Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Visiting Original Stump Blower Ciderworks: Mini-Review Roundup

After Sunday brunch, On a tip from the fine folks at The Owlhouse in Rochester (http://www.owlhouserochester.com) I drove out to the Original Stump Blower Ciderworks Taproom to check out their cider. The weather was glorious, a perfect backdrop to a surprise cider adventure.

To introduce Original Stump Blower Ciderworks, I'll paraprase sister and brother pair of Elise Barnard and Eric Smith own and run Original Stump Blower Ciderworks and its taproom in Lakeville, New York outside of Rochester.The name refers to the illicit cider making and drinking done by their father and his uncle. It was both a code phrase for going drinking and proud claim that the cider was powerful enough to blow up the stumps in which it was hidden. 

They create a lot of cider with fruit additions, barrel aging, or other variations, but it all starts with a base cider made from only NY apples. As often as they can, OSB works with local companies to either source ingredients like Fee Brother Bitters or reuse spent materials like their used chamomile flowers go to a local soap maker for her work.

In just a month, OSB Ciderworks will be celebrating its first anniversary!

You can find out tons more about OSB Ciderworks on their website: https://www.osbciderworks.com 

I was welcomed by Elise who was soon joined by her husband and her brother Eric. They were kind enough to show me what they are pouring and a few projects in production. They were completely welcoming and knowledgeable. Here's a quick run through of everything I tried. I can't share full reviews of all of this, but I'll try to include some commentary for each.

Little Lakes Semi-Sweet  6.9% ABV I'm not too sweet and not too dry. My apple flavor is refreshing and great to enjoy by the lake in the summer or cozied up under a blanket by the fire in the winter. I love to make friends with everyone.
This was a nice safe starter cider. Its right between semi-dry and semi-sweet, slightly high acid, low tannins, with a clean fermentation. I imagine this would be a great seller for bars and restaurants. 
Honey...CHAM YOU DIG IT 6.2% ABV WE CAN DIG IT! I’m all Local baby! Conesus honey and NY chamomile are blended with my NY apple cider base. I'm smooth and flavorful with a chamomile finish. I am good at the bar after a long day or in a bubble bath listing to smooth r&b, share me with lovers and friends... im here to calm your soul!
This was my hands down favorite of the day. I'd call this a semi-sweet but just so herbaceous and different. I love the addition of chamomile in terms of an ingredient that can play well with apple flavor-wise and not dominate the conversation.
Mama Said Hop You Out!  6.9% ABV I’M GONNA HOP YOU OUT! Centennial and Nugget Hops, that are grown in Dansville, NY give me my hoppy aroma and flavor. Don’t pass me up because you don’t like IPA, I'm not bitter, give hops a chance! That first taste its like hearing your favorite 90’s song on the radio!

This is a dry hopped cider, so hops primarily add aroma. That's what the description means when it says that the cider isn't bitter. Its super fresh though and plenty of clean grassy hoppy notes.

You Love it When I call you Hop Papa I don't have an official description or ABV for this one.

This is a wet hopped cider, which almost certainly means that the cider itself has been boiled at some point in the fermentation process. The Hops include Citra and I think Chinook hops. This one tasted darker, dryer, and a touch bitter. A winner for me.

Matcha Man Apple Savage 7.2% ABV I am Matcha Tea Infused hard cider. I'm strong like Randy coming in at 7.2%. My flavor is a bit tart with an earthy dry finish. Tho i don't pair best with Slim Jim's i go awesome with just about everything else.
I'm not the biggest Match fan in the world, so I'm glad this one was a bit more subtle with the additive and offered plenty of apple vibrance in addition to the mild astringence of green tea.
Hold The Crust Apple Pie  6.5% ABV I’m made up of Grandma Fran’s famousapple pie filling. For every gallon of cider we make one pie... hold the crust. I'm spiced with three kinds of cinnamon as well as nutmeg, mace, and clove. I enjoy long walks through crunchy foliage and bar stool conversations. Save dessert and drink your pie!
This is a sweet spiced cider that I can imagine sells tremendously well, not just in the fall but year round. Look for a small run special edition coming up closer to the 4th of July!
Ginger Citrus 6.9% ABV I am a tangy cider with a bitter finish. I am made lovingly by creating an oleo saccharum with lemons and oranges, adding fresh ginger juice and then fermented in barrel that contained Fee Brothers Orange Bitters in them for a year. People who enjoy bitter cocktails (negroni, manhattan, old fasion etc.) tend to flock to me.
This one was excellent. Had good sense allowed me to take home a third small growler, I would have chosen this one. I love bitter and citrus notes, and this cider has them in excellent balance.
The Original 11% ABV I'm the one that started it all! A combination of apples and concord grapes go in to making me a strong and exciting cider. I am fermented until I reach 11% ABV and then I get to chill out in the barrel house in Black Button Whiskey barrels. I'm strong. bold and fun. I am great in cocktails and some people enjoy making french onion soup with me.

Scotch Bonnet Bomber

I don't have an official description for this one, but I do know that in addition to the cider this has a puree of three different pepper varieties added: Scotch Bonnet, Fresno, and Serrano.

Like some other ciders with chilis added, this one has a sharp aroma but a much more balanced flavor. It does have more heat and staying power than I'm used to, even in a chili infused cider, likely because it isn't blended with fruit in addition just peppers and cider. A winner for fans of spice, so I took some home for a dear friend of mine from Texas. 

When it came time for me to make my purchases, I got a small growler of the You Love it When I call you Hop Papa, Honey...CHAM YOU DIG IT, and a smaller container of the Scotch Bonnet Bomber. All lovely ciders. I'll be curious to see where this cider is this time next year. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cider Review: Du Minot Cidrerie's La Bolee Petillante and GLINTCAP

My first cider review of something by Du Minot. I've only had their ciders before once or twice with local friends who brought them back from Quebec. I've never had the chance to review one.

Lots of information on the Du Minot website, which helpfully can be accessed in either french or English. Though it, I learned that Du Minot has been operating out of Quebec since 1987. That's quite an achievement as the cider world did not have lot of support then and has gone through more than its share of ups and downs since that time.

This family business has a most interesting background. I'll let their words tell the story.

From Brittany to Quebec, the Demoy family has been making cider for almost 150 years. Cider enthusiasts, Robert and JoĆ«lle Demoy left their native Britanny in the late 1970s to settle in Quebec and set up Cidrerie du Minot in Hemmingford in 1987.  Over the years, the couple shared their passion with their children Audrenne and Alan who are now ensuring succession. 
Inspired by traditional Breton techniques, Cidrerie du Minot has been producing high quality ciders for over 30 years and collected national and international recognitions. Today, it is with ultra-modern equipments that Cidrerie du Minot develops more than a dozen ciders

This cider was a gift from my friend Eric West of Cider Guide (https://ciderguide.com/) who will be working on GLINTCAP this week, but more on that at the end of the post. I'll also be managing his newsletter this week and next week, so wish me luck!

The Du Minot website helpfully has information on their ciders in both French and English: http://www.duminot.com/fr/cidres/

Today's cider is their La Bolee Petillante which is sold in an adorable small single-serve bottle with nice transparent modern labelling.  This cider has a quite low ABV at 4.5%; that  helped me decide to reach for it on a rainy spring afternoon. I like having options of radically different ABVs in my cellar.

The official description of the cider follows:

Ripe apples are picked, crushed and gently pressed. The must is fermented at low temperatures to preserve all the aromas. Finally, a second fermentation in sealed tanks provides the natural effervescence that is unique to this type of sparkling cider. 
This sparkling cider at 4.5% alc./vol. with delicate aromas of apples and pears is refreshing on the palate. It has a pleasant acidity and fine bubbles, giving it all its elegance.
The apple in this cider are McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Spartan.

Appearance: Brilliant,  few visible bubbles, straw color 

The color is just a hint warmer and more apricot than most ciders that I'd call straw, but its a subtle distinction.

Aromas: bready, sweet, cooked apple

Smelled from the neck of the bottle is restrictive but smells pleasantly sweetly bready. It actually reminds me of the aromas of Doc's Draft Original. When poured out of that container into a more open glass, a creaminess joins the aromas. There's some soft apple in the mix as well.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This a sweet cider, but something about the sweetness strikes me as different. This is a very nectar-like sweetness that's thick and rich.

Flavors and drinking experience: juicy,caramel, rich, mellow, fruity

I'd like to start by mentioning that this cider doesn't fit into the usual categories and styles I am most familiar with. It's different! This does have some of the qualities of a Bretagne cider, but it isn't just an example of that. This cider has its own style.

The cider offers up medium high acid with a nice zing of bubbles. Part of what makes this so unique is that combination of rich intense fruitiness with notably clean fermentation. Let me say it again and again- this cider offers up lots of apple in aroma and flavor. One of the other standout characteristics is the very thick mouthfeel. 

Its mellow, rich, slightly oxidized. Its remarkably tasty. I'm not often a real fan of sweet ciders, but this is special. Even so, I'd still probably not reach for a cider like this often. The rich mouthfeel is intense, and my preference do run more towards the austere and dry. 

Have this cider with something light and sweet. I'd recommend it with a panna cotta, homemade poundcake, or even on its own. Its a magical experience.

There's something else cider-tastic on my mind this week. That's because the 12th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) will be happening from April 19-22, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For the past three year's I've judged and had a simply fantastic time. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out this year, but I know I'll have GLINTCAP on my mind this week. 

Here's coverage of previous years. 

The lead up to my first GLINTCAP: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/driving-out-for-glintcap-judgingand.html

GLINTCAP 2014 the full experience: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/finally-my-fabulous-time-at-glintcap.html

2015 GLINTCAP results and my Magner's Original review: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/04/cider-review-magners-irish-cider-plus.html 

And most recently, GLINTCAP 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/04/my-experience-at-glintcap-2016-worlds.html

Best of luck to all competitors and judges!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cider Review: Grisamore Cider Works 24.4 Squared

Very recently, a new and relatively local cider cider company appeared on the shelves of my usual cider shop and started appearing on the dinner tables of my friends. Great news for me; I'm always keen to try something new and local! Two friends were kind enough to save a bottle to open when we were dining together one cold February evening. 

This is how I found out about Grisamore Cider Works, and I don't know a tremendous amount about these new neighbors. Simon Ingall (with his brother Jesse), works on his family farm and launched the hard cider business. Grisamore hit the scene with their first four releases this past fall, though I started seeing them around my usual haunts in early February. That's when I got to taste the 24.4 Squared.

You can see pictures of the farm and the cidermaking process on the Grisamore website:


Or, you can also find them on Facebook for product updates and the most up-to-date information: https://www.facebook.com/grisamoreciderworks/

Today, I'm sharing my review of Grisamore Cider Works' 24.4 Squared. This cider is named after the geographic footprint of Locke, New York. That's where the orchard is and where the apples and cider maker come from. I couldn't find very much information online about any of their cider styles, but I did see a very brief description on Untappd, "An easy, drinking cider with tropical notes, aged on Citra hops" The cider is 6% ABV. I wish I had more information on the apples or more of what this cider is aiming for, but I'm curious. We'll find out more by tasting.

Appearance: warm, still, transparent

Neither hazy nor brilliant, this cider is transparent. It doesn't show any visible bubbes in the glass. The color could be described as like warm homemade applesauce. Between the warm color and level of clarity, it gives off a rustic vibe.

Aromas: laundry, grass, tropical fruits

This cider smells astonishingly like laundry and lawn clippings, along with some white wine tropical notes. The hopped nature of this cider dominates the smells.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider offers up a nice initial sweetness that doesn't linger. The finish is cleaner and drier than I would expect from that first burst of flavor.

Flavors and drinking experience: Green tea, cold minerality, woody

So very very interesting. After that first hint of sweetness, the flavors become more herbal. They remind me of green tea, sweet grasses, and fresh saplings. These flavors are very savoy, they even veer into a slightly metallic territory before resting at cooling and minerally.

My more holistic and less detailed impression after a few sips, is that the 24.4 Squared is so fresh and fun! I'm thrilled to add this local cidery to my mix, and I cannot wait to try the rest of what they are doing!

I had this with a wintery meal with homemade pasta, red sauce, and softly cooked carrots and celery, but that was back in February. The next time I have this, I'll do something more summery, as I think that's how to best show off the best qualities of hopped ciders. I like them with light and mustard rich potato salads, with fish tacos, and with pizza of any stripe. Man, I'm making my own mouth water thinking about this cider with pizza. Yum.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cider Review: Citizen Cider's Wit's Up

Spring has finally truly and beautifully arrived. I've seen more crocus in the last two days than I may have ever seen in one season before. Yesterday, I took a walk in the sunshine between work and supper. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I could even feel hints of the summer to come in the color of the light and the sun's warmth on my black t-shirt. 

I'm not going to attempt to rush Spring. It just got here, and I love this transient ever-changing season. I'm starting to think ahead just a little though. That's what led me to reach for a cider that recently came to me as a review sample from Citizen Cider. They shared the Wit's Up as a fun summer cider, though it is available year round. 

A little about Citizen Cider: this cider company has grown quickly and really made a name for themselves in their home state of Vermont. The cidery was founded in 2010 by three friends: Justin Heilenbach, Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson. They each came from a different career background and brought a unique skill set to the cidery, and the results have been striking. They work with multiple Vermont orchards, including Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury.

You can learn more about them on their website here: http://www.citizencider.com/

Or learn about new releases and local events even faster by following them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/citizencider/

I have reviewed a couple of ciders by Citizen Cider before. 

My first was the bRose in 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-citizen-cider-brose.html

And more recently, I reviewed their Barrel Aged: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-review-citizen-ciders-barrel-aged.html

Citizen was also a major stop on Day 2 of my Vermont Cider tour this past fall: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

Today, I am looking to the future and sharing my thoughts on Wit's Up. Here's how Citizen Cider describes it:
There are ciders for the people, and there are ciders for the people who make the cider for the people. Wit’s Up is a classic cider maker’s cider. Drawing on the old and new traditions of cider making, it starts like an ale and finishes like the dry, sessionable craft cider that it is. It’s cider for today, it’s cider for what we believe the future of cider to be. Come, enjoy the future with us and drink Wit’s Up. 5.9ABV.

Interestingly, Citizen also offers some suggested pairings for this cider: "Bratwurst, brioche, roasted chicken, root vegetables." But I have a bowl of vegetarian Chick'n & Dumplings, and I'll be curious to taste how that goes.  

Appearance: hazy, lots of bubbles, temporary mousse

The Wit's Up pours with a head that doesn't stick around. I'd call the cider hazy in terms of clarity. It has lots of visible bubbles. The color is warm straw. 

Aromas: apple, grain, lemon, pepper

Wit's Up smells sweet and lemony with a hint of peppery spice and maybe grains.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This cider tastes much drier than it smells. I always find this characteristic interesting, and I wonder how it happens. 

Flavors and drinking experience: cool, savory, grainy, dominated by yeast characteristics

Part of why this cider might be promoted for summer is that it actually tastes cooling. I'm not referring to the temperature of the beverage, but some associative quality that makes it connote coolness. It tastes like a beer yeast, lemon, but not much apple at least not very much like unfermented apple.

The Wit's Up reminds me nicely of a summery beer, making it a supremely session-oriented cider. The description of ale style is completely accurate. I do get some fun mildly sour notes along with black pepper, tropical fruit, and pears.

Though this cider totally gluten free, it tastes positively wheaty, like toasted grain.

This is the cider that should convince anyone that yeast matters for flavor. There's a popular line of belief that a cider's flavor is all apples all the time, but this can disprove that. Citizen makes lots of ciders with a similar blend of apples and for this cider it is the yeast that makes it different. And it does.

Many characteristics point to a relatively clean fermentation. The Wit's Up reminds me of summer and baseball. Gosh it makes me want a veggie dog. I cannot get over how much I am reminded of the good parts of a bright summer heffe weisen or lambic. I'm not a beer person, but this is a happy place of commonality between cider and beer for me. I look forward to sharing one with my super beer-nerd dad.

Its a thinky but not too challenging cider. Its a lot of fun. Lastly, be forewarned, this is burpy! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cider Review: Blake's Hard Cider Company's The Tonic, Plus Data!

I'm not a gifted chef, but from time to time I get together with a good friend and we make a nice dinner together specifically to try out a fun cider pairing. I did this with my friend Phil (He's a great cook and the talented individual who runs Eruditorum Presshttp://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/author/phil/) a few weeks ago. We chose a loose concept of Asian barbecue to pair with a cider by Blake's Hard Cider Company.

You can find out all about Blake's on their website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com/

If you visit the site, you'll see that they do a tremendous number of interesting seasonal and limited release ciders. Trouble is, I cannot buy Blake's ciders within a hundred miles of where I live. Grrr! They're out of Michigan, which has a quite strong cider scene.

I've gotten a few from the company, and this was part of a trade with Darlene Hayes (who quite literally wrote the book on cider cocktails: https://www.amazon.com/Cider-Cocktails-Another-Bite-Apple/dp/0996321500/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1490665129&sr=8-1 

My first review of anything by Blake's Hard Cider Company is their El Chavo from late 2015. 


That cider is a fruit and spice blend that uses peppers and mango to create taste fireworks. I know it sounds weird and, to some cider purists, blasphemous, but it tastes fantastic. And that's always going to be the arbiter for me. Does this cider taste good? Do I enjoy drinking it?

But for this dinner, we were excited to try  The Tonic by Blake's Hard Cider Company

The official description reads, "As the first flushes of green awaken the new year, invigorate your senses with freshly picked ginger root and cool cucumber combined together to create our crisp, light elixir; Blake's Tonic." 6.5% ABV. 

Appearance: frothy, brilliant, flax yellow

The first thing that we noticed was how verrrry bubbly it was. This photo is crazy and uncomposed because the bottle was going a bit crazy after we opened it and I wanted a quite photo that actually shows a cider with a half inch of foam. It poured with even more at first. Cider is brilliant and the color is that gentle shade of yellow that seedlings have before they turn green. You could also call it flax.

Aromas: powdered sugar, cakes, apples, cucumbers

The Tonic smells sweeter than it tastes. The most striking aroma is actually like sugared cakes. I can also smell cucumber and apple.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider, but that's hardly the most interesting element about it. The flavors on the other hand...

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, cocktail-like, cooling

This cider comes across as completely cool and summery. I get some ginger in flavor but not in aroma. The comparisons to a gin and tonic are obvious but apt. It's not super gingery, but just enough. The more sips I took, the more I could taste the ginger. Its far more cucumber and cool balanced cider than anything else. Lots of ciders call themselves crisp, but this one actually is.  

The mouthfeel is fizzy but perhaps not quite so much as the crazy mousse had prepared me for. I found it light and lively, its decidedly sessionable, at least for those lucky enough to have more than one bottle on hand. It sounds very daring, but this combination really worked for me. Rather like the El Chavo, it sounds crazier than it tastes.

We paired this with a really fun Asian inspired BBQ menu to do a little mental trip to summer. I made a Napa cabbage slaw with spicy peanut sauce and soy-miso-glazed Mu turnips (pictured). For the meat eaters present there were 5 Spice Barbeque Chicken Legs. And the veg folk had the same sauce on oven baked tofu. Delicious and so sticky! Blake's tonic worked perfectly though because the cucumber was so cooling and the ginger connected the flavor to our sauces, all of which incorporated elements of Asian cuisines.

Usually my pairs are simpler than that because most of my cooking is more based on ingredients than sauces, but this was a total blast. I had so much fun thinking about a flavored cider and flavored vegetables in new ways. You don't have to go as elaborate to pair this though. I still think the picnic or BBQ route is perfect, or really anything spicy. Enjoy how cooling these flavors taste.

Now, I'd like to close with a brief moment of geekery and share some really exciting cider education opportunities for current USACM members (apologies for those who aren't members). At CiderCon, there were two presentations making great use of cider sales data as gathered by Nielsen (yes, that Nielsen). I attended and got a lot out of them, particularly as I feel like my perspective is doubly skewed by living in cider country that is also wine country.

All USACM members are invited to two upcoming Webinars about Nielsen data. I know some few stats have trickled out to the news, which has unfortunately pounced on a couple of misleading numbers that make it sound like the cider market is shrinking. These webinars go so much deeper to show a rich picture of what's happening with cider sales in a variety of locations and market segments. 

The first is: "Cider Trends in the U.S.: How to Increase Your Odds of Success by Evaluating Marketplace Dynamics" on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT.  You can register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9035991447428036610

The second is: "The Apple of my Eye. How to Develop Cider Packaging that Wins with Consumers" on Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT Here's the registration link for this one: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6796135628555308546


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cider Review: Blue Bee Cider Charred Ordinary

Happy Spring, everyone! We made it! *crickets* Okay, so for many of us it does not yet look like Spring has sprung. That's okay. It will. I promise.

This is my first review of anything by Blue Bee Cidery. They are an urban cidery (Virginia's first) out of Richmond. They describe their ciders by talking about what apples they use, saying, "Our ciders are made with rare and heirloom variety Virginia apples that are prized for their tannin, acidity and flavor." This doesn't denote cider varietals, but shows a focus on many fermentation qualities that make for good cider apples.

Take a look at the website. Its simple and attractive in design, describes their ciders, and allows for online purchasing. Basically, it has everything you need.


Their exciting upcoming news is the Harrison release later this week. Yes, that Harrison. The apple formerly thought to be extinct. You can read more about that here: http://www.bluebeecider.com/event/harrison-release Pretty cool.

Today I want to share my thoughts on their Charred Ordinary. Here's the official description:
Served all day long at colonial-era taverns, or ordinaries, cider was the refreshment of choice for Virginians of all classes and walks of life – man, woman, child, rich and poor. 
CHARRED ORDINARY is semi-sparkling and made from heirloom variety apples to create an old-fashioned Virginia cider, dry and sharp. It pairs well with salty hams and cheeses, rich poultry dishes, and other traditional Virginia fare. 0.5% RS, 8.3% ABV.

This might be the first cider I've ever seen that billed itself as semi-sparkling. I've heard and read lightly sparkling or petillant, but this is new. We'll see what that means. The other thing to note in particular is how high this ABV is: 8.3%. I may end up glad that I only bought a 500ml.

Appearance: visibly bubbly, vibrant saffron color, brilliant 

This cider pours with a mousse that dissipates quicky, but adding excitement to those first few seconds. I'd call the color saffron and its deeply pigmented. Though the bubbles might make the photo unclear, the cider is brilliant.

Aromas: soft mushy apples, rich, a hint of barrel, hint of citru

The Charred Ordinary is very English smelling. From me, this comes as a high compliment. I smell something that reminds me of barn wood or barrel and overripe cider apples. This aroma is extraordinarily rich: frankly outstanding. There's definitely something citrusy going on; I think I can smell lemon. Overall, this recalls the Aspall Imperial. 

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This is an unambiguously dry cider. It has just enough residual sweetness to unfold its other flavors, but dry cider fans, this is a winner.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, citrus, sparkly, dry, savory

Though this smells like an English cider, the Charred Ordinary tastes quite surprising given smell. It's 100% New World, not old. This is defined by its high acid, mid tannin, and almost no sweetness. This cider ZINGs and keeps on zinging. 

Dry. Tart. Specifically Malic acid. Agey. In terms of notes, I get lots of lime, crisp raw tomato, and a bit of raisin. It sounds like a strange combination but it works. The Charred Ordinary also shares a surprising mushroom note and savory aftertaste. The cider manages to be funky and clean at the same time. In the mid palate it tastes nearly sour, but not vinegary at all. Some might find it slightly challenging, but its decidedly rewarding. The tartness is most extreme in small sips. For mouthfeel, there are lots of small bubbles, so I'm not quite sure why semi-sparkling was the term used.

I enjoyed my bottle first with veggie chili, then a 2nd glass while under a pile of cats and watching an episode of Mr. Robot. You can go simpler with a cider this good, but a tomato dish that has plenty of Umami flavor is actually very very tasty with it. The Charred Ordinary can help keep us all in good company till Spring actually shows up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cider Review Winter Storm Stella Edition: Vermont Cider Co.'s Wassail

I thought spring was tiptoeing in last week, but Winter Storm Stella has certainly shifted my expectations! As I write, the storm is continuing to blow all around my house and all around the northeast region, and I am starting to hear comparisons to the Blizzard of '93. So, I thought it the perfect time to continue last week's trend and pick out another spiced cider to try. 

And in the name of transparency, I did receive this bottle of Vermont Cider Co.'s Wassail. for free. It arrived in November, so I'm glad to be getting to enjoy it on a perfect night for a warming spiced cider. My opinions are un-swayed by samples, but I do appreciate them. This one didn't even get to jump to the front of the review line, but I'm feeling all the more ready for it.

This is my second review of something by Vermont Cider Co. My first is their Addison, which I tried back in November. You can find that review here: 


For now, since http://vermontciderco.com/ is a landing page that's still in development, you can see tons of lovely photos and get information from Vermont Cider Co.'s Facebook page.


I do have a description of the Wassail from the press release that came with my ciders, 
Wassail is inspired by the age-old tradition of celebrating with the orchards to ensure a good crop. Wassail begins with small batch hard cider infused with traditional mulling spices, including vanilla bean, ginger and cinnamon. The cider is then aged in rum barrels to produce a unique, rich cider that is ideal for the holidays. Like Addison, Wassail is made only from 100 percent fresh pressed Vermont and Northeastern apples. 6.9%ABV.
If any readers are unfamiliar with the term wassail, it is both the name of a beverage and an activity. The drink is a warm spiced cider and the activity is the ceremonial spilling and pouring of said beverage onto the roots of orchard trees in winter amidst caroling and asking for blessings on the trees. Its a wonderfully archaic and pagan way to to carouse on a winter's night. Just not on a blizzard night like tonight.

Appearance: bronze orange, brilliant, lots of visible bubbles

This cider looks amazingly dark and rich in my glass. The color is a harvest-y orange with tones of red and bronze. The photo shows how many bubbles observable once its been poured.

Aromas: bourbon vanilla, apple, cinammon, ginger

The cider smells boozy and desserty at once: a bit like real bourbon vanilla plus cinnamon. There's also plenty of apple notes going on, but they are like roasted apples dusted with powdered ginger. This is a complex set of aromas.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet, but only just

Yes, I'll call this cider sweet, but its closer to a semi sweet than many other mulled ciders or many others sold in this format. The 12oz bottle tends to have more sweet offerings than some other sizes.

Flavors and drinking experience: ginger, vanilla, petillant, medium acidity, balanced

I am surprised that the Wassail is only mildly sparkling, perhaps to better connote the mulled-cider experience. This cider sings with ginger and cinnamon notes as well as vanilla velvety-ness. Its not bitter but also not fake tasting; all of the flavors offer great balance with only medium acidity.

Something about this cider reminds me of a cider version of a dark and stormy, perhaps the mild sparkle, rum caramel notes, plus the forefront of gingery notes. In any case, I'm into it. The Wassail is a very very pleasant cider. I'd rather have it than most Dark and Stormys or most  available mulled ciders, so two genuine compliments. I could be predisposed to like because I like many of the notes it offers in general. I'm a fiend for both ginger and vanilla, so it doesn't surprise me that I like them in the Wassail.

How to pair this cider? With warm blankets, good company, and Jeopardy. Its perfect. The blizzard is optional.