Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cider Reviews: Two Towns Cider House Good Limes Roll & Woodbox Cider Co.'s Heritage Imperial Dry

We’re hurtling towards August at breakneck speeds, but the heat makes every moment feel sluggish and melted. Time certainly doesn’t feel precise and scientific in these heights of summer. I feel the need to slow down myself, and I’ll do that as often as I can with my CSA veggies and cider. This week, I tried two very different ciders with veggie-ful summer meals.

We’re starting this week with 2 towns Ciderworks Good Limes Roll. For full disclosure, this sample was shared with me for review. That sharing does not color my perception of a cider. 

I have an abundance of previous reviews for 2 Towns. Here’s the rundown

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:


You can visit 2 Towns online here:

Two Towns’ official description reads as follows, Good Limes Roll AGAVE LIME CIDER
Fresh & Tangy, let the Good Limes Roll with this easy-drinking cider crafted with fresh-pressed apples, key lime & organic blue agave. This lime-ited release is sure to help make your next summertime adventure your best one yet! 5.6% ABV”

Appearance: goldenrod, brilliant, bubbly

2 Towns Cider House consistently sends beautifully brilliant, intensely colorful ciders. Good Limes Roll is no exception. The color reminds me of Goldenrod or Sungold tomatoes. It’s perfectly brilliant with some visible bubbles. 

Aromas: grapes, pears, powdered sugar, lime

Good Limes Roll smells like minerals, powdered sugar, and melon. This fruity cider includes not only notes of apple, lime and melon, but also grapes and pears. All of the flavors come across cleanly and with maximum freshness. There’s one mysterious note that reminds me of spice but in a fruity way, almost like a pepper that’s sweet and hot at the same time.

Sweetness/Dryness: sweet

This is a sweet and dessert-y cider. It reminds me of key lime pie!

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus tartness, hint of herbal spice, melon

This cider’s aromas prepared me well for how it tastes. The Good Limes Roll brings melon, lime, and ripe apple to the forefront. The cider also zaps with a citric acid tang. It starts off sweet and the cider seems gets sweeter over the sip. It’s fun that every sip has two stages. 

Good Limes Roll brings medium high acidity but the levels aren’t puckering or overwhelming.  There are lingering limey notes and a tiny touch of habanero spice. The cider has only  light carbonation.  It tastes like key lime pie, complete with graham cracker crust and whipped cream. I had mine with blistered Shishito Peppers. Keeping the pairing simple was key to its success.

Now for Woodbox Cider Co.'s Heritage Imperial Dry!

Unfortunately, Woodbox cider closed in 2019. I only just got to try it through my custom box from Press then Press Cider. 

You can still buy this one from Press then Press along with a few other Woodbox ciders:

Here’s the official Description as was shared on the Press then Press site.
Five types of heirloom apples were carefully blended with French & English cider varieties to produce our flagship cider. Partially fermented with wild Northwest yeasts, this cider has a subtle complexity that links to our local terroir making it truly unique. Swirled in the glass it releases intriguing aromas and enjoyable subtleties. Complex apple, notable acidity and minerality, with darker bitterness and mild tannic astringency. A difficult cider to produce, but an easy one to enjoy.

Appearance: hazy, popcorn yellow, very bubbly

What a lovely cider! I enjoy how bubbly it looks. The hazy and color are so different than many ciders from the west coast. 

Aromas: overripe apples, oranges, sun-warmed wood, Autumn

This cider smells like so many UK ciders. I get notes of slightly softened overripe apples, spices, orange and wood. It reminds me of an autumnal woodshed. From this array of aromas, I expect tannins in the cider.  My co-taster found one hint of coconut in the mix, but I’m not sure I agree.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

While I wasn’t sure how much sweetness to expect from this cider’s aroma, but it was so softly fruity that I expected it to be semi-dry or off dry, but this cider seems dry. It isn’t austere or overly bitter, but it’s not sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tannic, balanced,

The Heritage Imperial Tastes tannic, as I expected. I appreciate that the cider tastes drier than it smells. The whole experience is pleasingly balanced. It does still remind me far more of a UK cider than a US one, much less a west coast cider. 

While Woodbox’s cider is not necessarily for the novice, it’s quite drinkable. The cider finishes while a mildly bitter aftertaste. It's very satisfying, and I wish I’d discovered it years ago!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Cider Review: Greenwood Cider's Lingonberry and West County Cider's Singing Dog Orchard

The strange difficult times seem to be getting harder. I think we still need to take our joys from the small sources we can find. That and work to make the world better. For me, I enjoyed picking home grown green beans three times in the past week, eating berries, and talking with family and friends whom I love. I listened to an utterly perfect audio-book of The Wind in the Willows, and I got to pet many cats. And I shared ciders with loved ones too. 

Two of those ciders were those I’m reviewing here. Let’s start with Greenwood Cider's Lingonberry.

Here’s a quote from the Greenwood Cider’s website of how the folks behind the cider describe the cidery.
We source apples from unique, wild, and abandoned orchards, and wild-harvest seasonal ingredients including Cascade huckleberries and cedar tips from the bountiful forests of the Pacific Northwest. Our ciders are aged as long as necessary to produce the finest flavor possible. The result is a line of delicious dry ciders brimming with authentic taste and regional character.
I was able to try this cider when I purchased a curated case from Press then Press. I have loved everything I’ve tried from that case so far. I highly recommend checking them out.

I've reviewed one beverage by Greenwood before, the Black Currant Asian Pear:

You can also visit Greenwood Cider online:

Here’s the official description of the Lingonberry, “A Scandanavian staple, the lingonberry can also be found in parts of the Pacific Northwest in wild and domesticated forms. A relative to blueberries and cranberries, these bright-red berries add tartness and a little color to our semi-dry Washington apple base. Skal!” 7.8% ABV

Appearance: hazy, strawberry red, few bubbles 

Greenwood’s Lingonberry is far from transparent. As the picture shows, you can scarcely see dramatic color changes behind it. The color reminds me of other red fruits like strawberry and watermelon. There aren’t many visible bubbles in the Lingonberry either.  

Aromas: berry, grape, cantaloupe

This cider brings plenty of berry aromas, grapes, blackberries and strawberries. I also get hints of ripe cantaloupe melon. There is a background of apple, but the other notes are more pronounced in their summer fruity mix.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This semi-sweet cider tastes totally natural. The sweetness reminds me much more of apples and summer fruits rather than any kind of processed sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannins, medium acidity, astringent, fruity, bitter

The Lingonberry offers up medium acid, high tannins and deep low astringence. It’s easy to drink and well balanced. I could use just a bit more strength to the sparkle, but this level of petillance will be pleasing to many drinkers. I love the fruity yet bitter finish.

Next up is West County Cider’s Singing Dog Orchard.

Many american cider lovers know and appreciate West County Cider as the oldest currently-running cider in the United States. This is the Maloney Family Cidery, operating since 1984. I love this quote about the process, “Our neighbors had been fermenting for generations, using their own apples and those they gleaned from nearby favorite trees. We started doing the same, but applied California winemaking techniques to this seasonal Yankee tradition.”

You can visit West County online here:

Here’s how West County Cider describes the Singing Dog Orchard cider.

“Up in the high hills of Halifax, VT is Sining Dog Orchard, this former apple farm is now an equine ranch-- but the trees remain hidden away, they have produced fruit for over 50 years. We are lucky to be able to collect Mac and Cortland apples from those trees, and then combine them here in this balanced and endlessly drinkable cider.” 5.6%ABV

I have a few previous reviews of West County Ciders.

Cider Maker’s Favorite (my #3 of 2014):

Reine de Pomme (my #3 of 2013):

Appearance: Brilliant, deep autumnal yellow, bubbly

This lovely cider sings with deep autumnal yellow color. The cider is totally brilliant, showing off quite the collection of tiny bubbles.

Aromas- concentrated apple, syrup, breakfast pastry

The Singing Dog Orchard smells so luscious and intense! Rather than smelling like ripe apples, this smells more concentrated almost like a homemade cider syrup. It also has cleanly yeasty and bready notes along with some sweetness. All of that combines to remind me of a breakfast apple pastry like a Danish. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi sweet

This is another semi-sweet cider. The sweetness is just so richly appley. 

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, sweet, thick mouthfeel, gently petillant

The Singing Dog Orchard just underlines its commitment to rich sweet appleness in every sip. The mouthfeel, subtle petillance, and vibrant apple notes coordinate beautifully. There’s not an off note in the whole experience. 

This cider tastes shockingly  like rich sweet fresh cider. I love the thick mouthfeel, and the reliance on very few bubbles supports a smooth and gentle experience. This cider’s rich taste might be a great way for a sweeter drinker and a heirloom cider nerd (who often but not always prefer dry or semi-dry) to find something to please them both. 

I had mine with zucchini pie and fresh homegrown tomatoes. A finer combination couldn’t be desired. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Hi Cider Friends!

I don' t have two fresh new cider reviews ready for you this week, because I am in spending time with family for a little vacation. Everybody needs a little relaxation, and I promise you mine will include cider!

But if you want to vacation vicariously, here are the three posts I made from my 2016 Vermont Cider trip! It was a wonderful time, and a trip I would recommend to any cider lover.

 Day 1, including Farnum Hill, Fable Farm Fermentory and Stowe Cider:

Day 2, including Citizen Cider Champlain Orchards, and Sunrise Orchard:

Day 3, including Shacksbury Cider, Woodchuck and Slyboro:

See you next week! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Cider Review: Mountain West's Cottonwood Dry Hopped Hard Cider and Big Hill Ciderworks Manchurian Cider

Days are blazing hot and sunny outside. My berry bushes have scads of ripe wild blackberries and even more thorns. At night, I can hear the rubber band croaks of frogs and the string section of insects. Not even a global pandemic can stop the season. I’m just grateful to have air conditioning and a few ciders designed to chill. 

Let’s start today with Mountain West’s Cottonwood Dry Hopped Hard Cider. 

A bit about Mountain West cider. Jennifer and Jeff Carleton started the company in Utah. The company’s cider maker is Joel Goodwillie.

I've reviewed one Mountain West cider before, the Ruby:

You can visit Mountain West online here:

Here’s the official description of the Cottonwood Dry Hopped Cider. 
From world-class skiing to remote hiking trails to pristine climbing pitches, it takes a lifetime to fully explore Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons. Infused with hops during the final stage of fermentation, our 6.9% alcohol by volume Cottonwood Dry Hopped Hard Cider offers a bold, complex flavor equally worthy of repeated exploration.

Appearance: transparent, corn, few bubbles

This cider has a color like ripe corn. It’s a yellow a bit more strong than Silver Queen but not quite as buttery as Golden Bantam. I’ll call it transparent rather than brilliant. 

Aromas: mild soapy hops, Concord grapes, minerality

My co-taster was the first to notice the Concord grape notes, but once he mentioned them they were unmistakable. I noticed the soapy hops, minerality, and sulphites first.  It does smell cooling, some note in the mix reminds me of aquatic plants and icy mint.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The Cottonwood tastes off dry. There’s almost no sweetness to it at all. I like this level for a hopped cider such that there’s just enough sweetness to make the overall experience not one of total austerity.

Flavors and drinking experience: astringent, citrusy, petillant 

The Cottonwood tastes very citrusy! I get strong astringence at the start, leading to a luscious smooth texture. I’ll call this cider petillant, as it’s bubbles are not very strong. The hops meld with the cider nicely with piney, citrusy, and aquatic notes. I appreciate that there’s no sweatiness. Instead this cider tastes aquatic and icy. One of the most surprising characteristics is the creamy mouth coat. It was a fun one to eat with vegetarian hand pies!

Now for Big Hill Ciderworks’ Manchurian Cider!

Every year since it began, I have the pleasure of judging the PA cider competition. Through that, I’ve gotten to be a big fan of several independent Pennsylvania cideries that I would never have other wise discovered. Big Hill Ciderworks happens to be one of them. The small company is based in Adams County; it was started in 2002 by Ben Kishbaugh and Troy Lehman. The fruit and fermentation are all local.   

I have one previous review of a cider by Big Hill Ciderworks, the Little Round Hop:

You can read about all of Big Hill Ciderworks beverages on the website:

This is the official description for the Manchurian by Big Hill Ciderworks:
Manchurian Crabapples by themselves pack a very acidic punch, even with their high brix content.  We’ve blended a bit of Winchester cider to round out the flavor and add some subtle tannins.  Both are barrel aged for one year prior to blending for a smooth vanilla and oak characteristic. 8.2% ABV

Appearance: Butterscotch yellow, brilliant, few bubbles

This cider has so much color! I think I’d describe it as a butterscotch yellow. It pours brilliantly with few bubbles.

Aromas: Tart, dusty, fusel oils and tropical fruit

This was where some differences of opinion began to show. My cotaster and I both agreed that something about the aromas tipped us off to a very tart cider. I got some mineral or dusty notes, and tropical fruit. My co-taster got more notes that reminded them of Sauvignon Blanc or Fusel oils.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This cider tastes very nearly bone dry to me. I’ll call it off dry, but between the subtle barrel characteristics and the crab apple profile, I could be wrong. I could be mistaking richness or fruitiness for just a hint of sweetness.
Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, concentrated fruit, leathery finish

The Manchurian cider is delicious and fascinating! I loved it. I appreciate how the acid is high, but the profile of tartness and hints of sourness are so different from the kind of high acidity I taste in a lot of Northeastern American ciders.  The acid hits immediately, but then melts into a fruity mid-palate and a leathery finish.

I think it’s the heavy use of crab apples, but the apple notes taste concentrated somehow with intensity to acids, fruitiness, and tannins. There’s also a very real citrus presence in the mix. It is too sour for some, including my co taster. It’s got a distinctive profile, and one I liked very much.

I had this cider with peppers, tortellini, and homemade pesto. What a delightful pairing!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cider Review Brännland Just Cider and Stormalong Cider's Ashmead's Kernel

Though this year is a strange one, I’m trying not to let Summer pass me by. I’ve made a little list of some things that are absolutely necessary for me to try, eat, see, or do this summer. Luckily cider goes with many of them! 

Perhaps you’ve not projected an outdoor movie in your backyard before. I hadn’t until this year, and now I’ve enjoyed it twice. And having a cider with my popcorn or cheese crackers is almost better than a movie theater. (If we could get rid of the mosquitos it would be better!) I’m excited to make my own elote, swim, grill some pineapple and peaches,  perhaps hike in Letchworth State Park. And I’m choosing my ciders to pair with these adventures, culinary or otherwise. 

I found out about Brännland cider in Sweden when two of my friends Tegan and Dave moved from Vermont to work for the company. This will be my first time tasting anything by this cidery. 

Here’s how Brannland introduces itself. 

Brännland Cider produces artisanal cider on the Baltic seaboard of northern Sweden based on 100% apple juice and completely free from additives. We want to develop a uniquely Swedish cider with it’s origin in the specific flavour profile and growing conditions of Swedish apples.

Visit Brannland online to read more about the company and ciders:

I want to quote much of the description page for the Just Cider, because it’s so interesting. 

JUST CIDERIt’s taken us five years to find Just Cider.
A cider that strikes an honest balance between the two specific characteristics of Swedish apples. Sweetness and juicy acidity.
Just Cider stands for “only” but also denotes “precise” in Swedish or “fair” and “honest”
APPEARANCE: Pale straw in hue, brilliantly clear.NOSE: Fresh apple bouquet, notes of stone fruit, peach and melon.  PALATE: Fresh, juicy apple flavors supported by vibrant notes of citrus and apricot. Soft tannic backbone with a lingering finish of pineapple and apple peel. ABV: 4.5% RESIDUAL SUGAR: 32 grams/litre BOTTLED: 2018 VINTAGE: 2018SERVING TEMPERATURE: 8-10 degrees centigradeSTORAGE: Drink now.PAIRING: Light meats, chicken and pork, spicy asian food, sushi, cheese and charcuterie. Aperitif.

Appearance: straw, strawberry blonde, brilliant

This cider does look completely brilliant! The color looks somewhere between strawberry blonde and straw. It’s got just a hint of warmth to it. I see plenty of bubbles as well!

Aromas: Sweet peaches, raspberries, gentle soft fruit

I’m wondering from the sweet and mellow smells if this cider is perhaps kieved. I do anticipate a slightly sweeter cider. There are tons of fruit notes like: peaches, raspberries, and apple. Everything is gentle soft spring fruits. The cider smells only lightly boozy.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

My nose didn’t mislead me! The Just Cider is semi-sweet exactly as anticipated. 

Flavors and drinking experience: very high acid, some sweetness, bubbly, and luscious

The Just Cider brings very high acid twinned with the sweetness. The two really work well together to keep the cider fun and interesting, juicy and sessionable yet very natural. I also appreciate the texture; this cider has lots of small bubbles. The overall effect of many bubbles, strong fruit character, some sweetness and intense acidity is lusciousness. The sweetness gives it heft and the bubbles just lift it effortlessly.

Back to those fruit notes. The Just cider emanates peaches, nectarines, and ripe apples.  I appreciate this semi-sweet cider’s strong, saturated flavor—a bit like apple syrup, but very natural. We served it with cheese, carrots, and a veggies flatbread. The pairings were outright yummy. I think this cider is balanced, sessionable, and very tasty.

Next up I’m reviewing Stormalong’s Ashmead's Kernel. This cider is part of the Massachusetts company’s Rare Apple Variety 4-Pack. 

You can visit Stormalong online:

I’ve reviewed a growing number of Stormalong’s ciders. Here’s the list.


Legendary Dry:

Kingston Black:

Light of the Sun:

Mass Appeal:

Boston Heirloom:

Here’s the info on the Ashmead’s Kernel. 
FLAVOR: Distinctive, tangy apple flavor with crisp acidityAPPLES: Made with a blend of Ashmead’s Kernel, Knobbed Russet, Roxbury Russet, Calville Blanc d'hiver, Baldwin, and Dabinett apple varietiesABV: 6.9%

Appearance: Brilliant, bright warm-hued straw, teensy bubbles

This is another cider that’s far too appealing to hide in can. Sure, sell them that way, but pour this brilliant cider into a glass! I love the teensy tiny bubbles that I can see and it’s warm hued straw color.

Aromas: Pears, lemons, limes, super crisp apple, Pop Rocks

The Ashmead’s Kernel smells so vivid! It reminds me of many many things: pears, stone dust, pop rocks, super crisp apples, lemons and limes. I can smell it from a few feet away and that's good. These aromas are  mouthwatering, acidic, and rich.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a fun one. It’s semi-dry but so tart that’s hard to exactly know how sweet it is or isn’t.

Flavors and drinking experience: bracingly acidic, red currant, fruity, mildly tannic, summery

Oh what a plethora of tastes! Ashmead’s Kernel is powdery bracingly acidic, ear-curlingly acidic, and super fresh. I love how summery, and deliciously refreshing it is. This cider is giving me legit  goosebumps.  I get notes of Red currants, limes, and early apples. The Ashmead’s Kernel is   fruity, fresh, and immediate. Nothing about it tastes aged, mellow, or funky. This is all about clean fruit.

The  Acid is so high that it's hard to tell where it ends and the sparkle begins.  I think the texture is petillant or a notch above. This is a very seasonally appropriate and fun  semi-dry cider.  There’s even some tannic action, more than in most canned ciders. The whole experience feels  extremely refreshing.  It can pair with almost anything.