Monday, December 26, 2022

My Favorite 10 Ciders of 2022

Finally! We’ve been holidaying for weeks; its time to wind down the year. Only a few more days remain in 2022. That means it’s also time for me to round up my favorite 10 ciders of the year. And though this isn't a year I expect to look back on fondly, I have some very happy cider memories. Mostly, I'm glad to that I got to see more cider friends than I have in a while and that I became a Pommelier in 2022. 

This favorites list is one of my favorite year-end traditions: the tenth time I’ve gathered such a list. I’m so happy to share again. But first, here are all of the earlier cider countdowns I’ve made. 

2021 Top 5:

2021: My 10-5 countdown:








First ever cider countdown from 2013:

And here’s a little bit about how it works. I choose only cider per company.  That’s not because no cider produces more than one absolute champion per year but I want to highlight ten different ciderys each year. Any cider I’ve reviewed in 2022 is eligible. I want to reiterate that these are my favorites; I have no illusions that my tastes are objective or universal. These are just ten ciders that wowed me the most this past year.  

10. Stormalong Cider - Pearman Quince (Massachusetts)

I remember tasting the Pearman Quince on a sweltering summer evening while exploring a space perhaps not strictly intended for cider exploration. The cider was barely bubbly but featured medium levels of tannins, aquatic flavor notes, a healthy dose of funk and fruity acidity. Stormalong created a fun and unusual cider in the Pearman Quince with lots of excitement brought by the addition of quince.

9. Wild Arc Farm - Apples (New York)

This Hudson Valley cider uses a blend of apples and pears, a natural fermentation, and very limited interventions like filtering or fining. Many of those choices increase the risk level when making a cider, and this cider still managed to end up incredible. The fruit, the time spent in oak plus all of the factors I mentioned above created a beautiful alchemy for deliciously balanced and integrated cider with a gorgeous strong sparkle. What a win!

8. West County Cider - Quince / Redfield Cortland (Massachusetts)

Lemon curd, pineapple, and homemade applesauce, what’s not to love here? The Quince Redfield Cortland is a semi-sweet cider with lots of aromatic quince in the mix,  bringing sparkling vivacity, high acidity, all supported by a solid base of medium tannins. 

7. Montana Ciderworks - Hopped Up Heritage (Montana)

This hoppy cider benefitted from taking hops seriously. The hops included add multiple dimensions of aroma and flavor. So much citrus aroma! The cider maker also chose to make this hopped cider semi-sweet, with notes that remind me of super-ripe apple, honey, and peach. I feel like many cider folks have tasted some unbalanced hopped ciders or don’t see the point of hopped cider, but a good one can really be a beautiful and complex beast. That’s exactly what I smelled and tasted in Montana Ciderworks Hopped Up Heritage.

6. Redbyrd Orchard Cider - Tompkins King / Stoke Red (New York)

I love a small blend. To me it seems the most logical stopping place for a cider maker who wants to show off the natural qualities of a few specific apples while also presenting a balanced beverage that’s complete and enjoyable on its own. This 5050 blend of Tompkins King and Stoke Red apples illustrates this wisdom amazingly. It’s got all the tannins, acidity, and aroma that one could want. I loved that this cider brings both gorgeous fruit notes and solid minerality. 

5. Absolem Cider Company - Ferryman (Maine)

The Ferryman by Absolem uses time spent in port barrels and pressed red wine grapes to create a shockingly soft cider. Both the flavors and the mouth feel were beguiling with complex tannins that sent along with some gentle fruit notes as well. This off dry cider is one shows off that use of port barrel and grape must in the aromas and flavors both, but without losing a distinct sense of apple stems and cores.

4. Big Hill Ciderworks - Barrel Aged Reserve (Pennsylvania)

Barrel aging can change everything about a cider. I’ve had ciders that lose a lot of apple characteristics because they are so dominated by barrel qualities, but Big Hill Barrel Aged Reserve doesn’t lose sight of the cider at all.  The cider’s aromas are all about ripe apples and the blunt clean woody side of barrel aging. This off-dry cider is zingy with medium tannins and tons of flavor. 

3. Black Diamond Cider - Perry (New York)

This pear cider is from one of my favorite local cideries: Black Diamond. I enjoyed this as part of the Black Diamond and Moosewood pairing dinner during New York Cider week. This pear cider does everything I love in a perry or pear blend: lively bubbles, grapefruit citrus notes, softness and high acid.

2. Big Fish Cider Co. - Punk and Henry (Virginia)

It’s no surprise that Big Fish makes some fantastic ciders. (I already have two sets of notes that will go live in 2023 that I’m very excited about.) Punk and Henry is all about softened autumn fruit in semi-dry cider that delivers high levels of fruity acids, along with high tannins, and notes of golden raisins, ripe apples and caramel. It is a glorious cider.

1. Snowdrift Cider Company - Red (Colorado)

Everything about the Red works for me. Actually, that’s underselling it, I love everything about this cider from Snowdrift. Its aromas of under-ripe strawberries, booze, and sweet orange were intriguing. It sparkles with verve and acid while still presenting fruity sweetness and some low but present tannin. The Red is a gorgeous cider that plays tremendously well with food. 

This was a hard list to create because I tasted far more than 10 delicious ciders this year. Thanks so much to all of the cider makers, apple growers, and other folks in the industry who work hard to help get utterly fantastic ciders from the tree into our glasses. May next year be even more sparkling with good times and good tastes. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Little Thicket Spruce Tip Cider

This is my last new cider review of the year. After this, I get to share my favorite 10 ciders of 2022, and then we’ll start a new year. On the one hand, I can scarcely believe it, while on the other I feel more than ready for a new fresh year. But first, a fresh new cider from Citizen Cider!

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Citizen Cider’s Little Thicket.

I found this cider at a local grocery, and I’m so glad that I did. Citizen Cider comes from Burlington, Vermont. They are a regional powerhouse that I often relish. I don’t always get access to the limited releases though. Here’s how Citizen Cider tells the origin story for the cidery. It highlights the focus on innovation and curiosity: two key elements of Citizen Cider.

Justin Heilenbach, Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson founded Citizen Cider in 2010 on a hunch and some good old-fashioned hard work. Kris was working as a wine salesmen, Bryan as a chemist and Justin as a small farmer. All discontent for one reason or another, they started pressing sweet cider in Kris’s barn and fermenting test batches of hard cider in Bryan’s basement. As it happens, they discovered that their ideas about hard cider translated into some pretty unique and interesting finished products.

It’s been a while since I last reviewed anything by Citizen Cider: too long really. Here’s the full list. 

For Shore:

Tree Tapper:

Northern Spy:

Sur Lies:


The Wood:

Companion Sour Cherry:

Wit’s Up:

Barrel Aged:

Citizen Cider bRosé:

My visit to Citizen Cider:

I also recommend Citizen Cider’s website. That’s the best spot to find out about all of the ciders:

What drew me to this cider is its use of spruce tips as an additional flavor. Here’s the full description. 

We are proud of being cidermakers in Vermont and look for ways to share the culture, history, and flavors of our little state. This limited edition cider is our way of sharing a piece of the green mountains with everyone. With a bright cherry nose and a rich, pine finish, this cider will transport you to a little thicket of trees, high in the mountains of Vermont. 5.3% ABV

Appearance: brilliant, pale straw, few visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider with a pale delicate straw color. I can see through the brilliant liquid clearly, but I don’t see a lot of bubbly action. 

Aromas: piney, herbal, aquatic, ripe apple, and blackberries

Oh fascinating! In some ways the Little Thicket’s smells remind me of some hopped ciders. It smells herbal, piney, and forested. The cider has more notes going on though than just those. It also smells piney without being either sweaty or soapy, both of which can happen with hopped ciders. Instead I get additional notes of ripe apple and blackberry along with something aquatic.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This cider is semi-sweet rather than the semi-dry to off-dry indicated by Citizen’s packaging. The sweetness tastes very fruity and natural. It might be too much for some cider fans, but the sweetness is well integrated.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: medium acid, petillant, clean, fruity and soft

The Little Thicket is a cleanly fermented cider with loads of fruit and herbal flavors. It’s pleasingly full bodied. The low level of visible bubbles was an accurate predictor of a petillant rather than strongly sparkly cider.

This semi-sweet cider brings medium acidity and plenty of ripe apple character. Rather like the aromas, in some ways it reminded me of a hopped cider, but in addition to tasting clean and green, the little thicket tastes soft somehow.

It was a delightful cider to have with a simple supper of rye bread, cream cheese, raw veggies, and smoked salmon. Many thanks to my delightful sister-in-law and her family for sending delicious PNW salmon our way! I like a sweet cider with intense flavors like the salt and smoke of the smoked salmon.

I’m glad I got a four-pack, because I’m looking forward to tasting the Little Thicket again!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Cider Review: Wyndridge Cider Co.'s Original

I can barely believe that this blog is going to turn ten years old next month! When I started, I had no idea how many amazing people I’d meet, how much I’d fall in love with orchards, and what a big big place the cider world is. What I knew then was that I loved cider and I appreciated tasting seriously. I had learned a bit about tasting carefully from jobs in both fine chocolate and high-end coffee. I did some research and took the plunge, and I’m so grateful for everything this blog has brought me. Stay tuned for celebrations in January!

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Wyndridge Cider Co.'s Original. I was able to pick this up in Pennsylvania when I was there for the PA Farm Show Cider competition last week. My only previous Wyndridge review is of the Gingerbread. Here’s the link.


Wyndridge Farm is a cider company with a tasting room and restaurant. The company also makes other craft beverages including beer and soda. Here’s how Wyndridge describes the cider company.

Wyndridge Cider Co. has become a staple hard cider brand constantly pushing the envelope to deliver quality and consistency through our portfolio of ciders. Pennsylvania apples are the main ingredient in our ciders as we partner with local farms to get only the best apples. Fermented cold and blended in small batches, our hard ciders are gluten free, made with real fruit and have no flavorings or additives. They are made on-site in the cidery at Wyndridge Farm, and have simple ingredients for a bright, crisp flavor.

 Wyndridge Cider Co. has this to say about the Original, "ADAMS COUNTY PA blend of Gold Rush, Stayman, Northern Spy and Jonagold apples. Full juice cider with bright acidity & off dry finish. ABV 6%."

Appearance: brilliant, bright warm gold, tiny bubbles 


This is a beautiful cider. It has complete shining transparency that can best be called brilliance. I can see a few very fine bubbles, but mostly the Original’s brilliance just showcases the intense warm gold color. 


Aromas: ripe apple, creamy, not intensely scented


Wyndridge’s original smells like ripe apple with a creamy element running through. It’s not a strong aroma; I had to seek out the notes rather than letting them come to me. 


Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet


The Original’s description mentions an off-dry finish, but I found the cider semi-sweet throughout. The cider’s sweetness feels well-integrated and crucial to the cider on the whole.


Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, clean fermentation, full body, strong sparkle


Wyndridge crafted the Original to have plenty of fresh and fruity acid to balance out its sweetness. The cider is delightfully brimming with pomme notes, dominated by apple and pear. There’s more fruit than just pommes; the Original makes me think of pineapple with its juicy tropical notes. 


I appreciate how full bodied and bubbly it is. Each element in this cleanly fermented cider has its counterbalance. That leaves the overall effect balanced and approachable. It’s an easy drinking and very satisfying cider for sure. I enjoyed mine with a salmon burger and asparagus; that’s a pairing I would recommend again for sure!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Cider Review: Big Hill Ciderworks' Barrel-Aged Reserve Cider

I just filled out my calendar with plans (and necessary blocks of preparation time) for all the big stuff happening between now and the end of 2022. I couldn’t believe how close we are to the end of the year. I can’t say I’ll be sad to see the last of 2022, but I’m also amazed by how busy the next four weeks are going to be. I know I’m not alone, so best of luck to you with your busy-ness! 

One quick reminder. I do a Favorite 10 Ciders list each year just before the end of the year. It’s a fun way to reflect on the delicious bottles and great cider experiences of the previous year. And this year will be the 10th list! Any guesses about what ciders will make the cut? 

Today, I’m sharing my notes on Big Hill Ciderworks' Barrel-Aged Reserve Cider. This cidery is based out of Adams County, Pennsylvania. Here’s how the company describes how locally oriented Big Hill Ciderworks is.

We grow, press, ferment, bottle and distribute all of our ciders right from our orchards in Adams County, PA.  You won’t find added sugars, sweeteners, or natural flavors in any of our ciders.  Rather, we blend different varieties of apples and other fruits from our farms and then our modern ciders are back-sweetened with fresh pressed juice.  The end result - wholesome ciders that are made almost entirely of fruit grown right on our farms.  Enjoy a bottle or swing out and have a pint at our taphouse!

I’ve only previously reviewed a couple of ciders by Big Hill Ciderworks. Here are both reviews.


Little Round Hop:

Visit Big Hill Ciderworks online to see what’s happening at the cidery and read about all the tasty releases:

Here’s how Big Hill Ciderworks describes the Barrel-Aged Reserve Cider: one of the traditional offerings.


Our Barrel Aged Reserve Cider is a unique blend of bittersweet & bittersharp apples varieties grown right here in our orchards.  A complex, tart and tannic flavor profile will pair well with cheese, pork, shellfish and much more.

Appearance: intense harvest gold color, brilliant, tiny bubbles

This cider looks inviting even before I pour it. I love the Barrel-Aged Reserve’s deep harvest gold and brilliance. I can see plentiful tiny bubbles, so I’m not anticipating a still cider. 

Aromas: Ripe apples, woody, homemade apple syrup

This cider’s scents don’t reach super far. I have to put my nose close to the liquid to get much detail; it’s medium intensity rather than anything stronger. The Barrel-Aged Reserve smells like ripe apples and the blunt clean woody side of barrel aging. I get less of the smoky or buttery scents that can come with some kinds of barrel time. Interestingly, I note a little waft of apple syrup once the cider warms up. 

Sweetness/dryness: off-dry

It could be illusory, but I can feel just enough fruit and body to make me think the cider is off-dry rather than fully bone dry. Big Hill’s Barrel-Aged Reserve isn’t pinning to many expectations to sweetness though. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Zingy, medium tannins, balanced

The Barrel-Aged Reserve wears its barrel lightly and integrates the tannins beautifully into the overall drinking experience. It does taste dry to off dry upon repeated sips. I find the whole experience quite balanced. The cider feels light in body but the ABV is 8.4%, so watch out. The cider is very good and shockingly easy to drink. I find it to be a tremendously good winter cider

I paired this with a butternut squash casserole and my second batch of cranberry relish: delish!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Cider Review: Fenceline Cider's Seedling Colorado Plateau Cider

I cannot get a movie out of my head. This weekend, I watched The Menu, and I think it’s relevant to the blog. The film satirizes high end food culture on both the production and consumption sides. There are reviews, cooks, foodies, service industry lifers, and one very particular chef. It’s dark, but it’s also tremendously funny. I recommend it. I will say that I hope that my reviews convey the love and appreciation I feel for cider makers and apple growers. I know that I can’t do what you do, and I’m so grateful that you share it. If you watch The Menu, let me know what you think!

If you’re curious to read more, here’s the Internet Movie Database page for The Menu:

Today I’m reviewing Fenceline Cider’s Seedling Colorado Plateau Cider. Yes, that’s a mouthful! This is my first ever review of Fenceline Cider. This was shared with me for review through a cider competition for which I volunteer. Many thanks!

This is what I found on the website about Fenceline Cider’s identity as a cidery. 

Rooted along the upper tributaries of the Colorado River, Fenceline was founded with a curiosity and admiration for wild and historic apples. Reviving the region’s cider traditions, our cider is crafted with cold, slow fermentation — producing a drier libation, with complex flavors, and less sugar. 

Surrounded by thousands of abandoned orchards that continue to grow in Montezuma County’s rich soil and arid climate, we are committed to upcycling the region’s heritage apples and wild, one-of-a-kind varietals into extraordinary craft cider.

You can visit the cidery online here to learn more about all of the ciders:

Today I’m tasting the Seedling Colorado Plateau Cider. Here’s what Fenceline Cider has to say about it. 

Colorado Plateau Cider

The classic American cider. Cool fall days slowly ferment a refreshing and approachable, off-dry craft cider with balanced apple notes.

TASTING NOTES:  fresh, crisp, light


6.5% ABV

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, few tiny bubbles

The Seedling is nearly transparent with just the gentlest suggestion of haze. I can see a few very small bubbles, and the color is a medium intensity warm straw.

Aromas: minerals, dust, multiple acids, peach and pineapple

This cider brings scents that remind me of minerals, dust, and malic acid, but that’s not the only acid going on. There’s a bit of volatile acidity as well. These are the notes that hit first followed by ripe pineapple and peach.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

My household disagreed a bit about the sweetness in this cider. To me, it tasted dry. The tall one agrees with the official description and calls it off dry. Either way, this cider isn’t using sweetness as a primary carrier for flavor. 

Flavors and drinking experience: wild, tangy, green apples, leather, acetic acid

The Seedling tastes untamed indeed! My first impression is one of Acetic acid and fruity tartness. The cider is sharp with tangs of wildness and a leather finish. The mid-palate reminds me of Granny Smith apples and twigs. Underneath these notes, there’s something unusual and harder to identify: maybe peanut and breadcrumb notes. It’s almost malty.

What a complex set of flavors! I keep coming back to words like wild, rustic, and funky. Though this cider might not be ideally suited to the casual cider drinker, the Seedling is likely to be a huge hit for the natural wine crowd. It certainly gives my taste buds lots of excitement and zesty stimulation.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Cider/Perry Review: Snow Capped Cider's Jala-pear-no Cider

We’re headed into Thanksgiving week here in the United States. There’s so much cultural emphasis on tradition for this particular holiday. There’s a parade every year, there’s a football lineup, there’s a traditional menu and for lots of folks a very set-in-stone way to do the whole day. It’s an uncomfortable holiday for many for some very real reasons, like the fictitious history we’re taught in school.

 It’s also the closest thing we have to a nationally recognized harvest celebration. It’s a feast of seasonal food with a strong suggestion of gathering with loved ones and expressing the gratitude out loud that we usually hold silent in our hearts. That’s how I like to celebrate Thanksgiving. Well, harvest and *my birthday* since my birthday is always near to the holiday and this year it's on the day itself. 

Does that mean my birthday meal is turkey and pumpkin pie? No! I value a bit of innovation rather than unchanging adherence to tradition. My birthday meal will be Celebration Roast, Brussels sprouts, dressing, cranberry relish, rolls and who knows what else will show up at the table. All this to be followed by a caramel crumb apple pie. And there will be cider. 

Speaking of innovation, that’s the theme with which I chose this week’s perry for review. I wanted something fun and different, and Snow Capped Cider’s Jala-pear-no seems ideal for my purpose.

I’ve reviewed a few Snow Capped Ciders before. Here’s the list.

Ashmead’s Kernel:

Blanc Mollet:

Gold Rush:

Harrison Reserve (My #5 favorite cider of 2021):

Check out Snow Capped Cider’s website and find out about all of the ciders:


Organic Colorado Bartlett’s 

Golden hue, with a fresh fruit nose, balanced by a notable Jalapeño infusion and pear sweetness. soft smooth finish.

( Perry )  100% fermented pears

Low heat/ high flavor/fresh jalapeños

ABV 6.9%

This spicy perry is available year round!

Appearance: hazy, few visible bubbles, pale straw

The color is the gentlest shade of pale straw. I don’t see many bubbles, but the perry has a slight haze throughout.

Aromas: bell peppers, fresh pear flesh, fermentation, sweetness

The Jala-pear-no smells sweet and very obviously pepper-like. There’s just the tiniest burn when you take a big whiff. The aromas are stony and fermented, and include fresh pear flesh.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

It’s sweet, but there’s a lot more going on than just sweetness!

Flavors and drinking experience: spicy, full bodied, vegetal, medium acid

I found the Jala-pear-no sweet and very spicy but The Tall One disagrees. He may be more trustworthy on topics like level of spice. He says it's only mildly spicy. We both found the perry 

Full-bodied and plenty bubbly! The bubbles make the spice sharper than they would feel in a more gently petillant or even a still perry.

With repeated sips, the spice keeps coming! It mellows out to a low vegetal prickling amidst the fruity notes of fresh pear.  It’s a genuinely interesting and innovative perry. 

I enjoyed mine with a movie and some good company, but I think it could go with all sorts of things. I’d like to try it again with fish tacos and pineapple salsa!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Cider Review: Angry Orchard's Buddy King

I should be thinking about Thanksgiving, about food, pairing, and gathering. Here’s the thing; I just don’t feel ready today. Tonight, I was ready to come home from work and enjoy vegetarian sausage, bell peppers, broccoli and some goat cheese and sun-dried tomato ravioli. It's a nice for living in the moment and enjoying the peace of not yet guesting, hosting, planning, or prepping. The big days will come soon enough.

Tonight I’m so happy to remember my trip to Angry Orchard’s Walden Orchard facility this past Summer and review the Buddy King cider that I picked up there. If you’re not familiar with the Walden Research and Development facility, it’s magical. Let go of all of your expectations of Angry Orchard or stereotypes about national brands. This cidery is doing its own thing and the ciders are very different from the super approachable and often sweet choices that Angry Orchard supplies to grocery store shelves. 

Here are a few of my earlier Angry Orchard reviews which include a mix of national and more limited offerings.


Newtown Pippin:


Understood in Motion 2:

Understood in Motion 3: this collaboration with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider (this was my #6 cider of 2018):

Wooden Sleeper:

Spiced Apple:




Visit Angry Orchard online here to learn about the ciders and what’s happening at Walden:

Here’s how Angry Orchard describes the Buddy King, “A wild fermented cider that we aged on Missouri-grown blackberries and blueberries from our friends at Side Project Brewing. 7.2% ABV.”

Here’s a link to the collaborator Side Project Brewing:

Appearance: apricot, bubbly, brilliant

This brilliant cider shows off some lovely active bubbles. The bubbles are easy to see because the cider is so very transparent in its welcoming shade of apricot.

Aromas: wild, acetic acid, twiggy

Buddy King smells very obviously like a wild fermented cider. It’s zingy with notes of tropical fruit and acetic acid. What I like about the aroma is that it’s anchored with some twiggy wood notes. I definitely know to expect a tart or even sour cider from these aromas.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a completely dry cider. It’s unusual to have a wild fermentation that retains sweetness because of the difference in controlling a pitched fermentation and a wild one.

Flavors and drinking experience: sour, high acid, pineapple, peppers, tannic 

My estimation based on the Buddy King’s aromas was proved right; its super sour! This high acid cider tastes like malic and acetic acids. My first impression is how very basque-inspired or Sidra like it tastes. It’s far from one dimensional though. The cider also proffers red bell pepper and tropical fruit notes while it remains bone dry.

The Buddy King is very angular with all that acid and some tannins. The hints of tomato and berry seem like they’d be in conflict, but they work harmoniously together. I appreciate that it’s petillant rather than more strongly sparkling. The acid provides enough excitement on its own without needing the needling of aggressive bubbles. 

I need to emphaize just how much tart acid the cider has. The Buddy King can cut through any food! Be sure to use this superpower and pair it with food. You could choose something hearty like Shepherds Pie or something with plenty of cheese like my ravioli meal. The fun thing about pairing the Buddy King is how much the cider changes. The cider’s funk is revealed even as the acid is tamed. What a complex and wild offering from Angry Orchard’s Walden Cider House!

Monday, November 7, 2022

Cider Review: Milk & Honey Ciders' Fauna

I write with my eyes full of sunset tonight. It’s coming earlier, but I’m glad to pay that price in order to have a few more weeks of mornings with even just the barest hint of light. I need it to get up and feel like there is a universe outside of my bed. Other folks feel the evening’s loss more keenly, I know it. I’ll take the gratitude though. In any case, I like plenty of quiet dark evenings at home with good food and good cider. This review is from just such a night; I’m trying Fauna by Milk and Honey Ciders.

This week’s cider is my first from Milk & Honey Ciders. This is a cidery out of St. Joseph, Minnesota. I’m so excited to try the Fauna. This cider was shared with me in a trade, so many thanks to everyone in my cider trading communities! You know who you are.

I recommend visiting the cidery online:

Here’s how Milk and Honey describe the Fauna:

Inside you will find an elite group of apples capable of a truly great cider. Tannic apples for depth and body. Sharps for bright fruity-vinous character. Interesting Heirlooms for aromatics. Every year the apples may change depending upon the whims of the orchard, but they will always impress. Let the apples shine.

Alcohol 6.90%

Appearance: hazy, warm straw, bubbly

The Fauna seems like a tremendously active cider. I can see tiny bubbles racing for the surface through the mild haze and warm straw color. It pours with a little bubble, but the mousse dissipates quickly.

Aromas: Malic acid, minerality, rock candy, fresh apple

This cider is brimming over with interesting scents! The first smell I notice is rock candy & malic acid in the attack, followed by something funky and more deeply minerally. Overall, it’s an austere set of smells that concludes with a sense of cold, sharpened apple.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a nice dry cider. It’s neither harsh nor deceptively fruit forward.  

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, pineapple, mild tannins, bitterness on the finish

The Fauna taste well-balanced and admirably restrained. Yes, the cider has high acid, but it’s balanced by also being very mildly tannic with a low, bitter finish. I appreciate the fruity acids that remind me of pineapple. The flavors are light and immediate for the most part. I do insist that the cider be poured from its serving container. Drinking from the bottle robs the experience of its best parts, so use a glass. I also love the Fauna’s small but pervasive bubbles. They enliven the experience in a big way.

I enjoyed my cider while I was perusing a game book before playing some table-top role play awesomeness with faraway friends. I'm sure no one is surprised by that level of nerdiness, but I have to own up. I think it would also go well with a hearty minestrone soup and good bread.  

Monday, October 31, 2022

Cider Review: Absolem Cidery's Ferryman

We’re rounding a corner with this beginning of November. Though Winter doesn’t begin until December 21, for me there’s almost a separate season between November 1st and then. This isn’t the Fall of red leaves, pumpkin spice, and golden apple afternoons. These are the newly longer dark nights of fall and the cozy candle afternoons and time to create comfort with loved ones. For me, it’s nesting season. 

And I am happy to share a very appropriate cider: Absolem Cider’s Ferryman. Somehow my images for this cider have vanished, so please enjoy my journey through the first half of fall instead.

Absolem Cider comes from Maine and this is the first Absolem cider appearance on the blog. Here’s a little about how the folks at Absolem describe themselves and their place. 

Our farmhouse cidery and nascent orchard is located along the western side of the Cobbosseecontee Lake nestled between dense woods, and rolling farmland. A short distance from the neighboring towns of Augusta and Gardiner along the Kennebec River that cuts through the heart of Maine. 

Our rustic 150 year-old barn hosts our small cidery where we produce cider and wine. In addition, our barn doubles as a tasting room space where guests can enjoy our hand-made ciders.

Our orchard is dedicated to growing apples varieties originally grown in Winthrop by visionary orchardists like Icabod Howe, Morris Towle, Bill Reid, and John Bunker.

You can check out Absolem Ciders online here:

Fermented with native yeasts in stainless, macerated on Frontenac Noir grape must, and aged in two Port Wine barrels for 12 months. The skin contact enhances the deep berry flavors embedded in the barrel.7.8% ABV.

Appearance: cloudy, rose gold, bubbly

This cider pours with some bubble. It’s cloudy to the point of being opaque. The color reminds me of rose gold. Everything about it is blushing and foggy in a most appealing way.

Aromas: barrel, apple stems and cores, powdered sugar, hay, booze, strawberry

Wow! What a varied range of intriguing smells. The Ferryman first smells like barrels and wine. That’s certainly the port barrel and grape must coming through. I also get a strong presence of apple stems and cores. Something in the mix gives off strong vibes of tannins. In the background, I get hints of powdered sugar, hay, booze, strawberry, and fermented peach.

It’s a wild array.

Dryness/sweetness: Off Dry

The Ferryman tastes dry but not bone dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, high tannins, soft acid, gently farmy

I love how the Ferryman’s flavor is intense and bold with just enough acid. What the cider really focuses on is high astringence with nutty tannins. I find the Ferryman very fruity in a peach and strawberry way without being a sweet cider. It tastes like it smells. 

What surprised me is how soft it is in both taste and mouthfeel. This is an impressive feat of texture given how tannic and barrel influenced it is, but it manages to be gentle and bright. I find the Ferryman gently farmy but not phenolic. It’s petillant rather than strongly sparkling. A lot of its complexity of tannins and acids may come from the use of grape must or barrel. This is a delicious cider that’s complex and quietly exuberant. What a treat!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse's Crimson Bliss

Last night, I made an apple crisp (with a little cider addition), and it’s already almost devoured. Fall has me feeling hungry for coziness, for movie nights at home, and for the return of my favorite flavors. Maybe it’s because I was born in the fall, but I just love so many of the tastes most associated with this season. Today, I’m sharing my review of 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s Crimson Bliss; it's a cider made with apples, black currants and cranberries. I love all three ingredients, so I’m hoping for good things. 

Two Towns is an Oregon Cidery based out of Corvallis and Portland. The cidery makes a wild array of different ciders. Here’s what 2 Towns Ciderhouse says to introduce the company. 

At 2 Towns Ciderhouse, we believe that the long history of cidermaking demands respect and deserves to be done right. Starting with the highest quality whole ingredients from local farms, we take no shortcuts in crafting our ciders. We never add any refined sugar or concentrates and instead use slow, cold fermentation methods to allow the fruit to speak for itself. As a family-owned company, we are committed to the growth of our team and the enrichment of our communities. We take pride in producing true Northwest craft cider.

My thanks to the kind folks at 2 Towns Ciderhouse who sent me some Crimson Blis for review. As always, samples do not guarantee a review, but I’m grateful and happy to consider the ciders I receive. I’ll admit, when a cider includes special apples or features that I especially like, I may reach for that cider faster!

My previous 2 Towns Ciderhouse reviews are adding up! Here’s the list:

Hollow Jack’d:

Two Berry Dream:

10th Anniversary Cider Pacific Northwest Heirloom Blend:

Good Limes Roll:

Cosmic Currant:

Hollow Jack’d:

Afton Field:

La Mûre:

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy:

Cidre Bouche:



Bright Cider:

Hop and Stalk:

You can visit 2 Towns’ ciderhouse online to learn about all the cidery’s releases and events:

Two Towns Cider House - Crimson Bliss official description.

Crafted from a festive medley of Oregon cranberries, black currants, and Northwest apples, this vibrant cider is the final release in the 2022 Fruit Seasonal line, following Cherry Sublime and Two Berry Dream. Bright cranberries and black currants make this cider the perfect complement for gathering around the fire this season while taking some time to kick back with friends and enjoy a moment of bliss…Aromatic and vibrant, this festive fireside beverage is the perfect addition to any holiday gathering. 


5.2% ABV | Cranberry Currant Cider 

Made with Bandon Oregon cranberries, black currants, and Northwest apples


A festive medley of Oregon cranberries, black currants, and Northwest apples

Vibrant ruby red hue 

Bright cranberry flavor, rich cassis, with a kiss of sweetness

Appearance: brilliant, ruby red, intensity color, few visible bubbles

Wow! This looks like a cranberry punch. This is the truest red I may have seen in a cider for a long while. The color is fabulously intense with gorgeous brilliance. I don’t see much in the way of bubbles. 

Aromas: citric acid, rock candy, cranberry juice

The Cranberry Bliss smells to me like citric acid and rock candy. I am reminded of that sharp and sparkling treat that my grandmother would always let me choose at state parks. I get notes of cranberry juice as well.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

I thought this would be a sweet cider, but it's a semi-sweet, maybe even a semi-dry. I’ll explain why I find this determination difficult below.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, sweet, bitter, sour, cranberry, currant, and apple

Zoinks! This cider tastes tart, sweet, bitter, sour and intense. I love that it delivers all of the above with balance and verve. The Crimson Bliss is indeed blissful to my palate. What surprises me most is that it’s a bit less sweet and sharp than I expected and instead more rounded and three dimensional.The cranberry speaks loud and clear, and the apple and black currant do crucial background work that rounds out the flavor. 

The experience is a pleasurable waft of briefly complex smoke, grape, and blueberry. I’m so grateful that it has a backbone of apple. It's wonderfully intense. It’s fun and punch like. The shape of the experience is front-loaded with a fast finish. The Crimson Bliss brings medium bubble and a nice full body. I had mine with a dinner of quinoa with pesto and cannellini beans, heirloom tomatoes and a silly side of broccoli tots. Perhaps not the most challenging and sophisticated meal I could create, but it warmed me inside and out. The cider also tasted positively delightful with my fresh apple crisp. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Cider Review: Papa Moon's Mango Habanero Cider

Is Fall your season of celebration or one of retreating from the additional hours of darkness? I feel some of both. It is a season of blustery cold and mellow sunshine: the brightest colors and the dying back of much visible growth. I love it, but the newly blue dark mornings feel slow and unreal nonetheless. Yesterday, I took to the roads so I could see some color before more of the leaves fall and are replaced by the more austere beauty of skeletal branches. It was a magical afternoon all blue, gold, red and green. But long nights and overcast days are coming. That’s why when I chose my review cider for this week, I wanted to choose something exciting and vivid.

This week, I’m sharing my thoughts on Papa Moon's Mango Habanero Cider. What can be more bright and boisterous than fruit and spice with the year-round perfection of cider? This is my first Papa Moon Cider review, and this cider was shared with me as a review sample. Many thanks. 

Papa Moon is a vineyard that makes both wine and ciders in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. This farm based cidery recently celebrated 10 years of making craft beverages.  Here’s a little bit from how the company describes itself. 

As Western Nebraskas first craft beverage producer, we enjoy pioneering different flavor profiles and offering unique experiences. Crafting ciders, wines, and mead, we take pride in cultivating on-site ingredients and sourcing from local growers. Family owned & awesomely crafted since 2012

I’m reviewing Papa Moon’s Mango Habanero Hard Cider which won a double gold medal in 2021’s New York International Cider Competition. 

Visit Papa Moon Vineyards online here to learn about what’s happening in the tasting room, see the latest beverage releases and more:

Here’s the official description of this one. 

Mango Habanero

Another fan favorite and New York International Cider Competition Double Gold Winner. Clean tropical mango blended with the fruity spice of habanero peppers.

Crisp, fruity, spicy, local habaneros mixed with tropical mangos and crisp apple cider. 

6.9% ABV

Appearance: hazy, few visible bubbles, butternut squash color

Papa Moon's Mango Habanero Cider pours hazily with a color that reminds me of butternut squash. I don’t see much in the way of bubbles.

Aromas: spicy peppers, lemon, smoke, tropical fruit

Oh wow! The spicy pepper is clear on aroma; it tickles the nose which is just the right amount of spice. I’ve sniffed peppery ciders that get dangerously aggressive in this regard, but this one is perfect. I also smell notes of lemon and smoke. fun. Rather than a ton of mango, the fruity aromas are more tropical in general: pineapple perhaps. There's a round and almost creamy element to the scent.

Sweetness/Dryness: sweet

This is a sweet cider, and it needs to be in order for it to do all of what it does.

Flavors and drinking experience: habanero spice, pineapple, ripe apple, mango

The Mango Habanero Cider’s taste is an inviting melding of flavors. You can absolutely taste the heat and peppery spice. The habanero hits immediately and might even make you cough, but it fades pretty fast. It feels almost like your tongue is sweating! I love that the cider is also fruity and vibrant. 

Papa Moon’s Mango Habanero cider has high acid and low sparkle (which makes sense, as there's already so much action on the tongue). It's sweet—and it has to be, otherwise you'd be overpowered by the spice. I get no tannins, but they'd feel tremendously out of place and wasted in a cider with this profile. The mango mostly comes through in the rounded (even boisterous) interaction of sweetness and acid. They comprise one flavor, operating in happy tropical partnership. This fruit is ultimately the lingering flavor along with some apple notes of Granny Smith and malic acid. It is clean, fun, and punchy.

As for pairings, this competes with the boldest grilled cheese sandwich, and could cut through pizza or burgers. It's a big taste, so it needs food pairings that are similarly outgoing.  I had mine with a pepperjack grilled cheese on my own sourdough bread accompanied by raw bell pepper and apple slices. It was a great weeknight meal.