Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Cider's Understood in Motion 3 & Big Fish Cider Co. Highland Scrumpy

We’re halfway through August. And for once, I can believe that the month is half over. It’s been hot. It’s been humid. It’s been rainy. There’s even a flash flood watch. Summer has lots of weather drama, and that gives me every excuse to enjoy my screened porch and a cold glass of cider. This week, I wanted to try two ciders that I had really high expectations for.  I may be running out of recipes that don’t require turning the stove on, but I know that Autumn is coming. 

For the first of these a good feeling about, I chose a compilation cider put out by Angry Orchard. This is Understood in Motion 3 created by Angry Orchard Cider’s Ryan Burk and  and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry. 

I have one previous review of an Oliver’s Cider collaboration, this one also with Ryan Burk but when he was affiliated with Virtue Cider. That’s Gold Rush.

I reviewed the Gold Rush (as part of my first visit to The Queen’s Kickshaw) http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

Gold Rush also made my first ever top 10 list of ciders in 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html

If you don’t know at least a bit about Angry Orchard, then you’ve not been drinking cider in the United States recently. The company burst onto the national cider scene in 2012. Three years ago, the company opened an orchard, research and development facility, and beautiful treehouse to the public in Walden, New York. 

You can visit the website to learn about the company, the Walden orchard, and everything Angry Orchard is up to: http://www.angryorchard.com/

I’ve reviewed a large number of Angry Orchard ciders: too many to post all the links here, so I’ll just share a few recent ones.

In May, I reviewed the Pear as a part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-greenwood.html

And in March I checked out the Rose which has been making a ton of waves: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

I had the Angry Orchard Spiced Apple as a recent winter was hanging on too long: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

And I did get a chance to review the Walden Hollow which was an early release from the Walden Orchard project: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

Tom Oliver of Oliver's Cider and Perry is a legend in the cider community and a genuinely fun person. He's also a cider maker who respects the fruit he works with while remaining open to innovation. That's shocking special. I can scarcely believe I’ve not properly reviewed any Oliver’s Cider. That’s something I will rectify soon. Watch this space.

Find tons more information online: https://oliversciderandperry.co.uk/

Understood in Motion 3

Here’s the cider’s official description: 
Understood in Motion 03 started over two years ago, as two different natural ciders fermented with wild yeast. The Dabinett apple was the principle apple variety used in this collaboration, an 18th century English bittersweet apple that is favored for its reliability to yield fruit annually, and is now grown in the United States. The result, a still, tannic, dry, wild and funky cider that pairs well with a hearty meal enjoyed with friends. 7.2% ABV

Appearance: pumpkin, hazy, few visible bubbles

This has the deep warm color of many ciders made with cider specific apple varieties. It looks like pumpkin flesh. Based on the description, this isn’t a surprise. I don’t see a lot of bubbles, but that’s hard to do in a hazy cider. 

Aromas: cooked apples, leather, yeast, gentle funk

This cider smells yeasty in a very appealing way. I anticipate something I will love because Understood in Motion 3 also smells very much like leather and cooked apples. I’m anticipating something rich and wild.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is on the drier side of semi-dry. It’s still plenty fruity and full bodied though.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, high acid, funky but not too funky

I like my ciders high in tannins, and the Understood in Motion 3 delivers beautifully here. The tannins add structure but not harshness. What I sometimes miss in high tannin ciders is the sharpness and zest of high acid, but I was not disappointed here. The Understood in Motion 3 combines the cider apple mellowness with some American heritage apple acidity to great effect. 

Holistically speaking, I love so many things about this cider. It has a lovely body and a long funky finish. From the great perfume of the aromas to that finish, I was a happy cider drinker. Flavor notes I noticed include tea, orange, lots and lots of mushy ripe apple, leather, wood, and smoke. All of these were balanced together such that none dominated.

Just like I loved the aroma, I really enjoyed drinking this cider. I had it with a beautiful summer meal of deconstructed kebabs(long story) with lots of peppers and zucchini. 

Big Fish Cider Co.'s Highland Scrumpy

Founded in 2015, Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Monterey, Virginia where the company creates a variety of ciders from the traditional to modern inventive cider styles.

I tried (and enjoyed) the Church Hill Blush back in May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

Read more about the company here: http://www.bigfishcider.com

I am excited to try Highland Scrumpy; this bottle is a review sample from Cider Con. I’m always extra curious when folks (particularly United States cider makers) use the term. It doesn’t have one clear and unambiguous definition. 

The Highland Scrumpy’s description is pleasantly informative.
Sparkling gold clear Semi-Dry cider featuring over 20 varieties of locally sourced apples.  This is a blend of ciders using 2 different wine yeasts, but the character of this cider really comes from the wild yeast ferment that one of the blends went through. 
This cider is made from apples donated during our Community Apple Drive.  There are many trees in Highland that were planted or grafted by Highland residents 50 plus years ago.  The names of the trees have long been forgotten, but the trees still fruit. We cannot tell you the varieties, no one can.  But we can tell you it’s all Highland apples, and we think you’ll enjoy. 
This wild ferment makes our most complex cider.  It has pear and floral notes on the nose.  This well balanced cider has a clean yet creamy mouthfeel, combines the sourness of crab apples, with a hint of sweetness, a wonderful blend of earthy notes, some melon and citrus notes.  The fruity esters come alive in this cider more than most. 
This is the favorite cider of the crew here at Big Fish. This cider is best enjoyed by itself. But due to the complexity pairs well with many types of foods, including oysters, clams, quiche, poultry, green salads, and of course just about any cheese.
This cider did win a Gold Medal in the heritage category at GLINTCAP this year.

Appearance: saffron, brilliant, no visible bubbles

This is a pretty pretty cider. I can see through it easily. The glow in the picture is from condensation; I assure you that the cider brilliant. It didn’t show off any bubbles, but had a lovely saffron color.

Aromas: wet, ripe apples, green

The Highland Scrumpy smells like wet fruit. It’s very ripe appley and super fresh and almost green in my  mind.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I feel totally confident calling this a semi-dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, mellow acid, floral, citrus

Oooh. The first thing I thought when first tasted this cider was, that big apple blend certainly included some very quality apples. The Highland Scrumpy offers up medium tannins and pleasantly mellow acidity. What smelled green in the aromas tastes golden
To me on the palate. I get tons of flower and herb notes.

The sweetness that’s present is bright, with a burst of grapefruit bitterness and then a quick turn to warmer and more herbal flavors. The cider has a neat finish: short, clean, and wet. I know some of that’s far more associative than scientific, but that was my experience. 

I had this cider with fresh grapes, brie, homemade cider bread, and a good movie with friends. I must say that I recommend the experience. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cider Review: Descendant Cider Company English Kills and Stormalong Cider’s Light of the Sun

It’s hot where I live right now. Too hot. And there are plenty of other places that are too hot right now too. Don’t turn on your oven hot. All the pets have melted hot. Go places just to enjoy the air conditioning hot. I’ve been waiting until after dark to take my daily walks and get my steps. (Yes, I am one of those people). It changes what ciders are the most appealing, so this week I’m sharing two ciders I’ve enjoyed during this most recent heat wave. 

The first is a dry sparkler by Descendant Cider. The one thing about this Queens cidery I will highlight is from the page of the website introducing the cidery, “At Descendant Cider Company we press, ferment and bottle our cider using fresh New York State apples in our blends and why wouldn't we? New York is the second largest apple growing region in the country producing a wide range of excellent apple varieties that we love in our ciders.”

Read all about the company on its website: http://www.descendantcider.com/

I have previously reviewed Succession by Descendant: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/01/cider-review-descendant-cider-companys.html

And the Dry by Descendant makes a brief appearance in my write up of this year’s Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

Today I’m excited to be reviewing a cider I picked up at that event, the limited edition English Kills. I suspected because of its dryness and particular apple blend that it would suit this monstrous heat well.

Here’s how Descendant introduces it: 
ENGLISH KILLS (7.2%ABV) - 2015 Harvest availableThis dry English Bittersweet cider is a blend of vintage English cider apples fermented long and slow over four months then aged for another six months.  Rich tannins and ripe fruit aromas combine in this traditional approach to English cider making.  A rich golden appearance this cider is completely unfiltered or clarified in anyway.

I have a feeling that some of these characteristics will make for a particularly refreshing choice of cider.

Appearance: deep orange, transparent, few visible bubbles

This cider doesn’t look like most American ciders. The color is deeper and warmer. Those orange hues don’t tend to show up in dessert apple ciders, and this is full on pumpkin colored. The cider is transparent rather than brilliant, and I can see very few bubbles.

Aromas: overripe apples, melons, limes, white wine, and bread

I found this array of aromas fascinatingly complex. I first smell overripened apples, but they don’t show up alone. Other fruits like melons and limes round out the picture. The cider also smells like fermentation by showing facets of white wine, bread, and yeast all in a smooth aroma. Something about the whole is round rather than crystalline. The images these aromas call to mind are sleek and dark; they remind me of mushrooms the best possible way. 

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This cider is not kidding around with dryness. The English Kills is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, medium acidity, austere

This cider tastes quite different than it smells. Though it smells plentifully fruity the tasting experience is more austere. The English Kills is very dry, quite tannic, with medium acidity. Instead of fruit, I get taste notes like wild rice, toast, and wood. The name says English—and I can taste why—but this is also New York with that powerful acidity. The tannins linger, and though they add structure, the cider has a fresh light mouthfeel. The texture is shaped by many medium-small bubbles. The English Kills has some astringence which only makes me love it. 

I had this cider with corn on the cob, a crazy loaded salad, and my favorite vegetarian version of barbecue wings. It was a summery delight. 

Stormalong Cider’s Light Of the Sun

Next up, I want to talk about Stormalong Cider’s Light Of the Sun. This is a hopped cider by a Massachusetts cidery. Stormalong combines a lot of nearly mythic imagery in the branding: oceans, sea captains, orchards, a forgotten heydey of cider, and even Paul Bunyan. I enjoy these larger than life images and ideals. I’m hoping the cider will live up to them. 

I reviewed the Legenary Dry in 2016:  http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

You can read more about the company on the website: http://stormalong.com/

I enjoyed the history section especially. It speaks to Sherborn’s particular relationship with cider over time, including this fact; “Sherborn in fact supported more than 20 cider mills in the 1800s that were productive enough to be taxed.” Fans of cider must check it out! 

Official description: “A refreshing cider double dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops.  We then add blood orange and ruby red grapefruit zest in the second dry hopping addition to enhance the citrus notes.  Crisp.” The cider contains 6.5% ABV (which could be considered a bit high for a 16 ounce can unless you split it). The apples used for this cider include:  Northern Spy, Idared, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold.

Appearance: pale wheat glow, brilliant, bubbly

This cider pours with a head, but it doesn’t stick around. The color reminds me of ripe wheat, with that cool blonde color. The cider is brilliant and decidedly bubbly.

Aromas: hoppy, lemon, dust,

The Light of the Sun smells hoppy in a particularly lemony way. The cider also smells like dust and stone. All the aromas present are mild. I also get hints of rain and lemongrass.

Dryness/sweetness: Off Dry

While this cider isn’t fully dry, The Light of the Sun is close. I’d call it a very zesty and flavorful off dry. 

Flavors and drinking experience: lot of citrus, high acid, no tannins, lots of hops

This cider was made for summer! The Light of the Sun is refreshing and crisp. The hopped and citrus notes play well together and with the high acid. I love how lemony and hoppy it tastes, like some other hopped ciders, it does include one soapy note in the mix.

Though I get some citrus, overall, this cider is not very fruity. It's just fresh tasting! The strongest citrus notes associate with the hops, but in terms of strict fruits I can taste lime. The cider tastes like it had a clean fermentation and lots of carbonation. The Light of the Sun does have a quick finish and a light body. These factors work together to make a supremely summery cider. 

I had this with veggie filled burritos and it was astoundingly good with creamy avocado, sweet corn, and zucchini.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cider Review: Threadbare Dry Cider and Indian Ladder Farmstead Dry

I am thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on ciders from two cideries that I’ve never covered before: Threadbare Cider and Indian Ladder Farms Cidery and Brewery. I try all sorts of ciders: still, sweet, fruity, hopped, blended, infused, you name it. But the core of my cider love is dry cider from just apples, so I’m sticking to that this week. 

Threadbare Cider didn’t start with cider, but the business grew out of a distillery in Pennsylvania! The company is based out of Pittsburgh and still making both distilled spirits and ciders and the most magical elixirs that combine the two. From reading about Threadbare online, the company seems fascinated by both apples and history; that makes cider a perfect fit. I’ll just include a brief quote that I think gives voice to the very homey and curious aesthetic I see in Threadbare, “So here we are pumping out farmhouse, bottle conditioned, hopped, wild fermented, and barrel aged ciders. And we’re so glad you’ve joined us to explore a new American cider frontier.”

You can read much more on the Threadbare Cider website: https://threadbarecider.com/

I wanted to start with the Threadbare Dry Cider. This cider and a few of the others were shared with me at Cider Con for review. I’ll be spacing the reviews out over the coming months, so if this sounds good to you, track it down and keep watching for future reviews!

Appearance: pale gold, some sediment, hazy

The Dry looks pale and gold in the glass. The color looks even, and I’d call the transparency hazy. There’s some sediment that pours with each glass, increasing as we approach the end of the bottle.

Aromas: grain, lemon, bready, hint of volatile acidity

The Dry Cider smells like clean grain and lemon to me. I’m guessing that the dry description will be accurate. There’s something bready going on the aroma notes and maybe a little volatile acidity.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This cider is dry and quite tart. There’s a lot going on, but it all combines to reinforce the perception of dryness.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, grapefruit, herbal, bitter

Golly! Not only is this cider dry, but it also has super high acid and medium tannins. The overall picture is significantly influenced by the cider’s dryness and moderate bitterness. What a very austere and grown up cider. I like it. 

All that structure doesn’t mean the Dry Cider doesn’t taste like fruit, but it tastes more like grapefruit and lemon than apple. Other notes include grains and corn. At the same time the cider is also greenly herbal leaning even towards celery. 

The cider offers up a super pleasant mouthfeel: the photo shows sediment in the liquid and it adds to the experience. The Dry Cider shows good change over the course of a sip: ending with a long mineral and tannin finish.

Indian Ladder Farmstead Dry  

I enjoyed the Indian Ladder Farmstead Dry in New York City at the Brooklyn Cider House taproom this past spring. If you’ve never visited them, it’s really a wonderful spot to linger and appreciate some great cider and food. Visit the Brooklyn Cider House online to see menus and hours: https://www.brooklynciderhouse.com/

You can learn about the farm and all of its projects on the website: http://www.ilfcb.com/

Indian Ladder Farmstead Dry

I picked this cider off the Cider House menu, so I’ve not seen its label. When looking up its official description, I wasn’t able to find very much info. But this is what I could find about the Dry, “Fresh pressed New York apples. Naturally gluten free. A dry, not overtly sweet flavor.”

Appearance: Straw, opaque, lemon curd

This cider goes beyond hazy into full on cloudiness. It looks shockingly like lemon curd in color, but part of that is also the intensity of its opacity. I can’t see any bubbles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present.

Aromas: dandelion, lemon, apple, white beans

This cider’s aroma is on the milder side, but the notes I smell are pretty interesting. The Farmstead Dry smells like dandelions, lemons and white beans. I think there’s a lot of fermentation and yeast influence on these aromas.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

I found this cider off dry and just a little fruity.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, grainy, little funky, lemon

This is another acid-driven cider with some fermenation based grain notes. I found the Farmstead Dry slightly funky, but approachably so. The grainy notes are more clean and  beer-like than barny.

There were plenty of fruity notes as well like crab-apple, lemon, and pineapple. This cider is petillant rather than strongly sparkling. This cider does remind me very much of a few Finger Lakes ciders. Our New York cider style is getting stronger all the time. We enjoyed this cider with poached salmon, fingerling potatoes, piles of thinly sliced cucumber and a beautifully deep green salad. It was an invigorating meal with beautiful pairings. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cider Review: South City Ciderworks' Dry Me a River and Tandem Ciders' Crabster

Endless hot days are cider weather. I know that I enjoy cider in any season, but these last days of July remind me of just how perfect cider is for summer. The most seasonal food pairings just work! I appreciate something cold and bubbly even more than usual in hot weather! And the lower ABV just feels necessary when days and evenings are so long and sunny.

My first cider for today is by South City Ciderworks out of the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. 

I want to quote what the company says about itself, 
We founded South City Ciderworks in 2015 as an urban cider company to make great cider and a difference. Using only fresh-pressed, West Coast apples our ciders are crafted to be well balanced and easy drinking. We support non-profits focused on helping the community, animals, and the environment. We're here to Make Cider Make A Difference.
I had this cider in January of 2017 when visiting San Francisco. You might say that this review is a bit belated, and you’d be right! But when I was thinking about ciders that felt summery even when I drank them out of season, this jumped to mind.

Find out more online about South City Ciderworks and all of the ciders here: https://www.southcitycider.com/

I tried the Dry Me a River at a cute little bar in San Francisco on vacation just before diving into several used book stores. It was a sunny after that didn’t feel like winter at all.

Here’s South City Ciderworks’ official description for the Dry Me a River.

And when the people asked if we had something less sweet that the OG, we said nope - but we'll make it! Thus, Dry Me a River is our interpretation of an American dry cider. It starts crisp with light carbonation and finishes dry but not overly acidic. We use fresh-pressed West Coast apples and ferment with a white wine yeast to retain a light apple nose but create a crisp finish. The name itself is meant to raise awareness for the CA drought and the challenges that face our natural habitat, but we also accept the Justin Timberlake version. You can find our dry cider in 500-ml bottles and kegs throughout the Bay Area. 6.9%ABV

Appearance: brilliant, pale straw, few visible bubbles

This cider is a pale straw hue. It’s totally brilliant. I couldn’t see a lot of bubbles in the glass.

Aromas: fresh apple, freshly washed pear, tropical fruit, cold

I know it’s probably an inaccurate statement to say that a cider smells chilly and wet. These aren’t exactly smells, but something about the dry my a river reminds of not just the fruit notes, but drippy, chilled versions. I can imagine the pear and apple aromas as being fruit just pulled from an ice bath. I’m not sure quite what to make of that, but as I smelled it, I thought such an effect would be amazing for summer.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a high acid cider that comes across as semi-dry. The name may say dry, but it isn’t fully dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, grain, green apple, tea

The Dry Me a A River tastes very influenced by its high acid, but the cider is not twistingly puckeringly tart. Instead the acidity is well integrated. There’s a hint of grain and corn, perhaps from the yeast choice. I appreciate that the cider shows of a clean fermenatation.

In terms of mouth feel, the Dry Me a River has some nice body and a creamy mouth coat. The biggest surprise in drinking the cider was an interesting note of slightly tannic green tea: you can taste it a moment into the drink when the middle of your tongue tightens a little. To end, it offers a long aftertaste with hints of juniper and hops.

Next up: Tandem Cider's Crabster

Tandem Cider’s operates out of Michigan. The name comes from the bicycle built for two that allowed the owners to tour England together in 2003. Nikki Rothwell and Dan Young fell in love with cider there (like a lot of us). The cidery got truly underway in 2010.

Check out the company website to learn all about the cidery: http://www.tandemciders.com/

I have reviews a couple of things by Tandem Ciders before.

The Bee’s Dream: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/01/cider-review-tandem-ciders-bees-dream.html

The Smackintosh: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-tandem-ciders-smackintosh.html

Here’s Tandem’s official description for the Crabster, “We threw in a load of hand-picked crab apples - both wild and domestic - and pressed them during the rising of the harvest moon to create a dry, tart cider that's guaranteed to make you pucker up and smile. 4.7%ABV”

Appearance: bright gold, brilliant, no visible bubble

This is a truly shining cider that shows no bubbles but lots of bright gold color.

Aromas: apple juice, apple sauce

Wow! This cider smells much like fresh apple juice and apple sauce. It’s striking! I also smell something minerally, concord grapes, and fresh green apples.

Sweetness/dryness: off-dry

Yes, there’s some hints of sweetness to keep it from being bone dry, but this cider all pretty much all acid.

Flavors and drinking experience: grapefruit, extremely tart, star fruit

The Crabster works with predominance of underripe apple giving acidity center stage. It tastes sour, almost salty and brightly sunny but not really sweet. The flavors hit like grapefruit at first, but they then give way to an unsweet version of Granny Smith apple, star fruit, and pineapple. One person in our group noticed some herbal green notes that reminded him of artichoke.

In some ways the style is comparable to some spanish ciders. The flavors are not at all like the cider’s aromas. The Crabster just keeps going with high acid and medium levels of tannin, but the tannins are not low oaky mellow ones. The flavors lingers and seem to get more acidic with repeated sips. The carbonation level is light.

The Crabster exhibits a very clean fermentation. I’d be curious to learn how Tandem ended up with an ABV so low. I got to taste this one twice. Once with a group of serious cider-philes and once with veggie loaded pasta primavera.  It was fun, tart, and light both times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Cider Review: Shacksbury Dorset and Rootstock Rosé

It’s good to be home, cider lovers. I absolutely loved Scotland. The landscape is amazing, the cities are fun, and we ate so much good food. But, my cellar was ready and waiting for me when we got back! By total happenstance, two cideries that were reviewed together before, both came up again this week. I’m sharing my thoughts on Shacksbury’s Dorset and Rootstock’s Rosé.

These two cider companies came up together only last month during Cider Cans Crush It, here’s the link.


This time we have one canned cider and one lovely bottle.

Shacksbury is a Vermont favorite that has been expanding boundaries and trying new things since the company started making cider.   

You can find out lots of background information on Shacksbury online: http://www.shacksbury.com/

Here are the two other previous appearances of Shacksbury, a review and my experience visiting an orchard.

Shacksbury Classic: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/cider-review-shacksbury-original.html

And I visited one of the orchards: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html

Today, I want to start with the Dorset cider. I picked up a package of these cans on one of my trips down to Cleveland to visit friends. I chose it not knowing much about this cider and associating it with Dorset County in the southwestern part of England. That was far from the actual naming inspiration for this cider.  

Here’s the real story.

Dorset wild ferment, dry and complex notes of red berry and slate named for Dorset Mountain in Danby, VT where many of the wild apples in cider were foraged blended in collaboration with Tim Prendergast of ANXO in Washington D.C.

Appearance: burnished copper, hazy, lots of bubbles

Lovely color. Burnished copper. Pour it out of the can to see! It's quite hazy, but shows off plenty of bubbles.

Aromas: applesauce, figs, volatile acidity

What an interesting array. This smells much more like a Spanish style cider than what I expected based on the name. There’s some sourness and volatile acidity, but I can also smell some fruity elements. The cider smells like figs and applesauce in ways that make me anticipate sweetness and richness. There are also some floral notes in there too.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi Dry

This is a semi-dry cider. There’s enough sweetness there to ampliphy other flavors and give the cider good mouthfeel but not much more.

Flavors and drinking experience: spanish influence, savory, citrus

This is a fascinating cider to drink as well as to smell. The initial taste features the acetic acid sour tingle that I expected from the aromas. The Dorset also has some citrus fruit notes that play with the sweeter side of lemon and tarter side of orange.

The cider brings some savory elements as well, reminding me of olives, leather, and salt. I suspect the fermentation methods let to some Lactic acid in the cider as well. It’s also a bit lighter in body than I expected based on aromas. The cider is lightly sparkling or petillant.

The whole experience reminds me almost of a summery mixed drink, like a shrub and tonic. I find the Finish is a bit bitter but not tannic. I had the Dorset on my porch with a smoked salmon salad and crispy wheaty crackers. 

Rootstock Ciderworks Rosé

My second cider for the week is  by Rootstock Ciderworks from the Rochester, New York area. This was a review sample, and the notes have been waiting to become a full review for some time. You might be able to guess that from the cold weather clues hiding a picture or two.

Read about the company on the website: https://rootstockciderworks.com/
ROSÉ Hard Cider 
A collaboration project—this rare cider delivers a unique taste experience resulting from the marriage of a heritage variety apple (Rhode Island Greening) and a classic Austrian grape variety (Blaufränkisch). Vibrant salmon color and bold tannin—hints of apricot fill the nose while flavors of ripe red gooseberry excite the palate. 
7.9% Alc/Vol – 1.5% RS
In 2017, this cider won a Silver medal at GLINTCAP.

Appearance: brilliant, watermelon, few bubbles

This is such a beautiful cider to see. I completely understand why it was bottled in clear glass to show off that rosy hue. I don’t see a lot of bubbles, but I appreciate the cider’s total brilliance. The color reminds me of super ripe watermelon flesh.

Aromas: dusty, rocky, red fruit

This smells very much like my hopes for any Rosé cider. It smells dusty and rocky in a way that leads me to expect some grip to the mouthfeel and acidity. I also smell lots of red fruit like strawberries, raspberries, and currants. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider definitely tastes semi-dry. There are perceptible elements of sweetness, but they are kept in balance by some real acidity.

Flavors and drinking experience: strawberry, fresh apple, high acid

On the dry end of of semi-dry, this cider really does bring plenty of acid to the party. But beyond just the high acid, there’s so much fun fruit in this cider. I taste tart strawberry, wild blackberries, rhubarb, and a solid backing of fresh apples. There’s no tannins but lots and lots of flavor. 

The cider has a zippy body and plenty of bubbles. I enjoyed this cider with a very brunch inspired supper: roasted red pepper and zucchini frittata with goat cheese and homemade biscuits. I enjoyed keeping all of the dishes light and simple for this peppy fun cider.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Wood and Kurant Spice

Greetings from Scotland! Hello, cider lovers. I’m writing from Scotland today, because that’s where I’m travelling right now. These ciders however are not Scottish, and all notes were taken before my trip began. Not to worry. I plan to write about some Scottish ciders in the coming weeks hopefully over at Cider Culture.

Let’s start today with my impression of a specialty from The Citizen Cellar, the experimental wing of Citizen Ciders. Citizen Ciders are based out of Burlington, Vermont but are growing in availability all over the eastern portion of the United States. This company has a fantastic local focus even as it grows! Today, it’s Citizen Cellar’s Wood.

As always, you can learn about Citizen Cider on the website: https://www.citizencider.com/

I have several previous reviews of Citizen Ciders. 

Wit’s Up: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/04/cider-review-citizen-ciders-wits-up.htm

Tulsi: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-fable-farms-greensboro-and.html

Companion: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/06/pickcider-review-citizen-ciders.html

Brose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-citizen-cider-brose.html

Barrel-Aged: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-review-citizen-ciders-barrel-aged.html

And I had a fantastic time when I visited them: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

The Citizen Cider Wood’s official description reads, “A dry and bubbly cider made using two unique apples: Esopus Spitzenburg and the bittersweet Dabinett, from our friend Steve Wood at Poverty Lane Orchard in Lebanon, New Hampshire.”

Appearance: slightly hazy, golden topaz, no visible bubble

This cider looks distinct from most of what I’ve seen from Citizen. The usual clarity is replaced in this cider by a gentle haze. The color can easily be described as golden topaz.

Aromas: over-ripe apples, gasoline, dust
The Wood smells like mostly like overripe apples. There’s a warmth and softness to the aroma that’s very appealing. I get some hints of dust and gasoline as well. This is going to be super different from the company’s usual style.

Dyrness/sweetness: Dry

Though the Wood is fruity, this cider is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fine bubbles, yeasty, funky 

I love the super fine bubbles in the Wood. The gasoline aroma notes are still present as flavors but they remain muted. This cider offers up a lot of yeast character and tons of acid. It’s dry and fruity as well. This cider is all about the features brought by using bittersweet apples.

I enjoyed this cider at a friend’s house with dinner. We had homemade pasta and red sauce from local tomatoes. I found the cider seemed almost barrel aged because of the gentle funkiness and the bittersweet apple qualities. Very very nice.


Kurant is from Pennsylvania, so I don’t ordinarily get any access to these ciders. I did get to judge the PA Farm Show competition last year, and I was able to get some cans on that trip. I know the Spice might not seem super seasonal, but I’ve been wanting to share my notes on a cider by Kurant for some time.

The company describes their inspiration as coming from, “traditional French, English, and Spanish ciders.” The company makes small batch ciders and operates a tasting room and taproom (with food!) in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The ciders are made in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. The company was founded in 2015, as best as my online sleuthing can tell.

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

Today’s review is of the Spice. The cider’s official description reads,
Hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice blend perfectly reminding you of your favorite cold weather treats. A touch of brown sugar in the finish adds just a tiny bit of sweetness for balance with notes of molasses and raisins. We let the apples shine as the highlight of Spice by keeping the seasonal additions light but noticeable and not overpowering. Spice is available through the end of the winter season.

PAIRINGS: Roasted Turkey, Graham Cracker Ice Cream ABV: 5.8% SWEETNESS: Off Dry / Semi Sweet

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, dried apricot

The color of this cider reminds me of dried apricots. It’s a warm tone somewhere between orange and gold. The cider looks bubbly and just a bit hazy.

Aromas: spices, homemade apple sauce, cloves,

Purrrr. This particular blend is full of deep dark spicing and warm cooked apples. It doesn’t really smell summery but on this quiet evening, it sure smells nice.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This is a bright semi-dry. It has plenty of acid and less sweetness than I expect in a spiced cider. And that’s a very good thing in my view.

Flavors and drinking experience: clove, apple pie

The spices of apple pie do come out as I sip the Spice. I get notes of baking spices, especially cloves when tasting this cider. I do like how this is less sweet than you might expect. The sweetness that I can taste here reminds me of very much of raisins. I do get the spice notes more in aromas than in flavors. The spice brings plenty of acidity but no tannins.

The most unexpected feature is that the Spice ends with a very cola-esque finish. I find that totally unexpected but good. I had this cider paired with a “clean out all the vegetables from the fridge” salad, and it was an excellent experience.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cider Review: Kite and String Cider's King of Hector and Star Cider Wild Child Rhubarb


Welcome to July! The month of fireworks, fresh tomatoes, and sweet corn is here. There are heat waves and cool lakes here in the heights of upstate New York summer. Even though I know I could cover dozens more canned ciders, I can’t neglect other formats. This matters to me especially because I know of some really special ciders never see the inside of a can. I promise to visit to the most summery format soon and often, after a whole month of cans, I do want to review two ciders I tasted in big beautiful 750ml bottles.

Quick geeky aside! Formats aren’t just an issue of convenience. Formats often imply serving size. A lot of folks don’t look at ABV when choosing a cider or pouring a drink. And cider ABVs vary wildly. One can often turns into one serving, whereas a 750ml bottle is more often treated as 4 distinct glasses of cider no matter the ABV. I think it’s awesomely strategy to be cognizant as either a drinker or host when dealing with a beverage that doesn’t have a standardized pour size, glassware, format, or consistent ABV. Read those labels, friends!

Kite and String’s King of Hector

Kite and String is the local cider at the heart of the Finger Lakes Cider House in Ovid, New York. They are also known as Good Life Farm as that's the umbrella farm that makes everything possible. The big news around her is that the Cider House made it into USA Today’s list of the the top 10 Cider Bars in America! That’s huge for a farm-based destination in rural New York. The place really is beautiful, fantastic, delicious, and worth a trip.

I've enjoyed Kite and String Ciders before. 

The Barrel Rye: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-good-life-ciders-barrel-rye.html

The Cazenovia: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-good-life-ciders-cazenovia.html

I've enjoyed the Hickok at a few special dinners including:

Thanksgiving: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

and a Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:  

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com

Or see what the company (and the farm animals) are up to on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KiteandStringCider/

Today I’m reviewing a cider that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get because the King of Hector was a special release for a pairing dinner and the Kite and String Cider Club. Luckily for me, dear friends of mine are in the club, and they were generous enough to bring this bottle over to share. 

Read the full write up with tons of background information here: http://www.fingerlake

I’ll share just an excerpt
Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: Gripping acidity typical of wild seedlings and crab varieties. Slow fermentation (2 months). Hands off approach with little intervention. High acid cider aged well over the winter with beautiful aromas and unique flavor. We were excited to keep this extremely small lot separate that  season and this cider was filtered and bottled as our last traditional method product of the year. 8.4% ABV
And the pairing suggestions:
We think this cider drinks like a dry, Spanish champagne style. It is crisp, long lasting, and acidic, and embodies the heat of 2016. Drink it as a starter to open up your guests’ palates and imaginations, with light appetizers like dried fruit or with lightly fried fish or potatoes.

Appearance: straw, translucent, no bubble 

This cider looks beautifully translucent, though not brilliant. I’ll call the color straw but it warmth and golden hue are more inspiring than the name strictly denotes. I don’t see any bubbles when I pour a glass, but I’m sure they’ll there once I taste the cider. 

Aromas: riple apples, bitter orange, meyer lemon, limestone

I smell citrus and apples, but having seen a few mentions of Spanish stylings (although of sparkling wine rather than Sidra), I did expect some sour notes or even volatile acidity in the smells. They weren’t there. The aromas were more fruity and restrained which suits my preferences well. I did get some fun salivary response.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Other features that I’ll describe later only enhance the perception of dryness. Super duper dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: dry, high acid, medium tannins, citrusy

The cider tastes dry and acid driven, but it’s not sour. The acid flavors I taste are more fruity and less funky. The cider doesn’t show volatile acidity or acetic acid. Instead, and more to my personal tastes, I get tons of citrus notes from the King of Hector. It tastes like Meyer lemons, Seville orange, and just a little bit of tropical fruit. 

The King of Hector does have some tannic presence. That’s notable and enjoyable. As the notes on my phone say, “Drrrryyyyy.” The combination of medium tannins, very high acidity, and a dry cider come together to emphasize a dry, zesty, tasting experience. The King of Hector tastes lithe and a little light. I didn’t necessarily expect that because of the 8.4% ABV, but it was seasonally perfect and very refreshing. 

This is a cider for wine and cider lovers. It’s definitely sophisticated and austere. It’s precisely the kind of cider that I like to have even before I put food on the table. The King of Hector has enough to say on its own to be a delightful conversation starter. 

Star Cider's Wild Child Rhubarb 

Confession time, I’ve had these tasting notes for too long! I tasted Star Cidery’s Wild Child Rhubarb for the first time in October of 2016 at a Finger Lakes Cider Week event. I met folks from Star Cidery and learned what I could about the operation. I liked it so much that I got a bottle for later. I consumed that with friends later that winter, taking tasting notes and squirreling them away. I must have hidden them too well, as I’ve just rediscovered them. 

Star Cider makes and sells cider in the greater Rochester, New York area. The company was founded in 2014, but the founders were home cider makers long before. Reading about Star Cider’s approach, I am struck by the focus on process. Cider gets described as a journey with an expectation of change and evolution. That’s appealing  in that’s both grounded in the realities of learning a new business but also in that openness to changes is how improvements happen.  This is my first review of anything by Star Cider.

Read all about the company and the ciders on the web: http://www.starcidery.com

Or check in with the Star Cider Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StarCidery/

Today’s review is of one of Star Cider’s seasonal releases, the Wild Child  Rhubarb.

Let’s start with the official description, “Rhubarb: Fresh heirloom rhubarb is hand-picked at its peak ripeness and blended with cider made from a mix of dessert apples. This cider is crisp, tart, and tastes like biting into fresh rhubarb.”  6.9% ABV

Unofficially I learned that this cider uses 1.5 lb of rhubarb per gallon of juice. The finished cider is back sweetened with sweet cider after being fermented to dryness. The flavor was inspired by the cidermaker’s grandmother and grandfather’s recipes.

Appearance: brilliant, warm canteloupe color, visible bubbles

I wish I had better pictures of this cider. The color really is lovely with a shade that reminds me of canteloupe and beauitful clarity. 

aromas: strawberry, celery, and candy dust

Oh my goodness wow! These aromas are so neat! I definitely smell strawberry, rhubarb and apple, but also celery! There’s also so sweet and powdery candy dust lurking in the background!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This might be on the slightly sweeter side of semi-dry, but it has a powerful acidity that keeps all sweetness in check. 

Flavors and drinking experience: rhubarb zing, herby, strong sparkle

Like many of my favorite ciders both in the region and more generally, acidity orchestrates the whole experience. The Wild Child Rhubarb just vibrates with zingy acidity. But that’s not all that’s going on. I’m also completely sold on the herbaceous and vegetal notes. They integrate beautifully and really cement that rhubarb plus apple combination. This cider really works.

Part of what I enjoy about the Wild Child Rhubarb is the mouthfeel. Part of that owes to it’s powerful tartness. The cider feels fresh and medium bodied with strong bubbles. There’s also a nice backbone of apple behind everything. And I relish the long cold finish. My first tasting was in a varied set of ciders, and it really stood out. My second experience with this cider was with vegetarian chili, wheat crackers, and sharp cheddar. Both worked, but I’d love to try it with summery foods when I see this cider again.