Aval Cidre Artisinal

Review of Aval Cidre Artisinal, from France.  I’ve tried this twice before; the first was a sample pour from a friend’s bottle (see here), and the second was a bottle I bought (see here).  However, the co-founder of Aval replied to my review (which stated that it tasted flat) stating it was supposed to be carbonated, and was kind enough to send a replacement (actually three, smaller bottles, instead of the larger one I had originally).  I’ve also sampled a number of other French ciders (like these).

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<they also sent some swag Postcards; this one is just funny, although a couple were a bit racy, of famous paintings with Aval added>

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Aval.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

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Cider:  Cidre Artisinal
Cidery:  Aval
Cidery Location:  Bretagne France
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  330oz bottles (four pack), or 750ml bottles
Style:  French cidre from cider apples

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Availability:  At least in IL, LA, MA, MO, NY, OR, and TX (per this list).  Plus I expect it in WA soon (as my friend who manages the Schilling Cider House got a sample, although I haven’t seen it carried in any store yet), and I read it is in VT.

Description:  Made in Bretagne, France.  From 100% pure apple juice (Not from concentrate).  Naturally Gluten Free.  All-natural.  No added sugar.  6% abv.

AVAL means Apple in Breton, the traditional language in Bretagne, the region where it comes from, that’s had more than 1000 years experience in making cider and is touted by insiders as the best cider region in the world.

AVAL cider combines five types of apples exclusively from the region, giving the drink a crisp and citrusy taste. It’s the perfect balance between subtle sweetness and refreshing bitterness.

Here is the press release from their U.S. launch in fall 2016.

Price:  n/a (although I’ve seen it in 750ml bottles for $8.85)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Initially, browsing, but this time it showed up in the mail.

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First Impression:  Moderate carbonation.  Deep orange amber.  Smells of apple juice and yeast.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Low tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple juice and pomace, yeast, brown sugar, orange, and must.  Moderate finish.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High apple flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  This was definitely different than the other batch…way more carbonated, but also more yeasty and bitter, especially on the finish.  Not better or worse, but different.  More beer-like.

Most Similar to:  Loic Raison 1923 Brut

Closing Notes:  Some of my favorite French cidres remain Celt, Dan Armor, and Le Brun.  However, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to drink this one, especially if I found it in a convenient four pack of 11.2oz single bottles and couldn’t get Celt (which I usually stock on the house).  I’d say Celt is more likely to be a crowd-pleaser and/or good for folks new to cider, but Aval is more likely to please a beer-drinker and/or someone who usually tends towards Normandy instead of Brittany French ciders.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?

Eden Cellar Series Guinevere’s Pearls

Review of Eden’s Guinevere’s Pearls, part of their Cellar Series (#4), only available to club members.  It is my first time trying this cider, but I have previously sampled their Sparkling Dry, Cellar Series Cinderella’s Slipper, Heirloom Blend Ice CiderSparkling Semi-Dry, Northern Spy (Barrel Aged) Ice Cider, Honeycrisp Ice Cider, Imperial 11 Rosé, and Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Ice Cider.

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Cider:  Guinevere’s Pearls
Cidery:  Eden Specialty Ciders
Cidery Location:  Newport VT
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American Artisan Imperial-style semi-sweet Northern Spy apple single varietal

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Availability:  Eden’s online store, for cider club members, 50 cases of 12 bottles.  However, in general, their ciders are available in CA, CO, CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, SC, VT, WA, WA D.C., and Alberta B.C. Canada.

Cider Description:  In deepest winter’s ice and snow, four containers of fresh apple juice began their journey.  We pressed this juice at Eden Orchards from Northern Spy apples conscientiously grown in Vermont by Ezekiel Goodband and Jessika Yates.  As the cold set in, the water in the juice began to freeze, intensifying the sugars and flavors in the remaining unfrozen residual apple sweetness to balance this regal apple’s notable acidity.  Like Guinevere’s pearls, which she gave to King Arthur as a talisman for his knightly pursuits, the precious drops of sweetness in this unique cider may inspire you to accomplish heroic deeds and win your Queen or King…or just encourage you to sip a little slower to enjoy the beauty they add to your drinking experience.

Cidery Description:  Eden Orchards and Eden Ice Cider began on a trip to Montreal in 2006 when we first tasted ice cider and wondered why nobody was making it on our side of the border.  We had dreamed for years of working together on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom; it was a dream that had vague outlines including an apple orchard, cider, and fermentation of some sort.  That night we looked at each other and knew ice cider was it.  In April 2007, we bought an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont and got to work.  Since then we have planted over 1,000 apple trees, created 5 vintages of Eden Vermont Ice Ciders, and have introduced a new line of Orleans Apertif Ciders.  Out goals are to create healthy soils and trees in our own orchard, to support out Vermont apple orchard partners who do the same, to minimize our carbon footprint, to contribute to the economic and environmental health of our employees and our Northeast Kingdom community, and most of all to make world-class unique ciders that truly reflect our Vermont terroir.

They have a tasting bar on the main floor of the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in downtown Newport VT.

Price:  $20
Where Bought:  Eden’s online store
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Light golden amber.  Moderate to high carbonation.  Smells of cider apples and yeast.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied with a frothy mouthfeel.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  Moderate funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, yeast, must, stone fruit, honey, and brown sugar.  Long warming finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate to high complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I loved the uniqueness, with the combination of high acidity, richness, sweetness, high ABV, and carbonation.  The only thing I would change would be to have less bitterness.

Most Similar to:  I don’t think I’ve had anything similar.  It reminded me a bit of a French cider as it is apple and yeast forward and is fizzy.  However, it is more acidic and fruity and has a higher ABV.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got a chance to try this.  Its an excellent value too.  I also picked up some Sparkling Semi-Dry and Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Ice Cider at the same time which I have to look forward to.

Have you tried Eden Guinevere’s Pearls?  What did you think?

Crispin Bourbon Char

Review of Crispin Bourbon Char, a bourbon cask aged cider with smoked maple syrup.  It is my first time trying this, although I have had their Original, Pacific Pear, Blackberry Pear, The Saint, Bohemian, Honeycrisp, Venus Reigns, Steeltown, 15 Men, and Browns Lane.

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Cider:  Bourbon Char
Cidery:  Crispin
Cidery Location:  Colfax CA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles
Style:  American commercial cider from dessert apples, bourbon cask aged, with smoked maple syrup

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Availability:  wide release

Cider Description:  Rising aroma of bourbon over charred oak with sweet hickory notes. Silky on the Tongue and full of Kentucky character, this cask-aged apple cider is finished with smoked maple syrup, imparting a delicate kiss of smoke and brown sugar.

Cidery Description:  The Crispin Cider Company crafts super premium hard apple and pear ciders using blends of fresh-pressed apples and pears. The Classic Line consists of: Original, Brut, Pacific Pear and Blackberry Pear. The unfiltered Artisanal Reserve® line consists of: Honey Crisp and The Saint. The Crispin Cider Company also imports a classic English dry cider, Browns Lane. The Crispin Cider Company is based in Colfax, California.

Price:  $8.50
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland OR
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had heard of this when it came out in October 2016, but hadn’t been able to find it in Seattle.

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First Impression:  Hazy dark straw yellow hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells of unfiltered apple juice, maple, honey, and a hint of bourbon.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of unfiltered apple juice, honey, maple, brown sugar, bourbon, lemon, and oak.  Quick finish.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity, complexity, and apple flavor.  Low barrel influence and bourbon influence.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this.  However, I was hoping for a more intense bourbon, oak, and maple profile.  It had more honey than anything else for me.  It was expectedly slightly commercial (not as refined) tasting.

Most Similar to:  Crispin The Saint and Crispin 15 Men

Closing Notes:  This was pretty on par with my expectations.  It is always nice to try new ciders.  I think better quality cider can be had for the money.  However, a lot of folks don’t have access to craft cider, and for them, this would be a good option as a step up from their regular line of ciders.

Have you tried Crispin Bourbon Char?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 27 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 27th visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.

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I was there on a Sunday afternoon, with my husband and a friend from out of town.  The good thing about having folks with me was I got to order more ciders!  I chose all the ciders for our group, which was fun.

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<left to right:  Schilling Pippin, Locust Seckel Perry, Anthem Pear, Finnriver Dry Hopped, Cockrell Raspberry Habanero, and Schilling Afterglow>

Schilling (Auburn WA) Pippin (6.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only special release, a single varietal from Pippin apples I believe.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Mild to moderate bitterness.  Hints of sourness.  Lots of citrus!  I wasn’t really a fan with the sourness and acidity.

Locust (Woodinville WA) Seckel Perry (6.5% ABV):  I rounded out my flight with this, as I enjoyed it my last visit (see here).  However, this time I found it sour, and wasn’t a fan.  I’m curious if it was the same keg or not.

Anthem (Salem OR) Pear (6.5% ABV):  This is a pear-flavored cider, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Very mildly flavored, apple and pear.  I found it plenty drinkable, but boring.

Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Dry Hopped (6.9% ABV):  I’ve tried this previously, and mostly ordered it for my husband.  It is also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Citrus notes with hints of floral and hops.  Not bad.

Cockrell (Puyallup WA) Raspberry Habanero (7.8% ABV):  This is a popular cider of theirs, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry.  Moderate berry flavor.  Moderate to strong level of spiciness, especially on the finish.  I’m not a fan of spicy ciders, and mostly tried this out of curiosity.  This was the only one we didn’t finish.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Afterglow (5.1% ABV):  This is a special release, also available in bottles, made with cranberries, blood orange, and rose hips.  Semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild to moderate berry flavor with a hint of herbs.  I didn’t pick up any blood orange.  I enjoyed it.

We also ordered 2 more flights, with:
– Schilling Pineapple Passion (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Grumpy Bear Cold Brew Coffee (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Blackberry Pear (which I’ve reviewed here)
– One Tree Huckleberry (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Margarita (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Blood Orange (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling King’s Schilling (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Jester & Judge Pineapple (which I’ve reviewed here , although this batch wasn’t so great, as it was less flavorful than usual)
 – Elemental Pom-Lavender (which I really enjoyed, semi-sweet and flavorful, fruity with a hint of lavender)
– Elemental Black Currant (which I thought was good, but I like Finnriver’s better, as the flavor is more intense – see here)

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We also ordered a bottle of Aspall Imperial (which I’ve reviewed here).  I love that all their bottles at the cider house are pre-chilled and there isn’t a markup for drinking them onsite.

My favorite was the Aspall.  After that, the Schilling Afterglow, Elemental Pom-Lavender, Schilling Pineapple Passion, and Schilling’s King Schilling.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Aval Cidre Artisinal

Review of Aval Cidre Artisinal, from France.  I previously tried this (see here), but this is the first bottle I’ve bought.  I’ve also tried a number of other French ciders (like these).

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Cider:  Cidre Artisinal
Cidery:  Aval
Cidery Location:  Bretagne France
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  corked & caged 750ml bottles (and four packs of 11.2oz bottles)
Style:  French cidre from cider apples

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Availability:  at least in IL, LA, MA, MO, NY, OR, and TX (per this list)

Description:  Made in Bretagne, France.  From 100% pure apple juice (Not from concentrate).  Naturally Gluten Free.  All-natural.  No added sugar.  6% abv.

AVAL means Apple in Breton, the traditional language in Bretagne, the region where it comes from, that’s had more than 1000 years experience in making cider and is touted by insiders as the best cider region in the world.

AVAL cider combines five types of apples exclusively from the region, giving the drink a crisp and citrusy taste. It’s the perfect balance between subtle sweetness and refreshing bitterness.

Price:  $8.85
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland OR
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I picked this up on my trip for Cider Rite of Spring (see here).  However, I ended up trying a sample of it (see here) before I got around to opening the bottle I bought.

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First Impression:  Still (no carbonation).  Deep orange amber.  Smells of apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low bitterness, especially on the finish.  Low tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple juice and pomace, yeast, brown sugar, orange, and must.  Quick finish.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High apple flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, it tasted flat, like it had been left sitting open (vs. supposed to be still), but the cork was intact.  I also thought it could have used less bitter of a finish.

Most Similar to:  Loic Raison 1923 Brut

Closing Notes:  Some of my favorite French cidres remain Celt, Dan Armor, and Le Brun, especially once you factor in cost.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?

Locust Cider Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry

Review of Locust Cider’s Hootenanny series Vanilla Bean and Smoked Blueberry ciders.  This is a two for one review as I enjoy these ciders mixed together.  Its not my first time trying these, but I hadn’t yet bought bottles / done a full review.  I’ve also tried a lot of other ciders from Locust:  Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark CherryWashington Dessert Apple, Bittersweet Reserve, Pumpkin, Thai Ginger, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Winesap, Alder Smoked Apple, Mango, Elder & Oak, Wabi Sabi, Apricot, Sweet Aged Apple, Berry Session, Winter Banana, Chili Pineapple, Seckel Perry, and Hibiscus.

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Cider:  Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  5.0% & 5.0%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider infused with Madagascar vanilla (Vanilla Bean) or alder smoked apples and blueberries (Smoked Blueberry)

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Availability:  Year round in CA, ID, OR, TX, and WA

Vanilla Bean Description:  Washington apples meet real Madagascar vanilla, creating what is best described as an adult’s all natural cream soda. you don’t like sweet ciders??? Ok sure, try this.

Smoked Blueberry Description:  Some people do not like smoked foods and drinks. Ok fine, stop reading. for those who do, this is comfort in a drink, blending apples, smoked over alder wood, with real blueberries, this is unexpected but amazing.

Cidery Description:  My brother Patrick and I founded Locust Cider in March 2015 with the mission of making outstanding hard cider using the fruit that is most available in Washington- the eating apple. Washington growers produce 60% of the apples in the United States, and cider-specific varieties are in a major shortage, so we set out to put innovative spins on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in the everyday apple. 

Our delicious ciders begin with great fruit- we primarily use “cull” apples- those that are not pretty enough or are too small or large to make it to grocery stores, diverting these from destruction because their juice is still great! Our unique process then transforms them into great cider- methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.

We are now made up a great small team: Chelsea, head cidermaker, Ryan, cellar manager, Shenna, tap room manager, Spring, events manager, and Chris, sales manager. We are a “family” passionate about cider, and we thank you for visiting our tasting room, and being part of our family!  -Jason Spears, founder of locust cider

Their Woodinville cidery has a tap room.

Price:  $7 each
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried these individually at Locust’s tap room awhile back, then at a tasting event I decided to try them mixed.

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First Impression:  Both nearly still (very low carbonation).  The Vanilla Bean is a light straw yellow hue and the Smoked Blueberry is a bright purple-blue hue.  The Vanilla Bean smells rather mild, just slightly sweet and of vanilla.  The Smoked Blueberry is a bit more fragrant, smelling of blueberry with a hint of smoke.

Vanilla Bean Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of vanilla, cream, and hints of citrus (reminiscent of cream soda).  Quick to moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Smoked Blueberry Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Medium to full bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of blueberry and grape with hints of smoke and alder wood.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Mixed Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Both fruity and creamy.

My Opinion:  On their own, although plenty good, I don’t find either of these too remarkable.  The Vanilla Bean has a great flavor, but I find it a bit sweet to drink much of (although this batch is slightly less sweet than I’ve had before, but also slightly less flavorful).  The Smoked Blueberry is nice, but pretty typical.  However, mixed together, the result is a uniquely tasty.

Most Similar to:  Not much else.  I’ve had other smoked ciders, but they weren’t fruit-infused.  For example, Locust Alder Smoked Apple, and the more intense Tilted Shed Smoked and Alpenfire Smoke.  The closest I’ve had to the Vanilla Bean is probably Long Drop Vanilla Honey (but that has more honey than vanilla, with some awesome honeycomb notes).

Closing Notes:  Combining ciders is a fun way to mix things up.  I haven’t really got into cider cocktails, as to me, mixing cider with other beverages is something I would think of doing if I don’t like a cider (and have done actually).

Have you tried Locust Cider?  What did you think?

Henney’s Vintage Still Cider 2014

Review of Henney’s Vintage Still 2014 cider.  It is my first time trying any of their cider, but I am a big English cider fan (see here for some examples).

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Cider:  Vintage Still Cider 2014
Cidery:  Henney’s
Cidery Location:   Worcester, Herefordshire, England
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apple varieties (such as Browns Apple, Michelin, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, and Tremletts Bitter)

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Availability:  semi wide release (imported by Shelton Brothers)

Cider Description:  This Vintage cider is made from a single year’s harvest.  It is naturally still and has been only coarsely filtered in order to retain as much flavour as possible.  Sip or quaff, we don’t mind, as long as you enjoy it.  Cheers!

No artificial sweetener, colourings, or flavourings added.  May appear cloudy and have some sediment.  Serve lightly chilled.  Contains sulphites to preserve freshness.

Cidery Description:  At Henney’s we believe that the best way to make cider is to start with high quality ingredients and to keep the process as simple as possible.  This has helped us to win many prestigious awards in recent years.  Each Autumn, carefully selected, locally grown, varieties of genuine cider apples are milled, pressed, and fermented.  The resulting cider is then blended and stored through the winter allowing it to mature and develop a rich and mellow flavour.

Mike Henney started making cider in 1996, went commercial in 1999, and by 2013, cider production was over 250,000 gallons a year.

Price:  $6
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had never seen their cider, but had heard of it.

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First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Still.  Smells mildly rich, slightly sweet, and of caramel.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Low acidity.  Low bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple pomace, caramel, leather, orange, tea, and a hint of stone fruit.  Moderate to long finish, bitter and astringent.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I started off a bit on the fence about this one, but as it warmed up from fridge temperature, the flavor got more rich & complex, and surprisingly, less bitter.  I think this cider has a wonderful balance; I’ve had a number of English ciders that go too dry and/or too bitter for my liking, but this was just about perfect.  I wouldn’t have minded a touch more sweetness, but I certainly didn’t miss it either.

Most Similar to:  Dunkertons Dry

Closing Notes:  Next up I have Henney’s Dry variety (they also offer Medium and Sweet varieties, but it doesn’t appear that either of those makes it to the U.S., only the Vintage and Dry).  This cider is an amazing value at $6.  I’m always surprised that you can get an imported cider made from cider apples for less than the cost of a local craft cider made from dessert apples (due the larger scale of production of those types of ciders and the lower cost of cider apples in the UK).  Too bad I haven’t seen it in Seattle yet.  I also haven’t yet seen Dunkertons in Seattle, and can no longer find Sheppy’s Oak Matured.  Too bad, as those are three of my favorite English ciders (Aspall Imperial is another).  Next time I’m in Portland I’ll have to pick up a lot of English cider!

Have you tried Henney’s cider?  What did you think?