Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cider Review: Angry Orchard's Wooden Sleeper and Weston Cider's Mortimer's Orchard Original

Snow happens here as often as it doesn’t snow these days. Winter may not be official for a couple more weeks, but the season has started. For this week, it means cozying in during the long dark evenings to write and cuddle with my cats and people. It also means choosing and reviewing ciders that I think match the new season, things with some tannin and a little bit of sweetness. At least that’s what I’m going for.

At the end of November, I had to chance to travel down to the Hudson Valley for a couple of days. I knew I’ve wanted to visit the Angry Orchard Innovation Cider House in Walden for years, so I took the opportunity. I was able to meet Ryan for a tour and taste through of several of the special ciders only available from Walden. I’ll be sharing my travel experience in the coming weeks.

For now, visit Angry Orchard online: https://www.angryorchard.com/

Today, I want to start out with Angry Orchard's Wooden Sleeper. I’ve reviewed many Angry Orchard ciders: too many to post all the links here, so I’ll share some the more recent ones.

Most recently, I enjoyed the third of the Understood in Motion collaborations, this one between Ryan Burke of Angry Orchard and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-angry-orchard-ciders.html

I tasted the Angry Orchard Spiced Apple this past winter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

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

Earlier, in March, My review of the category-exploding Rosé came out: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

A bit longer ago, I reviewed the Walden Hollow which was an early release from the Innovation Cider House in Walden: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

Here's the official description, "Wooden Sleeper is a part of the Orchard Collection which is available in bottles and on-draft at Angry Orchard in Walden, NY. Using both culinary and bittersweet apples, the cider is aged in bourbon barrels, which makes for a delicious, warming cider." ABV of  9.5%-10.5%.

Appearance: pumpkin, transparent, ring of bubbles

The cider nearly glows with a deep pumpkin color. I don’t see any bubbles within the cider but there are a ring of fine ones where the cider meets the glass. It’s transparent but that doesn’t fully come through in the pictures because of condensation.

Aromas: ginger, bourbon, caramel, cookie

Holy heavenly coziness, the Wooden Sleeper smells like ginger, baked apples, and bourbon barrel. Secondarily I get lots of other notes I associate with barrels like caramel and cookies, but there’s something more, perhaps a hint of orange?

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry

I expected a sweeter cider based on an earlier incarnation I’ve tasted of the Wooden Sleeper, but this batch tastes semi-dry. What it might be in terms of actual residual sugar, I cannot say.

Flavors and drinking experience: hearty, warm, petillant, tannic

What a hearty cider! I knew it would be based on the ABV, barrel aging, and the sweetness of previous batches. I chose it because of winter weather and a very wintery meal. The cider started with a gently bitter first note, but that was followed quickly by mellowing body and warmth from the ABV.

The Wooden Sleeper is tannic, medium acidity, and petillant, meaning it is only mildly bubbly. The flavors swirled and expanded generously. I could taste caramel, cooked apples, but other more savory notes like wood, wild rice, and mushrooms. It came back around to harvest richness that reminded me of pumpkin and brown sugar.

We paired this with a very traditional Sunday roast type meal with roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed purple potatoes, a green salad and a beef roast for the meat eaters. What a wonderfully appropriate choice. For a meal that most folks would use a red wine to pair, the Wooden Sleeper held up admirably and deliciously. It was fit for a winter feast.

Next, I want to travel back to my summer trip because I think I had a very winter friendly cider while I was in Glasgow. I had a Mortimer’s Orchard Original by Westons Cider.

I don’t know much about Mortimer’s Orchard, but you can visit the website here: http://www.mortimersorchard.co.uk/

The official description reads, “A fresh medium-dry cider with a light sparkling finish. Made from 100% fresh English apple juice.” 5% ABV. 

I had this by the half pint which is a very civilized tradition that I wish could be imported more widely to the states. A half-pint is an eight ounce pour, just perfect for many ciders.

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, pours with a mousse

This cider has a quickly disappearing bubbly mousse, but it remains very active in terms of visible sparkle. It’s transparent and a warm straw hue.

Aromas: lemon, sesame, fresh apple

The aromas from the Mortimer’s Orchard Original were not too intense. I could smell fresh apple, lemon, and sesame.  

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This has a very classic cane sugar, crystalized white sugar sweetness. It perceives as sweet to me, but I could also be responding to a lower level of acid than I’m used to from American ciders. 

Flavors and drinking experience: medium-low acid, cooked fruit, tannins, sparkly

I had this cider after dinner and a long day of walking over and through Glasgow. The flavor reminds me very much of cooked apples. It’s mellow and sweet, offering up medium-low acid. I was surprised to find medium high level of sparkle.

I enjoyed the warm fruit flavor, also the notes of grain and the nice tannic mouthfeel. These elements balance one another reasonably well. It was relaxing and refreshing on its own. I think this cider could pair well with a number of spicy foods because sweetness can be the perfect antidote to spice. I enjoyed it in summer, but I think this sort of profile would taste even better on a cold winter’s night. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Cider Review: Eden Cider's Siren Song and 2 Towns Easy Peasy

Happy December, Cider Lovers! We’re entering the last month of the calendar year, and I’m so excited about a cider event I have coming up!

I’ll be leading a talk and tasting at the Eden Boutique Taproom and Cheese Bar in Winooski, Vermont on December 19th! For those who don’t know, Winooski is just barely outside of Burlington. I know Vermont is filled with cider lovers, so I want to see you there, so we can taste great ciders from all parts of the United States and talk about different cider styles!

Read more about it and get tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/447866402411371/

Today, I’m starting with my notes on a cider by Eden Specialty Ciders Cellar Series Cider: #9 Siren Song, but I do want to share my previous Eden Ciders reviews first.

Let’s start with my number one cider of 2017: the Imperial 11 Degree Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

This year, I reviewed the Heritage canned cider: 

Back in 2015, I reviewed the Sparkling Dry, and it also made it into my top ten that year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-eden-sparkling-dry-cider.html

I relished the 2016 Sparkling Dry for Thanksgiving and my birthday celebration in 2016.

Here’s the coverage: 



The Brut Nature got a mini-review in my Cider Con 2018 coverage: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-con-2018-pt-1-eden-specialty.html

You can learn about all of Eden’s ciders on the website: https://www.edenciders.com/

And here’s the official description for the Siren Song. 
In Greek mythology the songs of the Sirens were enough to entice a Mariner to jump off his trireme, only to meet his end in the depths of the Adriatic Sea. This cider will beguile you with fruit, spice and smoke, cradled in an illusion of residual sweetness. As you follow it down to the depths of your glass, the tannins reveal themselves in astringency rather than bitterness. The complexity derives from a mix of over 20 apple varieties, harvest-pressed and fermented slow and cold as are all our heritage ciders. The curvaceous balance derives from skillful blending by our enraptured Cider team. Another glassful calls. 7.5% ABV.
This won gold in its Heritage Dry category at GLINTCAP 2018. 

Appearance: copper, brilliant, bubbly

This has the deep coppery color that tells me to expect richness and tannins. I can see the generous smattering of bubbles that whet my appetite. The cider is also completely brilliant: no haze here.

Aromas: warm applesauce, white grape, ginger

I love the warm applesauce scent that dominates this cider. There are lots of other fruity and spicy notes like white grape, ginger, and pineapple. They are lovely, but it’s the richer warmer apple notes that I find most enticing.

Sweetness/dryness: right on the Semi-dry/Semi-sweet line

As promised by the cider’s description, the Siren Song has some sweetness, but there’s not too much. I’d call it a semi-sweet, but I have a feeling that for many drinkers this would be the perfect semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, medium tannins, fruity, firm acid

All of the fruity and tropical notes from the aromas definitely translate to the flavors of the cider. That means lovely presences of ginger, pineapple, white grape, and homemade apple sauce. These tastes are driven by very pleasant and not-biting acidity. 

But that’s not all of what’s going on in this cider. What’s more difficult to articulate is the sense of richness and decadent mouthfeel. It’s a creamy, caramelly, cider with medium-high tannins.

The bubbles add great crispness and really transmit the flavor well. This is a sophisticated and satisfying cider. I paired it with spicy buttered popcorn and episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, but I would also love to serve it with homemade gingerbread and lemon sauce or with blended mushroom bisque. I can’t wait to get my hands on more. 

2 Towns Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Cider

2 Towns Ciderhouse out of Oregon shared the Easy Peasy with me, and I was happy have something a little sunny and summery to try on a rainy cold night recently. 

For background, 2 Towns Ciderhouse is based in Corvallis, Oregon; the company has been operating since 2010. 2 Towns has grown to two production facilities and a taproom. It is Oregon’s largest craft cidery. The company makes many different groups of ciders, including flagship ciders, seasonal offerings, limited releases, and collaborations.

Here are a few of my previous 2 Towns Ciderhouse reviews.

I loved The Cidre Bouche, and it made my top 10 of 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouses-cidre.html

Earlier this year I tried the Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

The rhubarb and hops of The Hop and Stalk was delightful: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-hop-and.html

Back in 2016 I tried the Bright Cider along with a travel roundup: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

And earlier this year, I tried the Pearadise as part of Very Perry May:

You can visit 2 towns online: https://2townsciderhouse.com/

The official description reads, “Citrusy and refreshing, Easy Peasy will have you leisurely drifting your way through summer. Crafted with fresh-pressed Northwest apples, Meyer lemon, raspberries and soured with lactobacillus, it's summertime and the livin's squeezy!” ABV 5%

Appearance: hazy, watermelon, bubbly

This bubbly cider has the color of beauitfully ripe watermelon flesh. It’s decidedly hazy and just looks juicy! 

Aromas:Raspberry, grapefruit, lemon, creamy

This cider smells fruity. I can smell raspberries immediately upon opening the bottle. Secondarily, there are ntoes of  grapefruit and lemon also. And there’s something about this cider that smells just so creamy.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This cider is sweet but also tart, like lemonade. 

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, bubbly, pink lemonade

Summer indeed! This is the opposite of Christmas in July because this tart fresh fruit bomb just breathes summer atmosphere and relaxation. This is a gently boozy pink lemonade with a little apple on the side.

I appreciate that the Easy Peasy has a sharp acidic finish but an easy first hit of flavor. There’s lots of Citric and malic acid in this bubbly, zesty cider. It has a medium body especially for a cider with an ABV on the lower side. A night blast of sunshine and fruit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving Ciders: Eve's Cidery's Darling Creek and Blake's Beard Bender Plus a Cider Event in Vermont!

Cider for Thanksgiving! Yes, it’s obvious but it’s just so good. There’s no way I’m going to celebrate the foodiest of all holidays without cider! This year, my mom came up to celebrate with us. And she stuck around for my birthday morning! The food and good times were simply marvelous, even with record-breaking cold temperatures. We hit -5 degrees overnight! Here’s how we incorporated cider into the Holiday!

We did cook with cider. We used a can of Blake’s Cider’s Beard Bender to add some cider notes to the vegetarian dressing, to the cooking liquid to our Celebration Roast, and into the mushroom gravy!

I use a dry yet fruit cider for cooking for most purposes. I do want to bring some acidity an apple to the finished dish. Plus cooking with cider usually enhances the compatibility for pairing with cider. I chose the Beard Bender because it is purely about the apple and neither too dry nor too sweet. It’s tart, zesty, and has some acid and tannin presence. And the Beard Bender came through for me. It improved each dish it touched markedly.

Visit the Blake’s Hard Cider website to learn about all of the ciders Blake’s makes: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

I have reviewed several Blake’s ciders, most recently the Apple Lantern: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-reviews-blakes-hard-ciders-apple.html

On the table itself, I wanted something dry, bubbly, acid-driven and sophisticated. I knew that I would get all of that and more with a bottle from Eve’s Cidery!

Eve’s Cidery is a local orchard-based cidery in Van Etten, New York. The company has been around since 2001. The cider makers planted an orchard, focusing on heritage apple varieties and cider-specific apple varieties. 

You can visit the website and learn much much  more at: http://evescidery.com

I have reviewed several Eve’s Cidery ciders before.

In 2013, I reviewed Autumn’s Gold back when the blog was first running: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-eves-ciderys-autumns-gold.html

And later that year the Beckhorn Hollow Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-eves-ciderys-beckhorn.html

I reviewed the Albee Hill in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-eves-cidery-albee-hill.html

And in 2017, Eve’s Perry was part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt3-eves-cidery-wyders.html

Eve’s Cidery made in into both posts about Cider Con 2018

This has a mini-review of a previous year’s Darling Creek: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-con-2018-pt-1-eden-specialty.html

And part 2 has a more recent year’s vintage of Autumn’s Gold: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

And perhaps my most in-depth educational experience with Eve’s Cidery was the Twilight Walk, Talk, and Picnic Dinner with cidermaker and own Autumn Shostek back in 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/cider-event-twilight-walk-talk-and.html

Now for my thoughts on Eve's Cidery's Darling Creek Batch 2017. Here’s the short description: 
Deeply layered, complex, off-dry bittersweet cider.
Evolving aromas of powdered sugar, cloves, and espresso mingle with suede leather, cowboy sweat and a bit of glamour which hang off an angular frame. The mid-palate is hefty, with a hint of refreshing bitterness which dissipates into a tropical finish of ripe, sweet-sour pineapple.
And you can read more about this particular cider’s history here: https://www.evescidery.com/ourcider/2017-darling-creek/

Appearance: antique gold, bubbly, brilliant

This brilliant cider’s color is a beautiful antique yellow gold.  As the pictures show it’s brilliant, showing off a generous helping of bubbles

Aromas: Woody, Autumnal apples, funky, savory

The Darling Creek smells woody and beautiful. This drying smell activates my salivary glands immediately. Something about it reminds me of both Oak and autumnal apples in a clean and earthy root cellar. These aromas are both funky and savory.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Wow! This is so interesting. I’ve tasted previous years of Darling Creek and found them to be pleasantly off dry, but this year’s batch perceives to me as much drier. The website still lists it as off dry, but I think the increased use of bittersweet and bittersharp apples makes it taste drier than it might be chemically.

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, dry, bubbly, tart

The Darling Creek tastes dry, tannic, funky, and astringent. And this lovely cider is oh so very very bubbly! That thrills me so! Some note in the flavor reminds me of dried leaves. The whole experience is like drinking late fall. Obviously that made it perfect for a harvest meal like Thanksgiving.

The Darling Creek has a wonderfully full mouthfeel and tons of nuanced sophisticated flavor. It’s best appreciate in small sips. That pointed acidity is zingy! I love how complicated and thoughtful this cider is. The flavors are bright with high acid and high tannin. The cider is herbal, savory, with notes of pine and white pepper. 

And with our meal, the whole experience was decadently lovely.

And I am thrilled to announce that I'll be leading a guided tasting in Winooski, Vermont at Eden's Boutique Taproom and Cheese Bar! I'm visiting on December 19th to talk about cider styles and how we can get the most out of the information on a cider's label. This should be a fantastic time! If you're anywhere near the Burlington/Winooski area, please come up!

Learn more about the event here:


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cider Reviews Colorado Cider Co's Pato Feo and Descendant Cider Company's Descendant Dry

So much for Fall in New York. Winter’s here! Our first large snow fell Thursday evening, all through the night and into Friday morning. Ten inches later, it feels like a whole new season, even before Thanksgiving. None the less, I’m getting ready for this food-filled holiday, and I’m still thinking about pairing my favorite Thanksgiving dishes with delicious ciders. That’s how I chose the two ciders to share this week. They each have a killer Thanksgiving pairing. 

Let’s start with Colorado Cider Co.’s Pato Feo. 

Colorado Cider Company volunteers the slogan, “Fresh Genuine Balanced” prominently on the website. This cider company was founded in 2011 in Denver, Colorado. There’s even a tasting room open year round for visits. 

Learn more online: https://www.coloradocider.com/

For full disclosure, this bottle was a sample sent to me for review. Here’s the official description, “This brettanomyces fermented sour cherry was aged in rum and wine barrels for over a year. After 3 months, we dubbed it the "ugly duck" but it ignored the taunts of the other ciders and proved us all wrong. Enjoy the beautiful Pato Feo!” 6.7% ABV

I did review a Colorado Cider Company cider earlier this year. I tried & enjoyed Block One: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-colorado-cider-cos-block.html

Appearance: brilliant, still, brandied cherries

This lovely cider perplexed me with it’s color. I looked up swatches of ochre, umbre, brick, and tawny. It’s brilliant and still, but the color falls into a delicious in between place with hints of red, brown, and and orange. I’ve even seen a similar shade called russet, but in the cider world, that means quite definitely something else. It’s the color of brandied cherries or certain old book bindings.

Aromas: leather, ripe apple, cherries

The Pato Feo smells like leather, cherries, and apple. It’s a rich and enticing set of aromas. But that’s not all there is to it; I also smell some hints of funky tartness like sour citrus.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

There’s a ton going out outside of sweetness/dryness, but I’d call this cider a semi-dry, but it will perceive as on the dry side of that.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, funky, fruity, barrely

The Pato Feo has some sour funk; do not mistake the promises on this bottle for exaggerations.

This cider surprised a few of my companions when it was still. I explained that many ciders this barrely are going to be still. This one certainly is barrely, dark and fruity, while being quite tannic.

The fact that the Pato Feo is semi-dry makes it easier to pair with foods, because it has some astringence. I think it makes a great choice for Thanksgiving because it tastes more sour and astringent with many sips, and that makes it an excellent palate cleanser for the heavy rich foods of the holiday. I love this cider a root veggie roast. It’s easy to cut and roast turnips, parsnips, carrots, onion, and Brussels Sprouts all together after a quick drizzle of olive oil and balsamic and a sprinkle of pepper and salt. This cider complements all those earthy flavors beautifully.

My second cider review for the week is Descendant Cider Company’s Dry.

I have previously tasted their Succession: 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

I reviewed the English Kills back in August: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Read all about the Queens-based New York company on its website: http://www.descendantcider.com/

Here’s the official description of this limited edition Descendant Dry cider, “Dry has strong ripe apple aromas and bright acidity balanced with bittersweet tannin. It is medium body and bone dry. It also has bright appearance as a result of the aging process.” 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: Brilliant, popcorn, bubbly

This cider isn’t still! I can see a gathering of bubbles in my glass and it makes my mouth water to see them. The rich golden color reminds me of unpopped popcorn. The cider is brilliant in terms of clarity.

Aromas: ripe apple, parmesan, chalk

This cider smells like so many things that I associate with a crisp, acid-driven cider. The dry smells like ripe apple, chalk, and Parmesan.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry yet fruity cider. There’s a ton of flavor.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, acidic, tropical, dry

This is such a fun yet serious cider! It’s absolutely perfect for the main event of the Thanksgiving meal, the Celebration roast! (Or Tofurkey or Qorn Roast) or whatever you put at the center of the table. It reminds me of overripe apples but without the sweetness.

The Dry offers up thrillingly high acid. This cider will curl your toes with how tart and zesty it is. I get pineapple and tropical fruit notes all over it, and I can taste peach as well. It’s just loaded with so much fruit presence for a dry cider.

In terms of texture the dry has lots of bubbles and a relatively light mouthfeel. It has some light tannins, but most of the excitement comes from the acidity. I love this for an entree, but it really is a flexible enough cider you could enjoy it with all the elements of a classic Thanksgiving feast.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cider Reviews: Big Hill Ciderworks Little Round Hop and Black Diamond Cider's Slatestone

My weekend started with some surprise snow on Saturday morning! One moment, I’m admiring the sunshine and sipping coffee, only to look up again and see swirling snowflakes on a cold wind. As much as it feels like a surprise, it is time for the approach of winter here. Thanksgiving is next Thursday! I can barely believe it. I hope you’ll be setting your holiday table with some ciders. I have two very food-friendly ciders to share this week to lead us closer to the dinner table. 

We’re starting today with a hopped cider from Big Hill Ciderworks. 

This Adams County Pennsylvania cidery was started in 2013 by two men who met years earlier in a very different industry but who both dreamt of farming. Therefore the cider company makes very clear that farming is the priority. That doesn’t mean it’s all they do. They grow their own apples, make and bottle the cider as well as doing their own sales and distribution. That’s quite a lot ot master in 5 years, and yet the company has a fantastic reputation, even outside of the state. 

I got to take my sample bottle home after a cider competition when I was judging. Sometimes we get lucky like that. I cannot buy most Pennsylvania ciders anywhere near Ithaca, so I was very excited to get to try this one a while ago. 

You can learn more online about Big Hill Ciderworks here: http://www.bighillcider.com

Here’s the official description for the Little Round Hop, “To elevate this cider’s bright, citrusy personality, we’ve dry-hopped it, using a blend of whole leaf Columbus, Centennial & Cascade hops – the legendary “three C’s.”  Organic lemongrass focuses the hop overtones and adds a citrusy finish to this light and effervescent cider.  Available year round.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: Brilliant, bright corn, no visible bubbles

This cider offers  such a lovely brilliant clarity. I don’t see any bubbles when I pour it, and the color is a like ripe bright corn on the cob.

Aromas: pear, piney, grapefruit, ripe apple

The Little Round Hop smells fruity, juicy, like pear and ripe apples. But it also smells like hops peppery, piney, grapefruit rind—a little sweaty. I love that the ripe apple notes come through alongside the hops. 

Dryness/sweetness: semi-sweet

You’ll find out a lot more about this cider from the tasting notes, but I taste this one as a semi-sweet in a pleasant balanced way.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, fruity, high acid, sweet finish

The Little Round Hop makes a big impression with its strong acid and citrus flavors. These notes are accompanied by some dark cooked apple presence and a maple finish. The cider delights me with intense bubbles! Two thumbs up for a very clean fermentation and good balance overall.

 Though the cider is fruity, it’s also hoppy but not overly so. I detect a notes of pine and green tea. The fruit reminds me of ripe apple at the start. Very little yeast characteristics is separately distinguishable. I enjoy the round and notably pleasant mouthfeel. As my tasting companion noticed; this works well  in big drinks.

I had this cider over the course of two nights. The first glass was simply paired with good conversation after dinner and the second night I had a glass with a brownie. I think you could pair this cider with a wide variety of foods, including a number of comforting Thanksgiving-appropriate side dishes like savory dressing or honey-butter carrots. 

One of my absolute favorite cideries in the Finger Lakes has to be Black Diamond Cider. If you aren’t already familiar, here’s the briefest of backgrounds  Ian and Jackie Merwin, long-term home cidermakers, orchardists, and farmers, founded this company in 2014. Dr. Ian Merwin is a Professor Emeritus at Cornell University in Pomology, specializing in cider. He and Jackie founded their own fruit orchard in the finger lakes, near Trumansburg, New York. These apples go into Black Diamond Cider. 
You can read much more about them and their ciders at Black Diamond Cider's Website: http://blackdiamondcider.com

I'm concluding this week’s reviews with the Slatestone. This cider was shared with me for review by the generous souls at Black Diamond. I've tasted it many times and taken my impressions from more than handful of tastings.

I have reviewed a couple of the company’s ciders previously. 

This cider was my #2 favorite cider of 2017!

The Hickster:
This was my #3 favorite cider in 2016

And the Pommeau made an appearance at the Locavore Birthday pairing dinner in 2017:

The Slatestone’s Official Description is helpfully complete. 
2017 SlateStone Cider is our “terroir” blend made from heirloom apples, fermented slow and cool, and bottled without filtration or preservatives. This cider is crisp and completely dry with no residual sugars. It has aromas of russet green apples and limes, and can be paired with many different foods. It tastes best when chilled before serving. 
Tasting Notes: Soft tannins, minerals, limes, and tart green apple with a dry, sharp finish 
Alcohol: 7.5%  Residual Sugar: 0% (Dry)  PH: 3.6  TA:  7.5 g/L 
European Bittersweets  – 40%             North American Heirloom Sharps – 60%
2017 Harvest: Goldrush, Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey, Zabergau Reinette
The other background that’s really amazing is not only the Gold Medal from GLINTCAP in 2018 but that this cider made #3 best in its category, Heritage Dry. This is a big deal!

Appearance: deep butternut color, transparent, no visible bubbles

Oh my, my mouth waters just as soon as I pour this one. The color on the Slatestone is so deep and vibrant. In this season it reminds me of a just peeled butternut squash. I don’t see any bubbles, though I know they will be there. This is an unfiltered cider, and I’d not call it brilliant or hazy. It’s simply transparent. 

Aromas: soft overripe apples, Meyer lemon, Persian lime

Luscious aromas are the number association I have with Black Diamond ciders and the Slatestone exemplifies this beautifully. This one smells like overripe apples softened by the warm afternoon sun. But it also smells like a zest of bright citrus, like Persian Lime and Meyer Lemon. I get a strong salivary response just from smelling the Slatestone.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

What a lovely dry cider! It has so much flavor and intensity while remaining unambiguously dry. Some of this is the decadent big blend of apples, but I think it’s also in how Black Diamond crafts the cider.  

Flavors and drinking experience: intensely sparkling, pointed acid, round fruits

Use this cider for Thanksgiving. Just do. It’s a high acidity cider with strong sparkle that will lighten heavier foods. These bubbles also help carry and expand flavors, giving it a lot of flexibility for pairing. I’ll have it with a Celebration Roast, but one could serve it with the more traditional turkey for Thanksgiving. 

The same apple and citrus flavors that were evident in the ciders aromas come through for flavors as well. The scintillating freshness comes with the citrus and minerality. That wasn’t as present when only smelling the cider but the flavors do include sharp minerals and even peppery notes. These sharp flavors are balanced beautifully with the richness of ripe fermented apples.  

The overall impressions of this cider are sophistication, balance, and lightness. The Slatestone makes some big promises with its gorgeous aromas, and, thankfully, it delivers.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cider Reviews: Finnriver's Lavender Black Currant and Peckham's Cider with Boysenberry

Hey cider friends. I am so sorry to have a late blog post up this week, but I’m glad it’s here late rather than not at all. I got knocked out with a cold late in the weekend, and I’m only just now crawling out from under the germs. But before falling ill, I was able to try two really intriguing ciders this week. But before we get to the reviews I do want to give one last show out to Cider Week NYC!

It's happening all over the city from through November 11th. Read about it here: https://ciderweeknyc.com/nyc/

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest coming up November 8th! There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lower-east-cider-fest-tickets-50910466576

On to Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant Cider!

Finnriver is a farm based cidery on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in the Chimacum Valley. The cidery is organic and very locally minded. They have a year round cider garden and an active events calendar for visitors. 

You can find out all about the company on it’s website: https://www.finnriver.com

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

The official description of Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant is divided into sections online, so I will share a few including the Cidermaker’s Notes.

 “Our botanical ciders share the earthy essence of life in the fields and forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Small batch seasonal production features cider fermented on the farm, blended cider with organic black currant, and then steeped with organic lavender flowers sourced from local farms (Jardin de Soleil and Wilderbee Farms) A final addition of unrefined organic cane sugar adds depth, sweetness and flavor. Lightly carbonated.” 6.5% ABV

And the aromas and flavors are described, “Bright apple fruit balanced by berry complexity and the rich, floral depth of local, organic Royal Velvet lavender. Notes of purple and chocolate.” The apples aren’t listed super specifically, but they are organic eating varieties from Washington state. 

Appearance: Deepest glow of purple, impossible to tell clarity, few visible bubbles

Wow! I am amazed by this cider’s impossibly deep color; it looks black at most angles. I can see deepest purple color when light shines through the cider but only then. I cannot tell how brilliant versus hazy this cider is. The color is so dark that the question is difficult. There aren’t many visible bubbles.  

Aromas: lavender, black currants, and ripe apples

This cider smells like all of its constituent parts: lavender, dark berries, and apples. I appreciate that all elements are distinct and notable. The overall impression is one that’s primarily herbal but also fruity. I also get hints that make me think this cider will be semi-sweet. For those who fear that lavender might smell too soapy, rest assured it’s only one note in the whole.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider that might perceive as semi-dry to some drinkers. The level of acidity and complexity of flavors make this one a little challenging to quantify.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, lots of black currant flavor, medium-low sparkle

The first thing I notice when I sip the Black Currant and Lavender is the different balance of the three elements when compared to the cider’s aroma. The cider loses intensity of apple flavor as compare to its aroma, but it increases the black currant flavor and maintains a consistent lavender presence. Both levels are lovely, but they are distinct.

Other elements of the drinking experience that stood out to me is how the cider is a medium-low level of bubbly but with lots of body. Again and again the cider’s tartness makes its presence felt. The very first hint of flavor introduces that tart zing and it lasts through to the cider’s finish.

I had mine with a dinner of a fried egg with savory carrots and little broccoli and cauliflower patties. The cider’s sharpness was a pleasurable contrast to my salty, garlicy, vegetables and egg. I like the body and tartness very much, and I appreciate that the lavendar isn’t overpowering. I could still enjoy a bit stronger apple presence to balance both of the adjunct flavors, but it was plenty tasty as is. 

Peckham’s cider with Boysenberry

I found this cider on a trip home to Louisville to visit my family. After having tasted some of Peckham’s ciders at CiderCon, I was thrilled to have the chance to try another one. Finding these ciders is something of a rarity because the cidery is in New Zealand. Luckily Shelton Brothers imports some varieties, but they still aren’t seen everywhere.

Caroline and Alex Peckham planted their current orchard in New Zealand in 2007, but the couple has been orcharding in New Zealand since 2004. Though the company is now bigger than its roots as a two person operation, it still has the feel and approachability of a small family agricultural business.

Here’s a link to  the Peckham’s website which describes all of the company’s ciders: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

I have reviewed one Peckham’s cider before, the Wild All the Way: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s the Official description: “This delightful cider is made with heritage Moutere apples and boysenberries grown in the Peckham’s orchard. 120 grams of Riwaka Choice boysenberries in a pint deliver a fresh-picked, intense berry taste, but the background cider still comes through. It pours a rich deep red.” ABV of 5.7%.

Appearance: deep deep red, brilliant, no visible bubbles 

This is a lovely cider to see. It looks like a rich red wine with its deep dark red color. When looking carefully I can see that it’s brilliant, and it doesn't show much in the way of visible bubbles. 

Aromas: grape, black currants, malic acid

The cider with Boysenberries smells to me  like grapes and black currants. I don’t know Boysenberries particuarly well as a fresh fruit. I’ve eaten them but not more than a few times. It’s a tart berry not unlike a blackberry, but I’ve found them often less sweet. 

Certain smells in the cider remind me of both citric acid and malic acid. A few notes add depth and darkness like dark malt and chocolate too. It’s a wholly intriguing smell that makes me even more excited to try the cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

Like many berry balanced ciders. It it almost certainly more sweet than it tastes because the berry notes add so much flavor that’s not in a traditional apple-only cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, burnt sugar, dark berries

I can definitely still taste a dark berry flavor, but something I didn’t expect from the aroma is a fun burnt sugar note. This is not an American berry cider. There’s some different flavors and the overall profile is much less acid based. 

I think this cider has a beautiful balanced finish. Maybe it’s because I am American, I do find it a teensy bit low on acid, then a full second later the apple flavor comes through to give the finish a great boost. It gets plenty of tannins from berries and likely some of the apples as well.

Overall, I find this cider very pleasant and balanced. I had this cider with a homemade hearty vegetable soup, and it was excellent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cider Reviews: Woodchuck Ciders' Bubbly Rose & Awestruck Cider's Hometown Homicider + NYC Cider Week

October starts getting dark and darker and darker still. But with Halloween, we balance out all things dark and scary with plenty that’s sweet and fun. So, in honor of the sweet side of the season, I want to review two fun semi-sweet or sweet seasonal pics! Hopefully that’s not too scary for the cider purists out there! ; ) I promise I’ll be back next month with some love for ya!

I’m excited to finish up the month with one last Halloween pick for the year, Awestruck Cider’s Hometown Homicider! When we get there, don’t forget to check out the minimal yet totally evocative label! But to begin with a semi-sweet  look back to summer with Woodchuck Ciders’ Bubbly Rosé. This cider is all dressed up in pink and ready for a party!

I’ve reviewed a number of Woodchuck’s ciders over the year’s of the this blog. Here are just a smattering of the more recent reviews. 

I still miss Woodchuck’s June and Juice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cider-review-woodchucks-june-and-juice.html

There are a couple different versions of the Local Nectar: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-woodchucks-local-nectar.html

I reviewed the Pear Ginger as part of Very Perry May this year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-review-of-woodchucks.html

And I also liked their pepper-blended Hot Cha Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

You can read all about Woodchuck’s ciders and events online: http://www.woodchuck.com

Woodchuck Bubbly Rosé

The official description is relatively short, “A bubbly, fruit-forward blush cider made with a blend of red apples delivering a crisp mouth feel” so i want to include a few quotes from the press release that I think give some helpful background. 

I really enjoyed how this quote contextualizes both of the new can releases, “with our newest offering, we are inspired by wine. Woodchuck is excited to introduce Bubbly Rosé and Bubbly Pearsecco ciders.” Woodchuck is framing these ciders in reference to popular wine styles. And here’s just a little more about the cider itself, “Taking a bite out of the Rosé wine category, which is experiencing meteoric growth, Woodchuck’s Bubbly Rosé is crafted using a blend of red apples and back sweetened with fresh juice to deliver a balanced cider with a pink hue and elevated carbonation for a sparkling crisp fruit forward taste.” The ABV for the Rosé is 6.1%

For full transparency, this is a sample that was shared with me for review. 

Appearance: deep pink, brilliant, some bubbles

This is one pretty cider! The clarity is just so brilliant. It shines. It’s a deep rich pink with a few visible buttles. They use purple carrots to enhance the color. 

Aromas: hibiscus, minerals, berries, dust

The Rosé smells very much like hibiscus. For those unfamiliar, all of the red tart notes in any of the classic zinger herbal teas. I also get notes of minerals in that dusty stony way. I can also smell blackberry notes.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This will taste either like a semi-sweet or sweet cider depending on who tastes it. If you notice initial flavors more it will come across as semi-sweet, but if you are particular sensitive to how ciders finish, this will taste sweet as the finish is sweet.  

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, high acid, fruity

As promised and to my delight, the Rosé is very bubbly. That light and springy feeling is underscored by how high the acid levels are in this cider. Yowza! THought it’s mildly tart it isn’t at all sour. I enjoy the bubbly and tart qualities about it plenty. The cider tastes fruity like blackberries and strawberries. There’s also an almost a classic old-school bubblegum note, but that could just be my brain’s susceptibility. 

I find the Bubbly Rosé pleasant! I enjoyed mine with the first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Though I enjoyed it and the show plenty, the cider is not of a style I usually prefer.  I like how the tastes attack, and I appreciate those bubbles. The finish is a touch on the sweet side for my personal preferences. Still if you like strawberries, blackberries, or crave one last hint of summer, this is a fine Rosé choice!

Awestruck Ciders' Hometown Homicider

Now for my last Halloween cider of the year and perhaps the most seasonally apt of them all. 
The Hometown Homicider is a cider with Pumpkin aged in a bourbon barrel Not only is this cider sweet and pumpkin-y it’s also just a bit scary with the name and label. Awestruck is based out of Sidney, New York. The company has been around since 2014. 

I have previously reviewed the Hibiscus Ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-awestruck-premium-hard.html This one even made my top ten in 2015!

You can visit Awestruck Ciders online: https://www.awestruckciders.com/

Check the FAQ, it’s hilarious: https://www.awestruckciders.com/faq.html

The Hometown Homicider’s Official description reads, “Lightly spiced, vanilla bean, ripe pumpkin, in a warming Bourbon Barrel finish” ABV of 6.8%.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, caramel color

This just looks like when I make caramel. It’s the right color, hazy and bubbly. And if you’ve not made homemade caramel, I highly recommend trying it for popcorn or to pour over a spice cake. 

Aromas: brown sugar, cheesecake, caramel, melon and flowers

Holy autumnal dessert aromas! The Hometown Homicider smells strongly of brown sugar, caramel, and cheesecake. These are the aromas I expected but the cider also includes notes of melon and flowers. Neat!

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet!

This is a sweet cider. Do not expect anything different than rich desserty sweetness!
Flavors and drinking experience: rich, sweet, roasted fruit, caramel, medium acid

THe strongest impression I get when I drink this cider is how rich and very flavorful it is.
The Homicider has Medium acidity, but all of the acids taste rounded out. I get the roasted pumpkin but more than that the pumpkin is melded with roasted apple, caramel, and brown sugar. It has a nice full body, probably because of that sweetness.

I enjoyed this cider with a simple meal, all the better to let the complexity and intensity of this cider shine through. It paired with cajun-spiced tilapia, steamed cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and brown rice. I thought the moderate spiciness of the fish was brought into excellent harmony by the sweetness of this cider.

Though it’s not a cider review, I cannot forget to talk about Cider WeekNew York City! It's coming up soon from November 2nd through 11th.

Read about it here: https://ciderweeknyc.com/nyc/

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest. There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lower-east-cider-fest-tickets-50910466576