Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Very Perry May with Vandermill's Ice Ice Perry, South Hill Cider's Bluegrass Russet and GLINTCAP Best in Class



I write on a nearly quiet evening after a full and busy few days in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve been here to judge at GLINTCAP, take my CCP Level 2 exam, and I ended up volunteering with for the Great Lakes International Cider Festival as a fun bonus. It’s been a whirlwind of training, judging,and  getting to see cider friends from all over the country. But I knew it would be a chance for me to find new treats to continue Very Perry May.

That’s how I was able to sample Vandermill’s Ice Ice Perry at the Great Lakes International Cider Festival.

Vandermill is key to GLINTCAP and the Michigan Cider Alliance. The company started as a cider mill just over 10 years ago in Grand Rapids in 2006. Now, Vandermill Cider sells cider in seven states and operates two taprooms open to the public: Grand Rapids and Spring Lake. And that’s not even scratching the surface of all that this cider has going on!


Visit the website to learn more here: http://vandermill.com/.

I’ve reviewed one Vandermill Cider before, the Totally Roasted: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-vander-mills-totally.html

The company also features in my CiderCon coverage from 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-con-2017-part-1-industry-growing.html

I wasn’t able to find an official description of the Ice Ice Perry online, but I found some notes and I got some info when the perry was poured today. The Ice Ice Perry uses Bartlett pears and gets blended with 9% heritage apple ice cider. At some point some or all of the perry or cider spends time in barrels. 6.33% ABV.


Appearance: butterscotch, hazy, bubbly

The cider’s color reminds me of butterscotch. It’s hazy and when poured from draft, visibly bubbly.

Aromas: acidity, citrus, vanilla, cooked apples

This is a complex set of smells! This perry smells like citrus, vanilla, and cooked apples. But that’s not all that’s going on. I also detect a hint of wild tart tanginess. I can definitely tell that this spent some time in a barrel!

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

This comes out feeling semi-dry, but based on other characteristics, I wonder if it doesn’t have more residual sugar than it tastes like.
Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, low tannins, lots of barrel

While the methods used to reach this effect were anything but traditional, this perry actually reminds me of a few of the English perries I’ve enjoyed over the years. It’s soft, a little sweet, fairly tart, a little tannic, and quite funky.

The barrel aging I could detect in the aromas remains present in the flavors in that it tastes like vanilla and oak. It also has such pleasant soft rounded fruit character at the same time as it’s bright and zesty acidity. There’s a lot going on here!


Black Diamond's Somerset Jersey

You’ll have to read through to the end to see exactly why I’m sharing my notes on the Somerset Jersey by Black Diamond this week, but I’m always happy to review any cider by Black Diamond. This rural orchard-based cidery has been part of my cider landscape since it officially opened in 2014, not long after I moved to the Finger Lakes regions. The cidery and orchard are run by Ian and Jackie Merwin, two long-time contributors to the cider world. For more background information on the cidery, check out some of my earlier reviews of Black Diamond Ciders.

You can also learn more by visiting Black Diamond Cider online: https://www.blackdiamondcider.com

Earlier this spring (when it still felt like winter) I enjoyed the Geneva Tremlett’s: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-black-diamonds-geneva.html

I reviewed the Slatestone last year:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-big-hill-ciderworks.html

I have reviewed a few Black Diamond ciders previously. 

The Solstice cider was my second favorite cider in 2017. It’s still one of the most delightful still ciders I’ve ever encountered:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/08/cider-review-black-diamonds-solstice.html

The Hickster was my third favorite cider in 2016:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-black-diamond-ciders.html

Black Diamond’s award-winning Porter’s Pommeau made an appearance at the 2017 Locavore pairing dinner in 2017:
https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

My first Black Diamond review is the Rabblerouser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-black-diamonds.html

Somerset Jersey’s label description is pleasingly complete.

Black Diamond Farm is a family-owned cidery in Seneca County, New York-the heart of the Iroquois People’s ‘Land Between the Lakes.’ Our Ciders are handcrafted from home-grown fruit, using traditional methods that express the fertile soils and unique climate of our lakes region. Somerset Jersey cider is a small-batch varietal blend of heritage apples, dominated by the English bittersweet called Harry Master’s Jersey, a scion of the ‘Somerset Jersey’ clan of apples that originated in southwest England during the late 1800s. This cider is semi-dry, with notes of vanilla and passionfruit, light acidity, and soft tannins that create its long astringent finish. Best when served slightly chilled. ABV 7.7%.


Appearance: hazy, bubbly, apricot

Somerset Jersey looks like the glowing color of dried apricots. The cider is hazy and bubbly. 

Aromas: ripe apples, vanilla buttercream, tropical fruit

This is what keeps me coming back to Black Diamond ciders so eagerly. These folks know how to bring out strong and pleasing aromas in a cider! This one smells like ripe tart apples and vanilla buttercream. I also get plenty of tropical fruit notes. It makes my mouth water. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry-to-semi-sweet

This feels just a hint dryer than a semi-sweet and almost too sweet to be a semi-dry. It’s a delicate spot with only very natural fruit sweetness coming through. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Citrus, minerality, tropical fruit, and astringence

This is so lovely! The Somerset Jersey tastes astringent and fruity at the same time. It has lots of minerality and citrus, plus a showering of tropical fruit. I often enjoy ciders that are high acid and high tannin; this fits that profile exceptionally well.

I love the Somerset Jersey’s rich mouthfeel and strong bubbles. Everything going on from first sip to lingering finish works together and works beautifully. I love it, and I’m not the only one. Keep reading to see who else does...

And, saving some excitement for the end of this week’s post, I want to share a link to GLINTCAP’s Best in Glass results!


https://glintcap.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/GLINTCAP_2019_Best_in_Class.pdf

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Very Perry May with Left Foot Charley's Perry and Stoic Cider's The First Batch


Welcome back to Very Perry May, Cider Lovers! It’s a fabulously cider and perry filled week for me. I’m travelling today to the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (https://glintcap.org/), my Pommelier exam (https://ciderassociation.org/certification/), and Grand Rapids Cider week(https://www.experiencegr.com/cider-week/). If you’ll be at any of these great events, please come say hi! 

Starting with the Perry from Left Foot Charley today. This Traverse City Winery and Cidery  was founded in 2004. Now it’s an urban winery and cidery that purchases fruit and juice from a number of Northern Michigan fruit growers. 

I previously reviewed Henry’s Pippin (and it was made my top 10 for 2016: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-henrys.html

You can visit the Left Foot Charley website to learn more about the wines and ciders: http://www.leftfootcharley.com

Here’s the description from the bottle for this perry, “Perry is hard cider made exclusively from fermented pear juice. We harvested Bartlett pears from Northern Michigan and fermented the juice in small steel barrels for 10 months. After this rest, we bottled the perry with a slight bubble. It’s fresh pear aromas and aged yeast tones add complexity to this dry perry. Only 800 botttles were produced.” ABV 6%



Appearance: brilliant, no visible bubble, pale green glow

This perry has a nearly green pale glow in it’s still brilliance. It looks more like a white wine than many of the ciders and perries 

Aromas: tropical fruit, citrus, ginger, flowers

I smell concentrated fruitness from this perry like something tropical, I also get ginger and citrus. It includes floral and wild notes but it’s also just a little bit creamy.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The off-dry sweetness level doesn’t really communicate even the tip of the iceberg for this perry.



Flavors and drinking experience: intense acid, phenols,

There are some aggressive phenols in the flavor that weren’t hinted at in the aroma. This perry has twisty funky dance moves to show off. I scarcely know what to say because I was so surprised at the jolt from this perry’s aromas to it’s flavors. I enjoy the rich mouthfeel. It has a little bit of tannin and spice that grows on me as I sip it more. I like the notes of tea and lemongrass. I had this after dinner while sitting down to be cozy with cats, and that was very pleasant indeed.


Stoic Cider The First Batch

And I’m thrilled to finally share my thoughts on the first Stoic cider I’ve tried. This company makes cider in Prescott, Arizona. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know the cidery owners at cider events around the country, and I’ve watched their progress with great curiousity. And now I’m so glad to finally review The First Batch. 

Visit the company online: http://stoiccider.com/

Here’s the official description, “The first release of Stoic Cider! Artfully crafted from a blend of heritage apples in a small batch. A slow cold fermentation preserves the fruit-forward character. The cider matures to develop balance and complexity, yielding a delicate and rustic charisma. Shockingly drinkable. Created and bottled by hand, this rich golden cider is nearly dry and perfectly light and crisp. Pairs well with good friends and good food. Enjoy!” ABV of 6.5%


Appearance: butternut squash, transparent, few visible bubbles

This looks like a very tannic cider based on its deep squash color, but we’ll see how it tastes. It’s transparent with a small number of visible bubbles

Aromas:hay, lots of apple, oak, pollen 

Ooh this cider smells like so many things! I enjoy how the First Batch brings lots of apple, hay, oak and pollen to the forefront. It really melds some funky farmy notes with fruity ones. There are other scents in the background like caramel and dust.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This cider falls on the dry side of semi-dry for sure. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tropical fruit notes, banana

Wowzas! This cider is almost off the charts with it’s high acid. The First Batch offers up all sorts of nice tropical fruit and some fun zingy mouthfeel. It’s light and just a little bubbly. I get some banana notes as well. I had this cider with a porch picnic and it was an excellent accompaniment to sweet potato hummus, sharp cheddar, bell peppers, cashews, grapes and strawberries.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cider Review Very Perry May with Woodchuck Bubbly Pearsecco & Sandford Orchards Straw & Oak



Happy May, Cider Lovers! It has become something of a tradition for me to share my perry reviews in a series called Very Perry May every year. I don’t find as many perries or pear ciders as I’d like, so finding a new one is always a treat. 

For any who don’t know, Perry is the beverage made from fermented pear juice. Here are a few of the most delicious or unusual from my last two years of Very Perry May.

Tieton Ciderworks Tieton Cider Works Sparkling Perry, Stem Ciders Perry
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-tieton-cider-works.html

Two Towns Pearadise: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-2-towns-ciderhouses.html

And an international perry roundup with Argus, Viuda De Angelon, Cidrerie Daufresne:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-4-argus-viuda-de.html

And I cannot mention perry without thinking about Oriole Perry by AeppelTreow’s Orchard Oriole Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

This year I’m starting with a Woodchuck Cider’s Bubbly Pearsecco. This is a pear and apple blend rather than a perry. I want to distinguish between them, but include both this month. There’s a fair bit of crossover with the two terms, but the label on this cider does make the inclusion of apples clear. 

Woodchuck’s Bubbly Pearsecco variety is a dry, bubbly pear cider with a crisp clean finish, taking inspiration from sparkling wine, which is also experiencing exceptional growth. Both Bubbly Rosé and Bubbly Pearsecco have an ABV of 6.1%.

“So often when you speak to people unfamiliar with the cider category there is a lot of confusion about how cider is made and what it tastes like.” said Bridget Blacklock, Vice President of Marketing. “We believe by introducing ciders that have similar profiles to wine and deliver drier taste characteristics we can expand the consumer cider experience and showcase hard ciders’ ability to offer varieties to fit every drinkers palette.”

Learn more about all of Woodchuck’s ciders here: http://www.woodchuck.com/


Appearance: pale straw, brilliant, bubbly

This pear cider looks like spring honey or pale straw. It’s a gentle hue that shows off the ciders brilliant clarity and plentiful bubbles

Aromas: Vanilla yogurt, white flowers, mild cheese, pear

Though the aromas aren’t particularly strong, they are all springy and pleasant. I get notes of creaminess like a vanilla yogurt, mild white cheese, and pear. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I didn’t expect it to taste dry. Pears have sorbitol: a non-fermentable sugar. But Woodchuck as a producer tends to stick to the sweeter cider, even in the ciders listed or described as being closer to dry. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Lots of sparkle, bright acidity, light pear and apple flavors

This pear cider is  strongly bubbly; that’s something I like about it a lot! The Pearsecco offers up light fresh pear and apple flavors. It’s  semi sweet and relatively well balanced with it’s medium-high acidity but no tannins. The overall impression is bright and pleasant. The light mouthfeel is zippy and fresh. 


And for my cider review of the week, I’m excited to finally crack open my bottle of Sandford Orchards’ Straw & Oak. This United Kingdom cidery is based in Devon. This is my first review of anything by Sandford Orchards. 

Visit the cider company online: https://www.sandfordorchards.co.uk/

Here’s how the cider is described online: “An amazing insight into how Devon cider would have tasted in bygone centuries. Straw pressed on a traditional single screw press and fermented to dryness, resulting in crisp cider with great structure and pure apple and citrus flavours.” Other facts are given like a Specific Gravity of 1.000, 6.7% ABV, and apple varieties including Northwood, Brown’s Apple, Kirton Fair, and Ellis Bitter.




Appearance: transparent, rusty, scant bubble

This is a totally transparent cider with just a few bubbles hanging around. I’m so tempted by what I see in it’s color. The rusty shade is almost reddish. I often associate strongly colorful ciders with more tannic presence, so I’m hopeful.

Aromas: hay, overripe apples, tin and tea,  

Oh yum. This cider smells so characteristic of English cider making traditions. There’s a hint of slight sourness (smells lactic, not acetic), but more than that I smell hay and ridiculously soft apples mushing into sauce. The gentle tones hum in the background of tin and tea. It just smells so good, like sun on dried grass. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry cider with lots of tannins, whoa!

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, medium acidity, twiggy, medium bubbles

I know what want to say first about how the Straw and Oak tastes: tannins ahoy! This cider is decidedly dry and tannic, with medium acidity. The first notes are overripe apples and red grape skins. The cider is almost brutally refreshing—partly due to a pleasant and complex finish that comes a full second after each swallow.  I also taste tropical fruit, torched pineapple. The astringence has persimmon-like effects.  

I do taste both elements in the name: oak and straw. The oak comes across like twigs and tea; it’s lightly oaked but still woody. The straw is because the juice was pressed through wheat and barley—and you can smell the wheat in the cider’s aroma, and taste the barley.  The cider has a medium level of sparkle and hearty body. I loved it.

And one last link before the end of this week’s reviews. I’d like to point folks to the best thing I’ve read in the wider cider world lately. Malus Zine is a thoughtful and critical zine dedicated to cider. In the most recent issue, Olivia Maki challenges all of us to think about how cider deals with the past. It’s called “Whose Heritage?”: https://www.maluszine.com/essays/whose-heritage


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cider Review: Sea Cider's Ruby Rose and South Hill Cider's Bluegrass Russet


As the weather gets warmer, people start planning more events and calendars fill up. Cider events are popping out like spring flowers. My busy calendar is no exception. This week brings circus rehearsals, a cider competition, and lots and lots of studying for the the Cider Certification Program’s Level 2 test. Wish me luck! Perhaps I should reserve this time next year just to stare and new green buds and flowers, but that might not be particularly realistic. I am determined to keep sharing reviews, so let’s get to it!

This week, I’m starting with another recent vacation pick: Sea Cider’s Ruby Rose.  

Sea Cider is a small Canadian cidery based on a farm on Vancouver Island. The cidery has operated since 2007. You can visit the cider house and taste a lineup of the company’s cider there. Part of the company identity comes from growing apples organically. For more background on the cidery, look to it’s first appearance on the blog.

I reviewed of Sea Cider’s Pippins cider previously: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/cider-review-sea-cider-farm-and.html

Here’s Ruby Rose’s official description,
A captivating semi-sweet cider infused with rhubarb, Ruby Rose is a beguiling vixen and part of our Canadian Invasion Series. She may be as aromatic as rhubarb pie, but her namesake is the merciless Rosa Rugosa, an invasive plant that threatens many coastal regions. Proceeds from our Canadian Invasion Series support efforts to combat invasive species in sensitive ecological areas. Ruby Rose pairs fabulously with light summertime meals and is perfect as a patio sipper. Consider sautéed prawns, a creamy brie, candied salmon salad and salty snacks.
Wow. That’s a 9.9%ABV.


Appearance: brilliant, salmon, no visible bubbles

This salmon colored cider looks like a springy beverage indeed. It’s totally brilliant and shows no visible bubbles.

Aromas: Pie cherries, hibiscus, rose, citrus, rhubarb

Luscious indeed! Ruby Rose smells mouth-wateringly of: cherries, hibiscus, and rhubarb. The most interesting aroma note that came to mind was crumbled rose petals on split and sugared grapefruit. I don’t get a ton of apple aromas; they are competing with other stronger smells. I think this will be a sweet cider and a tasty one. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a decidedly sweet cider! The sweetness affects a few other characteristics, to learn more keep reading.

Flavors and drinking experience: burnt sugar, perfume, floral, rhubarb, rosehips, cinnamon.

This is a carousel of manic and exciting flavors.  The cider tastes like burnt sugar, rhubarb, rosehips and cinnamon. It reminds me of a well balanced floral perfume. 

Ruby Rose pairs very well with strong foods: Alex and I had it with spicy Mexican food and it manages to speak loud and clear. The cider has medium high acidity and medium tannins. Both are clearly present but pulling against the sugars. This is crucial for the cider to remain in balance. With so many flavor factors turned way up, and an ABV of 9.9%, I am grateful that the mouthfeel has presence and body. The cider offers only a mild sparkle. 

In terms of serving the Ruby Rose, it could double as a dessert cider. With it’s mouthfeel the higher ABV and sweetness, it’s certainly a beverage to sip and consider. The whole experience is boozy and warm: redolent of cherry and plum. 



South Hill Cider’s Bluegrass Russet

I’m a big fan of South Hill Ciders. This lineup is consistently apple-based and adventurous. Cidermaker Steve Selin has a young orchard in my own stomping ground of Ithaca, NY and also uses foraged, heirloom, crab, and cider specific apples all rrom the local environs.  

Most recently, I reviewed one from the limited release Prelude line, the Prelude 3: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-prelude.html

This was my #7 favorite cider of 2018
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2017.html

I included South Hill in my Finger Lakes Cider pairing dinner back in September of 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

A South Hill Cider was my top pic for 2016, the Stone Fence Farm: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-stone.html

Before then, I also enjoyed the 2014 Packbasket: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/04/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-2014.html

My first South Hill Cider  review for them was the hyper-limited Hypothesis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html

You can visit South Hill Cider’s website to learn more about the process and all of the ciders: http://www.southhillcider.com/

kk

And now for the Bluegrass Russet.

Bluegrass Russet‘s label introduces it as the following, “The Golden Russet apple was born in New York State in the early 1800s. Since then it has been prized for its excellent  flavor for cider as well as on the table. This cider exhibits the Golden Russet’s aroma with hints of lemongrass, apple blossoms and apple-skin, with very lively natural effervescence and a crisp finish. Pairings: rich cheeses, pork, and even with an herbed sorbet. Apple Varieties: Golden Russet, Northern Spy, Baldwin, Crabapple. 196 Cases. Batch 2016. ABV of 8.5%”  


Aromas: Minerals, apples, citrus and flowers

The Bluegrass Russet smells very tempting. I can smell minerals, apples, fresh flowers, and citrus.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Though the label calls it off dry, this cider tastes sweet to me. The residual sugar is measured (according to the South Hill website) at 1.8%, so I don’t feel entirely off base to suggest that it doesn’t taste off dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, bubbly, lush, heavy mouthfeel

I had this cider with pesto pasta and sun-dried tomatoes. I’m glad I had some bold balancing flavors, because this cider brings a party on its own! I enjoy that the Bluegrass Russet is so very fruity. It tastes green yet tropical, like pineapple and kiwi. The cider is very bubbly: my favorite! It has acidity, tannins, bubbles, and higher ABV, making the whole experience lush, almost creamy with a decadently heavy mouthfeel. I enjoyed it very much!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Capitol Cider with Westcott Bay Cider, WildCraft Cider, and Slake Cider

I love Seattle. Usually, I’m not much a city person, but I adore Seattle. It’s a great city for food adventurers, art lovers, and cider nerds. Since I happen to be all three, having fun on my trip was the easiest thing in the world. My most anticipated cider stop had to be Capital Cider. Check the place out in person if you’re near or online in any case: https://capitolcider.com/. That menu and cider selection are hardcore! It claims the largest cider selection of any independent cider bar in the country. 


I’d been looking forward to exploring this cider list for years. The walk was cool and rainy, so it felt like reaching an oasis once we got there. I loved their decor and atmosphere. The whole place was filled with art copies that looked largely 18th and 19th century inspired. It gave the taproom a classic pub feel but with lots of natural light. Heavenly!

I ordered a flight of ciders that included Slake Cider, Westcott Bay Cider and Wildcraft Cider. This was the flight most oriented to heritage apple varieties and dry ciders, so it was an easy pick for me. For food, I chose a cheese, saucy, brunchy dish with eggs and tortilla chips. I wanted something hearty and filled with umami flavors to pair with what I hoped would be higher tannin dry ciders. Here’s how it went, cider by cider.


Westcott Bay Cider’s Very Dry

Westcott Bay Cider comes from San Juan Island, just off the coast of Washington State. I’ve never had the chance to try one of these ciders before. Based on what I can find out about this company, it’s small, operational since at least 2007, and focuses on a small number of traditional apple-only ciders.

Learn all about Wetscott Bay Cider at the website: https://www.westcottbaycider.com/

Here’s this cider’s official description, “Traditional Very Dry Very Dry is a "bone dry" cider, crisp, with a bit of effervescence, it is an excellent addition to any meal where a dry white wine would be served. Residual sugar less than 1/2 percent. Alc 6.8% by Vol.”

This cider’s aromas start with mushy overripe apples, honey, and pollen. There’s been debate about if any notes in a smell can lead one to correctly anticipate a cider’s level of acidity, but something about this smell leads me to expect a tart, high acid cider.   

The Very Dry tastes delicious; it’s dry with high tannins and high acidity. Though the abv isn’t particularly high, the intensity of flavors leads this cider to feel just a bit warming. It’s a strong combination of old and new world styles. It uses mild oxidation to very positive effect. The flavor is so savory as to veer almlost into salty territory. I love how very savory this cider is with notes of leather, tea, and rosemary.  In terms of texture, the Very Dry is a tiny bit petillant but basically still. 


WildCraft Cider Works’  2016 Willamette Heritage 

WildCraft focuses on using local fruit and botanicals as well as spontaneous fermentations for all of the ciders the company makes. The company has a tasting room in Eugene, Oregon.

Check out this Oregon cidery online: https://wildcraftciderworks.com/

I’ve reviewed one WildCraft Cider before, almost a year ago: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-2-towns-ciderhouses.html

The official description for the 2016 Willamette Heritage follows. 
Though the tradition of cider making is still in the memory of many farmhouses across the nation, the methods once used along the west coast seem to have all but vanished. In times gone by the unique Willamette Valley landscape was covered in orchards planted by reliant settlers. Some of these orchards remain, now untamed but still accessible, and provide a portal to their mysterious past. Fermented with indigenous yeasts from the fruit of the very same orchards, we present to you the reclamation of the bygone Western Farmhouse Cider.
This cider smells funky, like an interesting meeting point between English and Spanish cidermaking styles. There’s just a high of volatile acid in the smell. I expect lots of tannins. The aromas are like dipping well worn bridle leather in pixie sticks. It’s fruity, herbal, and farmy.

The 2016 Willamette Heritage tastes like salted caramel and ripe apples. The funk I noticed in the aroma is present, but thankfully it doesn’t take the cider to a too briney direction. I’d call it off dry. It’s simultaneously bright and dark tasting. 

The mild VA from the aroma translates into some well incorporated acetic acid; perhaps the cider was exposed to oxygen during fermentation. Spontaneous fermentations like these frequently result in wild and farmy flavors like the 2016 Willamette Heritage has in spades. The cider tastes fruity(underripe strawberry.), sour, and leathery. Even with all this, the cider is still filled with apple notes and offers up rich pleasant mouthfeel. This one tastes especially good with salty food. 


Last but not least, I tried Carlton Cyderworks’ (recently renamed Slake Cider) French Lane Cider.

This small cidery has been around since 2008. The company has recently renamed itself to Slake Cider, but earlier fans might know it from Carlton Cyderworks. You can visit the cidery and taproom in McMinnville, Oregon. The company makes several varieties, some of which include fruits or spices in addition to apples. 

Visit the website to learn more about this https://slakecider.com/

Here's the official description (I love how complete this description is.)
French Lane Press 
Wild fermented traditional dry cider, made solely from apples grown at our orchard in Carlton, Oregon.   
Planted in the fertile soils of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, our French Lane Orchard is the ultimate labor of love.  Over 60 varieties of traditional cider apples and perry pears grow at French Lane, and this variety yields a complex and totally unique blend of fruit.  Bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples from England and France lend depth, mouthfeel, and tannic astringency.  Heirloom American apples brighten the cider with tartness and acidity, and their higher sugar content contributes to the final ABV - a solid 7.4%.  The natural yeast which grows on the skins of the apples was allowed to completely ferment the juice, with no additional cultivated yeast strains added.  After primary fermentation the cider was aged and then bottled completely dry, with no added sugar, juice, or other sweeteners.  French Lane Press is truly a traditional farmhouse cider, showcasing what cider apples can be, without gimmicks, tricks, or excuses.
2017 Harvest - 7.4% ABV - Apple Varieties:  20% Porter’s Perfection, 20% Kingston Black, 12% Fillbarrel, 10% Browns, 8% Somerset Redstreak, 7% McIntosh, 7% Ashmead’s Kernel, less than 5% of the following: Spitzenburg, Tom Putt, Tremlett’s Bitter, Roxbury Russet, Ellis Bitter
This cider smells mildly leathery. I get the farmy richness that tells me to expect elements of both English and French cider styles. It’s Just a bit of barn wood and toast. The French Lane Press has inviting aromas that I think make it a great choice to introduce a newer cider drinker to heritage fruit and more wine-inspired cider making.

The French Lane Press is still and the first flavor note that comes across is honey. The cider has a light mouthfeel with medium high acidity and medium high tannins. The cider reminds me of hay and sun warmed grasses. I get notes of freshly washed apple and grapefruit. The ABV is 7.4% but this cider doesn’t taste especially boozy.

This flight was put together intelligently. The ciders all complement one another, and they are presented in the best order to appreciate each of them. The food was similarly attuned to pair with cider. My co-taster and I were very impressed! I know that all of my future trips to Seattle will have to include a stop at Capitol Cider. And I look forward to tracking down more ciders from Westcott Bay Cider, WildCraft Cider, and Slake Cider.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cider Review: Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider and Finnriver's Honey Meadow


West Coast ciders don’t get enough love on this blog. It’s not that I don’t feel the love, it’s just that I can’t get my hands on as many west coast ciders easily! Some wonderful companies share their releases with me regularly, but I don’t see many available in stores. Luckily, I took a brief vacation to Seattle with the Tall One last week. Of course, I tasted ciders everywhere I could! Here are my first two reviews from my explorations!  

I saw Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider in a fancy grocery store, and it came back with me to the AirBnb post haste. I’ve not gotten to try too many Dragon’s Head ciders, but what I’ve had, I’ve loved. The cidery is run by Wes and Laura Cherry on Vachon Island, off the coast of Washington State. They have a 3000 + tree orchard and a focus on apples and tradition cider making. 

This link will take you to the website where you can read more about Dragon's Head: http://www.dragonsheadcider.com/

Here’s the only previous mention in my blog, in a write up of CiderCon: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html 

Dragon's Head's official description is helpfully full with a few different sections. I’ll quote it in full. 

This is the Dragon’s Head Cider version of a farmhouse cider. Rather than carefully selecting a yeast strain for the fermentation, we allowed the wild yeast present on the skin of the apples to ferment the cider. It’s a bit of a fun gamble, but one we believe is worth taking.
2018 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, BRONZE MEDAL 
Tasting Notes 
Appearance – hazy, straw color, some sediment may be presentAroma – pineapple, green tea, apple blossomTaste – lemon and young pineapple flavors are followed by mild spice and lingering grapefruit notesMouthfeel – medium body with mild astringency; lightly effervescent

Appearance: warm straw, brilliant, big bubbles

My glass looks filled with large motionless bubbles. I know this cider will sparkle. The color of the Wild Fermented Cider reminds me of warm straw and the clarity is brilliant. A very good looking cider.

Aromas: lemon, pears, sugar, apples 

Oooh golly. The Wild Fermented cider smells like apples and sugar dusted on a lemon slices. It’s fresh, sweet smelling, fruity and sharp. I love how balanced and enticing it smells. I get notes of citrus, pears, and most of all mellow overripe apples.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The Wild Fermented cider is barely off dry. There’s just enough sweetness to expand my ability to perceive the cider’s nuances. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, balanced, bubbly, wine like

This has to be one of the cleanest and most balanced wild ferments I’ve ever tasted. I’m completely impressed. The cider tastes like cool fresh apples with quite high acidity, and plenty of yeast character.  I love that it’s super balanced and controlled. Tasting this cider creates a strong salivary reaction due to both intense sparkle and high acidity. 

The overall experience is very wine like; it reminds me of a very green appley Sauvignon Blanc. I can  definitely taste the apple in this cider, but the fermentation speaks impressively too. It’s delicious in big and small sips.The fruity notes include lots of citrus. The cider doesn't change much over the course of the sip: it hits with the apple and citrus, and stays constant through the finish. What it offers is excellent. The cider’s  mouthfeel is light and zippy. This is remarkably good. 


Finnriver’s Honey Meadow 

Finnriver Farm and Cidery is an organic cidery and winery, farm and event space in Washington State. I love this introduction from the website as a way to understand this cidery’s identity, “While our farm is remote, we're honored to be on the forefront of the Pacific Northwest hard cider revival and to craft ciders that both honor historic hard cider traditions and offer fresh perspectives on the possibilities of the fermented apple. We grow and source organic and seasonal ingredients to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the earth.”


Read more about Finnriver online: 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

I enjoyed the Lavender Black Currant this past November: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-finnrivers-lavender-black.html

The Honey Meadow's official description comes in a few parts. 

Describing the aromas and flavors of the cider, we can read, “This floral, earthy nectar sips like a fine, fermented spring tonic. Distinct floral notes with wandering hints of greenery. Light and crisp, herbal body with notes of artichoke and earth, and finishing with honeyed out-breath and a cream soda sprig of chamomile.”

I’m grateful to get some insight into the apple, herb, and honey choices, “Fermented on the farm with a select blend of Certified Organic Washington apples, organic Midori Farm burdock root, organic dandelion root, organic Finnriver lemon balm, organic chamomile blossom and Sequim Bee Farm blackberry honey.”

The ABV of this cider is 6.5%.


Appearance: brilliant, bubbly bright gold

This color just shouts spring sunshine. I didn’t see much of that in Seattle, but I know it when I see it. The cider is brilliant and obviously bubbly.

Aromas: honey, ripe apples, white flowers, yeast, vanilla

I am so glad that this cider smells of apples first and that the floral and honey notes do not dominate. The Honey Meadow does smell like all sorts of fruits, flowers, and herbs, including honeysuckle, vanilla, light honey, and Meyer lemons. I also get just a little yeast bread buried deep in the aroma. It smells so very pleasant! 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Honey Meadow is a sweet cider. The character of the sweetness is honeyed, rich, and vanilla tinged.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbed, honeyed, rich, funky

What a trip! The Honey Meadow tastes sweetly of creamed honey, while also being funky, herbal, appley and powdery. The floral notes remind me of daisies, queen anne's lace, and tiny white spring flowers that make the air smell like May. I get strong hints of vanilla frosting, notably that could be connected to the creamy, thick mouthfeel. The honey is fairly strong, it even hints at being like a cyser. 

The cider has medium acidity and medium bubble that fades fast. There are no tannins to speak of.  I appreciate the clean and bready funk, because it adds a needed second dimension, and a note to the finish.  The cider pairs very well with a salty snack. It’s fun, drinkable, friendly and extroverted.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Cider Review: Eve's Cidery Northern Spy and Stormalong Cider Red Skies at Night


The season has finally turned here in Upstate New York. It felt like spring over the weekend; I can’t count the signs of spring as they arrive anymore. They are too numerous. Plus, I always feel so grateful and energetic after recovering from illness, so I’m still thrilled to feel good.

Today, let’s begin with Eve’s Cidery Northern Spy.

Eve’s Cidery operates in Van Etten, New York and has since 2002. The cider apple orchard the founders planted has to be one of the most mature in the country at this point.

I’ve reviewed several ciders by Eve’s cidery before, stretching all the way back to 2013.

I started with Autumn’s Gold: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-eves-ciderys-autumns-gold.html

Beckhorn Hollow Dry:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-eves-ciderys-beckhorn.html

Albee Hill Still and Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-eves-cidery-albee-hill.html

I got to try the Perry Pear with a Murray’s cheese board:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt3-eves-cidery-wyders.html

Autumn of Eve’s led a group of us cider nerds on an Orchard Tour and picnic back in Fall 2016:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/cider-event-twilight-walk-talk-and.html


This past November, I served the Darling Creek at my Thanksgiving meal and then it made my top 10 of the year:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/thanksgiving-ciders-eves-ciderys.html
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/my-favourite-10-ciders-of-2018.html

You can read all about Eve’s Cidery on the website: https://www.evescidery.com.

Here’s the official description for this particular batch of Northern Spy: “Aromas of apple pie with buttered crust, savory herbs, summer plum and sun dried linen. On the palate, soft sumac flavors hang on a frame of grippy tannin. The finish juicy and persistent with wet stone, sea salt.” ABV 7.1%.

Appearance: unpopped popcorn, brilliant, so very bubbly

This cider looks just as bubbly as I’ve ever seen a cider! Every photo i took shows a blur of bubbles racing to the surface of the cider. The color looks deep in a way that leads me to anticipate rich flavors and tannins. The color reminds me of unpopped popcorn kernels. It’s brilliant which shows off the color and the bubbles even more.

Aromas: caramelized lemon, overripe apples, spices

Remembering how this cider smells makes my mouth water all over again. I love The Northern Spy’s overipe apple smell. It also had sweet citrus that reminded me of caramelized lemon or even blacked lemon peel. I also got oodles of baking spice.

Dryness/sweet: off dry

This is a gorgeous off dry cider. It has enough sweetness to unfold all the flavors within but not one hair more.

Flavors and drinking experience: super bubbly, Golden raisins, tart, lemon

I love super bubbly ciders! It’s a weakness of mine, and the Northern Spy suits it absolutely.  Gosh, I’m grateful. I got some wonderfully rich flavors as well, including golden raisins, citrus tartness, lemons and honey. It’s just a little bit funky, but only enough to give the experience some tooth.

I enjoy this dry, very tart, fermented, cider with a lemon finish. I’m not always the biggest fan of a single variety cider because they can suffer from lack of balance, but I just adore this. I paired with a springy asparagus and potato bake. It was delicious!

Let's move to Stormalong Cider's Red Skies at Night. This sample was shared with me by the kind folks of this Massachusetts cidery.


I started with the Legendary Dry:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

I also tried The Light of the Sun:
http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Visit the website to learn more about the cidery and Stormalong’s other offerings: http://stormalong.com/

Red Skies at Night

Official Description, “A delectable cider made with passionfruit and hibiscus.  Tart and juicy, tropical, and satisfying.” 5.8% ABV. Apple varieties used include Idared and Golden Delicious.


Appearance: Persimmon, brilliant, and bubbly

This cider is too pretty to come in a can! I hope everyone who cracks one open pours this rich orange red cider into a glass, so as to appreciate that gorgeous color. I’ll call it persimmon but it lives right on that hazy sunset area of red and orange. What a color! It’s also bubbly and brilliant.

Aromas: Passion fruit, coconut, guava, hibiscus, and apple

Red Skies at night smells so tropical! This cider smells like what it entails: passionfruit, hibiscus, and apple, but I also get other tropical notes that remind me of guava and coconut. I am so happy that the apple still comes through in this vibrant mix.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi dry

From the aromas, I expected a sweeter cider, but this was a nice surprise.

Flavors and drinking experience: zingy, red fruit, herbal

This is such a satisfying cider!  I love that Red Skies at night tastes so zingy; it causes a pronounced salivary reaction. What starts of dry and tart does develop into a sweet finish. The overall experience is one of  apple plus red fruit. This cider tastes herbal but simultaneously fruity. The Red Skies at Night consistently offers up lots of acid, making it very refreshing!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cider Review: Eastman’s Forgotten Cider's The Red Queen and The Cider Lab's Empire Golden




This week’s post is late! I apologize, but I have been sick for days and getting healthy takes time. Someday, I hope to be the sort of responsible blogger who is always more than one post ahead,  but I don’t see that happening before July at the earliest. Alas. But I’m glad I managed to taste some exciting and flavorful ciders before this cold claimed me. (I won’t have enough of a sense of smell to take new tasting notes for several more days!) 

Eastman’s Forgotten Cider has a slogan, “From Tree to Tap.” The company is very focused on apples. The company comes from an orchard (Eastman’s Apples) with hundreds of different apple varieties (some folks say 1000 plus). It’s based in Wheeler, Michigan where the company also has a tasting room. Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders has been releasing ciders commercially since 2007. I was given a sampling of the cider at GLINTCAP last year, and I’ve enjoyed working my way through them slowly. 

This week, I’m tasting The Red Queen. I know the Red Queen uses red-fleshed apples for the cider, giving all of the color, aromas, and flavor that we’ll find. 

You can find out more about this cider on the Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EastmansForgottenCiders/ 


I’ve previously reviewed a couple of cider by Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders:

The Mad Russian (a rose cider from red-fleshed apples): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/07/cider-review-eastmans-forgotten-ciders.html

More recently I reviewed the Cinnister: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/02/cider-review-citizen-cellars-sur-lies.html

The info I got for the Red Queen comes from entries on beer rating sites; the label doesn’t give much background (just that lovely chess inspired picture). “Blend of red fleshed and crab apples providing a dry finish with just a hint of sweetness.”


Appearance: salmon, brilliant, bubbly 

Though the Mad Russian is Red, the Red Queen is more peachy pinky salmon in hue. It’s a tremendously appealing color, especially in spring. When poured I could see some bubbles and beautiful brilliance.

Aromas: powdered sugar, ripe apples, cherry pie

Yummy, this cider smell so much like fresh baked goods! These aroma notes remind me of  cherry Pie, bread, ripe apples and powdered sugar. I got a few more tropical fruit aromas, and some mineral zinginess that leads me to expect a high acid cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Though this cider smell sweet, it tastes dry!

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, plums, tannins, acidity

My first impression of this cider is how tart it tastes. The Red Queen is sot as sweet as it’s aromas. That doesn’t mean it’s all austere; the cider has plenty of fruit flavors. I taste plums for miles. The ripe apples and powdered sugar aroma notes did not translate directly into flavors, and I think the cider is better off this way.  

As for texture, the Red Queen offers medium bubble, some tannins, and massive acidity. It’s a fun a cider. I opened on a quiet TV night with the question of what snacks would complement it. Our options were Girl Scout Cookies, popcorn, or cheese, and we had no trouble choosing a creamy brie and wheat crackers to accompany this cider. It was delicious! 




The Cider Lab's Empire Golden

My next cider for this week is a New York cider from Geneva, New York. The company is The Cider Lab. It’s a relatively new venture with a portfolio of four ciders. For more background on the company, check out my first review of one of the ciders.

 Read about the company and the ciders here: https://theciderlab.com/our-cider/

I have reviewed one of them before, the Empire Royale: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/02/cider-review-cider-labs-empire-royale.html

Here’s the official description, “Empire Golden An award-winning, rich, hard cider made from fresh-pressed New York Empire apples grown on the golden shores of Lake Ontario. The sweetness of The Cider Lab’s Empire Golden is perfectly balanced with the tart acidity of the fruit. A luxurious nose seduces the senses while hints of apples and honey comfort like a warm day. A smooth cider experience that pairs well with foods that have a spicy finish or simply as a luxury to be enjoyed on its own. Enjoy responsibly and share Empire Golden with friends.” 7%ABV 


Appearance: super bubbly, canary yellow, brilliant

This is an exciting cider to see! I love how bubbly it is. The color is vibrantly canary yellow with excellence brillance. 

Aromas: yeast, cinnamon, rip apples, lemon

The Empire Golden smells both fruity and yeasty. Specific notes all center around ripe apples but also include cinnamon and lemon. I got little bits of funkiness when I first poured a glass, but they were fleeting.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet cider with lots of fruit flavor. It isn’t sweet like sugar but sweet like cooked apples. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, great mouthfeel, juicy

This cider’s sweetness is kept in balance with high acidity and just a fun amount of funk. What I enjoyed most about the cider is also related indirectly to it’s sweetness: the mouthfeel. While I love a light and lithe dry cider as much as anyone I know, I also enjoy ciders that have some heft and gravitas. The Empire Golden has a fun big mouthfeel buoyed by lots of bubbles. It’s a juicy and substantial cider, and that’s what’s best about it. 

The Empire Golden is so fruity and apple, tropical, pineapple, that it’s almost sticky. It reminded me of certain Tiki drinks while still being 100% apple focused. I shared this cider at birthday party with my first ever experience with an MST3K movie, Manos the Hands of Fate. Thankfully, the cider made much mores sense than the film did, with or without robot commentary. Nonetheless it was a lovely addition to a tremendous party.