Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cider Review: Blake’s Fido and Cidersmiths Harry Masters Jersey

I’ve been inundated with enough Thanksgiving messages to last me until 2025, so I suggest we take a break together and enjoy two very different and casual canned ciders before the madness of the holiday weekend begins in earnest.  

Let’s start with Blake’s Hard Cider Company’s Fido. This sample was shared with me for review from the Kinder Ciders line. This line is limited-edition ciders that each raise money for a different nonprofit. The Fido raises money for Pets for Patriots; that’s a charity that helps shelter pets and veterans find one another. (Big swoon for animal rescue charities!)  But first, here’s a little more info about Blake’s Hard Cider.

Blake’s Hard Cider is based on Armada, Michigan. The company is a third-generation family farm business. Now, the company has grown and makes many different ciders in several different lines. I’ve reviewed several Blake’s ciders before; check out earlier reviews for more background about Blake’s. 

Santa Rosa:

Beard Bender:

Apple Lantern:

Black Philip:

The Tonic:

El Chavo:



Visit Blake’s online to learn about all of the ciders:

FIDO (Latin for faithfulness) is the second release in our #KinderCider series. Enjoy this hopped raspberry and grapefruit hard cider made in support of non-profits that pairs veterans and shelter animals.
6.8% ALC. BY VOL.

Appearance: brilliant, foamy, coral color

The color is almost warm enough to be in rose territory but instead it reminds me more of apricot or coral. It foams mightily when poured, but the head does whisk itself away. 

Aromas: Raspberry, ripe apple, hops, dusty

The Fido smells like fresh raspberry and ripe apples. Secondarily I get notes of hops, herbs and dust. I don't get much of the grapefruit as distinct from hops. 

Dryness/sweetness: Sweet

This is not necessarily sweeter than lots of other cider’s I’ve had and called semi sweet but the uplift of acidity I kept expecting in the finish just didn’t show up. Instead, this cider owns its sweetness and has a unique raspberry-centric finish.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acid, no tannins, lots of fruit, nice sparkle

Fido fetches low to medium acidity. It would likely taste more like medium acidity depending on what cider you usually drink. Like many american ciders, I couldn’t taste much in the way of tannins, but that’s not really what this cider is going for. Let’s talk about that, because I do think this is a very successful cider at it’s own goals. 

Fido wants to please us with fresh fruit flavors, and it does. This cider is very fruity without ever tasting artificial, syrupy or sticky! Hooray!  I find it oh-so- very pleasantly bubbly. Something about the yeast characteristics feels just a little bit beer influenced, but I could be mis-attributing aroma associations with hops. That’s hard to say because the hops feel subtle and integrated into the overall experience. I'd love more voice for the grapefruit element as it does blend with the hops.  

It’s a gentle, sessionable cider that’s lots of fun. I had mine with extra toasty Cheeze-its, because I’m not always fancy. That was delightful.

Now for Cidersmiths’ Harry Masters Jersey I reached back into my vault of notes for a cider I enjoyed a while ago. 

Cidersmiths is based on Herefordshire (a major world center for cider) and was founded by Will Austin and Phillip Warren. Cidersmiths’ website makes the company’s identity very clear. They even use a numbered list to delineate their priorities. I’ll share them exactly how they appear online. 

At Cidersmiths we believe in three principles, it’s what makes great cider… 
1. Good cider is never made from concentrate, only from juice because it tastes way better. Fact.2. Knowing where our apples come from, what varieties are they, how are they grown?3. Cider should be made in a sustainable way that leaves our beautiful countryside just as we found it.

Visit the company’s site to learn more about all the ciders: 

The website also has a great section on tasting cider and language often used to describe cider. I decidedly enjoyed this casual take on a topic near and dear to my heart.

And here’s how the company describes the Harry Masters Jersey: 
Made from the vintage bittersweet cider apple raised originally by Somerset nurseryman Harry Masters in the late 1800s, this is a medium blend cider with a refreshing and distinctive taste. As right for a summer’s day as a night on the tiles. ABV 4.5%

Appearance: bubbly, pale cool straw, brilliant

I honestly expected more color from this cider because of the apples, but it looks like many American ciders with that cool pale straw color, visible bubbles and brilliance. 

Aromas: acetic acid, farmy, funky

As I hoped, this does bring some funk! I enjoy the barn yard aroma at this level of intensity. It’s not a dirty smell, but I’m expecting some character to this cider. I also just a little volatile acidity that leads me to expect some wild tartness.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet to sweet cider. The sweetness does very natural and apple-driven.

Flavors and drinking experience: leather, tea, mushy apple, UK style

There’s no mistaking this cider for something American once you taste it! This has the combination of truly soft apple flavors, sweetness, and worn leather notes that are quintessentially UK cider. It does have more bubble than some, and I love that! Lots of the flavors are fruity with just a hint of farminess. There are berry, grassy, and tropical notes here. 

I might wish for slightly higher tannins and acidity, but what’s here is perfectly pleasing. I had mine a few months ago on the screened in porch while watching my backyard on a summer evening.

Good luck this week, Cider friends!  

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Cider Review: Treasury Cider Homestead Semi-Dry Orchard Cider and Eastman's Forgotten Ciders Windmill Watcher

I guess I’m starting to accept that Thanksgiving is coming (and my birthday!). 

I’ve not yet chosen the ciders that I’m bringing to my sister-in-law’s house, but I will be picking three: one lighter super dry cider for cooking time and getting started, a more full bodied cider with some tannins and just a hint of sweetness, and something rich and super fruity with dessert. What will you be drinking and eating?

This week though, I treated myself to a cider shared with me at cider the Gathering of the Farm Cideries in Albany. I brought Treasury Cider Homestead Semi-Dry Cider to a birthday party for a dear friend. She wanted low-key fun, so we watched Clue and put together puzzles. To be fair, I may have done more snacking, chatting, and movie watching than actual puzzle participation. 

There’s a ton of good information online about this cider on Treasury’s website: 
Homestead Semi-Dry 
Varieties: Old Growth Golden Delicious/ Cortland/McIntosh/Jonamac/Goldrush/Idared/New-Growth Roxbury Russet/ Ashmead’s Kernel 
Our classic sparkling semi-dry cider. Medium-light bodied and slightly sweet with ripe red apple, pear and apple pie aromas.
ABV 7.8%    Vintage: 2017

I think the coolest part is the orchard info that you can see when hovering over the cider label on the cider page. I’ll just link it, because you should see how Treasury presents it. Just don’t forget to hover your cursor over the cider label to make the orchard info appear.

You can visit Treasury Cider online and learn more about all of the ciders:

Here’s what we thought of Treasury Cider’s Homestead Semi-Dry Cider.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, winter sun

The color of this cider reminds me of that often wished-for winter sunlight. It’s the kind that can trick you into going outside before checking the temperature. It’s important and welcome, but so dangerous! The cider looked slightly hazy and very bubbly in the glass. 

Aromas: pears, citrus, spice, toast, and flowers

The Homestead smells strongly of pears! I secondarily smell ripe apples, citrus, spice, and white flowers. One of my co-tasters got hints of toast in the aroma. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Dry!

This is a very dry take on a semi-dry cider. It isn’t bone dry, but I’d not call it any sweeter than off dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: mellow, pear, high acid, bubbly

The Homestead Cider comes across as mellow, firm cider—lots of acid,  but somehow it doesn’t feel sharp or pointed. It’s well balanced and brings a wonderfully pear-filled finish with each sip. I get some pie cherry notes, even though this cider tastes fairly dry to me. I find it notably dryer than the smell suggests. 

This cider balances it’s high acidity with medium tannins that somehow reminded another co-taster of apple seeds.  I find that the cider has lots of yeast character (as opposed to unfermented apple flavors). You can taste the fermentation, and it’s clean. I appreciate how very bubbly it is! Everyone agreed that this cider was an ideal birthday celebration cider. It’s just so  good! 

Next up, I’m finally sharing an older set of tasting notes for a Michigan cider that I drank quite a while ago. It was a review sample shared with me at GLINTCAP.  Here’s my long over due review of Eastman's Forgotten Ciders Windmill Watcher. 

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

The Red Queen:

The Mad Russian:


The company doesn’t have a traditional web site, but you can check the Facebook page to learn more about this Wheeler, Michigan cidery and orchard:

Here’s the description for this cider, “This mellow sipper gets its name from your desire to sit on the porch and watch the windmills across from our property while enjoying a taste of cider. It is made with over 50 varieties of our apples, is semi-dry, and slightly carbonated.” 6.9% ABV

Appearance: popcorn kernel, brilliant

This cider has such depth of color. I think of un-popped kernels of popcorn when I look at it. The clarity is unambiguously brilliant. 

Aromas: Apricot, herbs, applesauce, pineapple 

This cider smells so much like pineapple and apricot! Wow! I am just blown away by the fruity and applesauce-y aromas!

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This is very much what I think of when a cider is called semi-dry. It has some sweetness and fruit, but sweetness doesn’t dominate my experience with the cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: woody, tropical fruit, high high acid

This cider could also be called Windmill Watcher for the exciting round and round it does to my palate! The Windmill Watcher is tart and acidic; makes my salivary glands go into overdrive! Behind all this acid there’s a moderate amount of sparkle and a hefty dose of fruit. I get the pineapple and apricot from the cider’s aromas, but more tropical fruit and even some grassy notes. Then, for the finish I get a gentle glide of vanilla! 

I like the soft woodiness of the Windmill Watcher along with all of the many flavors in its journey. I shared this cider with good friends and excellent cheeses

This is my last post before turning 38! When next I write, I may have more wisdom, experience, and gravitas. Or maybe not!? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cider Review: De Vergeten Appel's Het Bonte Appeltje, Blue Bee's Harrison and Cider Week VA

Hello, cider lovers! I think lots of folks are getting to a fever pitch of Thanksgiving planning and starting to think about winter holidays. The snowy weather here in the Finger Lakes is certainly encouraging that, but I’m not ready! Instead, I’m thinking about movies and wishing one of the theaters around here sold cider or had a BYOC policy. Most people like to combine their favorite things, and for me that would be cider and movies. 

SInce I can’t enjoy my cider with my theater experiences, what I can do is think about the movies I’ve enjoyed recently while sipping on my ciders at home. 

This past week, I was thrilled to get to try De Vergeten Appel’s Het Bonte Appeltje. This was my Thursday date night cider with the Tall One. After cider and dinner, we went to see Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho. 

The cider is one that the Tall One brought back from his recent time in Amsterdam. He has a great time tracking down ciders for me when he travels, and I’m so grateful for it. De Vergeten Appel is a company that started after a series of happenstance events that have the cutest possible origin. Johan Holleman started making cider because his neighbor had an apple tree that scared his dogs. This tree had too many apples to be used in almost any other way, so Holleman tried making cider. The rest of the company grew from there, using lots of apples that would otherwise go to waste from a variety of dutch orchards.

You can visit the company online to learn more:

Here’s the Google translation of the cidery’s description for Het Bonte Appelje
The traditional cider from De Vergeten Appel is made from classic Dutch apples that are no longer grown commercially. The apples come exclusively from small orchards and individuals from the Tilburg area. No pesticides or fertilizers are used in these orchards. The apples used would be wasted if they were not picked by hand to be processed in this delicious cider. 
Ingredients:100% juice from pressed apples, yeast, sugar for re-fermentation in the bottle. 
Contains sulfites.
Keep cool and dark.Cool before use and open gently.Recommended drinking temperature of 7 ° CProduced and bottled by "De Vergeten Appel" in Tilburg

Appearance: tea, transparent, bubbly

This cider has the warm orange glow of tea. I see some bubbles in the glass, and a tiny ring of bubbles at the top. The cider isn't hazy, but it's also not fully brilliant; I'll call the clarity transparent.

Aromas: Homemade applesauce, spice, citrus

Het Bonte Appeltje smells like many orchard-based American ciders. The primary olfactory impression is that of homemade applesauce. I also get traces of citrus, spice, stone and grain.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider with lots of fruit characteristics. Everything in the sweetness tastes very natural. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tannins on the finish, citrus, bubbly

As with the aromas, this cider reminds me very much of some of the sorts of American ciders I like best. 

What I taste first is Het Bonte Appeltje’s very high acid! This semi-dry cider feels austere and pointed on the tongue, quite a bit like an American dry cider but with a gentle English influence. I get some tannins on the finish that take their time to arrive, but once they get there, it’s oh so pleasant.

In terms of fruit flavors I taste strong lime notes and ripe apple. There's an interesting tongue-numbing note of pine needles. I also detect some yeast character that reminds me of fresh warm bread. The texture is very bubbly. This cider  cuts through cheese soup with adroitness and effervescent clarity. With this meal it’s well-balanced and very food friendly.

It was a great preamble to a dark class comedy. Parasite is not a movie that has left my mind since I watched it. I appreciate the genre-bending twists and the pitch-perfect comedic timing. 

Next up, Blue Bee's Harrison with tiny recommendations to go see Jojo Rabbit and Harriet. I'm not a film blogger, so don't expect too much!

Blue Bee Cider has  been part of the cider scene as Virginia's first urban cidery since 2013. Blue Bee presents itself as not only highly local but also small-batch and seasonal. The ciders aren’t all only traditional though, Blue Bee Cider makes ciders with fruit and hops as well. Blue Bee Cider was kind enough to share this sample with me for review.

Here’s my most recent Blue Bee Cider review of the Hewe’s Crab:

And my take on the Hopsap Shandy:

My 4th favorite cider of 2017 was Blue Bee Cider’s Charred Ordinary:

Visit Blue Bee Cider online to learn about all of the ciders, their cider club, and upcoming events:

Blue Bee Cider’s Harrison is a single varietal cider. Here’s how the company describes it.
A rare breed, the HARRISON apple makes a comeback from near-extinction in this distinct, fruit forward cider. Earthy aroma, round tannin, notes of golden raisin and orange zest. 
RS 0.5%, ABV 8.5%.

Appearance: Brilliant, dandelion yellow, bubbly

This cider poured with a freshly effervescent mousse that vanished quickly. I’ll call the color dandelion yellow, but I’ve not seen a dandelion in many months, so it’s anything sunny and bright. What I can say with certainty is that this cider is brilliant.

Aromas: Woody, butterscotch, crystallized fruit

The Harrison smells mouthwateringly woody. It reminds me of a barn just as it’s starting to get rained on; the smell is fresh and wet. The cider’s aromas remind me of crystalised fruit, butterscotch, toffee, and toasted nuts. Something about the way the Harrison smells tells me this cider will be massively acidic.

Dryness/Sweetness: Off Dry

The Harrison is a beautiful example of an off dry cider. There’s just enough sweetness to enhance the cider without ever calling attention to itself as sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: bright, tannic, ripe apples, citrus, paper

Holy wow! Blue Bee’s Harrison tastes amazing! This cider is acidic tannic, astringent, and fruity. Something about the tannins makes me think about old maps, paper, antiques, sunlight, and dust. I can taste lychee, lime, and ripe apple throughout. There’s a lovely overwhelming brightness here. Everything about this cider adds up to something golden and overripe,

Yes, I may be a sucker for off dry, high acid, medium tannic ciders in general. But the Harrison is more than just those check boxes. It reminds me of tangerine and lime, but the finish has a floral start that fades into butterscotch. Overall, the Harrison is very well balanced and simply outstanding.

And I must say, that the two movies that I got to discuss while enjoying this cider, Jojo Rabbit and Harriet, were both as worth my time as the cider was. They were very different, but both powerful stories. They also both offered more than just what one might expect from the trailers. I am loathe to reveal more, but I was impressed in more ways that I anticipated. 

Last thing, before I vanish. In less than a week Cider Week Virginia will be here! If you’ve been thinking about making a little trip to Virginia to explore cider, this is the time! November 15- 24 will  be packed to the gills with cider activities. 

Find out all about them:

Here’s the Facebook event where you can learn more:

And if you’re already in Virginia, you have no excuse. Go enjoy Cider Week VA!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Cider Review: Potter's Craft Cider Pippin Cuvee and Arsenal Cider House's Powder Monkey Bone Dry Peach, Plus Cider Week VA

Good morning, Cider Friends! I come to with my first post after coming back from Cider Days in Massachusetts and the return to Standard Time. (Cider Days was fantastic! Thank you for asking!) I’ve seen a lot of posts decrying the earlier evenings, but I’ve so appreciated having some light in the morning. The morning is when I need the extra boost. When I’m sitting down to supper and an evening glass of cider in these colder months, it can be dark. 

Speaking of evenings with cider, we are now only a week and a half away from Cider Week Virginia! I got to have a Virginia cider or two from Albemarle while I was at Cider Days, and I know several other excellent cider makers are participating.

Here’s the cider maker lineup:

Here’s the Facebook event where you can learn more:

Potter’s Craft Cider comes from Charlottesville, Virginia. It is the project of Tim Edmond and Dan Potter and the cider maker is Andy Hannas. The cider comes from Virginia apples and, for some of the lineup, interesting additions like ginger, passionfruit, raspberries or hops. This is my first review of anything by Potter’s Craft cider, but it feels long overdue. The company is opening it’s tasting room on November 16th! The grand opening shindig is from 1-9pm.

You can learn more about the company at the Homepage for Potter’s Craft Cider

The kind souls at Potter’s Craft Cider shared this upcoming release with me for review, so let’s get to it! 

The Pippin Cuvee’s official description reads, 

Pippin Cuvee 100% Virginia-grown Albemarle Pippin Barrel Fermented Bottle Conditioned Six Months Sur Lie Alc. 8.4% by Vol

Appearance: clear, creamy gouda glow, bubbly

This cider is not quite brilliant, but it's very clear for a sur lies aged cider. I'll call the color creamy gouda glow because something about that pale shade of warm yellow just reminds me of a creamy Gouda. I can see plenty of bubbles in this sparkler too!

Aromas: green, ripe apples, pear

The first impression I get from the Pippin Cuvee is a super fresh garden smell. I also get lots and lots of aromatics of ripe apples and pears

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry and high acid cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: Zingy, bubbly, wild

Yowzers, the Pippin Cuvee has bite! This cider tastes crisp, bracingly tart and zingy. The pointed acidity drives the drinking experience. I love that the Pippin cuvee brings lots of bubble to the table. I can taste the gentle funk of a wild fermentation.

This cider comes across as lively, zesty, spiky and intense. I enjoyed it with a gorgeous selection of cheeses and good company. Try that yourself when this cider is released later this month!

Up next, Arsenal Cider's Powder Monkey Bone Dry Peach

Arsenal Cider is the first Pennsylvania cider I ever tried back in 2013. I visited the Pittsburgh tasting room and saw their hometown success and the Federal Allegheny Arsenal thematics. Since then, the company has grown in both popularity and cider making experience. The company has also branched out to other fruit wines and meads. 

I have two previous reviews of Arsenal Cider House libations. 

Cannoneer’s Bone Dry Cherry:

Fightin’ Elleck:

Plus it appeared in my top 10 in 2013!

I couldn’t find an official description for Arsenal Cider House’s Bone Dry Powder Monkey Peach, but it appears that many of the flavors come in and out of availability and different batches might have quite varied ABV. What I will share is that these notes were taken when I tried this peach back in 2015 on a trip to Pittsburgh. Arsenal made this entirely from peaches, but it hasn't been produced since 2015. My apologies then for sitting on these notes for way too long!

Here’s what else I can share. I didn’t know the term Powder Monkey when I encountered this cider, so I looked it up. Here’s what Wikipedia says about this naval term:

You can learn more about the cider house online:

Appearance: hazy, medium straw, no visible bubbles

I apologize for not having pictures of this poured. I had it while travelling and visiting Pittsburgh friends and was too social to remember a photo in the glass, but my notes tell me that the Powder Monkey Peach is just barely hazy with a medium straw color and not much in the way of visible bubbles.

Aromas: peach, orange, citric acid

The Peach smells like citric acid, peaches and oranges. The smells tell me to expect tartness but also I get notes that remind me of dust and stone.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

This is a dry drink! Arsenal is not exaggerating, but the flavors have a hint of bitter peach syrup.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium sparkle, yeast, citrus, leather, green pepper

This is a dry fruit wine with medium sparkle and high acidity. I taste wild and funky yeast notes and citrus. The fruits that I get are more lemon,  lime and orange rather than peach. The Powder Monkey brings high acid but no tannins. There are notes of leather, aftershave, and green pepper also. 

I definitely enjoyed some bitter fruit funk!