingly easy to drink.  Yum!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cider Review: Blake's Hard Cider Company's Wakefire and Peckham's Wild all the Way

I hope no one reminds me how finished I feel with summer right now when I’m freezing in March. We had two beautiful days of mild weather last week, but we’re already back into another uncomfortable heat wave. Still, I took advantage of those two days and spent one almost entirely outside and on the other day, I enjoyed a classic southern meal on my porch with a beautiful cider.

This week’s first cider is Wakefire by Blake's Hard Cider Company. The company shared a nice blend of their ciders with me earlier this year, but since I can’t really get them locally, I’ve been spacing them out. Once these are gone, it may be a while. 

Blake’s ciders are not easy for me to get  because the company is based out of Armada, Michigan. Blake’s makes a large variety of different ciders: a core lineup, a full calendar of seasonal releases, limited releases of experiments from the taproom, and a signature series of all traditional cider methods including keeved, champagne-style, and ice cider.  

I’ve reviewed several Blake’s ciders over the years of this blog.

Most recently, I got to taste the long-awaited Black Philip(cranberry and blood orange): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/04/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-black.html

Back in March 2017, I paired The Tonic (cucumber & ginger) with asian-inspired home cooking: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

As part of my first Very Perry May, I tried the Grizzly Pear(pear, prickly pear cactus, & elderflower):

Before that I tried the Snapdragon (rum raisins): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-ciders.html

My first Blake’s cider was the El Chavo (habanero and mango): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s a link to the Blake’s Hard Cider Company website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

This is Blake’s description of the Wakefire, “It’s impossible to replicate a Michigan summer. Recreating a northern night under the stars would be a futile endeavor. So, we’ve done the next best thing – we’ve crafted summer’s perfect ally. Experience WakeFire, a comforting blend of Michigan-grown cherries, orange peel and our famous Blake’s apples.” 6.5% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, shell pink, almost no bubbles

This cider looks lovely in a glass. I understand that cans are practical, but if you are able pour the Wakefire in a nice clear glass to appreciate its brilliance and delicate shell pink color. I saw very few bubbles, but there were enough such that I don’t expect a totally still cider. 

Aromas: cooked apples, orange, minerals , barest hint of cherry.

I almost wish my friends and I could have smelled this cider blind and not known what to be sniffing for. I’m curious how many people would have identified cherry on the nose. It was present but only subtly so. I smelled more mineral, cooked apples, and orange peel. The aromas weren’t very strong in a wine glass; I’m not sure if they would come out at all in a can.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

Again, because I shared this with two friends, we were able to get a range of interpretations on the sweetness level. Our thoughts veered from off-dry to semi-sweet, but our average came out to semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, orange peel, good mouthfeel, balanced

I so enjoyed getting to quiz folks on this cider as we were tasting it. We agreed on a substantial mouthfeel and pleasant tartness. I perceived a lot more cherry in flavor than in aroma. Everyone noticed a predominance of orange peel on the finish. Folks agreed on a nice clean fermentation that left some yeast character that is more like a bakery than farm. 

The cider has plenty of fruitiness. The fruit notes include cherries, strawberries, tropical fruit, and jam. All of the fruit was a nice blend of both sweet and tart. I’m not the biggest cherry fan in the world; that’s why I enlisted the help of some friends more fond of this very popular fruit. They all agreed that they could have handled even more cherry, but I appreciate how much apple remained in this fruit blended cider. 

Peckham's Wild all the Way

My only previous coverage of Peckham’s Cidery and Orchard is from this year’s CiderCon. The international guest contingent was from New Zealand, and I got to taste this cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

I didn’t get to write up a full review then and there, so I was glad to snag an unopened can from the festivities and bring it home. 

You can learn about Peckham’s more from the website: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

Here’s the official description for Wild all the Way, “2017 NZ Champion Cider. A blend of three wild ferments that have been maturing for over a year; a rich, caramel Kingston Black single variety, a gentle yet tannic bittersweet blend, and a complex oak fermented and matured Perry. The result is a rich Kiwi cider with deep English cider country roots.” 6.2% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, small ring of bubbles, carrot

I don’t know if a cider’s color has ever reminded me of a carrot’s hue before, but that’s what I’m seeing. The cider is brilliant and poured with a petite ring of bubbles just where the liquid meets the glass. It looks very much like a cider made from cider specific fruit.

Aromas: apple sauce, straw, iron, water

I so enjoy the smell of this cider. I could smell it as soon as I cracked the can open, but it was so much more pronounced once poured into a proper glass. I can smell apple seeds, water, iron, sweet apple sauce, and warm straw. There's a lot of complexity and UK influence here.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

This cider has a nice balance of sweetness. It’s enough to open up some of the fruit flavors and add to the mouthfeel, but not a touch more. 

Flavors and drinking experience: mellow, fruity, extra-tart

This cider manages both to taste extra tart in the beginning but fruity and mellow for the rest of the journey. The Wild all the Way has big satisfying mouthfeel and a tannic finish. I taste ripe apples and ripe pears with some tea and leather. There’s not a lot of bubble going on; I’d call it petillant more than fully sparkling. Other flavor notes include metal and wood.

I adore how much the pears come through. I expected more of an English style cider from the appearance and the ingredients, but the Wild all the Way is not quite like most United Kingdom ciders, while still showing the influence of those UK cider varietals.

I had this cider with veggie chicken nuggets, corn on the cob, and southern style green beans (They are the best. I will fight you.)The cider had a strong presence that complemented the meal beautifully. It was not a changing flavor after that initial shift from acidity to fruitiness. The Wild all the Way sustains it flavors and remains consistent but is simply excellent. I particularly appreciate how balanced in sweetness, tannins, and acid, it is, all with some nice dark flavors too.