Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cider Review: Bulwark Traditional Craft Cider Original

The time has come to confess. I'm itching for travel. Many of my friends have camped, flown, or driven out to adventure in the last few months, while I've mostly stayed put. Today though I have a cider that traveled for me. What a fun way to taste another cider making tradition and another place, in this case I'll vicariously experience Nova Scotia through Bulwark Cider's Original.

Bulwark is appearing in this blog for the first time today. My friend Eric (of CiderGuide) sent me a bottle after I helped him out. Thank you, Eric! and this isn't one I would ordinarily be able to find easily. Bulwark produces cider in Nova Scotia, where they are affiliated with a winery. On the website, I read about their “5 Signature Apple Blend” including, Macintosh, Cortland, Russet, Honeycrisp, and Northern Spy. These are eating apples, but Northern Spy goes into a number of my favorite ciders. 

You can find out much more about Bulwark Cider on their website: https://bulwarkcider.com/

Or visit their Facebook page to see what's happening: https://www.facebook.com/bulwarkcider/

One reason to visit the website is to see what Bulwark says about sweetness and to check out their really great graphic that lays out the relative acidity, tannins, and sweetness of each of their ciders in one great graphic. (https://bulwarkcider.com/ciders)

About the Original, I'll let Bulwark introduce it.
Our signature cider, Bulwark Original, is a hand-crafted traditional cider, which is dry, crisp, and refreshing. 
It has a faint hint of spice followed by the Bulwark Original signature flavour that is achieved through our careful blending of five varieties of freshly-pressed Nova Scotia apples grown in the famed Annapolis Valley. 
The dry start is quite complex without the intense sharpness often associated with many traditional dry ciders. It moves quickly from dry to an almost wine-like and slightly mineral fruitiness before relaxing into a nutty floral finish. Great on its own or on ice!

Everyone knows how I feel about ice, but the rest of this is plenty intriguing.

Appearance: Brilliant, medium straw, lots of small visible bubbles

This cider looks fairly traditional, nice medium straw color, great clarity and some real bubble action. The picture fails to show the clarity because of the glass fogging, but its there.

Aromas: vinous, apple, plum, cold

What an interesting range of aromas, I get apples, plums, grapes, and some sense of cold. There's something rocky and mineral about the smell. The fermentation notes remind me specifically of wine, but there's also something a bit blunt in the background that's hard to describe.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

The Original initially tastes sweeter than I expected, but that balances out quickly. It doesn't have a sweet finish. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Floral, spicy, caramel, high acid

The cider offers up high acid without necessarily being tart. There's a fermented flavor and a concentration of flavor that are unusual.

I really enjoy the Bulwark Original's caramel richness, particularly because it is balanced by chilled stone fruits. There's some spicy cooked apple notes as well. Its Floral, warm, and like the description promises, nutty. That's a lot going on, though the cider is not mediated with flashy additives, its different.

Overall, the cider has medium body, medium bubble and a clean fermentation, but one that still imparts character to the finished drink. The Bulwark is quite satisfying, and I love the subtle ways in which it surprised me. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cider Review: Eastman's Forgotten Ciders' The Mad Russian

These are the weeks when lots of folks travel or move. Yes, its hot, but I love the quiet of staying in town through upstate's high summer. Things slow down; I walk on nearly desert college campuses in evenings. I watch the backyard wildlife from my porch, usually with a cider. Today's cider is a red cider from Michigan, another hard to find cider I obtained by trading with Darlene Hayes of Cider Cocktails: Another Bite of the Apple. Thanks again, Darlene!

This is The Mad Russian by Eastman's Forgotten Ciders. This small cidery comes from Wheeler, Michigan; it grew out of a specialty orchard, Eastman's Antique Apples. The company cares tremendously about heritage apples and the history of hard cider. This is part of how they introduce themselves:
We aim to produce cider reminiscent of our forefathers and founders - when cider was safer than water and the preferred drink of presidents and farm workers alike. We are enjoying a return to drinking cider across the nation and country, and look forward to providing this unique beverage with a great history and taste.
This will be my first review of anything by Eastman's Forgotten Ciders. The Mad Russian's official descriptions vary on the bottle and on various beverage rating websites, but the bottle's promotional copy was too entertaining not to share.
Driven into a fit of rage from running out of this blood-red hard cider, The Mad Russian has lived up to his nickname. The crisp red cider is concocted from a combination of Russian red-fleshed, crab and heirloom apple varieties- leading to its red state. This semidry, tart cider will kick you in the teeth with its taste and drive you into a madness for wanting more. Go ahead and try a glass; just make sure you have enough to keep your sanity.
Now, let's find out how this Mad Russian tastes. 

Appearance: Brilliant, ruby, ringed with bubbles

There's no mistaking this color for anything other than deep ruby red. Though the color shines red, the cider is brilliant. My picture shows the ring of bubbles.

Aromas: grapes, tart cherries, apples, peaches and plums

Just bringing my face near the glass shows off how much this cider smells like plums, grapes, tart cherries, along with apples and peach. It offers tons of fruit. It doesn't smell exactly like unfermented through there, there's that hint of extra tart acid and some zing that tell me this will be real cider and not juice.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

Ooh! This cider isn't sweet. It has almost everything going for it without any sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, med-high tannin, fruity

The Mad Russian tastes excitingly bitter, dry, and astringent. This is a serious cider! It's tart but not in the pointed or sharp way of many Finger Lakes dry ciders. Its dry while being fruity and tannic! T
hese tannins take a moment to unfold, but they are here.The overall effect is massively stimulating and fun. This cider hits with acid right away but then backs off. 

I love finding ciders like this that remain fruity and dry.  I find this refreshing and rare. To speak more specifically about the fruit flavors; they shine as bright slightly under-ripe fruit- maybe a little nutty. This cider has a light body and medium high bubble.

You could pair this cider with anything rich and full bodied. I recommend a pairing of pasta with cream sauce and Game of Thrones for this equality surprising and rewarding cider. High drama television deserves a show stopping cider, and this one can deliver.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cider Review: Wyndfall Artisan Cyder Root River American Session Style Cider

I've been saving some really fun stuff for the summer, and not just canned ciders or hopped ciders. Those are fantastic, and you'll see more of them from me regularly, but summer brings out my inner fruit monster. I really enjoy my fruit blended ciders most with lighter summer foods or relaxing on my porch.

Today I'm trying my first Wyndfall Artisan Cyder. These folks are apple growers and cider makers in Minnesota. Today I'm reviewing their  Root River American Session Style Cider: something I got to take home from CiderCon. I've been waiting a while, but now just as raspberries are ripe here, I wanted to taste a raspberry cider.

Here's what I read about the cidery and orchard from the bottle itself. I think it gets at their identity very clearly, "Our cyders are produced with sustainably grown fruit on the family orchard in the blufflands of southeast Minnesota. Heritage variety apples add complexity and flavor you won't find in other ciders. Growing apples naturally can be challenging, but what you get in the bottle is simple: the purest cyder, the terroir of the Upper Mississippi River Valley"

Find out some more on the website: http://www.wyndfallcyder.com/

or on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wyndfallcyder/

"As for this particular cider, this is how the folks at Wyndfall describe it, Refreshingly tart, a forward fruitiness is balanced with a light sweetness to be everything a sweet Cyder should be, and nothing more." 6% ABV

Appearance: many warm hues, brilliant, few visible  bubbles

The cider is brilliant and its colors myriad: pink, orange, salmon copper, and rose gold.

Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, tart fruits, apple

This cider smells  very directly of raspberry,  with other bright tart fruit aromas like pie cherries and green apples.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This cider is described as sweet on the label, and I'm used to sweetness being undersold. This was the opposite. There's a ton of acid, so the sweetness is definitely kept in check and works well at this level.

Flavors and drinking experience: very sparkly, semi-sweet, high acid, fruity

Ooh neat, I love how the Root River tastes cold and just sweet enough. ( I am completely for real when I say this tastes semi-sweet, tops.) That's certainly due to the high acid which give it a bright and zesty character that's not painfully zingy.

The Root River entertains with a good level of sparkle. The cider finishes up with one nice warm note at the end: perhaps cinnamon? I get lots and lot of raspberry. But that's not the only fruit presence, apple and grapefruit show up too. Flavors also include a little hint of wood. 

I find the Root River exceedingly drinkable, while not lacking depth or interest. There's an herbaceous aura here—something almost resembling salad greens. What a fun, tasty, and interesting take on the raspberry cider.

I paired mine with creamy carrot soup, perfect for summer. I like a very fruity cider with a chilled or creamy vegetable soup. Usually, I add lots of curry spices to my carrot soups, but this was mostly carrots, caramelized onion, and coconut milk. This treat and this pairing were worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cider Review: Far From the Tree's Sprig

Today is the day after all the fireworks and cookouts. Its a day lots of folks are heading back into work after a day off or even a long weekend. For me, from July 4th through when my husband starts teaching every fall is the high plateau of Summer. We'll get more thunderstorms, more watermelon, and soon real local tomatoes, corn, and peppers. America's summer holiday may be over, but the best summer food pairings for cider are just now coming into season.

So, I chose a supper summery cider from Far From the Tree out of Salem, Massachusetts.

Learn about the company on their website: http://www.farfromthetreecider.com

Previously, I reviewed their Nova cider which is another hopped cider offering: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-far-from-trees-nova-hopped.html

Sprig is their cider that I want to explore today. The sub heading on the bottle reads Dry Hopped Mint Cider.

This is nearly my first mint cider, but far from my first hopped, so let's see what Far From the Tree has to say about it.

Official description:

Today is a great day for a hike. The sight of fresh green growth and the smell of sprouting leaves in the air are two of our favorite things about summer in New England. For Sprig, we've married fresh mint, cascade hops and apples grown in Massachusetts. We age Sprig in oak barrels, dry hop for two sweeks and add fresh mint just a day before bottling.

For us, this cider is what an afternoon hike in the woods would taste like if it came in a bottle. If we happen to cross paths one day, be it on a trail or while sharing a cider, we hope you'll agree that today really is a good day for a hike! 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: cool moonglow, transparent, lots of pretty bubbles

This cider looks almost frosty while still being glowy and transparent. I'd not call it brilliant, but I could see all of the lovely bubbles very clearly.

Aromas: mint, apple, hops, lychee

These smells all add up to a super cool minty picture, but in the mix, I found hops, lychee, apple, with an emphasis on everything being chilly and bright. This smells perfect for the hot weather. Imagistically, it reminds me of a freshly opened jar of applesauce taken from the fridge.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider. The acid probably makes it tastes drier than it would look were I to see the actual measurement of sugar. Its a nice level that won't alienate most drinkers of dry, semi-dry, or eve semi-sweet cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Mostly mint, hops, balanced with apple

When I drink this cider of course I taste lots of mint and apple. I also get some hoppiness, but more mint. The cooling effect continues. Far From the Tree's melding of apple and mint works, but it's a tenuous balance. This cider offers up high acid, no tannins, and medium bubble.

I noticed how very consistent this cider tastes from tip to tail; the mint is dominant. I'm also struck by how much this cider depends on its clean fermentation in order to work. Seems tricky but successful.

I paired my Sprig cider with a very summery meal: sauteed summer squash with herbed chevre, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, whole-wheat toast, and baked beans. It was delicious and delicious all together. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th Of July, Cider Lovers!

Enjoy your 4th of July to those who are celebrating, and to everyone, enjoy your cider!

Catch you on July 5th with a new cider review.

Be safe and take care of your pets!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

#PickCider Review: Nine Pin Ciderworks Peach Tea

Last post before the 4th of July! I hope you have you plans made for how to celebrate the most picnic, cookout, fun, food, and firework's holiday in America's calendar year. I hope you've thought about how you'll #pickcider as part of this awesome occasion. Here's one last review of a new release seasonal cider that's just tailor made for summer parties. 

One of the coolest things about Nine Pin is their amazing range of specialty and seasonal ciders. Looking at the website just now, I counted 17 available ciders. That's impressive, and even more so once I tasted several of these and found out how good they are. 

You can read the whole list and find out much more here at their site:


I couldn't finish up my series of #PickCider reviews without Nine Pin Ciderworks' summer seaonsal release: Peach Tea. They were kind enough to share some samples with me just in time!

Here are my previous reviews of Nine Pin Ciders:

I first reviewed their Signature Blend: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-nine.html

Ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/10/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-ginger.html

Blueberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/08/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-blueberry.html

Though not a review, Nine Pine Ciderworks is part of my cider event calendar every winter, and this is the writeup when they launched the annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries, which is an amazing event every year in Albany: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/my-cider-event-calendar-cider-and-beer.html

Official description: 
Peach Tea is Nine Pin’s take on a classic summer drink. This cider, crafted from a farmhouse blend of New York apples from Kinderhook, N.Y.-based Samascott Orchards, is cold-infused with a custom peach tea blend from Short and Stout. The infusion of these ingredients creates a bright, refreshingly tart, and delicious peach cider. Peach Tea pairs well with sunsets and warm summer nights.

I got some amazing pairing recommendations from Alejandro for this cider including tire swings and puppies. It was charming, and I'm curious to see if I'll agree. The ABV is a middle of the road 6.2%.

Appearance: transparent, very few visible bubbles, warm apricot color

One of my co-tasters said that the cider's appearance reminded her of the warm orange tones of peaches, and I think that's completely fair. I found it reminiscent of dried apricots.

Aromas: Peach! More peach!

This smells completely like peaches and unfermented peach juice. I can envision the drips of peach juice running down my chin when I smell this. Its almost mind boggling.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet and juicy cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: peach, hints of tea, bit of creaminess

Rather like the aromas, I was surprised by how very juicy the Peach Tea is! The cider tastes a tiny bit creamy as well. To be more specific, its a sweet sort of juicy- not very tea like, to me One out of three tasters, one could pick it up clearly, and guided the rest of us to noticing a bit of tea. Maybe the tannins mid palate were from the tea, but I found my impresions of tea growing as the taste matured. It comes out mostly on the finish - as a sustained note.

Something else, we all noticed about the Peach Tea cider is that the drinking exeperience is light and not very boozy to the tastebuds. Somehow the balance sweet and fruity with high acid stayed very friendly. The cider is easy drinking and not punishing or sharp at any moment of the taste journey. Maybe it is as cider for warm nights and cuddling puppies.

For us it was an evening on the porch with chevre and strawberry short cake and good conversation. There are endless ways to #pickcider but it is always best with good company.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#PickCider Review Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider

This is my first review of a anything by Stem Ciders. They are based out of Denver, Colorado and have operated since the start of 2014. I first ran across their beverages at Cider Summit Chicago 2017. I was pleased to stay in touch and get a few review samples this month.

You can learn all about Stem Ciders on their website here: http://stemciders.com/

This is Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider and it could have fit into my Very Perry May, but I'm glad to have a canned pear-apple blend for this #pickcider for the 4th of July series.

Made with Bartlett pears from Colorado's Western Slope. Rich golden hue, caramel and fresh fruit on the nose with a surprisingly tart finish 5.3% ABV Released April 2017. Suggested pairings include, “pork chops and apple sauce, spicy thai, lobster rolls” But we'll see if my sense of vegetable oriented pairings matches up.

Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles, deep roasty gold

This cider has a deep roasted quality to its goldenness. It reminds me of English or French ciders in color. I don't see many bubbles, but it is brilliant.

Aromas: cooked apple and pear, yeast, custard

The scents are rich, oxidized, and dusty. The cider smells sweet, warm, and rich. These aren't characteristics I associate very much with pear ciders, so I'm curious. The creamy custard smell is most intriguing.

sweetness/dryness: sweet

This cider drinks sweetly but remains complex and dessert like. The fruitness and sweetness taste all natural to me.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, fruity, high acid, bubbly

Richness and mouthfeel are a pair of interconnected qualities that can make or break a cider, and the Pear Apple by Stem Ciders offers up a delightful experience in those crucial characteristics. Mind you, part of what makes the richness so enjoyable is that it's balanced by high acid. The contrast is not artificially extreme, just dynamic and buoyed up with medium to high fine bubbles.

I found this cider deeply enjoyable.

Its fruity but not in a raw fruit salad way. Instead it reminds me of a fruit tart drizzled with caramel. This apple pear blend, just oozes dessert, while still being sharp in a spectacularly nice way.

My recommended pairings for this cider include summer thunderstorms, chilled grain salad with cheddar, corn, tomato, and avocado, Twin Peaks, or caramel shorbread cookies. I've not gotten to try it with lobster roll, but give me a chance and I will! What this list is attempting to demonstrate is a certain flexibility that I suspect this cider is capable of providing.