Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cider Review: Awestruck Cider's Winter Solstice

This is the last post going live in February. It’s wintry now, but, before too terribly long, we’ll start to see some creeping signs of Spring. But for today, it’s snow, ice and gray skies. That certainly guided me to this week’s choice of ciders. I needed something extra rich and cozy.

When I saw Awestruck Ciders’ Winter Solstice at a local grocery store, I seized it immediately. Last year, I tried it but didn’t manage to get a review, so I jumped at this chance. Awestruck is a regional cidery, based out of Sydney, New York. The company was founded by Casey Vitti and Patti Wilcox. I first ran across Awestruck at The Gathering of the New York Farm cideries in Albany several years ago.

I have reviewed a few Awestruck ciders previously. Here’s the full list. 

Viking Sahti: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/04/cider-review-california-caboose-ciders.html

Hibiscus Ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-awestruck-premium-hard.html This cider made my top ten in 2015!

Dry Apple + Oak: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/10/cider-review-kite-and-strings-rose-17.html

Hometown Homicider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-reviews-woodchuck-ciders-bubbly.html

I encourage you to learn more by visiting Awestruck online: https://www.awestruckciders.com/Index

Now for my cozy time with Winter Solstice. I love the official description. 

A cider for long, cold nights.

6.8% ABV

750ml Bottle

Some of us here at Awestruck think winter is the best. Most of us don't. So we set out to concoct an elixir that could transform arctic dark and dreary into a magical wonderland of glittery snowflakes and cozy fireplaces. Just like the night sky in winter, this cider is endlessly dark and sparkling. Made with a luscious blend of apples and blackcurrants, each sip offers a bouquet of flavor and color sure to awaken your hibernating senses.

Appearance: Intense color, pinot noir, transparent no visible bubbles

This cider shocked me when I poured it. The color is among the most intense I’ve ever seen. It looks like a cold-climate pinot noir in the glass. I don’t see visible bubbles either. 

Aromas: Sugared plums, minerals, dust, black cherry, apple and raspberry

Whoa! The Winter Solstice smells like sugared plums! Now I’m thinking about Christmas all of a sudden The cider smells aggressively minerally and dusty. Also, there are notes of black cherry, raspberry apple and definitely black currant. The aromas are medium in their intensity. I don’t have to put my nose in the glass to find them, but they don’t come wafting up to me either.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This cider is sweet! But nicely so.

Flavors and drinking experience: big mouthfeel, high acid, blackberry, apple, and currant

The Winter Solstice is a bold and enveloping cider. I feel scooped up and held in a furry warm hug. The cider brings high acid, big mouthfeel, and a rich sweetness along with lots of fruit flavors. The cider offers bountiful blackberry and apple notes along with lots of wild and tangy black currant.

I love what an exuberant cider this is! It does feel warming, playful, and cozy. It’s sweeter than I would want most of the time, but I understand the need for this cider to be emphatic in all directions, including sweetness. If you see this limited edition cider, scoop one up and try it! I paired mine with the latest episode of WandaVision and some tasty popcorn, highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Cider Review: Forward Ferments' Bare Brut

By the time this post goes live, we’ll be more than halfway through February. It's such an odd month: short but it feels endless. It’s cold (in many places I’ve lived)  but some years February is when we get a strange 1-3 days of thaw or a massive snowstorm. So far this year, we’re leaning towards snowstorm. I can’t say that I’m a fan, but I can tell that we’re getting longer days. That’s unabashedly wonderful. This is the setting for a review of one of my last remaining ciders snagged at GLINTCAP in 2019. Here’s my review of Forward Cider's Bare Brut.

Foward Ferments is a cider and other beverages project coming out of Wisconsin. The brand also has a foot in Chicago. The beverage maker is Alec Steinmetz. It has a young orchard. I know the company works with a mix of local and imported fruit, while the orchard matures.

Instead of maintaining a website, Forward Ferments, relies on social media. You can see updates to Facebook about the latest projects here: https://www.facebook.com/forwardcider/

I’ve reviewed one cider by Forward Ferments before, the PenPal: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-scrumpy-ewes-golden-crab.html

Unfortunately, it means I wasn’t able to find a lot of information about this cider. The label calls it still and dry. I did fine some info about Forward Ferments and cider maker Alec Steinmetz here: https://www.jsonline.com/story/life/food/2020/03/17/forward-cider-wants-educate-wisconsinites-how-hard-cider-should-taste/4830416002/

So here’s what I thought of Forward Ferments’ Bare brut.

Appearance: hazy, cedar wood, few visible bubbles

I love how intense this color looks! It reminds me of the color of cedar wood. I’ll call the cider hazy as it has a bit of soft haze in terms of its opacity. I can see just a few bubbles around the ring of the glass, not many.

Aromas: reductive, dusty, overripe apple, low acid

What an interesting set of aromas. The Bare Brut smells of overripe apples, but the smell isn’t too intense. Something in this bouquet makes me think the cider will be medium or lower in intensity, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on where that is coming from. There’s a bit of reductive funkiness, which I know will excite some cider drinkers. I also get some notes of dust and wood.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider that has a whole carousel of flavors, none of which come from sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, funky, barrel-y, medium low acid, soft finish

The Bare Brut will shock many american cider drinkers; it’s just so different. To me, some of these elements remind me of some drier UK or French ciders. This cider is tannic with medium low acidity. It’s not an exact match with international profiles, but that feels like the inspiration to me. I did find it petillant rather than still as the label led me to expect. I’m also seeing that influence in the funkiness. The Bare Brut tastes wild. I love that it’s different. The profile suits a cold winter night and a dessert with dark chocolate ganache.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Cider Review: Embark Craft Ciderworks' Strawberry Rhubarb

I try not to get ahead of myself and spend my time only looking toward the future, but that can happen in winter. I’m afraid I saw something springy on the grocery store shelves and just went for it. We’re having earlier mornings and sunsets after 5pm, so I’m allowed to think spring just a little. Today, I’m sharing my notes on Embark Ciderworks’ Strawberry Rhubarb.

Embark is a regionally local cider here in central New York. The company is based outside of Rochester, New York on a multiple-generation family farm and orchard. The cider is masterminded by Jake Lagoner and Chris Gowan. The cidery crafts both traditional apple-only ciders and innovative blends, including a seasonal range of ciders. 

I’ve had the chance to review several Embark ciders. Here’s the list.

Apple Pie Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-embark-ciderworks-apple.html

The Northerner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/12/cider-review-silo-cider-semi-dry-and.html

Golden Russet Reserve: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/09/cider-review-embark-golden-russet.html

Crab Series #1: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/08/cider-review-embark-craft-ciderworks.html

The American Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/01/cider-review-embark-craft-ciderworks.html

Embark’s website is a great place to learn more about the ciders: https://embarkcraftciderworks.com/

Here’s the official description of the Strawberry Rhubarb. 

We ferment our farmhouse blend of apples and then age it on whole sweet juicy strawberries and tart rhubarb that we grow right on our farm. This cider is truly the first tastes of summer in a glass. 5.3% ABV.

Appearance: palest sunrise peach, transparent, bubbly

What a lovely cider! The Strawberry Rhubarb is transparent, showing off plenty of sparkle. The color reminds me of the gentles peach notes of sunrise.

Aromas: fresh strawberry, Strawberry Jam, sugared rhubarb

These smells do make me think of Spring. The Strawberry Rhubarb cider smells like fresh strawberry, shading into strawberry jam. And I get notes of sugared rhubarb. All in all, the aromas remind me of strawberry rhubarb pie, dry grass with a firm background of apple. My mouth waters after sniffing this cider!

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet cider

Embark’s Strawberry Rhubarb cider tastes semi-sweet and so jammy and fruity!

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium tannins, apple, strawberry, peach, and  rhubarb notes

All fruits I smelled are totally evident in how this cider tastes. I am completely into it! This cider brings excitement with it’s high acid dance of apple, strawberry, rhubarb, and peach! I appreciate the minerality, acidity, and even some tannins. The cider tastes more tart than one expects from the aroma.

This cider is well balanced and fun! I love the spring fruit flavors. As for pairing, this brought out the nutmeg and spices in our pumpkin cheesecake. It was perhaps a bit strange to pair a fall dessert with a spring cider, but it tasted wonderful this way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Cider Review: Tilted Shed Ciderwork's Wickson

It’s almost CiderCon! I’m so glad to have a chance soon to see my faraway friends in the cider world and spend three days immersed in all aspects of the cider industry. There will be panels and talks on fermentation, marketing, distribution, and all other elements of the cider business. This year everything is digital and so much more affordable than ever before. And I’m so curious to learn how they’ll run a virtual trade show with vendors. From what I’ve seen of the set up, it’s going to be different more fun than just another Zoom meeting!

If you’ve not heard enough from me, find out more here: https://ciderassociation.org/cidercon2021/ 

Plus folks will have the chance to taste and think about what gives UK ciders their particular profile in a tasting and discussion with Gabe Cook (https://www.theciderologist.com/) and myself!

But for now, I’m happy to share my notes on a single-varietal cider made from my favorite apple for cider making! I’m talking about the 2018 batch of Tilted Shed Ciderworks’ Wickson: made from Wickson Crabapples.

Tilted shed is wonderfully apple-centric yet inventive west-coast cidery. The company was founded in Sonoma county, California in 2011. They have a cider club and currently are offering to-go cider sales. 

Visit Tilted Shed online to learn more: https://www.tiltedshed.com/

Here’s my rundown of previous Tilted Shed cider reviews.

Inclinado: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/10/cider-review-tilted-shed-ciderworks.html

Love's Labor (my 2nd favorite cider of 2020): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/06/cider-reviews-grisamore-cider-fillmore.html

Lost Orchard: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-tilted-shed-ciderworks.html

Barred Rock Barrel Aged Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/04/reviewing-ciders-for-winter-tilted-shed.html

January Barbecue Smoked Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/reviewing-ciders-for-winter-tilted.htm

Now for the 2018 Wickson description, “Single orchard, single variety California’s famous crabapples dry farmed in Sebastopol by Vulture Hill Orchard Pressed in season + wild yeasts bottle conditioned so chill well” 9% ABV.

Appearance: saffron yellow, clear to hazy, depending on pour, visible bubbles

This cider has a wonderful intensity of color. This leads me to expect a similar intensity in flavor: marvelous. The different glasses of this cider have slightly different levels of clarity. The first two glasses pour with total transparence but that gets a bit more hazy toward the end of the bottle. 

Aromas: Leathery, funky, woody and smoky and peach notes

Mmm! Excitement! I love ciders that bring bold aromas right to my nose! This cider smells leathery, funky, woody and smoky. The combination of a crabapple and wild fermentation done just right. I love thought that even this wild beast still brings peach notes in its bouquet. My anticipation is through the roof by now.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a straight up dry cider. Perfect.

Flavors and drink experience: high acid, medium high tannins, creamy, peach, funky finish

Everything I was hoping for based on the aromas in this cider are coming to fruition in these flavors. The Wickson is enticing and exciting with high acid. The cider brings heft and structure with medium levels of tannins. It’s a nice balance with a creamy mouthfeel and lots of the peach and plum notes that were hinted at in the cider’s aroma.

This cider also sticks the landing with a long funky (but not too funky) finish. My co-taster and I agreed that this cider is exceptional. Something this pointedly acidic, dry, and wild might not be to all tastes, but it certainly pleases our palates! We paired this with a vegetarian shepherd’s pie and that pairing is wonderfully fun.