Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cider Review: Alpenfire's Dungeness and Black Diamond's Jaywalker

I hope you are hanging in there alright, cider friends. Everything is continuing to be scary out there. Part of me didn’t even want to write this week, because it’s hard to muster up the energy to read much less write. I decided to keep going, because this is a guaranteed safely-distant semi-social activity. 

Before I dig into tasting notes, I will highlight one page. 

Here’s the American Cider Association’s COVID-19 Resources page:

It has a survey so that cideries can communicate about their needs and a whole mess of links about different facets of this crisis as they relate specifically to cider business. 

But now, I’m ready to share my thoughts on a bottle I’ve been saving, Alpenfire’s Dungeness.

I’ve reviewed just one Alpenfire cider before, Flame:

Find out more from the Alpenfire website:

Here’s the description of the Dungeness, Dry Still Cider

“Burnt Branch Reserve - Dungeness is a blend of more than 200 different types of apples nurtured by the salt and the fog of the Strait of Juan De Fuca from an old orchard just above the Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula. ABV 6.8%”

Appearance: deep pumpkin, bubbles, brilliant

This cider certainly doesn’t look still- I can see tiny bubbles! Perhaps it developed some natural petillance while in my cellar. The color looks like pumpkin and it's brilliantly clear.

Aromas: Leather, apricot, overripe apple and orange

This cider smells like something special. The Dungeness bursts with scents of leather, apricot, overripe apple, and orange. This palette of notes reminds me of many french and english style ciders. It’s mouthwatering to me and among my very favorite profiles for cider.
Sweetness/Dryness: Off Dry

The Dungeoess is just off-dry! I love that about it. A bone dry cider with this profile otherwise might have felt very astringent and drying, but this is just right.

Flavors and drinking experience: Overripe Apple medium acid and high tannins

Just as the aromas prepared me for, Alpenfire’s Dungeness pours notes of overripe apple freely. The biggest surprise was that this cider described as still on the bottle is mildly petillant. The bubbles show up both in the cider’s appearance and mouthfeel. 

The Dungeness boasts medium acidity and high tannins. My feeling that this resembles a french or english style cider is confirmed in taste as well as smell. This off-dry cider is also mildly funky. It brings notes of barn wood and clean farminess. It’s very structured and pleasant, and I thank the balance of acid, tannins, and sweetness for that.

And now, I want to share something more in the semi-dry to semi-sweet range, Black Diamond’s Jaywalker. 

Learn about all of the ciders online by visiting Black Diamond Cider's website:

I’ve reviewed many of Black Diamond’s ciders. Some of these entries include more background on this very special cidery. I’ll encourage you to read back through if you’ve not seen them before.  

Somerset Jersey:

Geneva Tremlett’s:




Porter’s Pommeau at a 2017 Locavore pairing dinner:


Appearance: Nearly brilliant, bright straw, plentiful bubbles

This cider isn’t quite hazy, but nor is it entirely brilliantly clear. The Jaywalker has a lovely bright straw color, and I can see lots of bubbles scattered through the glass.

Aromas: Honey, maple, applesauce

The aromas really are what set Black Diamond apart even from many other cider makers in the region. This cider emanates aromas of honey and maple as well as homemeade applesauce.

Sweetness/Dryness: semi-sweet

The 2.0% residual sugar is a notable difference in profile between this and the rest of Black Diamond’s portfolio. I think some 

Flavors and drinking Experience: Pear juice, full mouthfeel, strong bubble

The Jaywalker is all about lushly overripe apple notes, cooked apple, and pear juice. This cider is just so juicy. It’s probably too sweet for me to make it a regular choice, but I bet that means it is exactly right for many many many more cider drinkers.
Even with the sweetness, the Jaywalker manages to maintain the sense of balance I enjoy. And it certainly brings blooming and enticing aromas to the table. I’ve had this one a few times: at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market, and with friends, but most recently at home while practicing social distancing. 

I’ll leave with one last note of thanks to the cider makers, orchardists, and cider sellers who connect me to my favorite beverage. Things are hard right now, but we are all so grateful to you. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cider Reviews: Whitewood Cider Co.'s Newtown Pippin Gin-Barrel Aged Cider and Eden Speciality Cider's Brut Nature

The world is a scary place right now. I’m not equipped to say much about COVID-19, but I know it’s affecting all of us. I’m working from home, minimizing social contact, and thinking of people affected far more seriously than me. 

Those groups include so much of the beverage world, everyone from bartenders to cider makers. Some businesses are making very hard choices right now so that they can continue to support their employees while also doing their part to keep wider communities safe. Buy from them if you can!

I’m starting with Whitewood Cider Co.'s Newtown Pippin Gin-Barrel Aged Cider. This is a Washington State micro-cidery that I adore. I only wish I could get Dave’s ciders more often here in New York. If you ever see these on a list or a shelf, try them! 

Here’s Whitewood Cider Co’s website, along with the promise of pickup and cider delivery starting soon:

I’ve reviewed a few of their ciders before. Here’s the list.


Northland Traditional Blend:


Kingston Black and Wickson Apple:
This one even landed in the #4 slot of my 2018 top ten cider list.

Here’s the description of the Newtown Pippin Gin Barrel Aged Cider from Whitewood Cider Co: “5 months in former Westland Distillery whiskey barrel, turned Big Gin gin barrel and Newtown Pippin's lime and tropical characteristics fused every so nicely with the wood and leftover gin and botanicals. Reminiscent of a real dry, woody gin and tonic.” 7% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, jeweler’s brass, visible bubbles

This bright cider reminds me of jeweler’s brass (also known as Merlin’s Gold) in color. It’s brilliantly clear with no haze at all. I see some visible bubbles. 

Aromas: fresh apple, sage, basil, butterscotch and barrel

I love the herbal notes that explode into the air as soon as I crack this bottle open. The Newtown Pippin gets so many notes from that gin barrel aging but the fresh apple still come through. At the same time, I can smell sage, basil, butterscotch, and barrel.

All of the herbs create a whole impression that’s savory, peppery, and green. The butterscotch and woodiness come from the barrel character for certain. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This lovely cider is a well balanced semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbaceous, spicy, high acid, barrely

The Newtown Pippin brings much of what I could smell into the taste beautifully. There are oodles of herbs and apples, and somehow I also get menthol, spicy, and barrely notes. This cider brings medium tannins, high acid, and a pronounced woody finish.

 This feels like a journey from scent to tastes to finish. I experience apples, gin herbs, and barrel complexity each in turn. This is wonderful! This cider has a medium light mouthfeel and lots of sparkle. The Newtown Pippin has small yet plentiful bubbles. 

I paired this quite spontaneously with chocolate cookies, good companionship and worry about the state of the world. I think you can probably do better, but this cider was fantastic even so. 

Next up, it’s Eden Speciality Cider's Brut Nature.

I love Eden Specialty Ciders. That’s no secret. I’m a member of the cider club, and I review the ciders often. Plus I have such respect and affection for founder Eleanor Leger. This is a small cidery in northern Vermont that started with ice cider, then added aperitifs, and in the past few years has released a number of outstanding still and sparkling ciders made with heirloom apples. 

The Brut Nature got a mini-review before it’s release at Cider Con 2018. I’ll link to that here.

Other previous Eden reviews include: 

The Extra Sec:

Siren Song:


Imperial 11 Degree Rose: (This is my fave cider of 2017.)

Heritage canned cider:

Sparkling Dry: (also a top ten cider.)

When you’re stuck inside, take some time to learn about all of Eden ciders on the website:

Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, tiny dancing bubbles

This hand-disgorged cider shows off all that hard labor by looking totally brilliant. It’s enticing to see. The color reminds me of warm afternoon sunlight, and I can see tiny bubbles dancing their way to the surface. 

Aromas: nectar, overripe apples, fall flowers, and falling leaves 

This cider is extremely aromatic. I remember noticing that at CiderCon as well. It’s just a lovely floral and overripe fruit melange expanding in all directions. Something about this aroma just reminds me of fall and harvest, somehow the aromas are fall flowers and falling leaves. 

Sweetness/dryness: Dry (with a caveat)

This cider tastes dry. It isn’t bone dry or drying, but the cider doesn’t really lean on the bare hint of sweetness that is hiding in its layers. 

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, dry, high acid, high level of sparkle. 

The Brut Nature is a spicy, fruity, dry cider with plenty of acidity and tannins to power a bounteous experience with sip. I love ciders that go all in on all of my favorite characteristics, and this certainly does that. The fruit notes are tropical fruit and pomme fruit, but there’s plenty of floral and spicy notes too. The cider is super bubbly; the natural secondary fermentation keeps them small and vigorous. 

I enjoyed this cider alongside roasted veggies with mushroom gravy, sharp cheddar and good wheat-y bread. It was a lovely meal meant to give sustenance and warmth in difficult nights, and the cider helped elevate it from just supper to a fortifying and delicious experience. 

Good luck this week and beyond. When I raise my glass, I’ll think of you, my faraway cider friends. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Cider Reviews: Ommegang Dry Cider and Southern Tier Unfiltered Apple

This week’s post is dedicated to upstate NY at the start of mud season aka Spring. I know it’s here early and orchardists may or may not be able to sleep at night, so I’ll add my good thoughts for a slow and gentle season. A colleague at my workplace (cider doesn’t pay the bills, surprise, surprise) let me know about one of these ciders, and I picked both up at my local Wegmans. Two of our regional breweries have entered the cider market, and I want to share my notes on new ciders by both Ommegang and Southern Tier! 

Let’s start with Ommegang’s Project Cider! Here’s how the website describes the project in general. 
Combining the best of both American and European traditions, our ciders offer fresh, fruit-forward flavors with a dry, sparkling drinkability. Project Cider begins with fresh-pressed culinary apples, McIntosh, Gala, Red Delicious and Pazazz, sourced locally from New York State. The juices are fermented with our house Belgian yeast to add character and complexity. The finished products are clarified and carbonated for a spirited sparkle. Medium-bodied yet notably dry, these ciders finish long and slow, with soft, lingering tannins.
Read more and see some mouthwatering pictures:

Ommegang Dry Cider’s official tasting notes are here, “Aromas of orange peel, grapefruit and honey burst from the glass. Bright, fresh flavors of ripe melon, pear and citrus zest accompany a lively, pleasant tartness. 6.5% ABV • 150 Calories • Naturally Gluten Free”

Appearance: deep tea color, gently hazy, very few visible bubbles

Ommegang’s Dry cider looks gently hazy with deep tea-like color. I don’t see a lot of bubbles, but that doesn’t say much about how this cider will sparkle.

Aromas: Belgian beer, bread crumbs, green and nutty

Ommegang’s Dry Cider offers up a very Belgium beer nose. If I’m not allowed to use beer as a reference point, I get bread crumbs, nuts, pears, and something green.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry!

The Dry is dry! You can now buy a totally dry cider at Wegmans. This is a good thing!

Flavors and drinking experience: Beer influenced, lemon, medium tannins
This cider is very beery. That’s a divisive characteristic, because not everyone likes the taste of beer. But for some folks this will be totally enticing because it’s a balanced profile and thirst quenching cider. I get notes that remind me of corn and other grains, mostly yeast smells. At the same time I also taste lemon and wood notes. 

The whole experience feels cool and aquatic. This high acid cider brings medium tannins and a moderate intensity of sparke. The bubbles feel not like champagne style bubbles but like soda or beer bubbles. They are beefy and big. 

I had this cider with a late night flatbread pizza and freaking out about how much I loved the new Emma. It was very enjoyable. This cider is flexible, you can enjoy it while freaking about whatever you love!

Next up, Southern Tier Unfiltered Apple!

Southern Tier Brewery has now launched Southern Tier Ciderworks from the same location used for the brewery in Lakewood, NY. Here’s the introduction to this new brand from a familiar upstate beer producer, Southern Tier.
Each hard cider is a proud homage to its Western New York roots and features real juice from Mayer Brothers, one of the oldest family-owned businesses in New York State. Local orchards provide deliciously fresh pressed apples that go into each batch of the crisp and refreshing cider. The Hard Cider line delivers a range of big flavor and variety from hazy to bright and dry to sweet at 5% ABV and less calories than similar brands. All Southern Tier Cider Works offerings are naturally gluten free, made with real juice and no added sugar. 
As true entrepreneurs in craft beverage, Phin and Sara DeMink have been on an endless pursuit to bring the most in flavor. In 2002, they founded Southern Tier Brewing Company, brewing bold and innovative ales like Pumking, 2XIPA and the Blackwater Nitro Imperial Stout series. Never satisfied, they opened Southern Tier Distilling Company in 2016 with a range of spirits, including hopped whiskey and a line of canned craft cocktails. They now welcome Southern Tier Cider Works to their family. Southern Tier will always stay curious and continue to find new ways to deliver quality craft flavor.

Check out the website to learn more:

This is not the first time Southern Tier has put their toe in the cider water's. I reviewed their DeMunck's as part of a round up in 2014:

There’s not a ton of specifics in Southern Tier’s official description, but here’s what Southern Tier tells us about this new cider, “Unfiltered Apple Our Unfiltered Apple is hazy and dry from a perfect assortment of homegrown apples. 5.0% ABV”

Appearance: Cloudy, pumpkin, no visible bubbles

This cider goes beyond hazy into full cloudiness. The color reminds me of fresh pumpkin. I didn’t see bubbles in my glass, but they would be hard to see with that level of turbidity.

Aromas: stony,fresh apple, citrus, sulphites

The Unfiltered Apple smells like fresh apples, sweet citrus, and dusty stones. I think I can smell some sulphites as well, but that's a maybe.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This is a balanced and highly drinkable semi-sweet cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Citrus, high acid, full body

This cider comes across as stony and sweet but also loaded with fruity citrus notes. The Unfiltered Apple pais its medium sweetness with high acidity. The whole thing is balanced and drinkable. Other fruits that suggest themselves in this cider are mandarin orange, ripe apple and pear. 

It’s no surprise that this cider has a fun full body; that’s something sweet ciders do really well! I’d describe the bubbles in this cider as medium in number and size. I enjoyed this with a veggie burger, fries, and mushroom gravy. Judge if you dare, but fries are delicious dipped in a mushroom gravy. This cider was an ideal match for all of that richness  because of the bubbles and acidity. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Cider Review: Foggy Ridge Cider's Final Call and Pierced Ciderworks' Coco Loconut

I am so grateful that less than a week after returning from Key West, I’ve seen three different kinds of spring flowers here in Ithaca. It makes me believe that winter cannot last forever. 

Before I left, I had one very special cider that I’d been saving, so I’m thrilled to share my review of Foggy Ridge Cider’s Final Call this week. And I did find one unfamiliar cider in Key West. I was able to get Pierced Ciderworks' Coco Loconut at a fun fish joint that I loved. These ciders would be hard pressed to be more different from one another, but I’m happy to write about both!

Let’s start with Foggy Ridge Cider. This is a bittersweet review because I’m writing about the last release from a cidery I respect tremendously. Foggy Ridge was founded in 1997 by Diane Flynt in Virginia, hence the name. Though the cidery no longer makes ciders, the orchard still grows special fruit that other cider makers can purchase for their blends. 

Visit Foggy Ridge online to learn about the apples and the cider:

My previous reviews of Foggy Ridge ciders include not nearly enough, but here’s my review of 
Serious Cider:
(this was my 2nd favorite cider of 2016.)

Though it’s not a review, I did talk about a talk Diane Flynt (founder at Foggy Ridge) gave at Cider Con about Heritage Cider:

The Final Call was released in 2017, and here’s it’s official description. 

Final Call is Foggy Ridge Cider’s last and final cider release. A field blend (apples are “blended” in the orchard and pressed in mixed batches) of Foggy Ridge’s most valuable cider apples, Final Call is juicy mouth-filling cider with tart notes and a rich apple finish. Made from Harrison, Hewe’s Crab and Newtown Pippin, this balanced food friendly cider reflects Foggy Ridge’s 3000′ mountain terroir…our orchard to your glass.

Appearance: brilliant, bright sunny yellow, bubbly

This cider has so many bubbles! They show up beautifully in this cider’s brillance and springy, summery, yellow.

Aromas: Ripe apples, flowers, vanilla, butterscotch
At first this cider smells just like sweet ripe apples and meadow flowers. Secondarily, 
I get hints of butterscotch and vanilla. The whole aroma experience is just rich, velvety and  inviting.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider, sweeter than others I’ve had from Foggy Ridge, but the sweetness is balanced by acidity, body, and tannic structure. Not only is the sweetness natural and integrated, it’s completely hedonistically pleasing in this particular blend. 

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, strong sparkle, creamy mouthfeel 

Wow! I wish this wasn’t my last bottle of this cider! I am utterly entranced. The Final Call just beckons to my palate with gently sweet citrus and ripe apple flavors. This cider feels so very bubbly with simply fantastic mouthfeel. It’s rich and zesty at the same time! I think that's possible because it's tannic and high acidity both.

Way to go out with an elegant statement, Foggy Ridge. This is a cider to remember! 

To change gears, I’ll paint the picture of looking for cider on vacation. I started looking for cider in the Chicago Midway Airport because our outbound travel was delayed by 7 hours. I had one choice, and it wasn’t a local cider. Most folks looked at me like I was clueless to even ask. But I’ll always ask for cider (politely) even when I don’t see it on a menu.

It wasn’t much better at most Key West places. I think there’s a relatively untapped market in Florida, Cider Makers! But I did have the option of trying something new and Floridian when I was out for Mahi Mahi at Off the Hook Bar & Grill.  

They offered one cider: Pierced Ciderworks’  Coco Loconut, and this was my only cider on vacation. 

Pierced Ciderworks hails from Fort Pierce Florida. The company has a tasting room and cidery in a historical space downtown. The company produces a rotation of ciders, many including flavors and additions. The company’s vibe is unpretentious and joyful with such creative offerings as a Peppermint Bark Cider and a Smoked Apricot Cider!

Visit the cidery’s website here:

Here’s how Pierced Ciderworks describes the Coco Loconut.

Tropical Coconut in a glass. This cider has turned many people’s mind about cider in general. The nose of this cider is very coconut forward, but so well balanced that when you take a sip you are not overcome with sweetness. A very well balanced cider that represents our roots here in sunny Florida. Great for the beach, pool, or just a Monday night. A slightly silky mouthfeel with a pleasant aftertaste. 5.7% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, apple sauce 

Apologies for the fuzzy pictures! I was in a hurry to pair this cider with my dinner. The color reminds me of homemade apple sauce, as does the cider’s opacity. It’s totally cloudy!

Aromas: coconut, apple, orange, creamy

The smell is immediately coconut and secondarily apple and orange. Happily it does not smell like suntan lotion. I also get notes of Papaya. 

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This cider is sweet, thick and creamy. It tastes like a dessert, and would go well with Key Lime Pie.

Flavors and drinking experience: Coconut, Medium acidity, to tannins, tropical fruit

This sweet cider brings medium acidity but no tannins to create a thick body. The apple notes function primarily as a neutral base for lots of coconut and tropical fruit flavors. It’s a fun dessert cider if you don’t mind not tasting too much apple. The Coco Loconut offers light carbonation and a silky mouthfeel with a bit of the trademark slipperiness of mango and coconut.

Big sips give just a little bitterness that adds some tooth to the experience. Most of the time I get a lingering sweetness and tropical vibe. The cider is certainly refreshing. My favorite part is almost certainly the pineapple notes that elide into orange and give a sense of pina colada. I had this with fried Mahi Mahi and the company of wonderful people, and that’s exactly how I’d recommend it.