Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving Ciders: Eve's Cidery's Darling Creek and Blake's Beard Bender Plus a Cider Event in Vermont!

Cider for Thanksgiving! Yes, it’s obvious but it’s just so good. There’s no way I’m going to celebrate the foodiest of all holidays without cider! This year, my mom came up to celebrate with us. And she stuck around for my birthday morning! The food and good times were simply marvelous, even with record-breaking cold temperatures. We hit -5 degrees overnight! Here’s how we incorporated cider into the Holiday!

We did cook with cider. We used a can of Blake’s Cider’s Beard Bender to add some cider notes to the vegetarian dressing, to the cooking liquid to our Celebration Roast, and into the mushroom gravy!

I use a dry yet fruit cider for cooking for most purposes. I do want to bring some acidity an apple to the finished dish. Plus cooking with cider usually enhances the compatibility for pairing with cider. I chose the Beard Bender because it is purely about the apple and neither too dry nor too sweet. It’s tart, zesty, and has some acid and tannin presence. And the Beard Bender came through for me. It improved each dish it touched markedly.

Visit the Blake’s Hard Cider website to learn about all of the ciders Blake’s makes: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

I have reviewed several Blake’s ciders, most recently the Apple Lantern: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-reviews-blakes-hard-ciders-apple.html

On the table itself, I wanted something dry, bubbly, acid-driven and sophisticated. I knew that I would get all of that and more with a bottle from Eve’s Cidery!

Eve’s Cidery is a local orchard-based cidery in Van Etten, New York. The company has been around since 2001. The cider makers planted an orchard, focusing on heritage apple varieties and cider-specific apple varieties. 

You can visit the website and learn much much  more at: http://evescidery.com

I have reviewed several Eve’s Cidery ciders before.

In 2013, I reviewed Autumn’s Gold back when the blog was first running: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-eves-ciderys-autumns-gold.html

And later that year the Beckhorn Hollow Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-eves-ciderys-beckhorn.html

I reviewed the Albee Hill in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-eves-cidery-albee-hill.html

And in 2017, Eve’s Perry was part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt3-eves-cidery-wyders.html

Eve’s Cidery made in into both posts about Cider Con 2018

This has a mini-review of a previous year’s Darling Creek: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-con-2018-pt-1-eden-specialty.html

And part 2 has a more recent year’s vintage of Autumn’s Gold: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

And perhaps my most in-depth educational experience with Eve’s Cidery was the Twilight Walk, Talk, and Picnic Dinner with cidermaker and own Autumn Shostek back in 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/cider-event-twilight-walk-talk-and.html

Now for my thoughts on Eve's Cidery's Darling Creek Batch 2017. Here’s the short description: 
Deeply layered, complex, off-dry bittersweet cider.
Evolving aromas of powdered sugar, cloves, and espresso mingle with suede leather, cowboy sweat and a bit of glamour which hang off an angular frame. The mid-palate is hefty, with a hint of refreshing bitterness which dissipates into a tropical finish of ripe, sweet-sour pineapple.
And you can read more about this particular cider’s history here: https://www.evescidery.com/ourcider/2017-darling-creek/

Appearance: antique gold, bubbly, brilliant

This brilliant cider’s color is a beautiful antique yellow gold.  As the pictures show it’s brilliant, showing off a generous helping of bubbles

Aromas: Woody, Autumnal apples, funky, savory

The Darling Creek smells woody and beautiful. This drying smell activates my salivary glands immediately. Something about it reminds me of both Oak and autumnal apples in a clean and earthy root cellar. These aromas are both funky and savory.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Wow! This is so interesting. I’ve tasted previous years of Darling Creek and found them to be pleasantly off dry, but this year’s batch perceives to me as much drier. The website still lists it as off dry, but I think the increased use of bittersweet and bittersharp apples makes it taste drier than it might be chemically.

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, dry, bubbly, tart

The Darling Creek tastes dry, tannic, funky, and astringent. And this lovely cider is oh so very very bubbly! That thrills me so! Some note in the flavor reminds me of dried leaves. The whole experience is like drinking late fall. Obviously that made it perfect for a harvest meal like Thanksgiving.

The Darling Creek has a wonderfully full mouthfeel and tons of nuanced sophisticated flavor. It’s best appreciate in small sips. That pointed acidity is zingy! I love how complicated and thoughtful this cider is. The flavors are bright with high acid and high tannin. The cider is herbal, savory, with notes of pine and white pepper. 

And with our meal, the whole experience was decadently lovely.

And I am thrilled to announce that I'll be leading a guided tasting in Winooski, Vermont at Eden's Boutique Taproom and Cheese Bar! I'm visiting on December 19th to talk about cider styles and how we can get the most out of the information on a cider's label. This should be a fantastic time! If you're anywhere near the Burlington/Winooski area, please come up!

Learn more about the event here:


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cider Reviews Colorado Cider Co's Pato Feo and Descendant Cider Company's Descendant Dry

So much for Fall in New York. Winter’s here! Our first large snow fell Thursday evening, all through the night and into Friday morning. Ten inches later, it feels like a whole new season, even before Thanksgiving. None the less, I’m getting ready for this food-filled holiday, and I’m still thinking about pairing my favorite Thanksgiving dishes with delicious ciders. That’s how I chose the two ciders to share this week. They each have a killer Thanksgiving pairing. 

Let’s start with Colorado Cider Co.’s Pato Feo. 

Colorado Cider Company volunteers the slogan, “Fresh Genuine Balanced” prominently on the website. This cider company was founded in 2011 in Denver, Colorado. There’s even a tasting room open year round for visits. 

Learn more online: https://www.coloradocider.com/

For full disclosure, this bottle was a sample sent to me for review. Here’s the official description, “This brettanomyces fermented sour cherry was aged in rum and wine barrels for over a year. After 3 months, we dubbed it the "ugly duck" but it ignored the taunts of the other ciders and proved us all wrong. Enjoy the beautiful Pato Feo!” 6.7% ABV

I did review a Colorado Cider Company cider earlier this year. I tried & enjoyed Block One: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-colorado-cider-cos-block.html

Appearance: brilliant, still, brandied cherries

This lovely cider perplexed me with it’s color. I looked up swatches of ochre, umbre, brick, and tawny. It’s brilliant and still, but the color falls into a delicious in between place with hints of red, brown, and and orange. I’ve even seen a similar shade called russet, but in the cider world, that means quite definitely something else. It’s the color of brandied cherries or certain old book bindings.

Aromas: leather, ripe apple, cherries

The Pato Feo smells like leather, cherries, and apple. It’s a rich and enticing set of aromas. But that’s not all there is to it; I also smell some hints of funky tartness like sour citrus.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

There’s a ton going out outside of sweetness/dryness, but I’d call this cider a semi-dry, but it will perceive as on the dry side of that.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, funky, fruity, barrely

The Pato Feo has some sour funk; do not mistake the promises on this bottle for exaggerations.

This cider surprised a few of my companions when it was still. I explained that many ciders this barrely are going to be still. This one certainly is barrely, dark and fruity, while being quite tannic.

The fact that the Pato Feo is semi-dry makes it easier to pair with foods, because it has some astringence. I think it makes a great choice for Thanksgiving because it tastes more sour and astringent with many sips, and that makes it an excellent palate cleanser for the heavy rich foods of the holiday. I love this cider a root veggie roast. It’s easy to cut and roast turnips, parsnips, carrots, onion, and Brussels Sprouts all together after a quick drizzle of olive oil and balsamic and a sprinkle of pepper and salt. This cider complements all those earthy flavors beautifully.

My second cider review for the week is Descendant Cider Company’s Dry.

I have previously tasted their Succession: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/01/cider-review-descendant-cider-companys.html

And the Dry by Descendant makes a brief appearance in my write up of this year’s Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

I reviewed the English Kills back in August: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Read all about the Queens-based New York company on its website: http://www.descendantcider.com/

Here’s the official description of this limited edition Descendant Dry cider, “Dry has strong ripe apple aromas and bright acidity balanced with bittersweet tannin. It is medium body and bone dry. It also has bright appearance as a result of the aging process.” 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: Brilliant, popcorn, bubbly

This cider isn’t still! I can see a gathering of bubbles in my glass and it makes my mouth water to see them. The rich golden color reminds me of unpopped popcorn. The cider is brilliant in terms of clarity.

Aromas: ripe apple, parmesan, chalk

This cider smells like so many things that I associate with a crisp, acid-driven cider. The dry smells like ripe apple, chalk, and Parmesan.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry yet fruity cider. There’s a ton of flavor.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, acidic, tropical, dry

This is such a fun yet serious cider! It’s absolutely perfect for the main event of the Thanksgiving meal, the Celebration roast! (Or Tofurkey or Qorn Roast) or whatever you put at the center of the table. It reminds me of overripe apples but without the sweetness.

The Dry offers up thrillingly high acid. This cider will curl your toes with how tart and zesty it is. I get pineapple and tropical fruit notes all over it, and I can taste peach as well. It’s just loaded with so much fruit presence for a dry cider.

In terms of texture the dry has lots of bubbles and a relatively light mouthfeel. It has some light tannins, but most of the excitement comes from the acidity. I love this for an entree, but it really is a flexible enough cider you could enjoy it with all the elements of a classic Thanksgiving feast.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cider Reviews: Big Hill Ciderworks Little Round Hop and Black Diamond Cider's Slatestone

My weekend started with some surprise snow on Saturday morning! One moment, I’m admiring the sunshine and sipping coffee, only to look up again and see swirling snowflakes on a cold wind. As much as it feels like a surprise, it is time for the approach of winter here. Thanksgiving is next Thursday! I can barely believe it. I hope you’ll be setting your holiday table with some ciders. I have two very food-friendly ciders to share this week to lead us closer to the dinner table. 

We’re starting today with a hopped cider from Big Hill Ciderworks. 

This Adams County Pennsylvania cidery was started in 2013 by two men who met years earlier in a very different industry but who both dreamt of farming. Therefore the cider company makes very clear that farming is the priority. That doesn’t mean it’s all they do. They grow their own apples, make and bottle the cider as well as doing their own sales and distribution. That’s quite a lot ot master in 5 years, and yet the company has a fantastic reputation, even outside of the state. 

I got to take my sample bottle home after a cider competition when I was judging. Sometimes we get lucky like that. I cannot buy most Pennsylvania ciders anywhere near Ithaca, so I was very excited to get to try this one a while ago. 

You can learn more online about Big Hill Ciderworks here: http://www.bighillcider.com

Here’s the official description for the Little Round Hop, “To elevate this cider’s bright, citrusy personality, we’ve dry-hopped it, using a blend of whole leaf Columbus, Centennial & Cascade hops – the legendary “three C’s.”  Organic lemongrass focuses the hop overtones and adds a citrusy finish to this light and effervescent cider.  Available year round.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: Brilliant, bright corn, no visible bubbles

This cider offers  such a lovely brilliant clarity. I don’t see any bubbles when I pour it, and the color is a like ripe bright corn on the cob.

Aromas: pear, piney, grapefruit, ripe apple

The Little Round Hop smells fruity, juicy, like pear and ripe apples. But it also smells like hops peppery, piney, grapefruit rind—a little sweaty. I love that the ripe apple notes come through alongside the hops. 

Dryness/sweetness: semi-sweet

You’ll find out a lot more about this cider from the tasting notes, but I taste this one as a semi-sweet in a pleasant balanced way.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, fruity, high acid, sweet finish

The Little Round Hop makes a big impression with its strong acid and citrus flavors. These notes are accompanied by some dark cooked apple presence and a maple finish. The cider delights me with intense bubbles! Two thumbs up for a very clean fermentation and good balance overall.

 Though the cider is fruity, it’s also hoppy but not overly so. I detect a notes of pine and green tea. The fruit reminds me of ripe apple at the start. Very little yeast characteristics is separately distinguishable. I enjoy the round and notably pleasant mouthfeel. As my tasting companion noticed; this works well  in big drinks.

I had this cider over the course of two nights. The first glass was simply paired with good conversation after dinner and the second night I had a glass with a brownie. I think you could pair this cider with a wide variety of foods, including a number of comforting Thanksgiving-appropriate side dishes like savory dressing or honey-butter carrots. 

One of my absolute favorite cideries in the Finger Lakes has to be Black Diamond Cider. If you aren’t already familiar, here’s the briefest of backgrounds  Ian and Jackie Merwin, long-term home cidermakers, orchardists, and farmers, founded this company in 2014. Dr. Ian Merwin is a Professor Emeritus at Cornell University in Pomology, specializing in cider. He and Jackie founded their own fruit orchard in the finger lakes, near Trumansburg, New York. These apples go into Black Diamond Cider. 
You can read much more about them and their ciders at Black Diamond Cider's Website: http://blackdiamondcider.com

I'm concluding this week’s reviews with the Slatestone. This cider was shared with me for review by the generous souls at Black Diamond. I've tasted it many times and taken my impressions from more than handful of tastings.

I have reviewed a couple of the company’s ciders previously. 

This cider was my #2 favorite cider of 2017!

The Hickster:
This was my #3 favorite cider in 2016

And the Pommeau made an appearance at the Locavore Birthday pairing dinner in 2017:

The Slatestone’s Official Description is helpfully complete. 
2017 SlateStone Cider is our “terroir” blend made from heirloom apples, fermented slow and cool, and bottled without filtration or preservatives. This cider is crisp and completely dry with no residual sugars. It has aromas of russet green apples and limes, and can be paired with many different foods. It tastes best when chilled before serving. 
Tasting Notes: Soft tannins, minerals, limes, and tart green apple with a dry, sharp finish 
Alcohol: 7.5%  Residual Sugar: 0% (Dry)  PH: 3.6  TA:  7.5 g/L 
European Bittersweets  – 40%             North American Heirloom Sharps – 60%
2017 Harvest: Goldrush, Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey, Zabergau Reinette
The other background that’s really amazing is not only the Gold Medal from GLINTCAP in 2018 but that this cider made #3 best in its category, Heritage Dry. This is a big deal!

Appearance: deep butternut color, transparent, no visible bubbles

Oh my, my mouth waters just as soon as I pour this one. The color on the Slatestone is so deep and vibrant. In this season it reminds me of a just peeled butternut squash. I don’t see any bubbles, though I know they will be there. This is an unfiltered cider, and I’d not call it brilliant or hazy. It’s simply transparent. 

Aromas: soft overripe apples, Meyer lemon, Persian lime

Luscious aromas are the number association I have with Black Diamond ciders and the Slatestone exemplifies this beautifully. This one smells like overripe apples softened by the warm afternoon sun. But it also smells like a zest of bright citrus, like Persian Lime and Meyer Lemon. I get a strong salivary response just from smelling the Slatestone.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

What a lovely dry cider! It has so much flavor and intensity while remaining unambiguously dry. Some of this is the decadent big blend of apples, but I think it’s also in how Black Diamond crafts the cider.  

Flavors and drinking experience: intensely sparkling, pointed acid, round fruits

Use this cider for Thanksgiving. Just do. It’s a high acidity cider with strong sparkle that will lighten heavier foods. These bubbles also help carry and expand flavors, giving it a lot of flexibility for pairing. I’ll have it with a Celebration Roast, but one could serve it with the more traditional turkey for Thanksgiving. 

The same apple and citrus flavors that were evident in the ciders aromas come through for flavors as well. The scintillating freshness comes with the citrus and minerality. That wasn’t as present when only smelling the cider but the flavors do include sharp minerals and even peppery notes. These sharp flavors are balanced beautifully with the richness of ripe fermented apples.  

The overall impressions of this cider are sophistication, balance, and lightness. The Slatestone makes some big promises with its gorgeous aromas, and, thankfully, it delivers.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cider Reviews: Finnriver's Lavender Black Currant and Peckham's Cider with Boysenberry

Hey cider friends. I am so sorry to have a late blog post up this week, but I’m glad it’s here late rather than not at all. I got knocked out with a cold late in the weekend, and I’m only just now crawling out from under the germs. But before falling ill, I was able to try two really intriguing ciders this week. But before we get to the reviews I do want to give one last show out to Cider Week NYC!

It's happening all over the city from through November 11th. Read about it here: https://ciderweeknyc.com/nyc/

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest coming up November 8th! There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lower-east-cider-fest-tickets-50910466576

On to Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant Cider!

Finnriver is a farm based cidery on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in the Chimacum Valley. The cidery is organic and very locally minded. They have a year round cider garden and an active events calendar for visitors. 

You can find out all about the company on it’s website: https://www.finnriver.com

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

The official description of Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant is divided into sections online, so I will share a few including the Cidermaker’s Notes.

 “Our botanical ciders share the earthy essence of life in the fields and forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Small batch seasonal production features cider fermented on the farm, blended cider with organic black currant, and then steeped with organic lavender flowers sourced from local farms (Jardin de Soleil and Wilderbee Farms) A final addition of unrefined organic cane sugar adds depth, sweetness and flavor. Lightly carbonated.” 6.5% ABV

And the aromas and flavors are described, “Bright apple fruit balanced by berry complexity and the rich, floral depth of local, organic Royal Velvet lavender. Notes of purple and chocolate.” The apples aren’t listed super specifically, but they are organic eating varieties from Washington state. 

Appearance: Deepest glow of purple, impossible to tell clarity, few visible bubbles

Wow! I am amazed by this cider’s impossibly deep color; it looks black at most angles. I can see deepest purple color when light shines through the cider but only then. I cannot tell how brilliant versus hazy this cider is. The color is so dark that the question is difficult. There aren’t many visible bubbles.  

Aromas: lavender, black currants, and ripe apples

This cider smells like all of its constituent parts: lavender, dark berries, and apples. I appreciate that all elements are distinct and notable. The overall impression is one that’s primarily herbal but also fruity. I also get hints that make me think this cider will be semi-sweet. For those who fear that lavender might smell too soapy, rest assured it’s only one note in the whole.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider that might perceive as semi-dry to some drinkers. The level of acidity and complexity of flavors make this one a little challenging to quantify.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, lots of black currant flavor, medium-low sparkle

The first thing I notice when I sip the Black Currant and Lavender is the different balance of the three elements when compared to the cider’s aroma. The cider loses intensity of apple flavor as compare to its aroma, but it increases the black currant flavor and maintains a consistent lavender presence. Both levels are lovely, but they are distinct.

Other elements of the drinking experience that stood out to me is how the cider is a medium-low level of bubbly but with lots of body. Again and again the cider’s tartness makes its presence felt. The very first hint of flavor introduces that tart zing and it lasts through to the cider’s finish.

I had mine with a dinner of a fried egg with savory carrots and little broccoli and cauliflower patties. The cider’s sharpness was a pleasurable contrast to my salty, garlicy, vegetables and egg. I like the body and tartness very much, and I appreciate that the lavendar isn’t overpowering. I could still enjoy a bit stronger apple presence to balance both of the adjunct flavors, but it was plenty tasty as is. 

Peckham’s cider with Boysenberry

I found this cider on a trip home to Louisville to visit my family. After having tasted some of Peckham’s ciders at CiderCon, I was thrilled to have the chance to try another one. Finding these ciders is something of a rarity because the cidery is in New Zealand. Luckily Shelton Brothers imports some varieties, but they still aren’t seen everywhere.

Caroline and Alex Peckham planted their current orchard in New Zealand in 2007, but the couple has been orcharding in New Zealand since 2004. Though the company is now bigger than its roots as a two person operation, it still has the feel and approachability of a small family agricultural business.

Here’s a link to  the Peckham’s website which describes all of the company’s ciders: https://www.peckhams.co.nz/

I have reviewed one Peckham’s cider before, the Wild All the Way: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

Here’s the Official description: “This delightful cider is made with heritage Moutere apples and boysenberries grown in the Peckham’s orchard. 120 grams of Riwaka Choice boysenberries in a pint deliver a fresh-picked, intense berry taste, but the background cider still comes through. It pours a rich deep red.” ABV of 5.7%.

Appearance: deep deep red, brilliant, no visible bubbles 

This is a lovely cider to see. It looks like a rich red wine with its deep dark red color. When looking carefully I can see that it’s brilliant, and it doesn't show much in the way of visible bubbles. 

Aromas: grape, black currants, malic acid

The cider with Boysenberries smells to me  like grapes and black currants. I don’t know Boysenberries particuarly well as a fresh fruit. I’ve eaten them but not more than a few times. It’s a tart berry not unlike a blackberry, but I’ve found them often less sweet. 

Certain smells in the cider remind me of both citric acid and malic acid. A few notes add depth and darkness like dark malt and chocolate too. It’s a wholly intriguing smell that makes me even more excited to try the cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

Like many berry balanced ciders. It it almost certainly more sweet than it tastes because the berry notes add so much flavor that’s not in a traditional apple-only cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, burnt sugar, dark berries

I can definitely still taste a dark berry flavor, but something I didn’t expect from the aroma is a fun burnt sugar note. This is not an American berry cider. There’s some different flavors and the overall profile is much less acid based. 

I think this cider has a beautiful balanced finish. Maybe it’s because I am American, I do find it a teensy bit low on acid, then a full second later the apple flavor comes through to give the finish a great boost. It gets plenty of tannins from berries and likely some of the apples as well.

Overall, I find this cider very pleasant and balanced. I had this cider with a homemade hearty vegetable soup, and it was excellent.