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.