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!