Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#PickCider Review Wild Hare Hard Cider's Hopscotch, & I'm off to judge cider again!

Its time to start thinking about how to #pickcider for Thanksgiving, and I wanted to challenge myself to think about taking this really delicious easy pairing and give it a fun challenge. I want to find out if a hopped cider can work for the Thanksgiving meal, so I'm trying Hopscotch by Wild Hare Ciders out of Virginia.

Based on the way that Wild Hare introduces themselves, I can see that they also care about variety and challenge in their ciders. This is what Wild Hare says by way of introduction, “From classic dry ciders to more modern ciders infused with hops and herbs, we craft cider with a variety of personalities. Throughout the year we will have our standard offerings, and also seasonal batches and experimental flavors. Come in to find the cider that is the perfect match for you”.

I also found out online that this micro Virginia cidery sources apples from the Shenandoah Valley. They pride themselves on producing ciders different from folks will find on grocery store shelves. This boutique micro-cidery talk about both modern fermentation techniques and the long history of cider. The founder is Jay Clement, and the cidermaker is Nathan Briggs. They do have a tasting room where visitors can try their current selections.

Find out more on the web at: http://wildharecider.com

Today's cider is their Hopscotch; it's label describes it as “a lightly dry-hopped cider.” This grammar nerd found that an interesting order of modifiers. In the end it looks like the level of hopping will be light and the method of hopping is dry hopping, but we'll see whether or not tasting the cider bears this out. As for a Thanksgiving pairing, I tend to think the fresh lightness of a hopped cider, provided it is a balanced beverage, would complement many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, including sweet potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts.

The full official description reads,

This small batch cider gives a nod to beer making and does so by dry hopping a special blend of finished cider. With a variety of aroma hops, the process imparts a floral & citrus aroma, creating a truly unique product that is not bitter, but has the spirit to stand up to beer and wine.

This cider is a 2017 GLINTCAP Bronze medalist. Its ABV is 6.9%

What I don't know about Wildhare Cider's Hopscotch is much about the apple varieties used to make it. But the best way to find out more about this cider will be to taste it.

Appearance: hazy, vibrant straw, no visible bubbles

This definitely looks like a hopped cider. They are more likely to be hazy and appear less bubbly. 

Aromas: mildly hoppy, sweet, fruity, lychee

I'm digging the mildly hoppy cider aroma; its pleasing and mellow. The notes are sweet fruity with lots of lychee smell. I'm anticipating a bright cider based on these smells.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

You could call this cider medium dry or more precisely off dry. The sweetness is balanced by acidity and fruitiness. Yes, I'd definitely call this balanced. The Hopscotch tastes less sweet than it smells.

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

This cider tastes like green or light fruits: pears, lychee, and golden apples. I'd say its surprisingly less sweet than I expected based on the aromas. The Hopscotch offers up plentiful acid and a very nice amount of hop flavor. There are no tannins to speak of.

I found its light body and medium sparkle very appealing. One of the more exciting flavor notes for me in this cider is the subtle spiciness. The hops are indeed aromatic hops but there's just enough bitterness to remind me of a fresh tonic with apple and Quinine. Its pleasing and not as cooling and summery as some hopped ciders. I do think it would pair well with some vegetable sides for Thanksgiving.

Also, I will be judging at the Pennsylvania State Farm Products Show (or just the PA Farm Show) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania later this month. And its not too late to enter!

Their cider entries must arrive by November 17th, so the deadline is coming up very soon. Read more here: http://www.farmshow.pa.gov/exhibit/rules-regulations/Pages/default.aspx

This is a first year for this competition, so I’m super excited to be judging. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cider Review: 2 Towns Ciderhouse's Cidre Bouché French Style Keeved Cider

Today, I want to raise my glass to a cidery stretching its own boundaries and doing a lot with its multiple different lines of ciders. To this end, today's review is of 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cidre Bouché from the Traditions line.

2 Towns Ciderhouse is a cidery based in Oregon, started by Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood . They've been producing ciders since 2010. Their focus is very local and process oriented. I've had the honor of meeting lots of folks from 2 Towns at various cider event over the past five years. When describing their approach to making cider, the website emphasizes that 2 Towns Cider house does not use any artificial flavors, concentrates, or processed sugars. 

To focus in a bit more on the Traditions lineup, I read more about it on the company website, learning that it focuses on heirloom apples, barrel aging, and other historically inspired cider-making techniques. I received this sample of the Cidre Bouché for review and didn't pay for it. But, when i get the chance to buy 2 Towns Ciders, I also do.

Find out more about the Traditions line, as well as their Flagship and Seasonal ciders online:

My previous reviews for 2 Towns Cider House have included:

and the Brightcider was part of my roundup of vacation ciders: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

To be prepared for the Cidre Bouché, I read the official description to see exactly what french style means to 2 Towns Ciderhouse. Here it is:
Inspired by the bittersweet ciders of France, Cidre Bouché is made using an old-world process called keeving. Starting with 100% traditional cider varieties like Kingston Black, Michelin, Reine des Pommes, Dabinett and Muscat de Lense, we let the fruit ‘sweat’ and intensify in aroma. The apples are crushed and left to soak on the skins before the juice is fermented slowly over the course of a year, and aged in French oak casks. When finished, this keeved cider is rich, thick, and brimming with overripe bittersweet apple character. 6.9%ABV

Appearance: dark red, hazy, very very bubbly

This photo is totally unfiltered. The cider really is this dark and intensely autumn colored. The shade reminds me of strong tea and falling leaves. I'd call the cider slightly hazy and very very bubbly, which I hope comes through in the picture.

Aromas: overripe apples, leather, hay

I smell those bittersweet apples like whoa. Notes include leather, overripe apples, lemons, hay, and something woody. You could also say applesauce and a cedar aftershave. This is a gentle mellow and rich set of smells. Holy anticipation.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This semi-sweet cider still has bitterness, and in the best possible way. I think folks who like semi-sweet ciders will enjoy it, but as a habitual dry drinker, I also find it very satisfying.

Flavors and drinking experience: rich overripe apples, bubbles, full mouthfeel

Wow! Wow wow wow. I know, that's not terribly informative or articulate, but I need to lead with that holistic first impression.This cider offers up high tannins, medium low acidity, and a rich full mouthfeel. The Cidre Bouché is very much like a french cider, but somehow just a bit more balanced with acid and very freshly bubbly.

I paired this cider with a rustic bean and vegetable stew topped with fresh green onions. The stew emphasized acidity and strong salty, earthy flavors. The rich and sweet cider made for the perfect counterpoint. To say I recommend this pairing, or something like it, would be an understatement.

This is without any doubt my favorite cider from 2 Towns Ciderhouse. They consistently make innovative and drinkable ciders, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. They really knew just what to do with those bittersweet apples. Yum!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cider Review: Two Metre Tall's Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider

I'm starting from scratch with the Huon Farmhouse Dry Apple Cider as I have no background knowledge of either apples or cider from Tasmania or anywhere in that segment of the globe. When I spotted this cider on the shelf Finger Lakes Beverage Center (http://www.fingerlakesbeverage.com/) I knew I had to try it.

The company that makes this cider is Two Metre Tall; they create a number of different farmed and fermented products. Here's how they describe themselves, “We are farmers brewing farmhouse ales & ciders in unique batches using farm grown ingredients from our own 600ha property in the Derwent Valley of Tasmania as well as ingredients sourced directly from farmers across the state. Barrel aging, spontaneous fermentations, experimentation and everything in between. Fruit in ale, sour cherries and more.” Ashley and Jane Huntington are the primary folks behind this farm, brewery, and cidery. Ashley has a background in wine which will doubtless influence the cider.

Read more and see some glorious pictures of the farm on their website: http://2mt.com.au/farmhouse-cider.html

The cider I'm trying today is their Farmhouse Dry. Here's the official description.

When we discovered the Griggs family at Lucaston Orchards in the Huon Valley were still growing the famous old English cider variety, Sturmer Pippin that was all the motivation we needed to produce a traditional, unfiltered, bottle fermented farmhouse cider made using only apples and yeast. 7.5% alc. vol.

What intrigues me most are the bottle conditioning and the unfamiliar variety of apple: the Sturmer Pippin. Both of these factors would be tremendously exciting, even independent of my first chance to taste a Tasmanian cider.

Appearance: hazy, bubble, warm glowy color

This cider has so many beautiful bubbles. I'm not surprised by the little haze in the cider because it is bottle fermented and therefore unfiltered. The color looks warm and a bit glowy because of the creamy haze.

Aromas: stone fruit, fresh apples, flowers, hint of volatile acidity

When I first poured this cider, the smells included a hint of volatile acidity, but also flowers and fruit. None of the aromas struck me as particularly intense. The scents were angular and pointed, so I predict a very tart cider.
Dryness/Sweetness: Dry

This is unambiguously a dry cider. And if you read on the website about the brand's style, it sounds like they are only ever going to make very dry ciders. I caught a bit of a good humored attitude about this choice, see if you can find what I saw.

Flavors and drinking experience: lemon, twiggy, vegetal, acidic

So my expectations based on aroma were decidedly met when tasting this cider. The Farmhouse Dry sure tastes dry. I like that this level of dryness is a presence rather than just an absence of sweetness. It tastes gently bitter and tart like lemon juice. Other flavors intersect with this dryness; the cider tastes cold, twiggy, and just a bit vegetal. This cider is very interesting and different.

The body and mouthfeel come from the cider's very pleasant active sparkle. The Farmhouse Dry also shares some pointed acid but not too much in the way of tannins.

I served this cider with a fun dish. My husband incorporated a bit of the cider into a cheese sauce over pasta with cannelloni beans and roasted cauliflower. The cider really made the depth and zing of the sauce perfect, and the combination was a warm and roasty delight. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cider Review: Slyboro Hard Cider's Kingston Black

I'm sitting in my attic listening to the wind howl tonight. I love the swoops and marches of noise against my windows. I usually think of the comforts of fall, but this is its un-tamed side, weather racing across the region under cover of night. 

Slyboro Cider comes from the Hicks family orchard in Granville, NY.  Hicks Farm has been a public U-pick farm since 1905. Dan has been adding bittersweet and bittersharp varietals from England and France steadily. You can visit to try cider and on some nights also enjoy pizza, music, painting nights and other events.

Find out more about this company at the website: http://www.slyboro.com/

Previously, I've reviewed a few of their ciders. 

My first Slyboro was their Old Sin: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/cider-review-slyboro-ciders-old-sin.html

When travelling last year, I got to visit the orchard and tasting room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-3.html

More recently I tried the Black Currant: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/07/cider-review-slyboros-black-currant.html

I also used their Ice Cider in my Thanksgiving lineup last year: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on their single varietal Kingston Black Cider. I remember trying it at the cidery, and I was impressed. Full disclosure, this bottle was shared with me for review.  I know this is what I said about it before, "The Kingston Black is one of the best single-varietals and one of the best still ciders I've had, period. Its notes are almost steak-like." Its been a while, so I'm curious how this will taste when I get to focus on it alone.

Appearance: Warm straw, brilliant, no bubbles

The Kingston Black is a still cider, so I'm not surprised not to see any bubbles. I'd describe the color as warm straw. The cider is perfectly brilliant in clarity.

Aromas: overripe apples, tropical fruit, green twigs

I noticed notes of under-ripe bananas, clean brine, pineapple, overripe apples, and something herbal and twiggy and green. There are a lot of aromas wafting from my glass here. 

Sweetness/dryness: dry

Yes, this is a dry cider, but its so much more than just a dry cider. 

Flavors and drinking experience: green, tropical, zesty, funky

The Kingston Black tastes oaky and green but still fruity. I was surprised that its a bit on the funky side, but I like that in a cider. Its lingeringly tannic with a long finish. Its acidity is light and zingy. The tartness is necessary with this big structural tannins. 

This cider is completely still. The Kingston Black feels like a serious cider for those already well versed in the cider world. I found drinking this one slowly and thoughtfully best allowed it to shine. Drink this with a mushroom dish or some music you want to enjoy in a focused way. I had it with Takoyaki (altered to include sweet corn, cream cheese, scallions, shrimp, and sushi ginger rather than octopus. It was a a wonderful contrast to this light, crisp food.

More tasting just lead to more admiration of this complex and gripping cider.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cider Review: Dunkerton's Dry Organic Cider

Today, I miss my times in England, so  I’m sharing my thoughts on Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider. Though I've spent parts of summer, winter, and one whole spring there, I've never seen apple season in Somerset, Herefordshire, or anyplace outside of the United States. I think that comes from spending most of my thinking years thus far in school or heavily involved in U. S. cider seasons. I'll dream of it for a future year, and while I do, I'll break out one of my English Ciders.

For my non-UK readers, I found out some background from their importer Winesellers Limited who were kind enough to share this cider with me:
The Dunkerton Cider Mill is set in the ancient parish of Pembridge, an area of farmland, woods and hedgerows, where medieval half timbered villages meet the stone market towns of Wales. Dunkertons history reaches back to 1980 when Ivor and Susie Dunkerton made the decision to escape London and buy a small holding in Herefordshire. The unique blending method uses traditional varieties of organic cider apples and pears grown on estate owned orchards. Only the finest tasting traditional varieties of certified organic apples and pears are sourced. It is this careful selection of fruit that gives our drinks the delicate and aromatic characteristics required to be award winning.
I have reviewed one beverage by Dunkertons previously. I featured their Organic Perry in week two of Very Perry May: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-2-woodchuck.html

Find out more online at the Dunkertons website: https://www.dunkertonscider.co.uk/

The official description for the Dry Organic reads as follows. 
An offering of a drier, crisper blended cider for the connoisseur, or more adventurous enthusiast. Sharp, crisp and to the point. This cider is definitely one for the cider connoisseur, or more adventurous enthusiast. Sharp, crisp and to the point. Pours with a red hued gold with a very slight haze. This cider is full-bodied with a short-lived fizz from a light carbonation leading to a slightly sparkling drier cider with a rustic cider apple feel. 6.9% ABV.
And a bit more from the importer, “Moderately strong aromas of toffee with hints of farmhouse/blue cheese character. Tannins from the bittersweet varieties balance the fruit flavors of freshly picked apples, honey, and wisps of smoke. Full bodied with a carbonation that makes a strong first impression before finishing with a clean dryness.”

I was also able to find a partial list of apples in the Organic Dry: Brown Snout, Sheeps Nose, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill. The fact sheet describes them as “varieties that are centuries old, many going back to Celtic times.”

Appearance: dark tea, hazy, few visible bubbles

This lovely cider appears very true to style. I don’t see many bubbles and the color is nearly that of a slightly clarified un-fermented cider. Its warm and tea like in hue. The opacity is hazy rather than a full cloudy or transparent.

Aromas: Sweet warmed leather, overripe apples, salt water

What delightful smells. I get sweet warmed leather, overripe apples and something between clean ocean water and salt water taffy. Those richly  warmed overripe apple notes promise richness and tannins ahead.

Sweetness/dryness: dry!

This cider is unmistakably dry! There's more going on, but the dryness is a pronounced presence. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Dry, tannic, medium acid, 

Yowsers! This is so dry and tannic that its level of bitterness provoked one of my co-tasters to call it rude! I'd not go that far, but this is a cheeky cider that swells in the mouth! Unlike many dry english ciders, this one has medium acid to go with those Hiiiiiigh tannins. The aromas bring richness, but this one is not for beginners. The drinking experience like getting mildly whacked in the head but somehow in a nice pleasant way.

The level of sparkle is important to the drinking experience. It isn't an overwhelmingly strong bubble, but it lifts and lightens the flavors pleasantly. The flavors just keep unfurling across my palate! What an experience!

I'd pair this cider with a sturdy creamy soup: leek and carrot or perhaps a sweet corn chowder. It was a lovely bit of brazen cider bravado, and I look forward to drinking it again. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cider Review: Devoto Orchards Save the Gravenstein...and an announcement

I've been so excited about Finger Lakes Cider week. Every event was a real chance to connect with local ciders. Frequently, they were also great times to learn about cider making processes and the unique landscape of food and drinks developing here in the region. I loved it.

But, at the same time, I don't want to neglect other cider areas. I have a lot of fondness for ciders made in many places. Today, I am sharing my thoughts on a west coast cider from Devoto Orchards. It feels over due after my recent trip to San Francisco to judge cider for the
Good Food Awards.

Susan and Stan Devoto were back to the land folks who bought a farm in the 1970s (so were my folks). I am so grateful for this generation's hunger to explore new ways of farming and living. This orchard and farm is near Sebastopol, California. This family company released their first hard cider in 2012, now incorporating the talents of a second generation: Jolie and her husband Hunter. The farm is organic, and they specialize in heritage apples.

Find out about all of the ciders on the website: http://www.devotocider.com/

I found this cider in a grocery store in San Francisco. I chose this one because of the fascinating history of the Gravenstein Apple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravenstein

Devoto Orchards' official description of the Save the Gravenstein includes some historical background as well as tasting notes and pairings. I appreciate the completeness.
In August, when our Gravenstein apples are at the peak of their ripeness, we pick them, press them, and pour ourselves into every drop. We are proud to offer this food-friendly, dry cider from our family farm to you.

Profiles: Aromas of lemon, sage, yeast, and mint on the nose lead to bright acidity and a smooth finish.Pairings: oysters on the half shell, dungeness crab, surf and turf paella.Cheese Pairings: Point Reyes Farmstead Bay Blue (CA) Andre Artisan Cheese Willow Del Rustique (CA), Bohemian Creamery \ The Bomb (CA), Valley Ford Estero Gold Reserve (CA)

This specifically mentions that the apples were certified organic and harvested in fall 2014.

Appearance: Pale, brilliant, no bubbles

This cider looks fairly innocuous. Its pale and beautifully brilliant with nary a bubble in sight.

Aromas: spicy, dusty, stony

The smells in the Save the Gravenstein are fun! There's lots of spice and just a hint of citrus. The aromas are a little sweet. It smelly dusty and stony like a lot of my favorite ciders.

Sweetness/dryness: Off-dry to dry

This has just enough sweetess to be not totally dry. The Save the Gravenstein is definitely on the dry side though. The tinge of sweetness is just enough to bring out the other flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, petillant, intensely flavorful

My first impression of the Save the Gravenstein is of its high acidity. Though the cider is described as still, the acidity is enough to create the impression of slight effervescence. I love how intensely flavorful this cider tastes. The Save the Gravenstein is cleanly yeasty like walking past a small bakery first thing in the morning.

My impressions remain acid driven as I keep sipping. There's not any tannin to speak of. It has a light body and springy zesty balance. This is a very wine like cider in some ways. Perhaps that's not a useful comment, but that's part of the drinking experience for me. 

I had this cider with what will probably be nearly my last caprese salad of the year. My CSA has almost stopped giving us tomatoes for the season.

And now, for my announcement! I'm thrilled to share that I'll be speaking at Cider Con 2018 in Baltimore! Stay tuned for details, but I hope I'll see plenty of familiar faces at Cider Con and make some new cider friends as well. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cider Review Virtue Cider's Percheron

I'm writing about a Virtue cider today for two reasons. First, my dad brought some Percheron to share with me when he visited this past weekend. And second, AB InBev came back for a second round of purchasing and bought up the rest of Virtue. I have no idea how this will change the company, or anything about the company's inner working. But did I want to write about bottle that was recently in front of me before much could change or change again.

Here's Brew Bound's take on the story:

For those who don't know, Virtue Cider was started in 2011 by Greg Hall. This cidery is based out of Fennville, Michigan. They use a lot of international inspiration for their ciders and aren't afraid of a little funk. My main connection was having my first cheese and cider pairing class from Greg Hall in 2013 at Murray's Cheese in New York City. I'll remember that evening with fondness for a long time to come. 

Read more about Virtue: http://www.virtuecider.com/ 

Official description: This Norman-style blend of last season's high-acid Michigan apples is aged in French oak and refermented with wild yeast. We finish Percheron with fresh pressed apple juice for a touch of sweetness. ABV 5.5%

The official description also includes a section on tasting notes and pairings. They say, “Percheron has notes of vanilla and a wonderful aroma of apple blossom with a hint of orange. It is gentle, tart cider with a tannic finish. Food Pairing: Percheraon is best enjoyed with a stinky French cheese like Livarot, or with roast pork, wild boar, or a hearty beef stew.”

Appearance: Brilliant, no visible bubbles, cool gold color

Apologies for no in the glass photographs. I was pinned to the couch with a sleeping cat on my lap. It happens. The cider was lovely though, brilliant and an icy gold.

Aromas: dried fruit, leather, raisins, overripe apples

I know the Percheron's style is inspired by french ciders but to me these smells connote English ciders. Notes are leathery, dried tropical fruits and raisins, all as an overlay to overripe apples. The scents include something a little floral and a little spicy.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This cider has a hint of sweetness, but it doesn't dominate the flavors. Instead the level of dryness/sweetness is approachable and pleasant. The sweetness I do get is subtly fruity and caramel tinged.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium high tannins, tea, barn, melon

The french oak barrel aging gently steers the flavors of the Percheron. The definites are high acid, medium high tannins, with a low intensity of bubble. To be fair, my bottle is a bit on the elder side and maybe the effervescence has partially aged out. The wild yeast brings with it a little funk, but it remains in balance with the other characteristics of the beverage.

My overall impression is like a combination of traditional English, French and Heritage North American styles. I enjoy how the Percheron remains just off-dry (with some sweetness) and glimmers with notes of tea, salt, barn wood, melon and mandarin orange. This cider is mellow, complex and refreshing—quite pleasant.

Who knows what the future will bring. It can be sentiment of trepidation, but I prefer to think of it as an encouragement to enjoy what we can of the present. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Finger Lakes Cider Week and Birthday Locavore Pairing Dinner

My dear friend and cider accomplice Phil  (http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/author/phil/) had a birthday earlier this month. And unlike most folks, this means he wanted to bring down a heap of work and organization on himself to celebrate. This means he planned and cooked a five course feast at the home of a wonderful mutual friend.

As part of my gift to him, I paired his menu with local Finger Lakes Ciders and provided some of the ciders for these pairings. He was kind enough to allow me to write up the pairings and combine that post with my anticipation for this year's Finger Lakes Cider Week!

Local Charcuterie Platter: Bellwether Vintage Heritage

Phil sourced smoked turkey, ham, rillettes, and duck confit from The Piggery. For the non-meat eaters we had local hummus by Ithaca Hummus. I enjoyed the Crosswinds Goblin cheese, Northwind Tripletree Tomme and a home-smoked cheddar. Phil also picked his own cucumbers and beets.

Vintage Heritage is a very special cider cider that isn't readily available most of the time; its a cellar -aged edition of their Heritage cider. That description reads, “Dry; 6.9% alcohol; blend of European cider apples including Brown Snout, Dabinette, Chisel Jersey; this is the still version of Legacy; complex acid and tannin; an Old World cider to bring balance to your modern, hectic life.” This aged version really lets the playfully rustic side of cider shine. Its leathery, woody, tart and tannic. Delightfully different and something well worth trying if you ever get the chance.

Bellwether will be pouring samples of their ciders at the Ithaca Farmer's Market both weekends of Cider Week (and all other Farmer's Market Weekends) down at Steamboat Landing in Ithaca. 

Caprese Salad: Redbyrd Orchard Cider Celeste Sur Lie

This simple salad was constructed of local heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and drizzled with F. Olivers Picual Olive Oil. 

Redbyrd Orchard Ciders says this about this cider, "Celeste Sur Lie ’14 An elegant cider for celebration, made in the traditional style and disgorged after aging on bottle lees for over a year, giving you a beautiful helix of endless soft bubbles in your glass and a creamy buttery mouthfeel. 0.0% residual sugar, 11% alcohol/volume." This cider fits my one of my preferred flavor profiles perfectly. This is so crisp, clean, and devastatingly dry. It rings like a golden bell on my tongue every time I take a sip.

Fresh Pasta with Red Sauce: Kite and String Barrel Rye

This hand-rolled pasta was served with fresh tomato sauce with garlic and basil, homemade ricotta and a garden salad with F. Oliver's Balsamic Viniarette Dressing. This course alone would have made a wonderful birthday dinner. Phil really knows how to make homey comfort food like pasta shine.

Kite and String describe this cider as, “Off Dry. Champagne style. Stirred on the lees for 1 month. Aged 1 year in Rye Whiskey barrels. Buttercream with a backbone. Oak and smoke and shalestone.” and I chose it for that combination of smoke and backbone. Typically folks, pair tomato dishes with red wines, but I think cider has a fun option of doubling down on umami notes and adding both structural notes and lively acidity. This pairing supports my argument well.
Finger Lakes Cider House Grand Cider Buffet on Thursday September 28th:

This event will be at Coltivare this Thursday evening, featuring cider oriented food and Kite and String Cidery's full lineup. This will be many folks first chance to try some of these awesome new releases.

Roast Chicken with Tomato-Cilantro Hollandaise: South Hill Cider Patina

Phil's chicken came from Autumn's Harvest. He roasted them and served them with green beans, roast potatoes, and smothered the dish in tomato-cilantro hollandaise sauce. This felt just as complete with sauced potatoes and beans, almost as thought the sauce is the actual star of this course.

South Hill Cider has this to say, “Patina is partially barrel aged so that bright fruit notes ring clear over a well-rounded barrel influence. Sparkling, medium bodied, fruit forward with hints of vanilla. Dry. Bittersweet apples. 8.2% ABV.” I knew we would need to continue to have strong bubbles and some barrel presence in order for the cider not to disappear entirely against such flavorful food. Thankfully, the Patina was up to the task and then some. This cider has tannic balance and smooth elegance to spare.

South Hill Cider String Band and Tasting on Saturday, September 30th

From 3-6pm on Saturday, you can stop by Agava in Ithaca to taste not only this restaurants inventive and appetizing food, but also listen to the cidermaker behind South Hill Cider (Steve Selin) play with the South Hill Cider String Band and sample their ciders.

Apple Cobbler Cheesecake: Black Diamond Porter's Pommeau

This cheese cake builds up from a graham cracker crust through a creamy crumb and is topped with Black Diamond Orchard Apples, a brown sugar oat crumble, and a burnt caramel sauce. Yes, its decadent. Each element is necessary for the tantalizing whole. Being able to pair a pommeau with apples from the orchard that produced it, isn't a chance I get every day.

Pommeau, for those who don't love it already, is a very special cider based distilled beverage. It starts with cider which is distilled then back-sweetened with fresh apple juice and then aged on oak for an extended period. Black Diamond's Porter's Pommeau, according to Black Diamond is, “a blend of fresh cider made from Porter’s Perfection – an old english bittersweet apple and oak-aged apple eau de vie –is our take on the classic beverage from Normandie, France. Tasting Notes: Fragrances of ripe apples and vanilla, velvety tannins and a smooth, sweet finish. Enjoy it with dessert, or by the fireside with friends. Most people prefer to serve it slightly chilled. Alcohol: 20.0% Residual Sugar: 7.6% (Sweet)” And that's excactly what we did. I served this cider chilled to my dear friends with an amazing dessert. Perfection indeed.

Cider Cocktails with Black Diamond Cider in Trumansburg, NY on Thursday October 5th

At hip foodie bowling paradise, Atlas Bowl, attendees will have the chance to try classic cocktails made with a cider twist and other original mixology creations all using the ciders and pommeau of Black Diamond Cider will bowling, eating, and listing to the tunes of cider owner Jackie Merwin who will be spinning as DJ Black Diamond. What fun! 

Whether celebrating a birthday, the season, or Finger Lakes Cider Week, enjoy with friends. I raise a glass to these good times! Happy Birthday, Phil! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cider Review: Distillery Lane Ciderworks Witches Brew...Plus FLX Cider Week!

There's no denying that fall has come to Upstate New York. Our leaves are turning and mornings now swath everything in fog. Its a magical time. And for me that magic comes primarily from two things, apples and Halloween season. Yes, there's a whole season in my world dedicated (even more than usual) to all thing batty, spidery, and spooky. So, I couldn't wait to crack open a cider called Witches Brew.

This cider was a review sample shared with me by Distillery Lane Ciderworks. I have reviewed a few ciders by Distillery Lane before, but its been a little while. I don't always see them available, but I pick them up when I can.

And my favorite thus far the Tradition Dry Sparkling cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/08/cider-review-distillery-lane-ciderworks.html

The last link includes more information on the background of this cidery. It is based out of Maryland and has been selling hard cider since 2010 and growing apple trees since 2001. You can visit them in person to taste the ciders and pick fruit.

Today's review is the Witches Brew. Part of what intrigues me about this cider is the use of Aronia Berries. I had to do a little research because not only have I not seen a cider that uses these before, I've never knowingly tasted anything that uses Aronia berries before. They are also called Choke Berries and are related (albeit not closely) to apples more than to other berries.

Official Description:

Double, double, toil and trouble, fermentation made our cauldron bubble with this tart, sparkling brew. A delightful blend of DLC's Celebration cider and aronia juice, made form aronia berries grown at the DLC orchard. Tart, with bubbles and a perfect bitter finish.”

Appearance: transparent, magenta, bubbly

This cider is bottled in clear glass for a reason! People passing a shelf are bound to notice this sumptuous magenta color. The Witches Brew pours with foamy excitement, but the mousse doesn't stick around for long.

Aromas: Deep, dusty, leafy, purple aromas

I got berry aromas from this as soon as the bottle was cracked. I can smell all manner of gardeny and fruity smells like berries and stone fruit but also stems and leaves. These smells make me even more curious to taste it.

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-dry to dry

There's a lot more going on than sweetness level here, but I'll say that the cider is on the dry side without feeling bone dry. Instead its more fruity and astringent at the same time.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, astringent, stemmy, dark fruit

Though its bubbly and perceptibly boozy, the Witches Brew reminds me of tea. The tannins are grippy and astringent. The cider offers up high acid tartness but with an unusual acid profile. This is not so much juicy but more stemmy. Some flavors are downright green-brown and woody.

Secondarily, I taste some buttery and toasty notes. And there's some fruit going on with sour cherry and apple elements. This cider has a nice medium bubbly texture. The finish is leathery and tannic. Overall, the Witches Brew remaings fascinatingly different.

I served this cider with a Quorn Turky Roast, along with mushroom gravy, amish yeast rolls, and oven-roasted beets and baby red skinned potatoes. I wasn't ever a big fan of gravy until I discovered my husband's vegetarian gravy, and now I'm totally hooked. This cider pairs with that salty, rich, umami sauce perfectly. The dryness and woody grippy tannins don't disappear even with an early fall feast.

And just to start whetting your appetite, Finger Lakes Cider Week is coming: September 28th through October 9th! Expect more coverage in the coming weeks, but for now please check out the website to see the full schedule of events.

I do want to highlight a few that sound especially exciting to me.

Finger Lakes Cider House Grand Cider Buffet on Thursday September 28th:

This special ticketed event is being hosted at Coltivare and will feature 5 courses of cider oriented dishes and seven ciders by Kite and String Cidery. The pairing combinations will be myriad.

Cornell Orchards Apple Spectacular Sunday October 1st

I went on this tour and tasting combination last year, and I loved it. Vistors get to taste fresh pressed juice and create their own juice blends as well as tasting New York State ciders and touring Cornell University's research orchards, learning about the exceptional projects that the Peck Lab is doing on behalf of cider lovers everywhere.

Apple Identification and Documentation Day on Wednesday, October 4th

Meet orchardists and folklorists alike at the Trumansburg Farmer's Market to have a chance to finally find out what apples your mystery tree is producing. This is part of the Finger Lakes Fruit Heritage Project. They are collecting the history of orchards and other fruit growing in the Finger Lakes.


Fall Garden Mixer: Celebrate NYS Cider on Wednesday, October 4th

At the New York State Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, they are honoring New York's cider scene along with nibbles created by the culinary team. The theme is fall, and what better way to celebrate than with cider!

Eve's Cidery Perry Dinner on Friday October 6th.

This intimate dinner will focus on a vertical perry tasting through the perries made by Eve's Cidery, a Tom Oliver Perry, and other pear surprises amidst local food, music, all at their cider barn in Van Etten. I've never even heard of a perry dinner before, so this made it on to my list immediately!

Cider and Cheese Day at the Grand Opening of Brews and Brats Saturday October 7th.

Folks from the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance will be sharing samples of their cheeses paired with ciders from the NY Cider Association at the grand opening of this new spot in Trumansburg, New York. Featured Cideries include The Cider Lab, Lake Drum Brewing and Black Diamond Ciders. And this event is free!

Stay Tuned for more highlights in my next review!