Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The January 2017 Cidrbox and Eden's Imperial 11° Rose Cider


Today, March begins with thunderstorms and wind; its unseasonably warm. But I want to share a cider experience from just before CiderCon, in the first days of last month. Imagine weather like March in upstate New York is supposed to have; that was much of our February. And that's when I got my sample Cidrbox in the mail. 

Full disclosure, I got to try a free Cidrbox for review purposes. I assure you that this does not sway my opinion about either the experience of getting a cider subscription or the cider from the box that I'm reviewing here. It did get to skip much nearer to the front of the review line somewhat though, but I don't want the December box being reviewed much later!

To give a bit more background about CidrBox as a service, the business is a subscription and curation service as well as a guide to the ciders it supplies. Dayna Bateman put it together and launched the project in December of 2016. She shared some of her time with me so I could learn more about what they offer. 

Most cider fans are extremely limited in their access to high quality craft, artisan, or orchard ciders. These products tend to stay local. Shipping laws are complicated and many wonderful ciders are made in such small quantities that anything like national or even regional distribution is impossible. That's where Cidrbox comes in as a service to both cidermaker and cider lover. 

Cidrbox finds cider makers who make amazing orchard based ciders. Dayna specifically seeks out ciders made from apples cultivated especially for cider. Things are very place based and the whole service gives cider lovers a window into a different cider terroir than the ones they might be able to find at home. 


I want to emphasize the reduced shipping rate. Each Cidrbox ships for ten dollars. That means you can get a box of cider from across the country for less than the cost of one bottle of good cider. The price applies to all three sizes of Cidrbox: three bottle, six bottle, and 12 bottle. Most bottles will be the 750ml size but a few, like the ice ciders in this box, will be 375ml.


You can read much more about this subscription service here: http://www.cidrbox.com/

Then the actual unwrapping experience, my ciders were packaged securely and neatly. I've gotten perhaps more than my fair share of cider arrivals in the mail, so I've witnessed a large range in how cider can be prepared for transport. Each bottle came in an individual protective box within the larger package.


Here's how they all look freshly unboxed on the piano bench.


Another fun part of trying a new cider is tasting with others, so Cidrox includes recordings of tasting sessions, extensive shared notes, and pairing suggestions. 

Here's a link to the material accompanying the Eden box:  http://www.cidersessions.com/eden/

There's both plenty of helpful information to contextualize these varied ciders and a ton of personality here. I love the photos and videos. The layout is clear and approachable. It certainly made me feel like i could open any one of these ciders and drink with Eleanor and David and the Eden crew. 

One of the other really social feeling and enjoyable elements is the feeling that getting a Cidrbox from a company starts an ongoing connection to that cidery. Cidrbox makes it easy to order more ciders from them after you've enjoyed learning about them and drinking everything from the box. That contextualization and ongoing flow of information and connection really makes it feel like more than the other subscriptions I've tried. Instead it feels more like an introduction at a small party with really good cider.

From my Cidrbox today, I want to review Eden's Imperial 11° Rose
 

Eden Sparkling Cider's Official description for the Imperial 11° Rose reads as follows, "Imperial 11° Rose Cider - New! Heirloom apple cider made with red currant and lightly dosed with ice cider. It is just off-dry and gently fizzy, with bright acidity and chewy tannic structure. A perfectly refreshing summer sipper!" The ABV is listed as 11% and the cider comes in either 750ml or 375ml bottles. My Cidrbox came with a full size 750ml.




Appearance: brilliant, deep fuchsia pink hedging into the red of rubies, few bubbles

I cannot overemphasize how pretty this cider is. I cannot do it. This red brilliance is lovelier than both rose and rubies to me. Perhaps, I am sharing too effusively, but many rubies do not have perfect clarity and many rose wines are not so intense in their color. The color reminds me of the dark pink of peonies, one of my favorite flowers.

Aroma: red currants, dust, cranberries

Apples do not come to the forefront of these scents. Instead, I am met with red currants, cranberries and that familiar dusty smell that has come (at least to me) to predict the presence of tannins and astringency.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry and tart

This tastes extremely tart, enough to make me question how much sweetness I perceive in this cider. It comes across as off-dry, but I'm guessing the measurable sugar would be slightly more than it seems.

Flavors: tart, fruity, vinous, bubbly
 

The Imperial 11° Rose cider is fruity and tart and extremely pleasantly balanced. The balance isn't an easy one, but more the dymanic balance of a tightrope walker, and my sense of excitement is only supported by how bubbly it is! The cider tastes far more vinous than most and reminds me of black currants, though the currants in the beverage are the more unusual red currants. The whole experience is deliciously mouth-puckering, jammy, nearing a hint of solvent, but ending up estery instead.
 
This cider is so very zingy, it reminds me of the letter z, the zest of fruit, and the feeling of a stretched string (back to the tightrope image). 


But, I am going to disagree with the official description. I think calling it a "summer sipper" undersells the complexity and flexibility of this lovely beverage. The Cidrbox folks are genius to pack this bit of flavorful intensity into a winter box. Right now is when we need the pop and zing of red fruit. Winter can be worrisome, disappointing, and glum (sorry winter lovers), so each moment of vibrant awesomeness should be seized. That's what this cider is all about for me.




And as for the Cidrbox experience, I could not be happier! The ciders were packed securely, shipped promptly, presented contextually, and best all well chosen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cider Con Part 2: Panels, Workshops, and Tastings of CiderCon 2017


I love seeing cider friends, making new ones, and tasting unfamiliar ciders at Cider Con, but I'm a cider geek. What makes me look forward to the event months ahead of time is the schedule of workshop, panels, and guided tastings. I love learning about cider more than most anything in the world. 

I started my schedule with "U.S. Cider in 2017 "by Angry Orchard's Ryan Burk. This description does not tell the whole story of the talk, but it says, "Insights and outlook for U.S. cider in 2017, covering the importance of drinker education, highlights and successes from across the country, and the future of apples in the U.S." What we learned was so much more. 

Ryan showed current market data about cider, but then he took us on a journey through the chain of cider production. Almost everyone in the room was reminded to think of a step further away from their relationship to cider than usual. We heard from nursery growers, orchardists, cider makers, distributors, and drinkers about how we can get good cider into glasses.
It all comes down to apples. Ryan talked about why we need more cider varietals grown in the United States and we talked about how to make that economically feasible for every link in the chain of production. And for some encouragement, he called out some love for cider companies providing great long-term commitment by planting their own orchards.
 

I next attended "Tools for Success: Marketing, Branding & Storytelling" by Caitlin Braam and Kate Bernot. Caitlin is the president of Seattle Cider Company and Kate does all the cider coverage she can get her hands on through Draft Magazine.

This is what I knew about their talk going in, "This session will focus on tools and techniques to take your cider brand to the next level. Whether you’re just starting out or are looking to enhance an existing brand, hear about tried and true tips for increased exposure, assisting with sales and gaining recognition for your brand through media outreach. Learn how to pitch, contact press, and craft the perfect story while understanding the challenges beverage writers face when writing about cider. Caitlin and Kate will also discuss some of the hurdles currently facing the industry, including style definition, Brix scale, macro vs craft and more." These were great presenters, and I appreciated the choice to pair a cider company president with a journalist so multiple angles could be covered. 

Everyone who attended "Cider Trends in the US & Abroad" by Danny Brager and Matthew Crompton from Nielsen and CGA got a great window into some Nielson data presented compellingly.  Here's how they described the talk. “Nielsen and Nielsen CGA will take a look at the Cider category in the U.S., and France, its performance at retail (both on and off premise), as well as the consumer dynamics driving its sales – the ‘why’ behind the ‘buy’. They’ll provide some comparisons to other Cider markets elsewhere, and to the performance of other U.S. adult beverage categories, and offer suggestions for growing the U.S. Cider market." I really appreciated the way these gentlemen broke down some numbers and let us know where and how cider really is selling in America.

Next came, "Online Branding" my talk with Eric West of Cider Guide (find his fine work at https://ciderguide.com/)

We pitched our talk, “Online branding can help or hurt a cider brand tremendously. Frequently, cider fans encounter a new brand for the first time online. That means that cider makers cannot simply let the beverage speak for itself. Instead they need to craft an online identity for their cider company. This talk will introduce people to the why and how of online branding and content marketing strategies. We’ll talk about the types of online communication necessary for a cider brand including: blogging, newsletters, and social media. Plus, we’ll address both basic and intermediate strategies for managing them.”

I feel quite pleased with our crowd and their questions. Eric gave some great granular thoughts about using specific applications and some excellent book recommendations. I stayed a bit more big picture and talked about information, communication, and guiding priciples for the most part. I did give a few tiny tidbits about various social media platforms. Rather than summarize though, I'll just give a link to the slides of our presentation: https://ciderguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Online-Branding.pdf

Next came a panel I looked forward to more than most was the “Women in Cider” a discussion organized by the Pomme Boots Society (founded by Gemma Fanelli Schmit, Jennie Dorsey and Jana Daisy-Ensign)

Here's how they introduced the panel, "Meet and learn from women working in different segments of the cider industry. Panelists share their experience, insight, challenges and inspiration from orchard to bottle and tasting room to market. Pomme Boots Society is honored to present a forum for discussion that shares the stories of women in our dynamic field." Also, for those not yet familiar with the group, here's how they introduct themselves, "The Pomme Boots Society is an organization for women working in the cider industry. The group supports positive network connections, education and professional development for women in the dynamic field of cider."

Of course there were many talks I really really wanted to attend but couldn't. First among these was, “Apple Orchard Mythology vs. Reality” by the legendary Pete Brown.

This description made me gnash my teeth for being unable to attend: “The apple is the most symbolic, mythologized fruit in human history. In this talk based on his new book, The Apple Orchard, Pete Brown traces the apple along a faultline between the real world and the mythological, through ancient Greek myth, Arthurian legend and the Garden of Eden, and attempts to answer key questions such as why the apple has such great significance, what was really going on with Snow White? And was the Biblical Forbidden Fruit really an apple or not? The answers shed new light on cider’s core ingredient.”

For those who might not yet be familiar, Pete Brown is an English beverage and culture writer who penned World’s Best Cider (with Bill Bradshaw) among several other beloved books. Luckily, I was able to purchase Brown's latest book The Apple Orchard at CiderCon and get it signed! Wow! For those who want to take a peek at the new book: https://www.amazon.com/Apple-Orchard-Pete-Brown/dp/1846148839/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487645778&sr=1-2&keywords=the+apple+orchard

My favorite tasting had to be the “Northeast Cider Tasting with Jenn Smith and Ian Merwin”

The description for this one read, "A lively conversation with a focused selection of cider makers from NH, NY and VT, including, Autumn Stoscheck (Eve’s Cidery). Eleanor Leger (Eden Specialty Cider), Stephen Wood(Farnum Hill), Jonathan Oakes (Steampunk Cider), and Dan Wilson (Slyboro Cidery). This dynamic panel will share a tasting of representative ciders and will discuss apples, methods and styles from the Northeastern United States; spirited debate will ensue."

The reality was a bit different as Autumn had the flu and could not make it and there were a few other substitutions. In the end we tasted the five ciders listed in my photo and heard from Ian Merwin in place of Autumn Shosteck.

The talk that made me what to change my life the most, was probably “Selling Against the Trends: Tradition and Authenticity in an Innovation Driven Marketplace” by Lauren Shepard. 

It was described as, "The question of where cider fits into the current alcoholic beverage marketplace has been debated ad nauseam. Within the beer industry, Shelton Brothers is attempting to redefine how artisanal beverages are sold today, by focusing on tradition rather than innovation, knowledge rather than marketing dollars, and competitive pricing rather than uniform margins. This session is for any small or midsized cidermaker who doesn’t want to put their cider in a 6-pack, but knows that they will likely be working through beer buyers in their home market and beyond."  Lauren's talk came from her experiences as a distributor of very fine ciders and beers. I think her points make a lot of sense for a market like Ithaca and several others I'm sure.

The biggest surprise of all came from “History of Apple Culture in the US” by Original Sin's Gidon Coll. Gidon is a friend of mine (I'm proud to say), and I really wanted to see what he could teach us about apple history. A lot as it turns out. 

The description of the talk was relatively simple, “A brief look at the history of apple culture in the United States with a look at historical text documenting the early days of cider production in our country.” Coll planted an orchard in 2012, made up of heritage, rare, and cider specific varietals, in Upstate New York. His talk and his credentials are both so much more than was promised. Gidon brought historical books on apples, vintage nursery catalogues, and shared with us information that wooed everyone into the world of orchard history. If any talks gave me the sense that I have homework I really *want* to do, this was it.

Cider Con ended with a panel discussion and Grand Cider Tasting with our guest french cidermakers. Folks got the chance to ask questions about keeving, the cider market in France, and hear these cidermakers' stories. Plus we got to try a few of their delicious ciders and perries. This was a perfect way to wind up a conference. We'd worked hard and learned a lot, so everyone felt pretty ready to listen and mellow out with some cider.

I know presentations will go online in the coming weeks, so folks who weren't able to attend Cider Con will get to have access to some of this great material. Though this is far from the full experience of Cider Con, I hope you guys enjoyed getting to share some of the ways in which I enjoyed geeking out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cider Con 2017 Part 1: An Industry Growing Up

The United States Association of Cider Makers and the Big Picture 

Every year that I've attended, CiderCon feels like an event hosted by a developing organization. The United States Association of Cider Makers improves and challenges itself to learn more and do more each year. I remember some of the goals from last year, and we've achieved them. And when I think about CiderCon's maturation, it isn't just the parent organization, its how the whole industry approaches having a national meeting. We are learning to make the most of this time: not just to see friends and attend workshops, but to boost cider through timed releases, special events, collaborations and more.

Our hotel even had swank elevator wraps and quizzes

Most notably of the achievements of 2016 for the USACM is Michelle McGrath's hire as Executive Director. It took a long and arduous search but everyone is so happy that they found her. Bruce Nissen, our new USACM president and founder of Jester and Judge Cider (http://jesterandjudge.com/)
described the search as a thorough narrowing from an initial applicant pool of 1300 people down to just one. And after seeing Michelle throughout the weekend, I am completely impressed with her energy and organization. 

I want to show a bit more of the evidence I observed that CiderCon is maturing.

I appreciated excellent coordination as shown by the programs with maps, external work with organizations outside of USACM not only with Cider Summit Chicago but Cider Week Chicago, multiple cider releases timed to coincide with the conference, an organized press briefing, on and off site portfolio tastings, and best of all a strategic plan for USACM that covers their goals for the next three years. I've always felt like folks are trying to make the best of our time together at CiderCon, but some of these developments just blew me away.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a press briefing on the gearing up day of the conference. At this meeting each of the United States Association Board Member introduced themselves and their cidery. Each region and scale is represented on this board. The current board members are: Bruce Nissen, Dan Wilson, Eleanor Leger, Trevor Baker, Ryan Burk, Paul Vander Heide, Ben Calvi, Marcus Tieton, Brian Shanks, Dan Young and Eric Foster. As they each introduced themselves, they said a little bit about their cideries.


Board members also poured samples of their ciders; this is the tip of that iceberg

Michelle led the meeting and introduced us to what USACM is doing. The organization actively represents cider to the government to improve legislation of the industry. This is the year that the CIDER act goes into effect which reduces the tax burden on many cideries, particularly those making a sparkling cider.

The next legislative push is for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act which you can read about here: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/press-releases/statement-on-introduction-of-craft-beverage-modernization-and-tax-reform-act.

Another major project of the USACM includes developing labelling for cider that will allow consumers to have a better idea of what they are purchasing. Though this is not yet developed early comparisons use the Riesling Taste Profile from the International Riesling Foundation as a potentially useful model.

Still on the subject of cider education, we got an update on the Cider Certification Program from Paul Vander Heide of Vandermill Cider. The first level of the CCP is now available to study and take online, with reduced pricing for USACM members. I was part of the inaugural class of CCP takers last February and vouch for the quality of information used for the test and training. The program is designed for everyone who wants to learn about cider in a serious way but is especially well suited to folks working in the hospitality industry or interacting with the public about cider. Learn more at the website: http://www.ciderassociation.org/Certification.

Another significant goal for the USACM is the comissioning of third party economic data that's more granular than what's available through Nielsen and more inclusive of local and regional producers. The industry needs better coverage of cider's “long tail” when such a large proportion of our businesses are very small and often very young.

Opening Session
This year we also played host to some very special visitors from two cider making regions of France: Brittany and Normandy. Ghisilaine Davy from Cidrerie Daufresne to share his Poire(Perry), Dominique Le Brun from Cidres Le Brun to discuss keeving as a fermentation technique, and Guilliaume Drouin from Christian Drouin, bringing his Calvados and cidre.

At the opening session, we heard (via video) from Oregon lawmaker Representative Earl Blumenauer about continuing bipartisan efforts to improve the regulations and taxation that govern cider as a beverage. He's a charming speaker who championed the CIDER Act that already promises to give some producers a number of beneficial legal changes.

Another highlight of the opening session for me was our welcome video. This includes cideries from all over the country and a few sly jokes if you know the personalities and companies involved. Even without these little hidden gems, the video is a fun window into the quirkiness of cider makers.

https://vimeo.com/203243082

The most exciting part of the opening session though was finding out about next year's location for CiderCon. In 2018, we'll convene in Baltimore. I anticipate lots of seafood pairings and events that show me a city I've never seen.


Our opening panel discussion

Up next, I'll share my experiences at the panels, workshops, and tastings of CiderCon 2017.


Wednesday evening Cider Share

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Barrel-Aged Cider & Chicago Cider Week

Usually, I start with my review and then share any cider news, but I want to make sure Chicago area cider lovers know that this event is already happening! Chicago Cider Week runs from February 3-11 with a plethora of cider opportunities for sipping, pairing, and learning!

Tons of fabulous cider things happen at The Northman (http://www.thenorthman.com/) and this week is anything but an exception. We can meet Pete Brown (cider and beer author), Ria Windcaller(of Cider Chat: http://ciderchat.com/), and some super start cider makers.   

Pairing dinners and tap takeovers are also happening all over town! Check out the event list:

http://www.chicagociderweek.com/p/events.html

And as a way of transition, today's review is a cider by Citizen Cider out of Burlington, Vermont. They have already started a full series of cider events just by themselves this week for both Cider Week and Cider Con. 


I reviewed the bRose in 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-citizen-cider-brose.html

More recently, I stopped at their taproom and production facility in Burlington this past summer as part of my Cider Tour: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

To learn a bit more about Citizen Cider, please check out their website: http://www.citizencider.com/

Today's review is of their Barrel-Aged Cider. I'll share the official description, but here's a spoiler, I'm not going to pair it with steak. : )

This cider is aged in reclaimed oak bourbon barrels. We take our finest cider blends, let them sit in these American oak barrels, and while they get to know each other, a beautiful relationship emerges. Best enjoyed with a big steak and a friend.
Reclaimed American Oak Bourbon Barrels are going to impart a lot of flavor, and I bet it will smell and taste boozier than its 6.9% ABV, but there's only one way to find out.

Citizen Cider was kind enough to list some additional pairing options. Here's the list, "Pairings: Lamb Stew, Veal Ossobuco, Pumpkin Pie, Dark Chocolate Souffle, Blue Cheese and Smoked Blue Fish." There aren't a ton of vegetarian options in there, but I'm never going to argue with dark chocolate souffle or pumpkin pie.


Appearance: brilliant, lots of visible bubbles, medium straw 

Like all of Citizen's ciders, this has a perfect sparkling brilliance. Its easy to see lots of active bubbles throughout the glass. I'd call the color medium straw, neither particularly light nor dark.

Aromas: almond, cherry, apple, barrel

The cider smells intensely of barrel, but that's far from the only note. I can also get wisps of apple, cherry, and almond. It smells rather like pastries altogether, but I'm guessing it will be less sweet than it smells. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I get a bit of initial sweetness but the cider tastes dryer as the tasting experience goes on; its like many barrel-aged ciders in this way.

 

Flavors and drinking experience: vanilla, cooked apples, bourbon, buttered toast

Let me say first that this cider has a lot going on in terms of flavor intensity! The best part is that all of these flavors go together beautifully. I tasted this first when I toured the facility in August; my thought then was that this cider would be perfect for winter. So, I bought a bottle and saved it until the beginning of February. And I don't disagree with past Meredith. What a brilliant winter cider.

This is so vanilla, bourbon, almond, buttered toast good. All of the flavors really do cascade together over the tongue. The apple flavor is soft like the apple has been cooked or pressed into pomace. This helps the overall impression of unity I get from the flavors. 

In terms of texture, the Barrel-Aged Cider offers up great strong bubbles in bountiful quantities.  The cider also features great retro-nasal aromas: weird to say but great to experience.

I noticed when looking around online that this cider has made a few lists of ciders that beer aficionados could enjoy, and I agree. This is a particularly emphatic and well balanced cider with cohesive flavor and real verve. I'd heartily recommend it to beer and cider drinkers alike. I had mine with local cheese and Miche bread: no steak anywhere in sight, and it was totally delightful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cider Review: Downeast Craft Cider: Cranberry Blend and Counting Down to CiderCon


Today, I wanted to share my first review of anything by New England's Downeast Craft Cider. I'm starting with their Cranberry Blend. Though they've not appeared on the blog before, I've had a few of their ciders. The company is based out of East Boston, but their cans appear all over the North Eastern United States. They have a tourable cidery and a tap room.

I found a funny thing on the website too good not to share.


One one passes this gatekeeper, you can learn about the company and their ciders online. They were founded by college friends in 2011. The focus, as they describe it, is as much about what they don't do or add to their ciders as what they choose to do. Here's the priority directly in the words from Downeast.
where others have used juice from concentrate, “natural flavorings,” “essences,” artificial sweeteners, and an endless list of excuses, downeast cider house has a firmly established policy of NO SHORTCUTS. no matter the cost to us, we are fully committed to using only fresh-pressed juices and pure, natural ingredients in our cider. when it comes to flavor, there’s no substitute for the best, and that’s what we stand by: simple, honest, authentic.
One other element one the website struck me as particularly interesting is that they have two sections about their cider: fresh cider pre-fermentation and hard cider after production. 

Check out the website for yourself here: http://downeastcider.com/?ao_confirm

And this is how they describe what I'm reviewing this evening: Cranberry Blend
FRESH-PRESSED CRANBERRIES MAKE FOR A TART, CRISP FINISH.after every batch of cranberry blend is finished and ready for the conditioning tank, a cider-maker finds tyler and hands him a small cup. tyler takes a sip – contemplating the flavor, the body, the finish, the metaphysical implications of spinning around a dying star on this piece of rock we call planet earth – before making the declaration as old as time itself: “more cranberry.” and so it goes, a ceremonial dash of cranberry caps the batch and it’s whisked off to a cold, bubbly destiny.

This cider has a relatively low ABV at 5%.  The ingredients listed are: "freshly pressed apple cider, fresh cranberry juice, and ale yeast".  Downeast describes the cider as being lightly carbonated. Knowing all of these things helps me form more specific expectations when approaching the cider, something I always appreciate.


Appearance: watermelon, cloudy, many visible bubbles

The first thing I noticed was how pretty the color looks; it reminds me of  watermelon flesh  or tangerines. Its just gorgeous. I also saw tons of great big bubbles. Significant debris at the bottom of the glass, like the size of fish flakes. All of their ciders are described as unfiltered, so this isn't a huge surprise. 

Aromas: fruity, applesauce, butterscotch, cranberry

This cider smells very fruity, like applesauce but also dusty in that uniquely cidery way. the second thing I notice about the aromas is how very ripe the fruit notes. They almost meld into a butterscotch or jammy sort of smell. There are definitely cranberry notes, like a cranberry butter. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Cranberry Blend tastes sweet from start to finish, it does not have the controversial zing of cranberry.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruit punch, hint of tart

Interesting! This cider reminds me of fruit punch or summery sangria with notes of cranberry. But the specific cranberry notes taste cooked more like a homemade cranberry sauce. I'd definitely call this cider sweet and straightforward, but not unbalanced. There's  no funk and no bitterness. Several cider lovers out there are cheering as they read that because not everyone like bitter in their cranberry. I do get a little sourness, but not like actual cranberry juice. There are low but present levels of tannins.

This cider tastes best in big sips. Its very sessionable and easy drinking. The other thing that immediately strikes me is how good  this would be for a cocktail component. This won't be the cider for everyone, and I do miss the aggressive bite that I associate with fresh cranberry, but for other folks this will be just perfect. 

And...I'll  be headed to CiderCon 2017 in Chicago in 8 days! If you are joining us (and I hope you are) come say hi! And if you can't make it, follow along by seeing what's happening on social media. I know a few of us will be sharing with @cidercon or #cidercon on Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cider Review: Gowan's Heirloom Cider's 1876 Heirloom


The first cider I got to try on my San Francisco trip was a Gowan's cider at a really neat Indian restaurant in the Mission. I was meeting a friend with my husband at Babu Ji (http://babujisf.com/) after coming in from the pouring rain. While we were drying off and waiting a moment, I asked about cider and was thrilled to hear about a local choice on tap. So, I thought I'd share my impressions of the only Gowan's Heirloom Cider I've had the chance to try: Their 1876 Heirloom. But first a bit about Gowan's Heirloom Ciders.

This business grew out of Gowan Family Orchards. That business is known for wholesale fruit including the rare Sierra Beauty apple for 140 years. There's not as much information about the actual cider elements in comparison to the orchards, but perhaps that will grow with time.

If you like gorgeous photos of apples, please visit their websites. You won't be disappointed. 


http://www.gowansheirloomcider.com/
http://www.gowanorchards.com/


And now, moving to the cider I was so lucky to find. The official description of the 1876 Heirloom reads, 
Our ‘1876’ wine-style cider celebrates the first harvest here with a select blend of fresh heirloom apples, capturing the complex aromatics of late fall orchards: rich earthiness, floral, stone fruit and honey. 
Lightly sparkling, this cider is refreshing, complex and crisp, with a medium finish. Imagine walking through a late fall orchard.
I'm not quite sure what a medium finish entails specifically, but this does give me a few good expectations. Ciders that can be described as earthy are often winners for me, and readers know I'm a huge fan of using heritage dessert fruit while our cider specific orchards in the United States are still so few and so young. Let's see how this tastes.




Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles, old gold color

As the picture reveals, albeit dimly, this cider looks totally brilliant. I'd describe the color as old gold. There aren't too many bubbles, so I'm not expecting an intense sparkle. 

Aromas: melon rind, fresh watermelon, wet apples, bakery

Perhaps its the limitations of a pint glass of cider in an Indian restaurant but I had a difficult time honing in on the aromas of this cider. I could detect watermelon rind, wet apples, and bakery, but I feel like there was more I was not accurately perceiving.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

I noted in the official description there were few hints to point me to how dry or sweet this cider might be.

Flavors and drinking experience: fig, caramel, baking spice


This cider reminds me of ripe figs, caramel, and baking apples with spices. There's also a note reminiscent of  Johnny Chapman by New Day Craft. (See that review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-new-day-crafts-johnny.html) I think the notes of salted caramel are what reminds me of molasses, but lightly so.

The richness in the mouthfeel comes from the sweetness without any doubt. The cider is only lightly bubbly, as I anticipated. The 1876 offers up medium low acid compared to many similarly heritage fruit ciders from the east coast and a similarly low level of tannins. I has a lingering sweet mouth coat that finishs cleanly and tastily.


This was a great cider for a spicy meal. Spicy foods bring out the best in sweet ciders, if you ask me. I enjoyed this cider and the whole experience mightily, and I hope I get to try more Gowan's ciders in the future.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cider Review: Quebrada del Chucao Sidra Brut Nature


One of my favorite things when I travel is to try exciting ciders that I've never seen before and last week I had a few chances in San Francisco. I didn't make to all of the cider stops I wanted to, but I knew when I saw a cider from Chile that I had to taste it. I was at The Jug Shop when I saw Quebrada del Chucao Sidra.

I was able to find out a little bit about this cider company through the importer that brings it to the United States: Brazos Wine Importer. According to them and the Quebrada del Chucao website, the company has been around since 2010 in Chile. It is a colaboration between an fruit-producing family and a university trained winemaker. The back of the bottle describes the orchards from which the apples came as being more than 60 years old. There are loads of cider producers working with much younger orchards.

Check out the beautiful website: http://www.quebradadelchucao.cl/?lang=en

I found a description on the website that goes into a little more detail about this particular cider.
A bright light golden color with subtle green highlights, the Quebrada del Chucao apple cider recalls all the characteristics of the apples from which it is made. It’s very dry taste, due to a Brut Nature character, balances well with its natural acidity, giving it the freshness to be a very good compliment to various savory foods. Tiny natural bubbles help enhance its freshness. Ideal to pair with pork and cheese or to have it on its own as an aperitif.
A few more facts drawn from the bottle: 7.5%ABV and bottle conditioned for a natural sparkle.

So, I apologize for the glassware in this picture. I do not travel the beautiful breakable glass I prefer, so I make do with the finest picnic ware my hotel had to offer. ; )



Appearance: bubbly, harvest moon color, brilliant

This cider pours foamy and stays very bubbly in the cup. The dark colour reminds me of a harvest moon. I'd call the cider brilliant, but sadly I cannot show that with the pictures I have.

Aromas: sweet, briney, a bit of funk

Intersting, the sidra smells sweet and briney: a little French, a little English somehow. From the aromas I suspect a high acid cider. There are some gently wild notes that veer toward the funky. My curiousity is definitely piqued.

Sweetness: dry to off-dry

Oooh! So often when a cider reminds me of the french style of cidermaking in its aroma, I expect it to be on the sweeter side. This surprised me! Its definitely more toward the dry/off dry line.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, wild, english, tannic 

Surprises abound! This cider has notably high tannins, high acid, and lots of sparkle. So many of my favorite features are coming together with with some fun and modestly funky wildness. These apples are from Chile, but this cider tastes pretty darn English in its style! (Very happily for me!) Wow, this is very good.

In terms of actual flavor notes, I primarily taste mellow tropical fruit—not fresh fruit but fermented fruit. There's a lot of mango, a bit of brown sugar, but its not sweet as such. The  tannins are woody and astringent with apple skin notes. Overall the cider tastes mature, gently bitter and austere. This is not a cider for beginners, but it's really good. Just a leeeetle olive in the flavor but not too salty.  The acids linger in the chest: again, I get more tropical notes than appley ones. What apple I do get has wisps of bruised apple along with walnut or almond. 

The cider is refreshing, farmy, funky and fun. The 7.5% ABV is neither masked nor hot.  In terms of mouthfeel the bubbles are insisten and fairly large.

I enjoyed this cider as the main event of a little hotel room picnic on my second to last night of vacation. We had sugar snap peas, brie, wheaty crackers, cut fruit, red pepper and walnut dip, and finished the meal with dark chocolate toffee covered in crushed pistachio nuts. Heavenly.

The last note, I'd like to leave you with is a closer view of the gorgeous label. One of the main folks behind this cider is a graphic designer and that shows beautifully  here. I hope this cider starts being more available soon!