Strongbow Variety Pack – Original Dry, Rosé Apple, & Pear Secco

Review of a Strongbow variety pack with four of each of Original Dry, Rosé Apple, and Pear Secco, in 8.5 oz cans.  I’ve previously tried the Original Dry, but not since it was re-released in the U.S., and I’ve not tried the other two.

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Ciders:  Original Dry, Rosé Apple, & Pear Secco
Cidery:  Strongbow
Cidery Location:  Belgium
ABV:  4.5% or 5.0%
How Supplied:  12 pack of 8.5oz cans
Style:  imported commercial cider from primarily dessert apples (Rosé also has some red-fleshed apple juice and Pear also has some pear juice)

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Availability:  wide release

Original Dry:  Distinctive golden color and less sweet with a crisp apple flavor for a balanced, dry finish.
Rosé Apple:  A clear, light-coral pink appearance and sparkling rosé-wine-like effervescence with apple notes. Light and refreshing taste with a pleasant tartness balanced by fruity notes of red-fleshed apple and pear.
Pear Secco:  A mildly sweet pear-apple cider with a light dry finish.

Cidery Description:  Strongbow is the #1 import cider in the US.  With 50% conversion to usage, shoppers who buy once, buy again.  Exclusively available in this 100 Cal variety pack, we think Dry Pear is a great addition to the award-winning line up of flavors in the 100 Cal Slim Cans.  It’s a one-two punch; a popular, refreshing new flavor in a package that’s on-trend.  To find all Strongbow flavors near you, please visit our product locator at http://www.Strongbow.com. Strongbow recommends enjoying its hard ciders served over ice, for a crisp, refreshing taste.

Price:  $11.99 / 12 pack of 8.5oz cans
Where Bought:  Target
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing; it was my first time spotting the re-released Original Dry in the U.S., so I was going to get a 4 pack of that, but then I saw the variety pack which also included 2 others which I haven’t tried

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Original Dry:  Moderate gold hue.  Light carbonation.  Smells very mildly of apple juice.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of apple juice and pomace, orange, and lemon.  Moderate finish with a hint of tannins.  Moderate apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Similar to Crispin Browns Lane and Blackthorn, but I prefer this.

Rosé Apple:  Medium pink hue.  No carbonation.  Smells very mildly fruity.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of green apple and white grape with a hint of strawberry.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Low to moderate overall flavor intensity.  High sessionability.  Similar to Rosé offerings from Angry Orchard, Crispin, and Woodchuck.

Pear Secco:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells very mild.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Subtle notes of canned pear, green apple, and champagne.  Quick finish.  Low complexity, overall flavor intensity, pear flavor, and apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Most similar to Woodchuck Pearsecco, which is also a commercial tasting drier sparkling pear cider (apple & pear).

My Opinion:  I liked all of these.  Definitely commercial tasting (ie. slightly less natural tasting, likely due to the processes used, such as adding sugar instead of back sweetening with juice), but plenty drinkable, with some flavor and not too much sweetness, and far from the worst I’ve had.  I also liked getting a smaller variety pack (as its 8.5oz not 12oz cans), although ideally it would have only been 2 instead of 4 of each.

Closing Notes:  Although I typically prefer craft cider, I think commercial ciders are underappreciated.  It seems that most people (including myself) started their cider journey with an easily available sweeter commercial cider, and over time their tastes evolved towards drier local craft selections.  However, there are still parts of the U.S. where craft cider is difficult to find.  Thankfully the offerings from commercial cideries (such as Angry Orchard and Woodchuck) have improved in recent years, tending towards more complex, drier, and/or more innovative offerings, as they struggle to compete with growing regional craft cideries.

Have you tried Strongbow?  What did you think?

Independent Cider Lavender Perry

Review of Independent Cider Lavender Perry.  It is my first time trying anything from this new cidery.

Vocabulary:  Opinion varies, but in the U.S., most commonly, fermented pear juice is called ‘perry’, while fermented apple juice flavored with pear juice is called ‘pear cider’.

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Cider:  Lavender Perry
Cidery:  Independent Cider
Cidery Location:  Dryden WA
ABV:  5.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft modern perry from estate-grown Anjou (common/dessert) pears

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Availability:  likely only in Washington

Cider Description:  Floral aromatics of rose and honey followed by a clean herbaceous pallet of eucalyptus and pear…Semi Sweet…Two varieties of Lavender harvested down valley from our pear orchards were used to create our first botanical Perry. The blended buds from this mid-summer flower are dried and steeped to contribute subtle lavender notes and flavors. 

Cidery Description:  Independent Cider juices pears from family orchards planted in the early 1900’s. Our heirloom pears, grown in the Upper Wenatchee Valley near Leavenworth, are harvested, juiced, fermented to dryness and aged in the orchards they grew in.

Price:  $7.49
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Nearly clear with a hint of purple.  Low carbonation.  Smells super mild, of lavender and a bit of sweetness.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Low acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No tannins, funk, or sourness.  Notes of lavender and lemon with hints of canned pear.  Moderate tart length finish.  Low flavor intensity, complexity, and pear flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I didn’t like or dislike it.  I had expected more sweetness (and in turn more flavor), as pears have unfermentable sugars (sorbitol), so usually they are at least semi-dry, but this was definitely dry, and probably the driest perry I’ve ever tried.  My husband really liked it, probably as he likes both drier beverages and lavender.  He described it as similar to Brut champagne with lavender, while I thought it was more like a hard seltzer with lavender, as it was so mild.

Most Similar to:  Seattle Cider Lavender Lemon

Closing Notes:  I’d like to try their other varieties and see if any are sweeter and more flavorful, but from their website it looks like they ferment all their perries to dry, but describe some as being perceived sweeter (like this one, marked as semi-sweet).  Also, its interesting they went with the name ‘Independent Cider’, as at least for now it looks like they only make perry.  However, I guess a lot of folks probably don’t know what perry is.

Have you tried perry?  What did you think?

Double Mountain Arkansas Black

Review of Double Mountain Arkansas Black, a single varietal cider from Arkansas Black heirloom cider apples made by Double Mountain brewery.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their Jumpin Jack Heirloom Cider and Dry varieties.

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Cider:  Arkansas Black
Maker:  Double Mountain
Location:  Hood River Oregon
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from Arkansas Black heirloom apples

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Availability:  likely only in Oregon and Washington

Cider Description:  Purple and black on the tree, the Arkansas Black has been grown since the 1800’s. Now grown in the Hood River Valley, this old-world fruit is renowned for its luscious cider. Juicy red apple, raspberry, honey, and a touch of vanilla cap this delightful cider.

Cidery Description:  Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom was established in 2007 in the heart of downtown Hood River, OR.  Founder, Matt Swihart, opened the brewery with a clear mission: make great beer for craft beer fans. The unique location of Double Mountain provides the use of pure and clean glacial water for beers and ciders, while also take advantage of regionally grown hops. Reusable bottles allow customers to partake in a softer environmental footprint, affirming they are part of a sustainable future. Double Mountain may be found on tap and in bottles throughout the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

They have 2 taprooms, in Hood River and Portland Oregon.

Price:  n/a (likely ~ $6.99 / bottle)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  their rep contacted me

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells tart and of honey.

Tasting Notes:  Fully dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, sharp apple, lemon, floral, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate sessionability and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked the flavor profile, but it was a bit too dry for my personal preferences.  My husband was a fan though.

Most Similar to:  many other dry ciders from heirloom apples

Closing Notes:  Its unique to see a brewery making multiple ciders from heirloom apples, as most breweries who attempt it seem to make only 1 cider, from common dessert apples.  I’d like to see them make some slightly sweeter (semi-dry) ones though, as I find a bit of sweetness brings out more flavor.

Have you tried Double Mountain Arkansas Black?  What did you think?

Kupela Basque Cider

Review of Kupela’s Basque Cider, from France.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Beauchamp Imports / French Cider Inc.  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.<<

Cider:  Basque Cider
Cidery:  Kupela
Cidery Location:  Anglet, France
ABV:  4.0%
How Supplied:  330ml bottles
Style:  French (Basque region), Demi-Sec (medium dry)

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Availability:  In Washington, through Beauchamp Imports, plus online at their French Cider Inc. website (at the time of this review, they are able to ship to WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, NM, AK, ND, NH, & DC).

Cider Description:  From the Basque region, this distinctive cider is tasty, tangy, smooth yet expressive. Cellar master, Agustin Etxeberria has created this modernized version of traditional Basque cider – making it light, but dry and slightly tangy, with subtle effervescence.  The fleeting hint of sweetness, is balanced immediately by the acidic cider apple flavors. 100% natural and 100% refreshing. Fermented in the bottle, try this is a real alternative to beer.

Cidery Description:  Located in the Basque region of northern Spain, Kupela cider is produced using traditional Basque methods. Kupela pays tribute to the Basque sailors who embarked on lengthy sea voyages with cider in barrels (“Kupela” in Basque), rich in vitamin C to fight scurvy.  Its acidity, its lightness and its fruitiness match perfectly with the gastronomy acclaimed by modern Epicureans. 

Price:  n/a (retails for $5.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of green apple & pomace, pineapple, lemon, honey, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate to high complexity.  Moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  Not at all what I was expecting from a French or Basque cider, but in a good way.  I’m not typically a fan of Spanish Basque cider due to the sourness, but it was absent.  This may be the first French Basque cider I’ve tried though.  It would be a fun cider to bring to a party, as its qualities remain crowd-friendly (not sour, bitter, or funky, and mid-level sweetness), plus it has some nice complexity.

Most Similar to:  not any French or Basque Spanish cider I’ve tried, but an Italian cider, Bertilinos, except even more complex

Closing Notes:  Although ‘Basque’ cider is more commonly associated with Spain, the Basque region spans both Spain (Northern) and France (Southwestern).

Have you tried Basque French cider?  What did you think?

Herout Micro-Cuvée No. 1 Cidre

Review of Maison Herout Micro-Cuvée No. 1 Sparkling Cidre aged in Calvados barrels.  I previously tried a similar Calvados barrel aged cider from Herout, Coup de Foudre Cidre Biologique, plus I’ve had their Brut, Extra-Brut, D-Day Commemorative Brut, and Pommeau.

Calvados = French apple brandy
Cuvée = a French wine term for vat/tank

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Beauchamp Imports / French Cider Inc.  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.<<

Cider:  Micro-Cuvee No. 1 Sparkling Cidre aged in Calvados barrels
Cidery:  Maison Herout AOC
Cidery Location:  Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  French cidre, from cider apples, Calvados barrel aged

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Availability:  In Washington, through Beauchamp Imports, plus online at their French Cider Inc. website (at the time of this review, they are able to ship to WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, NM, AK, ND, NH, & DC).  They also offer a number of other selections from Herout, plus ciders and Pommeaux from many other makers.

Cider Description:  Dense and complex, the Micro-Cuvée No. 1 Cidre is fermented for at least three months in an oak barrel that was previously used to age AOC Calvados. This gentle barrel fermentation gives this cider a very fine, fruity taste that is amplified by slightly tannic Calvados flavors on the finish.  Higher alcohol content due to aging in Calvados barrels.

Cidery Description:  Since the 1940s, Hérout cidre has been produced by the Hérout family on the Cotentin Peninsula on the Northwest coast of Normandy France, in Auvers, where apples thrive in its lush and oceanic climate.  They are the newest cidre AOC in France, since May 2016.  The cidermaker Marie-Agnes Herout was awarded the highest civilian honor in France for her 16 years of work getting the AOC recognized – Le Croix de Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur (Knights Cross for the Legion of Honneur).  See here for more information on the cider and here for more information on the cidery.

Price:  n/a (retails for $29)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Light gold hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of musty rich apple.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness.  Notes of rich apple, must, orange, honey, leather, and earth/cork.  Long tannic slightly bitter finish.  High apple flavor, complexity, and sessionability.  Moderate overall flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I really enjoyed it, especially the flavor profile and complexity.

Most Similar to:  Herout Coup de Foudre Cidre Biologique except more complexity and less bitterness

Closing Notes:  French Cider Inc has an awesome cider selection!

Have you tried French cider?  What did you think?

Herout Maison D-Day Commemorative Brut

Review of Herout 2017 Maison D-Day Commemorative Brut Cidre 75th Anniversary Limited Edition, a dry sparkling French cidre.  It is my first time trying this, but I have previously had their BrutExtra Brut, Coup de Foudre Cidre Biologique, and Pommeau.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Beauchamp Imports / French Cider Inc.  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.<<

Cider:  Maison D-Day Commemorative Brut Cidre, 75th Anniversary Limited Edition, 2017
Cidery:  Herout AOC
Cidery Location:  Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottle
Style:  French cidre, from cider apples, sparkling, brut (dry)

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Availability:  In Washington, through Beauchamp Imports, plus online at their French Cider Inc. website (at the time of this review, they are able to ship to WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, NM, AK, ND, NH, & DC).  They also offer a number of other selections from Herout, plus ciders and Pommeaux from many other makers.

Cider Description:  This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy.  Located only 13 miles from Utah Beach, Maison Hérout is uniquely positioned to pay its respects to the Americans who fought so bravely to help liberate Europe. Limited availability and only available on the website.  Authentic and full-bodied. The 75th Anniversary D-Day Commemorative Brut Cidre is distinguished by its golden color with orange undertones – and its very fine bubbles. On the mouth, the subtle acidity on the first taste is quickly balanced out by a refreshing finish. Subtle aromas of butter and dried herbs.

Cidery Description:  Since the 1940s, Hérout cidre has been produced by the Hérout family on the Cotentin Peninsula on the Northwest coast of Normandy France, in Auvers, where apples thrive in its lush and oceanic climate.  They are the newest cidre AOC in France, since May 2016.  The cidermaker Marie-Agnes Herout was awarded the highest civilian honor in France for her 16 years of work getting the AOC recognized – Le Croix de Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur (Knights Cross for the Legion of Honneur).  See here for more information on the cider and here for more information on the cidery.

Price:  n/a (retails for $25)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Hazy light pumpkin hue.  Moderate carbonation.  Smells of musty funky apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and funk.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness.  Notes of rich bittersweet apple juice and pomace, butterscotch, must/earth, and lemon.  Moderate tannic finish length.  Moderate apple flavor, complexity, and flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I enjoyed this funky find – it reminded me some of English cider, except sparkling.

Most Similar to:  this was funkier than any other typical French cider I can remember trying (it nearly rivaled the Bordelet mini-keg I tried that I think was an off batch), which I personally loved, but the sweetness, carbonation level, flavor profile, etc, are all characteristically French (see a list of my French cider reviews here)

Closing Notes:  This is my favorite of the three Herout ciders I’ve tried, although I think I liked their Pommeau even better (I’ll have to double check when I open the bottle of Pommeau I have at home).

Have you tried Herout cidre?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Sangria

Review of Woodchuck’s Sangria cider.  It is my first time trying this, although I have had most of their line-up (see here).

>>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Woodchuck.  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.<<

Cider:  Sangria
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  12oz cans
Style:  American commercial cider from dessert apples, with natural fruit flavors and grape skin extract for color

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Availability:  semi wide release by July 2019

Cider Description:  A semi-sweet cider with notes of red wine, citrus and berry to give a full-bodied taste inspired by Sangria.

Cidery Description:  Vermont Cider Company is a leading hard cider maker in the United States, with a state of the art cidery located in Middlebury, Vermont. Vermont Cider Company crafts a variety of ciders fora variety of consumers. There’s ultra-craft Vermont Cider Co., iconic Woodchuck, fruit-forward Wyder’s as well as the classic Magners Irish Cider and Blackthorn, rounding out our import offerings. Vermont Cider Company reinvigorated American hard cider in 1991, with the launch of Woodchuck, and stays focused on the category today through our commitment to crafting innovative and refreshing hard ciders. 

Price:  n/a (runs ~ $9.99 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Deep red hue.  No carbonation.  Smells of red grape.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of red grape and green apple, with hints of lemon, pineapple, and red wine.  Moderate length finish.  Very high sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  Low apple flavor.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  Super easy to drink and fruity, although rather grapey.

Most Similar to:  Portland Cider Sangria plus Portland Cider Concord Grape

Closing Notes:  This would be a great cider to bring to a bbq or similar summer event.

Have you tried Woodchuck Sangria?  What did you think?