Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cider Review: Woodchuck's Local Nectar and an Announcement about CiderCon 2017!

I've been hearing about Woodchuck's Local Nectar for a while. This is the cider made from only Vermont apples; its semi-dry and has a higher ABV more in line with 100% juice ciders. I've been curious about this one for a while, so when I spotted it on  grocery store shelf in Vermont a few months ago, I picked one up. Usually Woodchuck kindly sends me little cider care packages, but this one I had to hunt down on my own.

Woodchuck is now celebrating their 25th
 anniversary! For cider in America, that's actually a tremendously long time.

You can read more about the celebration here: http://www.woodchuck.com/blog-post/25th-anniversary-cider-growler-launch

And Ciderstock 2016 is happening: August 20th in Middlebury, Vermont! Check out the music and food lineups here: http://www.woodchuck.com/ciderstock/index.php

I've tasted most everything Woodchuck has released: far too many to list in any one review. But I do want to share a few of my Previous reviews:

Gumption: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-woodchucks-gumption.html

Cellar Series Chocolate: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-woodchuck-cellar-series.html

Hot Cha Cha Cha: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-woodchucks-hot-cha-cha-cha.html

Daychaser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/05/cider-review-woodchucks-day-chaser.html

Barrel Select:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-woodchucks-private-reserve.html

But its time to turn to today's review: Woodchuck's Local Nectar

 Official description:  
"Woodchuck® was born and raised in Vermont and our roots remain firmly entrenched in our home state. This cider was handcrafted using apples solely from our orchard partners in Vermont. It is light and crisp, semi-dry, and a pure reflection of the fantastic apple crop Vermont is known for."

Appearance: butterscotch, brilliant, visible bubbles

The color is more deep than bright. It reminds me of butterscotch candies but made totally brilliant. It is easy to see lots of bubbles in this cider.

Aromas: understated, ripe apples, vinous, dusty 

I don't notice strong aromas from this cider, even when I seek them out. But what's there smells fruity and dusty. In some ways the aromas remind me of a semi-dry riesling.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

I find this cider semi-sweet, while being extremely well balanced and pleasant.

Flavors and drinking experience: applesauce, fruit esters, juicy, blackberry

Let's start with the obvious. This cider tastes appley Like applesauce but little smokey. Somehow it tastes more natural than some offerings by this brand. I'm also getting some yummy fermented fruit notes and esters. No tannins. Medium acidity. 
Reminds me of the Farmhouse Select Original '91.

 The overall impression comes across as freshly juicy. The sparkle is strong and pleasant. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't easy drinking. The most interesting thing abou tthis cider is its subtly blackberry finish. Both Alex and and I tasted some bubbly fruits of the forest notes consistently.

I had my local nectar with a homemade vegetarian burrito smothered in salsa verde. This was a perfect way to serve and enjoy this cider. The brightness of the salsa paired with the medium acidity and sweetness of the cider and the corn, tofu, tomato, rice filling was a nice offset to such a fruity and balanced cider. 

If I could buy this around here for hot days and mexican food, I totally would.

Last but not least, I am super excited to announce that I will be presenting at Cider Con 2017 in Chicago on Cider Branding and Online Content Marketing with my dear friend Eric West of Cider Guide. This isn't until February, but learning this news made my day today!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cider Review Roundup: Common Cider Co. Hibiscus Saison, Finn River Dry Hopped, Two Towns Bright Cider, and Henney's Dry Cider

When kids come back from school, one always imagines them writing the essay, "What I did on Summer Vacation." Though summer isn't over yet, I only had one big bit of travel in my summer. This three day vacation was spent doing Family Reunion with my husband's very entertaining family on Lake Tahoe. This is how it looked.

But you guys don't want to hear about that! You're here to read about cider, so I'm going to share with you what I drank on summer vacation!

To be more specific, I explored a local beverage place between the airport and the lodge and picked up a few things I'd not seen before. These are ciders I cannot find easily in New York. Some family members were interested in trying some ciders, so we set up an informal tasting. I had no idea how many folks would be interested or I would have gone a lot more crazy in the store. But that simply tells me that people who aren't committed cider folks are still really excited to experiment with new tasty beverages, and that is a very good thing.

Cider #1: Hibiscus Saison

Common Cider Co. http://www.commoncider.com/

Official description: "Hibiscus Saison pours a rosy red color with a bubbly head. The aroma is light & floral with hints of sweet apples and hibiscus."

Aromas: Peach and citrus, dark acidity, strong smell of fresh green wood, a nice note of mineral

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, acidic, easy drinking, fun. Some folks tasted a bit of funk on the nose initially, but it fades fast. We all found this cider sweet, and the saison yeast is very subtle. Our beer expert at the table (of Latitude 42) said he couldn't taste it. It has very high acid, owing to some degree from hibiscus. A few tasters noted a juicy tea aftertaste; this is Red Zinger, the cider. It had a light mouthfeel with no tannins.

Cider #2: Dry Hopped

Finn River http://www.finnriver.com/

Official description: "Bright cider, made with heirloom and organic dessert apples, blended with the bold citrus tang of organic Cascade hops. Some say it's like sipping a meadow; some say it's like chewing on grass. A hopped adventure. Alcohol content 6.5%. Dry."

Aromas: very hoppy, bits of grapefruit, lychee, green apple a whole hop smell

Flavors and drinking experience: We can definitely taste grass and green tea; the cider is floral and very fresh. I found it off-dry. The hops have some astringent qualities in a pleasant way. This has medium tannins and high acid, high enough to cause significant salivary gland response. In terms of texture, there's just a little bubble; petillant. I did taste some rhubarb notes.

Cider #3: Bright Cider
Two Towns  http://2townsciderhouse.com/

Official Description: "Clean and crisp, The BrightCider is made exclusively with fresh-pressed NW apples. BrightCider, always a bright idea!"

Aromas: A note of sulfites—it blows off. We all found it minerally and bright indeed! The smell reminded most of a freshly-bitten Granny Smith; just a dash of green apple candy though.

Flavors and drinking experience: The Bright cider tastes sweet, with very high acid; the malic acid is very strong. I noticed a pronounced lemonade aftertaste. Alex described a wet mouthfeel. Others found it Somewhat soda-like; gentle carbonation.

My favorite 2 Towns is still their Hop and Stalk which I reviewed back in 2014: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/12/cider-review-2-towns-ciderhouse-hop-and.html

Cider#4: Dry Cider
Henney's http://www.henneys.co.uk/

Official description: "Henneys Dry Cider is our best selling cider. Smooth, light and refreshing. Sweet, appley aroma. Palate has a delicious bittersweet apple character with some spicy bite and a bit of a tannic grip. Very fruity and quite pure, with a nice savoury twist."

Aromas: We noticed all sorts of things. I'll just let the list speak for itself: fresh tobacco, caramel, very ripe apples, kim chi, fruit esters, funk, sun-warmed hay, rawmilk goatcheese, the freshly washed feet of an English milkmaid. Slightly silly, but there were reasons for these observations.

Flavors and drinking experience: Most everyone noticed a strong caramel presence, some barnyard funk, but not distastefully much. One sibling said: Ghetost. The cider was low acid, medium high tannins. I loved that it was darkly semi- sweet. I tasted new bruised apple, but found it so interesting.

All of these ciders went super well with family and sunshine and relaxing, but even better than that, sitting down to do a tasting after a ropes course felt magnificent. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cider Review: Cider Creek's All The King's Men

Today, I'm finally sharing my notes on a Cider Creek collaboration: All The King's Men.

Cider Creek is a small cider company now primarily based in Canisteo, New York, but the company retains strong ties to the Boston area of Massachusetts. 

You can read about their core varieties and seasonal ciders on their website: http://www.cidercreekhardcider.com

Additionally, I recommend visiting https://www.facebook.com/cidercreekhardcider/ their very active Facebook page and best way to keep up with whats happening in their tasting room. They have tons of limited edition ciders and fun musical events.

I have previously reviewed two of their ciders and found both of them filled with complexity and creativity. Here are both of those:

The Cascade Hopricot combines cider, hops, and apricots and was one half of my east west fruity hopped cider showdown: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/06/cider-review-cider-creek-hard-ciders.html

Fall'n'Cherry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/10/cider-review-cider-creek-hard-ciders.html

And this doesn't scratch the surface of everything they are trying. Kevin Collins, the head cider maker, is wild experimenter and a great guy. 

But for today, I'm reviewing All the Kings' Men.

All the King's men is a collaborative beverage made together by Cider Creek Hard Cider and Resurgence Brewing. More and more folks in all corners of the beverage world are trying collaborations. I'd call this one a graf because it is a beer and cider hybrid that does involve grain and fruit.

Here's some information about what all went into this beverage: "This is a smoked cider saison, a hybrid and a collaboration between Resurgence and Cider Creek Hard Cider. It's apparently 45% un-fermented cider, 30% barley wort, and 25% wheat wort." I have no idea what to expect based on these facts, but I am glad to know and very very curious.

Appearance: hazy, deep persimmon, rich color

The All the King's Men's appears hazy. In the glass, it looks like brandy. I love how rich the color is, and I had fun comparing shades of yellow and orange to find a way to describe it. I settled on persimmon, but I love a cider that gives me this sort of descriptive challenge

Aromas: bourbon, caramel, milky, acidic

Whooooooooa, this cider is extremely fragrant with bourbon notes. I also smell sour mash. Sweet dolce de leche notes.  I'm also noticing some yogurty lactic acid sourness. This is going to be so interesting!

Dryness/sweetness: dry at first with a slightly sweet finish

There's a ton going on with this cider, and almost none of it has to do with sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, sour, still, interesting finish

First impression, I am surprised by how completely still it is. I could see some bubble action when I first poured it, but that is not apparent when drinking it. The cider is dry and sour, with a bit of graininess like barley. It has elements of yeastiness like a hearty stout. I rather  thought it would be more dessert like.

In terms of flavors, first it's sour, then hard booze edge rises and fall, followed by a pleasant oatmeal raisin aftertaste. I think subtle oaty  finish is the best part: lingering and nearly sweet and mapley. A big sip makes all of the stages clearer.

This cider is a big beverage: very thick mouthfeel. 
 You could practically pour this on pancakes because of how substantial it feels to drink. All The King's Men indeed: somehow this graf does taste very masculine, with bits of mushroom, aftershave and leather. This tastes more complex and woody than most ciders, and at some moments its even a little harsh.

I want to reward Cider Creek's continued creativity in this thoughtful slow drinking cider. It isn't a summery cider though, try with chili, or a really aged cheese that has some substance of its own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cider Review Vander Mill's Totally Roasted and my CCP certificate!

Some days are perfect. We don't have responsibilities; the weather is fine; we get to see friends while enjoying tasty food and drinks. These are easy days. My day didn't start out so well because I had to take my perfect cat to the vet. But, the way a day starts is not necessary how that day will finish. Here's how my lame day got better. 

I got my official Cider Certification Program recognition in the mail!!

Even my photo bombing cat Pie May couldn't resist checking it out!

Vandermill is a cidery I first started encountering at GLINTCAP three years ago. I had the pleasure of judging with a cider maker from Vandermill, and the business donated plenty of cider to the event. Two very nice early impressions. I cannot believe its taken me this long to actually review one of their ciders. The company started as a cider mill in 2006. They focus on local fruit, using only Michigan apples. Their cider can be found in at least four different states, but they maintain an aura of drinkability and approachability.

You can read tons more about Vander Mill on the website: http://vandermill.com/

So, Totally Roasted

 The medley of cinnamon, pecan, and vanilla will dance on your palate. This is a mind altering example of what cider can be. We hope you love it as much as we do. Gluten-free

I also found some earlier descriptions elsewhere on the web. This gives us just little more info: 
This cider was specially made for a draft customer in Grand Rapids, MI.. We are using over 4 lbs. of homemade cinnamon roasted pecans in a 30 gallon batch of this limited edition cider to bring you Totally Roasted. You will notice that soaking pecans in cider brings a unique texture and taste to the drink. We use cinnamon and vanilla during the roasting process and follow that up by adding whole cut vanilla beans to the cider. These subtle tastes certainly make this a cider all it’s own.

Appearance: Bright and bubbly gold

This pours with a light color, but don't mistake that low visual impact. Rather than from the color, the intensity comes from loads and loads of visible bubbles. Cider appears brilliant.

Aromas: dust, apples, sweetness, like brown sugar

Despite the abundance of bubbles, I cannot get a lot of aroma from this cider. I smell some fresh apple and some sweet blend of spice, but it isn't distinct.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

This is a sweeter cider. It's part and parcel of the experience. The sweetness adds to the mouthfeel and helps bring out the spicy and nutty flavors this cider is all about. 

Flavors and drinking experience: nutty, sweet, tart, brown sugar and spice

Fascinating! This cider does have something roasty and nutty going on, but I'm not sure how it works. I taste brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nuttiness.  At the same time, I cannot help but notice the high acid. Totally Roasted offers up really good mouthfeel; it's rich yet sharp. Unsurprisingly, I notice no tannins. Sweetness is brown sugar plus tartness.

My only complaint is that in some moments, this one can taste a little artificial more like green jolly rancher than like fruit or fermentation. What I cannot complain about is how extremely lively and pleasant I find this level of bubble.

I think pairing can make the difference between a reasonable experience and a really wonderful one with a cider like this. I found the spice and roastiness on the subtle side, especially when balanced by the high acidity. Therefore, I recommend having this cider with a slightly sweet bread and a soft cheese. That should bring out the best in everything.