Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cider Review: Stormalong Cider's Boston Heirloom and Blake’s Cider Rainbow Seeker

Good morning cider lovers! While many of us are enjoying the sunshine, educational opportunities, networking and, of course, cider of CiderCon 2020, I’m writing to you from a cold gray place. It’s fine. I hope everyone who has made it out to Oakland, California is having a wonderful time. Most of the rest of us are jealous, but really it’s fine.

What’s much closer and coming up in March is our very own North Eastern Cider Conference! This event, in Albany, NY, will bring together folks in all roles of the cider world from restaurateurs to farmers and every cider and apple related link that connects them. I highly recommend looking at the conference tracks and events. You’ll be impressed!  

The event is taking place March 24 - 26, 2020 and the early registration discount deadline was recently extended until February 14!

Check out the website to learn more:

But for today, I am reviewing two canned ciders that made it me from outside of New York. Even if I can’t travel now, my cider can travel to me!

I’m starting with Stormalong Cider’s Boston Heirloom. 

Stormalong cider is based out of Sherborn, Massachusetts now with a production facility in Leominster. The company has been going since 2014 and was founded by Shannon Edgar. This week’s cider was shared with me for review. 

Here are my previous reviews of Stormalong Ciders

Kingston Black:

Legendary Dry:

Light of the Sun:

Mass Appeal:

To learn more about what Stormalong is up to, visit online:

Boston Heirloom is part of Stormalong’s Rare apple series. Here’s the full description.
In homage to the rich cider history rooted in New England, ‘Boston Heirloom’ is crafted from two heirloom apple cultivars that have a storied past in the region. This cider is made from a blend of 50% Roxbury Russet and 50% Baldwin apples and is crisp, tropical and tart.  These apples were initially bred in the Boston area in the mid 1700’s, making them some of the oldest apple varietals in the United States.  Roxbury Russet and Baldwin apples were commonly used in hard cider up until the 1930’s when prohibition and other external forces pretty much wiped out the hard cider industry.  Taste history. 7.5% ABV 50% Roxbury Russet, 50% Baldwin

Appearance: bubbly, brilliant, warm straw

This cider certainly looks like many american heirloom apple ciders. The Boston Heirloom has a warm straw color with plenty of bubbles and brilliance. 

Aromas: Yeasty, vinous, strawberries and dusty stones

I picked up a wine like aromas just as soon as the can cracked open. Once poured, I could smell some yeast character, ripe apples, dusty stones, and strawberries. Had I been smelling this blindfolded I would have pegged it for a rose cider. The aromas all center pleasingly around ripe apples. These notes give me anticipation of a high acid cider.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I think how folks perceive acidity will affect how they interpret the dryness or sweetness of this cider. I think it’s a semi-dry cider with plenty of acidity.

Flavors and drinking experience: red currants, high acid, citrus, perfumed finish

Indeed, my anticipation of high acid from the aromas was not wrong! This acid bomb cider tastes like red fruit, currants, citrus fruits like grapefruit and orange.

This cider rounds out into a mellow finish that slowly becomes perfume. I appreciate it’s clean fermentation and full mouthfeel. There’s little tannin, but the whole experience is super smooth and consistent. This cider is easy drinking and bubbly. You can enjoy straight from the can; my fellow taster found it best that way, or you can be like me and use a glass. Either way, there’s a lot to appreciate in the Boston Heirloom.

Next up is Blake’s Hard Cider’s Rainbow Seeker! This cider was shared with me for review. 

Blake’s Hard Cider comes from Armada, Michigan. The company makes a wide range of ciders, so there’s always something new to try. The company also has a very popular bar and taproom. 

Here are my previous reviews of Blake’s Ciders. There are a ton of them! 


Santa Rosa:

Beard Bender:

Apple Lantern:

Black Philip:

The Tonic:

El Chavo:



I recommend looking around Blake’s Hard Cider’s website. There’s a lot to see:

Here’s the Rainbow Seekers Official description: “Let this pineapple paradise in a can take you on a tropical ride. With hints of sage, this balanced semi-sweet hard cider is impactful in more ways than just quenching your thirst. Rainbow Seeker is a part of the Blake’s #KinderCider Series and crafted with love in support of the LGBT community. Made in support of LGBT National Hotline. ABV 5.55”

I love this choice of charity! Kudos to Blake’s for supporting us LGBTQIA+ folks! It makes me feel supported and valued seeing this. 

Appearance: Brilliant, green tea, few visible bubbles

The color reminds me of Sencha green tea. It’s a gold on the verge of pale green. I see a few bubbles, but it’s not super actively bubbly, and the clarity is definitely brilliant. 

Aromas: Green apple candy, pineapple, sage, and peppers

The Rainbow Seeker smells like green apple candy, peppers, sage, and pineapple. All these together remind me of pizza. It’s appetizing but not like a lot of other ciders. The savory elements in the aroma translate into an anticipation of spice for me.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet or semi-sweet

This is a sweet cider! There’s not as much acid to balance the sweetness as I’d like to see. That said, I know there are folks for whom this will be an absolute delight.

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, pineapple, sage on the finish

This is a candy sweet cider. The sage comes across primarily in the finish. The Pineapple blends in well with the overripe apple notes. I can taste all of the elements in this cider. The triple combo feels like a riff on the same concept as the mango pepper cider but this feels sweeter and thicker, and stickier. 

The Rainbow Seeker is sessionable, lightly sparkling, and very full bodied. The additional ingredients add to the experience but do not overwhelm it. 

I think it would taste best with salty seafood. I might pair it with a Friday fish fry to give the body and fruity sweetness something of saltiness and substance to balance.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Cider Review: Embark Ciderworks' Apple Pie Cider and Woodchuck Cider's Kinda Cloudy

We’re making our way through January, with it’s long cold nights. I’ve been having a lot of exciting dry ciders, but I wanted to switch it up this week with two semi-sweet treats. I pair these differently, often with snacks rather than with full meals. You can absolutely make fabulous meal pairings with sweeter ciders, but I had each of these with little treats like after dinner cheese or spiced popcorn. How do you like your sweeter ciders?

Let’s start today’s review with Embark Craft Ciderwork’s Apple Pie Cider.

Embark Craft Ciderworks is based out of a small community outside of Rochester, New York. The cidery grew out of a family orchard that’s been operational since 1909. For more background, I encourage you to read backwards in my reviews. 

I’ve reviewed a few ciders by Embark before. Check out these earlier features of this neighboring cidery. 

The Northerner:

Golden Russet Reserve:

Crab Series #1:

The American Hopped:

Visit Embark online and learn more about the ciders, the orchard, and the tasting room:

Here’s how the folks at Embark describe this cider, "As American As Apple Pie" is what we are replicating with this cider. We are using a blend of American Heirloom apples and apple pie spices to create a semi-sweet cider using the best apples of the fall harvest. Cheers to Americana!” 5.2% ABV. 

Appearance: rich rose gold, brilliant, bubbly

This is such a warm color it reminds me more of a deeper rose gold than the tones of most ciders. It’s almost apricot in color. The clarity is brilliant, showing off lots of bubbles in the glass.  

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apples, oats, vanilla

Wow! Embark really nailed the whole apple pie experience with this cider’s aromas. I can smell a strong cinnamon presence along with cooked apples, oats, and vanilla. They even captured the a la mode! I’m impressed.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Exactly as described, this cider is semi-sweet. 

Flavors and drinking experience: spices, bubbly, honeyed finish

While it smells like apple pie a la mode, the Apple Pie Cider tastes more like a crisp! I get tons of mace, allspice, and clove notes in addition to the cinnamon. The cider just feels so full and texturally exciting. I love a rich creamy cider with plenty of bubbles and acid to keep things from veering too heavy. 

The Apple Pie Cider also brings some luscious honey notes on the finish.

Now for Woodchuck Cider’s 802 Collection Kinda Cloudy.

This cider sample was shared with me for review, but I’m sad to say that I made the notes wait several months before posting them. Apologies for the delay!

If you know cider at all, you know Woodchuck. The company has been around since the 1990s in Vermont. The ciders are varied, but they often fall on the sweeter cider. I’ve reviewed tons of Woodchuck ciders, so I’ll just list a few of the more recent and most interesting ones. Check out older posts for more background on the company that has been with this blog since the beginning. 

The Odd Crush collaboration with Farnum Hill:


Bubbly Rose:

Pear Ginger:

Smoked Apple:

June and Juice: er-review-woodchucks-june-and-juice.html

Local Nectar:

In August 2016, I visited Woodchuck as part of my cider tour of Vermont:

Here’s a link to the Woodchuck site which has even more info on ciders, events, and more:

Read what Woodchuck says to introduce it. “A traditional cider made with only fresh pressed Vermont juice from our orchard partners. Give this unfiltered semi-sweet cider a slight shake and enjoy wherever friends gather!”5.1% ABV.

Appearance: cloudy, dark sweet cider color, hard to see bubbles in the cloudiness

This cider looks like soft cider in a gallon like you see at a farm stand. The color is a warm earthy brown with hints of orange and gold. It’s tough to see bubbles in a cider this cloudy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be sparkling.

Aromas: fresh soft juice, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, bready

The Kinda Cloudy is just brimming over with tasty smells. It reminds me of half fermented sweet cider tastes straight from the tank. There are notes of cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, and plenty of yeast character. That part comes across as a little bready and zesty perhaps like a lemon glaze.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a sweet to semi-sweet cider, exactly as promised! The sweetness that’s here tastes entirely natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: half fermented cider, bright, sweet, balanced

I am in awe. Somehow Woodchuck has stabilized a moment that I thought was purely ephemeral and fleeting. They have captured the sweetness, cloudiness, and body of half- fermented cider! I have no idea how they halted the fermentation at this point to keep it so naturally sweet and stable. I simply can’t get over it. 

The cider tastes bready, bubbly but with bigger bubbles. It’s super friendly and easy drinking. While a sweet cloudy cider is not for everyone, it’s an absolute winner at what it is aiming for. I love the full body and medium high acid. I has no tannins, but it doesn’t really need them for this experience. This cider is not watery or syrupy; it’s perfectly balanced and super apple-y.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cider Review: Scrumpy Ewe's Golden Crab and Forward Cider's Penpal

I’m so excited to introduce two cideries to the blog that I’ve not reviewed before. Of course, I love reviewing new ciders by my standby favorite cider makers, but there’s something differently exciting about trying a brand new voice in the cider world. It’s like picking out a book in the bookstore or library by an author you’ve not yet read. The expanse of what I don’t know is vast as I pour that first glass. And I was surprised to find these ciders have something else in common, you’ll have to read carefully to find out what. 

The first new brand I’m trying tonight is Scrumpy Ewe. I’ve admired the sheep’s head logo online for many months; it’s a striking graphic that feels both immediate and yet hearkens back to artistic styles of previous centuries. Scrumpy Ewe is a cidery in rural New York state in the Catskill mountains. Here’s how the company describes itself online.

"Scrumpy Ewe Cider is an independently-run, New York State Farm Cidery that ferments and grows a variety of European, heirloom and wild seedling apples in the fertile Schoharie Valley. We make hand-crafted, artisanal, dry ciders."

I highly recommend visiting the website. You can learn about the orchard, the cider making processes, and see a plethora of bucolic farm pictures with sheep, trees, cider, and apples. 

Here’s how the label introduces this cider.

“Golden Crab is a slow-fermented cider that showcases two of our favorite apples[:] the Wickson Crab and the Golden Russet Bright, bold and acidic, this complex cider pairs well with spicy curries, braised pork, and sharp cheeses” ABV 7.7%

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, no visible bubbles

The popularity of hazy ciders must be growing! I'm seeing more and more of them. This one pairs its haze with a warm straw color and no visible bubbles.  

Aromas: ripe apples, barely sweetened buttercream frosting, and pears 

The Golden Crab Smells inviting clean and fresh. The specific notes that stand out most immediately are ripe apples, cold juicy pears, and buttercream frosting. That last one might raise a brow for some cider fans, but I stand by it. I don’t mean general sugary sweet bakery smells, but the dairy richness of just barely sweetened real-deal buttercream. 

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

I think many drinkers would call the Golden Crab completely dry, but I feel like it brings just the tiniest sliver of sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, fruity, high acid 

The Golden Crab is a still high acid cider that drinks in some ways like a wine. It has a beautiful balance of fermented and fresh flavors: yeast and apples. The still texture highlights how high and arching cider’s acidity can be without become pointed or punishing. The fruit notes are pomme fruits and tropical fruits. I get wafts of overripe apple, pineapple, cherry, and quince. The whole effect feels golden and ringing. The cider just reverberates with clear and appealing acidity. Perhaps my upstate New York is showing here, but I appreciate taut tartness. 

The cider is intense and welcoming. I enjoyed it tremendously. I served it to friends with a dinner of cauliflower Parmesan and pesto carrots. I was glad to double down on acidity, but that might not be for everyone. Now that I’ve enjoyed this cider, I think I’d pair it with a hearty vegetable soup, cheddar, and farmhouse bread next time. 

Next up, it’s a cider I received in a trade that has been tantalizing me from my fridge for too many weeks now! I’m super excited to taste Forward Cider’s Penpal!

Please note the tiny can! It's adorable!

I don’t know much about Forward Cider, but the company is based in Myra, Wisconsin. Instead of a website, they maintain a Facebook page. There’s a short intro that gives a sense of the cidery’s identity. “Dry Cider. Made in a Barn. Myra, Wis.” Short and boldly declarative, I like it!

You can see updates to Facebook here:

The Penpal cider is described as dry and barrel aged on the can, so I thought it might be a nice winter sipper. 

Appearance: hazy, deep copper orange, no visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider. The can is cute, but why hide this color? It’s a deep copper orange with no visible bubbles. It has an even haze that makes it reminiscent of soft cider from a farm stand.

Aromas: overripe apples, peaches, volatile acidity

I got all sorts of seasonal imagery when I inhaled this cider. The Penpal smells soft like sweated overripe apples and peaches. It’s very fruity with hints of VA.  I also get some citrus and syrup notes. Its fragrance is shimmering with a little sweet and a little sour. 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

This cider is labelled as having o grams of sugar, but it’s fruity enough to taste just off dry. For many drinkers this would taste dry. I’d not feel confident in guessing its residual sugar down to the decimal points, but I’m not sure it’s 0.00.

Flavors and drinking experience: still, sour, peachy, overripe apples

Many of the notes I gathered when sniffing this cider came back around when I tasted it. It does taste drier than it smells though. I was surprised to find that this cider is still! I don’t get access to many canned ciders that are entirely still. 

I tastes some tart or sour notes of several varieties—both bright apple and dark citrus and stone fruit. It definitely offers up a peachy stone fruit finish.  This cider is also rich with minerality—more water and metal than stone. Penpal’s acidity spikes early and then recedes. 

This cider’s pineapple-heavy finish is the best part by my measure. I had some of this cider in a glass and some in the cute tiny can. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it more from the can, which is curious. This cider’s gentle element of bitterness seems tied to some of its creamier notes.  First sour, then bitter, then just barely sweet. When thinking about the whole experience I’d say that the cider has a somewhat European sensibility, which on inspection makes sense—the can says "Apples from France, Handmade in Chicago." Now I’m curious about how that came to be!

I enjoyed this cider as a little evening treat after dinner and after a winter workout. It was complex enough to stand on its own easily!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cider Review: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Lost Orchard and Ploughman Cider's Dornick

Cider is a global community. I love to keep things focused on cider in a fun and personal way here, but I was urged by a local cidermaker to bring up a thorny and significant issue this week. Thank you, Simon, for encouraging me to communicate about something that could affect all of us in the global cider community. It’s the upcoming potential wine tariff that could affect importers (many of whom import cider as well as wine), distributors, bottle shops, restaurants, and cider drinkers. 

Here are a couple of links,so readers can educate themselves about the threatened 100% tariff increase.

Thanks for your patience! On to the cider reviews!

Tilted Shed Ciderwork's Lost Orchard

I have only two previous reviews of anything by Tilted Shed. Now that I’ve joined the cider club, I will have a lot more Tilted Shed to taste and review! Here’s what I’ve tried in years past. 

Barred Rock Barrel Aged Cider:

January Barbecue Smoked Cider:

You can learn more about the company in my previous reviews or check out Tilted Shed online:

Here’s how Titled Shed officially introduces this cider:
In 1987, a couple planted an apple orchard along the Russian River with the dream of making traditional cider. But with the rise of wine, the timing was wrong, so the couple abandoned the orchard and moved away. In 2011, we found our way to this lost orchard, the Kingston Black, Nehou, Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, Porter’s Perfection, Yarlington Mill, wild apples, quince, and mystery pears enveloped in poison oak and blackberry brambles, wild boar feasting on the drops. Since then, we have worked to revive this feral idyll while harvesting and fermenting its fruit. This cider expresses a sense of place with notes of savory herbs and orchard floor, and an earthy depth synonymous with Sonoma County. This is our 8th “vintage” of Lost Orchard. Unfined, unfiltered, unpasteurized, minimal sulfites. 8% ABVAlcohol 8.00%

Appearance: Deep butterscotch color, brilliant, some visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider and it looks so different than most American ciders with its deep, rich color. I love seeing that heavy butterscotch saturation in a cider. Its brilliant with some visible bubbles as well.

Aromas: Leather, peaches, wet leaves, pepper

This cider  smells very much like some English ciders I’ve enjoyed. The Lost Orchard spills over with aroma notes like leather, peach, wet leaves, and black pepper. It makes me think of wet and autumnal scenes that just beg for a fireplace and a Chesterfield sofa.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

Though the label doesn’t focus on this, or even mention it explicitly, the Lost Orchard is a dry cider. This cider isn’t just dry though; there’s a lot more going on. 

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, high acid, wild, sour

The Lost Orchard tastes highly tannic which works in conjunction with the cider’s dryness to create a relatively austere and structured drink. This cider powers much of its flavor through blisteringly high acidity. I love what strong salivary reaction just sniffing this cider creates!

In terms of flavors, the Lost Orchard is wild. It tastes both sour and astringent. It’s fruity but also has notes of wine, tea, and acetic acid. The wildness adds zest and the bubbles keep the whole experience light and quick. It was a perfect pairing for veggie heavy pesto pizza!

Ploughman Cider’s Dornick

I was able to pick up a few ciders on my way home from Harrisburg at the PA Farm Show competition, and I was thrilled to see some Ploughman Ciders. This is only my second review of the brand.

Pinot N’arlet:

Ploughman Cider comes from Adams County in Pennsylvania. The cidery is affiliated with Three Springs Fruit Farm. I love how the website describes the Ploughman approach to making cider. 

Here at Ploughman, we embrace the "frontier" mentality – an eagerness to try new things, but always with authenticity to quality. We are not purists, but we will never cut corners and never use engineered essences, flavors, or artificial nonsense. Our eagerness to experiment with new things is almost completely farm based – we use whatever is exceptional and abundant at Three Springs Fruit Farm on any given year.

Visit the Ploughman Cider website to read about all the ciders:

Here’s the official description of the Dornick.

AMERICAN DRY CIDERWe're proud of Adams County, PA, where we live and make our ciders. In each bottle we share some of its terroir with you. The term Dornick evokes a stony, pebbly quality – like the limestone and fractured white quartz under the apple trees of our home orchards. The stones emerge under the trees each spring when the snow melts. This cider, born of bold, robust apples, offers aromas of strawberry, butterscotch, and autumn leaves. We let the cider emerge in its own time from the land when it is ready. Full and satisfying, and unique every year.
8.5% ALC./VOL. 
(note, the bottle I purchased lists a different and lower ABV of 7.3%.)

Appearance: hazy, moon glow, bubbly

This cider is so very active to watch. I can see many miniscule bubbles just tripping upwards. The cider has a softly hazy glow which adds to its cool moonlight tone. 

Aromas: funky, overripe apples, acetate, twigs, and leather

Whoa. I got two fabulous ciders with leather and overripe apple aromas in one week. I’m treating myself too well! The Dornick brings all kinds of tempting scents to the glass. This cider smells pleasingly funky, twiggy, and tart.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Exactly as promised, this is a dry cider! I love it when that happens.

Flavors and drinking experience: creamy, high acid, woody, funky

The Dornick certainly has a lot going on. This dry cider tastes creamy, yet offers high acidity. I think the higher than average ABV is allowing a full mouthfeel in addition to hopping zingy tartness. The cider tastes woody, buttery, and smoky. I could imagine pairing the Dornick with smoked salmon, a high intensity cheese tray, or a hearty winter stew. 

I appreciate this cider’s grainy funky finish. The Dornick is a fun trip from start to finish. I appreciate it’s body and its wildness very much!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Cider Review: A Cider Flight at Pivot Brewing

Happy new decade everybody! I raised my glass on New Year’s Eve with friends, but I also toasted all of my cider buddies all over the world. I hope you wrapped 2019 up right, but that 2020 will be an even brighter year for all of us! 

I thought I’d start the year off with a cider flight that I got to enjoy while visiting my folks in Kentucky. There aren’t a ton of local ciders in Kentucky. My dad made a point to take me to Pivot Brewing in Lexington where I could try a whole flight! He didn’ mind too much himself since he’s fond of ciders, especially places that are dog friendly like Pivot.

The cider company describes itself as working toward the goal of solving our shared environmental challenges, prioritizing creativity, fostering community, and making the small changes of direction that can lead to big changes in results down the line. The company does their own apple pressing on site, and always has a full slate of their own ciders and Kentucky beers on tap.  

You can learn about all of the ciders here on the website: 

Here’s the rundown of what we tasted! When I can, I’ll include the official description in quotes.

Vintage Apple
“Crisp apple 6.0% ABV”
This started off my tasting with the smell of rock candy dust and malic acid. It’s a semi-dry cider with high acid, no tannins, a clean fermentation, and small bubbles. It would be very sessionable. 

“Dry. Vinous. 7.1% ABV”
The Swanson cider has an unusual frosty white color! I wasn’t sure what to make of that.  Even from the aroma, I could tell that this cider would have high acid. I thought this dry cider tasted a bit barrel aged, even though the description doesn’t mention that. It’s more astringent than the Vintage. I like that this one is tart and citrusy with notes of lemon.. 

“Cranberry 5.6% ABV”
The Hoopla offers aromas that remind me very specifically of drinking cranberry juice during my childhood. I think I’m getting notes of honey as well. This cider is semi-sweet. It doesn’t surprise me that this tastes like cider with cranberry juice. The two flavors sit together, but they do not meld. I enjoy the cranberry tannins. As I sip on this longer, a cherry finish and lingering sweetness become more pronounced. 

Kentucky mule,
“Boubon barrel, ginger, lime 8% ABV”

This is obviously a take on the Moscow Mule, but it reminds me of a dark and stormy as well. The cider smells pleasantly of ginger, but the taste comes across as more lime and less ginger. This one is less bubbly than the others. The cider is semi-dry, and full bodied but it doesn’t taste  too boozy. I fear that 8% ABV could creep up on one quickly. I get a cream soda aftertaste. What’s best about this one is that the high kick of the ginger elides elegantly into the low boot of the barrel. I found the Kentucky Mule really well done. 

Barrel-Aged Fincastle
“Bourbon Caramel  8.6% ABV”
The Barrel-Aged Fincastl has a massive aroma that’s all butterscotch, biscuits, and brown sugar. The smell also reminded us of sugared nuts. This cider is sweet and very full-bodied. I got the caramel that the description let me know to anticipate. This one had medium high acid. It was sweetly boozy and way too easy to drink! This was definitely my dad’s favorite. 

This place is well worth a stop if you are in Lexington! Kentucky's cider scene is growing and getting stronger every year!