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.