Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Cider Review: Big Fish Cider Co.'s Monterey Maple

I’ve been saving my notes on Big Fish Cider Co.’s Monterey Maple since December 27th. I got to enjoy this cider with the Tall One and my dad during our holiday get together. My dad’s awesome cat KB is in one of the pictures. Today is a day that reminds me that while Winter is here, Spring is coming. I thought it only right to share this cider that connects those seasons as well, with its hearty winter-friendly warmth and maple’s nod to Spring’s running of the sap. 

For more background information on Virginia’s Big Fish Cider Co. I recommend looking to my earlier reviews. I’ve enjoyed reviewing these ciders for a few years now. Here’s a list of all of this blog’s previous reviews of Big Fish Cider Co. ciders. There’s a very high ratio of these ciders’ appearances on the blog and in the yearly favorites list. It’s not a coincidence, as Big Fish Ciders tend to be absolutely delicious. 

Wassail: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2023/01/cider-review-big-fish-cider-cos-wassail.html

Punk and Henry (my #2 Favorite cider of 2022): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/03/cider-review-big-fish-cider-cos-puck.html

Virginia Hewes Crab(my #1 favorite cider of 2020!): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/10/cider-review-big-fish-cider-co-virginia.html

Wild Meadow: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-big-fish-cider-cos-wild.html

Allegheny Gold (my #3 cider from 2019): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/01/cider-review-whitewood-cider-company.html

Highland Scrumpy (my #3 cider from 2018): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-angry-orchard-ciders.html

Church Hill Blush: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

Check out all of the ciders that Big Fish Cider has available by visiting them on the web: https://www.bigfishcider.com/

Here’s the cidery’s official description for the cider.

Sparkling gold clear Off-Dry cider featuring Stayman, Gold Rush, Winesap and Pink Lady. This cider is fermented with local Maple Syrup, and then barrel aged in apple brandy barrels, 8.4% abv.

We grow amazing apples here in Highland, but we are better known for our maple syrup; this cider is a perfect marriage of the two. In the olden-days, cidermakers would add extra sugar to their cider to boost the alcohol content in order to make a more stable drink (with our long, cold winters, who could blame them?), and at one time maple syrup was inexpensive and readily available. They would ferment the cider in barrels, and with the maple flavors, this would add complexity to the cider. We used apple brandy barrels, which add another dimension to the flavors of this cider.

The Oak of the barrel comes through on the nose, but the first sip soon gives way to the brandy and flavors including vanilla and caramel notes, from the barrel, and when swallowed the essence of the maple is left on the palate, along with the tannins from the oak. Less maple flavor than most expect, and not sweet. We didn’t want the Maple to dominate, only be a supporting flavor in this cider.

Monterey Maple goes well with smoked meats and particularly grilled foods.

Appearance: bright jeweler’s gold, brilliant, bubbly

I love how intense and bright the jeweler’s gold color is in the Monterey Maple. Otherwise the cider is plentifully bubbly and brilliant.

Aromas: barrel, baking spices, maple, botanical notes, apple butter

The Monterey Maple cider smells of a gentle aged spiciness of the brandy barrel. I also get notes of concentrated apple butter, baking spices, and one thread of wildness.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-sweet

This cider is described as off-dry, but the maple adds presence to its sweetness, so it may function like a semi-sweet if your tastes are like mine.

Flavors and drinking experience: brandy, creamy mouthfeel, medium high acid, maple, 

Big Fish Cider Co.’s Monterey Maples tastes fantastic. Bubbles caress the thick boozy mouthfeel. The cider brings medium high tannins and medium high acid. The acidity stands out as high profile for a barrel-aged cider; I appreciate the effect tremendously. The maple is nicely integrated, but the brandy barrels speak just as clearly. The cider awakens the salivary glands. 

I love how this cider tastes warming and bright at once. The maple speaks with additional clarity  in the finish and aftertaste, which is a great place for it to show up. I also get floral notes as the cider leaves my senses. The one note of wildness from the aroma does persist, adding a burr of texture. The bubbles are a joy. Overall a perfect delight for Winter or Spring. 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Cider Review: Stormalong Cider's Collaboration with Exhibit A Brewing Co. India Pale Cider IPC

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the Stormalong collaboration with Exhibit A Brewing Co. IPC, India Pale Cider. It’s a bit overdue as this collaboration was released in October of last year, so I apologize! I just have to find the right moment of weather, food, and mood to reach for a hopped cider outside of Spring or Summer. This past week, we had those moments a plenty as nearly a week of unseasonable warmth and glorious golden sunshine visited the Finger Lakes. I didn’t hesitate to create a meal around this cider. Read on to find out what it was.

First, I’ll quote Stormalong’s website to paint a little picture of this cidery’s identity. 

Stormalong Cider was founded in 2014 by Shannon Edgar with the desire to showcase the virtues of cider made with the right apples. Cider is a complex and nuanced beverage, and apple selection and blends are paramount.

We treat cider making as an artistic endeavor, a renaissance of sorts. Using a blend of culinary and rare heirloom varieties, we ferment and age our ciders with traditional and modern techniques showcasing the unique characteristics of these diverse apples.

At Stormalong, we are committed to quality. We don’t cut corners. We respect the apple, the ingredients, and the process. We aim to increase awareness of the diversity of apple cultivars, some of which have been around since the country was founded, while continuing to innovate and explore in the pursuit of cider’s full potential.

I’ve reviewed and enjoyed several Stormalong ciders since the cidery was founded. Here’s the list. 

Pearman Quince(my #10 cider of last year): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/08/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-pearmain.html

Unfiltered: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/04/cider-review-stormalong-ciders.html

White Mountain Magic: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/02/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-white.html

Bittersweet Symphonie: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/10/cider-review-stormalongs-bittersweet.html

Wicked Little Wickson: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/08/cider-review-stormalongs-wicked-little.html

Winesap: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/04/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-winesap.html

Happy Holidays: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/11/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-happy.html

Esopus Spitzenburg: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/08/cider-review-ravens-moon-craft-ciders.html

Ashmead’s Kernel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/07/cider-review-brannland-just-cider-and.html

Peariful: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/05/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-fortis.html

Legendary Dry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-stormalongs-legendary-dry.html

Kingston Black: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/08/cider-reviews-ninepin-light-cider.html

Light of the Sun: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/08/cider-review-descendant-cider-company.html

Mass Appeal: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/12/cider-review-prospect-ciderworks.html

Boston Heirloom: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2020/01/cider-review-stormalong-ciders-boston.html

Online you can find out about Stormalong’s current releases and full lineup: http://stormalong.com/.

Here’s how Stormalong and Exhibit A Brewing describe the collaboration cider: India Pale Cider.

This limited release cider features a blend of Gold Rush and Idared apples fermented with a Belgian saison yeast and dry-hopped with Mosaic and Simcoe Cryo hops. The result is a crisp 6.0% ABV cider with notes of citrus, floral, and tropical fruit enhanced by the hops.

Appearance: Brilliant, Intense pollen yellow, Ring of bubbles

I don’t expect a shining and brilliant cider for a hopped cider. Often the aesthetics of beer influence hopped ciders, and the result is a hazy to cloudy cider. The IPC instead shows off its intense pollen yellow colors and the tiny corona of bubbles I see where the cider meets the glass. Lovely!

Aromas: Grapefruit, Melon, Aquatic, Fresh apple, Clean

The first note I scent after pouring this cider is grapefruit flesh, followed by melon, fresh apple, and a wonderfully refreshing play of aquatic elements. It feels cooling, not sweaty or dirty. The overall sense I get from the IPC is that this will be fresh and clean while also tasting tremendously fruity. We’ll see if the flavors match the aromas.

Sweetness Dryness: Off Dry

This is a perfect off-dry cider in terms of its not-quite-present level of sweetness. The cider isn’t punishing, austere, or bone dry, but neither is it sweet. It’s just not-dry enough to allow that to be a background characteristic, making room for other flavors and factors.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: medium to petillant bubbles. mildly bitter, off dry, big and acidic with plenty of apple. 

Hopped ciders are more than a little bit divisive in the cider world. Lots of cider people are also beer people, and for them hops have two cleanly defined roles: aromatics and bitterness. There is less agreement about whether or not both of those roles are acceptable for hops in cider. Stormalong and Exhibit A Brewing make their collaborative case for lots of aromas and just the mildest of bittering. It’s a wise choice and a delicious one. 

The cider’s texture is medium-full bodied buoyed by petillant bubbles.  It’s refreshingly acidic cider with plenty of apple, hops and fermentation character. 

The Grapefruit notes that I noticed in the aromas persist. The hops specifically elide into a pineyness that seems woody in the context of cider. I enjoy the IPC’s nice wet mouthfeel, particularly because it stays fresh not dank, bulbous, or funky. The collaboration comes off as mature and focused by creating a hopped cider that’s balanced and sessionable with a clean finish. It's committed to doing a challenging thing well: the integration of apples and hops.

With this cider, we had open-faced cheddar melts, made from 2 year aged cheddar, along with an array of nibbles. The rich cheese went beautifully with the clean cider and walnuts, craisins, honey, carrots, peppers and hummus. A simple dinner was perfect to complement this deeply enjoyable cider.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Cider Review: Snow Capped Cider's Dabinett

I have seen the sun more in the last three days than I have in the two months before. It's restorative in a way that goes deeper than I can communicate with words. The time hasn’t come yet for looking forward to Spring, but I’m profoundly grateful for the steps we’re making in that direction. 

This past weekend, I even successfully travelled out of state to visit with dear friends and see an amazing performance; I got to see Dita Von Teese’s Glamonatrix tour!  Part of the delightful weekend included sharing cider with wonderful dinner companions. I chose to bring a cider that isn’t easy to acquire in Massachusetts: Snow Capped Cider’s Dabinett.

Snow Capped Cider comes from Colorado. I encourage folks to visit the history section of Snow Capped Cider’s website to learn all about this fascinating multi-generation farm journey: https://snowcappedcider.com/about-us/.

My reviews include a few Snow Capped Ciders. I’ll share all the links below.

Jala-pear-no Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/11/ciderperry-review-snow-capped-ciders.html

Ashmead’s Kernel: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/09/cider-review-snow-capped-cider-ashmeads.html

Blanc Mollet: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/06/cider-review-snow-capped-ciders-single.html

Gold Rush: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2022/04/cider-review-snow-capped-ciders-gold.html

Harrison Reserve (My #5 favorite cider of 2021): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2021/12/cider-review-snow-capped-cider-harrison.html

I recommend visiting Snow Capped Cider online to learn about what Snow Capped Cider is up to: https://snowcappedcider.com/

Here’s how Snow Capped Cider describes the Dabinett. 

This revered bittersweet apple was first discovered in Somerset England during the 1800’s. Our high elevation orchards increase UV exposure creating intense flavor profiles. We combine this with a slow fermentation. Our Dabinett single varietal is processed unfiltered. Further maturation is developed in the bottle evoking a deep golden hue and beckoning butterscotch aroma. This complex flavor development leads to fruity sweetness, and rich buttery floral notes. Hinting woody vanilla then building tingling warmth and tannins on the tongue for a slightly dry bittersweet finish. 100% Dabinett apples grown in our Colorado Orchards. Serve slightly chilled.

Alcohol 8.20%

Appearance: Intense apricot, no visible bubbles, brilliant

I love it when a cider dares to show such extravagant color. Snow Capped Cider’s Dabinett’s color reminds me of apricots and spring sunrises. I don’t see any bubbles but beautiful clarity.

Aromas: overripe apple, yeast, dusty limestone, 

As soon as this was pouring, the rich aromas of the Dabinett made their presence known. These very strong scents of  overripe apple and yeast along dusty limestone and peach were enveloping and inviting!

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

The label on the bottle uses a visual scale to set expectations for the level of sweetness or dryness. This one indicated that the Dabinett would be semi dry. We tasted it and found it semi-sweet to sweet instead. Read on for more specifics.

Flavors and drinking experience: honeyed, high acid, balance, leather finish

My first thought when the Dabinett crossed my lips was how honeyed it tasted. Thankfully the cider also brought beautiful high acid as well.  The sweetness and acid brought balance to the drinking experience. It stayed clean through the mid-palate but veered just a little funky with a leather finish. I enjoyed the complexity that those gentle notes of wildness added to the overall experience. It’s a lovely cider! 

We paired the cider with an array of takeout Ethiopian dishes, and the combinations worked beautifully! The cider’s sweetness was not unwelcome among the wonderful experiences of spicy, sour, rich, and savory. The sweetness of the Dabinett helped complete the meal this way! It added to a deeply satisfying meal and a wonderful weekend start to finish. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Cider Review: Troddenvale's Countryside Farm (100% Harrison)

Welcome back to everyone returning from their time at CiderCon. I hope you had a fantastic adventure. I loved following everyone’s posts about it. I hope re-entry into regular life is gentle and pleasant for you all. This is often a difficult season, so I offer you wishes for cold steady temperatures for orchards and warm hearths filled with love inside. Today, I’m sharing notes on a special cider that was a birthday gift last year from my darling tall one. He found for me a cider that he thought looked especially promising Troddenvale’s Countryside Farm (100% Harrison) from the Grower Series. 

Troddenale at Oakley Farm is based in Warm Springs, Virginia near the George Washington National Forest. This cider is one of the earliest releases, a batch from 2018. Here’s how the folks at Trodenvale describe their methods of cidermaking. I think it's a great introduction to the identity of this cidery more generally.

Stripping away the modern techniques and dogmatic notions of the commercial beverage industry, we strive to make pure expressions of distinct fruit and showcase where they are grown. Focusing on what the fruit can give us requires patience and limited intervention. 

Working with true cider varietals limits the need of flavor-enhancing adjuncts and corrections. Relying purely on native microbial populations provides genuine complexity and individual character. Fermenting in neutral oak creates depth and microflora continuity. Bottling unfiltered provides texture, leaving nothing behind. Limiting the addition of preservatives ensures these ciders are transparent, alive, and evolving.

Visit Troddenvale online to learn about the current lineup of ciders: https://www.troddenvale.com/

Here’s what info I could glean about the Countryside Farm from the cider's back label. 

The grower series focuses on expression of single orchard sites. 

Sparkling Cider. 100% Harrison.

Grown by Countryside Farm and Nurseries of Crimora, Virginia.

Concentrated rich aromatics. Robust phenolic structure. Drink with food. Full native yeast fermentation in neutral oak. Sur lie aged. Undisgorged.

No fining/filtration.

No pasteurization.

No chapitalization.

No acidification.

No added sulfites.

Batch 2018

35 Cases produced

Alc. 8.5% by volume

From the great springs region of Virginia, sparkling ciders of origin driven by transparency. Produced and bottled by Troddenvale, Warm Springs, Virginia.

Appearance: deep color, few visible bubbles, hazy, no sediment in the first 2 glasses

The cider is hazy with deep marigold color, few visible bubbles, no sediment in the first 2 glasses.

Aromas: Woody, twiggy, lime, mineral, and floral

There are wonderful complexities to these aromas. The Countryside Farm smells powerfully woody in a way that anticipates both tannins and acid. I think the cider will be bright and dry, but we’ll see what flavors lie in store. It smells English but not too powerfully funky. There’s also a beautiful interplay of lime, mineral and floral notes.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

The Countryside Farm tastes dry but not bone dry. The cider has a lot going on that feels totally separate from the dry/sweet spectrum.

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, tannic, wood, full mouthfeel, angular

This cider, upon first sip, was declared an instant winner. It’s petillant with angular fruitiness, high tannins, and white wood notes. It doesn’t taste traditionally barrelly, but also definitely gained something from its fermentation in neutral oak. I appreciate how full the mouthfeel is. The Countryside Farm is boozy at 8.5oz but with no undue heat. 

It’s well balanced, especially considering that its a single varietal. I don’t expect to get the right counterbalance of acidity, tannin, bubbles, phenolics and everything from just one apple. The minimal intervention approach that Troddenvale committed to was entirely rewarding in this case. I am beyond impressed!

Overall, the cider is serious, but immediately rewarding. I love that it’s still completely delicious a full five years after fermentation (it’s a 2018 batch)! We just served it with a hearty yet simple United Kingdom inspired dinner of jacketed potatoes with beans, shredded cheddar and vegetarian sausage. It was perfect!