Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Cider Review: Stem Cider's A Salted Cucumber and Blake’s Hard Cider Rosé

It’s not the best day, cider fans. Stress, illness, uncertainty, and economic hardship are real, and they are here. It would feel disingenuous to pretend otherwise. What I can say is that they aren’t the only things going. I’m seeing Spring, creativity, resourcefulness, generosity, love and lots of pet pictures too. They can’t necessarily fix everything, but I’ll take them and appreciate them. 

I’m excited to start this week with Stem Cider’s A Salted Cucumber! 

Eric Foster and Phil Kao founded Stem Ciders in 2013. This cidery is based in Lafayette, Colorado. To find more background on the company, I recommend checking out the about section on the Stem Cider website:

Here are my previous reviews of Stem Ciders.

Colorado Heritage Blend:


Pear Apple:


You can find out more about the company online:

Today’s review is of A Salted Cucumber. To my knowledge this is the first cider I’ve seen whose name starts with the word, “A!”

Here’s how Stem Ciders introduces this one, “Dry hopped with cascade and citra hops, finished with fresh cucumber juice and sea salt. Crafted with 100% fresh pressed apples from the Pacific Northwest.” 6.7% ABV.

My can was a souvenir brought home from a large cider event last year. 

Appearance: hazy, crocus yellow, few visible bubbles

I could see one or two trails of bubbles floating through this hazy cider, but it’s appearance isn’t very bubbly. What I see instead is a classic hop haze and a pleasingly warm crocus yellow color.

Aromas: cucumber, salt, spice, hops, apple

A Salted Cucumber smells tantalizingly of cucumber, hops and a sprinkle of salt. I’m wondering if I’m also getting just a hint of spice. The cider is very clean smelling. There’s not a strong apple presence in the aromas, but some clean freshly washed apple notes breeze through.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

A Salted Cucumber tastes off dry to me. The can calls it dry, but I’m often not in perfect alignment with what packages suggests for a cider’s relative dryness or sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: cucumber, peppery, high acid, bubbly

I want to start by saying how very tasty this is! This cider tastes like salted cucumber and apple. It’s like a fresh salad! My cotaster and I both found A Salted Cucumber so enjoyably drinkable!
The cider offers up peppery and vegetal notes as well as green wood.

This hoppy cider tastes clean and not sweaty or soapy! It brings high acidity and intense sparkle to a very fun and approachable set of flavors.  The balance is really cemented by one hint of bitterness.

We paired this with a bean and corn salad and roasted Arizona Dreaming and Sofritos potatoes and faux-beef crumbles. It was a marvelous pairing. The cool and savory notes of A Salted Cucumber were just amazing with roasty spicy foods! This was followed up by a game of Trivial Pursuit, and I won!

And we’re closing out the week’s reviews with Blake’s Hard Cider Company’s Rosé.

Blake’s Hard Cider calls Armada, Michigan home. This popular company is always crafting new ciders; the range of styles Blake’s produces is large. The cidery prioritizes its local connections. The cidery grew out of a family farm. The ciders are now produced with only Michigan apples. There’s a lot of emphasis on the local and regional community. Someday, I’d love to see the cidery myself!

Here are my previous reviews of Blake’s Ciders.

Rainbow Seeker:


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 the official description for this cider, “Rosé Strawberry and rose hips. Semi-sweet with a citrus like acidity, this native fermented Rosé was infused with strawberries and rose hips, resulting in a vibrant finish.” 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, watermelon, some tiny bubbles,  

This cider looks so pink and fruity. The color reminds me of watermelon. It’s brilliantly clear. I can see a few bubbles in glass, but they are small and few. The big show here is color, and it’s much too pretty to drink out of a can!

Aroma: Graham crackers, cherries, strawberries, 

When I poured this cider, I got my first aroma notes immediately. My impression is one of dessert with Graham crackers, cherries, and strawberries. These notes blend into raspberry, syrup, nectarine, and red fruit more generally. It’s very pie like. Other than my dessert impressions, the cider has aromas of minerals, wine, and walnut.

 Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is a sweet cider! For some folks this would make a very satisfying dessert. The sweetness is intense, even with some fresh acid in the mix. It’s a bit sticky.

Flavors and and drinking experience: medium high acid, very fruity, bit sticky, full body and bubbly

I love that the Rosé begins with a little bitter bite at the start. That quickly gives way to a sweet and jammy drinking experience. The cider has medium-high acidity and a full body with floral and fruity qualities. It doesn’t really bring any tannins. The fruity notes are not powdery but are instead more than a little tropical. I also get bright banners of peach and raspberry flavor. I enjoyed this cider while relaxing with cats and my co-taster Alex after work. If you were to pair it, I think It would taste really lovely with a simple and creamy New York style cheesecake. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Cider Review: Portland Cider Company's Peach Berry and Nine Pin Ciderworks House of Dabinett

Good morning, cider friends! I hope you are doing okay today. It’s been a rough week, but I’m very excited about an event coming up soon! Since none of us are going out on Thursday night, I invite you to join me with the fine folks at Cider Culture magazine for a little informal Cider School!

I’ll be taking people through a short program about tasting called, “Tasting Cider Seriously.”

Here’s a link to the Facebook event:

The only thing you need to bring is a cider to taste and a piece of white paper. Join us on Thursday evening at 6pm Eastern!

Now, I'm super excited to share my experience with Portland Cider Co.'s Peach Berry.

I enjoy lots of ciders from Portland Cider Co. They often send me samples for review, and that's how I was able to access the Peach Berry!

Kinda Dry:



Pumpkin Spice:

Pineapple Rose:

Today, I wanted something fruity and springy so I’m tasting Portland Cider Co.’s Peach Berry.

Here’s the cider’s official description, “Bold, juicy Oregon peaches play with a blend of tart Northwest grown berries: raspberry, blackberry & blueberry. A cider full of sunshine to drink on those grey Portland days. 5.2% ABV.”

Appearance: brilliant, carmine, few bubbles

This cider shocked me as soon as I saw it. This isn’t a rose, it’s a deep carmine red. It’s almost too dark to detect the Peach Berry’s clarity, but with good light, I can see that it’s brilliant. There aren’t a lot of visible bubbles. It looks almost like a light bodied red wine in the glass.

Aromas: peach, blackberry, apple, strawberry

The Peach Berry does smell like peaches and a bit like berries. Specifically, I get notes of blackberries and strawberries. The aromas are so fruity. I am definitely anticipating a sweet cider. I get some hints of apple, but it’s more integrated into the overall experience rather than standing out distinctively.

Sweetness/Dryness: Sweet

As I imagined, the Peach Berry is a sweet cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: low tannins, medium acid, very fruity

Indeed, this is a sweet and fruity cider! The notes that take center stage are raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and peach. One of the interesting qualities for the Peach Berry is that some berry tannins do show through, though it’s a low tannin cider. I’d call it medium acidity with very peachy tartness, but my co-taster though it was high acidity. Your results may vary there.

The overall impression I get from the Peach Berry is that of clean fresh fruit.The cider has nicely strong bubbles.It’s a balanced drink from start to finish.

I enjoyed mine with pasta prima vera, and I’d totally recommend that pairing!

Next up, I'm excited to share notes on Nine Pin Ciderworks' House of Dabinett!

This was a purchase I made recently now that Nine Pin can ship cider! This is an Albany, New York cidery and a regional favorite of mine. I have several previous Nine Pin Reviews

Cucumber Lime Light Cider:

Gathering of the Farm Cideries (including the Cascara cider):

Peach Tea:



Signature cider:

I encourage you to visit Nine Pin Ciderworks online to learn more and order about the ciders, now shipping to most states:

I asked Alejandro about this cider, and he gave me a little of it’s backstory. Here’s what he had to say. “The House of Dabinett was a by chance made cider that stemmed from a trip in a box truck to Wayne County this fall.  First stop was to see Jake Lagoner at Lagoner farms where we picked up the bins of Smokehouse apples.  The second was meeting Dave DeFischer from DeFischer fruit farms to get the bin of Dabinetts.  When we got back to Albany, we pressed the two varieties together, fermented it nice and slow and the result was the House of Dabinett.  We think these two apples make a great "double variety" cider.” 

Appearance: aged vellum, hazy, bubbly

This cider looked rustic and hazy once poured. The color reminds me of aged maps and antique vellum or parchment. It’s obviously going to be a sparkling cider based on the bubbles I can see. 

Aromas: melon, white flowers, overripe apples

The House of Dabinett smells simply mouthwatering! I am suddenly even more excited to taste it. The cider smells like melon, overripe apples and white flowers. It’s luscious!There are tropical notes and I don’t know whether I should expect sweetness in this cider based on how fruity it smells or if most of that expression will be aromatic.

Dryness/sweetness: Off-dry

This off-dry cider is a wonderful resting place between the austerity of a completely dry cider and the overflowing fruity lushness that a sweeter version would have created. This would be an absolutely crowd pleaser!

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

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I love an off-dry tannic cider, and I’m happy to say that the House of Dabinett is exactly that. It’s a lil’ bit funky with medium high acidity. It actually reminds me of some British ciders that I love. It’s well balanced and quite good.

I appreciate the tropical notes but the House of Dabinett also this cider brings forth flavors that remind me of oranges and leather. I enjoyed this cider so much! I had one of my four pack with spicy popcorn, another with an excellent veggie burger, and I can’t wait to create two more pairings with my last two. 

Be good to yourselves out there, cider friends. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you online Thursday evening!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Cider Review: California Caboose Cider's Hold the Line Cider and Awestruck Cider's Viking Sahti

High winds and rain are racing across my region tonight, but it feels like weather is the only thing that’s moving. That’s okay; staying home is what we need to do right now. I’m dealing with my cooped up feelings with small home projects, gardening when conditions allow, lots of cooking and almost nightly movies. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it. I appreciate that cider goes wonderfully  well with the home-cooked meals and the movies. 
Let’s start this week’s reviews with my first ever review of anything by California Caboose Cider. The company is based out of Healdsburg, California. It’s a young cider, only launched in November of 2018. The focus is on using pacific northwest regional fruit and producing acid-forward lower tannin ciders. I appreciate their clarity of vision and openness in sharing their style.

I’ll be reviewing the Hold the Line cider which was sent to me at no cost for review. 

The company describes the Hold the Line cider as “a hard cider dedicated to the firefighters and first responders who fought tirelessly to save Sonoma County during the Kincade Fires in Fall of 2019.” It’s ABV is 6.3%

Visit the company on Facebook:

Appearance: Brilliant, pale straw, very few bubbles

This is a brilliant cider! It’s color can be described as pale straw, and I can see very few bubbles in the glass. 

Aromas: Malic acid, Jolly Ranchers, peanuts and salt

What an intriguing set of aromas. I was surprised to smell peanuts and salt when I poured the Hold the Line cider. Notes of green apple, Jolly Ranchers both of which indicate malic acid also showed up.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry!

This is certainly a dry cider! The Hold the Line is a much more acid driven experience than one relying on fruity sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, grainy, minerals, bitter

The Hold the Line Cider is very tart! I expected it might be based on it’s aromas. What I didn’t expect is that it's also mildly bitter with lots of mineral and citrus notes. This is a pointed and austere cider. It doubles down on these characteristics with lots of bubbles, low tannins, and no sweetness. Some drinkers might note that isn’t aiming for a more purist mode rather than a balanced one. You could even call this cider bracing.

I had my Hold the Line cider with BBQ cauliflower, seasoned white beans, and homemade cornbread. When I noticed a nutty or grainy finish on this cider, it complemented this meal. 

My other cider review this week is one I wanted to enjoy during one of short cold spells of Spring. I had a can of Awestruck Cider’s Viking Sahti. This cider is made with juniper and spruce; my associations with those botanicals have everything to do with staying cozy at home.

Awestruck cider comes to us from Sidney, New York. I first became aware of the company through the annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries in Albany. I’ve consistently enjoyed the ciders I’ve tried!

I want to share one quote from the Awestruck website that does convey the cidery’s general attitude, “We are fanatical about crafting transcendent, awe-inspiring hard cider. Each and every apple in our blends specifically loves you, and they’ve all come together to help improve your day. Our name is our mission, we aim to leave you AWESTRUCK.”

I have previously reviewed a few Awestruck ciders. 

 Hibiscus Ginger: This cider reached my top ten in 2015!

Dry Apple + Oak:

Hometown Homicider:

Visit the company online:

This cider’s official description says,
Inspired by ancient Finnish Sahti ale, we ask you to raise your drinking horn in honor of our Viking forebears. We ferment our apples in hot, bringing the slight banana note distinctive to traditional Sahti; we then lightly bitter it with whole juniper berries and a touch of spruce, yielding a drop fit for the Halls of Valhalla. Kippis! As they say in Finland. 6.8% ABV

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, bubbly

I was met with a shock! This cider pours with a foamy head that disappears. I’ll call the color warm straw. It creates a rustic impression by being hazy and bubbly.

Aromas: spruce, apple, citrus, volatile acidity

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect with the mention of banana notes in the cider’s official description, but I didn’t smell that. I got some volatile acidity (just a touch) but more spruce and apple. Other fruity notes bounced through the experience, including orange and lemon.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

I’ll call the Sahti semi-dry though I think there are cider fans who might consider it closer to dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tropical fruit, juniper

The Sahti brings very high acid to the party! It’s almost shocking. Tropical fruit and pineapple notes dominate the fruity parade. Apple and citrus support these tropical notes but do not compete with them. Some of the fruit and tart notes come from a certain amount of acetic acid, as far as I can tell. What balances those lithe and nimble elements out are some deep anchors of juniper and aquatic notes.

I wanted something simple for this cider, so I enjoyed it with homemade popcorn and a movie. Simple worked well in this case!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Cider Review: Bauman’s Cider Mountain Rose and Wheel Line Cider's Mainline

I hope everyone reading this is healthy, doing what they can to stay that way and keeping others healthy too. If you’re stuck at home, working way too many hours at an essential job, unmoored in a land with no time and only pajamas, or attempting to just keep your own livelihood afloat, you are not alone. I want to offer what support I can from a safe distance, so stay tuned for some extra fun cider content and activities coming soon. But for today, two reviews from cideries I’ve never reviewed before!

I want to start Bauman’s Cider. I was lucky enough to receive a review sample in the mail recently. And let me say, getting cider samples has only increased in excitement in these days of staying at home.

Bauman’s Century Farm Cider was founded by Christine Walter who combines her science expertise with her farm familiar upbringing to make the best cider she can. The cidery’s name hearkens back to the homesteading days of the 1890s when the Oregon farm was founded.The orchard is part of a now 5th generation family farm.There are many mentions of the farm’s first cider maker Christine’s great-grandpa Stephen, but the brand speaks clearly about both appreciating tradition and looking forward for the possibilities of progress.

Visit the cidery homepage to learn more.

The cider I want to share first is the small batch Mountain Rose.

Here’s Bauman’s official description.

Mountain Rose apples have a delicate red flesh, that glows the perfect blush hue when fermented. They have lots of acid and aromatics. We fermented just these apples, with a white wine yeast to puckeringly dry, then aged in French Riesling barrels for a month. This blush cider is dry, but with lots of mouth feel from the time in oak. 6.9%aBV.

Appearance: flamingo pink, bubbly and brilliant

This cider’s pink hue reminds me of flamingos. The Mountain Rose is brilliant and shows off some fun bubble action in the glass. (Apologies for the fuzzy picture!)

Aromas: Grape, ripe apple, red currants

The Mountain Rose smells like newly washed graped, red currants, and ripe apples. There’s the barest whisper of volatile acidity, but only enough to perk up the anticipation of tartness.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

The Mountain Rose manages to create a lovely and lofty balance as a semi-dry cider. What sweetness is present is that of berries and fruit.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, berries, citrus and zest

It's true that color can change our perception of flavor, but whatever is working on my brain and palate, I can taste berries, citrus and apple in this cider. The Mountain Rose does bring the super high acidity that I expected after its aromas. The acidity plus the light semi-dryness makes for a light bodied and very zippy cider. It’s not without tannins though!

This fruity, berry forward cider just keeps pleasing me with its bubbles, balance, and beauty. We paired this with a sauteed grouper, potato pancakes, and asparagus. The cider was a mouth-watering accompaniment for this light and springy meal. I loved it.

And my next cider is one I got from Press then Press. I’ve been wanting more access to west coast ciders (an ongoing issue for me). I emailed Chris at the company, let him know my general profile preferences, and he created a custom case for me. It was a great experience! 

Learn about all the ciders and your purchase options here:

Here’s a video of me unboxing my order:

My first cider from that box is Wheel Line Cider’s Mainline! This cidery is a family business and orchard in Washington State. I appreciate how much I read about fruit and apple varieties when I peruse the website. Apples make cider, and it matters what apples people use for their blends.

Here’s how the cidery describes the Mainline.

This cider features the Harry Masters Jersey apple that has been partially aged in white oak barrels, with partial spontaneous ferment and then blended together creating a unique smell and flavor profile. The aroma has hints of toffee, caramel and vanilla, with a tasty tart, crisp green apple flavor that will leave you pallet craving more!  ABV: 7%.

Once I had the honor of knowing a cat named after the Harry Masters Jersey apple, so I have a particular fondness for seeing that apple in cider.

Appearance: deep saffron color, hazy, some bubbles

This cider reminds me so much of some french and english style ciders based on its appearance. The color is warm and deep like threads of saffron. It’s just a bit hazy with some visible bubbles.

Aromas: fruity, white grapes, pears, mild oxidation

Wow! I am totally impressed with how fruity and juicy this cider smells. The Mainline is just brimming over with notes of pear and white grape. The aromas are very juicy and just a little oxidized. It smells like the tiniest drizzle of hot caramel over a dessert of fresh fruit.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

This shocked me, because I expected a sweeter cider based on those aromas. While the Mainline isn’t fully dry, it’s close.

Flavors and drinking experience: funk, minerals, acidity, stone fruit

The Mainline cider is much funkier, drier, and higher acid than I expected from those aromas. I was really thinking I’d get a fruit salad in a glass, but this is more like minerals, fusel oils, and farmy funk. This cider will wake you up!

I appreciate intense minerality and acid, so I’m super happy with this surprise. Fans of funky, super tart ciders should take notice. My initial notes for acidity were, “Yowsers, ear curling acid!.” 

The cider isn’t strongly sparkling, I’d describe it as more mildly petillant.

The Mainline does bring some fruit to the drinking experience. My co-taster noticed and remarked upon a note of under ripe nectarines on the finish. Since those are his favorite fruit, consider this high and specific praise. We enjoyed this cider with our last frozen flatbread pizza dressed up with yellow bell pepper and extra Parmesan. It was a strong pairing, but I get the feeling that the Mainline could lighten much heavier foods with ease. I think I’d choose to put it with a baked macaroni next time!

Stay safe folks and break out the good stuff!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cider Reviews: Shoal Hope Ciderworks' Monument and Ploughman Cider's Stayman Winesap

First off, it’s April first after what feels like the longest March in the known universe. Someday, I’ll manage an April Fools Post, but I’d much rather just post two more cider reviews today. I am so lucky to get to share my cider thoughts with you. My readers and my cider makers keep me curious and excited about the ever-changing world of cider. Cheesy, but true.

Let’s start with Monument by Shoal Hope Ciderworks. This was a sample shared with me for review, thank you!

This cidery is based in Provincetown, Massachussetts. The company has a significant local focus, and they’ve been part of the local landscape since 2015. From the website, it looks like Shoal Hope produces four different ciders. 

Visit Shoal Hope Ciderworks online:

I have two earlier reviews for Shoal Hope Ciderworks:

Little Tart:

As for Monument, here’s the official description: “MONUMENT is an off-dry cider flavored with dark brown sugar.  The sugar is added after fermentation to impart a molasses flavor reminiscent of traditional New England Ciders. 6.4% ABV”

Appearance: tea color, no visible bubbles, barely hazy

This looks like many and English cider with that deep warm tea like color and lack of visible bubbles. The cider isn’t brilliant, instead I see the barest shred of haze, adding depth to its look.

Aromas: cooked apple, brown sugar, caramel 

The Momument has lots of smell! As soon as I cracked the bottle, I got pronounced apple notes. It doesn’t smell like a crisp raw apple; instead it smells cooked like a baked apple or apple sauce blended with rich brown sugar or caramel.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

The bottle calls this off dry, but to me it tastes semi-sweet. The notes of sugar, the mouthfeel, and the ample presence of sweetness are clear. 

Flavors and drinking experience: baking spices, brown sugar,  medium tannins and acidity, long finish

This cider tastes much like it smells. It tastes so much like an apple dessert with cooked apple, brown sugar and occasional notes of baking spices. This cider has a full body with medium acidity, medium tannins. They create a nice balance with plenty of richness and substance.

The finish was gentle but long and perfumed. This is a cider that surely makes many people wowed with its hedonistic profile.

I paired this with a dinner of black beans and rice covered in Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. It made for a very pleasing contrast. My dinner was lean and salty while my drink was sweet and rich. Very satisfying!

Next up, it’s Ploughman Cider’s Stayman Winesap

Ploughman is a cidery I know through my  year cider judgings in PA which have led to some of my favorite cider friendships anywhere in the country. Ploughman Cider comes from Adams County, Pennsylvania. It’s a young cidery springing from an antique family farm.

I love this quote that describes the approach to beverage making. 

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.

Learn more on the web:

I’ve covered a few Ploughman Ciders before. Here are all of those reviews!

And the Stayman Winesap receives this description online.

CIDER MADE WITH STAYMAN WINESAP APPLESThe Stayman Winesap apple has a tough red skin, yellowish flesh, and is quite aromatic. In our fermentations it tends to develop some strawberry aromas and a good mouthfeel. Here we’ve fermented it spontaneously, without adding any yeast, allowing the ambient flora found on the skins and calyx to help determine its fermented character. It has been aged for more than 8 months and is rustic, bright, and fragrant. 6.9% ABV

Appearance: bright gold, brilliant, bubbly

This cider looks cheerful and springy! It shines with bubbles and brilliance and a duckling fuzz shade of bright gold.

Aromas: farmyard, lemon, stones, and meadow flowers

The Stayman Winesap smells of clean farmyard and zesty lemons. Secondarily, I get some notes of meadow flowers and rich nectar. After a few more wafts, I can get dusty stones.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a cider that's dry but not totally austere. It still brings plenty of fruit to my glass!

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, high acid, light body, funky

The Stayman Winesap tastes tart with a medium sparkle and light body. This dry cider brings medium tannins and plenty of funk to the party. I appreciate that the overall impression contains elements of citrus fruit, phenols, and peanuts.

This is a cider for fans of the zesty, wild, funky stuff! It’s a wonderful pairing for creamy foods or anything that you want to add a dry kick for contrast. Enjoy!

Stay safe and enjoy your cider at home, friends!