Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cider Review Aeppeltreow Sparrow Spiced Cider and B. Nektar's Cranberry Orange Zest

Winter is going to last a long time. There’s no need to look at the 10 day forecast because it’s all going to vary between cold and very cold. I need to learn to relax into the season, because there are many things about Winter to love. I just need to remember what they are, and I want to share two enticing and richly flavored ciders this week to help me. 

The first is Sparrow Spiced by AeppelTreow.

Aeppeltreow is a Wisconsin cidery, winery, and distillery run by Charles and Milissa McGonegal, founded in 2001. Aeppeltreow partners with Brightonwoods Orchard. More than 200 apple and pear cultivars are grown at Brightonwoods, giving Aeppeltreow access to a rich palette of apples from which to create different cider blends. Charles was kind enough to give me this sample at GLINTCAP this past year.

I’ve enjoyed many different Aeppeltreow ciders. Find the links below.

One of my favorite perries ever, the Orchard Oriole Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html 

For bubble lovers, the Appley Brut: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-appeltreow-winerys-appley.html 

The Blackbird Berried Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-aeppeltreow.html

My favorite might still be the Kinglet Bitter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/09/cider-review-appletreow-kinglet-bitter.html 

Barnswallow Draft Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html 

I reviewed the Sparkling Perry as part of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-1-aeppeltreow.html

At my friend El’s birthday dinner, I included the Americana:

You can read about many of the ciders, fruit wines, and spirits on the AeppelTreow website: http://aeppeltreow.com/ and also now http://appletrue.com

On to the Sparrow Spiced cider

The official description keeps it short and sweet, “Seasonal cider infused with our custom spice blend. Mace, two cinnamons, and more. Pre-mulled, as it were.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: brilliant, fine bubbles, antique gold

I know using gold as a color descriptor is almost a cheat, but the color of this cider really does remind me of gently patina-ed antique gold. 

Aromas: clove, nutmeg, mace, cooked apples, and cinnamon

This smells so rich and spicy! I can tell that there’s apple in the mix, but I do smell spices in the foreground. Aroma notes include clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace. There’s also something else going on in the aroma that reminds me of nuts or olive oil.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This cider is semi-sweet! It needs to be because of the intensity of the spices.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acidity, lots of spices, cooked apples

The Sparrow Spiced Cider offers up a tidy balanced drink with a strong foundation. That foundation is the counterbalance between medium acid, some sweetness, and mild astringence from lots of classic mulling spices. These characteristics all work together along with the notes of cooked apples to create a tantalizing cider. It’s warming and rich. The bubbles are present but not overpowering. 

I enjoyed this cider with an episode of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and some popcorn. And I heartily recommend the experience.

Next up: B. Nektar's Cranberry Orange Zest!

I know I’ve tasted several B. Nektar ciders and a few meads before, but none have ever made it into the blog before. I apologize for the omission because B. Nektar makes really adventous beverages: beers, ciders, and meads. The company was founded in 2006 in Michigan by Kerri and Brad Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman. 

Visit the meadery and cidery online: http://www.bnektar.com

I apologize for not having the company’s official description on this one. It’s my fault because the review notes have waited way too long. What my online searches turned up is that this is a semi-sweet cider blended with cranberry juice and orange zest. 6% ABV.

Appearance: deep tawny copper, hazy, bubbly

This  Cranberry Orange Zest pours with a bit of bubble that doesn’t stick around long. Looking at pictures of different batches online, the color has varied some, but mine was a deep tawny color somewhere copper meets red. It’s a very pretty cider. 

Aromas: Yeast tart berries and mustard, with a cold funk

Whoa, what interesting aromas. I can definitely smell yeast and tart berries, but that’s not all. The Cranberry orange zest seems to almost include mustard seed note and a hint of funkiness. This smells wild!

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-Dry/Semi-Sweet 

This cider is right on the line where semi-dry meets semi-sweet. It’s a fruity sweetness balanced nicely by cranberry tartness, but more about that later. I do think it’s probably much sweeter than it perceives as because it is both very bubbly and very high acid.

Flavors and drinking experience: cranberry, high acid, bitter, orange zest, funk

The most forward taste in this cider is the cranberry, in all its bitter tartness. I do get the orange zest in a final note that adds to the puckering tartness. I tastes the sort of mild fruity bitterness that I associate with cranberry but low tannins.  It is semi-sweet but never with a moment of pure sweetness. 

In terms of texture and mouthfeel, the Cranberry Orange Zest is heavily sparkling, perhaps to the degree that it overwhelms the gently rustic funk (which can be smelled but only weakly tasted). This cider seems like an orange zest cider that was then mixed with straight cranberry juice. The apple flavors are there but never featured over cranberry or orange. The whole cider tastes bright, but gets darkly interestingly acidic and closes in the end at the back of the throat. I find it really quite nice and different.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Cider Review: Eden Specialty Ciders' Ezekiel and Rootstock Ciderworks' Legend

Winter isn’t my favorite season, so I tend to pamper myself with some extra special ciders this time of year. Because I’m a seasonal cider fan, I’ve thought a fair bit about what makes a cider nice for this time of year or that. In the first throes of Winter, I like a cider with some body to it. That helps with food pairing and it helps have mouthfeel and substance when cozying in of an evening. 

Today I'm starting my reviews with Ezekiel by Eden Specialty Ciders. This is part of their Cellar Series lineup. I have reviewed a few Eden ciders before.  

Most recently I tried the Eden Heritage Cider in a can: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-eden-heritage-and.html

My favourite cider of 2017 was the Imperial 11 Degree Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

I enjoyed the Sparkling Dry in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-eden-sparkling-dry-cider.html

And in 2016 I made the Sparkling Dry part of my Thanksgiving and Birthday celebrations: 


Visit Eden Speciality Cider online to learn about all of the ciders: https://www.edenciders.com/

Now to Eden's Ezekiel. The official description of this limited edition cider reads: 

"100% Kingston Black apples: Rare apples, pressed at harvest, carefully fermented and bottle-conditioned with our ice cider to produce a cider that is exquisitely delicious and unique. Winner: GLINTCAP Silver" 8% ABV.

Appearance: Hazy, few visible bubbles, goldenrod

This hazy cider offers up deep goldenrod color. Each glass poured with a different amount of clarity and showed some settling in the glass. I couldn’t see very many bubbles.

Aromas: leather, tea, cooked apples and peaches.

The Ezekiel smells like leather and cooked apples. It had more fruity and herbal notes though like a spicy black tea or warm peaches.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a tannic, high acid, dry cider. Wowzas!

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tannic finish, good body

I am never sure of what to expect from a single varietal cider. They often aren’t balanced. The Ezekiel has a lot to recommend it. I adore the immediacy and strength of acid I tasted. It’s not just powerful, it’s pleasurable rather than thin or too sharp. It’s almost as if there are multiple types of acid playing in concert here rather than one note being played loudly.

I definitely get some tannins from the Ezekiel, and they feel stronger on the finish. I can detect subtle and grainy wild rice notes too. The cider provokes a strong salivary reaction.
It’s dry but intensely flavorful and filled with juicy stone fruits. The body on this cider is firm and substantial, perfect for winter. I had mine with a savory rich cornbread casserole, and it was heavenly.

Rootstock Ciderworks Legend Barrel Aged

Rootstock is a Rochester-area cidery, based in a Williamson, New York orchard. The orchard is currently worked by three generations of the DeFisher family. The Legend is a premium cider available only in a limited run. 

I’ve reviewed a few Rootstock Ciders.

I reviewed the Rose this past summer: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-shacksbury-dorset-and.html

Not much later, I included the Belgium when rounding up canned ciders: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-rootstock.html

Rootstock Ciderworks first showed up on the blog with the Hopped Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cider-review-rootstock-ciderworks.html

Here’s the official description of the Legend Barrel-Aged, "Rich golden color and soft tannin—full of robust apple and vanilla flavors accompanied by the subtle aroma of oak, leather and hints of black pepper. Made from heirloom variety apples and aged for over a year in French and American oak barrels. 7.6% Alc/Vol – 0.5% RS"

It has won silver at two of the most prestigious cider competitions, Bath & West International Cider Competition 2017 and Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) 2017. I love that the description lists not only the ABV but also the residual sugar. Factual information really helps contextualize a cider, now if only we knew more about the heirloom apple varieties!

You can learn about Rootstock Ciderworks on the company website: https://rootstockciderworks.com/

Appearance: bright gold, brilliant, bubbly

This is going to be a sparkling cider! It pours with a light mousse that doesn’t stick around. I’d call the color bright gold with beautiful brilliant clarity.

Aromas: vanilla, toasted crumbs, pear, smoke

This cider some big emphatic barrel characteristics to the aromas. I can smell vanilla, toasted breadcrumbs, smoke, butter, caramel and pear. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry 

This cider has some sweetness, but it needs it to smooth out both the emphatic barrel qualities and the acidity. Keep reading for the full picture.

Flavors and drinking experience: Barrel, acidity, butter, apple

As I suspected from the aroma, the barrel has the first word here. I can taste lots and lots of barrel, in flavor it comes across as oak and butter. These notes do not drown out the apple thankfully! I can taste mellow cooked apple very pleasantly on the midpalate. Other flavors include citrus, ginger, and vanilla.

The Legend is undeniably High acid but the acidity is not pointed. This cider offers up loads of body and bubble! This is a fun one! Overall, it’s fruity and barrel-icious! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cider Review: Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Andromeda Crab and Original Sin Cider's McIntosh Unfiltered

We’re at the start of a whole new year. I hope that cider folks enjoyed their New Year’s celebrations. I know I enjoyed sharing a couple of lovely ciders with friends in the last hours of 2018. Hopefully, 2019 will bring even more tasty adventures. 

I’m so excited to start this year of reviews with something special I’ve been cellaring from Redbyrd Orchard Cider! This is a small orchard-based cidery that focuses on using heritage, European, and crab apples to make dry exciting ciders. The Redbyrd Orchard is grown using  biodynamic farming methods. 

I’m very fond of Redbyrd Orchard Ciders, so I’ve posted a fair number of reviews. Here’s the list:

The North Star:  https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

The Starblossom http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html 

The Dry Harvest Cider 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html 

The Wild Pippin (my #1 cider of 2014, the Wild Pippin): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

But I’m ready to share my thoughts on the Andromeda Crab!

The cider’s official description give some great information.
A nose of ripe strawberry, lemon peel, and waxy bittersweet apple notes. Finishes with lingering tannins and velvety texture. Andromeda. It’s the closest galaxy to ours and the brightest is the heavens- the most distant thing you can see with the naked eye. The way we think about Andromeda is the way we feel about the crab apples in this cider: they are amazing! We hope you’ll open this bottle of cider and spend an evening sky gazing and contemplating the wonders of the universe. 80 cases produced
And the label lets us know in amazing detail the apples that go into this cider: “38% aromatic crabs (Manchurian, Dolgo, and Wickson), 50% bittersweets (Dabinett, Domaines, Sweet Coppin, Binet Rouge, Medaille d’Or, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey), 12% heirlooms (Tompkins King, Sweet 16, Spigold, Northern Spy).”

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, fine bubbles

This is a very attractive cider with pleasing brilliance and tiny bubbles. The color is a warm straw.

Aromas: mushy apples, golden raisins, plums

These aromas were all sweeter and fruitier than I expected based on the other crab apple ciders from Redbyrd Orchard Cider. I could smell cooked apples, plump golden raisins, and ripe plums.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is definitely a dry cider with tons of acidity and loads of tannin, but the flavors include so much more. This cider surprised me a little, given the sweetness of the aroma notes.

Flavors and drinking experience: grippy tannins, high acid, citrus

Yum! The Andromeda Crab is very high acid with notably grippy tannins. Ihe cider tastes  juicy, but that’s almost a background to the salivary action-inducing tartness. This cider delivers lots of flavor. It’s dry but not understated. 

This cleanly fermented cider presents no funk, but straight up crabapple zinginess. I get notes of golden white flavors, candied orange peel, lemon, and ginger. The taste unfolds over time with a sense of ongoing blooming. The finish lingers and tantalizes.  The tannins have a strong effect on how the overall balance. The texture sparkles with fine bubbles. 

I had the Andromeda Crab with family and a holiday meal. It made for an extremely pleasant and very flavorful accompaniment to roast broccoli, mashed potatoes, maple butter carrots, broiled tomatoes, all slathered with Bearnaise sauce. The acidity was necessary for this rich meal and the two supported one another amazingly well.

Original Sin McIntosh Unfiltered

For lots of cider makers, the single varietal cider is a major goal. These ciders are difficult to do well. Most apples do not have all of the characteristics necessary to ferment into a balanced beverage on their own and instead the blend is how a cider has enough aroma, acid, sweetness, and tannin. And yet the desire remains, and I’m excited to try the new Single Varietal  lineup from Original Sin.

Original Sin has been around making ciders since 1999. The company is based out of New York City but many of the apples are grown in Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes region or other more apple dense areas.  

You can visit the Original Sin website to learn about all of the ciders Original Sin makes: http://origsin.com

Here's my list of previous Original Sin  reviews.

Most recently, I included the pear cider in my Very Perry May series: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-5-e-z-orchards.html

I sampled the flagship cider in one of Ithaca's most missed bars, the Chapterhouse Pub: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-original-sin-hard-ciders.html

In 2013, I reviewed the Elderberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/09/cider-review-original-sin-elderberry.html

And more recently, the Original Sin Extra Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/02/cider-review-original-sin-extra-dry-in.html

And a previous single-varietal release, the Newtown Pippin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/02/cider-review-newtown-pippin.html

Here an introduction to the whole line of single variety ciders. 
The single varietal ciders boast unique flavor profiles of their respective apples, the Fuji, the McIntosh, the Golden Russet, and the beloved Northern Spy. 
Each of the chosen apples has an entrenched history of being grow in the Finger Lakes and Hudson Valley regions of upstate New York affirming Original Sin’s commitment to source local products and promote New York’s agriculture.  
New York is the second-largest apple producing state and boasts the most diverse selection of apple varieties in the country. This diversity has only grown in recent years as growth in the U.S. cider industry has propelled a resurgence in American apple culture.  
The first of the new series is Original Sin McIntosh Unfiltered Cider.

Appearance: cloudy and sunny yellow

This indeed looks unfiltered. I poured it from the can into a clear glass so I could see just how cloudy it is. As the picture shows, it’s cloudy and a sunny yellow.

Aromas: Fresh apple, mint, lemon, grain

The McIntosh smells so very fruity, fresh and herbal. I get notes of fresh apple, mint, lemon, and clean grain.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

As with most Original Sin ciders, the McIntosh is semi-sweet. The sweetness tastes extremely appley and natural. This will be a hit.

Flavors and drinking experience: unfermented apple, baking spices, well balanced

The semi-sweet niceness of the McIntosh shocked me because from the first sip, this is a very well balanced cider. I do not associate balance with a single-varietal, yet this absolutely has it. It’s also very very apple. I think the first phrase I uttered after a sip was the barely coherent, “Ultimate fruit directness.”

The McIntosh is enticingly sessionable. It hits the tongue with a perfectly pitched acid, and something about the flavors just brings the texture of crisp apple flesh to mind! There are other flavor notes like baking spice and citrus. This won’t be the cider for everyone, but it’s just so fresh and balanced. I was planning on having mine with veggie chili, but it was all gone before the chili was ready. Oops!