Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cider Review: Portland Cider Company Pineapple and Two Towns Ciderhouse Pacific Pineapple

Dear cider lovers, it has been a busy month! Cider Con and the Gathering of the New York Farm Cideries are both big events in my world. I'm so glad that a month as gray as February has these things to enjoy within it. But, I am glad to return to my more usual reviews. One things I like especially about doing my event write ups is getting to include at least mini-tasting notes on multiple different ciders. I want to continue that pattern today with a double review of pineapple ciders.

Lots of companies make pineapple ciders, sometimes with additional flavors or with a varying amount of pineapple inclusion. They can be a divisive beverage, because some folks never want a tropical fruit in their ciders while other people would drink pineapple cider all the time. I fall somewhere in the middle, but I do love pineapple on my pizza. Deal with it. Today's review includes Portland Cider Company's Pineapple and Two Towns Ciderhouse's Pacific Pineapple.

Full disclosure: both of these ciders were shared with me as samples for review.

First, a little background about each of the cider companies.

Portland Cider Company

This cider company claims inspiration from England's cidermaking tradition and yet at least one foot in the modern world of experimental craft cidermaking. Lynda and Jeff Parrish have been running Portland Cider Company since 2012.

And you can visit them online: https://www.portlandcider.com/

I have one previous review the Kinda Dry by Portland Cider Company: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Their pineapple cider is just called Pineapple, and its official description reads, “Like a sun filled day cruising down the Valley Isle, our pineapple cider brings a tropical oasis to your mouth. Sweetened with fresh pressed pineapple juice, this seasonal cider might as well come with a little paper umbrella. ABV 6%”

They include a little production information online as well, “We use whole pineapples that we fresh squeeze in the back of our cidery, added to our cider after fermentation to reach the perfect balance of sweetness. There are no artificial flavorings or concentrates used here, keeping the flavor of the pineapple delicate and delicious.”

Appearance: bright jeweler's brass, brilliant, bubbly

This cider reminds me of jeweler's brass in its bright golden shade of yellow. This is a brilliant cider with lots of visible bubbles.

Aromas: pineapple, tropical flowers, stone

This smells extremely fresh and fruity. It doesn't offer a lot of apple characteristics, but the pineapple sure smells tasty.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This cider tastes semi-sweet, packed to the gills with fruitiness.

Flavors and drinking experience: Fresh, pineapple, tart

I found this cider super fresh and natural. The pineapple dominates the flavor profile, but it always stays vibrant and juicy rather than sticky or stale. The freshness of the pineapple is supported in no small part by the pleasantly high acid. There were hints of stony, dusty, floral flavors but everything worked together in a tasty approachable way. 

2 Towns: Pacific Pineapple

This Portland and Corvallis based cidery has been operating for eight years and always sharing tasty and innovative specialty ciders. These run the gamut from traditional to wild. Check out my previous reviews for more background on the cidery.

Find out all about them on the website: https://2townsciderhouse.com/

Recently, I reviewed their Cidre Bouche:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouses-cidre.html This cider also made my Ten Favorite Ciders List of 2017.

I've also reviewed their Bright Cider in a round up from 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

My first review of a 2 Towns cider was their Hop and Stalk: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-hop-and.html
This cider made my 10 Favorite Ciders list of 2014.

Official description:
Juicy and tropical, Pacific Pineapple rolls ripe Costa Rica golden pineapples into fresh-pressed Northwest apples. This refreshingly juicy and easy drinking session cider will relax your state of mind, no matter your locale! 5% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, bright pineapple color, no bubbles

I couldn't see any bubbles in this cider. I could see that it was unfiltered and had a bold yellow color just like ripe pineapple flesh.

Aromas: pineapples

This cider smells rampantly and lusciously like pineapple. Again, there's not much apple but the pineapple that's here smells amazing. Everything about this cider smells tropical; it's juicy, floral, and somehow even manages to connote warmth on this February day. It also has a hint of that stony dust aroma that I find often and quite like.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is unambiguously a sweet cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, pineapple, punch

Let's start with the obvious. This cider is fun! It has nearly stinging High acid that help balance out the tropical fruit sweetness. The Pacific Pineapple reminds me of punch or even fresh pineapple juice, but everything in the flavors tastes very real. It had some hefty mouthfeel but no tannin, no chalk or bitterness. It was very peachy and floral. This is a totally approachable and drinkable cider for those who love pineapple.

I had both of these with vegetarian mexican food with lots of spice, beans, cheese and peppers. The sweetness worked particularly well with spicy notes. All in all, they were a delightful experience exploring the pineapple as adjunct fruit for cider. Sometimes it is the best way to handle February to just escape to a warm and fruity vision of summer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gathering of the New York Farm Cideries: Nine Pin Ciderworks, Treasury Cider, Awestruck Cider, and Descendant Cider Co.

This past Saturday, I bundled some friends who happen to be fellow cider nerds into the car to make the trek up to Albany for the Fourth Annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries. For a little background, this is a New York even that Nine Pin hosts yearly to celebrate the birthday of their own business, but also to celebrate a whole generation of young NY cideries that operate under New York's Farm Cidery license. Nine Pin was the first to open as an official NY Farm Cidery, so it makes all the sense in the world that they gather everyone to Albany. I love that these cider companies are forming a community and sharing their huge range of beverages with the public together. This is crucial cider education!

Each year, more cideries work under this license and are thus eligible to take part. This year around 17 cider companies participated by setting up a table, sampling, introducing and selling their ciders under one warehouse roof. That's one of the things I love about the gathering. Some of these operations are either quite young or quite small, and many self distribute to a very limited local area. This may be the only chance many people have to buy anything from Roger's Cideryard(https://www.facebook.com/RogersCideryard/), and it was assuredly my first tasting with Ithaca's newest cider producer: New York Cider Co. (https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkCiderCompany/).

When we arrived, about 20 minutes after doors were due to open, there was already a line stretching around the corner from the cidery's entrance. One of the things to note about Ninepin is their extensive and agile menu of limited release ciders. Several of these are only ever available in their tap room and only around for a short time. These run the gamut from this year's Ashmead's Kernel single-varietal to the wildly inventive such as their Blueberry Peach Cobbler. And I think their adventurousness has rubbed off on Albany's cider scene more generally, hence the folks waiting for doors to open on Saturday.

Once inside I tasted and chatted and listened to what other folks were saying about the sold-out event.

I didn't get to try everything; I never manage to, but I did find several things to take home. But here are four highlights of what I did get to try.

Nine Pin Ciderworks,

Cascara Nectar

This is a soon to be officially released cider and it was astounding! Cascara is the berry of the coffee plant, but this cider struck me as tart and spicy more than anything else. This cider is the result of a collaboration between Nine Pin and Joe Bean Coffee Roasters. It uses Cascara Coffee Cherry Tea and the hulks of Bolivian Cascara fermented with New York State Apples. I bought a four pack of cans to take home because this spicy, fruity, high acid cider exhibits what I love about experimental ciders. The apple flavor remains present but does something new with these additional flavors.

Here's a link to Joe Bean and Nine Pin's Release party coming up soon on February 24th: https://www.facebook.com/events/147819415930296/

Treasury Cider
Burr Knot

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

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

Wow! Just wow! I've had other ciders by this maker, but nothing in the past year. They've really matured and this cider shows their best qualities. Yes, I'm fond of a cider with crab apples, but the maker has to do know what to do with them. Treasury Cider certainly does!

Awestruck Cider
Lavender Hopped

I love their introduction to this cider.
Think of lavender and you imagine rows of sun-kissed purple, with a gentle scent of Mediterranean summer evenings. Our Lavender Hops is created to capture the same sensation of warm, fragrant summertime. We infuse our traditional hard cider with a secret blend of hops and sweet lavender. This adds a mildly bitter complexity which, together with the citrus and floral undertones, combines to produce a unique flavour. Like a summer evening, Lavender Hops is mellow - perfect for cider and beer drinkers alike

This one sold out entirely at the event! I loved it and one of my cider compatriots did too. The lavender tastes herbal without being soapy. The cider has zesty high acid that always goes well with hops. Its a balanced and full bodied cider. Other fruit notes were tropical fruit and berries.

Descendant Cider Co.

The limited release Descendant Dry is introduced like this by the cidery,
DESCENDANT DRY (6.9%) - 2016 Harvest availableDry" 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.
What I like about this cider is both its body and its balance. It has some zesty acidity, mild astringence, and soft tannins. It also had some floral and spicy characteristics that really add to its complexity. Yum! I also picked up a few of their other ciders for future tasting.

Overall, it was a wonderful day. Yes, there were cider donuts! Nine Pin Ciderworks really knows how to host this event well. They managed a big crowd and avoided many of the common pitfalls to such events. I had a fantastic time and only wish I could visit these cider folks more often.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

CiderCon Part 2 including Heritage Cider Tasting with Foggy Ridge, Eve's Cidery, Castle Hill, and Dragon's Head Cider

Before I get into the rest of my CiderCon highlights, I do want to share a few facts I've learned about this year's event. Baltimore's convention hosted 1100 people from 12 countries and 41 states. Wow! That's fantastic attendance, and the number one thing that shocks people when they ask me about CiderCon. No one expects it to be this populated. I think folks must under-estimate the devotion cider inspires!

My Friday started with an amazing panel, “Heritage Cider: Keys to Success in this Next Growth Category.” Diane Flint of Foggy Ridge Cider (https://foggyridgecider.com/) led this talk with verve, humor, and a compelling argument. Flint used pictures of her home state of Virginia to start in on the connection of land to cider, but soon used what at first seemed like a little local color with pictures of church signs to make her largest point. One sign said “Repent,” and Flint took us on a little etymological journey about the word. The takeaway was that to repent means to think again.

Flint used this theme to discuss several facets of heritage cider: orchards, format, style, and sales. What I appreciate is that she didn't just bring her own perspective as a talented cidermaker and business owner, but also brought on folks affiliated with on and off premise sales as well as Autumn Stoscheck of Eve's Cidery. Stoscheck has been growing her We also tasted a few heritage ciders

Eve's Cidery: Autumn's Gold

Three significant cider apples adding to this blend include Ellis, Dabinette, and Yarlington Mill. This cider was generous with smoky and overripe apple aromatics. Autumn's gold is a champagne style cider that has undergone two fermentations, spent nine months on the lees, and was finished with hand disgorgement. Like many Finger Lakes Ciders, much of the mouth feel comes from the double impression of high acids and medium to high tannins. The lingering finish on this cider totally wows me.

Castle Hill's Levity

The heritage fruit in the Levity includes Yarlington Mill, Golden Hornet, Dabinette and Albemarle Pippin. This cider spents time underground fermenting in amphora. Whatever they did, the resulting cider had more sparkling champagne-esque bubbles than anything in the champagne-style cider tasting the day before. Mesmerizing! I found it floral balanced with grassy. My primary experience was the duelling excitement of really strong bubbles with lippy, grippy tannins. There are almost no ciders in the world that do this tense and exciting combination like the Levity does.

Dragon's Head Cider Traditional Cider

This is an estate bittersweet cider. I enjoyed how it is a little yeasty and wild in its aromas. The most like an English cider in style, I found the Traditional astringent, bitter, and leathery. It is full of big big flavors and substantial body. It did have some excellent bubble in the mouthfeel. It's earthy, funky, with medium high acidity and wowza levels of tannins. This cider was a lot less fruity than the others in the tasting.

Hearing from not only cider producers but also from folks selling heritage cider both on and off premise made this panel well-rounded and persuasive. It had to be a highlight of the conference for certain!

Friday afternoon centered around the events planning and management panel: “Let's Get this Cider Party Started” with Jenn Smith, Eric Foster and Mattie Beason. In addition to having that adorable name and greeting us with cans of wonderful cider, this panel covered a hot topic of the conference.

This was a fantastic panel that packed the room with folks passionately eager to learn how to run events with their cideries. It said to me that if there's one area I think next year's Cider Con could meaningfully expand upon its this! One panel gave the audience a lot of help, but we were hungry for even more. Our speakers brough a pleasing variety of event experience to the stage including events large and small, for individual cideries, groups, and focuses that range, including, education, food and drink pairings, music, fund raising, and just enlivening slow week nights at a taproom.

Panelists gave answers to moderator questions that started out with the basics but included lots of real life stories and even got into some of the tricky stuff. How does one estimate how many people will show up for an even the first, second, or third time it happens. Audience members shared questions and got thoughtful answers that really showed the usefully different perspectives represented. It really makes me want to run some fun cider events up in the Finger Lakes!

Cider Con ended with a “New Zealand Cidermakers Panel” that led directly into the “Grand Tasting and Commencement Toast”. Here our guest cider makers from New Zealand answered questions from Ciderologist Gabe Cook (http://www.theciderologist.com) and from the audience.
My favorite of these was Wild all the Way by Peckhams Cider(https://peckhams.co.nz/). This cider is a bit non-traditional in that a third of the juice is from Comice pears. All of the New Zealand ciders showed some real stylistic differences from other cider regions; this was great for me to learn as I went into Cider Con 2018 with virtuall no knowledge of a New Zealand cider culture. I didn't even know what I was missing.

The evening continued with generous sharing and good times. I spent it at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant with cider friends old and new eating coconut milk lobster bisque and vegetable tempura. Delightful!

What's next you might, ask. The Gathering of the Farm Cideries in Albany!

At this sold out event, 17 New York State Cideries will be sampling there wares under one roof! I'll be on the scene with some beverage industry friends to scope and sip and tell you all about it!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cider Con 2018 Pt 1: Eden Specialty Ciders, Eve's Cidery, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Snowdrift Cider Co.

CiderCon has to be one of my favorite events in the cider year! I get to catch up with friends from all over the country (and some from even further afield), attend professional workshops and classes, meet new cider folks, and taste ciders I would never ordinarily have access to. Pure pomme bliss.

For reference, and a trip down memory lane, here are a few posts from my previous CiderCons from 2015 through last year.











My CiderCon 2018 started on Wednesday almost immediately after I arrived. I rushed through check in and on to the Media Meet and Greet where members of the media got an introduction to all of the United States Association of Cider Makers'(USACM) board members. Not only that, we got to taste some of their ciders.

I want to introduce two of our hosts in particular here, because they have been so active in USACM in 2017.

Michelle McGrath: Executive Director. This is Michelle's second CiderCon and her first as a drinker, because she spent last year's CiderCon 5 months pregnant! Michelle has been an inexhaustible force for organization, consensus building, and a juggernaut of of achievement in her tenure thus far as our Executive Director, working with the group to achieve legislation changes, put out the USACM Style Guide, funding academic research grants on cider, and working actively with Nielson to get the valuable cider sales data that tells us how the cider market is functioning.

Bruce Nissen: President and Owner of Jester and Judge Cider. Bruce has been part of Cider Con and USACM before they were official events or organizations. This quote from Bruce's letter in our program really does capture the spirit of CiderCon for me, “There are few industries where you have a chance to cross paths with the founders, the legends, and the upstarts in such a relaxed and open conference.” I find that to be absolutely true, as someone who came into this scene as a fan five years ago.

A major tradition at CiderCon that always gets people talking and tasting together is our Cider Share. Cideries apply to have a table and share some of their ciders with members of the media, other cider and beverage industry professionals, and CiderCon attendees.

The best part for me is how broad the CiderShare is. I had ciders that I cannot buy because they aren't sold in New York and don't yet ship. Two highlights for me were ciders from Estonia  made by Jaanihans (http://www.jaanihanso.ee/our-cider/) and from Treehorn out of Atlanta, Georgia (http://www.treehorncider.com/).

Part of what USACM is doing with CiderCon is using this event to anchor cider within the host city, and this year that meant sponsoring the inaugural Cider Week Baltimore!

My Tuesday evening was taking advantage of Cider Week Baltimore by going to the La Cuchara and Black Twig Txotx Cider Tasting at La Cuchara. Black Twig (http://www.blacktwigciderhouse.com/) is a cider focused restaurant and tap house in Durham, North Carolina. They specialize in Spanish style cider's poured from barrels called Txotx. Co-owner Mattie Beason was on hand to share the cider and help us get the hang of those long Sidra pours straight from the barrel.

But the event wasn't just cider. La Cuchara (https://www.lacucharabaltimore.com/) brought an array of pintxos, tray after tray of delectable basque-inspired bites. My favorite had to be the pimientos del piquillo rellenos de atĂșn (roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna), but the egg tortas, Pan con tomate and little chocolate cakes made for some stiff competition.

One of the most awesome parts of this year's Cider Con is the Heritage Cider Track along with tastings.This is a whole schedule of events focused on cider made from heritage and cider specific fruit. Other terms for it include fine cider and orchard cider. Where I live in the Finger Lakes, we make a lot of it, so I feel like this is highlighting a type of cider I know well and love to drink. These workshops address orcharding, cider production, marketing, sales, and the very ethos of what Heritage Cider means.

The first of these that I attended was the Champagne Method Cider panel with Cider Tasting. I was super excited about this one because so many of my favorite ciders are naturally sparkling and this talk and tasting got into the deep dark details of Pet Nat vs Method Charmat vs Method Ancestrale. This is why I come to CiderCon!

Eden Specialty Ciders: Unreleased Brut Nature
This cider has no label yet. It's made with 50% bittersweet cider apples and a second batch of cider. No dosage and no tirage. It spent seven months on the lees (residual yeast in the bottle). I found this cider extremely aromatic! I loved its spicy notes, full body, and long finish. When this gets its official release, I cannot wait to get some.

Eve's Cidery Darling Creek
This is an 80/20 blend, relying strongly on estate fruit, meaning all of the fruit was grown on the orchards belonging to Eve's Cidery as well as fermentation, bottling, and disgorgement. It smells wonderfully of homemade applesauce. The taste is dominated by searing acidity. It has a lot of tannic action. It is sweeter than many of Eve's Cidery releases but its other qualities keep that in pleasing balance

Redbyrd Orchard Cider Celeste Sur Lie 2015
This is a blend with bittersweet apples, heritage apples, and crabapples. It was aged on the lees for 8-12 months with a batonage treatment to stir the lees once a week during that time. Check out the 10% ABV. This has a bit more of a clean yeasty aroma. It was super gorgeously tart. And its round body is beautifully balanced. 

Snowdrift Cider Cidermaker's Reserve 2014
The sweetest and fullest body of anything we tasted had to be the Cidermaker's Reserve by Snowdrift. The dosage for this cider is cane sugar. It also features an apple spirit to boost the cider's body, which is definitely something hefty and substantial in this cider. I love the floral, berry, and raisin aromas that are so strong in this cider. I don't know how to articulate all the ways in which this one was remarkable and different, but it was and excitingly so.

That's all for Part 1! Stay tuned for the rest of my Cider Con Experience next week with  more sessions, more learning, and more cider!