Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cider Reviews: Castle Hill's Levity and Treasury Cider's Burr Knot


Last week, I shared two ciders with extra seasonal ingredients. But I can’t leave heritage orchard-based cider out in the cold. As much as I love experimentation, my fondness for this cider style cannot be matched. Apple only ciders can be so much more than the familiar flavor of the fresh fruit. Often these ciders are the most wine like in the cider world, and like many wines, one cider will offer up dozens of aromas, flavors, and scintillating nuances.

Let’s start today with Castle Hill’s Levity. Castle Hill is an orchard-based Cidery in Keswick, Virginia. This cidery was founded in 2011, but many of the trees that grow its apples are more than eighty years old. It’s history is closely connected with the Albemarle Pippin apple. Many of the apple choices and fermentation techniques at this cidery appear to be inspired both by history but also by technical exploration, seeking traditions from around the world and local apples to make their cider.

Read about Castle Hill on the cidery website: https://www.castlehillcider.com/


I’ve had a few Castle Hill ciders before.

Most recently, the Terrestrial had a place on the table for my friend Elizabeth’s pairing birthday dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first review of Castle Hill was their Celestial in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-castle-hll-ciders-celestial.html
That cider made it to #5 of my favorites list of that year.

And I did get to taste the Levity at CiderCon this past winter as part of the Heritage Cider track: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

This bottle was shared with me as a sample. Here’s the official description:

“A feral yeast fermentation of traditional high-tannin cider apples, high-tannin and high-acid crabs, and heirloom varieties --some gathered from 80+ year old trees. Levity is fermented in buried beeswax lined terra cotta fermenters called Qvevri-the world’s oldest known fermentation vessels. We draw Levity out of its earthen womb and place in bottles before fermentation completes, allowing the yeast to naturally produce a sparkling cider. Enjoy at cellar temperature.”


Appearance: very bubbly, rich butternut color, brilliant

Thought this cider is super bubbly, it’s also brilliant. One could easily read straight through that rich butternut color. What a lovely sight.

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apple, Baking spice

I have to make known that glorious intensity of the Levity’s aroma. Wow! It smells just divine. I love the cooked apple, baking spice, and cinnamon notes. What’s harder to describe is the warm clean fermentation character I’m also picking up on.

Sweentess/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Yes, it’s rich and lucious and fruity, but it’s also dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: Golden, tiny bubbles, high acid, tannins

Ooh! I get shivers just thinking about how good this cider is. Wow! The baking spice notes I detected as aromas also approach as flavors, but they aren’t alone. The Levity also tastes of fall flowers, cooked fruit, and quince. I don’t know how to say it exactly but there’s something light and silvery to the flavors also.

Dry, yes. High acidity and medium high tannins, yes but fresh and fruity. No one characteristic can fully describe this cider. It’s light and playful yet rich and complex. The bubbles are so fine and numerous. Of any individual note, quince probably comes through the most clearly. It’s just such a lovely cider.



From Virginia to New York, I want to share my thoughts on Treasury Cider’s Burr Knot next. Fishkill Farms is the home orchard for this relatively young cidery. They use heritage, crab, and eating apple varieties. I love the simple yet sophisticate sense of graphic design I get from both their labels and website.

Visit Treasury Cider online: http://www.treasurycider.com/



I have talked about this cider briefly in February when I wrote about the Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

The Burr Knot’s 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. 8.4% ABV

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”

If you have the chance I do recommend looking at the cider descriptions online because you can click on any variety and get some incredibly rich detail on the orchard and the cider making info.



Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, goldenrod

This unfiltered cider has a harvest glow about it, as it’s hazy and warm hued. I love the goldenrod color. I didn’t see any bubbles when I poured.

Aromas: Stony, melon, quince

The cider smells like apple juice splashed onto limestone; it’s all fruit and minerals. Those gorgeously stony smells appear at the same time as fruit notes, but they never compete. I get tons of quince and melon with a delicate creamy background of velvety yogurt.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

I love how dry dry dry this cider is.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, funky, milk chocolate

Even though I expected relatively high acidity, this tartness was striking! But I also got some of the creaminess I smelled in a new rich milk chocolate note. What a fun and surprising facet.

This intensely flavorful is fruity and funky! There’s peach and strawberry but also savory notes like sesame seeds and toasted grain. The Burr Knot goes everywhere, powered by that zesty acid and structured by medium tannins. Needless to say, I adore this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cider Review: Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice and Shoal Hope Ciderworks Little Tart



This morning I walked down the hill to my office in autumn fog. I could see yellow foliage glowing through the grey mist, and it was cool and peaceful. I feel grateful for these calm moments and lovely sights, perhaps especially so when the wider world is full of bad news and discouragement. And in addition to the coming of fall color and cooler temperatures, the season of fall flavors is here! I’m reviewing two ciders that really embody the season, Pumpkin Spice by Portland Cider Company and a Cranberry cider from Shoal Hope. 

Portland Cider Company stakes it’s identity on being a hybrid of two cider cultures: the pacific northwest and England. Those are very distinct identities. The people behind the brand are Jeff and Lynda Parrish who are from these two regions, respectively. They started Portland Cider Company in 2012. While I cannot speak precisely to the melding of regions, I’ll be curious to see if any of that comes through in the ciders from Portland Cider Company that I try. 

Visit Portland Cider Co online: https://www.portlandcider.com

I have reviewed a few ciders from this company before.

The Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

The Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Today, I’m reviewing Portland Cider Co. Pumpkin Spice. This was a review sample shared with me just in time for the autumnal craze for all things Pumpkin.

Here’s the company’s description of the Pumpkin Spice.
Take the flavors of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, and Ginger, blend them in just the right proportions, and you get our Pumpkin Spice cider. Full of all the spices of your favorite pumpkin pie, this cider is a delicious tribute to the flavors of autumn. A familiar Fall spice blend blended to pair perfectly with a classic American semi-sweet apple cider made with 100% Northwest apples. 5.5%ABV 

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, popcorn

The color reminds me of popcorn kernels not yet popped. It’s warm and richly hued. The clarity is brilliant and shows off lots of bubbles. 

Aromas: ginger, cinnamon, clove, ripe apples

This smells distinctly like Pumpkin Pie spices. The aromas foreground ginger and cinnamon, but I can also smell clove, nutmeg and ripe apple. Secondarily, I get notes of lemon and peach too. For fans of this profile, this cider will be seriously appealing. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is right on the line for be between perceiving as semi-dry or semi-sweet. The brand calls it a semi-sweet, so I’m happy to trust them on it.

Flavors and drinking experience: cinnamon, peach, nutmeg

Almost everything I noticed in the Pumpkin Spice aromas comes across in its flavors. I can taste cinnamon, peach, nutmeg, and ripe apples. The cider has a medium intensity of sparkle. I didn’t notice much in the way of tannins, but it offers plentiful high acid. The cinnamon notes give a textural experience somewhat like tannins.

I enjoyed this cider after dinner because I knew all of the complex flavor notes might be too much for many foods. Instead of a food pairing, this cider was complemented by David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977). It’s October, a perfect time to curl up for some scares.


The next cider I want to highlight for fall is by a relative newcomer to the cider world: Hope Shoals. This Massachusetts company was founded in 2015 in Provincetown with the first cider releases in early summer of 2017. I received a few samples from them this year, and I’m excited to try these new ciders. From what I can see on the web, this company focuses on their local identity.  This is my first review of anything By Shoal Hope Ciderworks.

Find out more about the company on the website: http://www.shoalhopeciderworks.com/

The cranberry cider is called Little Tart, which leads me to expect that it will taste at the very least a little tart.

The official description reads: “LITTLE TART is a blend of apple and cranberry juices fermented together and then back sweetened with cane sugar. The sugar enhances the sweetness of the apple which then gives way to a tart, tannin cranberry finish. 5.3% ABV”


Appearance: transparent, true ruby, no bubbles

This color is drop dead gorgeous. It is a true ruby shade with no visible bubbles. I’ll call it transparent but the color is so deep, it’s almost hard to say.

Aromas: Ripe apples, cranberry, autumn leaves

Wow, this smells so seasonal! The first note is of ripe apples, but I can also smell cranberres and something that reminds me of freshly fallen autumn leaves.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This is so tart it’s difficult to accurately note the sweetness/dryness of this cider. I’ll call it semi-dry, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess on its residual sugar level.

Flavors and drinking experience: off the charts tart, minerals, cranberry

This cider is not a little tart; it’s hugely tart! I’m not surprised that this cider tastes so much like cranberry juice; there’s a ton of cranberry here. The autumn leaves I smelled are present but less distinctly so in drinking this cider. I do get lots of mineral notes. 

While the cider tastes kind dry, I think I’m being fooled by how very tart it is. With every sip, I notice the fruity tartness again. The cider has an extravagently long finish of exceeding high acid. The cranberry brings both astringence and bitterness in addition to the tartness, making them function somewhat like apple tannins. It’s light bodied and zesty with only a medium to low level of sparkle. 

I enjoyed this cider with roasted broccoli, salmon, and butternut squash. It was a harvest feast of a sort I look forward to eating many times this season. 

Both of these ciders were more on the adventurous side of the cider spectrum. And though I love orchard-based heritage ciders, there’s also a lot of to be said for innovation, excitement, and seasonal variation. There’s room at my table for many different kinds of ciders, and these two really bring some fall spirit! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cider Reviews: Redbyrd Orchard Cider Workman Dry and Grisamore Ciderworks' Currantly


We are now in the midst of Finger Lakes Cider Week 2018! I started my cider week celebrations at Ithaca’s Apple Harvest Festival on September 28th, but the fun will go on through October 7th all over the region. 

Find out what events are featuring your favorite ciders here: https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/events/


My highlight so far was enjoying Cider Sunday at Cornell. There were two walking tours of Cornell Orchards as well as the chance to taste and blend soft ciders on site and taste the finished products of eight different Finger Lakes Cider producers, paired with beautiful bites of food from Cornell Catering. I tasted a few ciders there and wanted to share impressions of two local ciders for this week’s blog post.



I’m starting today with the Workman Dry by Redbyrd Orchard Cider. This cider comes from Trumansburg, New York. It was founded in 2010 by Eric Shatt and Deva Mass. This cidery focuses on developing their own biodynamic orchard and farm. 

Visit Redbyrd Orchard Cider online: https://redbyrdorchardcider.com


I’ve reviewed several Redbyrd Orchard Ciders over the years:


The Wild Pippin was my favorite cider of 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html


I tried their North Star in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html


A long while ago I enjoyed the Harvest Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html


And my first review of anything by Redbyrd Orchard Cider was their Starblossom: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html


But today I’m sharing my impressions of one of their core ciders the Workman Dry (the 2017 batch).


It’s official description focuses very much on the apples used for the cider.  


Workman Dry ’17 – A floral nose of Rose, Honeycomb and Palo Santo.  Mineral, Slate, Lemongrass and Ginger, finishing with bright Citrus and Lemon Zest. Bright , Crisp, Playful. 20% Cox Orange Pippin, 14% Goldrush, 10% Margil, 9% Newtown Pippin, 9% Spigold, 8% Dolgo Crab.  Also containing – Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russett, Rubinette, Zabergau Reinette, Baldwin, Freedom, Macfree, Honeycrisp, Zestar, Browns Apple, Dabinett, Brown Snout, Bulmers Norman, Ellis Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, Harrison Crab, Tremblitts Bitter and unnamed wild apples.



Appearance: Transparent, straw, fine bubbles

This cider looks transparent rather than brilliant with a clean straw color. I see some bubbles at the top of the glass. 

Aromas: Peanuts, white grape, ripe apples, meadow flowers

What delightful and surprising aromas! This cider not only smells like fruit in the form of ripe apples and white grapes, but it also smells like delicate meadow flowers, and peanuts. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry 

This is a dry yet fruity cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, wine like, balanced

I like how this extra tart tastes dry but fruity for every microsecond I am tasting it. The cider has a distinctly vinous finish that reminds me both of crisp white wines and freshly cut nectarines.It has a medium body with good balance. Though there’s some tannin present, the primary driver of the drinking experience is the acidity.

In terms of texture the Workman Dry has a deeply pleasurable bubble. I so enjoy fine and tiny bubble like these. The overall intensity of sparkle comes across as on the higher side of medium. It’s a flexible and approachable cider for one as dry as it is. I’ve had several batches of the Workman Dry and this is definitely the best one I’ve tried yet.


Grisamore Ciderworks Currantly

I like how Grisamore Ciderworks introduces themselves on the cider labels. “In 1975 Paul and Christine Grisamore planted their first apple orchard. As their grandchildren we are using the same apple trees to make Grisamore Cider Works hard cider today. We are fermenting small batches including a wide variety of flavors. Our goal is to provide an affordable hard cider for all to enjoy.”

Check out the website for lots of picture of orchards and cidermaking: http://grisamoreciderworks.com

Or, you can also find them on Facebook for product updates and the most up-to-date information: https://www.facebook.com/grisamoreciderworks/

Previously I reviewed their 24.4: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/04/cider-review-grisamore-cider-works-244.html

I was able to taste the newest release Currantly at Cornell’s cider event.

Grisamore’s official description is brief, “An aromatic semi-dry cider aged on our astringent currants.”

Appearance: hazy, pearly pink, bubbly

This cider looks hazy and delicately pink. It’s charming and different, not as intense as a rose hue but something distinct. I can also see lots of bubbles in the cider. 

Aromas: Cool, peppery, fruity

This cider greets me with a bracing salivary reaction. It smells like fresh apples, but it’s a blended with cool and herbal aromas. Something reminds me of mint, rosemary, and pepper.

Dryness/sweetness: off-dry

This cider is off dry but will come across to many people as dry. Read on to find out why.

Flavors and drinking experience: Astringent, savory, high acid, 

This cider is exciting! That’s my overarching impression as I drink it. Though it’s just off-dry, I think many folks will taste it as dry because it’s both high in acidity and astringent. That doesn’t mean the Currantly is simply austere. The cider has lots and lots of flavor ranging from fruit notes including quince, orange, and currants but also spicy and savory like peppercorns. The acidity powers an intense experience.

 Something about this cider encourages me to pair it with rich cheeses and dried fruits. I enjoyed it tremendously. The currants only come through relatively indirectly, but they add something special with that tart astringence.