Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2014

Like last year (http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html), I want to pause now at the end of 2014 to bask in complete gratitude for this year. Along Came A Cider has had a great 2014. And do you know who I have to thank for it? My wonderful readers and all the cidermakers I know!

Without further ado, allow me to share my top ten ciders of the year. The caveat is that I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, but, unlike last year, I am going to limit myself to ciders that have a full review on the blog. I'm also going to up the suspense a bit and list them from 10 to 1, and only reveal my absolute favorite cider of the year at the very end. I know, you'll all be barely able to contain yourselves. But, I think a little anticipation is good for the soul.

10. Bantam Cider's Wonderkind

So, I'm starting out my list with I cider I enjoyed surrounded by family. And I did really enjoy it, though this particular cider surprised me considerably with its honey aromas and substantial mouthfeel. The Wonderkind managed to be both fun and sophisticated, which means it is something I'd enjoy pretty much anytime. You can see the full review here:

9. Virtue Cider's The Mitten

I still enjoy what I've tasted by Virtue Cider completely, and I think this particular meal paired with their bourbon barrel aged cider was my favorite Virtue Cider experience of 2014. (Mind you, grabbing late night vegan buffalo wings with my dad and having that with a Virtue Red Streak before Christmas was also great.) My favorite quote from that review says,  "I can taste caramel and vanilla notes from bourbon plus woodiness and somehow this all equals maple, plus the cider's buttery mouthfeel equals waffles." One of my favorite ciders of the year makes me think of waffles. Who knew that would happen? This review also has the first picture of my cider apple tattoo with some color:

8. Whitewood Cider Company's Northland Traditional Blend

Old Timey Dave has been a fixture in the cider blogging world since long before Along Came a Cider, so getting to try one of his ciders was a big deal for me. I'm thrilled to say that Whitewood Cider Company's Northland Traditional Blend was delicious. This experience impressed me particularly because of the slowly unfolding complexity of this cider. Great fruit and great tannins. Here's the rest of what I had to say:

7. 2 Towns Ciderhouse Hop and Stalk

A recent one, and yet another winner of a cider that I first experienced with pizza. This is beginning to tell me that I eat rather a lot of pizza. Oh well. What I enjoyed wasn't just the pizza though; I loved the building rhubarb flavors, robust carbonation, and tons of planty herby hoppy notes. Hopped ciders continued throughout 2014 to provide me with some of my favorite flavors of the year. The Hop and Stalk really took that fruit plus hops combination to new places by adding tart and zesty rhubarb.

6. Vintage Henney's Still Cider 2012

I remember not only how gorgeous Henney's Still Cider 2012 tasted, but also how much I adored its appearance. I wrote my review in late October still at the height of fall, and perhaps the season affected how I perceived this particular cider. I said, "This color reminds me of certain fall leaves, dark amber grade B maple syrup, or cinnabar. This is a color for the smell of woodsmoke and the crunch of leaves already fallen to the ground." But aside from its beauty, this cider also offered plenty of rich deep tannins and some fabulous fruit. See for yourself:


5. Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider

It is not likely a surprise to anyone that Farnum Hill produced a cider that made it to my top ten list. They've been making really good cider for a very long time now. This review is one of the last ones to feature photos taken in my old apartment. The surface under the cider is a little ladder that permanently connects a small sleeping loft to the TV nook in that apartment. I loved that place, and I loved this cider. It's aromas especially just left my mouth watering.


4. Millstone Cellars Hopvine

Hoppy, bottle conditioned, and dry, what's not to love here? There isn't much, as it turns out. This cider is wildly funky with lots of unexpected notes in the aroma. I really enjoyed that about it. But for those who might be scared off by a cider that honestly smells like a baseball mitt, it does taste gentler and more mild than the aromas would imply. I'm not at all afraid of an untamed cider with tons of flavor and acidity, so this suited me very well in both smell and taste.

3. West County Cider Cider Maker's Favorite

A cider that fits my ideal flavor profile: tannic, low alcohol, plenty of acidity, dry, and richly and deeply flavorful. I couldn't ask for a more Meredith style cider. I still wish I knew more about it, but in this case I'll just have to settle for a delightful mystery. Truly something special.


2. Appeltreow Kinglet Bitter

I knew one of my Appeltreow cider experiences would make it high on this list. I simply love what they do. I wish I had easier access to more of their cider varieties. My review of the Kinglet Bitter ends with, "Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work."This is in reference to their own descriptive copy that talks about the struggle to grow the rare and fussy cider apples used for the Kinglet Bitter. Those apples, however difficult, add the best tannic depth and mellowly rich fruit notes. I stand by my earlier appreciation, and I want to go searching out another bottle of this stuff!

And now for my number 1 cider of the year...

1. Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Wild Pippin

It tastes like no other cider I've ever had. As much as I completely enjoyed each and every cider on this list (and I did) this had to be my top choice. It goes beyond what I thought cider could be. I adored the Wild Pippin's herbaceous spicy notes. They blew me away. It balanced them with gorgeous sparkle, clean dryness, and great acidity. Redbyrd Orchard Cider did a marvelous thing with their wild gathered apples. I doubt, I'll ever get to taste anything quite like it again, but I do know that they are working to get some material for grafting from some of these wild trees, so I can hope for a cider with fennel, peppercorn, and basil notes. If you want to read my further adulation of this cider and see cute kitten pictures, follow this link to my review:


Thanks again to everyone! My special appreciation to friends, family and guinea pigs who  tried any weird ciders I offered. Thanks to those who hunted rare or faraway ciders for me to taste and review. As always, I must thank all the cider sellers and producers I know. You guys make this passion of mine possible. I cannot forget thanks to every commenter, reader, and visitor to Along Came A Cider. I'd enjoy cider no matter what, but sharing this with all of you enriches my life tremendously. Cheers!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse Hop and Stalk

My darling husband traveled to Oregon without me for work this past fall. I would have loved to have gone with him, but between August and early November, I'm pretty tied to this area for many reasons (all of which have to do with apples). So, he went alone and vowed to bring me back some ciders from the region. He brought back a whole suitcase full of cider goodies and tales of the wonderful hospitality offered to him by the kind folks at 2 Towns Ciderhouse. He visited their tap room, and they took amazing care of him. I am so grateful. Thanks, guys! So, I have to recommend visiting their tap room if you are in Corvallis, Oregon. I hope to make the trip myself someday before too long. This is my first review of any the ciders he brought me back from that trip.

In looking at the 2 Towns Ciderhouse website, one thing becomes abundantly clear. They want everyone to know that their ciders are natural rather than artificial. Those are some fairly huge concepts: natural and artificial; I'm afraid I spent too much time in grad school to just accept that we all mean the same things when we use those words. Luckily for me, and all the other word nerds out there, 2 Towns Ciderhouse clarifies their position in a very helpful introduction to their ciders. Check out how they outline their concepts and their ciders:
At 2 Towns Ciderhouse our aim is Damn Fine Cider. This means cider produced using the best the Northwest has to offer, superior brewing standards, innovation and a lot of love. We insist on using only the finest fresh-pressed 100% NW apples in our ciders. We never take shortcuts in the cider-making process, and never add any sugar or essence flavorings, but instead let the fresh, naturally fermented ingredients speak for themselves.
Further reading identifies three qualities that 2 Towns prioritizes in their final products body, aromatics and flavor. So, I'm happy to think of these qualities in particular when I taste and describe my first 2 Towns Ciderhouse beverage, their limited edition Hop and Stalk.

If you want to read more about 2 Towns Ciderhouse, you can either visit them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/2townsciderhouse or their full website: http://2townsciderhouse.com/ Both places have plenty of additional information, pictures, and news from this exciting cider company.

Tonight's cider is their limited edition Hop and Stalk, which is a cider with both hops and rhubarb. The official description follows, but it doesn't add a tremendous amount of additional insight to help us build more precise expectations, "An outrageous amount of hops and a healthy helping of righteous rhubarb make the Hop and Stalk a perfect cider for adventurous hop heads! Stalk on Hop!"  This is only sold in 500ml bottles. It's ABV is 6%. That's all I know so far.

My only previous encounter with rhubarb in cider came through a really fun little petillant cider from Eaglemount: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-eaglemount-rhubarb-cider.html

Appearance: Deep nectarine color, brilliant, lotsa bubbles

Nectarine color really pops tonight because the sun has been hiding for so many days. I can see every single little bubble because this cider is crystalline in its brilliance. The bubbles most remain still; I don't see a lot of motion in the Hop and Stalk.

Aromas: hops, red fruit, dust

The aromas promise good things for this cider. I can smell hops with that piney, almost soapy, grapefruit freshness. I simply adore how this smells. Hops in cider are such a shortcut to my heart, or at this point, to high expectations. I can also smell red fruit like strawberries or currants. This simply smells so good, so in terms of aromatics, 2 Towns Ciderhouse is doing well.

Sweetness/Dryness: semi-dry

Very fruity but not too sweet. Tons and tons of zingy acid to balance out the sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, zippy,

The rhubarb tastes subtle at first, but it definitely builds. This cider has notes of mind and herbs that decidedly come from the hops. Definitely pine and basil. It has an almost celeriac quality in a yummy way.  Very tart. The rhubarb builds in this tartness with some strawberry, lychee, and orange notes. I just get tons and tons of zesty fruit flavor. I love how tremendously big yet well balanced this is. Great body with lots of robust carbonation.

I savored my Hop and Stalk tremendously with a giant fluffy deep-dish cheese pizza, the kind it takes to get through this many days in a row with no sun at all. Sorry to fuss, I promise I'm not a winter hater. This cider is really helping though. I feel like I am reminded that summer and fruit exist because of its rhubarb hoppy lightness. This is particularly thrilling, even inspiring, in late December. You could pair it with lots of different dishes, but I think making sure you've got something not too acidic would be key, and dairy fits the bill well for me. I could also see pairing this cider with present wrapping and cookie baking. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cider Review: Redbyrd Orchard Cider's Wild Pippin

In October, I got an amazing opportunity to take part in a media and trade tour for cider in the Finger Lakes region. Taste NY (http://taste.ny.gov/) and the New York Cider Association (http://www.nycider.com/hardciderwine.htm) put this together. They did just a brilliant job. Even though I've been part of the cider industry of the Finger Lakes since I moved here in 2013, I feel like I learned so many new things about the cider production realities and possibilities unique to the Finger Lakes. Amazing!

This picture is of a row of the relatively young trees at Redbyrd Orchard Cider. These are being trained in the slender spindle style to encourage them to bear fruit early and grow in a relatively stable and secure way. It largely involves training the branches downward because branch position relative to the trunk of the apple tree gives signals to the tree about how much fruit to set. Interesting stuff. This farm is also focusing on biodynamic farming that involves other farm projects all being designed and chosen to mutually support one another, in this case chickens and sheep along with apple trees to create natural fertilizer, control pests, and feed livestock all at the same time.

But tonight's post isn't just to talk about what an educational (and tasty) time I had learning about local ciders. I actually want to talk about one specific cider that I tried from Redbyrd Orchard Cider: the Wild Pippin.  (You can connect with them on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RedbyrdOrchardCider.)

To zoom out a bit Redbyrd Orchard cider describes themselves as, "Cider made from sustainably managed orchards nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York." The business belongs to a wife and husband team Eric Shatt and Deva Maas. Their website offers more information about their process and descriptions of all of their past and present ciders at http://redbyrdorchardcider.com/.  My own previous review of their Starblossom cider can be found here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/finger-lakes-cider-week-special-review.html.

Of everything I tried by Redbyrd Orchard Ciders, the cider that stood out the most to me by far. In fact, this stood out so much that it became my Thanksgiving cider.  Before I give my own impressions, let's take a look at the writeup by Redbyrd Orchard Ciders.
Wild Pippin is a rare and unique blend of 100% wild gathered apples.  Every year we search the country side around the Finger Lakes for wild apple trees that we feel will add complexity and “wildness” to our ciders.  This year we found plenty, and blended them into most of our ciders and made “Wild Pippin”, a crafted blend of sharp, and bitter sharp wild-grown seedling  apples.  We will likely graft and grow out the best of these varieties to plant in our orchard for future ciders.  Will the grafted clones act and taste the same as their wild parents? After primary fermentation we aged the cider in French oak barrels just long enough to integrate this nice rustic character into the cider.  We finished the cider with an in bottle secondary fermentation to add elegant and creamy carbonation to balance its wild acidity…enjoy!!    pH 3.5,  approx. TA 0.8, RS 0.0%, 8.2% alc/vol    Bottle Conditioned
I'm thrilled to see this much information in a cider description, especially specifics like residual sugar (often abbreviated to RS) and total acidity (TA for short) and pH in addition the alcohol by volume. These numbers indicate to me that I should expect a completely dry cider, with some lively acidity and a relatively high alcohol level. What I don't know is what notes the wild apples will impart or how a short period of time in french oak will affect the cider.

Appearance: Robust butternut squash color, bubbles, brilliant

I'm afraid this picture does not do the cider justice, but in all of the hubbub of preparing for Thanksgiving Dinner, I didn't have time for a full photo shoot. You can see tons of very fine bubbles all along the glass and many moving within the cider. No haze to speak of. The cider is a rich yellow orange very reminiscent of uncooked butternut squash.

Aroma: Spicy! Herbal!

Whoa! Both times I've had this cider, I noticed the savory nature of the aromas immediately. It doesn't smell like fruit, it smells like herbs and spices. Very interesting and different.

Dryness/Sweetness: Bone dry yet flavorful

0.0 Residual sugar does not lie. There isn't any sweetness going on here. But, counter to many expectations, lack of sugar does not mean lack of intense flavor. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Flavors and drinking experience: Peppercorns, squash, grapefruit and more spice

Complex and unusual doesn't even begin to describe how truly wild this cider tastes. The predominant flavor for me is peppercorns. It is spicy and savory all the way. After that, I can begin to taste grapefruit, squash, lemon, poppyseed, fennel, and just a raw zesty green-ness. The bottle conditioning comes across clearly in how fine and intense the bubbles are. The acidity is strong but not out of control. But I cannot emphasize enough that this cider tastes savory.  

What I find hard to describe is how balanced the Wild Pippin tastes while still being so feral and distinctive. I absolutely adore this cider. It really pushes our perceptions and expectations about cider while at the same time being drinkable and incredibly pleasing.

As for how this paired with Thanksgiving? Excellently and just as I'd hoped. A very bubbly cider cuts through the richness of many traditional Thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes, turkey (for meat eaters), and buttery sauteed mushrooms. Acidity further extends the lightening and brightening effect of this cider which pairs well with my cold cranberry relish.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cider Roundup: Grocery Store Ciders Reviewed by the Along Came A Cider Moving Crew

This roundup review is a little bit of a stretch backwards in time, but I really don't want the rest of 2014 to slip by without reviewing a few of the new entries into the grocery store cider market. I use this term in particular because where a cider is sold has so much to do with who sees it and who buys it. More folks see the ciders in supermarkets than in wine or beer specialty stores, so this seems significant.

Along Came a Cider Headquarters moved this August. Luckily I had a hardy crew of about a dozen friends to help. Traditionally the reward for a moving crew of this type is pizza and beer, but my friends agreed to not only move my stuff but also help me taste and review a number of new ciders for the reward of pizza and eternal fame and glory, of course.

Everyone was a great help in moving and even better sports about being cider guinea pigs afterwards. they even let me take silly pictures of them. We had tons of pizza and spoke pretty candidly about this varied crop of ciders. 

And Now for The Ciders:

Johnny Appleseed

This cider is certainly the one I see advertised the most around here since its release. Ads appear on Twitter regularly and I know I've seen them elsewhere. This is Anheiser Busch's cider and the only one of the new crop of grocery store ciders to advertise its sweetness as a feature. Here's what they have to say about their cider.
Johnny Appleseed is a refreshingly sweet and intense hard apple cider. It’s best enjoyed on the rocks, among good friends. Inspired by a legendary adventurer and storyteller, Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider was created for anyone with a story to tell. So whenever friends gather to share a drink, a tale, or a night out, raise a glass of Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider — to the hundreds of stories waiting to be told.
This has the most chemical or artificial notes of any of the ciders we tried. Everyone noticed that though the cider has a pleasant appley first note it gets way too sweet and fake tasting. Specifically this tastes like green apple candy. This is especially noticeable because of the simultaneous stickiness and thin mouthfeel. Not a winner for any of us.

Smith and Forge

First, let me share some of official press release for this cider including the fabulously clear headline, "Presenting Smith & Forge Hard Cider: A Sturdy Drink for the Hardy Gent." Alrighty, this is a cider being marketed as manly and for men. Here's more from MillerCoor's exec Kroll, “There was a time when more hard cider was consumed in America than beer.  Now hard cider is exploding again, but the sweetness of many current ciders can be a turn off to beer drinkers, and some of them are looking instead to spirits and crafts for variety,” said David Kroll, MillerCoors vice president of insights and innovation. “Smith & Forge is a strong, just-sweet-enough hard cider that encourages guys to discover -- or rediscover -- the world of hard cider.”

“Once upon a time, barrel-chested men proudly drank tankards of hard cider,” continued Kroll. “Smith & Forge is honoring those times by bringing back the sturdy side of hard cider.”
One of my guest reviewers said, "This tastes exactly like apple juice. This is something my six year old would enjoy." I'm pretty sure he thought that was a bad thing even though he enjoyed the beverage enough to finish it.

In looking at the website now for Smith and Forge it seems to take a lighter view of its obvious targeting of a male demographic with jokes about mining, biceps, taverns and a general manly old-timey, moustache-loving vibe. Cute but feels artificial.

My word on the cider: it does tastes the most like fresh unfermented juice of any alcholic cider I've tasted above an ABV of 3% and yet this has an ABV of 6%, so I think the level of backsweetening and post-fermentation flavoring must be intense.

Woodchuck Fall Harvest

 (Many thanks to Woodchuck for letting me borrow one of their promo pics. I really wanted to show off their packaging and this photo does it.)

This is the cider I've had the most experience with before sharing it with my friends/movers, but we'll start with what Woodchuck has to say about it
The fall harvest brings farmers and communities together to celebrate another year of fruitful labor, It is a time of shorter days, cooler night, and great apples. This cider has a complex and elegant character full of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg balanced out with a hint of American White Oak. A true taste of the season.
My friendly movers had a lot more to say about the spices of this cider than the fruit or apple characteristics. The most common observations were about the apple pie similarities, questions about mulling this cider, and mentions of a brown sugar finish. We all expected it to be sweet, so there were no surprises there.

DeMunck's Belgian Style Hard Cider

Wow! This is some confrontational copy. I knew this cider would be a little different as the first cider by a regional microbrewery (Southern Tier) but they don't let us forget it. Take a look.
If you like artificial cider made from imported, concentrated apple juice, filled with caramel color, sweetened with corn syrup, and containing more than 200 calories per serving, we recommend you look elsewhere. It makes us angry that so many ciders are made with apples from orchards on other continents.

We ferment 100% pure apple juice with our house Belgian Abbey Ale yeast for a very special hard cider. Made in small batches, DeMunck's Hard Cider is smooth, easy to drink and naturally gluten-free.  
My tasters and myself all noticed that this cider hits with an initial half moment of bitterness and some beer-like aromas. The meaning of Belgian style becomes clear, they are using a Belgian beer yeast. This is good to know because I don't actually know of any particularly Belgian cider traditions in either the creation or consumption of cider. Perhaps if I'd read more carefully I would have noticed the website saying, "Fermented with Belgian Abbey Ale Yeast" sooner. Oh well.

This cider is the only one of these I've bought again since the moving party. Though I think the finish is a bit odd with some powdered sugar and bing cherry flavors, it is a nice well balanced cider.

Overall, we liked the DeMunck's best with a tie for second place between the seasonal Woodchuck and Smith and Forge. Pizza and thirst were ideal accompaniments for all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cider Review: West County Cider Cidermaker's Favorite

Tonight I'm reviewing a little bit of a mystery, West County Cider Cidermaker's Favorite. Unfortunately, I'm not finding out a lot of background information about this particular cider. I got it at a fundraising cider sell-off to raise money for Franklin Country Cider Days back in 2013. I finally opened up my bottle of cherished Cidermaker's Favorite on one of the first cold nights of the winter and shared it with visiting family.

I'll post a link to West County Cider's website, but I'll mention ahead of time that there is basic contact information on the page and nothing else. http://www.westcountycider.com/
The page is beautifully presented and formatted, but again mysterious. I tried for Facebook presence but alas, I found nothing.

 I've tasted their ciders very rarely, but I quite like what I've tried. My only previous review is of their Reine de Pomme. You can read about my impressions of this unique cider right here and my post also has more background information on West County:


All of what I know about this cider comes from this classic yet minimalist label and tasting it.
 The basic facts include that this cider has an ABV of 4.8% and is surely a blend of heritage local apples like all of what West County does.

Appearance: Polished Copper

The Cidermaker's Favorite looks totally brilliant. Not one hint of haze is visible. The color strikes me as more metallic and clear and clean than many; it is unusually intense and looks just like polished copper to me. I don't see many bubbles, so perhaps this will be a still cider?

I can barely get over how deep and richly this color comes across.

Aromas: applesauce, highly aromatic, dusty, minerally

Ooh! My mouth waters. Certain aromas give excellent hints about how a cider will taste, and this set of smells gives me all kinds of goodness to anticipate. Dusty smells imply tannins to me. Many fabulous bittersharp apples and heritage apples offer their gorgeous applesauce notes in a blend's aroma. My hopes have officially been raised.

Dryness/Sweetness: Dry

Definitely dry but with fruit and tannin notes.

Flavors and drinking experience: Wow I did not anticipate how high the acid levels would be on this cider. It makes it very exciting! I did expect higher than average tannins, and I am not disappointed. Yay! The cider drinks with almost no sweetness. But still somehow dry, tannic, and acidic balance out beautifully. The low ABV of this cider really shows well. It makes a huge difference in how smooth and approachable it is while being this dry. The other element of this cider I must emphasize is how rich rich rich it tastes. Perfection. I love this complex and exciting balancing act. West County Cider has really pulled off something special with its Cidermaker's Favorite.

I had this both with dinner and after, so I can vouch enthusiastically for this cider as either a pairing beverage or something to focus on. My food was a baked pasta dish with a cream-based sauce, walnut, spring peas, and a swirl of pesto on top. Very rich and a nice accompaniment to such an utterly delightful cider.

If you see West County Cider anywhere, please do yourself a favor and try them. I cannot wait to have the chance again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cider Review: McKenzie's Hard Cider Pumpkin Jack

Even though I've seen snow every day since last Thursday, I want to review at least one more autumnal cider before we take the official plunge into winter. Luckily for me, winter doesn't begin technically for another five weeks. (Not that I think upstate New York is listening.) So, I'm pretending that we're still living in an autumnal wonderland for my review of McKenzie's Hard Cider Pumpkin Jack!

 McKenzie's is a widely available cider brand where I live, but I honestly don't know how common it is out of state. Commentors are encouraged to enlighten me! Their ciders are made here in upstate NY. The website has plenty more information here: http://www.mckenziesbeverages.com/.

While I love learning in-depth information about fermentation techniques and apples choices, I must say that the coolest thing on the McKenzie's website is a huge and varied page of cider facts, http://www.mckenziesbeverages.com/cider-facts. There's plenty of party trivia here!

McKenzie's Ciders have come up in my blog a few times. Here you can read all of my earlier reviews.




But tonight, I'm not worried about anything except the Pumpkin Jack. We'll see exactly what this variation on the current pumpkin craze (and it is a craze) is all about. McKenzie's official description is a bit light on information, but it says, "Who Needs Pumpkin Pie When You Can Have This! It’s All Treats & No Tricks with McKenzie’s 'Pumpkin Jack' Fall Seasonal Hard Cider! This selective Seasonal uses only the finest real pumpkin and fall spices to enhance and excite both your nose and your taste buds!" From this, I can expect some pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices in the cider. Let's see how it looks out of the bottle, and more importantly, how it tastes.

Appearance: brilliant, pumpkin orange, a few super tiny visible bubbles

It is almost a shame to sell this in a tinted bottle because the intense pumpkin orange of the cider really supports the branding. It is gorgeous and super fall pretty in the glass.

Aroma: Nutmeg, Pumpkin, Spicy, Salty?

The smells that this cider offers are far more spice than pumpkin and far more pumpkin pie than cider or apple of any sort. Not that every cider has to taste and smell just exactly like apple. This smells more like nutmeg, pumpkin pie spices, and an odd little hint of salt.

Sweetness/Dryness: Sweet!

This is decidedly sweet with a dark raisiny sweetness. As far as the  many, nearly infinite, types of sweet out there, this is one of the best.

Flavors and drinking experience: very sweet, desserty, mild carbonation

Nuance is not the strong suite of this particular cider, but it is completely fun. If one lets go of any sense of expectation save that of pumpkin pie, this cider really delivers that. It is sweeter than many pumpkin pies, but it has a few phases of flavor. It starts with a hit of sweet, goes spicy but cool, and offers a more gently sweet finish.

The Pumpkin Jack tastes very interesting, but it is not something I could drink regularly. I think I'd be more likely to use it to make a reduction and turn it into a dessert sauce. Pumpkin Jack has loads of flavor and for those who cannot get enough pumpkin spice, it would likely be a total winner.

I paired my Pumpkin Jack cider with a spicy chili for a bit of counterpoint. Sweetness is my favorite accompaniment to culinary heat. I enjoyed it that way plenty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cider Review: Bad Seed's Belgian Abbey Hard Cider


Though the Hudson Valley cider scene is physically close to us here in the Finger Lakes, I've felt surprised by the relative separateness of our cider scenes. Nonetheless, I always try to pick up these ciders when I see them for sale. Hence, my review of Bad Seed's Belgian Abbey Hard Cider.

The last time I reviewed a Bad Seed cider it was their IPC (India Pale Cider) back in September of 2013. You can read the review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-bad-seed-ipc-india-pale.html Theyve come a long way since then and even longer since Bad Seed was started by two friends in 2011. Now they even have website: http://www.badseedhardcider.com/ in addition to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Badseedcider.

In reading Bad Seed's website, the most fascinating writing I found says, "We seek to advance the craft cider industry through mixing both old and new cider techniques and craft beer influences. Making ciders from 100% fresh pressed apples grown by us on a 6th generation family farm with no Alchemy used, after all this is cider not science. You wont find the endless list of chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and excuses on our label because we don't use them." Alchemy, eh? I hadn't known that was a major issue in the industry, but what a fascinating idea.

This is what Bad Seed says about their own Belgian Abbey Hard Cider: "If Belgian Monks only found this the higher purpose of the apple, Crafted from apples grown in the Hudson Valley , fermented with a Belgian abbey beer yeast, unfiltered and bottle conditioned. Tart, tangy, Dry and a little off beat like a Bad seed should be." This cider has a very middle of the road 6.3% ABV, making it nice and easy with meals.

Appearance: Hazy bubbly lemon sorbet color

Aromas: beery, yeasty, citrusy

First and foremost, this cider smells like beer. Behind the intense beer smells, I can also detect some citrus and maybe maybe a hint of apple. Mostly though the yeast choice makes itself clear in the aromas of the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider.

Sweetness: Dry

Absolutely bone dry. Both from the copy on the website and the dryness of this cider, I'm confident saying that the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider has been bottle conditioned.

Flavors and Drinking experience: beer-like, bitter, bubbly

Unsurprisingly based on the aromas, this cider tastes very beer-like to me, mind you I don't usually drink beer. Somehow though, the bitterness and citrus notes just say beer to me. The Belgian Abbey is very bubbly too, but not very appley. This isn't a problem; ciders don't have to be very fruity or appley and this one is not. As I drink on, it seems almost burly and definitely burpy. I can taste hints of something savory: celery, fennel and pepper. And I get a consistent minerality. The only true fruit note is grapefruit pith. Very interesting. This cider is definitely low in tannins, medium low acid, and no sweetness.

My impression is that it is so dominated by the yeast choice that if you like that you'll like the cider and if you don't, you won't. The Belgian Abbey even pours with a lot of yeast at the bottom if the bottle when compared to other bottle conditioned ciders.

This cider made a great match with vegetarian chicken dumpling soup. I would always choose to pair the Belgian Abbey Hard Cider with salty food. Its combination of citrusy notes, extreme bubbliness, and bitter beery edge complement salt and heft extremely well. With food, I liked this one a lot, but I think it needs food: at least for me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cider Review: Vintage Henney's Still Cider 2012

If you read here regularly, you may have come to suspect a certain style bias in my cider drinking. I love many many sorts of cider, but higher tannin ciders often with some oak and funk to them are frequently favorites. I've been teased for preferring English-style ciders as much as I love UK bands or Victorian literature. I suppose I should confess. I am, in fact, guilty as charged.

So, when I chose a cider to relax with on a dark chilly night recently, my expectations rose when I chose an English cider by a company I've never tried before. Henney's is based out of Worcester, England and the founder Mike Henney has been making cider since 1996. I got my bottle of Henney's Vintage Dry from Franklin County Cider Days last year when bottles left over from the two cider salons were sold at incredibly reasonable prices at the end of the harvest dinner. I spaced out my enjoying of these hard to find ciders, but I believe this bottle was my last of that haul.

Speaking of Franklin County Cider Days, I highly encourage everyone to go. You can read about the cider celebration here: http://www.ciderdays.org/ (It just breaks my heart that I cannot go this year.)

(I wrote about my fabulous experiences there last year in this entry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/11/franklin-county-cider-days-2013-few.html

All my adoration of Franklin County Cider Days aside, it pleases me to no end to get to review something so unfamiliar and intriguing.

Henney's website is beautiful. Lots of use of illustration and clean simple graphic design. They don't go into vast detailed explainations, but they do talk about apple varieties specifically naming Dabinette, Ashton Bitter, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, and Tremlett's Bitter as varieties they prefer. Their website can be found at: www.henneys.co.uk/

This is what they have to say about the Vintage Dry 2012

"Henneys Vintage is made from a single year’s pressing and is naturally still. It is dry in style with a rich and flavoursome palate. This vintage cider is made from a single year’s harvest. It is naturally still and has been only coarsely filtered in order to retain as much flavour as possible. Sip or quaff, we don’t mind, as long as you enjoy it. Cheers!"

Appearance: Dark reddish orange, brilliant, obviously still

I know I go rather off the charts in my associative color descriptions, but you'll find no apologies for that here. This color reminds me of certain fall leaves, dark amber grade B maple syrup, or cinnabar. This is a color for the smell of woodsmoke and the crunch of leaves already fallen to the ground.

Aromas: woody, tannic, hints of fruit
Though the primary smell is apple, it offers something more specific: the deep dark but subtle sweet aura of bittersweet cider apples. At this point that smell just means tannins to me. The fact that this comes along with hints of wood and leather, make that prediction a safe one.
Sweetness: off dry
This is not a completely dry cider, but what sweetness is there is entirely fruity and understated. I think this is a textbook definition of off dry.
Flavors and drinking experience: tannins, astrigency, farmy, approachable
This cider is so tannic that it starts to dry the mouth and cause a peculiar but very pleasant feeling of astrigency and puckering. Definitely not for everyone, but I adored it. It also has notes of rocks and mist but without tasting watery. This is a tremendously interesting cider with just a bit of farminess to it. The mouthfeel creeps up on being cottony. Very English. I appreciate that the ABV is only 6.5% which keeps it very refreshing and drinkable.
In my enthusiasm for tannins and texture I don't want to forget about fruit because this has some lovely overripe apple characteristics along with hints of jam and biscuit dough.  At one point, tasting this cider provoked me to say, "Sweet sweet Pomona, thou art good," If that helps to indicate my level of enthusiasm.
Ideally, I'd have this with something creamy and spicy with a hint of seafood saltiness, like a shrimp curry with loads of coconut milk. I'd want something with broth and liquid just to balance out the drying characteristics of the cider, but also something flavorful and stimulating. Anything bland or too mild would simply fade in the presence of so much flavor.

This is not a cider for everyone, but it is certainly one for me!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cider Review: Blackbird Ciders' Orchardist's Reserve

So, one of my goals for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week was to try as many of the unfamiliar cideries as I could. While I didn't make it out to all of the Cider Week events, I did what I could to try new things and this is my first review from that process. I got my hands on some Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve. But before I dive right into the cider, let's learn a bit about the folks who make it.

This is how Black Bird Cider Works introduces themselves on their website (which you can visit here http://blackbirdciders.com):
BlackBird Cider Works is proud to be Niagara County’s sole craft hard cider producer. Nestled on a beautiful farm overlooking Lake Ontario, we produce hard ciders made from apples grown in our own orchard. We boast a variety of ciders ranging from dry to sweet, including some made from certified organic apples. Our on-property tasting room is open seven days a week, offering samples of our current craft cider selection, as well as bottle sales. Stop by the cidery for a tasting, grab some BlackBird merchandise, and discover why we’re Western New York’s premier craft cider producer.
 Their exact location is Barker, New York and one of the really cool things about Black Bird Cider Works is that the cidery and orchard are all part of one location. Black Bird grows all of their own fruit, including both cider varieties of apples and organic apples. Both fairly rare situations and quite special.

I love that Black Bird Cider Works has a tasting room. Perhaps I've become partial over the months I've been involved with one, but there's really something wonderful to say about both seeing the premises for the beverage you are trying and about seeing how customers respond to your ciders.

Now onto Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve!

As I often do, I think it is useful to begin with the cidermaker's official description: "A Blend of six varieties of apples including New York State favorites like the Empire, Cortland & Jonagold apples. With an apple essence on the nose & a light refreshing taste, this cider has a clean finish." To me, this just gives me a good baseline for what to expect so that I approach the cider on its own terms.

Appearance: lots of color, no visible  bubbles, brilliant

This cider shows great color, a deep autumnal gold with hidden hints of green. As the photo shows, there are simply no visible bubbles or haze. It looks so unbubbly that there might not be any sparkle in this cider at all. We'll see.

Aromas: warmed apples, wood, booze

This smells immediately of warm overripe apples, yum. I can get notes of wood shavings, things that remind me of both beer and wine, so I guess I'm just smelling a more notable than usual booziness to the bouquet. Somehow the smell also makes me think of dusty hot slow afternoons in an attic or a barn. Perhaps thats more memory than smell though.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

I know the bottle tells me that this cider will be semi-dry, but I don't get that at all. Semi-sweet is my official recommendation even taking into account that my personal palate is calibrated with some real sensitivity to sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, fruity, green, sweet finish

As the appearance suggested, this cider is just slightly petillant. In terms of flavor, what I notice most is the fruity mid-palate. At that moment, I can taste tangerines, cucumber, all kinds of summer fruit backed with hints of green ultrafresh bitterness. Pleasantly complex. Somehow this just tastes so much like summer. Perhaps it is the hits of lake water minerality. Or somehow the combination of tannins and a sweet powdered sugar finish. I'm not entirely sure. My only real critique has to be in mouthfeel. I prefer a crisper feel with real acid but the Orchardist's Reserve offers more of a soft giving mouthfeel, especially after the initial burst of texture and flavor.

As for pairing, I'd put this with one last summery salad. Even up here in upstate New York, I can still get really good bell peppers and greens. So, I'd chop up every fresh crisp vegetable in the house into a grand finale of a salad, add a good splash of lemon and feta dressing, then drink up this cider right with it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cider Review: Nine Pin Cider Works' Ginger

Pumpkin and pumpkin spice are frequently touted as the flavors of fall, followed closely by all things apple. But I'd like to propose another contender, ginger. Especially when paired with apple, as in this cider by Nine Pin Cider Works, the balance of spice, heat, fruit, and zing is extremely autumnal. The air feels crisp; the chilly nights inspire warm fires indoors or out, and everything is bright for one last hurrah before the winter. Ginger suits this perfectly. But can bright spicy ginger combine well with hard cider? (My only previous review of a ginger cider combination can be investigated here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-millstone-cellars-gingeroot.html)

This question informs my review of the new ginger cider by Albany's youngest cidery, Nine Pin Cider Works.

You can check out all of their new cider styles and their full schedule of cider happenings on their website: http://www.ninepincider.com/

It looks like they've really jumped in the cider scene enthusiastically since their relatively recent opening.  Their only previous appearance in this blog comes from my review of their first cider, called their Signature Blend: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-nine.html
Alejandro del Peral, Nine Pin's cider maker has expanded their lineup quickly and now Nine Pin offers the Ginger, Belgian, and Hunny Pear as well.

Here's what Nine Pin says about their ginger cider, "Ginger – A spicy yet balanced cider created from a blend of dessert apples from Samascott Orchards and infused with ginger and orange peel."

I love that Ninepin is going for something spicy and also adding the orange notes. I'm so curious to taste how it will all work together.

Appearance: pale, brilliant

Somehow this color reminds me of a certain shade of sunrise when rose and gold combine with pale delicacy. Poetics of color aside, this is a beautiful brilliant cider without a hint of haze. 

Aromas: fresh apple, some ginger, spices

When I lift my glass, I can immediately smell apple. It is a fresh clean apple scent rather than something more ripe or warm. In the background, ginger and spice both appear but remain very separate from the apple.

Sweetness: Semi-dry

Though it is a bit more difficult to assess the sweetness or dryness of a flavored cider, at least for me, this one is doubtlessly a semi-dry. It has fruit and body as well as spice but these things always function in balance. The mouthfeel and finish contribute to the cider's functioning as a semi-dry. This makes it pleasantly approachable and enjoyable for folks with a wide array of preferences.

Flavors and drinking experience: genuine ginger flavor coordinated with orange zestiness

Wow! This cider has a very real ginger taste. It drinks just a touch spicy while staying nicely balanced. The ginger does not dominate the cider completely but it is a primary aspect of this cider. Rather than tasting like a flavored cider it drinks like apple, orange, and spicy ginger altogether. I am impressed by how tremendously well these flavors combine.

The Ginger offers a good level of carbonation for me, which means it is strongly sparkling. I enjoyed this cider before reading any descriptions or notes, but once I read about the infusion of orange peel it made all the sense in the world.

For reasons of practicality, I had this with a couple of non traditional pairings because my fridge was so filled with party leftovers. I could not in good conscious cook something new, so I asked the Ninepin Ginger to work with what I had. That means I tried it with tabbouleh salad, tortilla soup, and white chocolate tequila-soaked jalapenos. Trust me it worked.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week is Less Than Two Weeks Away!

The time is nearly here for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week!

Cider Week is a growing way for groups of cider makers and enthusiasts to get together and celebrate the finest of all libations, hard cider! There are a number of Cider Weeks in the United States now and some of them having been going on for a few years now. This will be the third Finger Lakes Cider Week!

The actual dates are October 3rd through 12th, 2014. There will be cider events galore all over the region. Find out more at http://www.ciderweekflx.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ciderweekflx

So, to help get people as excited as I am for the upcoming festivities, I thought I'd mention a few of the upcoming events and link back to my coverage both of last year's Cider Week and of the participating cideries that I've featured or reviewed in the past. That way you'll know a bit more about what you could be drinking soon at Cider Week!

My Participation Last Year

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be invited to help run a cheese and cider pairing event at The Cellar D'Or which is still a huge favorite of mine. We paired ciders and cheeses from the local to the international and had a great time. I know they're doing tons for Cider Week again this year.


Here's just a bit of link roundup for reviews I've done in the past on ciders from cideries that will be participating in Cider Week again this year. 

Highlights of Cider Week 2014

• Friday- Sunday October 3-5: Apple Harvest Festival with cider sampling, apple tasting, pies, rides, and more, Ithaca 

• Friday October 3 (5-8pm):  Cider Week Kickoff Tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Eve's Cidery, Bellwether Cidery, and Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Ithaca
• Tuesday. October 7 (7pm): Science Cabaret with Dr. Gavin Sacks @ Lot 10, Ithaca

• Wed. October 8 Free Cider Tasting at Seneca Falls Farmer's Market, Seneca Falls
• Wed. October 8: Cider Flights and Tasting Event @ Microclimate Wine Bar, Geneva

• Thu. October 9: Cider Party for the Library’s 40th! @ Durland Alternatives Library, Ithaca

• Fri. October 10 (5-8pm) Local and International Cider tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Blackbird Cider Works, Ithaca 

• Fri. October 10 (8-11pm): Cider Stomp @ the Chanticleer Loft, Ithaca
• Sat. October 11 (11am, 1pm): Orchard and Cidery Tours @ Black Diamond Farms, Trumansburg

• Sat. October 11 (3-7pm): Gifts of the Apple family event @ the Good Life Farm, Interlaken

 • Sat. October 11 (5-8pm): Free Cider Tasting at Greenstar Coop with Bellwether Ciders
• Sun. October 12 (8am-5pm): Build Your Own Cider Press and Cider Making Workshop @ Hammerstone School, Trumansburg (requires pre-registration) 
 This is just a smattering of events from the week. Restaurants, bars, groceries, farms, and more will be featuring hard cider in all kinds of ways.

Cider Week Cideries I've Reviewed

Harvest Moon Cidery


Eve's Cidery



Redbyrd Orchard Cider



Beak and Skiff's 1911 Hard Cider


Bellwether Cidery


Cider Week Cideries I Still Need to Review

Black Diamond Farm Ciders
Steampunk Cider
Black Bird Cider Works
South Hill Cider
Hazlitt's Cider Tree
Three Bros. Winery

How many of those can I get good notes on before the end of cider week? Do you think I can collect all six? I might just try.

(Full Disclosure: I'm a volunteer for Cider Week. I'm part of the team that's trying to bring you free cider and fun.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cider Review: Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King

Today feels like fall. Though the season doesn't officially start until the equinox on Sunday, the mornings are crisply cool, leaves are changing color, and apple harvest has started for the year.  I love these earlier cooler nights, for that that it means that winter and real cold cannot be too far behind. It is a season for visitors here in Ithaca, and today's review is for a cider I shared with dear visiting friends recently. They like dry challenging ciders, so I pulled out something I thought might be a bit special, Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King.

Here's a bit of background on Whetsone Ciderworks that I found on their website. The company has been around since 2010. Jason and Lauren MacArthur started Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro, Vermont. They appear to have a few really interesting identifying features as a cidery.

They do focus on local fruit. This what they have to say about that, "All of the apples we use are grown locally- this past year, most were from Scott Farm in Dummerston, some from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH, and even a few from our own small orchard."

This, plus the description of Jason MacArthur's winemaking influence make me really excited to try their ciders. I love it when cidermakers show a genuine focus on apples, climate, and the under-realized similarities of cider and wine making. Anyhow, that's my own bias talking.

You can find out plenty more on their actual site http://www.whetstoneciderworks.com/ or their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whetstone-CiderWorks/209863572381300

In looking at a few Whetstone Ciders, I though I'd start by sharing and reviewing their Orchard King. It sounds complex and truly expressive of their cider-making goals.

Here's what Whetsone has to say about their Orchard King, "This extra-dry, bottle-conditioned cider is effervescent and refreshing. Yarlington Mill, Orleans Reinette, and Major are among the apples that impart tastes of citrus and apple, leading to a delicate, smoky finish. A fabulous 'cocktail hour' cider."

This cider is sold in 750ml bottles and has an ABV of 7.5%.

Appearance: cloudy, deep creamy color, very little visible bubbling

I can see a ring of very fine bubbles around the edge of the glass and a few tiny islands of bubbles, but not much more. This cider is hazy to cloudy and shows signs of being bottle conditioned. This matches the official description, so that's good. The cider is a creamy rich gold in color.

Aromas: Leather, Ripe Apples, Clay

The Orchard King smells fascinating, rather like leather and limestone and deliciously ripe apples. I also detect notes that remind me of wood and clay. One of my fellow tasters got hint of lily aromas, and I think she's spot on. I get some phenols but not to a distracting or negative degree. I really enjoy how rich and complex this cider smells.

Sweetness or dryness: Dry

Definitely at dry cider! This doesn't taste the least bit sweet until the finish, but then some hints of warm sweet oats and breadiness kick in. I love the dryness and the shift just at the last moment. Very interesting.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, medium high acid, some degree of farminess

The Orchard King tastes monstrously tannic and fabulous. This cider comes across as lightly fizzy more than deeply bubbly. It shows a bit of farm funk with some hints of metallic flavors. The Orchard King balances that weight of tannins and funk with some intense acidity, making this a complex and bombastic cider. It tastes very rustic, even a bit medieval.

I enjoyed this with grapes, cheese, cookies, and wonderful friends. I think they were the most important accompaniment to this cider. It doesn't need lot in the way of foods. The Orchard King offers enough interest and flavor to stand on its own, but it could also easily pair with hearty foods. I would not enjoy this cider so much with anything super spicy or acidity, but balance it out with non-competing flavors like farmhouse bread, cheese, and fruits.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cider Review: Appeltreow Kinglet Bitter

Tonight, I am finally able to post my review of Appeltreow's Kinglet Bitter. I say finally because I tasted this cider weeks ago. Spoiler alert: I loved it. But I temporarily misplaced the photos I took of it, so I didn't want to post a review with no pictures. Tonight, I found them, so no more waiting!

First things first. You can find out plenty about AeppelTreow Winery and Distillery at their website:

I have reviewed one AeppelTreow cider before, their Barnswallow. Interested parties can read that review here: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/03/cider-review-appeltreow-barnswallow.html

The briefest version of AeppelTreow's description of their Kinglet Bitter reads, "Semi-dry, medium tannic traditional English and French cider apples."

While mouthwatering, that doesn't go as deep as I would like in terms of information, and, luckily for us cider nerds, AeppelTreow gives us more. Here's the full rundown of what they say about the Kinglet Bitter.
English and French traditional cider apples. Complex and tannic.
Fermented to highlight cultivars and terroir.
Subtle apple and tannins, tart, slightly bubbly.
  • Body: Medium
  • Sweetness: 1
  • Tartness: 4
  • Alcohol: 6
  • Apples: Dabinette, Domaine, Frequin Rouge, White Jersey, Muscadet Deippe and other bittersweet cider apples of English and French heritage.
Kinglet Bitter is one of our proud ‘estate’ ciders.  It’s all grown at Brightonwoods, within sight of the Winery.   It’s more subtle and complex than Barn Swallow – being fermented from 100% bitter English and French cider apples.  It differs from an authentic European cider by being ‘immature’.  Kinglet has very little post-ferment changes made by wild Lactic Acid Bacteria.  Instead, we ferment it with a Sangiovese yeast that we think really brings out the tannin characters of the cider-specific cultivars.  These apples are rare, and not easy to grow.  When we get the question "Then why use them?", we pour a glass of Kinglet.
I've had a fair number of ciders that use only cider apples, and it changes the landscape of flavors tremendously. What excites me especially is that this list goes beyond the ten or so cider apples I've tasted most often and includes totally unfamiliar apples! The comment about relative 'immaturity' caused by post-fermentation changes makes me curious. What does that really mean? How will that translate into taste?

Appearance: marigold, few visible bubbles, brilliant

This is a deeply colored cider. Its marigold hue bespeaks tannins; this is not a surprise given the description.

Aromas: Tons of overripe apple aroma, some minerals, spicy.

 Wow! I feel completely entranced by the aromas here. This smells sweetly spicy but oh-so appley. Laying atop this balance, I pick up a subtle drift of minerality. Gosh, this is going to be good.

Sweetness: semi-dry

This has some sweetness, but not too much. Definitely not enough to call it semi-sweet. The thing about this sweetness that I notice most is its depth. This is a real rich apple taste that expresses itself partly with sweetness.

Flavors: high tannins, medium sweetness, rich, creamy, yet a bit tart

This cider tastes highly tannic but not too dry. I'll chalk that up not only to deep fruits in the mid palate but also no overkill in terms of acidity. The Kinglet Bitter offers rich flavor without being heavy. Instead the mouthfeel is more creamy but with hints of zest. The flavor is one that you can fall into but that just bounces you back up. It really is tannic and sweet but still refreshing; I just cannot get over how well those two elements are balanced.

I just absolutely adore this cider.

The level of sparkle is more one of spritz or petillance. My one complaint is that it did lose its sparkle fairly quickly in the glass. This is not a sincere critique. We need ciders at all levels of bubble and stillness. I just happen to like sparkle a lot.

Thinking about pairings for AeppelTreow's Kinglet Bitter, I'd like to pair it with foods that play up its tannins well. I think a totally smooth sherried mushroom soup, a salad with big herby croutons, and gruyere would taste amazing. Mind you, I enjoyed my own glasses of this cider with a good book instead of food. I assure you, it delights the senses either way. I just like tasty cider more than I like cooking, so I don't always prepare the meals that I think the ciders deserve.

Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cider Review: Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider

Apologies for the brief hiatus, cider drinkers! Many things have been afoot in the world of Along Came A Cider. Most exciting to me though is that HQ has moved yet again, and this time for to be settled for a long while. And that is a feeling that goes well with any pleasant beverage.

For the time being though, let me share my most recent adventure with a Farnum Hill cider.

Let us begin with the fact that Farnum Hill is serious about cider and about using cider apples. If you want to see this for yourself, you can find evident all over their website:


On the one hand, I love that. Cider is worthy of being taken seriously. It is a seriously delicious and complex beverage. Different apples make for different ciders, and Farnum Hill has invested in cider apples much to the benefit of their ciders. But to represent that other hand, I have to say that I'm not completely into the tone that their seriousness takes.  For example, "On Farnum Hill, we stick to the true meaning of the word 'cider:' an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as 'wine' is fermented from particular grapes." Anyone who starts talking about true this or true that starts to lose me, I must say. There are a lot of ways to do anything, and calling one way true starts to mean calling all other ways false, and that sounds a bit limited and unnecessarily disdainful.

Consider me a rebel, but this seems a bit silly. The cider world has room for many style and even more bottles. I will absolutely line up to taste and try what Farnum Hill offers, but I'm not going to sign up for a "one true way" for cider.

Speaking of my fondness for their actual beverages, I have reviewed one Farnum Hill cider in the past. Find my review of their 2013 summer cider here:


But for tonight, it is all about Farmhouse Cider. 

This is how Farnum Hill introduces this cider:
Farnum Hill ‘Farmhouse’: Alcohol content: 6.5% by volume. Available in 750 ml bottles with mushroom cork & wire hood.
Our most casual cider, pale gold and bubbly, with a stroke of sweetness along with the tart, bitter, and fruity elements that good cider offers: citrus, pineapple, bittersweet apple, and a whiff of good barnyard funk. Farmhouse astringency is nowhere near the extreme, but shows a certain tannic edge. Agreeably versatile, it shares certain flavor elements with both beer and wine. A clean, appetizing finish makes it congenial with many kinds of food, from the snackiest through the meatiest to the whole-grainiest and back.
People fond of English or Irish commercial ciders often like our Farmhouse, though its sweetness is a fraction of theirs. Imagine a fresh-tasting second cousin to Magner’s (alias Bulmer’s Ireland), and subtract the sugar. ‘Farmhouse’ is more of a pub cider than our others. It varies a bit more from batch to batch, shows less complexity less alcohol than our others, and of course is less filling than beer. It and Semi-Dry are the most popular of our regular ciders. ‘Farmhouse’ is blended from a group of real cider apples that ripen earlier than most. So it’s a bit easier to make and less expensive to buy.
The tannins in the Farmhouse Cider taste more bitter and feel more rustic (rough?) than those in our more elegant blends. You who wince at the tannins in Farmhouse might find pleasure in our smoother, more complex Semi-Dry.
(For the ultimate in tannic astringency, journey to certain farmstead operations in the West of England. Any of their serious bittersweet ciders convulse the oral membranes with eerie power. Ageless residents of rural Somerset or Hereford can chat and sip all day, gently propped against barrels, freed by cidrous tannins from time and harm. Or that’s how it looks.)
Whoa. That's a mouthful. Let's dig out a few concrete specifics to use when tasting this cider. I'm guessing this will be an off dry cider (meaning not entirely dry but also drier than a semi-dry) with medium to high tannins. I anticipate some bitterness but not enough to entirely crowd out fruit notes. Sounds enticing enough. I'm curious.

Appearance: deep topaz, not many visible bubbles, brilliant

This is a lovely cider in the glass. That depth of colors supports the description of tannins and heritage fruit, but none of that is a surprise. Though the photo doesn't reveal this, when first poured, I can see that this will be a slightly sparkling cider, but the bubbles calm down quickly.

Aromas: overripe apples, dust, summer storms

Luscious smells. This cider makes my mouth water with that combination of warmed overripe apples and mineral dust. This is my second clue that this cider will taste tannic, so that's consistent with its appearance and description. But now I'm getting in a hurry because it smells so good that I want to taste it absolutely right now.

Sweetness: off dry

This cider, as predicted, tastes more than semi-dry but not completely dry and not at all harsh. This truly is a drinkable off dry.

Flavors: Tannins! Slight bitterness, good structure, woody

The Farmhouse Cider tastes highly tannic, but it balances that out with plenty of fruits and medium acidity. What the tannins contribute are good structure and body with some delightful drops of mild bitterness. My only complaint is purely personal. It has not very strong petillance, meaning it sparkles just a touch on the tongue but I would like perhaps a touch more. This is decidedly an easy drinking cider for the aficionado, and at the same time a beautiful and complex education for the more casual quaffer. I keep noticing the slight levels bitter astringency, but you know that's how I like it.

This cider offers a long woody finish that gets a bit sweeter at the very very end. Friendly.

In terms of pairings, I think I want both some fattiness and some mild sweetness to best highlight what I enjoy about this cider. If I were near the ocean that would mean lobster roll and homemade potato crisps. *swoon* Since I am significantly land-locked, avocados spring to mind. Perhaps an avocado and tomato salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a lemony drizzle. Or roasted corn on the cob with feta cheese and veggie burgers. Lots of summer foods would match this beautifully.

Farnum Hill didn't get their intense reputation by making mediocre cider. This is an elegant and deeply enjoyable experience. I am grateful for the apples and expertise that went into this. If they could relax a tiny bit about themselves, they'd be pretty much perfect.

**Don't forget! If you need my address for any cider-related reason, particularly if you want to send me your delicious cider for review, contact me via email or comment  to get my new address!**