Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Very Perry May: Tieton Cider Works Sparkling Perry, Stem Ciders Perry and GlINTCAP Best in Class

I’m back from GLINTCAP, and I’m still not tired of cider. I guess that means I’m living my best life because I’ve been in cider world hard core for most of last week Now, it’s time for week 3 of Very Perry May and I used my travel and my cellar to have two perries instead of one this week!

I’m starting with Tieton Cider Works Sparkling Perry. I couldn't resist picking this up on my way home from GLINTCAP. I don't see Tieton Cider Works beverages everywhere, but when I do, it's exciting. This company tries so many adventurous styles but also has access to some really good fruit and juice.

Visit Tieton online at https://tietonciderworks.com/

Or keep up with what's happening on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tietonciderworks/

Here are all of my previous Tieton Cider Works reviews.

Yakima Valley Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-tieton-ciderworks-yakima.html

Tieton Cider Works Spice Route: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/cider-review-tieton-ciderworks-spice.html

Tieton Cider Works Smoked Pumpkin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-tieton-ciderworks-smoked.html

The Tieton Cider Works Perry's Official description reads, “Sparkling Perry is a beverage akin to champagne; dry and brilliant. Our Estate Sparkling Perry is made exclusively from traditional Perry pears grown in our Washington orchards. 5.5% ABV.”

What I think is really interesting is that the bottle has a sticker that calls this cider semi-sweet, an the label calls it dry. That might be contributable to the sorbitol that occurs naturally in pears. Because that sugar cannot be fermented, a perry fermented to dryness can still taste more or less sweet.

Appearance: Amber, hazy, few bubbles

First off, I am so sorry I don'thave any pictures of the poured perry! I was distracted by good company. When I poured this perry, I knew it had to include perry pears from the intensity of color. Most perrys are very light straw, to light green, or even translucent. This is decidedly a more rich amber hue with a bit of haze and a few bubbles.

Aromas: Ripe pear, caramel, banana

I can smell the texture and freshness of pear flesh in this cider. Something about the actual granular texture of ripe pears comes across through smell alone. I also get notes of caramel and banana that could hint at some mild, oxidization. All of the aromas present are gentle and in good balance.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

Sorbitol or no, this cider perceives to me (and to others I was tasting with) as semi-sweet. The sweetness does feel very fruity, warm, and natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium high tannins, nutty

The high acid keeps this semi-sweet perry from pushing into fully sweet territory. As do the medium high tannins. This perry definitely uses real perry pears. It tastes so nutty. The Sparklingly Perry speaks primarily with bright acid bouncing in contrast with friendly brown sugar notes—but without any sort of a burnt sugar flavor.

I am struck with how clean and fruity the finish is while still evoking minerals somehow. I had this with homemade vegetarian Indian food: Aloo Gobi and Palak Paneer. The sweetness and spiciness were perfect together. Wow!

Next Up: Stem Cider Perry

My second perry for the week comes from out west, from Colorado cider and perry maker Stem Ciders. The company sent me this review sample last year, but it didn’t arrive in time for Very Perry May, so I’ve been sitting on these notes for a little while now. The company was started about five years ago, by Eric Foster and Phil Kao. Stem Ciders is based out of Lafayette, Colorado. The company makes a range of ciders from perennially available styles to limited releases and collaborations.

Read plenty more and see some great pictures at: https://stemciders.com

The page I recommend checking out the most is the Philosophy section: https://stemciders.com/philosophy/

My only previous review of a Stem cider is the Pear Apple Cider as part of the #PickCider series: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/06/pickcider-review-stem-ciders-pear-apple.html

Appearance: pale yellow green, brilliant, no bubble

This perry is strikingly brilliant. Many contain a note of haze, but not this perry. The color is a pale yellow green, and it shows no bubbles.

Aromas: pear flesh, bubble gum, mint

Oh, what fresh smells! I think this perry smells tremendously appealing: sweet and juicy like fresh and ripe pear flesh. Other notes include bubblegum and mint. It’s all so fruity and springy. I can also detect the tiniest hint of metallic and dust that lead me to expect high acidity. I find the combination of aromas mouthwatering and powerful. The ntoes keep coming every time I lift the glass.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This is a mild and friendly semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, twiggy, mild, creamy

This cider pours with bubbles. Nice, I wasn’t sure based on its first appearance. I can taste sugar down the middle of my tongue. The primary notes I’m tasting are twiggy and green but not under-ripe. There’s just a bit of tannins—chalky but kinda nice. I think this perry tastes super approachable and good, but not quite as wowsers as it smells. All of the flavors are mild. There’s

a great aura of cream soda or birch beer. It's herbal but not bitter or very astringent. Definitely a keeper.

I had mine with corn on the cob, veggie nuggets, and a very tomato-y salad. Yum.

This last week, I travelled to Grand Rapids with my illustrious partner and co-taster Alex for GLINTCAP! We tasted through 7 rounds, including 2 Best in Class rounds. It was wonderful inspiring work. We also go to see some awesome cider makers, cellar hands, wine sellers, fellow writers, and cider nerds of all ilks. I love Grand Rapids, and I love GLINTCAP. I feel like I learn things every year from this crazy grueling celebration of cider. Many thanks to Eric West and all the volunteers who make this fantastic event happen.

And I’d like to send all interested parties (that means everyone!) over to the GLINTCAP site to get a peek at the Best in Class Awards. Congratulations to all of those winners!


I look forward to seeing the full results which should be up before the end of May!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Very Perry May: Review of Woodchuck’s Pear Ginger, Sundstrom Cider's Liminal and Countdown to GLINTCAP

This week, I exist as a ball of anticipation. That’s entirely due to GLINTCAP coming up soon. For anyone who doesn’t know, GLINTCAP is the world’s largest cider and perry competition. And it’s the direct inspiration for my starting Very Perry May so that I could up my knowledge of perries and pear ciders. That tradition continues this week with a ginger pear cider and a heritage cider from the Hudson Valley region of NY state.

Starting with Woodchuck’s Ginger Pear means returning to the company I have reviewed as much as any in the blog’s history. Here are a few favorites.

I want to point everyone to my own personal heartbreak, the discontinued nature of their June and Juice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cid10. er-review-woodchucks-june-and-juice.html

And the Local Nectar: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-woodchucks-local-nectar.html

I also liked their pepper blended Hot Cha Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

The start of the Gumption line: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-woodchucks-gumption.html

In a super adventurous move, the Cellar Series Chocolate: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

An earlier outdoor focused limited release, the Daychaser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/05/cider-review-woodchucks-day-chaser.html

For fans of smoked ciders, this was a fun one, the Cellar Series Smoked Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

And if you we do have any more unseasonably cold weather, the Barrel Select: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-woodchucks-private-reserve.html

I visited them back in August 2016: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html

As always, you can find out plenty online at the Woodchuck site: http://www.woodchuck.com/

This Launch of a new series in 2018 called the Tank Series, dedicated to innovation in cider making. This seems like an evolution of some of their previous limited-edition lines, but this one is focusing on cans. I’m reviewing a sample sent to me of the Pear Ginger.

Here’s how Woodchuck describes this one, “Pear Ginger is a cider that was released briefly in select markets in 2017 and won Gold at the World Cider Championships. Pear Ginger infuses both pear and ginger for a cider that is light and refreshing. Pear Ginger is the first of three new Tank Series available in 2018” 5% ABV. On their visual representation of dryness to sweetness this falls between semi-dry and semi-sweet. This is a cider base with pear and ginger added.

This cider is only available canned, because Woodchuck wants to aim this one for outdoor consumption. Cans do make that much easier.

This does seem very similar to their Summer Time Pear Ginger Cider from last year, which I reviewed here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-2-woodchuck.html

Appearance: brilliant, straw, some bubbles

This pear cider has no haze and just a few bubbles. The color is pale straw.

Aroma: intense, mellow ginger, cola

Interesting! I think this smells like a ginger color or a tropical fruit soda. The intensity of aroma is real, but the aroma that appears in bountiful quality is mellow ginger, fruity, and just a hint spicy. Hence the seeming contradiction of intense and mellow.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I found it semi-sweet but not nearly as sweet as some Woodchuck options.

Flavors and drinking experience: Tart, super bubbly, fruity, tropical, gingery

What a fun cider! The Ginger Pear works well in a can, but I got even more out of it once I poured mine into a glass. I like aromas and big flavors too much to keep my perries or my ciders contained all the time!

The Pear Ginger tastes tart, astringent, bitter, and stony. It surprised me. But that’s not the whole picture. This pear cider offers up lots of extremely bright fruit that blooms and blooms. I noticed very high acid but not in an unpleasant way. The fruity and tropical flavors include pineapple, coconut, and a really nice floral undertone.

In terms of texture, there are not really any tannins. On the other hand, the Pear Ginger has extremely powerful bubbles. It’s not very pear or apple like but very gingery! It’s a fun one to have with mild cheesy and bready accompaniments. I liked it with a very fresh goat cheese and freshly baked bread.

Sundstrom Cider's Liminal

The second half of this review is my first review of anything by Sundstrom Cider. This Hudson Valley cider dates its first batch to late 2013. That was when I first had an abbreviated email exchange with founder Leif Sundstrom just after I left New York City for Ithaca.

Sundstrom focuses on heritage, crabs, wild, and cider varieties of apple, but most of all on making truly delicious and thoughtful ciders through choosing the right blend of apples for each bottling. Leif has great ambitions for his ciders and for Hudson Valley ciders. I picked up this bottle of Liminal from The Cellar D’Or in Ithaca (http://www.thecellardor.com/
) because their staff knows my taste in ciders amazingly. I took one look at the list of apples and I had to try a bottle of the Liminal. 

You can fine out more about them where I did in this great article: http://www.fishandgamequarterly.com/08-cider/

Or watch what they are up to on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sundstromcider/?hl=en

Here’s a description I found online for the Liminal, “Dry New York Cider. A blend of 10 different types of apple, made in the traditional method and using native yeasts. Only 876 bottles made! Liminal 9.8% ABV Hudson Valley” Check the label picture above for the full apple list.  Note also the wild fermentation and high ABV. This is really something out of the ordinary.

I asked Leif about availability, and this is what he had to say, "There are various retailers and restaurants in NYC and Brooklyn that still have the ciders. But I’ve been sold out since December."  He did suggest that Flatiron Wines in Manhattan would be a place to try. 

Appearance: bright gilt, active bubbles, transparent

The Liminal looks lovely in the glass. It’s transparent and deeply hued with gilt. The bubbles are active and fun to watch. It did get less transparent with each glass poured, which is not a surprise for a non-disgorged cider.

Aromas: Dusty, lemon, ginger

I know when I saw ginger in this post, the association will be with actual ginger, but this is more like a suggestion of ginger to the aroma along side many smells I associate with high tannin and high acid ciders: dust, stones, and tart lemon.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

This is a dry, high acid, cider! No doubt, all delicious.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannins, acid, pomme fruit, quince

Holy wow! This is an intense cider, and I really like it. The acids are high and pointed. It’s sharp and zesty. The aroma elements I noticed of dust and stone do translate into tannic presence. But I don’t want to imply that this cider is only austere. It’s also fruity in a dry and exciting way. I got piles of fruit aromatics and flavors including, lemon, quince, persimmon, and again that spicy presence of ginger.

This is a very exciting cider that happens to use some of my favorite apples, including Wickson Crab and Northern Spy. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I enjoyed my cider with picnic meal of strawberries, black berries, hard cheeses, hummus and hearty wheat crackers. It balanced well with these different flavors and textures, all in all, a totally delightful cider!

And now, I'm even closer to GLINTCAP than I was at the start of this post!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Very Perry May: Aeppeltreow's Orchard Oriole Perry and Big Fish Cider Co.'s Church Hill Blush

Welcome back to Very Perry May! This week, I want to share my thoughts on a more traditional perry, but also sample something else springy to stretch out my perry stores to last the rest of the month. It’s a beautiful time of the year right now, and I am so thrilled to spend it on this avenue of the cider world. 

This week’s perry is from Aeppeltreow winery and distillery out of Wisconsin. This small producer is one of my favorites because each beverage truly is its own beast, made from committedly interesting fruit choices and fermented with care. I received this bottle as a review sample after the cider maker saw last year’s Very Perry May.

Visit the website at: http://aeppeltreow.com/

Here are my previous review of Aeppeltreow ciders:

Most relevant is last year’s review of the Sparkling Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-1-aeppeltreow.html

Similarly sparkly, I do love the Appley Brut: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-appeltreow-winerys-appley.html

My first review of anything by Aeppeltreow was the Barnswallow: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html

And my all time favorite of the bunch thus far, the Kinglet Bitter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/09/cider-review-appletreow-kinglet-bitter.html

Official description of the Orchard Oriole Perry, “English traditional perry pears. Complex and tannic. Fermented to highlight cultivars and terroir. Subtle pear, different from Bartlett and not-so-subtle tannins, tart, slightly bubbly." 5.5% ABV

And some background,
Oriole Perry is our proud ‘estate’ perry.  It’s grown at Brightonwoods, within sight of the Winery.   It’s more subtle and complex than the Sparkling Perry- being fermented from 100% bitter perry pears.  We ferment it with a Sangiovese yeast that we think really brings out the tannin characters of the perry-specific cultivars.  These pears are exceedingly rare in the US, and not easy to grow.  When we get the question ‘Then why use them?’, we pour a glass of Oriole.  These are not mellow, easy-going French ‘butter pears’.  Perry pears think they are Cabernet – and have the tannins to back it up.

Appearance: deep topaz, brilliant, some bubbles

It took me much thinking and gesticulating to even approach this color with words. It’s a lovely tawny somber shade with some fire and clarity. Of course I think of semi-precious stones, and this one does remind me of my birthstone, topaz, in its dark yet brilliant form. I can see bubbles in the glass, and its there’s no hint of haze.

Aromas: Perry pears, tropical fruit, perfume

This perry smells distinctly like perry pears as opposed to dessert pears. Just like cider apples, perry pears are not enjoyable to eat  The aromas are intense and welcoming. I smell ripe tropical fruit, flowers, with a hint of concentrated sweetness. The overall impression is both perfume in its ethereal floral sense and also lush tropical immediacy.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

It’s hard to describe this perry in terms of its sweetness, because it offers so much more. This does remind me of the unfermentable sugars in pear juice.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins

The Orchard Oriole Perry tastes immediately of high tannins from these special pears. The high tannins create strong drying action, but with a nice amount of sweetness still. The perry has very immediate pear flavor, but not not like Bartlett pears. The Orchard Oriole perry tastes fresh, with a pleasant high note of sourdough bread.

I’m grateful that the perry has a good amount of sparkle with small bubbles. That combination of mouthfeel features is a neat juxtaposition of cottony or astringent while also being scintillating and exciting. In terms of fruit flavors, there’s more than just pear going including a very round, lychee-ish taste. As I sip more, the tropical acidity lingers. The Orchard Oriole Perry is very beautifully  balanced and delicious to contemplate. Even if with all those tannins, it’s not thirst-quenching as such. 

I love that this perry is playful and enjoyable yet serious. It’s an unambiguous winner.

This is my first review of anything by Big Fish Cider Co., starting with the Church Hill Blush. This bottle is a review sample from Cider Con.

This Virginia cidery won a 2018 Good Food Award, and they’ve cleaned up at GLINTCAP, yet they launched in only 2015. Big Fish Cider Co. is based in Monteray, Virginia, where they have a tasting room. 

Read more about the company here: http://www.bigfishcider.com

The official description gives some nice context. 
Sparkling clear rose colored Medium Sweet cider, featuring locally grown heirloom apples and fermented with locally grown raspberries.  
Other than apples, I know of no other fruit that tops raspberries in the cellars and the hearts of cidermakers.  Church Hill Blush is made with raspberries from a local Highland County farm, Church Hill Produce. The color and the aroma are completely natural. This is a bright, festive drink that is poured for celebrations, big and small. 
The Raspberry comes through on the nose and at the beginning of the palate, with the sprightly apple flavors coming through to the finish. The sparkling character, the brightness of flavor, the beauty of the color, and the amazing aroma of this cider makes it a favorite for celebrations, weddings, anniversaries, and life’s celebrations. 
This cider also can pair well with just about any poultry dish, particularly crispy skin recipes. Also this can pair nicely with fruit salads.

Appearance: rose gold, brilliant

Rose colored ciders are just so lovely. I am not normally a fan of pink shades, but this rosegold is undeniably pretty. As the photo shows, it’s brilliant as well. 

Aromas: fresh raspberry, raspberry leaves, apple

Oooh! Such summery smells! This cider’s aromas has a backbone of apple, but fresh raspberry up front. I also get an almost tea like note of raspberry leaf. Very neat!

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

Though this cider is sweet and fruity, it is complex. 

Flavors and drinking experience: ripe raspberry, high acid, balanced

What’s most important to me in any fruit-blended cider, is the final balance between the added fruit and the cider flavors themselves, I never want to taste just berry or just spice. The Church Hill Blush does an excellent job in that it has a very good balance between apple and raspberry. 

The cider starts with a dark and almost bitter first note, but that quickly gives way to notably sweet mid palate. The flavor of ripe raspberry comes across clearly. I notice both medium sparkle and  medium high acidity, with just a bit of tannin. This cider’s sweetness lingers but doesn't cloy. I am so impressed by this presence of both raspberry and apple. It doesn’t hurt that these two fresh fruits happen to be two of my favorites.

Keep reading for more perries all month!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Very Perry May Review of Greenwood Cider's Black Currant Asian Pear & Angry Orchard Pear

Happy May! Welcome to the second year of Very Perry May! We’ll see how many perries I can get my paws on to review this month. Last year, I reviewed three perries a week for five weeks. Some of these were not purely perries according to some definitions because they contained apples, quince, or other fruit elements. All were based on pears, and thus had things to teach me.

Here’s the quickest possible review of last year’s series.

Week 1 featuring Aeppeltreow, Cidrerie du Vulcain, and Crispin : http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-1-aeppeltreow.html

Week 2 featuring Woodchuck, Dunkertons, and Misson Trail:


Week 3 Featuring Wyders, Eve's Cidery, and Magner's: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt3-eves-cidery-wyders.html

Week 4 featuring Argus, Viuda De Angelon, Cidrerie Daufresne: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-4-argus-viuda-de.html

Week 5 featuring E. Z. Orchards, Original Sin, and Blake's : http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-5-e-z-orchards.html

Since the end of last May, I’ve been saving perries. Now I’m ready to continue this education. I know now to expect some possibility of residual sweetness, a huge variety in tannin level, and a higher than average chance of volatile acidity. These aren’t assurances, but they are possiblities more likely for perry than cider. Alrighty, enough preparation, let’s try some.

I want to start out with something wildly non-traditional by Greenwood Cider. This small cidery and meadery is based out of Seattle, Washington. I love how the company introduces itself on the very minimal website.

“We make cider the hard way. We source apples from unique, wild, and abandoned orchards, and wild-harvest seasonal ingredients including Cascade huckleberries and cedar tips from the bountiful forests of the Pacific Northwest. Our ciders are aged as long as necessary to produce the finest flavor possible. The result is a line of delicious dry ciders brimming with authentic taste and regional character.”

See for yourself at: http://www.greenwoodcider.com/

Or visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/greenwoodcider/

Today, I’m sharing a review of the Black Currant Asian Pear. I was able to find an official description which reads, “Chojuro and Misharasu asian pears are blended with dessert apples, then steeped with just enough black currants to give this cider a vibrant tartness and violet hue. Semi-dry and sharp, with currant fruitiness upfront and lingering notes of unripe melon.” 5.9%ABV

Appearance: hazy, deep blackberry color, few bubbles

This show only a few bubbles but it has glorious color. I do love deeply tinted ciders and this is no exception. The color is a dark red purple like fresh blackberry juice. Thought its dark the color is hazy.

Aromas: dried roses, Asian pear, grass, brown sugar.

Wow! What a range of smells. Though none of them are astoundingly potent, I smell dried roses, green grass, and brown sugar in this perry. When I hold right up to my nose, I can get some Asian pear notes as well.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

I’d call this cider on the sweeter end of semi-dry, but mos of what’s interesting about it comes from other flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, citrus,

I like this cider’s pleasant farmy-ness. It isn’t a fully clean fermentation, but none of the unexpected notes are strong or unpleasant. What’s very strong is the acidity of this cider! That high level of acid tartness, appears with some cirtusy blood orange notes.

Because of the black currants, this beverage has medium-low tannins, but some tannins are present. Tannins aren’t that often apparent in a cider or perry from this region. Even the description of the beverages describes the apples used as dessert apples.

The currant flavors are the primary warmth and body in this otherwise light and zesty drink. I particularly like how it leaves a lingering tree bark bitterness as part of the finish. It doesn’t offer everything but what is there is balanced and complex.

Angry Orchard Pear

Everyone who knows this blog knows I’ve reviewed a fair number of Angry Orchard ciders; I’ll go back and plug several previous reviews of Angry Orchard ciders but not all because there are too many to link back to all of them. Please consider these helpful context for today’s review:

The most relevant is probably Angry Orchard’s Knotty Pear is a blend pears and apples: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/06/cider-review-angry-orchards-knotty-pear.html

Angry Orchard has generate a lot of excitement recently for their Rose cider. Here’s my review: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-angry-orchard-rose-and.html

Probably the most interesting thing I’ve reviewed from them in a long while is the Walden Hollow from the Research and Development facility: 


I appreciate that the Stone Dry is a consistent drier cider from their lineup: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-angry-orchard-stone-dry.html

And last spring, I reviewed their Spiced Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-angry-orchards-spiced-apple.html

As always, you can find out tons more at Angry Orchard's website: http://www.angryorchard.com/

But today I want to talk about Angry Orchard Pear

Let’s start with the official description, “Angry Orchard Pear Cider is delicately crafted to highlight the mellow sweetness of pears. Using apples and pears grown in the US, this hard cider blends ripe pear taste with crisp apple notes for a well-rounded and smooth drink.” 5% ABV.

And the cool thing is that the Angry Orchard website lists apples and pears used in this blend: Golden Delicious, Red Delcious, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Bosc, Bartlett, and D’anjou. Even when a cidery is using dessert varieties, I love knowing what is going into my drink.

Appearance: warm apricot, brilliant, no bubble

This apple pear blend looks totally brilliant in the glass with some nice deep apricot color. I saw no bubbles.

Aroma: intense, ripe pear, candy and dust

Wow! This has lots of aroma! I could smell it very clearly as soon as I started pouring from the bottle into a glass. And yes, I do recommend this. There’s very little way to smell anything out of those tiny necked bottles. The Pear also smells like candy powder at the bottom of the package, stone dust, but most of all like fresh ripe pears. I get a strong salivary reaction when I smell this.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

Unlike many Angry Orchard beverages, I’d call the Pear semi-sweet. Perhaps that's my expectations of perry showing through though?

Flavors and drinking experience: mouthfeel, balance, bubbles, fruit

This has lots of pear and pom fruit flavor. It doesn’t taste only like unfermented fruit though. There’s also an element of stone and dust that reminds me of a cool rocky path surrounded by greenery. The level of acidity is medium, as is the level of bubble.

This is a good entry-level drink for someone who wants to begin their exploration of pear ciders and perry. It is balanced and approachable. I do like the thicker mouthfeel. Pears are really good at creating delightful mouthfeel.

I had mine with a small flatbread pizza and weekend work. It was relaxing and enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cider Review: Dunkerton's Black Fox and Old Hill Cidermaker's Barrel

Good morning, cider-loving friends! This past weekend, Spring finally arrived. We had some glorious sunshine, gentle breezes, and warmer temperatures over the weekend. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more grateful for any break in the weather. I walked trails, watched a marching band, and participated in one of my favorite seasonal traditions: spring cleaning! I cleaned up my screened in porch, so now I have my favorite cider drinking spot back. Picture happy tired people drinking these ciders on a screened-in porch on sunny afternoon.

My first review for today is Dunkerton’s Black Fox Organic Cider. I did receive this sample for review from the american distributor for the Dunkerton’s brand. As always, this does not sway my feelings or writing on a cider. This Herefordshire cider maker uses only organic local fruit, supports many environmental causes, and consistently wins prestigious awards for making delicious ciders.
My previous reviews of Dunkerton’s beverages include

Dry Organic Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-dunkertons-dry-organic.html This cider achieved gold and then first in class in the traditional cider, dry category at GLINTCAP in 2017.

Organic Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-2-woodchuck.html This perry also won gold at GLINTCAP 2017 and took first in class in the traditional perry category.

You can find tons more info on the website: https://www.dunkertonscider.co.uk/
Today’s cider is their semi-dry Black Fox Organic Cider and it too did well at GLINTCAP, earning a silver medal.

The cider’s official description reads, “Dunkertons Organic Black Fox cider has fragrant notes of traditional cider apple varieties which we have carefully blended together to give a deliciously robust cider leaving your mouth full of lively sweet and tangy after tastes. Translucent in colour with light golden honey hues.” 7% ABV

The site also lists all of the apples in the cider, something that always makes me happy! The apples listed include: Brown Snout, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Balls Bitter Sweet, Stoke Red, Dabinett, Court Royal, Breakwells, and Yarlington Mill.

These exciting cider apples make my expectations quite high, perhaps dangerously so.

Appearance: transparent, harvest orange, some visible bubbles

This cider looks so traditionally english with its deep orange color and slight haze. I’d not call it brilliant but rather transparent. I can see some bubbles at the base and surface of the glass.

Aromas: cooked apples, tea, leather, salt

The Black Fox smells salty, leathery and slightly sweet.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry or a solid english medium dry

This is exactly what is called a medium or medium dry in UK cider parlance. It translates roughly to a semi-dry in the language I see more often on american cider labels.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, fresh peach, caramel

I love how tannic and rich this cider tastes! It’s absolutely brimming over with ripe fruit character including notes of peach, citrus, and overripe apple. But’s not simple; the Black Fox is also a little funky and spicy. The spice notes are more gingery and zesty rather than like baking spices.

The cider mellows through the mid palate. It offers up lots of traditional UK cider features like flavors reminiscent of barn wood and clean sweat along with medium acidity. The gentle level of oxidation does impart a caramel sheen to the whole drinking experience. It’s remarkable, and it’s lovely.

Up next is Old Hill Cider’s Cidermaker’s Barrel.

This is my first review of anything by Old Hill Cider. My charming partner Alex picked it up for me on a trip to Virginia. The cidery was formed eight years ago, but the orchard on which it is based, Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse, has been in operationg for more than 50 years. Old Hill seems to take its sense of history and local food very seriously, offering up a cidery history segment on the website and partnering with farm-to-table endeavors.

Find out about the company online at: http://www.oldhillcider.com/

Here’s the official description.
Cidermaker’s Barrel 
This reserve cider boasts our most complex flavor profile. Natural yeast fermentation lends layers of flavor including vanilla and fruit sweetness. A tannic, charred-oak finish enhances this traditional Shenandoah Valley Farmhouse style cider. 
Serve and enjoy this Virginia indigenous cider with salty pork, VA ham, aged cheddars, sheep’s milk cheese, rich, spicy stews and foods equal in complexity.

Appearance: brilliant, bright straw, no visible bubbles

This cider has a shining bright color with total brilliance. I don't see any bubbles, and I don't know how much petillance to expect.

Aromas: Barrel, grain, vanilla

This is going to be so very much about the barrel; I can tell! The aromas are vanilla, barrel, grain and booze. I don’t get any fruit on the nose.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This is a very dry cider with lots of barrel character.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, sour, petillant, barrel-y

This cider is extremely tart! I’d go so far as to call it sour; this is not an uncommon profile for wild fermented ciders. The sparkle level is petillant, or only mildly bubbly. The Cidermaker’s Barrel does come across as more boozy than average.

The barrely flavors make this woody and drying in addition to tart and wild. It does have a very rustic character. I like that the vanilla aromatic notes give a gentle counterpoint to some of the more rugged flavors. This one is an excellent sip and read or sip and think cider. I think that’s how I would ideally approach it more than as a food pairing cider.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Cider Review Slyboro Cider House's Hidden Star and Starcut's Pulsar

I am a broken record these days. When will it be spring? I want to see the sun. I apologize for my repetitions of this theme, but it’s as true as I can be to this year and the context of my cider tastings of late. I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to desire hints of green and warm in mid-April. Besides, complaining about the weather unites people. Feel free to add your own grousing in the comments.

As satisfying as it might be to fuss about the lack of spring, that’s not why I write. I write to share my thoughts about new ciders each week. I had a lot of fun choosing my ciders for today’s reviews. I picked two companies, Starcut Ciders and Slyboro Cider House that focus on local apples from two different prominent apple regions of the United States: northern Michigan and New York just on the other side of the Vermont border. Then I realized that both ciders have the word star in their names, so I’ll drink these two ciders and look to the heavens. Or something.

Slyboro Cider House’s Hidden Star

Of the two companies, I am more familiar with Slyboro Cider House. It operates out of a many generation orchard with many varieties of heritage and cider apples. You can visit their orchard and tasting room seasonally, as well as join in on pizza or paint and sip nights.

You can find some additional information and see some gorgeous photographs on the website:

Here’s a little list of my previous reviews of Slyboro Ciders.

I also used their Ice Cider in my Thanksgiving lineup last year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html
In 2016, I had the pleasure of visiting the orchard and tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html
And when this blog was new, I first reviewed Slyboro’s Old Sin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-slyboro-ciders-old-sin.html
Here’s the official description for Hidden Star.
Hidden Star Semi - Dry Cider 
Discover the secret in the apple! Cider from historic, hearty Northern Spy apples blended with ecologically grown Liberty apples, brings a deeply rooted American tradition to the modern table for your enjoyment.
Made from apples grown at Hicks Orchard, a family farm in the Adirondack foothills and New York?s oldest U-Pick orchard. Clean, crisp, aromatic and refreshingly smooth, like a ripe apple just picked from a tree. Hidden Star pairs well with Summer barbeques,Autumn picnics,Winter festivities, and Spring frolics. Serve chilled. 8% alc/vol 2.5% residual sugar. 750ml

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly, straw

This cider has tantalizingly visible bubbles in a warm straw color. As the picture shows, it's brilliant with nary a hint of haze.

Aromas: tropical fruit, applesauce, peaches

Nice and fruity, Hidden star smells like tropical fruits including pineapple, homemade applesauce, and ripe peaches.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This semi-dry cider has a little sweetness that reminds me most specifically of powdered sugar.

Flavors and drinking experience: citrus, spice, balanced

Though the smell was all fruit, the taste of Hidden Star shows even more complexity. I do get lots of citrus; if pressed, I’d describe it as crystallized citrus peel. There are some baking spice notes, like a gentle hint of cinnamon. The tropic fruit from the aroma isn’t entirely gone though as I still get suggestions of pineapple in the cider.

In terms of specific qualities, I’d call this medium acidity cider that exhibits great balance. The body of the cider is moderately full but very zesty. The Hidden Star offers up some subtle wildness, but it’s not funky. One of the things I notice most about the cider is how great the finish tastes.

I tend to love those Northern Spy heavy ciders, and this is no exception. Brilliant. I had it with homemade veggie and pineapple pizza and it was simply delicious.

Starcut Pulsar

This is my second review of a cider by Starcut. They are a relatively young company out of Northern Michigan, founded in 2014. The company is the cider arm of Short’s Brewing Company. They focus on using local Michigan apples and combining them with fruits and using inventive fermentation techniques.

My first Starcut Cider review was of the Immortal Jelly: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/01/cider-review-starcut-immortal-jelly.html

Read all about the ciders at http://starcutciders.com/

The Pulsar’s official description reads,
Pulsar is a semi-dry Modern Cider fermented with Michigan apples and Pinot Noir yeast. Golden in color, Pulsar has soft fruit and white wine-like aromas. Mildly acidic, this cider has a bright and tangy sweetness that dries the palate before a clean and crisp finish. 6.4% ABV
This is one of Starcut’s Flagship ciders. I need to take a second for this phrase, “has a bright and tangy sweetness that dries the palate.” I’m not sure I understand what Starcut is claiming, but dry is more often used as an opposite idea to sweet such that I’m not sure how sweetness can be drying. That said, I’m curious about this cider.

Appearance: brilliant, some visible bubbles, tea

The color reminds me of tea; it's brilliant. I see some visible bubbles in a ring at the top of the liquid and at the bottom of the glass.

Aromas: Pixy Stix, berries, dust, and apples

This is such an interesting set of aromas! The cider smells distinctly sweet and fruity, and when I break down those smells, the Pulsar’s aromas remind me most of apples, berries, and Pixy Stix!
Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

I thought it would be sweeter based on the aroma, but the cider is an approachable semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: bright, tart, beery

I know that the Pulsar’s official description calls out wine yeast and vinous flavors, but I found a lot of beer characteristics in this cider. This semi-dry cider is medium acid, which translates to pleasantly tart and bright. It’s very bright in flavor. The fruitiest note when drinking the cider comes across as fresh green grapes.

Something about the cider tastes a little bit darker and yeastier than many ciders I know. It almost reminds me of a  briney English cider in a way, but its easy drinking and friendly. It has a light body with plenty of zip and moderate rather than intense carbonation.

I had this cider with a homemade black bean and corn burrito. Anchoring this light cider with a hearty meal smothered in chipotle sauce was a grand choice. The cider brightened the food and the burrito balanced this cider as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cider Review: Weidmann + Groh: Cydonia Apfel Perlwein, Art + Science West Valley Cider plus News!

Chances are, if you are reading this page, you love cider. That’s why I write here week after week. But last year, I set aside a whole month to learn about perry: Very Perry May. I took that deep dive by writing five weeks of perry or pear cider reviews. Next month, I’ll be doing it again, but pears and apples aren’t the only pome fruit. I don’t want to forget about quince!

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on two ciders that blend apple with quince. For a bit of background, quince is in the Rosaceae family but it’s the only member of its genus: Cydonia. The primary taste attribute of quince is its tartness. It can be cooked and eaten; some varieties are even palatable raw, but quince jam is far more common. Not very many cider makers use quince, and these blends still draw primarily from apples. I’m drawing from two very geographically disparate makers here: Germany and Washington State. Let’s see what quince adds to what we know about cider.

The first comes from German beverage producer Weidmann + Groh. The name of the drink is: Cydonia Apfel Perlwein.

Weidmann + Groh makes fruit wines and distilled spirits. The company has been selling fruit spirits since the late 1980s out of Friedberg. Before distilling, the company had an orchard and fruit farm in the location, hence the start of a very locally oriented agricultural business. I apologize that I don’t have a more complete picture of them to share, but I’m hesitate to paraphrase from a Google translation of the webpage for my only direct source of information.

Feel free to explore here to find out more and see some lovely pictures, but the website is in German: https://weidmann-groh.de/
Official description (again translation provided by Google.)
Variety: Our Cydonia is made from different apple varieties. Friedberger Bohnapfel, Landsberger Renette, Goldparmäne, Boskop, Kaiser Wilhelm, Gewürzluiken and of course quince. 

Production: We place special emphasis on the correct maturity of the quince. They ripen after harvest for about 2 weeks before they are processed. About 25% quince must is then added to the cider and fermented. After the fermentation of the must, the wine is taken from the Hefedepot and then stored for 8 weeks. This clarifies the wine and is then completely clear. Now it can be filled. Compared to still wines, endogenous carbonic acid is added to our Cydonia just before filling. This gives a sparkling fresh taste experience, which is particularly popular in the warmer months of the year. 

Taste profile: Fragrant, fresh, typical Quittentuft, fruity tart, with fine Perlage and a slight residual sweetness.

Serving suggestion: Best in a tulip-like glass. Serve chilled, between 4 and 7 degrees. After opening, keep the bottle cool to avoid carbon dioxide loss through heating. Use emergency bottles at the latest the next day.

Appearance: brilliant, corn kernel, some bubbles

This is a lovely cider. The color reminds me of unpopped kernels of popcorn with that intense warm yellow. I can see some bubbles such that I anticipate a bubbly cider, and it’s totally brilliant.

Aromas: juicy apples, wet grass, floral

The Apfel Perlwein smells juicy and appley in a very immediate way, but there are lots of other layers as well. The cider smells herbal, floral, and aquatic: the image that comes to mind is a swift moving creek in a wild forest. The wildness hints at what might taste a tiny bit like Spanish French cider styles. 

Dryness/sweetness: semi-sweet and honeyed

This has a notably honey like sweetness, that feels totally natural. It does remind me of some french ciders.

Flavor and drinking experience: tart, medium bubbles, herbal, briney, tannic

Wow! This does taste a little different and I wish I knew if this was the German cider making style, the unfamiliar apples, or the quince. There are too many unknown factors here! There's a pleasant high herbal note of rosemary in a generally herbal field.

The Apfel Perlwein offers up gentle to medium carbonation, a nice wet mouhfeel, and a friendly balance of sweet and salty elements. This cider speaks with high lingering tannins, lots of malic acid, and a little funk. I’d definitely describe it as briney. In terms of geographic and historic styles, it's like Spanish and English ciders had a sweet French baby. I know that’s far from precise, but that starts to paint the picture.

We drank this cider with sweet cake, which overrode the sweetness and brought out the tannins. I’d definitely recommend this pairing! 

Art + Science West Valley CiderThis is my first review of anything by Art + Science. The company was founded in 2011 originally as a winery in Oregon. Soon after, Art + Science branched out into cider. Dan Rinke and Kim Hamblin founded the small company and have an orchard featuring not only apples but also pears and quince in addition to making their biodynamic ciders.

Read more about this cool company on the website
: http://www.artandsciencenw.com/
The official description reads, “The apples (90% of the blend) and quince were foraged from friends, neighbors and strangers in the Oregon countryside. With no sugar or sulfur added, the cider is dry and tart, with a lively sparkle in its eye.” ABV6.5%.

Appearance: hazy, sunset orange, visible bubbles

Such an interesting appearance! I am not surprised to learn that this is a very natural cider as its both intensely colorful with a sunset orange tone and solidly cloudy.

Aromas: peach, pear, quince

This cider smells very fresh, immediate and fruity, with specific notes of pear, peach, and quince. Something about the nose of this cider tells me that this is going to be seriously tart.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This cider comes across as dry but super fruity.

Flavors and drinking experience: rustic, tart, fresh, tropical

I like this funky, fruity, dry cider! It tastes tropical and just a little sour/acetic but mildly so. The natural fermentation shows with a fresh yet rustic character. When I say rustic, I do not mean barny; this cider is instead very fresh and wild. I’d even call it tangy in a citrus way. I don’t get much of a tannic presence from the West Valley Cider but the acid is powerful enough to make it feel like the cider is curing the insides of my ears and causing a salivary reaction! Whoa tart!

Overall, the West Valley Cider was a fun cider to have with gourmet grilled cheese and salad. It could also go with some fun pinxtos bites. I think the quince really pushes that tartness to an intense but really tasty level. I know fans of natural cider styles or sidra would absolutely adore it.


And we’re just over a month until GLINTCAP and Cider Week Grand Rapids! The Michigan Cider Association will be putting on the annual
Cider Week GR, happening May 13-19. The week will feature tap takeovers, cider tours, and Gillett Bridge Festival. Be sure to check out the website to learn more: https://www.experiencegr.com/cider-week/. I know I can’t wait!

If you want to submit your ciders to be judged at the world's largest cider competition- register your ciders here: http://glintcap.org/register/. You have until April 30th.