Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cider Review: Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab

Of all of the things that are very much on my mind, I want to think about making Halloween fun and spooky and safe this year. So much of the rest of the world feels much too big for me to tackle. Part of my plan this year is a virtual Spooky Storytelling Gathering with some family. Thank you to my sister-in-law Karen for this great idea. I’ve already scared myself just doing research for what story I’ll tell. During this gathering across the miles, I know I’ll be sipping a cider. It’s no bonfire bash, but I do like cider with my scares!

One night last week, I had the pleasure of coming home from a sunset walk to home cooked lasagna. My only job was to choose a cider for accompaniment. I chose Big Fish Cider Co. Virginia Hewes Crab. This cider was shared with me, but my opinions remain my own. Before I get into the review, I want to share a bit of background about this cidery.

Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Virginia. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the founder and cidermaker Kirk Billingsley. Big Fish Ciders often do well at competitions like GLINTCAP. I appreciate the range of styles and apples both present in the cidery’s lineup.   

Here’s the rundown of my earlier Big Fish reviews:

Wild Meadow:

Allegheny Gold (my #3 cider from 2019):

Highland Scrumpy (my #3 cider from 2018):

Church Hill Blush:

There’s a video about this cider:

You can visit Big Fish Cider Co. online here:

Here’s the official description for Virginia Hewes Crab.

This is our first single varietal ever at Big Fish Cider. And quite honestly it was destined to go into our heritage blend, until we tasted this after fermentation. The fullness of body, the intensity of flavor, and the tannins, quite honestly blew us away. So I gathered up more of the same fruit, did several small batches utilizing different wine yeasts, and the result for each batch was similar, so I blended it all together, and we feel this is the best cider we have ever produced at Big Fish. A touch of sweetness, partially due to the unfermentable sugars in the cider due to the water core in the apples produced by our hot dry summer of 2019. Notes of citrus, butterscotch, stone fruits, come through. A truly delightful, intense, cider. Drink at cellar temperature for depth of flavor. Alcohol 8.40%

Appearance: transparent, deep harvest moon color, lots of bubbles

The Virginia Hewes Crab has an amazing seasonal color. It reminds me just exactly of a Harvest Moon. That deep reddish orange appears with good transparence and oodles of quick bubbles.

Aromas: Citrus, floral, spice, overripe apples

This cider smells citrusy, floral, with a waft of spice aromas too. It reminds me of Constant Comment tea, cardamom, and overripe apples too. There’s a lot of very tempting aroma here.

Sweetness/dryness: barely off dry

This cider is very fruit but mostly dry. There’s just a lick of sweetness in the mélange of impressions I get from this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, creamy mouthfeel, full body, amazing fruit and spice notes

Wow! I knew I wanted to reach for a special cider, but this is shockingly good! The Virginia Hewes Crab tastes tart, acidic, but there’s so much more to it than acid. The cider is wonderfully fruity and spicy too. The bubbles keep it lively but that hint of sweetness and higher ABV also mean that it’s simultaneously thick! I love a bubbler with lots of body! I’d even call this cider creamy!

It’s extremely good! My cotasters and I agree that this cider with its well-balanced combination of zesty tartness, beautiful fruit, intense sparkle, and luscious mouthfeel is a total winner. The acidity really helped pair it with the lasagna as well. This is a combo to try!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cider Review: Left Foot Charley's Cinnamon Girl

Good morning Cider friends! I hope you are eating lots of apples and enjoying autumnal pleasures as we head towards Halloween. It’s still time to stay home or mask up, but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy the seasonal bounty. I’m imagining this week’s cider as something very seasonal! Left Foot Charley’s Cinnamon Girl seems like a cider playing dress up with cinnamon spice.

Left Foot Charley is a winery and cidery in Traverse City, Michigan. It was established there in 2004; their local focus is on processing fruit and juice from Northern Michigan for their  variety cider and wine lineup.

Here is a list of my earlier reviews of Left Foot Charley’s ciders and a perry. 

Fortis Maelum:


Henry’s Pippin (it made my top 10 for 2016):

You can visit the Left Foot Charley  online right here:

Now for the Left Foot Charley’s official description of the Cinnamon Girl.

This is a classic combination - apples and cinnamon. The apples are harvested from two farms on the Old Mission Peninsula. Whole cinnamon sticks are then added and steeped in the cider for 4-6 weeks. Gluten Free

Alcohol 5.00%

 Appearance: brilliant, warm straw, very few visible bubbles 

This cider looks like lots of other ciders from Michigan and indeed from many places. It’s brilliant in clarity and the color is often called warm straw. I don’t see many bubbles.

Aromas: cinnamon, brown sugar, ripe apples

Here’s where the hijinks begin! Cinnamon Girl smells of cinnamon, ripe apples, yeast, brown sugar. The whole mixture reminds me of coffee cake. These spice smells comes across vividly. My co-taster thought the whole experience was like an apple crisp.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi- sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider. The sweetness reminds me of brown sugar and baked goods.

Flavors and drinking experience: ripe apples, lush, medium tannins, well balanced

What was very spice oriented in aroma tastes very much of apples. The Cinnamon Girl has a low to medium but present level of  tannins, nice taut acidity, as well as sweetness and body. The whole experience is balanced and quite pleasant. This cider is so bubbly and fun! It went perfectly with good conversation and popcorn!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Cider Review: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Inclinado Methode Traditionelle

I completely forgot to write this week! I blame moving. Better late than never though. I’m happy to share a review whose notes I took back in the summer months. I’m bringing my thoughts on Tilted Shed’s Inclinado Methode Traditionelle.

My access to California ciders is less limited than it used to be, but it still takes a lot more effort to actually get a bottle in my hands than lots of very good local offerings. Tilted Shed’s cider club really makes it much easier, and I’m glad to have joined almost a year ago. This Sonoma County Cidery consistently sources interesting apples and makes a range of different cider styles with them. The cidery has been producing ciders since 2011.

Here are all of my previous Tilted Shed reviews:

Love's Labor:

Lost Orchard:

Barred Rock Barrel Aged Cider:

January Barbecue Smoked Cider:

You can visit Tilted Shed online to learn about ciders and the cider club (I’m a member):

Now for Tilted Shed’s Inclinado Methode Traditionelle!

Let’s start with the official description.

2017 Inclinado, Methode Traditionelle We also introduce a new version of our Spanish-style cider, Inclinado, that was also bottled using méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). 100% organic Sebastopol-grown Gravensteins, wild-fermented in neutral French oak barrels, no sulfites—just apples and time. It rested en tirage for about 16 months of in-bottle refermentation, and was then riddled and disgorged by hand. Elegance in a bottle, and pairs beautifully with absolutely everything. I can imagine it with oysters served with a garlic-apple mignonette, but try it with Spanish-inspired cheese and charcuterie, too. Store in a cool spot and chill very well before opening. Contents under pressure. Tasting notes: Acid-forward with mouth-filling notes of apricot, lemon, and lime; juicy and vibrant. 750ml / 8% ABV / Only 52 cases produced. 

 Appearance: bubbly, pumpkin orange, hazy

This hazy cider looks perfectly seasonal right now! It's a pumpkin orange with thousands of racing bubbles.

Aromas: citrus, salt, spice & volatile acidity.

Everything I smell points to a Basque inspired cider. There are spicy, citrusy, and salty notes, along with some volatile acidity.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

As most Methode Traditionelle ciders, this tastes completely dry!

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

Zing! This cider sings with high acidity. It’s racy, citrusy, and exhilarating. I get notes of leather, citrus like lemon and orange, and some bare hints of salt. The salt transforms to olive a bit after sipping and sitting with the cider.

The acidity is bodily and powerful. I can feel the cider in my esophagus with each swallow. The cider is funky, but nothing about it smells or tastes dirty. Is good clean funk a thing? This is definitely good clean funk. It's delightful, and what I love most has to be that intense sparkle. I love bubbles, and I refuse to be ashamed of it. This cider brings great bubbles!

I had my cider with a homemade veggie burrito. It’s a reliably fun pairing for high acid ciders because of the interplay between the umami and acidity. The umami brought by the food paired with the double hit of acid in both food and cider just makes for a fun and energetic meal pairing. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Cider Review: Abandoned Hard Cider Classic

Hello Cider Friends! I write to you from my new home which has many boxes,  but I’m happy to say that the move is complete. But that’s not the only excitement happening currently; it’s Finger Lakes Cider Week! This year is different to say the least, but things are still happening! 

Please check out the website to find out more:

For today though I wanted to try something new and unknown, so I picked up a can of something I’ve never had at the local bottle shop. I chose the Abandoned Hard Cider Classic.

Here’s a link to this unusual cidery located in Woodstock, New York:

I love the quick and simple way the cidery website describes the company’s beginning, “After a chance meeting between two hobby cider makers in 2015, and a couple of years of geeking out together, Eric and Martin joined forces to create Abandoned Hard Cider.” The guys mentioned are Eric Childs and Martin Bernstein. 

You can find out lots more information on the cidery online.

I picked up Abandoned Hard Cider’s Classic. Here’s what the can says about the cider.

A refreshingly complex cider that pours hazy and packs a sharp appley bite!

As with all of our ciders, this one is made from over 100 varieties of apples collected in wild and abandoned orchards throughout New York's Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley.

The apples are a “blend of wild and heirloom apples.”

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, warm sand

The Classic looks hazy and bubbly. The color reminds me of warm sandy beaches. Perhaps I’m just dreaming about the possibility of travel.

Aromas: ripe apples, lemons, pears, but also some stoniness, and wet rocks, a bit funky

The Classic smells like wet rocks and shady spaces. I also get fruit notes including ripe apples lemons and pears.

Sweetness/dryness: bone dry

This is a bone dry cider! There aren’t that many bone dry canned ciders, so for folks looking for this combo, look no further!

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, funky, high acid, fruity finish

I like a bone dry cider! The classic hits with an initial wave of abrasive acid followed by medium tannins. The cider mellows out, but it remains a bit funky, with flavors driven by it’s very high acid. I really enjoy the Classic’s pleasant fruity finish.

This cider is remarkably zesty and refreshing. The citrus profile of acidity paired with lots of minerality is fun. It’s easy to enjoy as a fan of dry bubbly ciders with high acid. In that way, it reminds me of the Northeastern region in general.

I enjoyed mine as a reward after a day of packing with a veggie burrito, and it was very much appreciated!