Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's Hot Cha Cha Cha

Woodchuck plays a big role in my cider history. I think they do for lots of folks. Even so, it isn't quite accurate when the website claims,
We single handedly reinvented the U.S. hard cider category in 1991 through our flagship Woodchuck Amber. In the 20 plus years that followed, we have pushed the boundaries of the cider category while our passion to innovate has mirrored our insistence on handcrafted quality.
They weren't quite alone in those early days, but it was close. You can read the Woodchuck story and find out about all of their ciders on the Woodchuck Website: http://www.woodchuck.com

I've reviewed quite a few Woodchuck ciders since starting this blog in 2013.

My very first cider review was Woodhuck's Winter: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/01/cider-review-woodchuck-winter.html

But the cider I think of Woodchuck's most wintery selection is actually their Barrel Select: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-woodchucks-private-reserve.html

One of the more unusual Woodchuck ciders I tried back in the days of the Cellar Series was their Chocolate: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

My husband has always had a softspot for Woodchuck's Belgian White: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-woodchuck-belgian-white.html

Another interesting Cellar Series offering was their Smoked Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

And predictably for this hopped cider lover, I enjoy their Dry Hop: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/11/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

More recently, I reviewed their Gumption cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/search/label/Woodchuck

Tonight's review comes from Woodchuck's Out On A Limb Series in which they try out new cider variations every 30 days. They were kind enough to send me a bottle of their Hot Cha Cha Cha.

Woodchuck describes their Hot Cha Cha Cha by saying:  
Hard cider made with bittersweet apples and infused with Bird's Eye Chile Peppers. The peppers compliment the bittersweet cider apples and bring out a sweet taste up front with a hot and spicy bite at the finish. Lookin' for some extra heat? Grab a bottle, take a sip, and let's do the HOT CHA CHA CHA!

Appearance: deep caramel, brilliant, plenty of fizz

This color reminds me of the caramelization on a perfectly crisped creme brulee. The Hot Cha Cha Cha is brilliant and pours with a delicate head that dissipates quickly. What astounds me as I look at it is how dark and reddish the color appears, particularly compared to most other ciders. 

Aromas: sweet, dusty, honey, and peach

Like many ciders, the Hot Cha Cha Cha smells dusty or minerally to me. There's also some sweetness to the aroma like honey and peach. I can also smell a mildly spicy pepper note like jalapeno. 


So sweet! 

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, full bodied, maple. fruity, spicy 

Hot Cha Cha Cha's flavors unfold dramatically as I take each sip or swallow. I can taste the sweet and stony notes first. This cider's real spiciness takes a moment longer. That early sweetness starts with a fruity apricot flavor that gets darker and sweeter into maple and caramel notes. I find the finishing spiciness perhaps a bit intense, but my husband and co-taster Alex finds it really nice. According to him its a bit like Mexican hot chocolate. I also taste sweet orange in the mid-palate. The cider is especially neat in big swallows. It offers medium acidity and low tannins.  I find one slightly chemical note in the mix but its easy to ignore. Hot Cha Cha Cha rolls through so many big flavors.

Everyone tasting agreed when it came to thoughts of pairings. This cider wants to pair with big flavors. It functions really well as food cider. We had it with vegetarian enchiladas, but I could also see it with a super creamy mac and cheese. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cider Review: Far From the Tree's Nova Hopped Cider

Snow?! That's surprise shows in the first week of spring every year since I moved up north. Even with this mild winter, I've seen more snowflakes than sunbeams lately. To cheer myself up while I wait for daffodils to bloom, I opened up a cider that some lovely folks sent to me from Salem, Massachusetts. This the Nova Hopped Cider by Far From The Tree.

Far From The Tree became a commercial cidery in September of 2013, operating out of Salem, Massachusetts. The owners, Denise and Al Snape say that their love of cider and cider making developed in England. I can certainly understand that!

In reading the website to learn more about Far From The Tree, I found a fascinating paragraph about their process and cellar: 
Located on Jackson Street, Far From The Tree operates in the unheated cellar of a building that they share with their landlord, who runs a marine construction company. The entire back section of the cellar contains an abandoned walk in freezer. Oak barrels fill the front and back sections of the room. It is, Al notes, perfect for them. “It’s wonderfully designed to hold a constant temperature. The Champenoise knew digging 50 feet down into the limestone would be worth it for the same reason. Cider, much like white wine, needs to be kept under 60 degrees and maintain a very steady temperature as it ages. With the insulation provided by the abandoned walk in freezer unit we can very easily do this with little to no energy. I would not be able to make this cider in a conventional space without a massive investment in temperature control.” 
In describing themselves, Far From The Tree veers slightly toward defining the cider by what it is not, "Far From The Tree’s cider bears no resemblance to large mass produced hard ciders. It is not super sweet, but rather dry and refreshing with light carbonation, and tastes deliciously of apples. That’s because the first ingredient in each of the company’s three current varieties is, in fact, pressed apples." Apples are fabulous and the very heart and essence of cider, but both good and bad ciders can come from real apples. Their explanation of natural temperature control during fermentation sets them apart more, if you ask me.

If you you want to see an adorable dog named Fenway, find a picture of him on their website along with all kinds of other information about Far From The Tree ciders: http://www.farfromthetreecider.com

So today I'm reviewing Nova by Far From The Tree which was a sample they sent to me in the mail and my first Far From The Tree cider. Here's how they describe it. 
Nova is an off-dry, hopped cider with tropical aromas made from Massachusetts-grown Macintosh apples. Different hops work well with different beers but we’ve developed what we think is the perfect hop profile for a cider. This cider is dry-hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic and Simcoe hops, adding an aroma of grapefruit and passion fruit with a very slightly piney palate that marries so ridiculously well with the crisp apple notes of cider that we feel like we just might have done something that beer could never do.
Consider me intrigued, I love hopped ciders.  That the Nova describes both the apple variety and the hop varieties is a big plus. The can offers up beautiful design like almost no can I've ever seen before. Next step, let's open up the cider.

Appearance: pale straw, brilliant, visible bubbles

Wow a beautiful cider from a gorgeous can. It seems almost a shame to hide this brilliant bubbly drink where you cannot see it.

Aromas: lemon, pine, apple, herbs, grapefruit 

This offers up some familiar aromas that I recognize as characteristic of hopped ciders. They often smells so clean with notes like lemons and pine. This has those in spades plus apple, herbs, grapefruit and mild soap. Plenty of both hoppy and appley character.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

The description calls this cider and off dry, but it tastes a bit sweeter to me. The initial burst of flavor has a lot going on, with a hint of sharpness, but the cider smooths out into a clear semi-sweet with tons of tropical fruit.

Flavors and drinking experience: lots of acid, dry start, clean fermentation, nice balance

This cider is gorgeously easy drinking with nice sparkle. I can taste a tremendously clean fermentation. In terms of fruit, I can taste twangy tangerines, pineapple and grapefruit with herbal notes like pine and rosemary. The Nova has relatively high acidity which livens up its semi-sweetness with a drier initial hit that only meanders to sweetness. Somehow this cider tastes higher in the mouth than some hopped ciders. 

Many thanks for Far From The Tree for sharing something so delightfully springy with me. This is definitely one I'll keep an eye out for locally because I think several of my friends would like it it as well. This cider seems like a perfect way to reward oneself after a long brisk hike in the still blustery weather.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cider Review: Rev Nat's Hard Cider Revival Hard Apple

I hope that everyone is starting to recover from the shock of Daylight Savings Time springing forward this past weekend. Most folks I know could do without it. Personally, I love the time changing in both spring and fall. It feels like an intensification of the seasonal change I already love. Though the first morning or two can be painful, I always feel ready for longer spring evenings. Perhaps this won't convince the staunchly opposed, but today I'm raising my glass for the Daylight Savings element of spring. 

And what cider company is the most suitable for a contrarian moment or a bold opinion? I'll posit Reverent Nat's out of Portland, Oregon for that title and for today's cider. 

If you don't know why this cider suits my one-woman defense of Daylight Savings time, you need look no further than the fabulous rhetoric on the Rev. Nat's website: http://reverendnatshardcider.com

My only previous review of a Rev. Nat's cider is the Hallelujah Hopricot:

 Here's the introduction I found on the Rev. Nat's website, with its remarkable sense of voice and enticing details, describing the Revival hard cider:
My newest release is Revival and I couldn't be more thrilled to share it with you. I start with a secret blend of Washington-grown apples and add piloncillo, dark brown evaporated cane juice, purchased direct from Michoacan, Mexico. I ferment this dark base to all the way to dry using two exotic yeast strains: a beer yeast known for the round mouthfeel in Saisons and a rarely-used secret culture which produces aromas of pineapple, guava and peaches. This cider is brilliantly golden in color and deeply complex while remaining subtly familiar, with just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to be an everyday beverage.
Or read about the cider I'm about to review here: http://reverendnatshardcider.com/ciders/revival/

Appearance: rich red gold color, brilliant, short appearance of a head

I want everyone to notice that dark red gold color. This isn't usual for a cider made from dessert apples. The Revival pours with a loose lacy head that dissipates. As the photo shows, its brilliant.

Aromas: overripe apples, lychee, dust, yeast

Whoa whoa whoa, how very pleasant and fruity smelling! The Revival smells like it might be apples barely heated by the sun, along with lychee and just a hint of bready beer yeast. Yummy yummy smells.

Sweetness: semi-sweet

Something to be aware of when looking for this cider. Rev Nat's makes both a Revival and Revival Dry, be sure to purchase the one you wish to try. I've enjoyed both but the Revival is a semi-sweet cider and very different from the Revival Dry.

Flavors: tropical, apple, nice mouth feel

If this cider is not the apex of quality plus easy drinking appeal, I'm not sure I understand it. Perhaps an overstatement, but the Revival is so approachable and delectable without giving up interesting character. Part of what makes the cider interesting is that it definitely uses a beer yeast which builds dimension in both aromas and flavors. But on the side of simplicity and ease, the Revival is very appley with some tropical fruit notes.

This is just such a relaxing cider. The Revival introduces itself as bright and tart with fairly high acid. But mellows in the mouth. I like the mouthfeel even with a relatively low level of tannins.

The Revival was simply perfect with veggie pot pie, which is not just for Pi(e) day! Something about the semi-sweet just packed to the gills with tropical flavor brought the dish out of winter cold and into spring.  Delicious, delightful, and daring

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cider Review: Doc's Draft Gold Rush Cider and GLINTCAP is open for entries

Good day all. I feel like after some of my cider adventuring, it is time to come back home as it were and review a New York state cider, so I finally got to open up my bottle of Doc's Draft Gold Rush Cider. Also, if you've got any curiousity about cider competitions, after the view, I'll be posting a bit about the largest Cider and Perry competition in the world: GLINTCAP!

Here the website for Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery which not only talks about their cider but also their other beverages and all the happening at their tasting complex: http://www.wvwinery.com/

If you just want to read about cider, you can read about a few of their varieties here: http://www.wvwinery.com/cider/ 

I have actually reviewed six ciders by Doc's Draft before! They make a numver of specialty ciders and interesting fruit blends, and their releases always show up for sale in my area. In case you'd like to see the previous reviews, here's a the full list.

Hard Apple: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/01/cider-review-docs-draft-hard-apple-cider.html

Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/07/cider-review-docs-draft-hopped-cider.html

Cranberry spice: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/05/cider-review-docs-draft-cranberry-spice.html

Pumpkin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/10/cider-review-docs-draft-pumpkin-hard.html

Cassis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-docs-draft-hard-cassis.html

Peach: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/04/cider-review-docs-draft-peach-hard.html

The Doc's Draft website does not list their Gold Rush Cider. The only information I was able to find came from the back of the bottle. That reads, "Crafted from 100% organic goldrush apples, Doc's Gold rush is fermented using the traditional keeving method which makes a sold cool fermentation over a 6 month period of time. The result is an aromatic flavor with a hint of residual sweetness."

Keeving might be a pretty unfamiliar term, even for some cider lovers. It basically means reducing the nutrients in juice to slow a fermentation down and leave some perceivable sweetness in the cider naturally even after a complete fermentation. If you want to read more about keeving as a fermenation process, I highly recommend checking this page out: http://www.cider.org.uk/keeving.html.

Enough background, time for Doc's Draft Gold Rush Cider!

Appearance: brilliant, plenty of visible bubbles, 

The Gold Rush cider is a true brilliant light straw color that's great for showing off visible bubbles.

Aromas: green grapes, tart fresh apples, wine, and brown paper

The Gold Rush smells like green grapes, wine, tart fresh apples (thin, high fruit acid plus low dusty russet), a hint of brown paper or leather

Sweetness/dryness: off-dry

Huh, I expected more sweetness from a keeved cider. Perhaps I was wrong to expect that, but this cider is off dry in a way that I associate with many other fermentation methods.

Flavors and drinking experience: green fruit, high acid, lingering

At first, it's pleasant and maybe even a little sweet, then it twists into a raw, vegetal, VERY high acid peak. Gold Rush lingers all through the mouth and throat, and the finish surprised me with hints of carrots!  The cider is off dry with medium tannins. I got lots of zesty lime and green twig  flavor.  This plays off of hints of underripe apple and strawberry flavors

The Gold Rush is a summer cider for sure because its so refreshing and tart as to make me feel colder. Small sips give pleasant bright notes with active salivary response.  The whole tasting experience takes about five full seconds to proceed through its stages: a long rise and fall of puckering acidity. 

Texturally, Bubbles are pleasant and small.  At 7.2% ABV it feels boozier than it tastes.  Compared to other ciders by Warwick Valley, this cider almost certainly uses a different yeast strain. Perhaps its this perception that makes the different fermentation choices most clear. This reminds me that I want to learn more about keeving and keeved ciders for sure!

I'd recommend pairing the Gold Rush cider with something heavy, mild, creamy,and not sweet. I enjoyed mine with a tuna and corn chowder. Chowders and dry high acid ciders tend to work tremendously well together.

Now, let's talk about GLINTCAP!  

That GLINTCAP acronym stands for Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. I've judged for the past two years, and I'm thrilled to say that I'm signed up again to judge this year! The competition happens in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the weekend of April 22-24, 2016. 

You can learn about the competition on its website: http://glintcap.org

Judges train and calibrate together, all tastings are served blind, and all ciders and perrys are judged according to specific style guidelines. 

If you are interested in sending some of your ciders (either commercial or non-commercial) this is the page to read. http://glintcap.org/register/

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cider Review: St. Ives Cider Clodgy

Though we are have rather gloriously unseasonable weather, this is only the very beginning of March. I'm longing for spring, sunshine, and flowers, so I decided to open up a cider from my vacation last may to Cornwall. Glorious and sunny England doesn't sound like the stereotype, but we had days of it walking the South West Coast Path.

So, I decided to open up my sole bottle of St. Ives Cider from Cornwall. I chose their Clodgy because its unfiltered and I don't get access to very many unfiltered ciders in my region.

St. Ives is the cider project of David and Kate Berwick, taking his wine background and, according to the website, traditional cider-making techniques. St. Ives makes three ciders and a perry. This is my first review and first taste of anything by St. Ives Cider.

You can visit their website at: http://stivescider.co.uk/

Clodgy – A traditional, dry, still Farmhouse style cider. 6.5% abv / 500ml 
The only difference is we use a small amount of dessert apple juice in the blend to lower the acidity and make a slightly smoother flavour. 

You will find some sediment will drop to the bottom of the bottle if stored. This is completely natural and can be poured off gently or shaken before serving to give a yeastier taste. 
Clodgy Bag in Box – Clodgy is also available in 20 Litre Bag in box. It is exactly the same cider as the bottled version but put into bags rather than bottles. It has been pasteurized to ensure no fermentation will occur in the bag. 6.5% abv / 20l

Appearance: hazy, medium apricot color

I kept turning the name of the cider into what I expected it to look like in the glass all the while it waited in my cellar. But it doesn't look Clodgy, it simply looks hazy in a way that my phone doesn't fully capture. I could tell that this cider is absolutely still just by looking at it. The color is a bit warmer than many cider  colors but on the lighter more golden/apricot side for a UK cider.

Aromas: lemon, cotton fluff, funky pears

The Clodgy smells far more outside of the ordinary than it looks!  The first and most prominent note is lemon, followed by cotton fluff. Secondarily I smell some acedification (which to me smells like a fruit vinegar) and some overripe pears, followed faintly by olive, and something that reminds me of a fruity shampoo. Such an interesting carnival of aromas! I have a feeling that is is going to bring the funk! 

Sweetness/dryness: off dry 

The bottle and website both refer to using back sweeting with fresh juice to bring this cider into medium territory in terms of sweetness. In the US we use semi-dry and and semi-sweet to describe that medium range, but the Clodgy tastes just  barely off dry. This is the rare cider that tastes more dry than the promotional language led me to expect.

Flavors and drinking experience: aggressively low acid, medium tannins, very green flavors

The Clodgy cider tastes so actively basic and not acidic that its almost shocking to my palate. Wow, this is really different. Though the cider is almost 100% still, I do get a tiny burst of effervescence when it hits my tongue. The tannins do not make as big as an impression as I rather expected; they remain in medium levels.  

In terms of flavor notes, this cider offers up a huge range of them raw green apple, salty, hints of underripe banana and blueberries. The overall impression gives a sprawling sensation; this is a big cider rather than an intense one. There are also background notes of metal and soap. That underripe banana is puckering and reminds me how much this cider is not American.  All of these differences are almost certainly a result of totally different apples, rather than a substantially different fermentation process, especially as the website describes back-sweetened with unfermented apple juice. That's fairly common here. 

On a whim, seeing that it was still, my husband and I heated a glass of the Clodgy up. Lo and behold, this totally worked! The medium-ness of dry notes really comes out in a pleasant stony way.

I had mine with an Oscar nominated film and some really fabulous chocolate cookies (thanks to my Sister-in-Law) but that's not necessarily how I would recommend the cider now that I've tasted it a bit. Perhaps have this with a savory bread pudding and some cheese.