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.