Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cider Review: Bulwark Traditional Craft Cider Original

The time has come to confess. I'm itching for travel. Many of my friends have camped, flown, or driven out to adventure in the last few months, while I've mostly stayed put. Today though I have a cider that traveled for me. What a fun way to taste another cider making tradition and another place, in this case I'll vicariously experience Nova Scotia through Bulwark Cider's Original.

Bulwark is appearing in this blog for the first time today. My friend Eric (of CiderGuide) sent me a bottle after I helped him out. Thank you, Eric! and this isn't one I would ordinarily be able to find easily. Bulwark produces cider in Nova Scotia, where they are affiliated with a winery. On the website, I read about their “5 Signature Apple Blend” including, Macintosh, Cortland, Russet, Honeycrisp, and Northern Spy. These are eating apples, but Northern Spy goes into a number of my favorite ciders. 

You can find out much more about Bulwark Cider on their website: https://bulwarkcider.com/

Or visit their Facebook page to see what's happening: https://www.facebook.com/bulwarkcider/

One reason to visit the website is to see what Bulwark says about sweetness and to check out their really great graphic that lays out the relative acidity, tannins, and sweetness of each of their ciders in one great graphic. (https://bulwarkcider.com/ciders)

About the Original, I'll let Bulwark introduce it.
Our signature cider, Bulwark Original, is a hand-crafted traditional cider, which is dry, crisp, and refreshing. 
It has a faint hint of spice followed by the Bulwark Original signature flavour that is achieved through our careful blending of five varieties of freshly-pressed Nova Scotia apples grown in the famed Annapolis Valley. 
The dry start is quite complex without the intense sharpness often associated with many traditional dry ciders. It moves quickly from dry to an almost wine-like and slightly mineral fruitiness before relaxing into a nutty floral finish. Great on its own or on ice!

Everyone knows how I feel about ice, but the rest of this is plenty intriguing.

Appearance: Brilliant, medium straw, lots of small visible bubbles

This cider looks fairly traditional, nice medium straw color, great clarity and some real bubble action. The picture fails to show the clarity because of the glass fogging, but its there.

Aromas: vinous, apple, plum, cold

What an interesting range of aromas, I get apples, plums, grapes, and some sense of cold. There's something rocky and mineral about the smell. The fermentation notes remind me specifically of wine, but there's also something a bit blunt in the background that's hard to describe.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

The Original initially tastes sweeter than I expected, but that balances out quickly. It doesn't have a sweet finish. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Floral, spicy, caramel, high acid

The cider offers up high acid without necessarily being tart. There's a fermented flavor and a concentration of flavor that are unusual.

I really enjoy the Bulwark Original's caramel richness, particularly because it is balanced by chilled stone fruits. There's some spicy cooked apple notes as well. Its Floral, warm, and like the description promises, nutty. That's a lot going on, though the cider is not mediated with flashy additives, its different.

Overall, the cider has medium body, medium bubble and a clean fermentation, but one that still imparts character to the finished drink. The Bulwark is quite satisfying, and I love the subtle ways in which it surprised me. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cider Review: Eastman's Forgotten Ciders' The Mad Russian

These are the weeks when lots of folks travel or move. Yes, its hot, but I love the quiet of staying in town through upstate's high summer. Things slow down; I walk on nearly desert college campuses in evenings. I watch the backyard wildlife from my porch, usually with a cider. Today's cider is a red cider from Michigan, another hard to find cider I obtained by trading with Darlene Hayes of Cider Cocktails: Another Bite of the Apple. Thanks again, Darlene!

This is The Mad Russian by Eastman's Forgotten Ciders. This small cidery comes from Wheeler, Michigan; it grew out of a specialty orchard, Eastman's Antique Apples. The company cares tremendously about heritage apples and the history of hard cider. This is part of how they introduce themselves:
We aim to produce cider reminiscent of our forefathers and founders - when cider was safer than water and the preferred drink of presidents and farm workers alike. We are enjoying a return to drinking cider across the nation and country, and look forward to providing this unique beverage with a great history and taste.
This will be my first review of anything by Eastman's Forgotten Ciders. The Mad Russian's official descriptions vary on the bottle and on various beverage rating websites, but the bottle's promotional copy was too entertaining not to share.
Driven into a fit of rage from running out of this blood-red hard cider, The Mad Russian has lived up to his nickname. The crisp red cider is concocted from a combination of Russian red-fleshed, crab and heirloom apple varieties- leading to its red state. This semidry, tart cider will kick you in the teeth with its taste and drive you into a madness for wanting more. Go ahead and try a glass; just make sure you have enough to keep your sanity.
Now, let's find out how this Mad Russian tastes. 

Appearance: Brilliant, ruby, ringed with bubbles

There's no mistaking this color for anything other than deep ruby red. Though the color shines red, the cider is brilliant. My picture shows the ring of bubbles.

Aromas: grapes, tart cherries, apples, peaches and plums

Just bringing my face near the glass shows off how much this cider smells like plums, grapes, tart cherries, along with apples and peach. It offers tons of fruit. It doesn't smell exactly like unfermented through there, there's that hint of extra tart acid and some zing that tell me this will be real cider and not juice.

Sweetness/dryness: dry

Ooh! This cider isn't sweet. It has almost everything going for it without any sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, med-high tannin, fruity

The Mad Russian tastes excitingly bitter, dry, and astringent. This is a serious cider! It's tart but not in the pointed or sharp way of many Finger Lakes dry ciders. Its dry while being fruity and tannic! T
hese tannins take a moment to unfold, but they are here.The overall effect is massively stimulating and fun. This cider hits with acid right away but then backs off. 

I love finding ciders like this that remain fruity and dry.  I find this refreshing and rare. To speak more specifically about the fruit flavors; they shine as bright slightly under-ripe fruit- maybe a little nutty. This cider has a light body and medium high bubble.

You could pair this cider with anything rich and full bodied. I recommend a pairing of pasta with cream sauce and Game of Thrones for this equality surprising and rewarding cider. High drama television deserves a show stopping cider, and this one can deliver.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cider Review: Wyndfall Artisan Cyder Root River American Session Style Cider

I've been saving some really fun stuff for the summer, and not just canned ciders or hopped ciders. Those are fantastic, and you'll see more of them from me regularly, but summer brings out my inner fruit monster. I really enjoy my fruit blended ciders most with lighter summer foods or relaxing on my porch.

Today I'm trying my first Wyndfall Artisan Cyder. These folks are apple growers and cider makers in Minnesota. Today I'm reviewing their  Root River American Session Style Cider: something I got to take home from CiderCon. I've been waiting a while, but now just as raspberries are ripe here, I wanted to taste a raspberry cider.

Here's what I read about the cidery and orchard from the bottle itself. I think it gets at their identity very clearly, "Our cyders are produced with sustainably grown fruit on the family orchard in the blufflands of southeast Minnesota. Heritage variety apples add complexity and flavor you won't find in other ciders. Growing apples naturally can be challenging, but what you get in the bottle is simple: the purest cyder, the terroir of the Upper Mississippi River Valley"

Find out some more on the website: http://www.wyndfallcyder.com/

or on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wyndfallcyder/

"As for this particular cider, this is how the folks at Wyndfall describe it, Refreshingly tart, a forward fruitiness is balanced with a light sweetness to be everything a sweet Cyder should be, and nothing more." 6% ABV

Appearance: many warm hues, brilliant, few visible  bubbles

The cider is brilliant and its colors myriad: pink, orange, salmon copper, and rose gold.

Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, tart fruits, apple

This cider smells  very directly of raspberry,  with other bright tart fruit aromas like pie cherries and green apples.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This cider is described as sweet on the label, and I'm used to sweetness being undersold. This was the opposite. There's a ton of acid, so the sweetness is definitely kept in check and works well at this level.

Flavors and drinking experience: very sparkly, semi-sweet, high acid, fruity

Ooh neat, I love how the Root River tastes cold and just sweet enough. ( I am completely for real when I say this tastes semi-sweet, tops.) That's certainly due to the high acid which give it a bright and zesty character that's not painfully zingy.

The Root River entertains with a good level of sparkle. The cider finishes up with one nice warm note at the end: perhaps cinnamon? I get lots and lot of raspberry. But that's not the only fruit presence, apple and grapefruit show up too. Flavors also include a little hint of wood. 

I find the Root River exceedingly drinkable, while not lacking depth or interest. There's an herbaceous aura here—something almost resembling salad greens. What a fun, tasty, and interesting take on the raspberry cider.

I paired mine with creamy carrot soup, perfect for summer. I like a very fruity cider with a chilled or creamy vegetable soup. Usually, I add lots of curry spices to my carrot soups, but this was mostly carrots, caramelized onion, and coconut milk. This treat and this pairing were worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cider Review: Far From the Tree's Sprig

Today is the day after all the fireworks and cookouts. Its a day lots of folks are heading back into work after a day off or even a long weekend. For me, from July 4th through when my husband starts teaching every fall is the high plateau of Summer. We'll get more thunderstorms, more watermelon, and soon real local tomatoes, corn, and peppers. America's summer holiday may be over, but the best summer food pairings for cider are just now coming into season.

So, I chose a supper summery cider from Far From the Tree out of Salem, Massachusetts.

Learn about the company on their website: http://www.farfromthetreecider.com

Previously, I reviewed their Nova cider which is another hopped cider offering: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/03/cider-review-far-from-trees-nova-hopped.html

Sprig is their cider that I want to explore today. The sub heading on the bottle reads Dry Hopped Mint Cider.

This is nearly my first mint cider, but far from my first hopped, so let's see what Far From the Tree has to say about it.

Official description:

Today is a great day for a hike. The sight of fresh green growth and the smell of sprouting leaves in the air are two of our favorite things about summer in New England. For Sprig, we've married fresh mint, cascade hops and apples grown in Massachusetts. We age Sprig in oak barrels, dry hop for two sweeks and add fresh mint just a day before bottling.

For us, this cider is what an afternoon hike in the woods would taste like if it came in a bottle. If we happen to cross paths one day, be it on a trail or while sharing a cider, we hope you'll agree that today really is a good day for a hike! 6.9% ABV.

Appearance: cool moonglow, transparent, lots of pretty bubbles

This cider looks almost frosty while still being glowy and transparent. I'd not call it brilliant, but I could see all of the lovely bubbles very clearly.

Aromas: mint, apple, hops, lychee

These smells all add up to a super cool minty picture, but in the mix, I found hops, lychee, apple, with an emphasis on everything being chilly and bright. This smells perfect for the hot weather. Imagistically, it reminds me of a freshly opened jar of applesauce taken from the fridge.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider. The acid probably makes it tastes drier than it would look were I to see the actual measurement of sugar. Its a nice level that won't alienate most drinkers of dry, semi-dry, or eve semi-sweet cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Mostly mint, hops, balanced with apple

When I drink this cider of course I taste lots of mint and apple. I also get some hoppiness, but more mint. The cooling effect continues. Far From the Tree's melding of apple and mint works, but it's a tenuous balance. This cider offers up high acid, no tannins, and medium bubble.

I noticed how very consistent this cider tastes from tip to tail; the mint is dominant. I'm also struck by how much this cider depends on its clean fermentation in order to work. Seems tricky but successful.

I paired my Sprig cider with a very summery meal: sauteed summer squash with herbed chevre, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, whole-wheat toast, and baked beans. It was delicious and delicious all together. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th Of July, Cider Lovers!

Enjoy your 4th of July to those who are celebrating, and to everyone, enjoy your cider!

Catch you on July 5th with a new cider review.

Be safe and take care of your pets!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

#PickCider Review: Nine Pin Ciderworks Peach Tea

Last post before the 4th of July! I hope you have you plans made for how to celebrate the most picnic, cookout, fun, food, and firework's holiday in America's calendar year. I hope you've thought about how you'll #pickcider as part of this awesome occasion. Here's one last review of a new release seasonal cider that's just tailor made for summer parties. 

One of the coolest things about Nine Pin is their amazing range of specialty and seasonal ciders. Looking at the website just now, I counted 17 available ciders. That's impressive, and even more so once I tasted several of these and found out how good they are. 

You can read the whole list and find out much more here at their site:


I couldn't finish up my series of #PickCider reviews without Nine Pin Ciderworks' summer seaonsal release: Peach Tea. They were kind enough to share some samples with me just in time!

Here are my previous reviews of Nine Pin Ciders:

I first reviewed their Signature Blend: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-nine.html

Ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/10/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-works-ginger.html

Blueberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/08/cider-review-nine-pin-cider-blueberry.html

Though not a review, Nine Pine Ciderworks is part of my cider event calendar every winter, and this is the writeup when they launched the annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries, which is an amazing event every year in Albany: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/my-cider-event-calendar-cider-and-beer.html

Official description: 
Peach Tea is Nine Pin’s take on a classic summer drink. This cider, crafted from a farmhouse blend of New York apples from Kinderhook, N.Y.-based Samascott Orchards, is cold-infused with a custom peach tea blend from Short and Stout. The infusion of these ingredients creates a bright, refreshingly tart, and delicious peach cider. Peach Tea pairs well with sunsets and warm summer nights.

I got some amazing pairing recommendations from Alejandro for this cider including tire swings and puppies. It was charming, and I'm curious to see if I'll agree. The ABV is a middle of the road 6.2%.

Appearance: transparent, very few visible bubbles, warm apricot color

One of my co-tasters said that the cider's appearance reminded her of the warm orange tones of peaches, and I think that's completely fair. I found it reminiscent of dried apricots.

Aromas: Peach! More peach!

This smells completely like peaches and unfermented peach juice. I can envision the drips of peach juice running down my chin when I smell this. Its almost mind boggling.

Sweetness/dryness: Sweet

This is a sweet and juicy cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: peach, hints of tea, bit of creaminess

Rather like the aromas, I was surprised by how very juicy the Peach Tea is! The cider tastes a tiny bit creamy as well. To be more specific, its a sweet sort of juicy- not very tea like, to me One out of three tasters, one could pick it up clearly, and guided the rest of us to noticing a bit of tea. Maybe the tannins mid palate were from the tea, but I found my impresions of tea growing as the taste matured. It comes out mostly on the finish - as a sustained note.

Something else, we all noticed about the Peach Tea cider is that the drinking exeperience is light and not very boozy to the tastebuds. Somehow the balance sweet and fruity with high acid stayed very friendly. The cider is easy drinking and not punishing or sharp at any moment of the taste journey. Maybe it is as cider for warm nights and cuddling puppies.

For us it was an evening on the porch with chevre and strawberry short cake and good conversation. There are endless ways to #pickcider but it is always best with good company.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#PickCider Review Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider

This is my first review of a anything by Stem Ciders. They are based out of Denver, Colorado and have operated since the start of 2014. I first ran across their beverages at Cider Summit Chicago 2017. I was pleased to stay in touch and get a few review samples this month.

You can learn all about Stem Ciders on their website here: http://stemciders.com/

This is Stem Cider's Pear Apple Cider and it could have fit into my Very Perry May, but I'm glad to have a canned pear-apple blend for this #pickcider for the 4th of July series.

Made with Bartlett pears from Colorado's Western Slope. Rich golden hue, caramel and fresh fruit on the nose with a surprisingly tart finish 5.3% ABV Released April 2017. Suggested pairings include, “pork chops and apple sauce, spicy thai, lobster rolls” But we'll see if my sense of vegetable oriented pairings matches up.

Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles, deep roasty gold

This cider has a deep roasted quality to its goldenness. It reminds me of English or French ciders in color. I don't see many bubbles, but it is brilliant.

Aromas: cooked apple and pear, yeast, custard

The scents are rich, oxidized, and dusty. The cider smells sweet, warm, and rich. These aren't characteristics I associate very much with pear ciders, so I'm curious. The creamy custard smell is most intriguing.

sweetness/dryness: sweet

This cider drinks sweetly but remains complex and dessert like. The fruitness and sweetness taste all natural to me.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich, fruity, high acid, bubbly

Richness and mouthfeel are a pair of interconnected qualities that can make or break a cider, and the Pear Apple by Stem Ciders offers up a delightful experience in those crucial characteristics. Mind you, part of what makes the richness so enjoyable is that it's balanced by high acid. The contrast is not artificially extreme, just dynamic and buoyed up with medium to high fine bubbles.

I found this cider deeply enjoyable.

Its fruity but not in a raw fruit salad way. Instead it reminds me of a fruit tart drizzled with caramel. This apple pear blend, just oozes dessert, while still being sharp in a spectacularly nice way.

My recommended pairings for this cider include summer thunderstorms, chilled grain salad with cheddar, corn, tomato, and avocado, Twin Peaks, or caramel shorbread cookies. I've not gotten to try it with lobster roll, but give me a chance and I will! What this list is attempting to demonstrate is a certain flexibility that I suspect this cider is capable of providing. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

#PickCider Review: Austin Eastciders' Blood Orange

Bonus review this week just to help us count down to July 4th! I want to highlight as many summer ciders as possible, so we can all #pickcider for the upcoming holiday.

Here are my previous special Summer #PickCider reviews.

Gumption's Citrus Freak: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/06/pickcider-review-of-gumption-hard.htmlToday's review is Austin Eastciders' Blood Orange. 

This review marks my first taste of Austin Eastciders
, and my first experience of cider with orange included, so I'm pretty excited to taste something doubly new. Again, an aside, This was shared with me as a review sample. This doesn't ever change how I interpret a cider.


The official description reads, "We blended blood oranges from Italy with bittersweet heirloom apples to create a cider with a zesty twist. With just the right amount of sweet and citrus flavors, our Blood Orange Cider is sure to brighten your day." 5% ABV

The other fascinating feature on the page about this cider is a simple mixed drink recipe designed to use this exact cider. It's called The Bigger Better Cider and its worth a trip to the website just to check this out. 

I took a can of this cider to a casual wedding reception, just so I could get in a review with some awesome summer party food pairings. Congrats again Sarah and Mara! The beautiful table decorations were a bonus.

Appearance: Cloudy, sunny orange, ring of small bubbles

This is one of the more cloudy ciders I've seen from the United States. As the photo shows, the color is a fun sunny orange and the only visible bubbles ring the glass at the cider's surface.

Aromas: champagne, mimosa, orange, wood

The Blood Orange smells like apple, orange, wood. Not like orange juice, but instead with a slightly champagne-esque note. Pleasant.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet but after an initial zing of bitter

I love the action in this sweetness curve. The Blood Orange pops with a gentle hit of citrusy bitter that soon mellows into easy honeyed sweetness.

Flavors and drinking experience: sweet, peppery, lots of orange, fruity

The first note is bitter and black peppery, and that quickly gives way to sweetness that lingers pleasantly. High acid but the acid is citric, not malic. My tongue puckers a bit. A long aftertastes that reminds me of Orangina.No tannins, despite the bitterness. Manages to be both crisp and warm in its taste. 

This cider is only mildly bubbly. I'm starting to think this is a feature of ciders in cans. Can other canned cider drinkers weigh in on this? 

Overall,  my impressions centered around this cider as sweet, very blood orange and pleasantly complicated by the hint of  bitter and peppery spice.

For pairings, I had this with so many good foods! I had pesto pasta, fresh green salad with pomegranate seeds, Thai-style summer rolls, brie and watermelon. And then cinnamon sugar popcorn and wedding cake. There were so many amazing summer party foods at this wedding potluck! Of those, I really liked the Blood Orange with the summer roll and peanut dipping sauce. Something about sweet citrus plus rice paper, tofu and veggies was out of this world!

As an aside, I feel like I have to share a funny video inspired by my friend Jonathan Honefinger. He makes sommeliers try Malort and captures their reactions. At this reception, I spied a bottle of Malort. Curiousity won the day. Or perhaps the Malort did.

Watch and see...


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#PickCider Review of Gumption Hard Cider's Citrus Freak

We are now only two weeks away from the 4th of July! I hope you're starting to think of your plans: friends, swimming holes, grilling pizza, fireworks. For me, it all goes with cider, so I've been spending a few entries focusing on the kinds of ciders I think work especially well for warm weather and celebration. I am all about the ways we can #PickCider for the 4th of July!

If you want to look at some fabulous recipes involving cider, think about cider party pairings, and just enjoy some seriously glamour cider shots, please visit: http://www.pickcider.com/.

For today, I want to share thoughts on a cider that was recently shared with my by the fine folks at Gumption: The Citrus Freak. This cider was a review sample, so I didn't buy it, but as always that doesn't ever change how a cider tastes. My opinions stay mine.

You can visit the website here: http://gumptioncider.com/

I have tried Gumption's flagship cider before, back in July of 2015. Then they were a line under the Woodchuck umbrella instead their own product. Here's that review that focuses on the drink's aim for a higher tannin mainstream cider:

Here's the official description, “Part prankster, part gangster, Gumption’s right-hand man is the Citrus Freak. A perfect pairing of eating apples, grapefruit, and Cascade hops, this semi-dry cider delivers an all-day enjoyable citrus experience.” 5.5% ABV

Appearance: medium straw, brilliant, not a lot of visible bubble

This cider looks like a traditional American cider but without the haze that hops can often add to hopped ciders. Instead, this is a brilliant, a medium straw color, and not super bubbly looking.

Aromas: strong grapefruit, hops, candied citrus peel, dust

The Citrus Freak smells sweet and citrusy. The presence of grapefruit on the nose is strong.
I can also smell that hint of stony dust that accompanies a lot of ciders. The sweetness and citrus combine to remind me specifically of the smell of candied citrus peel. Yum!

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

The sweetness of the cider still reminds me pleasantly of candied citrus peel or those citric acid powered candies that recall my 80s childhood and long long days spent by the community pool.

Flavors and drinking experience: cool, lemon, grapefruit

Interesting! This cider does really bring out the fusion of grapefruit and hop flavors in a way that shows how herbal grapefruit can be and how citrusy aromatic hops often are! Its almost spooky how one flavor transitions so smoothly to the other. This cider has a medium body and relatively low level of carbonation. I crave more, but then again, I usually do.

There are some notes of more specifically hop and apple flavors, but these all play so nicely together that its harder than usual to pick them apart. There are no real tannins, medium acidity, and a clean fermentation. I find that the cider dries out a touch on the finish, also feels drier altogether when drunk from the bottle instead of poured into a more open glass. Take that as you will.

For pairing, I'd put this cider with simple veggie burgers, really sharp salt and vinegar chips, and raw veggies dipped in a creamy pesto sauce. Its all easy and delicous which works for a really easy going session-able cider like this. What a way to relax! 

See you Thursday for a bonus review this month to help us #pickcider before the 4th of July.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#PickCider Review of Ricker's Hard Cider Mainiac Blueberry

As we keep on gearing up to #PickCider for the 4th of July, I wanted to share thoughts on a cider I was given at CiderCon this past February in Chicago. But, as soon as I saw the Ricker Hill Mainiac Mac Blueberry, I knew this was a cider for summer. So, I waited.

And I waited and waited some more. But, finally, its downright hot and sunny outside. We are 10 days from the official start of summer just a few weeks from the 4th of July. Now I'm definitely thinking summer every time I #Pickcider.

Last week, I enjoyed a tart cherry cider from Citizen Cider out of the Vermont at a deck party: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/06/pickcider-review-citizen-ciders.html

 This week I'm sitting on my porch to enjoy the Mainiac Blueberry from Mainiac Hard Cider out of Turner, Maine.

This fruit wine business grew out of Ricker Hill Orchard. They pride themselves on doing everything on the orchard from growing the apples to bottling, canning, and serving the cider.

You can learn about Mainiac Cider at the website: https://www.rickershardcider.com

The official description reads, “Mainiac Blueberry is a filtered, mildly carbonated hard cider primarily made with McIntosh apples with a special blend of other varieties of apples as well as blueberries. The result is a sweet, fruity drink – one full of refreshing blueberry goodness. This drink embodies the Maine wild blueberry taste that so many people love.” 5% ABV.

Appearance: dark purple, brilliant, fizzy

When first poured this billowed into a tall foamy head with a fun fuchsia color. The head didn't stick around, but it was definitely the tallest I've ever seen on a cider!

Aromas: grapes, blueberry muffines, red wine

Oh my! This smells so interesting: like grapes, red wine, and blueberry muffins. The smells are sweet, fruity, and summer.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Mainiace Blueberry is a sweet and fruity cider. It does not use tartness or bitterness in any way; its blueberry and apple notes are easy-drinking sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: blueberry, fresh, sweet, soda

This gorgeous dark purple cider tastes astonishingly like blueberries. I don't get a strong apple flavor or many notes from yeast or fermentation. The bubbles make the experience zingy and light and fun. The experience of drinking this cider is somewhat reminiscent of a slightly-grown-up berry soda.

I found the Mainiac Blueberry pleasant but not challenging. Not even tart. Says it in the can. Very sweet but kinda fun. 

I would pair this cider with a plate full of fresh veggie and fruit-forward flavors. It would go excellently with corn on the cob, fruit skewers, and a heavily loaded leafy green salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and shredded carrots. This is one that was simply designed for the chance to #PickCider for the 4th of July.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

#PickCider Review: Citizen Cider's Companion Sour Cherry Cider

I've explored perry for a month and really enjoyed it. I think I'm ready to start including perries more regularly and knowledgeably here since taking some time with them, but what I missed in May was cider made from apples. Plus, we're headed into summer which is a gorgeous time for cider. So, I'm super excited to #pickcider again! 

What's with the hashtag? The United States Association of Cider Makers introduced the #PickCider hashtage before Thanksgiving last fall to encourage folks who were putting cider on their holiday table to share their recipes, pairings, and photos. Now that's its summer, its time to bring it out again so we can all #PickCider for the 4th of July! 

I'm really stoked about this for a few reasons. I love that summer (and July 4th) gives us the excuse to eat outside, to picnic, to grill, and cider goes perfectly with all this outdoorsiness! Its also a chance to think about casual food pairings, seasonal ciders, and cooking with cider in a whole new way.

The first cider that really demanded summer in my mind has to be Citizen Cider's Companion Sour Cherry Cider.

You can learn about the company Citizen Cider on their Website: http://www.citizencider.com/

They are a neat growing regional powerhouse out of Burlington, Vermont. I've gotten to taste a few of their ciders.

Previous reviews include:

Wit's Up: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/04/cider-review-citizen-ciders-wits-up.html

Barrel Aged: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-review-citizen-ciders-barrel-aged.html

bRosé: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-citizen-cider-brose.html

And I did get to tour the facilities at Citizen when I made my Vermont Cider tour last year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

The Companion's official description reads:
Apple trees and tart cherry trees make good companions in the orchard. They bloom and harvest at different times throughout the growing season, which is good for the land and good for the farmer. We figured they might make nice companions in a fermented cider as well. It turned out to be true, which is good for us, and good for you. Be a Good Companion and enjoy this very limited sour cherry cider. ABV 5.5%

Additional facts Citizen Cider include: 
•No added sugar, never from concentrate.
• Apples pressed at Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, VT.
• Finished with fresh sour cherry juice from Monmorency and Balaton sour cherries.
• Manufactured in Burlington and Middlebury, VT.
This cider is available for a limited time both on draught and in cans. Citizen Cider was kind enough to send me two cans and this nice bit of contextulizing information for review.

Appearance: watermelon, brilliant, lots of bubbles

Apologies for the red party cup, but I was at amazing Deck Party complete with corn hole, fire pit, pond, and piles and piles of foods and friends, so it accepting the occasional party cup might just be part of summer.

This pretty cider though really benefited by being poured out of the can into a vessel that shows off its gorgeous watermelon color. This cider also has lots of bubbles and nice clarity.

Aromas: cherries, dried fruit, cinnamon, and limestone.
Citizen Cider's  Companion smells like immediately cherries, but also dried fruit, cinnamon, stone, dust, something tropical—guava?

sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

Distinguishing the sweetness in this cider is a fun game because the first hit is more tart and bitter but it does sweeten up quickly.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, clean fermentation, fruity, spicy

The Companion strikes me as both sweet and very tart—nearly made my eyes water. Very clean. First bitter with slight tannins. and spicy, then sweet. This progress feels natural and oh so pleasant: no weird cough syrup flavor, more like a good cherry pie. 

For me, this tastes best on big sips. There's not a lot of apple flavor but more the melded experience of cherry and apple together. But the best part has to be the cleanly floral finish.

I'm not usually a big cherry fan, but this tart cider was thrilling. It would be a perfect choice for lots of cookout and picnic foods. I had mine with chickpea salad, sharp cheddar, baked beans,  veggie crudites, and brownies. It worked with all of them. Next time, I'd love to try it with grilled pizza or salmon. I have a suspicion those would work extra well.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Very Perry May Pt 5: E. Z. Orchards, Original Sin, and Blake's

Good morning, cider, (or should I say perry?) fans! Are you getting tired of my pear based explorations yet? I'm certainly not. I think that each week I've been covering flavors and styles that I've never tasted before, and this week is no exception. Welcome to the last week of Very Perry May.

E.Z. Orchards Poire

My only previous review of something by E. Z. Orchards is their 2011 Willamette Valley Cidre: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/10/cider-review-e-z-orchards-williamette.html

You can visit the website http://www.ezorchards.com/

Official Description: "EZ Orchards Poire is a blend of Forelle, Comice, and Bosc pears grown in our orchard. The complex structure of this winter pear blend is enhanced by a slow, cold ferment. Semi-dry with a natural effervescent finish. Serve chilled in a stemmed glass, tall cordial, or pilsner glass." 5.9% ABV

Appearance: hazy, candied lemon peel color, lots and lots of bubbles

You can hear it ambiently sizzling in effervescence.

Aroma: cooked fruit, lemon, farmy

The Poire reminds me immediately of French ciders and perries in its farmy yet fruity aromas. The keeving fermentation process can create soe reductive notes in the aromas like fallen leaves, warm wet wood, and farmy scents. This is rather like that whole style.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

Sweet and distinctly like fermented fruit sweetness, nothing artificial, nor like table fruit.

Flavors and drinking experience: leather, cooked fruit, bubbles

The first impression I get from drinking the Poire comes from the fun bubbles that pop, practically bursting into your nose

This perry is very cold and clean tasting, which wasn't necessarily what I was expecting. The flavor has a round bubble-ness; plenty fruity with a little sweetness that quickly gives way and winds up a bit dryer than most perries. I get some tannins and medium low acid the Poire. There's lots of leather and cooked fruit in the taste, and maybe a little oxidation. The flavors themselves owe a lot to the fermentation—you can really taste the process here. Definitely light and low-alcohol. Works nicely in big sips. This perry is the real deal and I absolutely love it, even though usually I'd not go for something sweet.

Original Sin Pear

There's plenty of information on the Original Sine website: http://origsin.com
Here's a list of my preview reviews of Original Sin ciders.

I reviewed their flagship cider in one of Ithaca's most missed bars, the Chapterhouse Pub: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/02/cider-review-original-sin-hard-ciders.html

In the first year of the blog, I got to try a bottle of the Elderberry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/09/cider-review-original-sin-elderberry.html

Official description: "Original Sin Pear Cider was developed in line with the company’s mission to produce traditional cider leaving out artificial flavors and additives. Original Sin Pear is light and refreshing with a clean, dry finish."

This ABV at 4.8% is a bit on the low side. Something to note is that this is a cider backsweetened with pear juice rather than a true perry. The Process and Taste section of the page says,"Two parts pear, one part magic. A Dry cider fermented with champagne yeast"

Appearance: transparent, straw, bubbly

I'd call the Original Sin Pear transparent rather than brilliant. Its easy to see a fair number of bubbles in the glass. The color strikes me as medium straw. If anything this yellow is a bit more emphatic and cool in tone than many.

Aromas: pear, stone, candy

This pear cider smells like rock candy: the sort I could only buy at state park lodges or other special unusual places. It also smells very much like fresh pear, but somehow more intense. Lastly, I do get some dusty stony notes that definitely happen more often with cider than perry.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet to sweet

I'd call this cider sweet, but I think some folks would consider it more a semi-sweet. The quality of the sweetness is very crystalline and straightforward.

Flavors and drinking experience: tropical fruit, pear, pineapple

I found this a nice level of bubble, but one of my co-tasters wanted yet more. Usually that's my refrain, but not this time. The acidity is medium-high but not too sharp or tart.

What really makes the impression for this pear cider is tropical fruit. I can taste pineapple, mango, banana, a very tiki-esque medley of tropical notes. There's also some bright pink bubblegum flavors floating around. 

This pear cider has no tannins, no edge of bitterness, just lots of fun approachable fruit. Its a bit sweet for me, personally, but when I shared with a couple of co-tasters the response was tremendously positive. The pear plus apple combo and the bright tropical flavors elicited many oohs and ahhs! We had the Original Sin Pear with pizza and brainstorming, two of my favorite things.

Blake's Hard Cider Grizzly Pear

I'm finishing up with my review with something a little outside of the box, Blake's Hard Cider's Grizzly Pear; this Michigan pear cider is pear, prickly pear cactus, and elderflower.

You can find out all about the company and their beverages on the website: http://www.blakeshardcider.com

This is my third review of a cider by Blake's, please find my previous pleasant encounters below.

Their El Chavo with pepper and mango: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

The official description reads, "Our first pear hard cider, Grizzly melds soft notes of pear & prickly pear cactus balanced with a sharp apple finish with a hint of elderflower. No bears were harmed in the making of this product." The ABV is listed online as 5%.

Appearance: hazy, corn kernel yellow, lots of bubbles

Apologies that I don't have a more glamorous photo of this pear cider, but this is how I tasted it. I was lucky enough to be travelling to Louisville and I found out that a Liquor Barn had it on draft, so I stopped by to taste it. The appearance was hazy, corn kernel yellow, lots of visible bubbles.

Aroma: tropical fruit

There wasn't a very strong aroma, but everything I could smell was all about tropical fruits. 

Sweetness/dryness: semi sweet

This is a semi-sweet pear cider and all of the sweetness is very fruity and easy going.

Flavors and drinking experience: Extremely tropical, juicy, medium acid

This pear cider has a lot of unusual tropical fruit flavor; it reminds me of mango, pineapple and banana. The Grizzly bear also reminded me of of beverages with  prickly pear cactus. The other flavor elements I noticed were a strong floral element with a backbone that tasted like peach to me.

Definitely different and fun.