Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cider Review: Farmhaus Crushable and Savanna Dry

After a few fluctuations, I think Fall has well and truly arrived here in the Finger Lakes. The Autumnal Equinox ushered in the season meteorologically on Saturday, and conditions outside match the official season. I’m ready. It’s time for all things crisp, bright, and autumnal. And this is a time when cider shines.

I’m also ready for Finger Lakes Cider Week which is coming up soon. Read all about the many exciting event happening from Sept 28th through October 8th here: https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/

I know I’m particularly excited about all of the orchard tours being offered this year! From the schedule it looks like we’ll get the chance to see Black Diamond’s orchard, Cornell Orchards, Kite and String Orchards (Good Life Orchards), Redbyrd Orchards and Eve’s Cidery Orchards. There’s also a cheese based pairing dinner with South Hill Ciders that I’m pretty thrilled to be attending.

Before all of that wonderful stuff begins though I have two more summery reviews I want to share before the season gets too thoroughly behind us.

Farmhaus Crushable 

Farmhaus cider comes from Michigan where the fifth generation of an orcharding family make cider and run a Cidergaarten. You can find the ciders all over western Michigan. 

Find out all about the company on the website: http://farmhauscider.com/

I have one previous review of a Farmhaus Cider. I reviewed their Classic in June of this year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-aeppeltreow.html

This can was shared with me for review, but my opinions remain my own. 

The Crushable is a limited release. Here’s the official description.
Refreshing. Cucumber. Great Mixer.You know that amazing feeling when you jump in the water on a hot, sunny day? Well, we canned it for you to enjoy – whenever! Cool, crisp and refreshing, it’s like a poolside afternoon for your taste buds. Freshly picked cucumbers straight from our garden combined with all local apples create an easy-drinking cider that will quench your thirst and leave you craving that next sip. Enjoy it straight or use it as a mixer. Try and savor it if you can, but be warned: this cider is completely crushable.

Appearance: hazy, butter yellow, few visible bubbles
The cider poured with a bit of fizz, but that settled down quickly. I’d call Crushable’s color an easy butter yellow and it’s on the opaque or hazy side.

Aromas: cucumber, floral, bubble gum, fresh apple

I am astonished by how many smell make up the aroma for this cider. The Crushable smells like flowers, cucumber, wet raw apple, bubblegum, spearmint, hay, smoke, hops, and maybe a bit of volatile acidity. It’s fresh and spiky and exciting!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider perceives as semi-dry. There’s a lot more going on though than just the level of sweetness. Keep reading.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbal, medium acidity, cool and hot, peppery

As exciting as the aromas were, it tastes even better than it smells. I wouldn't have noticed rosemary as an ingredient if I'd not read it. The cider’s cucumber comes out even more tasting than smell; it’s all very vegetal and herbal. 

The Crushable displays a much more intense sparkle than what I anticipated from how it poured. The cider has middling acidity, low tannins, and a reasonably full mouthfeel.  semi dry.  cleaner from the can than a glass.  I found it a curious blend of cool and hot—6.4%ABV, but a slightly peppery note. It’s very summery indeed, so I’m glad I tried it before Fall arrived.

This is a throwback to one of the ciders I found in Scotland on vacation this summer. I’d been seeing social media about Savanna Dry for years, but I’d not ever seen it for sale until I was in a Mexican restaurant in Scotland. The international connections continued when I found out that this South African cider brand produced my cider in Belgium.

You can see loads of pictures and learn about Savanna Dry online here: https://savannacider.com/welcome

I found some information about the cider, but not a tremendous amount. Here's the page about this cider on the Savanna website.
Savanna Dry Premium Cider Bottle
         1996 – The year we corrupted the apple!
We started making cider all those years ago from the juice of the tastiest apples around. 
But not that kind of cider that smacks of sweetness, we knew that
you were looking for something unique… something crisp, refreshing, balanced and most importantly something with a bit of edge. 
That's why we created Savanna Dry which is still crafted in the same way it was all the way back then. 
The cider equation: Apples + fermentation + micro-filtering + chill-filtering = Savanna Dry
Other sources online from a few years ago indicate that this cider is made with Granny Smith apples, but I don't want to count on secondary sources from a while back. Other parts of the Savanna website recommend serving the cider with a wedge of lemon in the bottle neck.

Appearance: Brilliant, deep straw, no bubble

I love the brilliance and deep straw color of this cider. The Savanna website mentioned two types of filtering, so clarity seems to be a priority for the cider brand. I couldn't see any bubbles in the bottle or glass. 

Aromas:  yogurt, raspberries, cheeries

These smells are fascinating! It's very fruity. The cider smells like yogurt, raspberries and cherries. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a cider called dry that tastes sweet. 

Flavors and drinking experience: vanilla, raisins, green apple candy

This cider tastes very much of vanilla and raisins. I get some green apple candy as well. The flavors are more intense than the aromas were, but there's perhaps something a bit artificial in the mix. I do taste tremendous direct flavors of unfermented green apple, and waves of green apple candy. 

Secondarily I get notes of Watermelon, Pixie Stix, and malic acid. I had this cider with spicier than expected Mexican food. The spice did a lot to help cut the sweetness, but it was still notably  green apple candy flavors. The cider had medium high acidity and no tannins. The level of sparkle was moderate. The cider has an overall profile that would be familiar to many United States cider drinkers. It resembles many other sweet to semi-sweet relatively low ABV ciders sold in 12ounce bottles. For many people, this is their preferred style. 

 Enjoy the start of Fall, cider lovers!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Birthday Pairing Dinner with Sur La Mer, Whitewood Cider Co, Castle Hill Cider, Aeppeltreow, Virtue, and Champlain Orchards

My dear friend El just had a birthday. For some strange reason, this means she wants to hostess an elaborate dinner party. She loves to cook and share delicious food with friends (it’s something we have in common, but I’m somewhat more low key in my cooking ambitions). She also loves a good cider; it’s the preferred beverage for most of my closest friends. So I pair a cider with each course. It ends up being a lot of food and a lot of cider, and a lot of fun. 

I chose all Finger Lakes Ciders last year, and I wrote about the event as part of my lead up to Finger Lakes Cider Week: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

This year, she wanted to do it again, so I happily volunteered to another set of pairings. I did want to switch it up a bit, so I choose 6 ciders from 6 different states beyond New York. I love my home state’s ciders, but I wanted a 100% different lineup. Elizabeth also wanted to switch it up this year by sharing a only creative partial menu before the food was actually revealed at the table.

1) Chips and salsa

Drew Family Wines "Sur La Mer" Brut Cider, California

Here’s how El describes the course, “a panoply of heirloom tomatoes from Jackman Vineyards...a raw salsa fresca made by combining them with some local jalapenos, cilantro, onions and a bit of lime juice to create a bright, fresh salsa including black icicles, bolsenos, and green zebras.”

And the cider’s official description: 
A preservation project, a way to preserve a farming heritage  A blend of three varieties:  Gravensteins, Philo Golds and Rhode Island Greenings for some acidity.  We've gone old school in our approach with a native yeast primary fermentation and dosaged with a champagne yeast  (no forced carbonation here) before bottling as a traditional sparkling wine is made.  We find the bubbles are finer this way.  Notes of green apple, citrus, bread yeast and salinity and seaweed due to our coastal proximity are evident here.  A perfect summer glass of bubbles to accompany so many foods.  We love creamy and salty cheeses or roast chicken with this lovely handcrafted Brut Cider.
The Sur La Mer cider smells of cooked apples and minerals. It was very dry and tart. I paired this dry high acid cider with salsas because of the mention of salinity in the description. Luckily it came through and a little extra saltiness along with super fresh salsa and local tortilla chips was delightful. The salt really brought out the sweetness of all the fresh tomatoes. The cider also brought just a little gentle funk to the table to help perk up everyone’s appetites. 

2) Pasta and pesto 

Whitewood Cider Company’s Kingston Black and Wickson Apple

Fresh pasta is one of El’s favorite things to make. I love it when she cooks this because homemade pasta is just miles better than dried.  She says, “I wanted to give it a sauce that was both packed with flavor and relatively light, and a simple pesto was an obvious candidate. I just used basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and a mix of pecorino romano and parmesan cheese.”

And the only description of the cider I was able to find online of this limited release cider, “Dry, fruit forward, sophisticated, big cider aged in a semi-neutral second use gin barrel. Flavors of very ripe tangerine, oak, vanilla and a touch of the gin botanicals.”

I anticipated this course of food being my favorite as I am a passionate pesto fan. I wanted the gin botanical notes of the cider to complement the basil of the pesto, and it did! Everyone gushed about this course paired with the Kingston Black and Wickson Apple. 

3) Duck Confit and Tomato Confit 

Castle Hill Cider’s Terrestrial, Virginia

I'm deferring to El’s description for this course, “Duck confit is one of my favorite treats; it’s rich and salty and just incredible...Because I had two pescetarians at my table, however, I knew I needed something satisfying to accompany the duck. Tomato confit is actually a completely different thing; meat confits are poached in fat, whereas vegetable confits are just silky and richly flavored sauces. This recipe used local ginger, garlic, shallots, and herbs from my wife’s garden to make a delightful bowl of dipping sauce for bread.” And that dipping sauce wasn’t just delightful, it was divine!

Castle Hill’s official description for the cider, “Like a cold pool on a hot day, Terrestrial’s acidity gives this cider a crisp finish. Made with a blend of Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apples, this cider pairs nicely with oysters or aromatic dishes and makes a cleansing counterpoint to rich cheeses.”

I was least certain of this pairing going in, but I knew how much I love the Terrestrial and had faith in the classic pairing logic of umami flavors with high acidity and tiny bubbles. The cider lifted all this food richness and aerated rich apple, pointed acidity, and firm structure too. For many folks either a dark meat or tomato sauce would call for red wine, but for me a structured and tannic dry cider with plenty of acidity will do the job for any tomato sauce I’ve met.  

4) Taco platter 

Aeppeltreow’s Americana

The taco platter was in reality a table groaning under the weight of food choices. This course could have been the entire meal and everyone would have eaten bountifully. Options included Ancho-rubbed steak, tequila-lime chicken, Mahi-mahi marinated in ancho, lime, and jalapenos, and marinated tofu in the style of Chipotle. These were surrounded by a tomato salsa, a roasted salsa verde, a corn salsa, and a spicy peach salsa. And four cheeses. And peppers and onions. And shredded cabbage. And the base of hand pressed tortillas. 

The Aeppeltreow Americana’s official description declares, “Estate grown apples of Jeffersonian provenance. Our attempt to re-create Colonial American cider.  Crisp and clean. Zero residual sugar.”

I’m fond of many ciders from Aeppeltreow, so I hoped to find a special occasion for this very special cider. It’s aromas were very wine like: much more fermentation than fresh fruit. I loved the soft tannins and mellow acidity. I chose it for this meal because I wanted a still cider that would have plenty of body. The body is to stand up in the presence of all the strong food flavors, and I chose a still because bubble can really up the perception of spiciness. While some folks at the table have a spice tolerance, several did not. The Americana helped us enjoy this course ever so much. 

5)Maple Apple Donut Cake 

Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries


Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition 

The cake starts out with sponge that’s is much less sweet and tastes predominantly of buttered cinnamon. This was topped with a cooked blend of Tango and Macintosh and a sweet maple glaze.

The Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries is described online as, “Virtue ciders orchard series pays tribute to our partnering farmers by featuring a single growers finest fruit. Michigan seedling orchard is a friend to chefs and farmers markets for their quality hand picked heirloom fruit.”

While the Champlain Orchard Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition is introduced, “Our single-varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider has a wonderful pure apple flavor as well as the characteristic sweetness and zesty finish of the Honeycrisp apple. It is excellent with sharp cheese before or after dinner, or to complement desserts. We also love to pour it over ice cream.”

To be completely  honest, no one chose between the two ciders. We just started out with small tasting pours of each. The Virtue was phenolic, leathery and dry. It brought out the apple beautifully. There’s classic cider wisdom of putting cherry and apple together for a reason. For folks afraid of doing a dry cider with a sweet dessert, don’t be. Just choose a cider that has lots of flavor in addition to being dry. 

And the Champlain Honeycrisp started off with aromas of golden raisins and melted into twingey acid and beautifully balanced sweetness. Alex says it’s the best ice cider he’s had in his life. It was as much a pairing for the maple notes of the dessert as the apple, and that was heart-stoppingly good.

The whole dinner and birthday celebration was such a wonderful time. I feel so lucky to share evenings of food and cider with my amazing friends. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cider Revew: Kurant Earth and Weston Cider's Stowford Press

We had rain all day today and I loved it. Last week’s heat is gone, and I could even get out in my yard to work on the autumnal clean-up tasks. But enough about that. The real new is that apple season has arrived where I live. I can buy this year’s local fresh apples again! And it means that cider makers are super busy preparing for and starting harvest season. I even joined an apple CSA with a dear friend (from amazing orchard and apple power orchard Black Diamond Farms: https://www.incredapple.com/). As much as I love cider, I also adore eating apples. So, I’m going to enjoy this season wholeheartedly.

And before we get too far into Fall, I want to taste a few more of my hopped ciders including Kurant’s Earth. 

Kurant is a Philadelphia based cidery. I ran across Kurant ciders when I judged the Pennsylvania Farm Show last year. I was able to snag a few cans for review then. 

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

You can read a little more background about the company in my first coverage of Kurant. I reviewed Kurant’s Spice back in July: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-citizen-ciders-wood-and.html

Here’s the official description.
We take a crisp blend of fermented apple juice and dry hop it just before packaging using 100% Mosaic hops sourced from the western United States.  The Mosaic hops add a light citrus and melon character on top of the crisp notes found in the juice blend.  The hop character is light and not overpowering.  By using a dry hopping technique, only the hop flavor and aromas are infused into the cider.  Don't be afraid to try Earth even if you aren't usually a hop head. Available in 12oz cans in cases or 4 packs at local retailers.
PAIRINGS:  Grilled White Fish, Sauteed Shrimp, Pulled Pork 
ABV:  5.8%       SWEETNESS:  Dry

Appearance: sunny, hazy, no bubble

This cider has an intensity to its sunny yellow color that I attribute partly to the slight haze in this cider. It isn’t brilliant; most hopped ciders aren’t. I don’t see anything in the way of bubbles though.

Smells freshly appley then clean soapy hops grass grapefruit bubble gum and green pepper

Sweetness/dryness: dry

As promised, this cider is dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: green, bitter, clean

The Earth tastes Bitter, green, and clean. This cider has a light mouthfeel and some notes are cucumber-y. The finish has a fast fade. I find this cider so pleasant. It dodges some of the issues that a hopped cider can have. It’s piney and green without being soapy or sweaty. The Earth is totally confident and enjoyable; it knows exactly how to be a dry, hopped cider. I can appreciate that.

The Earth’s acid is exceedingly well integrated into the overall taste experience. It has low tannins, but I didn’t really expect any. What does linger is an intriguing green pepper note. Overall I find this cider quite refreshing and exhilarating.

You'll have to forgive the thistle wallpaper picture. It was a lovely detail in this pub and getting good cider pictures in pub lighting isn't easy!

Weston’s Cider owns and or makes a number of well-known cider brands in England, but this is my first review of anything by Weston’s. I’m surprised! I’ve been drinking these ciders for years, but I’ve never reviewed: Old Rosie, Mortimer’s Orchard, Henry Westons, or until today Stowford Press. 

Read about all these brands online: https://www.westons-cider.co.uk/ciders/#

I tried the Stowford Press most recently when travelling in Scotland this past July. I had it at a pub in Edinburgh.

Here is a lot of information on the Stowford Press from Westons.

Stowford Press combines century-old traditions with a flavour designed to appeal to more modern tastes.
Stowford Press began its life as one of our traditional cider blends, originally called ‘Vat 53’; the name of the oak vat that the liquid was matured in. It was over 30 years ago that the recipe was carefully crafted into a refreshing medium dry cider and today, Stowford Press is one of our best sellers.
Their descriptions continue with a brief guide
See: Pale straw, bright and luminousSmell: A fruity aroma, developed during the slow maturation periodTaste: A refreshing medium-dry sparkling cider that is bursting with the delicious flavour of crisp cider apples
And then sweetness was represented on a scale of 5 with this being a 2. 

Appearance: brilliant, lacey mousse, straw

The color reminds me more of many American ciders rather than most Englishe ones. The color is more yellow and less orange. It’s a straw color. The cider is brilliant and poured with a lacey mousse.

Aromas: dried fruit, hay, funky, bready

This cider has so many of the smells I really emjoy. The Stowford Press smells leathery, farmy, and funky. Notes include hay, dried fruit (most specifically orange and apple) and bread. This is classic British tannic cider smells. My mouth was watering as soon as I sniffed it.

Dryness/Sweetness: semi-sweet

This could be described by the English category Medium or Medium Sweet, but in the states most folks would cast it as a Semi-sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: smoky, cooked fruit, tannic, low acid
The Stowford Press stays as true to mainstream English style in flavor as it did in aromas. This cider is low acid, medium high tannins, and petillant rather than strongly sparkling. I got notes of maple, cooked apple, mandarin orange, and smoky bacon. 

Everything about this cider is soft and round. I’m thinking in particular of the low acid and softer tannins when I write that. It has night mouthfeel and the low abv was easy to note. It was also astoundingly easy to drink.  Yum!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cider Review: Blake's Hard Cider Company's Wakefire and Peckham's Wild all the Way

I hope no one reminds me how finished I feel with summer right now when I’m freezing in March. We had two beautiful days of mild weather last week, but we’re already back into another uncomfortable heat wave. Still, I took advantage of those two days and spent one almost entirely outside and on the other day, I enjoyed a classic southern meal on my porch with a beautiful cider.

This week’s first cider is Wakefire by Blake's Hard Cider Company. The company shared a nice blend of their ciders with me earlier this year, but since I can’t really get them locally, I’ve been spacing them out. Once these are gone, it may be a while. 

Blake’s ciders are not easy for me to get  because the company is based out of Armada, Michigan. Blake’s makes a large variety of different ciders: a core lineup, a full calendar of seasonal releases, limited releases of experiments from the taproom, and a signature series of all traditional cider methods including keeved, champagne-style, and ice cider.  

I’ve reviewed several Blake’s ciders over the years of this blog.

Most recently, I got to taste the long-awaited Black Philip(cranberry and blood orange): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/04/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-black.html

Back in March 2017, I paired The Tonic (cucumber & ginger) with asian-inspired home cooking: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

As part of my first Very Perry May, I tried the Grizzly Pear(pear, prickly pear cactus, & elderflower):

Before that I tried the Snapdragon (rum raisins): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-ciders.html

My first Blake’s cider was the El Chavo (habanero and mango): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s a link to the Blake’s Hard Cider Company website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

This is Blake’s description of the Wakefire, “It’s impossible to replicate a Michigan summer. Recreating a northern night under the stars would be a futile endeavor. So, we’ve done the next best thing – we’ve crafted summer’s perfect ally. Experience WakeFire, a comforting blend of Michigan-grown cherries, orange peel and our famous Blake’s apples.” 6.5% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, shell pink, almost no bubbles

This cider looks lovely in a glass. I understand that cans are practical, but if you are able pour the Wakefire in a nice clear glass to appreciate its brilliance and delicate shell pink color. I saw very few bubbles, but there were enough such that I don’t expect a totally still cider. 

Aromas: cooked apples, orange, minerals , barest hint of cherry.

I almost wish my friends and I could have smelled this cider blind and not known what to be sniffing for. I’m curious how many people would have identified cherry on the nose. It was present but only subtly so. I smelled more mineral, cooked apples, and orange peel. The aromas weren’t very strong in a wine glass; I’m not sure if they would come out at all in a can.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

Again, because I shared this with two friends, we were able to get a range of interpretations on the sweetness level. Our thoughts veered from off-dry to semi-sweet, but our average came out to semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, orange peel, good mouthfeel, balanced

I so enjoyed getting to quiz folks on this cider as we were tasting it. We agreed on a substantial mouthfeel and pleasant tartness. I perceived a lot more cherry in flavor than in aroma. Everyone noticed a predominance of orange peel on the finish. Folks agreed on a nice clean fermentation that left some yeast character that is more like a bakery than farm. 

The cider has plenty of fruitiness. The fruit notes include cherries, strawberries, tropical fruit, and jam. All of the fruit was a nice blend of both sweet and tart. I’m not the biggest cherry fan in the world; that’s why I enlisted the help of some friends more fond of this very popular fruit. They all agreed that they could have handled even more cherry, but I appreciate how much apple remained in this fruit blended cider. 

Peckham's Wild all the Way

My only previous coverage of Peckham’s Cidery and Orchard is from this year’s CiderCon. The international guest contingent was from New Zealand, and I got to taste this cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

I didn’t get to write up a full review then and there, so I was glad to snag an unopened can from the festivities and bring it home. 

You can learn about Peckham’s more from the website: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

Here’s the official description for Wild all the Way, “2017 NZ Champion Cider. A blend of three wild ferments that have been maturing for over a year; a rich, caramel Kingston Black single variety, a gentle yet tannic bittersweet blend, and a complex oak fermented and matured Perry. The result is a rich Kiwi cider with deep English cider country roots.” 6.2% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, small ring of bubbles, carrot

I don’t know if a cider’s color has ever reminded me of a carrot’s hue before, but that’s what I’m seeing. The cider is brilliant and poured with a petite ring of bubbles just where the liquid meets the glass. It looks very much like a cider made from cider specific fruit.

Aromas: apple sauce, straw, iron, water

I so enjoy the smell of this cider. I could smell it as soon as I cracked the can open, but it was so much more pronounced once poured into a proper glass. I can smell apple seeds, water, iron, sweet apple sauce, and warm straw. There's a lot of complexity and UK influence here.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

This cider has a nice balance of sweetness. It’s enough to open up some of the fruit flavors and add to the mouthfeel, but not a touch more. 

Flavors and drinking experience: mellow, fruity, extra-tart

This cider manages both to taste extra tart in the beginning but fruity and mellow for the rest of the journey. The Wild all the Way has big satisfying mouthfeel and a tannic finish. I taste ripe apples and ripe pears with some tea and leather. There’s not a lot of bubble going on; I’d call it petillant more than fully sparkling. Other flavor notes include metal and wood.

I adore how much the pears come through. I expected more of an English style cider from the appearance and the ingredients, but the Wild all the Way is not quite like most United Kingdom ciders, while still showing the influence of those UK cider varietals.

I had this cider with veggie chicken nuggets, corn on the cob, and southern style green beans (They are the best. I will fight you.)The cider had a strong presence that complemented the meal beautifully. It was not a changing flavor after that initial shift from acidity to fruitiness. The Wild all the Way sustains it flavors and remains consistent but is simply excellent. I particularly appreciate how balanced in sweetness, tannins, and acid, it is, all with some nice dark flavors too.