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!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Cider Review: Virtue Cider's Spitz

Fall is showing a strange facet this week; it’s warm and rainy. Much of the summer was the same way, so this feels like a look back at the season just passed. But it’s still Fall, the season of apples. That’s the perfect time to review Virtue Cider’s Spitz and introduce Virtue’s Cider Society. 

Virtue Cider comes to us all from Michigan. This cidery was founded in 2011; congrats on turning 10 Virtue! Greg Hall started this cidery after his tenure at Goose Island Brewing. Today, Virtue cider has three cider houses and an array of farm animals, including pigs and chickens. 

I’ve reviewed several Virtue Ciders in the past. Here’s the rundown. 

Pear: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-virtue-ciders-pear-and.html

Michigan Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/02/cider-review-1911-rose-and-virtue.html

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

Brut: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/02/cider-review-citizen-ciders-tree-tapper.html

The Mitten Reserve: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-whitewood-cider-cos-olivia.html

Percheron: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-virtue-ciders-percheron.html

Ledbury: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-roundup-virtue-slyboro.html

The Mitten: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/05/cider-review-virtue-ciders-mitten-and.html

Red Streak: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

You can find out more about any of these ciders  and much more at Virtue’s website: https://www.virtuecider.com/

Part of what I want to do today is to introduce Virtue’s Cider Society!

This cider club will allow members to taste special small batch Virtue ciders that are not available to the wider public. The club ships four times a year, unlocks special discounts, gains member access to club events, and includes gift certificates in each box.  

Read all about it here: https://virtuecider.com/pages/cider-society.

I was lucky enough to receive a sample of October’s box with four new Virtue ciders: Spitz, Jonathan, Golden Russet, and Baldwin. These ciders highlight special apple varieties, hence being named after these four heirloom apples.  As you can see the package is stunning. I think this is such a treat, and would make an awesome gift for any cider lover in your life. 

I don’t have a lot of individual info about the Spitz, aside from it featuring that apple. It’s ABV is 7.3%, and it won a Silver medal at this past year’s GLINTCAP competition. I wish I knew more.

Appearance: Brilliant, warm straw, no visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider. The color classically resembles what I see most often described as warm straw. It’s brilliant and shining, but I don’t see visible bubbles in the glass.

Aromas: fusel oil, peach, minerals, ripe apple

The Spitz offers up an intensely inviting aroma. It reminds me of tart apples, peaches, minerals and just a bit of fusel oil. It smells tantalizing.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

Everyone tasting agreed that this cider is a semi-sweet. It’s fruity but not cloying. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Tannic, high acid, overripe apples, creamy

I appreciate it so much that the Spitz cider manages to taste tannic and pleasingly tart. The cider brings flavors of overripe apples, sweet cream, oranges, and peaches. None of the elements or flavors comes across as sharp or pointed; instead, the cider feels creamy in my mouth. The level of fizz is relatively low; I’d call it petillant rather than truly sparkling.

We paired this cider with two vegetarian pizzas from a beloved local pizza place I can’ t believe I’ve not yet tried. Takeout pizza is always a treat, but having this super-fresh delicious pizza with a wonderfully full-bodied cider was amazing.

I can’t wait to try the rest of the ciders in my October box from Virtue’s Cider Society!