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.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Cider Review: Champlain Orchards' Kingston Dry

Now that Cider Week New York is over, it's time to fully embrace Spooky Season. Halloween is a single-day Holiday, but all of fall is perfect for celebrating the bewitching, chilling, and eerie side of life. Cider makes for a perfect beverage to accompany horror movie nights; it goes great with ghost stories; and there’s no better balm for the ignominy of being too lost in a corn maze than settling for a cider treat. Yes, I’m being silly, but cider pairs enjoyably with all sorts of fun Halloween season activities!  

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Champlain Orchards’ Kingston Dry: Bone Dry Unfiltered Hard Cider. Champlain Orchards as the name suggests is based in Shoreham, Vermont. This fruit farm not only makes cider, but grows many kinds of goodness, as this excerpt from the website spells out. 

As one of the oldest continuously operating Orchards in Vermont, we take pride in growing over 140 varieties of apples, as well as peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, medlars, quince, and many berries. We are careful stewards of our land and grow all of our fruit following strict Eco-Apple requirements, while striving to minimize our carbon footprint and sustainably contribute to our community.

I’ve only gotten to review a few Champlain ciders, but all those that appear on the blog are very tasty. If you get the chance to visit the orchards in person, take the opportunity! It’s a beautiful place. 

Here’s the quick list of all of my earlier Champlain Orchard reviews.


Heirloom (it made it to my #5 favorite cider of 2017):

Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition:

My visit:

Here’s how to find Champlain Orchards online:

Here’s the Kingston Dry’s official description. 

Kingston Dry

Sharp, Smooth, & Full, with notes of Stone Fruit

A tribute  to our  horticulture  crew from Jamaica, who have been shaping our orchards for decades. We loaded this cider with coveted Kingston Black & other heirloom  apples for a distinct  flavor with silky tannins and a smooth finish.

Alcohol by Volume: 6.3%, 0 g Sugar, 120 Cal

Appearance: pale straw, slight haze, gentle color

The color is a wavery gentle straw, it almost shades light yellow green rather than pale-ish yellow. Though the cider is unfiltered, I didn't get a lot of haze in my glass.

Aromas: ripe apples, light funk, green apples, minerality

As soon as I cracked open the can, I got an immediate aroma of ripe apples. Something about the smell reminded me specifically of tart green apples. Otherwise, the cider offered up notes of  minerals and a light funk. I’m very curious about what it will taste like!

Sweetness/Dryness: Dry

Though this cider is dry, that’s not what’s most noticeable about it. 

Flavors and drinking experience: extremely high acid, medium grippy tannins, peach, mild funk

The Kingston Dry starts off racy with off-the-charts high acid. It’s zesty with cuttingly high tartness. I appreciate the cider’s interesting grainy-fruity finish; it’s nice. The Kingston Dry brings medium tannins; they are more grippy and textural than structured. The fruit notes remind me most of ripe apples and peaches. There’s a bit of phenolic funk that reminds me of fusel oils. Its texture is lean with a flex of strong bubbles. 

Overall it's a fun cider and one that goes well with heavy snacks like a cheese place, dips, and crackers. The acidity serves it well in that context. I might recommend trying it with the new TV series adaptation of Interview with a Vampire to pair a sharp with a sharp, or perhaps that's just what's on my mind this season!

Monday, October 3, 2022

Cider Week New York: Moosewood Restaurant's Black Diamond Cider Pairing Dinner

We’re now a few days into Cider Week New York! Cider activities are highlighting what’s awesome about my favorite beverage in every region of the state. Check them out and hopefully you can find one near you!

And in particular, I’d like to highlight a free event I’m supporting on Tuesday October 4th: Tasting and Tomes at Mann Library! Visit us on Cornell’s campus to taste apples and fresh cider, explore our collection of cider related books new and old and learn about all things cider happening at Cornell! We’ll be around 11am-2pm.

Here’s how I started my cider week. I want to share my experience at Moosewood’s pairing dinner with Black Diamond Cider. Our guides for the evening were Ian Merwin, founder of Black Diamond Cider and Pomologist Emeritus at Cornell University, and Aron Kelly, Moosewood’s General Manager. The format was a 4-course vegetarian dinner prepared by Moosewood Chef Tim Mooney: each course paired with something special from Black Diamond Cider.I was particularly excited to find something vegetarian not as a substitution but by design and I’m a big fan of Black Diamond Ciders.

And if you're not familiar with Moosewood Restaurant, I recommend learning more:

My previous reviews of Black Diamond Ciders are plentiful, and they include:

My #1 cider of 2021 Black is Gold (a collaboration with Redbyrd Orchard Cider):

Black Diamond Cider's 2018 Rosé:

Shin Hollow:


Geneva Tremlett’s:

Somerset Jersey:



Porter’s Pommeau:



I recommend visiting Black Diamond Cidery online here to learn more about all of the ciders:

We started with a Curried Pumpkin Soup with toasted pepitas and pickled mustard seeds. This was paired with Black Diamond’s 2008 Perry. Though it’s called a Perry, it is a pear-apple blend, making it a pear cider. Though I loved all of the ciders of the evening, the first one was my favorite! A good perry is something to write home about, and this pear cider captures so much of what can be great about the beverage. I loved the lively bubbles, grapefruit citrus notes, softness and high acid.  

 I had some trepidation because of the pickled mustard seeds. Yes, they sound intriguing, but here’s a confession, I am usually passionately unfond of pickled things. It’s the rare exception that works for me. Miraculously, these were perfect. The soup was heavy, creamy, and only gently spiced. It needed the pepitas and the salty acid bite of the pickled mustard seeds. Yum!

I knew we’d have a salad as part of our meal just because Moosewood makes such wonderfully deluxe salads. This was a particularly seasonal offering: a Dinosaur Kale salad with slow roasted plums, toasted walnuts, roasted Delicata squash, crumbled blue cheese, and a buttermilk vinaigrette. It was paired with the 2019 Rosé. If you read my review of the 2018 Rose, I have to note that this one is created entirely differently. It uses plums as one of the elements to give the cider its signature hue. I love the idea of plums as a point of continuity for this pairing since they are in the cider and the salad. It's a lightful easy cider, utterly delightful and acid driven. The Rosé is semi-dry but so fruity. 

Butternut Squash Lasagna made our entree. I expected a cream sauce based lasagna as many autumnal lasagnas swap out a tomato sauce for a Roux-based sauce, but I was delighted by my rich and hearty red sauce vegetarian lasagna. It had caramelized fennel, Remembrance Farm baby kale, smoked mozzarella, butternut squash ricotta, asiago, garlic, Cabernet tomato, basil, and Parigiano Reggiano. I will remember the umami and satisfaction of that lasagna for years. It paired with Ian’s favorite of his ciders (at least as he described it that evening) the 2020 Golden Russet/Porter’s Perfection Varietal cider. 

The Golden Russet/Porter’s Perfection upped the body and alcohol with an ABV of 10%. I appreciate that this cider has acidity, tannins, structure, and body. It's dry by the numbers but it still gives off an essence of nectar or floral sweetness. Ian says that comes from the Golden Russet apples. It’s a very special cider that just tastes golden, mature, and mellow to me. I loved it with the exceptionally concentrated tomato sauce of the lasagna. Cider and tomatoes can be so fantastic together!

At this point, even after having half of my lasagna packed for later, I was stuffed! And yet I wanted to taste the final pairing.

It was an individual apple bundt cake with lemon ricotta and drizzled with cider caramel. I knew it would be paired with Black Diamond’s Pommeau. The cake appeared in a decadent moat of sauces. It makes my mouth water to think back on it. Pommeau was a delightfully appropriate pairing because of its intensity, sweetness, and higher ABV. Most cider would not be able to be tasted alongside such a rich and sweet dessert, but pommeau is a mixture of cider spirits, fresh cider, and wonderful structure from oak barrel aging. All of these factors made it something extra special with this creamy fabulous apple cake. 

The whole meal was extraordinary thanks to the wonderful food preparation and outstanding pairings from Black Diamond. What a great way to start my Cider Week New York!