Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cider Review: Blue Bee Cider's Hopsap Shandy

I know most folks associate hops with beer and with summertime. But a hopped cider doesn't have to wait for warm weather. This style is one of my favorite modern variations on cider, so I make an effort to include them in my personal rotation year round. Perhaps a way to think of it would be drinking a brief window onto bright skies and sappy green leaves. That sounds nice to me.

Today's hopped cider is from Blue Bee Cider in Virginia. This is the first urban cidery in the state, near Richmond. They have a tasting room and give tours when scheduled in advance. Blue Bee Cider earned a Good Food award for 2016.

Check out the website here: http://www.bluebeecider.com/

You can also learn about their processes by reading their blog: http://www.bluebeecider.com/blog/

You can see my previous review of the Charred Ordinary from this March: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blue-bee-cider-charred.html

This is Blue Bee's official description for the Hopsap Shandy: 
Cascade hops and heirloom cider apples unite in Blue Bee Cider’s HOPSAP SHANDY, a traditional cider with a modern twist. After a light dry-hopping, this Winesap blend takes on floral, grassy and zesty citrus notes with an assertive apple finish. Borne of a whim, Hopsap Shandy is something refreshingly unexpected that can appeal to aficionados of beer, wine and cider alike.

Appearance: hazy, visible bubbles, warm nectarine flesh


Aromas: grapefruit, green, wet, green

This cider smells burstingly grapefruity, like the grapefruit is about to climb out of the glass! It's juicy herbal, green, wet, and cold. So interesting! All of these notes are solely from the aroma of this and not yet from drinking. I find this intensity and this zooming freshness utterly compellingly. Like a truly good perfume, you just want to keep sniffing it. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is one dry hopped cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: dry, high acid, lemon

Oh wow. Drinking this cider tastes tremendously good. It's lemony, citrusy, and fruity. Some drinkers might say that this level of acid is too high, but not me. I like that it has a little fun yeasty character. The first note is dry and dark and almost sweet, but then a wave of real tannins and acids hit. It gets brighter immediately and the tannins linger.

Tannic hopped ciders are rare (in some ways this cider reminds me of Tom Oliver's English hopped cider, which is also fantastic). I can taste lots of wood flavors. There are a relatively small number of little bubbles (but that maybe age?). The 8% ABV is apparent when drinking it, but its not hot. The Hopsap Shandy offers up citrus bitterness that's both quick-acting but also has some lingering power.

The cascade hops and Winesap apples make for that insane aroma. This cider is simply too good not to share even outside of this style's usual season.


A thing to note is that Blue Bee has done multiple version of their Hopsap Shandy, and mine is of an older edition, but I cannot imagine that either the age has hurt it or that their current edition would be any less interesting.

I had mind through a peaceful late afternoon with a fun fantasy novel and a little plate of cheese and crackers. One could pair this in a dozen more sophisticated ways, but the satisfaction of that simple spread was ideal. 

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