Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cider Review: Colorado Cider Co.’s Block One and Mountain West’s Ruby Hard Cider

Time to travel out west. For me, I'm travelling with my taste buds but staying in my living room. I chose two ciders from western states: Colorado and Utah. This is my first review for each of these companies. My cider experience has been largely shaped by availability, which means I taste more ciders from the states nearest me. I'm excited to expand my repertoire with not only new cideries but new states!

Colorado Cider Co.

Colorado Cider Company was founded in 2011 to produce fresh hard cider for the discerning Colorado drinker.


There’s a tabbed design that makes it easy to miss that you can learn not only about the company but also their orchard and their take on cider history. FYI, this bottle was a sample sent to me for review.

Here's the official description of the Block One.
This cider is made from the first planting (2013) of eleven plus cider and heirloom apple varieties at our orchard in Hotchkiss, Colorado. We are trying to determine what traditional apples will grow at altitude and produce unique flavorful ciders. We are happy with this first Block One harvest and think you’ll like it too! The 11 heirloom apple varieties are: Yarlington Mill, Golden Russet, Ellis Bitter, Major, Michelin, Kingston Black, Dabinett, Northern Spy, Foxwhelp, Brown’s Apple, and Wickson Crab 8.2%abv
Those apple varieties...I'm swooning already.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, bright daffodil 

Shockingly bright, I am stunned by this color. It reminds me of daffodils, but perhaps I am still dreaming of spring. The cider is more hazy than transparent, but I can see a fair number of small bubbles. 

Aromas: lemon zest, peaches, tart

This smells mouthwateringly fruity and tart. The scents remind me of crab apples, peaches, and lemon zest. Whoa! My anticipation just flew off the chart. From that crab apple smell, I’m hoping for a high acid winner!

Sweetness/dryness: Off Dry

This cider is decidedly towards the dry end of the spectrum without being bone dry. I’d call it off dry with confidence. It does have some tannins and acid that help create this drier experience.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, fruity, high acid

The Block One certainly brings the acidity I hoped for based on its aroma. Yum! I like that it’s a fruity tartness rather than something too spiky and austere (though there certainly are days for that). I notice a clean fermentation and medium tannins. I appreciate how balanced it is.

This off dry cider shows its fruity side readily, with notes of citrus, lemon zest, and tart peaches.

But it isn’t only fruity. The Block One also reminds me of green tea with some grassy green notes. This cider is certainly a springy one, full of bright and enlivening notes. I like this so very much!

Mountain West

Continuing the western exploration, I want to share notes on my first Mountain West cider, the Ruby Hard Cider. This intrepid cider company is nearly on its own in Utah, but making a big impression in Salt Lake City. It was founded by Jennifer and Jeff Carleton not too many years ago, but they produce cider and run a tap room. The cider maker Joel Goodwillie comes from the wine world, but all are dedicated to using local ingredients.  I received a sample of the Ruby Hard Cider, and I’m excited to expand my knowledge of what this segment of the county can produce.  

Find out about the company at: https://mountainwestcider.com

Official Description: 
A crisp 6.8% alcohol by volume hard apple cider for year-round enjoyment and everyday get-togethers. Taking its name from the surrounding red sandstone, Ruby Canyon encompasses 25 miles of the Colorado River shared between Utah and Colorado. Ruby Canyon brings together the two states, like Ruby Hard Apple Cider brings together family and friends.
This doesn’t tell us a tremendous amount about production process or apple selection, but the taste will tell us more!

Appearance: transparent, warm straw, no visible bubbles

I couldn’t see any bubbles in this cider, but I could see great transparency. The color is a pleasant warm straw.

Aromas: Fresh apples

Unsurprisingly, the Ruby Hard Cider smells appley, but specifically it smells like fresh apples right after they’ve been washed and cut.  I associate this smell with lots of malic acid. The cider also has some of those dusty and stony aromas I often enjoy in ciders.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This cider perceives dry as promised. It’s more than that too though.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, clean, bright

I can totally see why this is Mountain West’s flagship cider. It’s cleanly fermented, extremely high acid, and fruit forward without being too sweet. This is exactly the sort of cider that many folks look for in a regional craft beverage. It isn’t a sugar bomb or a recipe; it’s simply local apples.

This is a trustworthy cider that incorporates zesty tartness, a zippy light body, and some achingly crisp fruit notes. It doesn’t bring any tannins or a weighty mouthfeel to the experience, but it isn’t trying to be that sort of cider. I’m guessing this cider uses eating apples. Instead, it’s a little spicy and very appley, but in a totally natural way.

Overall, I’m very happy to take a little tasting trip out west from the comfort of my living room. Utah and Colorado ciders aren’t the same as the New York and Vermont ciders I drink most often, and they are very different from the craft beer inspired experimentation I see coming out of the Pacific Northwest. And I’m always thrilled to try something new and fresh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Rosé and Stowe Cider’s Local Infusion Snow's Raspberry Hard Cider

This week’s theme is Think Pink! Extra points to anyone who gets my Funny Face reference.


The weather won’t turn springy. It solidly refuses, though today is the Vernal Equinox. What the weather won’t do, I’ll try to do for myself. I want spring, so I’m sipping Rosé cider. What is Rosé? That’s actually not a simply question because we are borrowing and heavily adapting a wine term for cider here.

In the wine world, Rosé is reserved for wines made from red grapes that have limited skin contact such that the finished wine is a shade of pink, hence using the French word for pink, Rosé. Rosé ciders are pink, but not because of skin contact. Red apple skins do not impart a pink color. That tempting shade could be due to red-fleshed apples, contact with red grape skins, additional red fruits, or other additives. Today I’ll review two pink ciders and think of spring.  

Angry Orchard Rosé

I can share several previous reviews of Angry Orchard ciders but not all because there are too many to link back to all of them. Please consider these my favorites:

Probably the most interesting thing I’ve reviewed from them in a long while is the Walden
Hollow from the Research and Development facility: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-angry-orchards-walden.html

I appreciate that the Stone Dry is a consistent drier cider from their lineup: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-angry-orchard-stone-dry.html

Back in 2014, I shared a roundup review of a few of their ciders Strawman, The Muse, and Traditional Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/05/roundup-of-angry-orchard-reviews.html

Also fun, Angry Orchard’s Knotty Pear is a blend pears and apples: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/06/cider-review-angry-orchards-knotty-pear.html

Most recently, I reviewed their Spiced Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

As always, you can find out tons more at Angry Orchard's website: http://www.angryorchard.com/

My first of two rosé reviews for today is  Angry Orchard Rosé. This cider has been taking the market by storm, so I was very happy to receive samples to taste. 

Angry Orchard's official description:

The red flesh apples in Angry Orchard Rosé are from France. Each apple is crisp, juicy and red to the core, adding an irresistible rosy blush and apple-forward taste with a refreshing, dry finish. Angry Orchard Rosé can be enjoyed outside with friends or at the dinner table.
FLAVOR PROFILEABV: 5.5% Apple Varieties: Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and red-fleshed apples sourced in France

Appearance: brilliant, intense rose pink, few visible bubbles

Look at this amazing color. It's beautiful! The cider just shines in the glass with a deep rose color and perfect brilliance.

Aromas: berry, hibiscus, apple candy

It's a shame that this cider is so often served in a narrow neck bottle because the aroma are much more apparent after pouring the cider into a glass. The Rosé smells zesty, sweet and fruity like berry, hibiscus, apple candy, and bubblegum.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet cider. I've seen it described as semi-dry, but I find it sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acid, hibiscus, sweetness

There's a lot of ripe apple flavor but it doesn't taste fermented. The medium acidity never veers into sharpness or tartness, instead sweet flavors dominate the experience. Some specific flavor notes that came to my mind include: cane sugar, hibiscus, blueberries, watermelon, and bubble gum.

I think the Angry Orchard Rosé will encourage a ton of folks to try cider for the very first time, and that's fantastic. It has a lot of vibrant flavors and doesn't take simply like Martinelli's sparkling soft cider. This springy beverage will help folks to discover that there's more to cider than they knew.

Stowe Cider’s Local Infusion Snow's Raspberry Hard Cider

For a bit of background, Stowe cider was founded by a husband and wife team in 2013. Stefan Windler brought his background in chemistry, biology, and agriculture to the venture along with his wife Mary. They have a tasting room in the popular skiing town of Stowe, Vermont, and they participate actively in Cider Week Vermont. Since then, they've only grown and expanded their cider offerings. 

I visited Stowe cider on the first day of my Vermont Cider Tour in 2016:

Find out about the cidery on the website: https://www.stowecider.com

This cider isn’t marketed as a rosé, it’s described with its ingredients: cider with raspberry, basil, and honey. The official description is very simple, “Infused with Stowe raspberries, Craftsbury basil and Northwood apiary honey.”

Appearance: Brilliant, salmon, 

One of the fun things about rosé is the range of pink hues that all full under that blessed umbrella. Salmon, coral, and the peachier shades of pink definitely describe this Raspberry cider. 

Aromas: Fresh apple, watermelon, honey

The Snow's Raspberry Cider smells like fresh apples and watermelon primarily. I can definitely detect a tendril of wild honey sweetness as well.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

This is a fun cider with enough sweetness to keep things approachable, but not enough to push it over into semi-sweet territory. What sweetness is there is fruity.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, high acid, sessionable

I love how intensely bubbly this cider is. This Snow's Rasberry Cider also bring some serious fruity acid to the party. The most prominent flavor is berry, followed by apple, and then honey.

The Snow's Raspberry cider remains fun and sessionable through the bottle. The raspberry flavor is almost subdued by so many bubbles. That's a plus in my book because I like medium fruity but super bubbly, and I don't think I'm terribly unusual in this regard. Overall, I found this cider floral, tart, and enjoyable. I didn't get much of the basil that was promised on the label, but that seems like a very difficult ephemeral bit of delicacy to capture. Overall, this is one pink cider I'd be happy to drink again.

So until we get spring, at least we can dream in rosé.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cider Review: Whitewood Cider Co’s Olivia and Virtue Cider’s The Mitten Reserve

As I pen this review, still sleepy from the weekend's time change, I'm watching snow falling out the window. It feels like a near weekly tradition this time of year. I check in on the weather and realize that winter is still here. Its still time for big bold flavors, hearty food pairings, and nestling under a blanket. I know it can't last forever, so I'm sharing another double review this week of ciders better for now than when spring finally peeks her head over the window sill.

Whitewood Cider Co.'s Olivia Newton-Jonathan Cider Blend

Long time cider community contributors (seriously, look up what all they've done) Dave White and Heather Ringwood founded Whitewood Cider Co. in South Puget Sound. They are a very small, apple-centric cidery with an eye toward traditional methods. Whitewood Cider Co received a Good Food award in 2017. For those unfamiliar with Good Food Awards, this prestigious competition has stringent requirements both for standards of production, sustainability, and business practices as well as a delicious final product.

Read all about the company on the website: http://whitewoodcider.com/

This is my previous review from 2014 of their Northland Traditional Blend:


And the Olivia is a punny cider. It's named after both a pop singer and an apple blend because the cider is a blend of Newtown Pippins and Jonathans. Very clever indeed!

Appearance: nearly brilliant, apricot tinted gold, bubbles

This cider came to me in a clear bottle. That's exceedingly unusual in the cider world. But, to look at this lovely cider, I can see why. It has a soft and warmly tinted color, it's yellow but with just a hair's breadth of apricot. I can see bubbles around the time of the glass when the cider is freshly poured.

Aromas: Ripe apple, fresh fruit and leaves, tannic

The Olivia smells richly of apple and green leaves. Everything about this is zingy and fresh and a bit sweet to my nose. The apple notes are somewhere between ripe and cooked apple. There's also just a hint of the dustiness that tells me to expect some tannins.

Dryness/sweetness: semi dry

The Olivia is semi-dry with lots of acidity and fruit flavors.
Flavors and drinking experience: medium high acid, balanced, some tannins

This cider is fun, it lives up to having an apple pun for a name. Though its very drinkable and balanced, this cider isn't too smooth and easy to be interesting. I found the acidity medium high acid and a medium low level of tannins, but they were present. This is actually pretty unusual for a cider. Folks often either go all in for tannins and make something strongly tannic or they work with fruit that have no tannins at all. Lightly tannic is actually pretty neat and super tasty.

In terms of texture, I found the cider petilliant or lightly sparkling. The flavor notes were very fresh and almost springy. The Olivia offers up blueberry, tropical fruit, as well as greenly woody branchy notes.
One thing I especially appreciated is how clean the fermentation is on this cider. The Olivia has a long finish, but its not cloying. Instead I found this cider refreshing in each sip.

I really enjoyed this cider, pairing it with a corn chowder was easy and perfect. The acidity of the cider and the creamy weight of corn chowder were a natural fit. I look forward to tasting the rest of what Whitewood shared with me.

Virtue Cider's The Mitten Limited Reserve

Virtue Cider is a major player in the excellent Michigan cider scene. They have a beautiful tasting room in Fentonville, and this cider could only ever be purchased there. Luckily, a friend and fellow cider judge who works at Virtue was able to share a bottle with me after CiderCon.

Find out all about Virtue's ciders on the website, including their newly released rosé: http://www.virtuecider.com

All of my previous reviews for Virtue ciders are listed below. These go back for the history of the blog.

Percheron: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-virtue-ciders-percheron.html

Ledbury: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-roundup-virtue-slyboro.html

Red Streak: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

The Mitten: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/05/cider-review-virtue-ciders-mitten-and.html

The official description on the bottle is brief, “The Mitten Reserve is a special blend of our very best cider from the first use barrels of the season. The cider that came out of these barrels is very balanced and soft with huge caramel notes.” ABV 8.4% I did see that someone from Virtue confirmed online that the cider is bottled still rather than sparkling.

Appearance: popcorn yellow, still, brilliant

The Mitten reserve looks like a cheerful popcorn yellow with nary a hint of haze. This brilliant cider also looks still as it doesn't show any visible bubbles.
Aromas: barrel, cooked apple, caramel,

Winter friendly, indeed! All of the aromas of this cider just say cozy. It smells like barrel, cooked apples, caramel, toasted breadcrumbs, and vanilla pudding.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Lots of the flavor descriptors down below are words usually associated with sweetness, but do not be fooled. This is a dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: cooked apples, barrel, vanilla, marshmallow

Virtue wasn't kidding about the power and difference in a first use barrel. This cider has a lot of bourbon barrel aging on display. The characteristics of the booze soaked wood speak loudly, though the cider and apple presence isn't totally overwhelmed. I get so much flavor here, including notes like cooked apples, honey, vanilla, and burnt marshmallows.

But that's not all there is to it. The cider is also challenging. It's still, boozy, heavy and a bit bitter. I like how much it tastes both like wood and slowly-cooked apples. The Mitten Reserve has a long finish that stays boozy and perfumed for several beats after the last swallow. In some ways the after tastes are even nicer than the flavors directly.

The Mitten Reserve isn't subtle. It's bold. As such, it deserves to be paired with other strong flavors. Otherwise, it can come across as overwhelming. I'd have it with vegetarian shepherd's pie and a classic film, maybe something you've been meaning to watch for years and somehow haven't quite gotten to yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cider Review: Fable Farm’s Greensboro and Citizen Cider’s Tulsi

This blog post has been rattling around my mind as A Tale of Two Vermont Ciders because both Fable Farm and Citizen are cideries in Vermont, yet the ciders couldn’t be more different. That and the grey cold weather reminds me of Dickensian descriptions of winter days in London. But I don’t want to characterize them before the reviews, so I’ll start with some background information on the cideries that produce each.
I have written about both cideries before.

Fable Farm was part of the first day of my Vermont Cider Tour in August 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-1.html

But I’ve not done a full review of one of their ciders yet. This is long overdue.
Fable Farm Fermertory is based on some beautiful land in Barnard, Vermont. They started by growing vegetables as a CSA project in 2008. Overtime, they shifted into fermenting and making ciders and hosting community functions on that land near a gorgeous historic farmhouse. The folks behind Fable write and speak beautifully about soil, land management, cider as wine, and apples. Always trees and apples.
I recommend reading about their processes here: https://fablefarmfermentory.com/our-process/
And here's their persuasive page all about viewing cider as wine: https://fablefarmfermentory.com/cider-as-wine/

The whole website is filled with useful information and lovely photographs: https://fablefarmfermentory.com
But before tasting, let’s start with the Greensboro’s official description.
Contained herein is an effervescent, dry apple wine. 2014 was an off year in the biennial fruiting of wild apple trees for most of Vermont, including our farm and county. Our search for fruit took us to to the spirited town of Greensboro, VT, where our dear friends revealed to us an abundance of wild apples. Blessed to find an apple rich microclimate amidst a lean year, we managed to fill our truck with fruit enough to fill three barrels of cider back in Barnard. Fermentation in our farmhouse garage was slow and suspended by a period deep freeze, wherein bungs busted off barrels and cider turned to slush. Warmed by the winds of Spring, Greensboro returned to its liquid state and still contained enough residual sugars for us to bottle a mid-sparkling pétillant naturel. Cheers to the splendors brought by this alpine journey and to the vintage that almost wasn’t.

Appearance: brilliant, goldenrod, some visible bubbles

Aromas: acid, leather, overripe apples hay

I first notice some acetic acid. The notes remind me of a log cabin in winter: stones, marble, clean sweat, leather, overripe apples, cheese and hay. At first open, it struck me as just a little reductive.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This is a dry dry cider. Its flavors come from other elements because this isn’t sweet at all.

Flavors and drinking experience: very lightly petillant, sour, tannic, full bodied

The Greensboro is barely petillant, but what I perceive is almost certainly affected by the cider’s very high acidity. That is balanced out with high tannins. While it’s not too astringent, it has some sourness and a bit bitterness. In terms of regional inspiration, I’d call the Greensboro a bit Basque, but not briny. I love how it manages to be so dry but offer up other flavors so actively. I can taste overripe apples, wild rice, Seville orange and tea leaves.

In terms of mouthfeel, the cider is full-bodied as well as lightly sparkling. Most of all, I find the Greensboro pleasantly and interestingly wild and overgrown in flavor. I’d call this an advanced cider and most likely to be appreciated by someone who already loves cider and enjoys dry cider.

And the very next day of my trip, I visited Citizen in Vermont:https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html
I’ve reviewed several Citizen Ciders before, including:
And for full disclosure, I did receive two cans of the Tulsi cider as review samples.
Citizen Cider is the hometown cider of Burlington, Vermont. This cidery has been around since 2011 and grown a tremendous amount in that time. I got to tour their facility in 2016, and I was very impressed with both their professionalism and their balance of both traditional and experimental styles.
Read more about Citizen Cider on the website: https://www.citizencider.com/
Today's Citizen Cider is the Tulsi. It's official description reads:
Tulsi, more commonly known as Holy Basil an aromatic perennial. Harvested in the summer of 2017 right here in Burlington at Hallow Herb Farm. We add this local herb to our off-dry cider blend and let it steep letting the aromatic basil complement the fresh apple cider. Once a house favorite only shared locally, now a cider to share with the Citizens.

Appearance: Brilliant, bubbly, pale gold

This cider just looks cold with its chilly pale gold color and shining brilliance. It poured with a ton of active bubbles.

Aromas: Herbal, spicy, ripe apples

This cider has so much going on in terms of aroma. I can smell ripe apples and spicy notes right away. Secondarily, this smells herbal and green with some mineral elements.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet
The description calls it off dry, but I find it semi-sweet in a lush apple and maple way.

Flavors and drinking experience: clean, high acid, herbal

The Tulsi does a lot more than deliver a semi-sweet cider with some herbal notes, but it does does that. The cider tastes extremely clean in its fermentation. I notice loads of bright acidity but no tannins. That's not a big surprise. The focus on this cider is the combination of Tulsi basil and apple and not on specific apple varieties.

I like both of these ciders and both of these cider styles. I like to think that there are countless different occasions in life and ciders that suit a great many of them. Now, if I could just find the cider that would bring spring here faster.