Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Tree Tapper and Virtue Cider's Brut

We’ve made it to February! The days are noticeably longer, and I’ve seen some of the most incredibly colorful sunsets lately. I’ll take any color I can get; most days here are still pale gray. Hopefully, you’ve got some color and cheer in your life and in your glass too.

I’m headed to the reviews quickly this week, but I do want to share a quick link of both local and cider interest. Here’s a story about the closing (definitely seasonal, likely permanent) of an anchor to the local cider community: the Cornell Orchard Store. Take a moment with me to read and appreciate what this store has done for apples hence for cider in the Finger Lakes area.

Turning to the bright side, I got to try two fun new samples shared with me by companies who’ve been part of the blog (and the cider community) for years!

Let’s start with Citizen Cider’s Tree Tapper.

Citizen is a Vermont cidery that has been going strong since 2010! The company now sells cider in 14 states, but the company’s identity still manages to stay very distinctly Vermont. Citizen Cider is based in Burlington; I got to visit the tasting room and production facility back in 2016. I’ll include the link with my previous Citizen Cider reviews.

Northern Spy:

Sur Lies:


The Wood:

Companion Sour Cherry:

Wit’s Up:

Barrel Aged:

Citizen Cider bRosé:

My visit to Citizen Cider:

Check out Citizen Cider’s website to learn about all of the ciders and local events:

The Tree Tapper is part of Citizen’s Origin Series: a limited availability specialty line, each with connections to something local and special to Citizen Cider. The Northern Spy that I reviewed last year was another from this lineup.

Here’s an excerpt from the Tree Tapper’s press release, “ Tree Tapper is fermented with maple syrup, red wine yeast, aged on untoasted oak and infused with dark Belgian candi syrup to add rich and hearty characteristics reminiscent of the season and the good maple farmers at the sugarhouse.”

Here’s other information about the cider gleaned from the Citizen Cider website
• No added sugar, never from concentrate.
• Apples pressed at our very own Flynn Ave Press House, Burlington, VT
• Made with pure VT maple syrup from Runamok Maple in Northern Vermont.
• Manufactured in Burlington, VT.
• Naturally Gluten Free
This cider’s ABV is 6.9% 

Appearance: tawny, brilliant, few visible bubbles

This cider reminds me of the tawny colors I see on desert animals; it’s warm and falls somewhere between yellow, orange, and brown. The cider offers up perfect brilliance and few visible bubbles.

Aromas: Dried cherries, milk chocolate, riple apples

Wow. I didn’t know quite what to expect but this cider really reflects so much more than simply maple plus apple. The Tree Tapper smells like dried cherries, milk chocolate, ripe apples, and also dusty stones.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

From those aromas, I really expected something with almost dessert levels of sweetness, but this is an off dry cider! Very nice!

Flavors and drinking experience: roasty, oaky, yeasty and bubbly

I appreciate how very bubbly the Tree Tapper is, but everyone knows that I’m a sucker for strong sparkle. The cider also brings lots of clean and pleasant yeast character to the finished beverage. This cider has high acid and low (but present) tannins.

Perhaps the most surprising element is the little touch of bitterness that appears in the Tree Tapper’s mid-palate. Sweetness hits first, then it gets quite dry and eases up.  The maple is not obvious initially, but there is a darkness that it brings—something roasted—especially in the finish.  Both in the smell and taste there is an oak barrel note. I love it when my tasting notes are backed up by the cider making process.

Next up is Virtue Cider’s Brut

Virtue is a Michigan-based company that sprang onto the scene in 2011. I first met founder Greg Hall when I first started this blog in 2013. He was leading a cheese and cider pairing class that I still remember fondly. 

I’ve reviewed a few Virtue ciders before. Here’s the full run down. 

The Mitten Reserve:



The Mitten:

Red Streak:

You can find out about all of Virtue's ciders online:

Here’s the description of the Brut from Virtue’s website.

“Our dry brut is a blend of hand-pressed heirloom apples aged in French oak barrels that features the scent of fresh apples, a touch of oak, and finishes crisp and tart.”

And Virtue’s tasting notes say, “Virtue Cider Brut bears the scent of crisp apple and citrus notes with a bit of yeast. Clean and crisp up front, it follows with a tart, dry, lightly oaky lingering finish.” This cider's ABV is 6.7%.

Appearance: warm straw, brilliant, few bubbles 

Aromas: alpine cheese, peppers, citrus, minerals

This cider brings so many enticing smells including alpine cheese, ripe peppers, and citrus. There are other pleasing mineral, aquatic, and creamy notes as well. It just makes me anticipate a super fresh cider. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

For me, this tastes more like a semi-dry rather than a brut level of dryness. Historically, Brut refers to drier than dry! 

Flavors and drinking experience: ripe apples, very bubbly, high acid, peanuts 

Virtue’s Brut tastes easy going and pleasant. The cider offers a good level of active sparkle. The primary tasting note I get from this cider is ripe apples. Secondarily I taste tropical fruit, oranges, and peanuts. This cider offers up high acid, higher than many ciders from Michigan but not much in the way of tannins. I also get a grainy or almost corn-like aftertaste. It’s not enough to be funky, but just another layer in the overall experience. 

I enjoyed this cider with friends, lots of cheese, and a fun new horror game: Escape From Tall Oaks! Check out this indie game here:

Whatever you pair with your February ciders, I hope you have fun!