Thursday, December 26, 2019

My 10 Favourite Ciders of 2019!

We’ve almost made it through 2019. That means I get to look back at my ciders before beginning another fresh and new year. 2019 was a heart breaker, but also I experienced many moments of joy. I hope you did too. I took part in some fantastic cider experiences, and I hope you did too. I reviewed more than 100 ciders this year, so I had the largest field yet of contenders for my favorite. It was tremendously difficult for me to narrow down to just ten favorites, but each of the ciders below is a gem. 

Here are all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!






And my first ever cider countdown from 2013:

And I'll quote my own rules again. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 201[9]. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

With no further blathering, let me show you what ciders I loved most this year! Please share your favorites with me in the comments!

10. Woodchuck/Farnum Hill’s Odd Crush

As soon as I heard about this collaboration between New Hampshire legend Farnum Hill with Vermont’s Woodchuck, I was eager to try it. Both of these companies have been making ciders since the 1990s, and their experience gets to shine in this cider. If you prefer things drier than most Woodchuck and sweeter than most Farnum Hill, this might be the perfect treat you’ve been waiting for. Even if you normally shun canned ciders, I urge you to give this aromatic, well-balanced, delicious canned cider a try.

9. Potter’s Craft Cider Pippin Cuvee

I feel so luck to have been included for the promotion of Cider Week Virginia this year. I got to try some excellent ciders that I otherwise would have had access to. The cider smells like a bouquet of fresh garden greener and ripe apples. I loved it’s bubbly enthusiasm, spiky acidity, and gentle wildness. Congratulations to Potter’s on their new tasting room as well!

8. Aeppeltreow Scarlett Rosey Cider

Whether or not you want to call this cider a rosé, this pink semi-sweet cider is delicious. What I love about it comes primarily from crab apples. The acidity is lively and a perfect match for it’s fruity sweetness, plus there’s enough tannin there to enhance the cider’s structure substantially. This cider was completely emblematic of summer sipping while watching the sun cast long evening shadows across my yard. It is lovely.

7. Eden Specialty Cider’s  Ezekiel

I knew from the moment I tasted the Ezekiel last January, that it would be a front runner for my year end favorites list. This dry Kingston Black Cider has everything. I chose to drink in January for it’s dryness plus body. Sometimes, I give cider makers a hard time for trying so often to create a truly delicious and balanced single-varietal cider. It often holds them back because so few apple varieties are ready to appear unblended, but the Kingston Black can do it. And the Ezekiel does it’s beautiful fruit full justice. I love the intensity of flavor in this cider!

6. Treasury Cider Homestead Semi-Dry Orchard Cider

I enjoyed Homestead Cider Semi-Dry at a birthday party. I taste it as a mellow, firm drink; it doesn’t taste austere or pointed, yet it’s still very driven by acid. I appreciate the cider’s balance and plethora of bubbles. But my favorite part has to be the pear notes on the finish. I do recommend this one for fans of dry ciders, as I think most folks would find it plenty dry.

5. Uncle John’s Cider’s Baldwin

The enticing aromas of this cider let me know I was going to enjoy it: ripe apples, rock candy, salt, leather and mild phenolics. The Baldwin was fruity with notes that remind me of pineapple, melon, tropical notes, and lush green leaves. It still managed to be dry. I really enjoy this complex, super tart cider.

4. Eve’s Cidery Kingston Black 2017

Another single-varietal made the list. I can’t be surprised because the Kingston Black is a great apple, and Eve’s Cidery cares about bringing the best qualities out of each batch of juice fermented. I love the body, structure, and acidity in this dry cider. The Finger Lakes is home to many talented cider makers, and we are lucky to count the crew at Eve's Cidery among them.

3. Big Fish Cider Co’s Allegheny Gold

I don’t often get the chance to try anything from Big Fish Cider Co, but everything I’ve tried has been delightful. The aromas on this cider are simply inviting; I can smell ripe apples, oats, carrots, golden raisins and caramel. It also really brought lively bubbles, making this cider a party. It was a mature and tasteful party, but a party nonetheless. I loved it!

2. Blue Bee Harrison

The Harrison cider by Blue Bee tastes tannic, acidic and fruity. It’s astringent in a way that reminded me of all manner of old and beautiful things like  maps, paper, antiques, sunlight, and dust. The fruit notes included lychee, lime, and ripe apple. The acidity was overwhelming brightness. It was magical. The Harrison created an overall image both golden and overripe.

1. Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented

This off-dry cider expanded my expectations for wild ferments as an entire category. Often I find them interesting but not the most hedonistically enjoyable. Dragons Head changed my mind by creating a wild-ferment cider that had appealing aromas like sugar dusted lemon slices and ripe apples. It tasted amazing with notes of citrus and fantastic balance. I was completely bowled over. 

I paired this cider with a fun vacation trip to Seattle, and someday I’d like to pair more Dragons Head with a trip to their orchard on Vashon Island!

And with that, I wish everyone a relaxing and happy end of 2019! 
Thank you so much to all of my cider friends new and old. Thanks very much to folks who invited me to great cider events, kind people who judged cider with me, tireless volunteers I worked with on state and national cider committees, and members of the friendly and generous online communities that make the cider community fun. I appreciate all of you! And I am so grateful for everyone growing apples, making cider, and promoting this fine beverage. May 2020 be filled with good fruit for all of us! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Cider Review: Mission Trail's Champagne Style Hard Cider and Kite and String's Green Man #1

Good morning, cider fans! This is the last post before the Winter Solstice! This means that very very soon, the days will stop getting shorter and soon start longer again. We may not be able to feel the difference at first, but we’ll be headed in my favorite direction before long. I will raise a glass in the coziness of winter for the eventual return of the sun!

I shared Mission Trail’s Champagne Style Hard Cider with the Tall One’s family when we got together for good meal recently.

Mission Trail is a small cidery out of Bradley, California (that’s Monterey County). I’ve only reviewed the Perry previously. The neat thing about this company is the range of fruit beverages they produce including port, cider, perry, and jerkum (an alcoholic beverage made from only stone fruit like plums). 


You can learn more about all of the beverages and the farm online:

Here’s the official description for the Dry Champagne Style Cider.

“A delicious dry, fruity sparkling cider, made exclusively from 29 apple heirloom varietals. A secondary fermentation create a great cider and champagne alternative. 9% ABV”

Elsewhere on the label, the cider making process is described as Charmat method. I’ll share a link because other folks can explain this elsewhere for those who which to geek out.

Appearance: brilliant, honey, bubbly

As one would expect, this cider is bubbly! It’s also brilliant with glorious shine. The color reminds me of mild clover honey.

Aromas: champagne, biscuits, minerals, and grapes

This cider smells absolutely like a champagne! Maybe it’s the higher ABV coming across, but the cider smells vinous, biscuity, with some hard edges of minerally. I also get clear notes of concord grape.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-sweet

I’d definitely call this a semi-sweet. The label says dry. I would have paired it differently had I known. 

Flavors and drinking experience: raisins, blackberry, full body, mild tannins, lots of bubbles

When tasting this cider I was at first surprised by how not dry the method charmat left this cider. Once I got into the groove with this cider, it really grew on me, The champagne style offers a lovely crystalline quality. The cider tastes like raisins, ripe apples, pears, and blackberries. 

I’m pleased to find this cider a little tannic with medium (but bright) acidity. The sweetness that surprised me along with the higher than usual ABV do give this cider lots of body and the bubbles lift that body effortlessly. The whole experience is creamy, relaxing, and languorous. I love the berry notes in the finish.

Next up, I want to share my latest treat from Kite and String: The Green Man #1. 

Kite and String is the cider that comes out of the Finger Lakes Cider House right here in the Finger Lakes region of New York. This company has been featured in quite a few reviews, so I'll leave the background there, if you'd like to learn more. 


Barrel Rye:


King of Hector:

The Hickok has  appeared a few times including:

Thanksgiving 2016:

and the Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website:

Here’s the description by the folks at Kite and String. This is pieced together from a photo of the label because I cannot find the full description online. My apologies if I got the line endings wrong! Please send me corrections!
The Greenman series are ciders created in the Pet-Nat style (petillant naturel) little intervention but with a lot of intention. Peter Hoover, our local Greenman has inspired generations of orchardists, pagans, and lovers of good food and cider. This cider grows out of all the kindness, curiosity and passion for the absurd that Peter poured over our roots over the years. Thank you, Peter. 8% ABV.
I was able to taste and purchase Green Man #1 from a little pop-up shop in the DeWitt Mall in downtown Ithaca. That was a treat, being able to find something new in my regular shopping rounds!

Appearance: Jack O'Lantern glow, hazy, mousse

This Green Man cider poured with an active mousse of bubbles. My tasting companion called the color Jack O’Lantern glow, and I think they are really on to something. The color is warm and orange but lit with something more bright. I’d not call the cider brilliant; it’s just a little hazy. 

Aromas: applesauce, citrus, juiciness

I have to acknowledge the amazing intensity of aroma the Green Man brings! It is a joy! I love it when I can smell a cider seconds after opening the bottle, without even needing to bring my nose to the glass! The cider wafts up soft juicy applesauce scents along with piles of fresh citrus. 

When I do inhale its fragrances, I add notes of raisins, tangerine and ripe apples to the melange. It’s utterly mouthwatering. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry cider, but it doesn’t feel bone dry because of the fruit and acid.

Flavors and drinking experience: Nectarine, tangerine, pineapple, high acid

This dry cider still brings a fruit party! I can taste nectarine, ripe apples, golden raisins, pineapple and tangerine. The Green Man offers up the region’s signature high acidity, this time balanced with medium tannins. I appreciate how dry and citrusy it manages to be.

In terms of texture, the cider has many small bubbles that make up a gentle sparkle. Petillant Naturel is another specific way of achieving a sparkler. (Please read more about this fabulous style of bubble here: )

This cider pleases from the aroma to it’s long fine finish. It’s an inspired start to a new series of ciders and a tasteful farewell to someone who was so generous to the local cider scene. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Cider Review: Silo Cider's Semi-Dry and Embark Ciderworks' The Northerner

I’m so excited to be headed down to Pennsylvania to judge the cider competition that’s part of the Farm Show there. While that experience is not open to the public, you can go to Harrisburg in January to find out the results and check out a dizzying array of other awesome stuff. 

The details are all here:

And that’s not all that’s exciting. Two adorable little kitten fluffballs got adopted into the family week. Obviously this means I’ve been hanging out at home trying to keep them from jumping off of high furniture or provoking the big cats too much. This also means I finally allowed myself to drink and review my Silo Semi-Dry cider because I needed something trustworthy for relaxing with.

Here’s some info on Silo and the Semi Dry. This is my first review of anything By Silo Cidery which is a new branch forming from Silo Distillery in Windsor, Vermont. I know the cider maker Nicole Leibon from her years at Farnum Hill and from the tiny wonderful world of cider. She’s a delight, and I always look forward to seeing her. 

Visit the Distillery and learn about the spirits and cider on the website:

The site includes lots of helpful information about the Semi-Dry cider. 
On the drier end of "semi-dry", this is the antithesis of sugary sweet.  Bright and tart apple flavors are balanced in this summer drink that will have you tempted by one more. 
Our flagship cider grown on North Pomfret apple trees--- each one lovingly pruned, picked, and pressed at Moore's Orchard. 
Nose: Lemon zest, green apples 
Flavors: Clean and tart  
Finish: Just one more 
INGREDIENTSNorthern Spy, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Fuji, and Mac

Appearance: bright corn gold, brilliant

The color of this cider reminds me of ripe yellow corn. It’s a pure bright gold. The cider has no haze to it, and doesn’t show much in the way of visible bubbles.

Aromas: paper dust, asian pear and butter cream

Ooh. These smells are tantalizing and interesting. I’m surprised to smell paper dust, asian pear and butter cream all together. Each of those smells is so different and associated with a completely different spectrum of flavors.  

Sweetness: semi dry

I’ll say yes to calling this cider semi-dry but some would call it off dry. I think Silo is right to say that it lives at the dry end of semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: dried apples, medium body, wild rice, nutty

This cider does exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted something enjoyable, relaxing, and low key to enjoy while I watch kittens. The kittens bring the excitement, so I wanted a cider that’s mellow enough to balance that out.

Silo’s Semi-dry is redolent with notes of dried apple, wild rice, and savory cooking herbs. There’s something almost savory even nutty in the flavors. The Semi-dry feels low in the mouth and aquatic to me.

More factually, the cider has a nicely medium-full body with pleasantly forward bubbles. This is a very approachable cider. I like and drink it, and I think I could give it to many people without a lot of cider experience and they would also enjoy it. 

Now for Embark Ciderworks’ The Northerner.

Embark feels like a neighboring cidery to me, even though they are just under 2 hours away. This Williamson, New York cidery is based in an orchard heavy area on the outskirts of Rochester. The cidery developed from a pre-existing apple farm, one of many in the vicinity. Jake Lagoner and Chris Gowan make the cider. You can check out my earlier coverage of Embark ciders to read more background on this near and dear cidery.

I have a few previous reviews for Embark. Here’s the list:

Golden Russet Reserve:

Crab Series #1:

The American Hopped:

You can visit Embark Ciderworks on the web and discover more about Embark Ciderworks, the tasting room and events:

Here’s how Embark describes The Northerner: 
The Northerner is a refreshing semisweet cider made of 100% Northern Spy apples. We derived our inspiration for the label artwork from the following history of the naming of the apple. 
One of the most famous of all American apples, Northern Spy originated in East Bloomfield, NY, around 1800. The apple was named for the 'hero' of that notorious dime store novel The Northern Spy. The book was written anonymously, published sub-rosa, and circulated among radical hard-core abolitionists circa 1830. The "Northern Spy" set up a series of safehouses from Virginia through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York State for runaway slaves to escape to Canada. It was a blueprint for the underground railroad. 5% ABV
I tasted this as part of Finger Lakes Cider week at The Watershed. I was hosting a co-tasting with anyone who wanted to come in and try some local ciders. 

Appearance: butternut squash, brilliant, few visible bubbles

The color is a far warmer than the gold, yellow, or amber color of many ciders. It goes so far as to remind me of the ripe flesh of a roasted butternut squash. My cider poured clear with absolutely brilliant color and no visible bubbles. 

Aromas: raspberry, ripe apple, baking spices

This cider reminds me of a warm kitchen in terms of it’s aromas. There’s plenty of fruitiness that reminds me of ripe apples and raspberries, but I can also smell baking spices and brown sugar. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

Some would call The Northerner sweet, others would call it semi-sweet. I care more that it’s in balance because there’s acidity as well as sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: full mouthfeel, creamy, sweet, fruity

This cider has a leisurely lingering finish. I know that might ought to appear last if I’m describing this cider chronologically, but it stands out. This is a well-balanced and full bodied cider with lots of fruit and oomph that last until the very end. I am not usually a big drinker of sweet ciders, but everyone in our group found things they really liked about this one. 

Some folks loved the subtle baking spice notes. It’s not enough to quite remind one of baking an apple pie or mulling hot cider, but there’s a sense of warmth and depth there. Other folks like the hints of berry that were presence in both the aromas and flavors. For me, I like it when a sweet cider can counter-balance its sweetness with a zingy but not punishing acidity and be full bodied but firm rather than droopy. The Northerner managed all of that with ease and aplomb. It was a fun cider and a crowd pleaser!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cider Review: Two Towns Cosmic Currant and Threadbare Cidery and Meadery's 412 City Cider

Good morning, Cider Friends! It’s December! We’ve made it through everything from Thanksgiving Day through Giving Tuesday. For me, that means I had my first Snow Day in 
years, and more snow could be coming soon. I’m starting to count down to the Winter Solstice. We are less than three weeks away from the shortest day of the year. I want to count down the time until the Sun starts its return by nesting, so I’m doing at least one small nesting activity each day through December 21st. 

Whether you’re waiting for the Solstice like me, decking the halls with holly, starting your Hannukah preparations, or grading like mad before the end of the semester, this time of year is undeniably busy. That’s kinda why I want to make my year end as home-oriented and cozy as I can. That brings us to this week’s two ciders. I wanted very different styles for different kinds of homey evenings.

We’re starting with 2 Towns Cosmic Currant.

2 Towns sent me a six pack of this cider for review. After tonight, they will all be gone. I shared them with a few people at my birthday party and a couple quiet nights at home. I got good intell from everyone who sampled. 

This company brands itself as Northwest Craft Cider, and I think that’s an accurate and evocative set of descriptors. I like the paragraph of introduction I found on the website. 
At 2 Towns Ciderhouse we believe that the long history of cidermaking demands respect and deserves to be done right. Starting with the highest quality, whole ingredients from local farms, we take no shortcuts in crafting our ciders. We refuse to add processed sugars, concentrates or artificial flavors, and instead use slow, cold fermentation methods to allow the fruit to speak for itself. As a family-owned company, we are committed to the growth of our team and enrichment of our communities. We take pride in producing a true Northwest craft cider.
I have a ton of previous reviews for 2 Towns ciders. Here’s the list.

Hollow Jack’d:

Afton Field:

La Mûre:

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:

Cidre Bouche:



Bright Cider:

Hop and Stalk:

You can visit 2 Towns Ciderhouse Website. That’s where you can find the most current information about the ciders and events:

Here’s the official description. 
Crafted with a transcendent blend of Oregon-grown cranberries, black currants, and Northwest apples, Cosmic Currant’s complex profile takes you on a voyage to the cosmos. Deep ruby red hues radiate with a hint of cane fruit sweetness and earthy cassis liqueur, finishing with a robust cranberry tannin. This brilliant winter warmer creates a celestial cider experience best enjoyed on a crisp, clear night under a blanket of stars. 6.2% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, blackberry, few bubbles

I see some bubbles in the glass, but the real drama from this cider’s look has to be that gorgeous color. It reminds me of blackberry juice, raspberries, and cranberry juice.

Aromas: berries, spices, green herbs

This cider smells like berries, ripe apples, spices and something greenly herbal. Another of my co-tastesr said that the aromas remind them of a berry tea.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Everyone who tasted this cider agreed that it’s semi-sweet but the Cosmic Currant does not taste sugary.

Flavors and drinking experience: 

The Cosmic Currant brings super high acidity to the party! It balances them out with Currant tannins.Everyone who tasted enjoyed how fruity it is, but I must reiterate my fondness for the tart wild curling acidity of this cider. The whole experience is very cranberry, but I can still taste apple and currant as well. 

Other tasters particularly noticed how hearty and full bodied the Cosmic Currant is. I heard some folks pipe up about the very pleasurable level of sparkle. What unified folks though was that balance of sweet and tart. That made this cider a big hit.

Next up, I’m sharing my notes on Threadbare Cidery and Meadery’s 412 Cider

Threadbare Cidery and Meadery grew out of an existing Pittsburgh distillery, Wigle Whiskey. The cidery has been part of the company for at least 5 years. This cider and a few of Threadbare Cidery’s others were shared with me at Cider Con for review.

Visit the company online to read about all of the ciders and other beverages:

I have one previous review of a Threadbare Cider. 

Here’s what I thought of the Dry:

Here’s how Threadbare describes this cider
412 City Cider is made with 3,500 pounds of wild crab apples and other wild apples foraged by 412 Food Rescue from urban trees in the city of Pittsburgh. The apples were pressed by our friends at Godfrey Run Orchard and fermented with our house yeast culture to impart notes of citrus and stone fruit; resulting in a hard cider with beautiful earthy tannic structure and sharp acidity. 
Yeast: blend of wild type and white wine yeast 
Tasting Notes: earthy, sharp acidity, stone fruit, citrus, straw 
Alc/Vol: 6.2%

Appearance: Hazy lemon drop color

The color reminded my co-taster of lemon drop candies, and my memories back them up entirely. I remember getting special french lemon candies that had exactly this moonglow shade and opacity. I’ll call this cider hazy with a few visible bubbles.

Aromas: Barnyard, floral, tropical, funky

This cider is grooving with barnyard funk. It did not come to play around. There are many many fans of wild fermentations who will absolutely be thrilled by this farminess. But there are other notes like tropical fruit, petrol, minerals, and flowers.

 Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This cider is fermented to dryness! The acidity massively underlines that dry austerity.

Flavors and drinking experience: minerals, high acidity, wild funk

Wow! I couldnt ask for a cider more the opposite of my earlier review! This cider is completely dry with more mineral than fruit notes. I do get some dry citrus and peach notes, but the cider is more dominated by petrol, acidity, and more of that wild funkiness from the aroma. 

This high acid cider has an austere body and zesty sparkle. It’s aggressively playful with a quick finish. I paired it with a pumpkin cake and the very dramatic season 2 finale of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I think the show’s intensity needed a nice dry cider to contrast it, and the 412 City Cider was ready for the job.