Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2020!

It’s been a year, folks. I’ve been tremendously lucky, and this year has still been a slog and a struggle much of the time. And it’s not been lucky for much of the cider, hospitality and arts industries that each mean so much to me. I look forward to supporting them all as best and safely I can in 2021, and I hope you’ll do the same. 

My tradition in the final days of the year is to round up my favorite 10 ciders from the previous twelve months and share them as a top ten list: countdown style.Here’s a list of all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!

2019: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/12/my-10-favourite-ciders-of-2019.html

2018: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/my-favourite-10-ciders-of-2018.html

2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2017.html

2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2016.html

2015: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2015.html

2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2014.html

First ever cider countdown from 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html

And I'll quote my own rules again. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 20[20]. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

There are always so many more delightful ciders that deserve high honors than can fit into a Tope 10 list, but this year perhaps even more than I expected because I’ve stopped saving special bottles of cider for special occasions. Enjoying a good cider makes any occasion special, and I’ll stand by that.

10. Raging Cider & Mead Co.’s Them Pet-Nat Southern Apples 

This California cider snuck up on me. I’d never heard of the company, and I only got the chance to sample the cider through the kindness of my cider community. I love this type of cider; Pet Nats can be the best kinds of exciting, bubbly, dry, and just a bit funky. This is was all of that and a delightful surprise!

9. Once Upon a Tree’s Wild Flight


I love so many UK ciders, but I admit that I’ve grown very accustomed to high acidity ciders too. I don’t always run across ciders that suit my love of leathery barnyard warmth along with my craving for taut zingy acidity. Luckily the Wild Flight gives me that great combo.

8. Bauman’s Cider Mountain Rosé 

This is my third in a row for ciders appearing in the blog for the first time and making it into my top 10! This is great news for the cider company at large. We can all be discovering really great cider companies all the time, like Baughman’s Cider out of Oregon. This Rosé completely hit the spot for me. I loved everything about it, and I love to be able to buy it more easily and often!

7. Kite and String’s King of the North Reserve 

From the aromas of honey and overripe apples to the lovely tannic structure and lingering finish, this was a completely impressive cider. I may have bought this local cider from Kite and String for the bubbles, but I got so much more from it. The King of the North Reserve is completely beguiling.

6. Stormalong Esopus Spitzenburg 

Stormalong ciders appeared in the blog more often this past year than some earlier times. The whole rare apple series was a delight from Massachusetts. I love that instead of strictly single varietals, these were unusual apple forward blends. Many cider makers love to chase a single apple cider, but blends give the cider maker so much more control to craft the final beverage. I’m always going to cheer for great blends that still highlight special apples like how this cider makes the Esopus Spitzenburg sing.

5. Eden’s Deep Cut 

Eden Specialty Ciders has me figured out. I’m not embarrassed to say that each new cider shipment could contain a new favorite. I’m already excited to share a review of something new and delightful in the new year. But I want to highlight this dry yet full bodied and fruity canned cider. So many cideries are chasing exactly this, and Eden has perfected it. This is the quaffable and well balanced cider for serious cider drinkers. We don’t have to lug glasses and a 750ml bottle to a secluded picnic spot and hope we’ve not broken anything. The Deep Cut offers up fantastic aroma and wonderful mouthfeel in a canned cider!

4. Black Diamond’s 2018 Rosé 

It isn’t kind of me to include a cider in my top 10 list that is this difficult to acquire, but I didn’t start blogging because I’m kind. I do this because I have so many opinions. One of those opinions is that Black Diamond makes fantastic ciders. Usually Black Diamond ciders are strictly apples, but this cider uses black currants, blueberries and plums as well as Porter’s Perfection and Kingston Black apples. The 2018 Rosé was part of one of my personal highlights of 2020. It’s a scintillating cider that was an excellent kick off to my apple CSA from Black Diamond. 

3. Foggy Ridge Cider's Final Call 

When I first reviewed this cider at the very beginning of March, I said that I was “utterly entranced.” That hasn’t changed in the months since those lovely creamy bubbly glasses. Final Call has to be one of the best ciders not just of this year but of the decade. This cider was both elegant and fruit forward. Should be lucky enough to come across a bottle, nab it!

2. Tilted Shed Ciderworks Love's Labor 

Tilted Shed makes fantastic ciders in California, but I rarely see them in New York. I joined the cider club for better access. This has been my favorite of that selection thus far, but my cellar still has many more waiting for their day in the glass. The Loves Labor includes Gravenstein apples and wild blackberries. It’s sparkle, acidity, and tannins are perfectly balanced and delightfully pleasing!

1.  Big Fish Cider Virginia Hewes Crab 

Every cider from Big Fish Cider Co is different from it’s previous releases, and I’ve never tried one that wasn't exceedingly above average. They make wonderful cider. And I tend to love crab apples in cider. Yes, this is a single varietal, but it does so much that most single varietals don’t. The Virginia Hewes Crab brings luscious aromas of spices, overripe apples, and citrus. The cider tastes even better than it smells! The cider has body, acidity, tannins, fruit, and intense bubbles. I love it!  I knew it would be in my favorites list from the moment I first sipped it. Congratulations and thanks for making this cider!

And now that I’m thanking folks. Thanks so much to my cider friends and community near and far. We weren’t able to gather for most of this year, but we’ve toasted each other across the miles. Hopefully we can raise glasses together safely next year! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Cider Review: Portland Cider Company's Crangerine

The kind folks at Portland Cider Company generously sent me a couple of samples recently. When we planned to have a pizza night at Along Came a Cider HQ, I knew it was time to break one of these open. I chose the Crangerine because I just can’t get enough cranberry cider these days!

Portland Cider Company tells you the location directly in the cidery name! Check out my earlier reviews for more background information on this inventive cider company. I've had the fun of trying lots of ciders from Portland Cider Co. They send me samples for review regularly, and that's how I was able to access all of these! Enjoy the back catalogue.

Razzberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/06/cider-review-once-upon-tree-wild-flight.html

Peach Berry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/04/cider-review-portland-cider-companys.html

Kinda Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Pineapple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-review-portland-cider-company.html

Cranberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-seed-stone-cidery-heritage.html

Pumpkin Spice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-review-portland-cider-co-pumpkin.html

Pineapple Rose:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/07/cider-reviews-portland-cider-cos.html

You can visit Portland Cider Company online here: https://www.portlandcider.com/home

Here’s how Portland Cider Company describes the Crangerine. 


Delightfully tart, juicy tangerine plays nicely with Oregon grown cranberries.  Add some sparkle to your glass with this ruby colored hard cranberry cider, with brilliantly bright flavors that aren’t too sweet. 5.1% ABV

TASTING NOTES tart, citrus zest, ripe cranberry, juicy citrus

FOOD PAIRINGS roasted turkey, brie, pumpkin pie, honey baked ham, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables


Oregon Cranberries

NW Tangerines

Fuji Apples

Pink Lady Apples

Gala Apples

Honeycrisp Apples

Golden Delicious Apples

Appearance: Deep red, brilliant, few visible bubbles

I didn’t expect quite so much cranberry color before pouring this cider. The Crangerine looks like cranberry juice. It’s totally brilliant, deep red, and mildly bubbly in appearance.

Aromas: citrus, PixiStix, Minerals, blackberries, ripe apple

The Crangerine cider does represent all constituent ingredients in its aromas. I could smell fresh apple, cranberry, and citrus. My holistic impressions were of strong minerals plus citrus primarily. Something in the notes reminded me of Pixie Stix and blackberry. I’m guessing it will taste very tart!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet/semi-dry

Each cider has the level of sweetness/dryness that suits it flavor profile, and you notice when you’re tasting a mismatch. Crangerine plays the line between semi-dry and semi-sweet just right. 

Flavors and drinking experience: High acidity, berry tannins, some citrus and apple

My first impression upon sipping the Crangerine is one of citrus sweetness and berry tartness. The acidity does come from apples, cranberries, and tangerine.  Some tannic presence also appeared; it reminds of the astringence from fresh cranberry juice.

I could not taste a lot of apple in the mix, but it was present. Instead the balance was very cranberry and plenty tangerine with some background of apple. The cider has a medium-light  body that’s very zesty and lots of bubbles.

This cider was great paired with two very different homemade veggie pizzas!


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Cider Review: 1911 Cranberry Cider

Good morning cider friends, welcome to December. I can scarcely believe that we’re closing in on the end of this bizarre year. I hope you stayed safe for Thanksgiving and paired a delicious meal with some very good cider. I know I did. But now ‘tis the season for getting cozy and enjoying winter flavors.

In my mind, winter flavors include mulled ciders, barrel aged ciders, sips of pommeau, and my favorite non-apple fruit of all: cranberry. Some cider fans knock ciders with fruit additions, and they aren’t always my favorites. I just can’t resist trying every cranberry cider I can get my hands on. (If you’ve got one you’d like me to review, email me!) When I saw 1911’s Cranberry cider at the grocery store last week, I grabbed it with both hands. 

1911 is a Finger Lakes cidery, orchard, distillery and farm attraction that has a passionate local following and increasing availability across the region. 1911 creates a truly varied range of ciders, and I’m always seeing something new from this company. I did purchase this myself; it was not a review sample. 

I’ve reviewed a few of 1911’s cider over the years. The earlier ones appear under the orchard name Beak and Skiff that has since been rebranded as 1911. 

Rose: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/02/cider-review-1911-rose-and-virtue.html

New England Style Hopped IPC: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/09/cider-reviews-1911-hard-cider-new.html

Tropical: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-1911-tropical-cider.html

Somerset Original Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-beak-and-skiffs-1911.html

Founders’s Reserve Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/09/cider-review-1911s-founders-reserve.html

1911 describes the Cranberry saying, “1911 Cranberry hard cider is a semi-sweet cider that provides the perfect combination of classic American flavors. Our Unique blend of apples and New England cranberries strikes a delicate balance of sweet and tart. 6.9% ABV” 

1911 also posts a sweetness scale that puts the Cranberry at a 2 out of a possible 6 for sweetness.

Appearance: Rosewood, brilliant, bubbly

I enjoyed searching for just the right word to describe this shade of pink. It’s got a hint of warm brown, so rosewood suits admirably. The cider has beautiful brilliance and lots of active bubbles. 

Aromas: Citric acid, cranberry and other berries, ripe apple, dusty

My first impression when I brought my nose to this cider was citrus and citric acid. It has a fresh orange juice quality that’s a fun element along with a strong cranberry and apple presence. I also get notes of other berries and just a ghost of mineral dust.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet to semi-sweet

The can describes this cider as semi-sweet, but it feels more like a sweet to my tastebuds. The sweetness I get is very fruity. 

Flavors and drinking experience: strong cranberry finish, high acidity, medium body

I am so pleased! The Cranberry Cider by 1911 allows both apple and cranberry to speak distinctly. This cider is deliciously drinkable! I love the super cranberry finish. The Cranberry offers up just exactly the high acid I hope for in a cranberry cider. It also keeps things fun and exciting with the perfect level of bubble and medium body.

The Cranberry tastes fresh and fruity! We had it with the last piece of pumpkin cheesecake and the pairing was a total winner. Next time though, I’m going to bake some brie to go with this seasonal treat!