Monday, January 25, 2016

Cider Review: Cider Riot's Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider and Cider Con 2016!

In just a little over a week, I'll be flying across the country to join my fellow cider freaks for CiderCon! To get ready, I want to share a review of a cider that I only got to taste because of last year's cider celebration. The kind folks of Cider Riot shared a bottle of their Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider with me in cold and snowy Chicago, and I toted it back to cold and snowy upstate NY to drink and describe.

Abram Goldman-Armstrong grew up planting apple trees, studied abroad in a cider drinking region(me too!) and spent his early professional years in beer. Making cider was a very natural combination of his two passions. I found out about Cider Riot first through their successful Kickstarter campaign, and I've been following the business ever since.

Read more about Cider Riot on the website:

And here's the official description of Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider.
Never Give an Inch™ Now on tap & in bottles in Oregon, Washington, & British Columbia . . . Oregon Blackberry Cider 6.9% abv - A testament to determination, hard work, and downright cussedness, Never Give an Inch celebrates the spirit of Oregon. Invasive Himalaya blackberries run riot across the fencelines and fields all across western Oregon. Fire, chemical poisons, machetes, bulldozers, even goats can only beat back their inevitable advance, as they attempt to take over every square inch of cleared land. Luckily their fruits are delicious, juicy, and plentiful, spawning the phrase “as Cascadian as blackberry pie.”

In Never Give an Inch, Oregon blackberries and blackcurrants combine with Hood River and Yakima-grown apples create a tart dry cider with a fruity aroma.

Appearance: deep maroon, tons of visible bubbles, lovely

Seriously bubbly! I rarely see so many bubbles on the glass when I pour a cider. This blackberry cider also offers up rare and gorgeous color. Its more dark red and deep purple, but both are there enough to call it maroon. I can't really judge the clarity through all those bubbles. But they do make my mouth water.

Aromas: tart, fruity, phenolic

This cider smells so very bright and acidic! There's also berry fruits and a bit of funky. Mmm like raspberry and leather. We'll see how dry it is or is not based on these aromas. The black currant doesn't get talked up enough in the description, but its already present in the aroma.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Wow! I wasn't really expecting dry after all of those berry smells. It dry and tart, and I'm into it! So many fruit ciders tell me that they will be dry, when they aren't. This follows through on the promises of the promotional copy, and I'm grateful.

Flavors and drinking experience: funky, tannic, tart, with tons of fruit

This cider comes as a BIG surprise! Yes, I mentioned that in my surprise as its dryness, but I was expecting a pleasant semi-sweet, based on smell. That's also where a lot of fruit blended ciders end up, but this is very tart, dry, and a bit phenolic. The tannins are so prounounce that it gives me a bit of cottonmouth with acidic bite. This doesn't mean the cider doesn't have fruit, but the apple is crabapple or even apple core and green wood. The blackberries and black currents taste sour and tart but only very slightly citric. This is so very pleasantly autumnal though I'm drinking it with snow on the ground outside.

Cider Riot's Never Give an Inch Oregon Blackberry Cider is not particularly balanced, but intriguing and a fantastic complement to vegetable tempura. The battered and crispy red peppers and broccoli florets highlight and play well with this super tart, funky, wild cider.

When I'm in Portland, I'll definitely be seeking this one out again. Very fun.

But that's not all we have to talk about today! I know I'm not alone in feeling super excited for Cider Con 2016 in Portland, Oregon. This is where we'll get to talk fermentation, cider business, tasting room strategies, food pairings, cider mixology, and best of all, apples!

Find out all about it at:

But most especially check out the schedule what awesomeness is happening when:

Along with Eric West of Cider Guide ( I will be talking about communicating with cider fans online Thursday, February 4th at 3:40pm. Our talk is titled Engaging Your Core Audience Through Writing. It should be a fun time, and I feel totally honored to share a stage with Eric. He's amazing.

Until next time, cider lovers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cider Review: Aaron Burr's Homestead Elderberry Apple

On this still dark and snowy morning, Along Came a Cider finally reviews an Aaron Burr cider. I thought I'd reviewed one long ago, but a little looking reveals my error. I suppose I thought I'd reviewed a cider by Aaron Burr Cidery, because it is such fascinating cult cidery of sorts. Andy Brennan makes these ciders in Wurtsboro, New York in tiny runs from either heritage or foraged apples. Some blends include interesting additives or co-fermented ingredients. Brennan also doesn't add preservative sulphites. Its a very purist and historically oriented approach to cider making, which adds to the mystique

Read how Aaron Burr Cidery presents its cider identity on the website:
“The Cidery”, which produces Aaron Burr Cider in Wurtsboro, New York, is a small homestead farm dating back to the early 19th century. We specialize in growing cider-apples, which are different from eating-apples in the same way wine-grapes are different from table-grapes. We use our apples and other locally grown and foraged apples for one mission: to re-create “true cider”, the time-averaged most popular drink in America.

This focus is founded on the belief that early Americans drank history’s best cider. Reestablishing this involves holism -from farming to art, from the market to politics- cider is an identity. There is much from our recent past which must be undone but luckily the descendants of early cider apples do still exist in the wild. We believe their ability to survive the 20th century provides American cider its future.
You can find out more at the website itself:

Tonight I'm reviewing the Elderberry Apple which intrigues me mightily. I've only had one other elderberry cider, also from New York state, but one I suspect is nonetheless very different.

Here's the information Aaron Burr Cider presents about the Homestead Elderberry Apple
2014 Homestead Elderberry Apple 98 cases made, 7.4% abv , 750 ml

Specs: Tannic, dry, medium acidity. Deep crimson hue with slight carbonation.Notes: Woody/ forest aromas mixed berry upfront. Balanced, light body. Chalky and fruity.

Source: 10% elderberry foraged from BashaKill wetlands, 90% unsprayed west Sullivan County apples
Furthermore, the back label has a charming little addendum, "Dry. May become naturally effervescent." With a bit more instructional information in terms of how to pour a cider with lees (fermentation solids) and and how to store a cider without any added sulphites.

Appearance: hazy, rich watermelon color, a few tiny bubbles

I cannot over-emphasize how absolutely beautiful this cider is in the glass. It glows with the color of ripe watermelon flesh.

Aroma: tart, blackberry, yeasty

The smell is full and tart. It reminds me of both blackberries and orange, fruits that give flavor and tartness in equal measure. I also detect very real amounts of yeast that lean the aromas in the direction of a sour beer.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

The bottle tells the truth; this cider is dry. I know that fruitiness does not actually either take away from or add to dryness, but to call this cider dry without calling attention to its fruitiness only tells part of the story.

Flavors and drinking experience: rustic, light, tart, fruity and vegetal both

The Elderberry Apple tastes a little like a sour beer and like its aromas: tart. a bit of vinegar in with the berry notes. Perhaps the fermentation included a subtle level of acedification, which I know will excite any fans of Spanish style ciders. As the description predicted, it has a light mouthfeel—almost watermelony, to be sure. Texturally, the bubbles are small but not so present to be strongly sparkling. I can taste the yeast a little on the back of the tongue. The flavors include lots of citrus and berry notes, but I also get some vegetal elements like potato & celery, but not unpleasantly. The cider comes across as more balanced in big sips. If you enjoy a rustic cider, this cannot be beaten.

guess right now I'd say drink this cider while listening to David Bowie's music or watching a film he was in. Perhaps I'd say that about any cider right now; its all I want to do. But, I actually think this makes more sense with a special cider by this cidery more than most. Andy Brennan's ciders are unique and vary between being extremely playful and inviting and being somewhat more challenging. They always offer distinctive character and craft. If these qualities do not serve to parallel the towering achievements of David Bowie, I don't know whose ciders would. This, in my mind, serves as one of the highest possible compliments, and I mean it as such.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cider Review: Wandering Aengus Cider's Dry Oaked

So, it's time for a first but also a second for Along Came A Cider. This is the first time I've gone back and reviewed a second bottling of the same cider. In this case, I'm returning to Wandering Aengus' Dry Oaked Cider. This is a pleasure for me because I so enjoyed the 2011 Dry Oaked.

If  you want to compare the two, start with the previous review: 

Or, for even more context, one of my very first cider reviews was of Wandering Aengus' Bloom:

This is what the reverse of the Dry Oaked's bottle says about the cider, "Wandering Aengus Ciders are crafted from blends of traditional cider apple varietals renowned for their complexity.Oaked Dry is a blend of bittersweets and sharps that offer rich tannins and spicy aromas with a mild oak finish. This sophisticated dry cider pairs well with rich and aromatic foods: prosciutto, salami, or stinky cheeses. Orchards: Bittersweets: Newberg, Culver & Salem, Oregon Sharps: Hood River and Ashland, Oregon"

This vintage of Wandering Aengus Cider's Dry Oaked was Bottled June 2012 and hasan ABV of 8.0%  A bottling of this cider won a 2015 GLINTCAP gold in english style category. 

Appearance: clear, glowing embers, few visible bubbles

Wow, look at how dark this color is! It is the only cider I've seen that looks to me like glowing embers in winter hearth.
Aromas: Boozy, soft, and appley

This smells like wets apple skin, alcohol, and firewood. Even if I didn't know something of what was coming, these aromas would clue me into the tannins of this cider. It even smells the tiniest bit like iron.

Dryness/sweetness: DRY!

This dry is a true dry.It's more astringent and velvety than most ciders, and that makes me love it.

Flavors and drinking experience: oaky, dry, tannic, rich and complex

This tastes very oaked. I know fire keeps touching the sensory impressions I have of this cider, but somehow the oakiness seems like oaky charcoal in a pleasing and good way. Or at least the wood near the charcoal. It is both highly tannic and moderately acidic. This combination gets some serious salivary gland action.

But this cider isn't just sensation; the flavors build a complex yet unified whole. The initial oakiness graciously gives way to lighter flavors like lemongrass and green tea. In the background I get just a little bit of phenols and turpentine. 

Texturally, the cider gives mild carbonation. Its rich mouthfeel is distinctly not caramel but rather buttered toast. I love what a slow drinking thoughtful cider this is. Have the Wandering Aengus with blue cheese, fig, roasted onion, perhaps altogether on foccacia. 

This cider is perfect for a long discussion of anything enjoyable and just a little decadent. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cider Review: Tandem Cider's Bee's Dream

2016 has been cozy and enjoyable thus far, but a bit gray. I've seen far more spitting snow than hints of sunshine. So, I knew I wanted my first cider review of the year to be something cheering and bright. Luckily, my dad shared with me a bottle by Tandem Ciders. Plus, I know folks have been wanting more coverage of Michigan ciders. I do what I can ;).

You can visit Tandem Ciders on online at their website:

Or go see their tasting room in Sutton's Bay, Michigan, perhaps getting to say hello to founders Nikki and Dan.

A unique stop on the Leelanau wine trail, Tandem Ciders specializes in artisanal hard ciders. In the major apple growing regions of Europe, a culture has developed around the enjoyment and deep appreciation of cider, of both the traditional production processes as well as the apples themselves. Cider plays an important role in these areas by helping create a healthy, relaxing lifestyle that revolves around a profound connection to the land and its offerings

When I met some of the folks from Tandem this past spring, they were kind enough to share a couple of bottles with me. I reviewed the Smackintosh here:

This find however wasn't from them. I am lucky enough to have many wonderful cider hunters in my life, and when they travel I sometimes get new ciders that I wouldn't ordinarily be able to find. The Bee's Dream is just such an acquisition; thanks Dad!

I found two official descriptions.

From the web:
Summer days... a bee’s dream. From apple blossoms to harvest time we bring to you a cider that celebrates the fleeting season of northern Michigan. Radiant and golden, Bee’s Dream is touched with a hint of sweetness - the perfect drink for hitting Good Harbor Beach or cookout in the backyard. Bee’s Dream is the one to don the party hat, so you can dress her up with an ice cube, a sprig of mint, or even a few cherries off the tree.

While on the bottle it says: "Bee's Dream Fermented with honey from Julia Kularik's hard workin' hives, this cider sips smoothand finishes with a bright hint o'honey. What do busy bees daydream about while filing their 500 mile lifetime pollen pursuit. Ponder that as your lap up the fruit of their time."

Appearance: Brilliant, very few visible bubbles, mellow blond

Apologies for such...atmospheric photos. It was a warm and cozy night by the fire in Lousville which is perhaps better for drinking cider than photographing it. The color was lovely, a mellow shade blonde, easy to see because of the brilliance of the cider.

Aromas: Honey, minerals, stone, maple, wet apple

We have honey! This cider smells like honey and wet apples but in the cleanest way possible. Sometimes honey can be musky, but this smells the opposite, very floral and fresh and fruity. I anticipate a cider with plenty of fruity sweetness and brightness.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet!

Though the descriptions don't tell us, this could be back-sweetened with honey and fresh juice. That's what the qualities of the sweetness suggest.

Flavors and drinking experience: Petillant, sweet, fruity, balanced

Texturally, the Bee's Dream is very lightly sparkling—more a tickle than bubbles. Though it is sweet, there's nothing cloying, nor is there any bitterness. The cider has a nice light body with pleasant brightness. I taste medium acidity and no tannins. Tandem has created a surprisingly balanced sweet honeyed cider. 

I like its genuine apple notes,  because its not too mushy or too much malic acid. Somehow this reminds me of lemon curd with a tiny shade of blueberry. The bright flavors linger and dark ones fade. This cider is so drinkable even brunch friendly. Drink with big fluffy fruit-topped pancakes. Yes, I give my blessing to cider with breakfast, at least everyone once in a while on the weekend. After all, we've got a long way to go till spring.