Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2020!

It’s been a year, folks. I’ve been tremendously lucky, and this year has still been a slog and a struggle much of the time. And it’s not been lucky for much of the cider, hospitality and arts industries that each mean so much to me. I look forward to supporting them all as best and safely I can in 2021, and I hope you’ll do the same. 

My tradition in the final days of the year is to round up my favorite 10 ciders from the previous twelve months and share them as a top ten list: countdown style.Here’s a list of all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!

2019: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-10-favourite-ciders-of-2019.html

2018: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/my-favourite-10-ciders-of-2018.html

2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2017.html

2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2016.html

2015: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2015.html

2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2014.html

First ever cider countdown from 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html

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 20[20]. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

There are always so many more delightful ciders that deserve high honors than can fit into a Tope 10 list, but this year perhaps even more than I expected because I’ve stopped saving special bottles of cider for special occasions. Enjoying a good cider makes any occasion special, and I’ll stand by that.

10. Raging Cider & Mead Co.’s Them Pet-Nat Southern Apples 

This California cider snuck up on me. I’d never heard of the company, and I only got the chance to sample the cider through the kindness of my cider community. I love this type of cider; Pet Nats can be the best kinds of exciting, bubbly, dry, and just a bit funky. This is was all of that and a delightful surprise!

9. Once Upon a Tree’s Wild Flight


I love so many UK ciders, but I admit that I’ve grown very accustomed to high acidity ciders too. I don’t always run across ciders that suit my love of leathery barnyard warmth along with my craving for taut zingy acidity. Luckily the Wild Flight gives me that great combo.

8. Bauman’s Cider Mountain Rosé 

This is my third in a row for ciders appearing in the blog for the first time and making it into my top 10! This is great news for the cider company at large. We can all be discovering really great cider companies all the time, like Baughman’s Cider out of Oregon. This Rosé completely hit the spot for me. I loved everything about it, and I love to be able to buy it more easily and often!

7. Kite and String’s King of the North Reserve 

From the aromas of honey and overripe apples to the lovely tannic structure and lingering finish, this was a completely impressive cider. I may have bought this local cider from Kite and String for the bubbles, but I got so much more from it. The King of the North Reserve is completely beguiling.

6. Stormalong Esopus Spitzenburg 

Stormalong ciders appeared in the blog more often this past year than some earlier times. The whole rare apple series was a delight from Massachusetts. I love that instead of strictly single varietals, these were unusual apple forward blends. Many cider makers love to chase a single apple cider, but blends give the cider maker so much more control to craft the final beverage. I’m always going to cheer for great blends that still highlight special apples like how this cider makes the Esopus Spitzenburg sing.

5. Eden’s Deep Cut 

Eden Specialty Ciders has me figured out. I’m not embarrassed to say that each new cider shipment could contain a new favorite. I’m already excited to share a review of something new and delightful in the new year. But I want to highlight this dry yet full bodied and fruity canned cider. So many cideries are chasing exactly this, and Eden has perfected it. This is the quaffable and well balanced cider for serious cider drinkers. We don’t have to lug glasses and a 750ml bottle to a secluded picnic spot and hope we’ve not broken anything. The Deep Cut offers up fantastic aroma and wonderful mouthfeel in a canned cider!

4. Black Diamond’s 2018 Rosé 

It isn’t kind of me to include a cider in my top 10 list that is this difficult to acquire, but I didn’t start blogging because I’m kind. I do this because I have so many opinions. One of those opinions is that Black Diamond makes fantastic ciders. Usually Black Diamond ciders are strictly apples, but this cider uses black currants, blueberries and plums as well as Porter’s Perfection and Kingston Black apples. The 2018 Rosé was part of one of my personal highlights of 2020. It’s a scintillating cider that was an excellent kick off to my apple CSA from Black Diamond. 

3. Foggy Ridge Cider's Final Call 

When I first reviewed this cider at the very beginning of March, I said that I was “utterly entranced.” That hasn’t changed in the months since those lovely creamy bubbly glasses. Final Call has to be one of the best ciders not just of this year but of the decade. This cider was both elegant and fruit forward. Should be lucky enough to come across a bottle, nab it!

2. Tilted Shed Ciderworks Love's Labor 

Tilted Shed makes fantastic ciders in California, but I rarely see them in New York. I joined the cider club for better access. This has been my favorite of that selection thus far, but my cellar still has many more waiting for their day in the glass. The Loves Labor includes Gravenstein apples and wild blackberries. It’s sparkle, acidity, and tannins are perfectly balanced and delightfully pleasing!

1.  Big Fish Cider Virginia Hewes Crab 

Every cider from Big Fish Cider Co is different from it’s previous releases, and I’ve never tried one that wasn't exceedingly above average. They make wonderful cider. And I tend to love crab apples in cider. Yes, this is a single varietal, but it does so much that most single varietals don’t. The Virginia Hewes Crab brings luscious aromas of spices, overripe apples, and citrus. The cider tastes even better than it smells! The cider has body, acidity, tannins, fruit, and intense bubbles. I love it!  I knew it would be in my favorites list from the moment I first sipped it. Congratulations and thanks for making this cider!

And now that I’m thanking folks. Thanks so much to my cider friends and community near and far. We weren’t able to gather for most of this year, but we’ve toasted each other across the miles. Hopefully we can raise glasses together safely next year! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Cider Review: Portland Cider Company's Crangerine

The kind folks at Portland Cider Company generously sent me a couple of samples recently. When we planned to have a pizza night at Along Came a Cider HQ, I knew it was time to break one of these open. I chose the Crangerine because I just can’t get enough cranberry cider these days!

Portland Cider Company tells you the location directly in the cidery name! Check out my earlier reviews for more background information on this inventive cider company. I've had the fun of trying lots of ciders from Portland Cider Co. They send me samples for review regularly, and that's how I was able to access all of these! Enjoy the back catalogue.

Razzberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/06/cider-review-once-upon-tree-wild-flight.html

Peach Berry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/04/cider-review-portland-cider-companys.html

Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Cranberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-seed-stone-cidery-heritage.html

Pumpkin Spice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-review-portland-cider-co-pumpkin.html

Pineapple Rose:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/07/cider-reviews-portland-cider-cos.html

You can visit Portland Cider Company online here: https://www.portlandcider.com/home

Here’s how Portland Cider Company describes the Crangerine. 


Delightfully tart, juicy tangerine plays nicely with Oregon grown cranberries.  Add some sparkle to your glass with this ruby colored hard cranberry cider, with brilliantly bright flavors that aren’t too sweet. 5.1% ABV

TASTING NOTES tart, citrus zest, ripe cranberry, juicy citrus

FOOD PAIRINGS roasted turkey, brie, pumpkin pie, honey baked ham, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables


Oregon Cranberries

NW Tangerines

Fuji Apples

Pink Lady Apples

Gala Apples

Honeycrisp Apples

Golden Delicious Apples

Appearance: Deep red, brilliant, few visible bubbles

I didn’t expect quite so much cranberry color before pouring this cider. The Crangerine looks like cranberry juice. It’s totally brilliant, deep red, and mildly bubbly in appearance.

Aromas: citrus, PixiStix, Minerals, blackberries, ripe apple

The Crangerine cider does represent all constituent ingredients in its aromas. I could smell fresh apple, cranberry, and citrus. My holistic impressions were of strong minerals plus citrus primarily. Something in the notes reminded me of Pixie Stix and blackberry. I’m guessing it will taste very tart!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet/semi-dry

Each cider has the level of sweetness/dryness that suits it flavor profile, and you notice when you’re tasting a mismatch. Crangerine plays the line between semi-dry and semi-sweet just right. 

Flavors and drinking experience: High acidity, berry tannins, some citrus and apple

My first impression upon sipping the Crangerine is one of citrus sweetness and berry tartness. The acidity does come from apples, cranberries, and tangerine.  Some tannic presence also appeared; it reminds of the astringence from fresh cranberry juice.

I could not taste a lot of apple in the mix, but it was present. Instead the balance was very cranberry and plenty tangerine with some background of apple. The cider has a medium-light  body that’s very zesty and lots of bubbles.

This cider was great paired with two very different homemade veggie pizzas!


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Cider Review: 1911 Cranberry Cider

Good morning cider friends, welcome to December. I can scarcely believe that we’re closing in on the end of this bizarre year. I hope you stayed safe for Thanksgiving and paired a delicious meal with some very good cider. I know I did. But now ‘tis the season for getting cozy and enjoying winter flavors.

In my mind, winter flavors include mulled ciders, barrel aged ciders, sips of pommeau, and my favorite non-apple fruit of all: cranberry. Some cider fans knock ciders with fruit additions, and they aren’t always my favorites. I just can’t resist trying every cranberry cider I can get my hands on. (If you’ve got one you’d like me to review, email me!) When I saw 1911’s Cranberry cider at the grocery store last week, I grabbed it with both hands. 

1911 is a Finger Lakes cidery, orchard, distillery and farm attraction that has a passionate local following and increasing availability across the region. 1911 creates a truly varied range of ciders, and I’m always seeing something new from this company. I did purchase this myself; it was not a review sample. 

I’ve reviewed a few of 1911’s cider over the years. The earlier ones appear under the orchard name Beak and Skiff that has since been rebranded as 1911. 

Rose: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/02/cider-review-1911-rose-and-virtue.html

New England Style Hopped IPC: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/09/cider-reviews-1911-hard-cider-new.html

Tropical: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-1911-tropical-cider.html

Somerset Original Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-beak-and-skiffs-1911.html

Founders’s Reserve Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-1911s-founders-reserve.html

1911 describes the Cranberry saying, “1911 Cranberry hard cider is a semi-sweet cider that provides the perfect combination of classic American flavors. Our Unique blend of apples and New England cranberries strikes a delicate balance of sweet and tart. 6.9% ABV” 

1911 also posts a sweetness scale that puts the Cranberry at a 2 out of a possible 6 for sweetness.

Appearance: Rosewood, brilliant, bubbly

I enjoyed searching for just the right word to describe this shade of pink. It’s got a hint of warm brown, so rosewood suits admirably. The cider has beautiful brilliance and lots of active bubbles. 

Aromas: Citric acid, cranberry and other berries, ripe apple, dusty

My first impression when I brought my nose to this cider was citrus and citric acid. It has a fresh orange juice quality that’s a fun element along with a strong cranberry and apple presence. I also get notes of other berries and just a ghost of mineral dust.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet to semi-sweet

The can describes this cider as semi-sweet, but it feels more like a sweet to my tastebuds. The sweetness I get is very fruity. 

Flavors and drinking experience: strong cranberry finish, high acidity, medium body

I am so pleased! The Cranberry Cider by 1911 allows both apple and cranberry to speak distinctly. This cider is deliciously drinkable! I love the super cranberry finish. The Cranberry offers up just exactly the high acid I hope for in a cranberry cider. It also keeps things fun and exciting with the perfect level of bubble and medium body.

The Cranberry tastes fresh and fruity! We had it with the last piece of pumpkin cheesecake and the pairing was a total winner. Next time though, I’m going to bake some brie to go with this seasonal treat!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cider Review: Stowe Cider's Juniper Sessions

Hi cider friends. Ordinarily I would be writing to you about cider pairings for Thanksgiving, but things are just so different this year. I’m following the advice and not travelling and not seeing family. It’s hard, but I want to keep them (and my household) safe. It’s what I can do. So, I’m not going to pretend that tradition is what’s in the cards this year. Besides, Thanksgiving is certainly a holiday that needs some reflection and change anyway. 

Instead, I want to enjoy innovation. I’m sharing my notes on Stowe Cider’s Juniper Sessions. I’ve had this cider a few times, and I tend to enjoy gin botanical infused ciders. What I just learned is that there are many different Juniper Sessions, and the one I’m reviewing today is Volume 10 Smuggler’s Notch. Now I want to track them all down and try the rest!

Stowe Cider is a small Vermont Cidery based in a ski town. I don’t get access to many Stowe ciders, but I pick them up when I visit my in-laws in Vermont and whenever I see them in our local bottle shop, I pick some up. And sometimes they send me review samples, but this is a cider I picked up for myself a while ago.

Here are Stowe Ciders’ previous appearances in this blog.

High and Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-grand-illusion-hard-cider.html

My 2016 visit to the tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-1.html

Local Infusion Snow’s Raspberry Hard Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

Visit Stow Cider online to learn about all the ciders and other projects: https://www.stowecider.com/home

Here’s how the cidery describes this cider.

Juniper Sessions #10 Smuggler’s Notch


Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

Tasting Notes: Juniper, Citrus, Anise, Citrus Peel & Hops

And for the curious here’s a link to the collaborator Smuggler’s Notch Distillery: https://www.smugglersnotchdistillery.com/

Appearance: pale moonglow, bubbly, brilliant

This is a lovely and delicate cider to the eye. The color reminds me of luna moths or whilte flowers viewed in early morning light. It’s a little bit gold but also a little bit green and glowy. I can see lots of bubbles with great clarity.

 Aromas: Pine, vegetal, nutty, ripe apple and funky

The Juniper Sessions smells piney and nutty to me. There are lots of vegetal and herbal notes in the mix. There’s also some ripe apples and hints of funk. These are some complex aromas!  I also get more mysterious elements like pine nuts or even corn nuts.

Dryness/Sweetness: semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider but it’s on the sweeter side of that spot. There’s plenty going on besides sweetness though.

Flavors and drinking experience: Herbs, apple, warming, piney, spicy finish 

The Juniper Sesssions tastes herbal, with some almost rosemary or soapy notes, but I also get plenty of apple. I can taste apple even more than I could smell it. I love that this cider has a spicy finish; there’s even a note that reminds me of green pepper. It’s all so fresh tasting!

The cider has nice acidity and body. Juniper sessions has a medium strong bubble. The drinking experience is slightly warming and piney. 

You could have this cider with a lot of different dishes, but I recommend something heavy on cheese but otherwise simple. It would be great with a baked homemade macaroni and cheese and some broccoli. Let the many notes of the Juniper Sessions sing for themselves, loud and clear!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Cider Review: Lockhorn Hard Cider's Gallatin Grapefruit Mint

I am not ready for a season filled with holidays. I know it’s coming soon, but I don’t want all of my days from October first through the end of the year to be continual slalom from preparation to festivity over and over again. Not that I mind celebration; I love it, but I just need calm and variety between my holidays. So this week, I’m not getting ready for anything. I just chose a casual and creative cider to pair with veggie tacos. 

Through a friend I was able to get my hands on my first Lockhorn Hard Cider, so I’ve been curious to try the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint. This is my first cider by this cidery!

The Lockhorn cider slogan is, “The Apple's Instinct Untamed” is a fun one! I’m not entirely sure how that translates to cider making choices other than perhaps wild fermentations and minimal intervention ciders. The website describes Lockhorn as a small family-run cidery in Montana.  

You can visit Lockhorn Hard Cider online here: https://www.lockhornhardcider.com/

Here’s how Lockhorn Hard Cider describes the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint.

Grapefruit Mint cider is a fan favorite! With fresh, cold steeped mint leaves infused with grapefruit juice, this cider is, by far, the most refreshing. A semi-sweet cider that fills all your senses, you are bound to love it! On tap and in 16 oz cans. 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, goldenrod

The color reminds me of afternoon sunlight and goldenrods. The cider has just a hint of haze but not enough to obscure the bubbles I can see. 

Aromas: Smells minty, apple, hint of grapefruit

I can smell all of the elements promised in the description of this cider distinctly. There are clear notes of mint, apple, and grapefruit, but the mint and apple predominate.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I thought this cider would be fairly sweet not only because the official description calls out semi-sweetness, but because I think both grapefruit and mint are best brought into balance with some sweetness or a very different dry and austere profile. This took the semi-sweet route.

Flavors and drinking experience: strong mint flavor, mild grapefruit, medium high acid

When drinking this cider, I wanted to pay attention to each of the three ingredients to see how they communicate. The mint is strongly present throughout but especially in the in finish. The grapefruit element melds with apple, making them more of a fruity presence but mint stands out. This cider has medium high acidity but no tannins. 

I appreciate the bubbles and full body in the the Gallatin Gallatin Grapefruit Mint. Somehow my brain keeps looking for hops and hop related flavors. I've had minty and citrusy hopped ciders before, but this is totally hop free. But I keep forgetting that every sip or two and looking for the tart, citrus hop notes or bitter hop edge.

This cider provoked a mixed reaction in my household. It has a lot going on and a fair bit of sweetness. I think for many drinkers those will be delightful features, whereas some might find the cider too experimental or the experience too much. 

Pairing this cider with veggie black bean tacos was fun. You could also take these in a whole different direction, focusing on the sweetness and pair them with a citrus glazed pound cake. I think there are a lot of pairing possibilities for the Gallatin Grapefruit Mint by the Lockhorn Hard Cider. 

And just for fun, one of my co-tasters and Peewee.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Cider Review: Stormalong Cider's Happy Holidays

Good morning cider friends! I write to you from an unseasonably warm and sunny day, but it’s the last one in the forecast. It feels like the perfect moment to savor everything bright, golden, and fleeting. Its wonderful to catch little moments of unexpected beauty and ease when we can. 

For my review this week, I want to share my thoughts on Stormalong Ciders’ Happy Holidays. I had it on a much cooler and blusterier night than we’ve had this week, but many more such nights are coming.

I’m getting this sample of Happy Holidays from Stormalong Ciders for review. They’ve been very kind and sent me samples of several of their newest releases over the years. You can read more about the cidery and each of these ciders in the individual reviews. Here’s the list. 

Esopus Spitzenburg: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-ravens-moon-craft-ciders.html

Ashmead’s Kernel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/07/cider-review-brannland-just-cider-and.html

Peariful: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-fortis.html

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

Kingston Black: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/08/cider-reviews-ninepin-light-cider.html

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

Mass Appeal: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-prospect-ciderworks.html

Boston Heirloom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-boston.html

Here's where to find Stormalong online: http://stormalong.com/.

And now for Stormalong Cider’s official description for Happy Holidays: 

Unfiltered hard cider with a blend of holiday spices (allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and organic brown sugar). 10% of ALL proceeds of this cider will go to The Greater Boston Food Bank.

Alcohol 5.20%

Appearance: Cloudy, warm tawny gold, bubbly

This is certainly an unfiltered cider! When I pass my hand behind the glass, I cannot see my fingers. The color is a warm rich tawny gold. I can see plenty of bubbles in the cider.

Aromas: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baked apples

Happy holidays indeed! This smells like so many wintry festive treats from apple pie to mulled cider and gingerbread. I smell nutmeg, cinnamon, baked apples, and brown sugar.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

Happy Holidays is sweet! If you don’t want a spiced and sweet cider, it won’t be for you, but it’s delightful in its balance. I’m not usually a sweet cider fan, but I happily make an exception for this!

Flavors and drinking experience: full bodied, baked apple, brown sugar, medium high acidity

The Happy Holidays tastes like brown sugar and baked apples. The cider brings medium high acidity and medium tannins. The cider is decidedly and beautifully full bodied. The spices are more varied on the nose but still present to taste. For me, this is a delicious dessert cider, but I can also imagine many drinkers reaching for it with chili and cornbread or as a reward for all the snow shoveling that is to come.

Happy Holidays is a keeper! This will certainly brighten our small or virtual celebrations this year.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Cider Review: Kite and String's King of the North Reserve

Writing this hours before any election returns start, I’m nervous. I feel like this year has been an exercise in dealing with uncertainty and unpleasant certainties. I’ll choose measured hope and plenty of actions beyond voting. But while we wait, there’s cider. Today, I’m sharing my notes on a local treat: Kite and String's King of the North Reserve.

Looking back in the blog’s history, I’ve reviewed quite a few Kite and String Ciders before. Kite and String is the home cider at Finger Lakes Cider House. The company won the first New York State Cider Competition (I participated as a judge). I’ll give a caveat that If you read back through earlier coverage, please don’t get confused if you see a few different names or phrases. This cidery has a former name as well as being affiliated with Good Life Farm and the Finger Lakes Cider House. 

Rose ‘17: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/10/cider-review-kite-and-strings-rose-17.html

Barrel Rye: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-good-life-ciders-barrel-rye.html

Cazenovia: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-good-life-ciders-cazenovia.html

King of Hector: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/07/cider-review-kite-and-string-ciders.html

The Hickok has appeared at a few special dinners including:

Thanksgiving 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

And Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:  


Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an official description of King of the North Reserve, and my photos didn’t include the back of the bottle. I do know that I picked this cider up for myself the last time I visited the Cider House in person. I tasted it and choose it because I quite liked it. This is going to be a super bubbly cider as it’s a “traditional method” cider, using a 2nd in the bottle fermentation to give it natural sparkle.

Appearance: bubbly, brilliant, rich saffron

The cider looks like a champagne. It’s brilliant, bubbly, and wonderfully enticing. The color reminds me of saffron threads.

Aromas: honey, overripe apples, minerals 

I knew this cider would be something special from the first note of aroma. The King of the North Reserve smells like honey and overripe apples. There’s a backbone of steely minerality present as well.

Dryness/Sweetness: Dry!

This is a dry cider that still manages to have so many fruit notes! 

Flavors and drinking experience: intense sparkle, high tannins, high acid, oranges, yeast

Ah yes! This has to be why I bought this cider for myself. It’s just so bubbly! Everyone who reads the blog knows how much I love dry bubbly ciders. They are my weakness. And the King of the North Reserve is a great one in that style! 

I get notes of apple seeds, woodiness, yeast, oranges, and ripe apples. This super bubbly cider has sharply pleasant high acid and high tannins. It feels like every good feature is turned up to maximum. I love the notes of oranges.

I had this cider with a veggie filled pasta bake, and it was good for the season and good for this tense moment. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cider Review: Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab

Of all of the things that are very much on my mind, I want to think about making Halloween fun and spooky and safe this year. So much of the rest of the world feels much too big for me to tackle. Part of my plan this year is a virtual Spooky Storytelling Gathering with some family. Thank you to my sister-in-law Karen for this great idea. I’ve already scared myself just doing research for what story I’ll tell. During this gathering across the miles, I know I’ll be sipping a cider. It’s no bonfire bash, but I do like cider with my scares!

One night last week, I had the pleasure of coming home from a sunset walk to home cooked lasagna. My only job was to choose a cider for accompaniment. I chose Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab. This cider was shared with me, but my opinions remain my own. Before I get into the review, I want to share a bit of background about this cidery.

Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Virginia. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the founder and cidermaker Kirk Billingsley. Big Fish Ciders often do well at competitions like GLINTCAP. I appreciate the range of styles and apples both present in the cidery’s lineup.   

Here’s the rundown of my earlier Big Fish reviews:

Wild Meadow: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-big-fish-cider-cos-wild.html

Allegheny Gold (my #3 cider from 2019): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-whitewood-cider-company.html

Highland Scrumpy (my #3 cider from 2018): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-angry-orchard-ciders.html

Church Hill Blush: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

There’s a video about this cider: https://www.bigfishcider.com/insider-tips/virginia-hewes-crab/

You can visit Big Fish Cider Co. online here: https://www.bigfishcider.com/

Here’s the official description for Virginia Hewes Crab.

This is our first single varietal ever at Big Fish Cider. And quite honestly it was destined to go into our heritage blend, until we tasted this after fermentation. The fullness of body, the intensity of flavor, and the tannins, quite honestly blew us away. So I gathered up more of the same fruit, did several small batches utilizing different wine yeasts, and the result for each batch was similar, so I blended it all together, and we feel this is the best cider we have ever produced at Big Fish. A touch of sweetness, partially due to the unfermentable sugars in the cider due to the water core in the apples produced by our hot dry summer of 2019. Notes of citrus, butterscotch, stone fruits, come through. A truly delightful, intense, cider. Drink at cellar temperature for depth of flavor. Alcohol 8.40%

Appearance: transparent, deep harvest moon color, lots of bubbles

The Virginia Hewes Crab has an amazing seasonal color. It reminds me just exactly of a Harvest Moon. That deep reddish orange appears with good transparence and oodles of quick bubbles.

Aromas: Citrus, floral, spice, overripe apples

This cider smells citrusy, floral, with a waft of spice aromas too. It reminds me of Constant Comment tea, cardamom, and overripe apples too. There’s a lot of very tempting aroma here.

Sweetness/dryness: barely off dry

This cider is very fruit but mostly dry. There’s just a lick of sweetness in the mélange of impressions I get from this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, creamy mouthfeel, full body, amazing fruit and spice notes

Wow! I knew I wanted to reach for a special cider, but this is shockingly good! The Virginia Hewes Crab tastes tart, acidic, but there’s so much more to it than acid. The cider is wonderfully fruity and spicy too. The bubbles keep it lively but that hint of sweetness and higher ABV also mean that it’s simultaneously thick! I love a bubbler with lots of body! I’d even call this cider creamy!

It’s extremely good! My cotasters and I agree that this cider with its well-balanced combination of zesty tartness, beautiful fruit, intense sparkle, and luscious mouthfeel is a total winner. The acidity really helped pair it with the lasagna as well. This is a combo to try!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cider Review: Left Foot Charley's Cinnamon Girl

Good morning Cider friends! I hope you are eating lots of apples and enjoying autumnal pleasures as we head towards Halloween. It’s still time to stay home or mask up, but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy the seasonal bounty. I’m imagining this week’s cider as something very seasonal! Left Foot Charley’s Cinnamon Girl seems like a cider playing dress up with cinnamon spice.

Left Foot Charley is a winery and cidery in Traverse City, Michigan. It was established there in 2004; their local focus is on processing fruit and juice from Northern Michigan for their  variety cider and wine lineup.

Here is a list of my earlier reviews of Left Foot Charley’s ciders and a perry. 

Fortis Maelum: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-fortis.html

Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/05/very-perry-may-with-left-foot-charleys.html

Henry’s Pippin (it 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  online right here: https://www.leftfootcharley.com/

Now for the Left Foot Charley’s official description of the Cinnamon Girl.

This is a classic combination - apples and cinnamon. The apples are harvested from two farms on the Old Mission Peninsula. Whole cinnamon sticks are then added and steeped in the cider for 4-6 weeks. Gluten Free

Alcohol 5.00%

 Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, very few visible bubbles 

This cider looks like lots of other ciders from Michigan and indeed from many places. It’s brilliant in clarity and the color is often called warm straw. I don’t see many bubbles.

Aromas: cinnamon, brown sugar, ripe apples

Here’s where the hijinks begin! Cinnamon Girl smells of cinnamon, ripe apples, yeast, brown sugar. The whole mixture reminds me of coffee cake. These spice smells comes across vividly. My co-taster thought the whole experience was like an apple crisp.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi- sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider. The sweetness reminds me of brown sugar and baked goods.

Flavors and drinking experience: ripe apples, lush, medium tannins, well balanced

What was very spice oriented in aroma tastes very much of apples. The Cinnamon Girl has a low to medium but present level of  tannins, nice taut acidity, as well as sweetness and body. The whole experience is balanced and quite pleasant. This cider is so bubbly and fun! It went perfectly with good conversation and popcorn!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Cider Review: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Inclinado Methode Traditionelle

I completely forgot to write this week! I blame moving. Better late than never though. I’m happy to share a review whose notes I took back in the summer months. I’m bringing my thoughts on Tilted Shed’s Inclinado Methode Traditionelle.

My access to California ciders is less limited than it used to be, but it still takes a lot more effort to actually get a bottle in my hands than lots of very good local offerings. Tilted Shed’s cider club really makes it much easier, and I’m glad to have joined almost a year ago. This Sonoma County Cidery consistently sources interesting apples and makes a range of different cider styles with them. The cidery has been producing ciders since 2011.

Here are all of my previous Tilted Shed reviews:

Love's Labor: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/06/cider-reviews-grisamore-cider-fillmore.html

Lost Orchard: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-tilted-shed-ciderworks.html

Barred Rock Barrel Aged Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/04/reviewing-ciders-for-winter-tilted-shed.html

January Barbecue Smoked Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/reviewing-ciders-for-winter-tilted.html

You can visit Tilted Shed online to learn about ciders and the cider club (I’m a member): https://www.tiltedshed.com/

Now for Tilted Shed’s Inclinado Methode Traditionelle!

Let’s start with the official description.

2017 Inclinado, Methode Traditionelle We also introduce a new version of our Spanish-style cider, Inclinado, that was also bottled using méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). 100% organic Sebastopol-grown Gravensteins, wild-fermented in neutral French oak barrels, no sulfites—just apples and time. It rested en tirage for about 16 months of in-bottle refermentation, and was then riddled and disgorged by hand. Elegance in a bottle, and pairs beautifully with absolutely everything. I can imagine it with oysters served with a garlic-apple mignonette, but try it with Spanish-inspired cheese and charcuterie, too. Store in a cool spot and chill very well before opening. Contents under pressure. Tasting notes: Acid-forward with mouth-filling notes of apricot, lemon, and lime; juicy and vibrant. 750ml / 8% ABV / Only 52 cases produced. 

 Appearance: bubbly, pumpkin orange, hazy

This hazy cider looks perfectly seasonal right now! It's a pumpkin orange with thousands of racing bubbles.

Aromas: citrus, salt, spice & volatile acidity.

Everything I smell points to a Basque inspired cider. There are spicy, citrusy, and salty notes, along with some volatile acidity.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

As most Methode Traditionelle ciders, this tastes completely dry!

Flavors and drinking experience: leathery, citrus, funky, high acid

Zing! This cider sings with high acidity. It’s racy, citrusy, and exhilarating. I get notes of leather, citrus like lemon and orange, and some bare hints of salt. The salt transforms to olive a bit after sipping and sitting with the cider.

The acidity is bodily and powerful. I can feel the cider in my esophagus with each swallow. The cider is funky, but nothing about it smells or tastes dirty. Is good clean funk a thing? This is definitely good clean funk. It's delightful, and what I love most has to be that intense sparkle. I love bubbles, and I refuse to be ashamed of it. This cider brings great bubbles!

I had my cider with a homemade veggie burrito. It’s a reliably fun pairing for high acid ciders because of the interplay between the umami and acidity. The umami brought by the food paired with the double hit of acid in both food and cider just makes for a fun and energetic meal pairing. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Cider Review: Abandoned Hard Cider Classic

Hello Cider Friends! I write to you from my new home which has many boxes,  but I’m happy to say that the move is complete. But that’s not the only excitement happening currently; it’s Finger Lakes Cider Week! This year is different to say the least, but things are still happening! 

Please check out the website to find out more: https://ciderweekflx.com/flx/.

For today though I wanted to try something new and unknown, so I picked up a can of something I’ve never had at the local bottle shop. I chose the Abandoned Hard Cider Classic.

Here’s a link to this unusual cidery located in Woodstock, New York: https://www.abandonedcider.com/.

I love the quick and simple way the cidery website describes the company’s beginning, “After a chance meeting between two hobby cider makers in 2015, and a couple of years of geeking out together, Eric and Martin joined forces to create Abandoned Hard Cider.” The guys mentioned are Eric Childs and Martin Bernstein. 

You can find out lots more information on the cidery online.

I picked up Abandoned Hard Cider’s Classic. Here’s what the can says about the cider.

A refreshingly complex cider that pours hazy and packs a sharp appley bite!

As with all of our ciders, this one is made from over 100 varieties of apples collected in wild and abandoned orchards throughout New York's Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley.

The apples are a “blend of wild and heirloom apples.”

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, warm sand

The Classic looks hazy and bubbly. The color reminds me of warm sandy beaches. Perhaps I’m just dreaming about the possibility of travel.

Aromas: ripe apples, lemons, pears, but also some stoniness, and wet rocks, a bit funky

The Classic smells like wet rocks and shady spaces. I also get fruit notes including ripe apples lemons and pears.

Sweetness/dryness: bone dry

This is a bone dry cider! There aren’t that many bone dry canned ciders, so for folks looking for this combo, look no further!

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, funky, high acid, fruity finish

I like a bone dry cider! The classic hits with an initial wave of abrasive acid followed by medium tannins. The cider mellows out, but it remains a bit funky, with flavors driven by it’s very high acid. I really enjoy the Classic’s pleasant fruity finish.

This cider is remarkably zesty and refreshing. The citrus profile of acidity paired with lots of minerality is fun. It’s easy to enjoy as a fan of dry bubbly ciders with high acid. In that way, it reminds me of the Northeastern region in general.

I enjoyed mine as a reward after a day of packing with a veggie burrito, and it was very much appreciated!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Cider Review: Eden Cider's Peak Bloom and Black Diamond Cider's 2018 Rosé

I write on a rainy evening, when perhaps I should be packing just a few more boxes. That’s because the Along Came a Cider HQ is moving! Not a far move, I doubt it's even a mile. But if you’ve sent me ciders in the past, please reach out to get the new address! This time next week, I’ll be writing from the new house!

Before then I want to share two reviews by two of my favorite cider makers: Eden Specialty Ciders and Black Diamond Cider!  

I have shared several Eden cider reviews here. Check them out to see the full range that Eden Ciders creates and to learn more about this very special Vermont cidery. 

Here’s the full list!

Deep Cut Harvest Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-eden-specialty-ciders-deep.html

Extra Sec: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-super.html

Ezekiel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-eden-specialty-ciders.html

Siren Song: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-eden-ciders-siren-song-and.html

Imperial 11 Degree Rose(my number one cider of 2017): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

Heritage canned cider: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-eden-heritage-and.html

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

2016 Sparkling Dry: 



Brut Nature: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-con-2018-pt-1-eden-specialty.html

You can learn about all of Eden’s ciders on the website: https://www.edenciders.com/

Here’s how Eden describes the Peak Bloom in its release sheet.

Taste: Apple Sunshine in a Can

Lush apple fruit balanced by light tannin and

soft lingering tartness. Notes of white grape,

applesauce and lime. Superbly crushable.

Apple Varieties Grown for Cider



100% Locally and Sustainably Grown






One Batch Per Year for Best Flavor

12 g/L residual sugar from arrested fermentation

6 g/L malic acidity, medium tannin

Filtered, carbonated, and pasteurized

No added sugar, color, flavoring or preservatives

Naturally gluten-free and vegan

Appearance: brilliant, intense warm straw, plenty of visible bubbles

This cider looks lovely, brilliant and glowy. I can see so many bubbles in its warm straw shade.

Aromas: oatmeal, tropical fruit, flowers, overripe apples

I was surprised by a note of sweet oats or oatmeal alongside the overripe apples and tropical fruit. The Peak Bloom certainly smells luscious. I expect this will be a fair bit sweeter than many of Eden's ciders. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

As I expected, this is sweeter cider! It has enough acidity to balance the sweetness, but the sweetness and the ABV add to a certain fullness in mouthfeel. It reminds me of cream more than water. 

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, full mouthfeel, fruity, high acid, baking spice, carrots

That intriguing oatmeal note from the aroma does translate into the Peak Bloom’s flavor. I’m reminded of a spiced carrot cake because of the combination of richness, baking spices, creaminess and high acidity. It’s a wonderful effect and very different from other Eden ciders.

This cider comes across as smooth, clean, and sophisticated. I think it’s aromas and mouthfeel work together such that it demands to be poured into a glass rather than consumed straight from the can. This cider deserves to expand fully into a glass and into your palate. The apple notes are present but not alone. I also get some tropical fruit presence and floral grace notes. 

The whole experience is charming and well balanced.  The bubbles aren’t as strong as in Eden’s bottled sparklers; I’m not sure a can could hold that pressure!  I think of the two new canned ciders, I’ll reach for the Deep Cut more often, but that’s simply my preferred profile. This cider uses its sweetness, mouthfeel, tannins and acidity well. It’s a lovely well-rounded experience. 

I didn’t follow the pairing suggestions, but I paired mine with blackened tilapia, steamed sweet potato, and sautéed bell peppers with zucchini. I wanted the sweetness to contrast against the mild spice of the blackening spices but to augment the acid driven flavor of the peppers. I’m well pleased and would create that meal again.

My next set of notes is not for a cider that’s easy to buy, so I’m sorry for that. But I couldn’t resist writing up my thoughts when I tried Black Diamond’s rosé! I was visiting the orchard for the kickoff to the farm’s apple CSA, and they had something fun just for sale at the farm.

Black Diamond Cider is based in Trumansburg, New York in the Finger Lakes region. It was founded by Ian and Jackie Merwin. You can check out my earlier reviews to get some more contextual notes for this cidery and my thoughts on other releases

My previous reviews include:

Shin Hollow: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-mountain-west-ciders-sweet.html

Jaywalker: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/03/cider-review-alpenfires-dungeness-and.html

Geneva Tremlett’s: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-black-diamonds-geneva.html

Somerset Jersey: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/05/very-perry-may-with-vandermills-ice-ice.html

Slatestone: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-big-hill-ciderworks.html

Hickster: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-black-diamond-ciders.html

Porter’s Pommeau: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

Solstice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/08/cider-review-black-diamonds-solstice.html

Rabblerouser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-black-diamonds.html

Here are Black Diamond’s notes on their 2018 Rosé.
A dry rosé cider, perfect for summer afternoons by your favorite lake!
Tasting notes: Our take on a Finger Lakes rosé cider, made with a blend of black currants, blueberries and plums all grown on the farm. This cider is fruit forward, with notes of dark dusky plum and black cherry with a touch of sweetness.
This cider is a limited release available only in growlers and by the glass. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Apple Varieties: Espous Spitzenburg (45%), Shiro plum, blueberries, Titanium black currant (25%), mixed varieties (30%). ABV 7.8% Residual Sugar: 1.0%
Conversation at the tasting allowed to find out that the fruit was fermented, and that the mixture included some Porter’s and Kingston Black apples.

Appearance: brilliant, watermelon, bubbly
This cider looks like heaven to me. I love the brilliance, watermelon color, and the ring of miniscule bubbles around the edge of my glass. 
Aromas: Minerals, berries, sweet, ripe apples
This rosé smells of pleasing mineral and blueberry notes. The scent is sweet, earthy but clean. These elements are balanced by bright ripe apples.
Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry
This is a lovely semi-dry cider with only natural elements to the sweetness. 
Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, high acid, citrus, maple, pear
The rosé  tastes enchanting with high acidity and grippy medium tannins both from apples and currants. Something about it reminds me of an underripe pear with a maple note. The finish gentle wafts into citrus. 
My notes end with the brief statement, “Obviously excellent.” And I think that says what it needs to say.  I paired my cider with a walking tour of one of the Black Diamond orchard blocks, and it was extremely enjoyable. For a food pairing, I’d try walnuts and a soft cheese.