Monday, March 28, 2022

Cider Review: Artifact Cider Project's Wild Thing

From my writing desk window, I have seen blue skies and a wild winter storm chase each other around today. That’s what Spring can do sometimes. Change is here and more change is coming soon after. Sometimes it's invigorating, and other times it just leaves us feeling confused and unprepared. I’ll use it as a message to rest when I need it rather than attempt to keep up. Perhaps that will resonate with a few of my cider friends as well. This weekend I chose to take a break from cooking on Saturday night and try a new takeout restaurant in town along with a new cider. 
I chose Artifact Cider’s Wild Thing. I picked this cider up when traveling a few months ago, and I’ve been waiting for just the right mood to try a single-varietal McIntosh cider. Artifact Cider was founded in Massachussetts in 2014 by Soham Bhatt and Jake Mazar.
I like what the website says about Artifact Cider, so I’ll let the cidery represent itself. 
Artifact Cider Project makes cider for the new Northeast. We produce craft cider in a variety of styles by respecting tradition, but refusing to let it limit us. Using local apples and innovative cidermaking practices, we create ciders that are as authentic, eclectic, and forward-looking as the region they come from.
You can visit Artifact Cider online here and learn more:
Here’s how Artifact  introduces Wild Thing on the website. Unusual but still clear!
          WILD THING
crisp and aromatic
100% McIntosh
Sweetness ++  
Acidity ++++
Structure +   
vibe: dare over truth
I’m even more curious to try Wild Thing after these quixotic notes. I truly don’t know what to expect aside from plenty of acidity.

Appearance: brilliant, medium hue intensity, no visible bubbles, cool straw
The color is a bit more cool in hue than many of the generally straw-colored ciders I see. It’s medium in intensity and totally brilliant. I don’t see any bubbles 
Aromas: rain, minerals, petrol, grassy, fresh apples
The Wild Thing cider smells like rain, minerals, and petrol. There are other notes too though. The cider offers up grassy and appley notes like fresh wet apples.
Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry/semi-sweet
My co-taster and I disagreed on the level of sweetness. They said semi-dry, but to me it tasted more semi-sweet. It was certainly a sweeter finish than I expected from the cider’s aromas.
Flavors and drinking experience: Petillant, medium body, high acid, peach and lemon

Wild Thing strikes me as fruity and easygoing more than feral. It’s a fun and approachable cider.
It tastes like sugared lemons, fresh peaches, and powdered sugar, balanced out with a high acid kick. I detected some very mild tannins, but they were there. The Wild Thing brings Medium body and some nice fullness. It’s not a simplistic cider, but it is very apple-centric. I can get some of the same fresh apple notes from the aromas in the flavor.
I’m not terribly surprised that the cider feels petillant on my tongue. I didn’t see any bubbles at all; that’s not a hard rule, but one can often get a hint about sparkle before the first sip.
I think Wild Thing would make a great first introduction to the Artifact Cider Project as a brand. It was a delightful pairing with our takeout. The bitterness of the homemade hummus was smoothed out by the fresh and fruity approach of the cider. The Tall One’s order of Artichokes and Mushrooms was lemony and scented with cinnamon; a dish that complex needs a cider that will support and augment the experience. This one does its job beautifully! 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Cider Review: Big Fish Cider Co.'s Punk and Henry

This past week I saw coastal redwoods, the Marin Headlands, and a sea glass beach. I wish I hadn’t needed a springtime escape so much, but I did. It was a lovely trip filled with natural beauty, good food, and a few tremendous friends. I’m so grateful. Because I wasn’t up for cider multi-tasking, I didn’t reach out to any of my CA cider peeps, but I promise I'll come back and hopefully be more ready to geek out about cider next time.

Almost immediately upon my return, I got to celebrate a dear local friend on her birthday. That celebration involved attempting to make and decorate cake pops when I’d never eaten a cake pop before. It went interestingly, as one might expect. But I brought a special cider to review, Big Fish Cider Co.’s Punk and Henry, and here are those notes.

I’m a big fan of Big Fish Cider! This Virginia Cidery was founded by Kirk Billingsley. The cidery has a tasting room in Monterey, Virginia that looks to be open on Fridays and Saturdays at present. Big Fish Cider is tremendously decorated, winning at least one Good Food Award and plenty of medals in various cider competitions.


Previous reviews include all of these delightful ciders from Big Fish Cider Co.

Virginia Hewes Crab:

That was my #1 favorite cider of 2020!

Wild Meadow:

Allegheny Gold (my #3 cider from 2019):

Highland Scrumpy (my #3 cider from 2018):

Church Hill Blush:

I recommend visiting Big Fish Cider online here:

This week, I’m so excited to share what I thought of Punk and Henry. Here’s the official description from Big Fish Cider.

This cider pays homage to the cidermaker's neighbors he knew while growing up in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. It is entirely made of fruit within a 3 mile radius of Punk & Henry's Farm west of Monterey, and using apple varieties that Punk & Henry used to make cider. Northern Spy, Grimes Golden, Winesap, and Arkansas Black among others. The amber color of this cider is typical of ciders made from old apple trees that are not sprayed and fertilized. The aromas of caramel, and ripe apples hit the nose before taking a sip. Bright acidity is the first sensation upon taking the first sip, quickly warming to an earthy, but fruity vanilla notes, and ending with a soft caramel finish that lingers on the palate.  Alcohol by volume: 7.42%.

This cider has an introduction video from Big Fish! That’s tremendously unusual and quite fun: My favorite part has to be when Kirk says that both the best and the worst ciders he’s ever had were from wild fermentations. I’ll raise a glass to that!

Appearance: Bright popcorn kernel, brilliant, small bubbles

This cider pours with obvious sparkle; the bubbles form a ring around the edge of the cider where it touches the glass. The color reminds me of unpopped popcorn kernels: intense harvest gold. The cider’s clarity is brilliant, easily.

Aromas: overripe apple, nectarine, and peach

What an inviting set of aromas. The Punk and Henry smells mellow like overripe apples apples. The effect is all roasty and autumnal, but there are sparkles of brighter flavors in the mix as well, like nectarine or peach.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

That feeling of softened autumn fruit translates from this cider’s aromas to its level of sweetness. There’s enough sweetness to feel welcoming and soft, but nothing artificial, sticky, or cloying.

Flavors and drinking experience: high fruity acids, high tannins, golden raisins, apples and caramel

This cider is something special! I knew I could bring this to a birthday party, and it would be enjoyed by close friends. Thankfully, Big Fish Cider Co. came through for me and surpassed even my high expectations! This is a beautifully balanced, inviting, scrumptious cider!

The first impression I get from Punk and Henry is golden raisins. It’s that high fruity acid that wakes up every part of my palate without being punishing. Lovely! The cider is both medium-high tannins and high acid, so the whole beverage feels just lively and high definition. There’s no way to sleep through this cider!

I love the bubbles. They open up layers of flavor beautifully! It turned out to be such a special cider and a wonderful pairing with Yachae Kimbap and homemade cake pops. Kimbap is a Korean sushi roll, and Yachae Kimbap is a more veggie-oriented version of the dish. The ripe apple notes are a striking contrast against the crisp carrots, peppers, and crunchy veggies of the roll. The toasted sesame aroma from the sushi was also a perfect complement to the cider's richness. 

There are so many ways you could pair this cider. I think I’d really like to try it with something spicy next time. If you try it that way, let me know!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Cider Review: Virtue Cider's Baldwin


For once, I’m trying to be prepared and ahead of the game. When this goes live, I’ll hopefully be traveling with The Tall One. We need a bit of respite. But between this moment and that anticipated one there are snow storms and cross-country flights. I write in hope because I prefer it to other available options. Fingers crossed, cider friends!

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Virtue Cider’s Baldwin. For those who aren’t familiar with Virtue Cider. The company was founded in Michigan in 2011 by Greg Hall. The cidery offers many different cider styles, many of which are inspired by different cider making traditions from cider regions of the world or local Michigan ingredients. 

This cider came to me as a sample of Virtue’s first Cider Society box. That’s their regular subscription or cider club. You can read more about Cider Society here:

Virtue Ciders have appeared many times on this blog in the past. Here’s the full list. You can also find additional background information on Virtue in these earlier posts.



Michigan Apple:



The Mitten Reserve:



The Mitten:

Red Streak:

You can find out more about any of these ciders  and much more at Virtue’s website:

Here’s the official description for the Baldwin, “Part of our Apple Fest Series which features a single apple varietal. The Baldwin apple is a large crimson red and coppery green apple that is crisp, juicy, and aromatic with a spicy sweet-tart flavor.” This cider’s ABV is 7.7%.

Appearance: bubbly, brilliant, medium straw

Virtue Cider’s Baldwin reminds me of many modern American ciders in its appearance. The cider is brilliant with visible bubbles and a medium color intensity. The hue reminds me of ripe straw. 

Aromas: Cooked apples, apple skin, Pixi Stix

The Baldwin reminds me most of cooked apples when I let its aroma notes waft to me. I can get other inklings as well: green apple skins, Pixy Stix, and grapefruit.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry 

This cider is neither dominated by sweetness nor completely reliant on it. There is enough sweetness to keep things easy-going and approachable and not a bit too much. What sweetness I do detect is very appley and natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, minerals, high acid, well-balanced

I appreciate how this tart and minerally cider feels so fresh on the palate. It really does feel so green apple tart to me; it’s somehow high acid without being overly austere or pointed. The Baldwin is a well-balanced crowd pleaser of a cider. I enjoy the strong bubbles and medium full mouthfeel. 

I had this at a lovely quiet dinner of pescatarian okonomiyaki, dumpling soup, and cucumber salad. What a set of pairings! Each dish brought out a different element of the cider, and all were delicious. I would enthusiastically recommend exactly this to anyone who wants to explore such a well-balanced cider in all its vicissitudes. And my eternal gratitude to my dear friends who cook so well and share their gifts. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Cider Review: Bent Ladder Cider's Original

Yesterday I saw my first outdoor blooms of the season. What season, one might reasonably ask? It’s still Winter here, but I saw snowdrops. Yesterday the sun was powerful enough to melt feet of ice and tempt many people outdoors. I’m grateful for that little preview of Spring. Today, it’s a grey world of rain and mist, but I remember the look of a blue sky. Today’s cider is one that reminds me of Summer. A friend of mine sought out a selection of Bent Ladder Cider for me, and that makes me value it all the more. Bent Laddery Ciders and Wines come to us from Doylestown, Ohio. The company was founded in 2015. Here’s how the website describes the process,

Each cider is made from a selection of our estate-grown apples which we crush, ferment, age and keg in-house. Even if you have never tried a hard cider before, our wide selection ensures that you will be able to find something that you love.

I recommend learning about Bent Ladder Ciders and Wines on the company’s homepage here: As this is the cidery’s first appearance on the blog, I wanted to start with The Original. Here’s how the Original is described.

A blend of apples including Northern Spy, Jonathan and Winesap. Aromas of green apple and ripe pear. Fruit forward flavors of ripe apple, blossoms and nectar. Well balanced and easy drinking with a clean mellow finish.

Medium Sweet

6.5% ABV

Appearance: brilliant, lots of bubbles, medium intensity warm straw

This cider has a classic look with medium intensity warm straw color. I see many bubbles in the glass. As the image reveals, Bent Ladder’s Original is brilliant in terms of clarity. Aromas: baked apple muffins, spices, bready, ripe apple The Original reminds me of a brunchy weekend breakfast in the best of all possible ways. It smells like a fresh apple danish with notes of baking spice, clean yeastiness, powdered sugar, and ripe apples. There’s also just a hint sweet orange in the mix. I am so very reminded of baked goods! The aroma is clean and enticing. Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet This cider strikes me exactly as the cidery describes it, semi-sweet. The sweetness in The Original is beautifully integrated in the whole experience, and it's a super approachable level of sweetness in a cider. Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, medium acid, honey, ripe apple So much of what I noticed in the aroma comes through in this cider's flavors as well. It does remind me of a sweet apple-y dessert. The Original brings lots of bubbles to my glass, and I’m grateful. It has medium acidity, a beautifully honeyed flavor, and a generous share of fresh apple. The whole experience tastes jammy to me. Its a sunny, summertime cider in my book. I enjoyed this with a hearty veggie soup and homemade bread, but I’d love to see this with a quiche and muffins.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Cider Review: Right Bee Cider Clementine Barrel Aged Series

I hear from my mom that daffodils are striving several inches from the ground in her yard in Kentucky. I witnessed some upstate daffodils just barely poking their heads above the soil; that was on the one day we had bare ground between different blankets of snow. Surely this means that Spring will arrive, perhaps even before too terribly long. But for right now, I’m grateful for the warmth of friends and loved ones. 

This past week, the cider community launched #OpenThatCiderBottle across a few social media platforms, directing all of us to take the time to look at the cider we have and choose something special. We then opened our ciders and shared the stories of what makes the bottles meaningful or exciting. I’m all about using and enjoying the good things we have. I shared Right Bee Cider’s Clementine from the Barrel-Aged Series, because it was a surprise gift from my cider friend Matt. 

Matt not only shared a lovely cider with me, but he helped me out with some supplies I needed for an art project that is still in process. As soon as I put out the call for help, he answered and got me not only what I needed but this cider too. I feel touched by his perceptive generosity! And what an intriguing cider; I’ve never gotten to review anything by Right Bee Cider before. 

Right Bee Cider is based in Chicago by Katie Morgan and Charlie Davis in 2014. Here’s how they describe themselves as cider producers, “We are passionate about the art of cider-making, made by hand with natural ingredients and sustainable practices. Our cider brought us together, and we hope it continues to bring others together as well.”

I’m so excited to share my thoughts on the limited-release Clementine (Barrel Aged Series).

You can visit the cidery website here:

I don’t have a lot of info about the cider, but it is “Aged in Thornton Distilling Dead Drop Bourbon Barrels.” The ABV is 6%. 

Appearance: intense warm copper, brilliant, fine bubbles

Oh, this color is amazing. I’ve never seen a cider with such a deep warm copper hue. It’s brilliant with fine visible bubbles.

Aromas: cherries, apricots, butterscotch, old paper

The Clementine has aroma notes of old paper, cherries, and apricots.  I also smell minerals, water, and intense butterscotch. There’s a rich apple concentration that reminds me of fruit on the equipment after it has been pressed; juices that have dried and intensified. I get notes of barrel and dust as well.

Dryness/sweetness: Off-dry

I find it a little challenging to determine sweetness level in barrel aged ciders. I’m perceiving a more complex set of qualities that all affect one another. This cider has a lot going on in multiple dimensions, but it’s not notably sweet. At the same time, it’s also not bone-dry, so I’ll call it off-dry and acknowledge the imprecision!  

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity acid, buzzy, gently bitter

The first impression I get is that this cider is in some ways like an oaked Chardonnay. The Clementine tastes refreshing, acidic and not too tannic. The cider rises with a little wave of gentle bitterness a second or two after the initial taste. I find the texture petillant, with a silky body. I appreciate the wonderful interactions between bright fruity acid and the dark barrel notes. The whole experience is full and complex with a long dark pleasant finish.

I had my co-tasters investigate for diacetyl acid, because I’m not particularly sensitive to it, but they assure me that the buttery-ness is barrel-y not popcorny or oily.

Though the barrel characteristics are emphatic, they do not unbalance the drinking experience. Another wine reminder arrived in the buzzy sense of alcohol, but this remains absolutely clearly a cider, just one with a few wine-like characteristics.

I enjoyed the Clementine with wonderful companionship and a funky tasty cheese. Yet again, I must say that I am thankful for friends, family, loved ones. A special bottle shared with special people made for a very warm and cozy night.