Tuesday, December 28, 2021

My Favorite 5 Ciders of 2021

It’s almost here. We are lucky enough to have the chance to make 2022 a wonderful magical year. As we dream of what we’d like to do, change, and create in the future, it only makes sense to gather the best parts of 2021 (strange year though it was) and reflect on them. Part of that for me means continuing my tradition of counting down my favorite ciders of the year. It wasn’t easy to choose, but I’m so happy to share my top five!

But if you’ve not read about my favorites 6-10, check those out first: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/12/5-of-my-favorite-10-ciders-of-2021.html

5. Snow Capped Cider Harrison Reserve


I’m not surprised that a GLINTCAP best in class gold medal winner will also be a favorite of mine. The Harrison Reserve won Heritage Cider sweet, and while sweet isn’t a quality I look out for in cider, I’m not going to turn away a delicious and well-balanced cider because of a bit of sweetness. The Harrison has acidity, body, and wonderful fruit notes like overripe apples, peaches, and cherries.

4. Eden Cider Oliver’s Twist



Eden makes undeniably good ciders year after year. I chose this tannic and acidic cider to go with Thanksgiving foods, and it was absolutely perfect to lift up rich intense flavors. Oliver’s Twist is very lemony, mildly funky but not dirty, and wonderfully wild. This Vermont cider has everything from savory herbs to a surprising tropical fruit finish. And the bubbles are perfect!

3. Haykin Family Cider’s Reserve Niedzwetzkyana



Colorado's Haykin Family Cider makes some wonderful ciders, so I had high hopes for the Reserve Niedzwetzkyana, but I didn’t have a lot of specificity to those expectations. A 100% single-varietal cider can go in nearly infinite directions, and I’m not familiar enough with Malus Niedzwetzkyana to hazard any guesses. The cider is a blast of floral flavors with tart cherry notes and high acidity. My initial review called it “everything forward,” and I love its dryness. This very special cider made a big impression!

2. Presque Isle Cider’s Farmhouse Hard Cider 2020



This bottle was a gift from someone at Presque Isle farms promised before results were announced but shared after we learned that it won second place for Dry Traditional Cider. That’s a competitive category as well as one most likely to award ciders I’ll love. And GLINTCAP predicted my preferences again; I love Presque Isle’s Farmhouse Cider from northern Michigan. The aromas of this cider are beguiling with notes of leather, overripe apples, and dried orange. It’s beautifully balanced, dry, and full-bodied. Seriously good stuff.

1. Black Diamond Farm and Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Black is Gold

Black Diamond Cider: https://www.blackdiamondcider.com/

Redbyrd Orchard Cider: https://redbyrdorchardcider.com/


When two excellent Finger Lakes cider makers like Redbyrd Orchard Cider and Black Diamond Farm work together, I suspect the results will be stunning and with Black is Gold, they are. Here’s the apple list: Goldrush, Tremlett’s Bitter, Wickson Crab, Harrison, Dabinett, Roxbury Russet, Black Oxford, Suncrisp, Razor Russet. This collaboration absolutely delights me with tart clean citrus, ferocious bubbles, sturdy tannins, and plentiful fruit notes that keep the experience fun and lively. 

I appreciate that this collaboration came to be for a reason. Here's how they describe it,  “What can we, as beverage makers and farmers, do to support the vital work of abolishing barriers to racial and social equity and justice in our community?” The cider's proceeds support OAR of Tompkins County and The Food Justice Project. Awesome.

What a list! These are each exceptional ciders that I’m grateful to have tasted. My year was much tastier and more fun because of the cider and cider experiences I was lucky enough to have. Endless thanks to my cider friends, orchard growers, competition volunteers, cider makers, and every apple lover out there. Let’s hope for more fun and safe times together in 2022!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

5 of My Favorite 10 Ciders of 2021

Somehow we’re racing toward the end of 2021. It doesn’t feel possible, but I’m ready to start choosing my favorite ciders of the year. Why start early? This list was hard to make. I could not fathom taking one more fantastic cider out of my cellar and forcing it to compete in this field. Cider makers made my job really difficult this time around!

Usually I create a favorite 10 ciders of the year countdown for my last blog post of the year. I want to modify my tradition ever so slightly this year and divide the list into two posts. This year I’m sharing five from my top ten list today, and continuing the countdown next week.

My rules are simple. All ciders reviewed in the past year are eligible. No cidery gets to show up more than once. These are my favorites. I acknowledge my subjective, individual, and perhaps even whimsical tastes.

Here are all of my previous years’ top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!

2020: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2020.html

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

10. Union Hill Cider’s Pink Heart



This is a beautiful example of a well-balanced, easy-drinking, delicious rose cider. I love its fruitiness, acidity, and sparkle. This cidery based out of East Wenatchee, Washington made something solidly delightful. One of the really interesting characteristics about the Pink Heart is that this cider uses majority red fleshed apples but doesn’t limit itself to them; it incorporates Dabinett apples as well. I think that is a wise choice because this is a stunner.

9. Tilted Shed Ciderwork’s Wickson



This is not a surprising choice for me. I love Wickson crabapples, and Tilted Shed did a brilliant job crafting an intense little burst of flavor into a thoroughly delectable cider. It has everything: tannins, acid, sparkle, and zest. Tilted Shed, out of California, has to be one of my favorite west coast cideries; they know how to appreciate a wild and funky cider without letting that party rage too hard.

8. Slyboro’s Rose and Sky



The Rose and Sky calls itself imperial because it’s ABV reaches 10%, something I don’t see regularly in the cider world. The cider wears it’s higher alcohol content well; the cider is creamy and full bodied. I enjoy the Rose and Sky’s intense tiny bubbles. This off-dry cider is tremendously fruity but also delivers some lovely brioche crumb notes as well. I highly recommend trying anything by New York producer Slyboro Ciderhouse, but the Rose and Sky is fantastic choice.

7. Eve’s Cidery Orchards and Pastures



Eve’s Cidery appears on my favorites list regularly; I cannot argue with that. The reason is that this Finger Lakes Cidery knows how to make delectable dry bubbly ciders! Orchards and Pastures is a special aged cuvee blend with a wild yeast fermentation. I love how gently funky yet perfumed it smells. Orchards and Pastures manages to show off barrel fermentation, wild foraged apples, perry pears and lees aging. All of this complexity adds up to a truly splendid cider.  

6. Liberty Ciderworks Major Hewes



This cider combines two crabapples (Hewe’s and Manchurian) with the Major: a classic UK cider apple. This feels almost like stacking the deck, but then Spokane Washington’s Liberty Ciderworks uses neutral oak for aging and wild fermentation to boot.  It smells leathery with notes of orange and overripe apple. I love how it really brought a serious amount of both tannins and acidity. This is a tasty cider and one that you cannot drink without being transfixed by its herbal notes and UK cider-inspired profile. It is a delight that I’m so grateful Liberty Ciderworks created. 

That’s all for now, cider friends. Catch up with the rest of the top ten next week, and until then, stay safe and bust out the good stuff! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Cider Review: Snow Capped Cider Harrison Reserve

It was lovely to travel to Harrisburg and judge cider once again, but I will not be revealing any results from that competition for some time. Things must remain under wraps until the PA Farm Show in January. And in the meantime, some very exciting cider arrived for me. 

I was so happy to get some very special releases from Snow Capped Cider. I’ve only ever had the chance to sample sips from GLINTCAP bottles. I did have the pleasure of sitting with Kari Williams during the awards ceremony and learning about the orchards and history of Snow Capped Cider. The cidery has grown out of the Williams Family Orchards for five generations in Colorado. Ty and Kari brought cider to the extensive farm operations in 2014. I love how the cidery is described in relation to its geography on the Snow Capped Cider website. 

Williams Family orchards are located at the bottom of Grand Mesa in the beautiful Surface Creek Valley of Colorado’s Western Slope. At an elevation of 6130 feet, we are one of the highest elevation orchards in the world. The high elevation, warm days, and cool nights capture the crisp taste of Colorado, producing a clean, and balanced cider. 

I am so curious about what the Harrison will be like. There's a lot of cachet in single-varietal ciders and plenty of mystique about this particular storied apple. Plus this cider won the Best-In-Class gold at GLINTCAP in the Heritage Sweet category.

Here’s how Snow Capped Cider describes the Harrison on the bottle. 

America's most famous 18th century cider making apple was nearly lost to extinction and revived in 1976. This apple has earned its bragging rights from modern cider making to our past presidents. The straightforward flavors as a single varietal are presented with smooth juicy apple, slight sweetness, noteworthy orange peel, small hints of earthy spice and lingering touches of lemon ginger Medium body boasts soft tannin with a finish delivered on a light golden hue. We hope you will enjoy our interpretation of historic Harrison as much as we do! Made with 100% Harrison apples with special thanks to Cider View Orchard, WA. 6.5% ABV

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, pale straw

This cider shines! When first poured, there’s a lively mousse, but it doesn’t stick around. The color is delicate and subtle: just a hint of pale barely golden straw. I love seeing all these bubbles.

Aromas: cherries, overripe apples, peaches, minerals

My anticipation for this cider was high, but when I got a scent from it that anticipation sky-rocketed! This cider was bubbling with notes of  wam overripe apples, cherries, peaches, and minerals. At the same time it smells like toasted bread crumbs. I cannot wait to taste this.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-sweet

This is a beautifully semi-sweet cider. The sweetness is fully incorporated into the beverage and comes across as entirely natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, peaches, intense, clean, fruity 

This semi-sweet cider is brimming over with natural fruity flavor. The Harrison’s high acid works with the cider’s sweetness to keep things tart and lively rather than thick or syrupy. The cider’s flavors are intense and concentrated and beautifully clean. As I sip the cider again, peaches and other stone fruits like apricot grow in the flavor landscape. I love how charming and sophisticated this cider is. 

The cider has a full body, a low but present level gentle tannins, and enticing sparkle. The whole experience is beautifully balanced. I’m so happy to finally get to review a Snow Capped Cider, and the Harrison is certainly a winner. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Looking Ahead to Cider Events in January & February


No review this week, as I'm preparing to head out of town to judge cider! One of my favorite things to do is join other cider aficionados and give serious consideration to ciders whose makers are putting forth their work (and the apples' work) for competition. Its just the right blend of serious and fun: focus and pleasure.  

This week, I'll be reviewing Pennsylvania ciders for the PA Farm Show in 2022. And I won't be announcing the winners; that pleasure has to wait until the event itself in January.

The PA Farm Show is what gave me the idea to do a super short little round up of some interesting cider events to which we can look forward. 

PA Farm Show: Harrisburg, PA  January 8-15, 2022

Read all about this amazing collection of agricultural feats here: https://www.farmshow.pa.gov/pafarmshow/about/Pages/default.aspx

Bath Cider Festival: Bath, England January 7-8, 2022

I've not had the pleasure of attending this cider event, but it looks to be a fun way to try many new and different ciders in the UK: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bath-cider-festival-2022-tickets-169957321925#:~:text=Bath%20Cider%20Festival%202022%20On,own%20award%20winning%20Lilley's%20Cider

Nine Pin Cider 26er Launch: January 27, 2022

This is just the start of a year long cider series, probably on appreciable by those within a stone's throw of Albany, but I wish I could join in and try a year's worth of cider experimentation by Nine Pin: https://www.ninepincider.com/26er

Cider Con: Richmond, VA Feburary 1-4, 2022

This is *the* cider event of the year for the American Cider Industry: https://ciderassociation.org/cidercon2022/ 

Cider Summit NW Holiday Kits: Your living room, Order by December 12, 2021

These are just a tiny snippet. More is out there. Feel free to let me know in the comments. 

And if you aren't feeling up for events right now, that's totally okay. There are ways to bring the cider events home! 

You can still order NW Holiday Kits from Cider Summit: https://www.cidersummitnw.com/nwholiday

And if someone wants to send me that pommeau kit...please go right ahead! ; )

I'll be back next week with a new review (or two)! Until then, enjoy your cider and dreams of fun ahead.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Cider Review: Eden Cider's Oliver's Twist Foxwhelp Cider

Happy snowy morning to everyone who’s celebrating! And good luck to those who don’t feel ready for it yet. We’ve been a little bit snowy here since just a few days before Thanksgiving, so it’s feeling tremendously appropriate. Tis the season to get cosy.  I’m starting to think about creating my yearly Favorite 10 ciders of the year list. If you want to see what that’s all about, here’s last year’s:


It's too soon to know what will make the cut this year, but I do like to guarantee that it will be a difficult decision by pulling out some extra special things in November and December. That was my thinking  when I reached for Eden Cider’s Oliver’s Twist. 

Eden Cider comes to us from northern Vermont. I’ve reviewed many things by Eden Ciders and much more background on this apple-centric cidery appears in earlier reviews. Here’s the full list. 

Brut Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/07/cider-review-eden-ciders-brut-rose.html

Benjamin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/06/cider-review-eden-ciders-benjamin-and.html

Deep Cut: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-eden-specialty-ciders-deep.html

Peak Bloom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/09/cider-review-eden-ciders-peak-bloom-and.html

Ezekiel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-eden-specialty-ciders.html

Extra Sec: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-super.html

Eden Heritage Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/06/cider-cans-crush-it-eden-heritage-and.html

Siren Song: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-eden-ciders-siren-song-and.html

Brut Nature: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cider-con-2018-pt-1-eden-specialty.html

Imperial 11 Degree Rose: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-january-2017-cidrbox-and-edens.html

Sparkling Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-eden-sparkling-dry-cider.html

The Sparkling Dry supported my Thanksgiving & Birthday celebrations in 2016: 



You can also visit Eden Cidery online to learn about the current lineup for harvest ciders, aperitifs, and ice ciders: https://www.edenciders.com/

I chose Oliver’s Twist as part of my Thanksgiving holiday. I have a lot of hope that the tannins and acidity that I anticipate will work wonders for a rich and salty feast.

Here’s how the cider is described on the bottle.

On a visit to Herefordshire, Tom Oliver treated us to a mind-blowing taste from a five year-old barrel of cider made from Foxwhelp apples. A classic bittersharp variety, the power of its acidity after years of adversity testified to its strength of character and sunny personality. Our single variety cider is made from 100% Foxwhelp apples grown at Poverty Lane Orchards. Bright and drinkable now, we suggest putting a few bottles in your cellar. Over time it may become as mellow and friendly as Tom himself. 7.5% ABV Batch: 2018 

Appearance: warm apricot, hazy, only slightly bubbly

Consider me intrigued. Oliver’s Twist looks hazy and warm. The color reminds me of dried apricots. I can see just a handful of bubbles when I look closely. 

Aromas: minerals, citrus, ripe apple

This cider smells like lemons, ripe apples, and crushed rocks. I’m definitely anticipating both acidity and tannins based on these aromas.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry cider that delivers in every facet. If you expect sweetness, you won’t find it. You will find everything else.

Flavors and drinking experience: sharply tart, tannic, funky, and tropical

I love a tart cider that’s practically bouncing with sharp yet not abrasive acid. Oliver’s Twist fits that description perfectly. This cider is awesomely acidic and terrifically tannic. I love that the cider can work both of those angles with intensity.

Oliver’s Twist helps keep that balance by bringing lots of bubbles and citrus zing. I love how very lemony the cider tastes. It is mildly funky but not dirty. The wildness reminds me of savory herbs. The most surprising element in the whole experience is how Oliver’s Twist leaves my palate with a tropical fruit finish. It was citrus, tannins, and bubbles up until the very end and then the pineapple and star fruit arrived! 

I saved this bottle for a special meal: cranberry and hazelnut veggie roast, balsamic Brussels sprouts, cider dressing, mashed potatoes, spicy Delicata squash, cranberry relish, rolls and gravy. I needed a cider exactly like this: exciting, zesty, dry, bubbly and super flavorful. My meal was rich, salty, spicy, sweet, with just a little bit of tart. I needed to bring sour but not solely sour to the table. Oliver’s Twist managed to have body, bubbles, complexity and plenty of sour tartness to enliven each aspect of the meal. It was a treat, and I’m glad I opened it when I did. 

What delightful ciders have you been saving in your cellar? Now would be a great time to re-acquaint yourself with them! 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Cider Review: Haykin Family Cider's Reserve Niedzwetzkyana

Last Friday, I looked out my office window to see bright golden afternoon sunshine, an and by the time I made it to the front door, a snow squall was blowing through. We’ve entered the shifting and sporadic path to Winter. We’re not there yet, but it’s on the horizon. Though we cannot hibernate properly, I’m looking forward to some human hibernation-imitating activities. One of my favorites is holing up at home with dear ones, dear pets, a good meal and a good cider. Preferably followed by a movie. This past Saturday, I got to do exactly that. 

Woody chose Haykin Family Cider's Reserve Niedzwetzkyana for us. The vivid red color and the unfamiliar name were intriguing, and everyone in my house has loads of respect for everything Haykin Family Cider puts out. It’s a Colorado based cidery and family business, making truly exciting ciders that win loads of awards. 

2018 Method Ancestrale Ela Family Farms Cuvee: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/09/cider-review-haykin-family-ciders-2018.html

Harrow Pear: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/06/perry-reviews-haykin-family-ciders.html

I recommend visiting the cidery website to learn more: https://www.haykinfamilycider.com/.

Today I’m sharing my notes on Haykin Family Cider’s Reserve Niedzwetzkyana. This cider is a  single-varietal from Niedzwetzkyana apples with 8.1% ABV. HEre’s the official description

Niedzwetzkyana is an ancient apple - originating from Central Asia, near the birthplace of all apples. One of the earliest red-flesh apples to exist, both the flesh and core are a striking shade of crimson. This highly aromatic drink leads with fresh, bright acidity followed by tart cherries, cranberries, light baking spices, chalky minerality and a soft, tannic finish. 100% Niedzwetzkyana apples grown by CiderView Orchards. This cider is dry.

Appearance: pink mousse, deep ruby color, visible bubbles

Wow! This cider looks a stunner! It pours with a tall pink mousse—lots of foam that dissipates. I’ve almost never seen such a thing. The  Reserve Niedzwetzkyana is beautifully and completely deep ruby red, like the inside of a ripe strawberry in color. I can see plenty of bubbles as well. I’m so glad that Haykin Family Cider uses clear glass for this bottle. This cider deserves to be seen!

Aromas: minerals, dried fruit, autumn leaves, baking spices

The  Reserve Niedzwetzkyana smells minerally with strong presences of dried fruit, autumn leaves, tea, and spices.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This cider is bone dry. You could use this cider as an emblematic example of a fully dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, brightly high acid, floral, cherry, bold

I am in awe. This cider is bold and different and delicious. At first, the Reserve Niedzwetzkyana tastes deep and low: a pow of tannins hits immediately. Then I start to perceive acids—strong, bright acids. I can taste sour cherry notes, but nothing about the cider is sweet. The overall impression I get is intensity that holds together well. The cider tastes Floral but bold, like bark more than like petals. This breaks all expectations of a rosé cider; nothing is pastel or gentle here. The cider is red and assertive, turned up to 11 but all-natural and balanced by fiat. I adore how adventurous it tastes; this is an everything-forward cider. And it’s delicious.

The Reserve Niedzwetzkyana brings an angular mouthfeel, medium viscosity and a high level of sparkle to the drinking experience. This is a cider to savor with something strong an creamy like a soft cheese with some funk and good sturdy wheat crackers. 

What a treat!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Cider Review: South Hill Cider's Sunlight Transformed

As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving, I want to mention how grateful I am for my friends. I’m grateful for so many things, but friends make every part of life better. Without them, I certainly couldn’t run this blog, but there are so many things that wouldn’t be the same without the shared knowledge, experience, and support of good friends. And dear friends saved this very special cider to share with me.

South Hill Cider has to be one of my local favorites. Founder Steve Selin helps to anchor the Finger Lakes cider scene with a beautiful lineup of ciders and a full calendar of events that keep the cidery hopping. If you’re curious about South Hill Cider and don’t live locally, South Hill has a cider club! 

Here’s how South Hill introduces the cidery’s home orchard.


Our home orchard started out as a collaboration with an adjoining landowner who permitted us to plow his fallow fields and to plant it to apple trees. This land, being only 4 miles from downtown Ithaca, is under intense development pressure. So, in an effort to protect it from subdivision and development in perpetuity, we successfully have it protected by a conservation easement. We have never applied synthetic chemicals to the farm and use only organic certified inputs.

Here’s the rundown of all of my earlier reviews for South Hill Ciders.  

Packbasket 15’: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/01/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html

South Hill Cider’s Tasting Room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/09/south-hill-ciders-tasting-room-and.html

Prelude #3: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/12/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-prelude.html

Prelude #7: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/07/cider-review-aeppeltreow-scarlett-rosey.html

Bluegrass Russet: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/04/cider-review-sea-ciders-ruby-rose-and.html

Finger Lakes Cider pairing dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

My top cider of 2016, the Stone Fence Farm: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-stone.html

2014 Packbasket: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/04/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-2014.html

And my first review for them was the hyper-limited Hypothesis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html

I recommend visiting the South Hill cider website to learn all about the cidery, the ciders, and fun upcoming events: https://www.southhillcider.com/

Today’s review is the super-limited club selection: Sunlight Transformed. One of my dear friends is a member of South Hill’s club, and she held it back for a few weeks until we could get together to enjoy a special cider with snacks.

Here’s the description, 

      Sunlight Transformed

      ABV 7.8%

      This co-ferment is a blend of Dabinett apples and Cab Franc grape skins. The grape skins were from        Bloomer Creek in Hector and the apples from Bob Norris in Wolcott. After the grapes were pressed        we added them to some fresh pressed Dabinett juice. The result is a rich and textured pet-nat with a        lot of natural pectin. The artwork is by Erika Medina, a neighbor who shares a fascination of fruit,           cycles, and nature. Tasting notes: clove, nutmeg, watermelon, rich, full-bodied, earthy, sweet                  tobacco, cola, negroni

And for a little bit of background, I want to link to a definition of petillant naturel: https://www.foodandwine.com/wine/what-exactly-is-a-pet-nat

There aren’t that many Petillant Naturel ciders for sale, relative to the size of the cider market, which makes finding each one extra exciting! Let’s see how this wild and bubbly cider tastes.

Appearance: cloudy, mulberry, bubbles

This cider looks unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s extremely cloudy and a deep mulberry color. There are just a few visible bubbles at the rim of the glass. There could be more bubbles deep in the glass, but the cider is so dark and opaque it’s hard to tell.

Aromas: malt, cinnamon, grape, baking spice, VA

The wildness of this cider is the first impression it gives. Sunlight Transformed flowers with just a little bit of volatile acidity. Other prominent notes include malt, overripe apples, cinnamon, grape, and baking spices. It’s funky and not necessarily in a familiar way. The cider doesn’t smell just like a spanish-style funky cider or a UK funky cider. Sunlight Transformed smells fresh, fruity, and tangy.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This cider has almost more flavors than can be counted or identified, but none of them come from perceivable sweetness. It's difficult to know how much sugar is chemically present because the acidity and bitterness complicate tasting any sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: bitter, rich, fruity, funky, tannic

Sunlight Transformed cast a spell over everyone gathered at our table. We loved its bitterness, richness, and complexity. This cider is fascinating! Waves of fruit and velvety tannins and high acidity just wash over the palate. It brings spices, full body, and complexity. The funkiness that I sensed in the cider’s aromas are mellow in its flavors. There are so many flavors!

Sunlight Transformed is off the charts good! I think it's the combination of intense apple and grape fruitiness with bracing bitterness. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Cider Review: Black Diamond Farm and Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Black is Gold

It has been far too long since I’ve gotten to share anything by Redbyrd Orchard Cider, and even Black Diamond Cider hasn’t graced the blog recently enough. I was thrilled to learn of their first annual collaboration: Black is Gold. 

Black Diamond Farm and Redbyrd Orchard Cider both anchor the Finger Lakes cider scene; they are each based nearest to Trumansburg, New York. You can find plenty of introductory info on both orchards and cideries in earlier entries. I encourage you to go back and check them out. Both of these ciders are special endeavors that produce delicious ciders. 

Here’s my list of Redbyrd Orchard Cider reviews:

Celeste Sur Lie 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/10/redbyrd-orchard-ciders-celeste-sur-lie.html

The Andromeda Crab: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

Their presence at an all FLX pairing dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

The North Star: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

The Starblossom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html

The Dry Harvest Cider 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-reddbyrd-2013-harvest-cider.html

The Wild Pippin (my #1 cider of 2014, the Wild Pippin): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-redbyrd-orchard-ciders.html

Visit Redbyrd Orchard Cider online here: https://redbyrdorchardcider.com/

And the full rundown of Black Diamond Cider Reviews:

Black Diamond Cider's 2018 Rosé: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/09/cider-review-eden-ciders-peak-bloom-and.html

Shin Hollow: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-mountain-west-ciders-sweet.html

Jaywalker: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/03/cider-review-alpenfires-dungeness-and.html

Geneva Tremlett’s: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-black-diamonds-geneva.html

Somerset Jersey: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/05/very-perry-may-with-vandermills-ice-ice.html

Slatestone: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-big-hill-ciderworks.html

Hickster: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-black-diamond-ciders.html

Porter’s Pommeau: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

Solstice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/08/cider-review-black-diamonds-solstice.html

Rabblerouser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-black-diamonds.html

Learn more about Black Diamond Cidery online here: https://www.blackdiamondcider.com/

The B I G Project: A Collaboration Cider is called Black is Gold. Here’s how the label describes the cider.

Black is Gold

Semi-dry Carbonated Cider

The B I G Project: An Annual Collaboration from Black Diamond Farm and Redbyrd Orchard

Made with love and care in support of the fight for racial equity and justice

The first year a blend of Goldrush, Tremlett’s Bitter, Wickson Crab, Harrison, Dabinett, Roxbury Russet, Black Oxford, Suncrisp, Razor Russet.

8.0% Alc/vol 750ml 

Appearance: shining gold, brilliant, few visible bubbles

This cider looks warm, shining, and totally brilliant. The color is a toasty gold. I can see some bubbles; they are very active and tiny. What instant appeal!

Aromas: lemon, baked apple, peach, breadcrumbs, minerals

It was fun picking out aroma notes in the Black is Gold. I noticed lemon, bread crumbs and minerality. One of my co-tasters zeroed in on the baked apple and ripe peach notes. The cider smells cleanly inviting and fruit but complex.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

The Black is Gold tastes semi-dry: exactly as the label said it would. I get enough sweetness to open up the layers of flavor and fruit but not more than that. The sweetness isn’t distracting at all.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, tannic, high acid, tropical fruit, citrus, balanced

This cider! Oh my goodness, I love this. The Black is Gold blooms into a full lush experience centering on tropical fruit, sweet citrus, and juicy acidity. The cider is delightfully bubbly too. The  tannic presence helps to anchor the cider, maintaining a sophisticated sense of balance.

What a complete delight! The tropical fruit notes keep me coming back for more sips, and the ciders lovely clean finish just keeps making me smile.  I’m really digging this collaboration. The Black is Gold brings everything I enjoy to the experience: tart clean citrus, awesome bubbles, structural tannins, and enjoy fruit to keep everything fun and lively. 

We paired the cider with pasta, marinara sauce, and homemade veggie meatballs. Having all of the lightness from the bubbles and cutting acidity made for a remarkably good pairing. This cider is something special!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Cider Review: Wild State's Triple Berry

I always greet November with both sighs and smiles. No upcoming holiday can hold a candle to Halloween and all the spooky fun it entails, plus this is frequently the month when the weather around here goes from being cute and quaint to rather more glum. To the contrary, November is my birthday month. This year is a big one. And pairing ciders for the Thanksgiving holiday feast is always a treat, but it’s still a bit early to get excited for that. 

Today’s cider is my second sip from Wild State cider. I chose it to go with my last Halloween hurrah: a double-feature of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and "Snoop and Martha's Very Tasty Halloween." We stayed in, hoping for trick-or-treaters, but alas we got none. Still, we enjoyed some candy, and I wanted a fruity cider as accompaniment. Voila!

I started with the Semi-dry recently. You’ll find more background info on the company there: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/10/cider-review-wild-state-ciders-semi-dry.html

You can also visit Wild State online and learn lots more there: https://www.wildstatecider.com/ciders

Here’s what Wild State says about the Triple Berry.

“This blend of fresh locally sourced berries is the ultimate in refreshing, sunny drinks. A perfectly balanced fruit forward semi-dry to sip all summer and beyond

Triple Berry was crafted with fresh blueberries and raspberries from Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield, WI and strawberries from Uffda Organics in Wrenshall, MN.”

The cider is listed at 6.3% ABV and does not describe what apples go into this blend. 

Appearance: brilliant, watermelon pink, few visible bubbles 

This is such a fun color. I love how the Triple berry looks fresh, ripe and fun.the color reminds me of watermelon. I wish I was taking the pictures with natural light, but drinking cider at 7pm these days is just dark! The cider is brilliant with very few visible bubbles. 

Aromas: ripe apple, raspberry, and strawberry

The Triple Berry smells like ripe apple, raspberry and strawberry. I appreciate how strong the berry notes are. What I’m getting makes me think of the fresh soft texture of berries.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

While the Triple Berry is semi dry rather than semi-sweet, it is on the sweeter and fruitier side of semi-dry. The sweetness that’s here comes across as very jammy berry sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, blueberry, lots of fruit, low bubble, tannic

The Triple Berry cider brings high acid as a first taste impression. I also notice how the cider’s crisp and tannic qualities are pleasantly contrasted by just a bit of jammy sweetness. The whole package is fun! In terms of texture the cider sparkles at a medium low level and has medium mouthfeel. 

I tried it from my glass and from the can to see what would change. I can taste more blueberry notes from the can whereas raspberry and strawberry dominate from the glass. The cider makes a great pairing with milk chocolate candy like: Cookies and Cream Twix, Peanut Brownie Snickers, and Miniature Reese’s Cups. While these are not foods I pair with cider regularly, I appreciate having something light, tarty and fruity with the creamy mildness of milk chocolate. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cider Review: Stormalong's Bittersweet Symphonie

I need something cozy, cider friends! It’s time for veggie chili, warm blankets, scary movies and rich satisfying cider. This shift to dark chilly mornings still feels very new to me, but I know it’s time to settle in for a long season or two of blustery weather. That’s why I knew it was time to break out a can of Stormalong Cider’s Bittersweet Symphonie.

Stormalong Cider was kind enough to share this cider with me as a review sample. As always, review samples are much appreciated but do not sway my opinion of a cider or necessarily guarantee a review. I do try to review as much as I can though. Stormalong is based in Massachusetts, where this company has been making cider since 2014. I’ve reviewed almost as many of Stormalong’s ciders as I’ve tasted. The cidery’s range of styles is impressive as is the consistent quality. I think of Stormalong as a reliable favorite, and I look forward to new releases.

Check out Stormalong Cider online and see new releases and info on all things Stormalong: http://stormalong.com/.

Here’s the rundown of my Stormalong reviews.

Wicked Little Wickson: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/08/cider-review-stormalongs-wicked-little.html

Winesap: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/04/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-winesap.html

Happy Holidays: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/11/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-happy.html

Esopus Spitzenburg: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-ravens-moon-craft-ciders.html

Ashmead’s Kernel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/07/cider-review-brannland-just-cider-and.html

Peariful: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-fortis.html

Legendary Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

Kingston Black: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/08/cider-reviews-ninepin-light-cider.html

Light of the Sun: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Mass Appeal: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-prospect-ciderworks.html

Boston Heirloom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-boston.html

I knew to be excited about this cider because it won big at GLINTCAP. Bittersweet Symphonie got 3rd place Best in Class 2021 in Traditional Dry and took a Gold medal. That’s a great category and a high honor, so I’m hoping for something wonderful.  

Here’s Stormalong’s official description for the Bittersweet Symphonie:

This cider is made with a blend of British bittersweet cider apples that are high in tannin and low in acid. This batch is finished in the French style where some cider is left unfermented retaining residual sweetness.

FLAVOR: Rich, Complex Tannins, Finishing with a Hint of Sweet Apple Flavor

APPLES: Ashton Bitter, Ellis Bitter, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Chisel Jersey

The website shows the cider clocking in with a sweetness level between dry and medium dry. 

Appearance: bright caramel, brilliant, intense color, few visible bubbles

This cider looks like a brilliant bright caramel. The Bittersweet Symphonie brings intense color but few bubbles to the pour. I recommend pouring it into a glass rather than drinking it from the can. This cider is too pretty to hide!

Aromas: apple sauce, spices, caramel

This smells like mellow homemade applesauce gentle spiced with baking spices. I get notes of caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

The Bittersweet Symphonie  is almost semi-sweet, but I think it comes out semi-dry in the end. 

Flavors and drinking experience: cooked apples,  custard, vanilla, tannic

What a lovely and gentle ride. This cider is mellow yet tannic. It has enough acid to keep from going floppy, but it’s never pointed. I love how the Bittersweet Symphonie is balanced yet dynamic. The experience changes and rolls across my palate, but it’s not jarring.

I can taste so much of what I smelled: applesauce, baking spices and caramel. The extra dimension is very much one of rich and full mouthfeel. I’m completely into this! The finish is long and lovely. The bubbles lift up the layers of flavor, but they don’t ever dominate the experience. 

I paired my cider with the last session of my online legend tripping class. A complex cider like this does go well with thoughtful camaraderie, curiosity, and expanding one’s worldview! It could also go beautifully with a tray of roasted veggies, sharp cheddar, and hearty bread. It’s a winner either way! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Cider Review: Wild State Cider's Semi-Dry

We’re almost a month into Fall here in the Northern Hemisphere, but sunny days with highs in the 70s are still occasionally surprising us. Since so much of the summer was cool and rainy, I’m not going to complain overmuch. These sunny days are tremendously pleasant, and I find them perfect for enjoying a cider on my porch. That’s exactly what I did with Wild State Cider’s Semi-Dry.

Wild State Cider comes from Minnesota. The cidery is based in Duluth with a spot that hosts both production and a tap room. You can visit the cidery seven days a week. The company takes its identity from the notion of wildness. The founders Adam Ruhland and Andrew Price both make a point to speak about their connections with nature in their professional bios on the Wild State website. And the company’s most prominent slogan is “Naturally good cider” going on to emphasize what they do not add to their cider: concentrate, sweeteners, sorbates, and interestingly, compromises. It’s a clear vision, and I’m excited to see how that translates to taste.

I’m starting with the Semi-dry as it’s one of the flagship ciders. It was shared with me for review, so my thanks to the folks at Wild State! This is my first Wild State Cider review.

Read more for yourself online here: https://www.wildstatecider.com/ciders

Here’s how Wild State describes the Semi-dry online, “This is where it all started - a crisp cider with champagne vibes. 6.4% ABV, 165 calories and only 3g sugar.” And I was able to find just a bit more description elsewhere online, “Our original cider, Semi Dry is a staple in the taproom. Light floral, crisp, hint of spice.” 

Appearance: brilliant, goldenrod, bubbly

The color reminds me of the goldenrod blooms that I’m still seeing in the edge of gardens and forests. The cider is brilliant and bubbly with a medium intensity of color.

Aromas: mineral, ripe apple, anticipating tannins

I’m tantalized by the limestone mineral aroma, it’s slightly bitter. I get instant acids and tannins on the smell. It’s not exactly that I smell them directly, but something about what I smell leads me to expect them. I wish I could articulate that better. What I do smell are notes of  sun-warmed apples. It’s approachable and appealing. 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

Wild State says semi-dry, and it's legitimately off-dry. Nice work. I am very used to hearing that a cider is quite a bit drier than what I taste. I appreciate that it doesn't have the usual commercial inflation of dryness.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, high tannins, spruce, woody 

Oooh, complex! The Semi-dry tastes bitter but pleasant! The whole experience feels full and low in the mouth. The cider brings a different acid profile than I'm used to. These acids are present and blend with carbonation effortlessly, but are not the bright pointed malic notes that I taste most either in canned ciders or the more austere sharp acids of northeastern dry ciders.

I taste no sourness; the Semi-dry is beautifully clean in its fermentation. There are woody notes and a little spruce too. The cider has a very nice filling mouthfeel and a clean, tannic finish. 

I paired this cider with veggie pizza and it cuts through fats like a knife. What a wonderful pairing for anything cheesy. I cannot recommend that enough! This is a lovely cider, and I’m excited to taste the rest of what Wild State makes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cider Review: Stowe Cider's Brain Waves Key Lime Pie

I’ve not travelled often or far lately, it’s true. I’ve been both busy at home and cautious. My trip to Michigan for GLINTCAP was definitely the biggest trip of 2021 so far, and it’s likely to stay that way. But I do find other kinds of exploration, including an online class through Morbid Anatomy about contemporary folklore and legend tripping. Last week, our teacher encouraged us to bring a tasty beverage to the last half of class, and I was happy to comply. I chose to bust out a can of Brain Waves: Key Lime Pie by Stowe Cider.

Stowe cider comes to us from Stowe, Vermont. The company maintains a small core of cider styles that are always available, but the majority of the offerings are seasonal, limited, or collaborative. Stowe Cider makes adventurous choices, often pushing the boundaries of what has been tried in cider. 

Here are all of Stowe Ciders’ previous appearances on the blog.

Gin and Juice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/07/cider-review-stowe-ciders-gin-and-juice.html

Juniper Sessions: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/11/cider-review-stowe-ciders-juniper.html

High and Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-grand-illusion-hard-cider.html

Local Infusion Snow’s Raspberry Hard Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

My 2016 visit to the tasting room as part of my Great Vermont Cider Tour: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-1.html

I recommend visiting Stowe Cider’s website to learn more: https://www.stowecider.com/home

Brain waves is a line of one time experiments by Stowe cider. I was stoked to try the Key lime pie after reading about it. Key Lime Pie is one of my favorite desserts in the world; I am practically obsessed. Stowe Cider did share this sample with me for review, so many thanks! Samples do not however sway my opinion or even guarantee a review. I’m afraid that my review queue is a bit full at the moment!

Here’s the description that caught my eye. 

“Cider fermented with Suzie-Uie gluten free graham cracker crumbs, key lime, coconut, & brown sugar. 6% ABV”

Appearance: Cloudy, floating bits, lemon curd

The cider really looks wild. As the picture shows, it’s totally cloudy. Where my hand is on the back of the glass, none of that is visible through the cider. The color reminds me of lemon curd. There are little floaty bits as well; that could be lime flesh, crumbs of graham cracker, or tiny bits of coconut. With this cider, anything is possible!

Aromas: Lime, apple, graham cracker, and coconut

Key Lime Pie smells emphatically like lime! I do get other notes, including some ripe apple, coconut, and graham cracker. The lime is what dominates though.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi dry

It’s a little hard to tell how sweet this is because this cider’s acidity is off the charts. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Lime, graham, apple, but mostly lime

The Brain Waves Key Lime Pie tastes mostly of fresh limes, but like with the aromas, I do get notes of apple and graham as well. The coconut disappears though. The drinking experience goes more purely lime as I keep sipping. It’s a full-bodied cider, which I really like. The acidity is delightfully intense. I did share this cider with a couple of fellow tasters, and I was the most fond of it. I think it will be more popular with devoted fans of lime!

This cider was a fabulous pairing with popcorn and fun spooky learning. I kept the snack simple, so my brain could be free to absorb the cool class!