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.