Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cider Review: Blake’s Hard Cider Black Philip and Ploughman Cider’s Pinot N’Arlet

April has arrived! We may still get snow in upstate New York later this week, but I’m determined to see spring. This week, my plan to experience more spring than the weather allows, I’m going to share my thoughts on two fruit ciders. What could be more springy than fresh fruit flavors?
My Cideries for the week start with Blake’s Hard Cider out of Michigan. This cider makes a number of lines of ciders; that’s one of their key characteristics. They have a year round selection, seasonal ciders, and two different high end limited release lines. Additionally, they have a tasting room that’s also a bar and restaurant in Armada, Michigan.
Read more about all of the endeavors at: http://www.blakeshardcider.com
My previous reviews of Blake’s ciders include:
Today I’m sharing my review of Blake’s Hard Cider Black Phillip. This was shared in an array of samples from Blake’s Hard Cider. I’ve been looking forward to this cider for a long while because the name is inspired by a character in one of my favorite films, The Witch (2015). And I am a sucker for those rustic gothic stylings on the can.
Any film buffs or New England folklorists that haven’t seen this yet should stop reading immediately and watch this movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4263482/)
Blake’s Official Description reads: Our award winning semi-sweet hard cider infused with an array of cranberries and blood orange. Permeate your favorite autumn nights with our newest creation, Black Phillip; the question is, would you like to live deliciously? ABV 4.5%
The connection between the cider’s style and its name, at least for my guess, has to come from the cranberries due to their New England connection.

Appearance Hazy, peach, few bubbles
Wow! I don’t see very many hazy ciders, but that’s the only way to describe this one. It’s not cloudy. There aren’t many visible bubbles. I’d describe the color as peachy but warm.
Aromas: orange, fruit punch, spicy, dust
This cider smells like oranges and peanuts and fruit punch and sweet tarts; dust, spiciness
Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet
This is a semi-sweet cider. It doesn’t go overboard with sweetness, but its also
Flavors and drinking experience: twiggy, blood orange, cranberry
This cider tastes more mild and woody or twiggy than I was expecting. The most prominent flavor is the blood orange but the cranberry does play a crucial role for balance. Yes, I do taste some apple; that's the question most cider aficionados ask about any fruit blended cider. The goal is for the beverage to achieve a balance of apple and other flavors and not for apple notes to disappear entirely. As I said, this surprisingly gentle—especially when i think of the film and the character that name it.

The Black Phillip has medium acidity, low tannins, and a relatively mellow level of sparkle. I find it very refreshing and easy drinking. It's absolutely pleasant if not shocking and striking. It's quite hard to think of another cider that tastes like this. I enjoy its appealing sense of restraint. Perhaps that's the New England character coming out after all.

I'd not pair this with anything too overpowering. I want this cider to shine, so I'd serve it on its own or with something relatively easy going like a mushroom sherry soup or a spinach salad.

Ploughman Farm Cider

I was introduced to Ploughman ciders when I judged at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last year, and I was mightily impressed. I’d really like to visit the Farm Cidery in Adams County when I can. The company only sources their apples from one place, the local Three Springs Fruit Farm; I can’t think of a much greater commitment to local cider. The selection varies seasonally.
Visit the website to learn more about this up and coming cidery: https://www.ploughmancider.com/

I got my bottle of Pinot N’Arlet as an remainder from the competition.

Here’s the official description: Apples were our first love, but when a neighbor offered us a batch of Pennsylvania-grown Pinot Noir grapes, we couldn’t say no. This wild yeast fermented cider combines the elegance of these grapes with the ruddy, rustic sweetness of Macoun and Arlet (hence the name) apples. Dry and blush-colored, it’s extremely food-friendly. ABV 7.5%

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, pink

This has the most lovely rose color and many visible bubbles. Its completely tantalizing. 

Aromas: dust, stones, red grapes

The Pinot N’Arlet smells dusty and grapey. Specifically it smells like apples and fresh red grapes.

Sweetness/dryness: Off Dry

This is a just off dry cider, but one that packs a lot of fruit intensity without much sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: Balanced, just a little sour, fruity
The Pinot N’Arlet is just a little bit sour, but not too much. It does bring that tangy high acid throughout each drink. I love how its stony at the same time as being fruity. The fruit notes are mostly berries with strawberries dancing to the forefront of my mind as I sip.

One thing I definitely noticed is that this cider tastes more clean than wild fermentations usually do! It has a nice balance between fruit, acid, and body. I had this with wonderful homemade japanese food and dear friends, but I could see pairing this cider with a diverse range of dishes. I would be thrilled to try it with a leek and asparagus frittata or with roasted salmon and pasta primavera. When Ploughman describes it as food friendly, I think they are onto something.

I enjoyed both of my fruity ciders very much. Hopefully soon we can be sipping these things outside in the spring sunshine!