Alpenfire Calypso – Blackberry Rum Barrel Aged Cider

Review of Alpenfire’s Calypso, a cider with blackberries aged in rum barrels.  I’ve tried this before, as well as the draft-only version of this which has double the blackberries and is barrel aged 4 instead of 2 months, Apocalypso (see here), but this is the first bottle I’ve bought.  I’ve also sampled most of their line-up; see here.

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Cider:  Calypso
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from heirloom apples, with local blackberries, aged for 2 months in toasted oak rum barrels

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Availability:  Primarily Western Washington, including these retailers.  They also have an online store through Vino Shipper which ships to states which allow it.

Cider Description:  Calypso, named for the legendary sea goddess and the research vessel of Captain Jacques Cousteau.  This delightful sparkling taste of the Northwest is aged in Bull Run Distilling Rum barrels to bring a hint of the South Seas to the mix.  Heirloom apple is the dominant flavor, the beautiful scent and hint of fresh Greysmarsh Farm blackberries comes second.  Bottle conditioning adds a delightful sparkle and full bodied flavor!  You don’t want to miss this limited production cider.

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Organic Cider is made from our estate and locally grown organic apples. We planted our WSDA certified organic orchard in 2004 with over 800 trees and 10 varieties of English, French & Early American cider specific apples. These apples have been used for hundreds of years for the unique qualities they bring to cider production. Namely the tannins and bitters not found in dessert style apples. While the juice, much less the fruit, of many of these apples would be hard to enjoy by the glass they become amazing with a little fermentation. One of our favorites, the “Muscadet de Dieppe”, has a viscous, winey, yes, even musky juice. It takes months of slow, cool fermentation for that to develop the subtle aroma and flavor you will find in our bone-dry cider. We augment our juice and mellow the flavors with organic apples from other local orchards.

They have an outdoor tasting room onsite at their Orchard in Port Townsend, open seasonally.

Price:  $11.99
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It sounded good that day, but I actually didn’t open it up for a few weeks.

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First Impression:  Deep cranberry hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mildly of blackberries with a hint of oak.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of blackberries, plus some raspberry & blueberry & red grape, and hints of oak.  Moderate length finish with slight warming.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate blackberry flavor.  Low rum and oak influence.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion: Yum!  Quite tasty.  This is my favorite berry cider, which typically isn’t a category I find impressive.

Most Similar to:  Other berry ciders, although I find this to be more sophisticated and complex, even a bit wine-like.  I prefer their Apocalypso with its stronger oak and rum notes, but it is quite seasonable / hard to find, and only on draft.

Closing Notes:   Another winner from Alpenfire!  I like nearly every cider they make, and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.  I think for what you get they are a great value, as they are a step above most other craft ciders, actually an Artisan product, as they grow most of the apples for their ciders themselves, as use primarily heirloom and cider apple varieties (instead of dessert apples).  Check out my post here from when I visited the cidery.

Have you tried Alpenfire Calypso?  What did you think?

Le Brun Organic Cidre

Review of Le Brun Organic Cidre.  I’ve tried this previously on tap (the only cider I’ve tried from Le Brun), but wanted to give a bottle a go.

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Cider:  Organic Cidre
Cidery:  Le Brun
Cidery Location:  Plovan in the Brittany region of France
ABV:  4.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottle
Style:  Brittany French cidre, organic, secondary fermented

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Availability:  semi wide release (imported by Winesellers Ltd., Niles IL)

Cider Description:  This cider presents lightly sweet, fruit and then develops to be more dry as the taste goes on.  Tannins feel fairly high, acidity is moderate and a fairly bitter/sharp to end, with a mild hint of wood in the aftertaste.  This cider has a juicy feel to it, but also has depth and character.

Apple Varieties: Kermerrien, Marie Ménard, Douce Moên, Peau de Chien, Douce Coëtligné

Cidery Description:  Le Brun Cidres have been produced in Brittany, France since 1955.  our cidres are made using the traditional method of natural fermentation of pure pressed juices from handpicked apples

Price:  $10.99
Where Bought:  The Wine Seller in Port Townsend WA, which had a nice cider selection for a small shop, including this one (which I haven’t seen locally lately) and a couple others I hadn’t even seen in Seattle (I picked up one other bottle too)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Amber orange hue.  Moderate carbonation with foam upon pouring.  Smells of rich apples with hints of funk and must.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, funk, and tannins.  No sourness or bitterness.  Notes of bittersweet apples, apple juice, apple pomace, orange, floral, and must.  Moderate length finish.  High apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this.  I’m a fan of Brittany France ciders in general too (but not typically Normandy France ciders, which tend to have sourness).  However, I remember it tasting more clean (no funk) when I tried it on tap, which I prefer.

Most Similar to:  Other ciders from Brittany France, such as Celt and Dan Armor, which I think I slightly prefer, and are both more affordable too ($8 for a four pack of 11.2oz bottles of Celt and $5 for a 750ml bottle of Dan Armor – only sold at Trader Joe’s).

Closing Notes:   This is a nice selection from Le Brun.  I hope I can find their other varieties locally to try (I know at least a couple others get imported).

Have you tried French Cidre?  What did you think?

Magners Original Irish Cider

Review of Magners Original Irish Cider.  Its my first time trying it oddly enough (I had never got around to it).

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Cider:  Original Irish Cider
Cidery:  Magners (C&C Group)
Cidery Location:  County Tipperary in Ireland
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles
Style:  commercial Irish cider

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Availability:  wide release (over 50 countries)

Description:  We love making cider, but we reckon there’s only one way to do it properly. That’s why we’re still taking inspiration from the historic methods we used when we started making cider back in 1935. That’s part of the Magners taste.  So in this way we use 17 varieties of apples, waiting until they drop before pressing and filtering them in the traditional way.  We take time to ferment the cider and even more time to let it mature, up to 2 years in fact, tasting it along the way.  Sure, there are faster ways of making cider, but then it wouldn’t be Magners.

Price:  ~ $1.50 / single bottle
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I realized I had never tried Magners, which is often one of the first ciders people try.

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First Impression:  Fake orange amber hue.  Nearly still.  Smells of apple juice and a fake chemical scent.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  The notes didn’t go too beyond apple, with a touch of caramel.  Quick finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  It was what I was expecting…simple and fake tasting.  It was drier than I was expecting, but that is more typical for European ciders (vs. American commercial ciders).

Most Similar to:  Other commercial ciders, although this had a bit of English cider twist with the hints of bitterness and tannins.

Closing Notes:   Now I can finally say I’ve tried Magners.  I don’t really get why this sells so well, but I guess its easy to drink.

Have you tried Magners?  What did you think?

Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime

Review of Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime, a hard sparkling water.  They make this by fermenting sugar water until dry and adding carbonation and “natural flavor”.  This is part of an expanding alternative beverage market, which also includes hard soda, but unlike hard soda is advertised as being a low calorie option (only 100 calories for 12oz of 5% alcohol).  This isn’t cider, but at times I include reviews of non-cider alternative beverages here (like mead).

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Beverage:  Truly Spiked & Sparkling with a hint of Colima Lime
Producer:  Hard Seltzer Beverage Company, owned by the Boston Beer Company (who makes Angry Orchard)
Location:  Boston MA, Cincinnati OH, and Breinigsville PA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  six pack of clear 12oz bottles
Style:  commercial hard sparkling water

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Availability:  wide release in the U.S. (see their website for a locator)

Description:  Clean, crisp, & refreshing.  Each style with a hint of fruit is lively & effervescent.  Just like sparkling water, with with 5% ALC./VOL.  Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime has a slight tartness with a crisp but subtle sweetness.

Also available in Pomegranate and Grapefruit & Pomelo.

Price:  ~ $2 / single bottle (runs $9.99 or $10.99 / full six pack)
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had seen this (and another brand) in other stores, but was waiting to try it until I found a single bottle.

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First Impression:  Clear.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of seltzer water, slightly sweet, with a hint of lime.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry, especially on the back end.  Moderate carbonation.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  The flavor is purely seltzer water with a hint of lime and a hint of sweetness.  Moderate length finish which was slightly off from regular seltzer water, although I can’t really describe how.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked this, but it was a bit too boring to be something I’d considering buying again.  It could be quite dangerous as it is so easy to drink and doesn’t at all taste alcoholic.

Most Similar to:  Non-alcoholic flavored sparkling water (I literally couldn’t taste any alcohol, and it had only the slightest difference in flavor from a non-alcoholic version).

Closing Notes:   If the most important thing about your alcoholic beverage is that it is low calorie, or you are counting carbs, you may enjoy this.

Have you tried any hard sparkling waters?  What did you think?

Reverend Nat’s ¡Tepache!

Review of Reverend Nat’s ¡Tepache!.  Note this technically isn’t even cider, as it is only made using pineapple juice, no apples.  I tried this awhile back, and I’ve sampled a number of ciders from Reverend Nat’s (see here).

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Cider:  ¡Tepache!
Cidery:  Reverend Nat’s
Cidery Location:  Portland OR
ABV:  3.2%
How Supplied:  22oz brown bottles
Style:  American craft fermented pineapple juice with spices

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Availability:  Summer Seasonal sold in Oregon, Washington, Southern California, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia Canada, Japan, and Singapore

Cider Description:  During a holiday in Veracruz I had a chance meeting with a peddler hawking Traditional Tepache out of a push-cart. A few pesos poorer and I was on Cloud Nine. ‘I unquestionably must have that recipe!’ I shouted. My Spanish is dreadful and his English was no better but over a few minutes of pictographic correspondence, I felt sanguine in my capacity to recreate that sumptuous drink upon my return to Portland.

Composed exclusively of pineapples sourced from my second cousin’s plantation in Costa Rica, piloncillo from the Mexican state of Michoacan and a furtive selection of spices, this lightly alcoholic elixir is sure to please your palate.

Much like American Apple Pie, there is no recipe for Tepache. It is a traditional Mexican drink, frequently consumed out of a plastic baggie with a straw, sold by street vendors in Jalisco and made at home. It’s not a cider – NO APPLES! The fermentation happens on the scales and rind of the pineapples, imparting a deep and unique flavor. This beverage is low-alcohol and sweet like a Summer Shandy or Radler due to a partial fermentation of the pineapples. Available starting Cinco de Mayo.

Cidery Description:  Reverend Nat is a single-minded cider evangelist who searches the world for superior ingredients to handcraft the most unusual ciders that no one else will make.

Price:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It sounded good, and I wanted to try mixing it with cider this time versus drinking it straight, so it ended up being an impulse try.

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First Impression:  Hazy yellow/brown hue (I recommend to lightly shake before pouring to distribute the sediment).  Still.  Smells strongly of pineapple and moderately of spices.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of juicy pineapple, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate pineapple flavor and moderate amount of spice.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Yum!  Great by itself or mixed with cider.  I tried it with Number Six Dry 99 (although that didn’t help boost the 3.2% ABV much as its only 4.2% ABV).  I agree with the suggestion to use more Tepache than cider (or 50-50).  I don’t like beer so I can’t comment on that mixture, although it appears plenty popular.

Most Similar to:  Nothing really.  You can’t really compare it to pineapple cider as it doesn’t use apples.  However, like a number of other beverages, I thought the pineapple came across more in the scent than the flavor.  I only know of one other cidery doing Tepache, Argus Cidery in Texas, although I haven’t tried it as I heard its sour and thats not my thing.

Closing Notes:   If you are looking to try something unique and like pineapple and spices, Tepache may be to your liking.  This definitely isn’t an everyday drinker (like his Revival, which remains my favorite from Rev Nat’s), but its unique.

Have you tried Tepache?  What did you think?

Number Six Dry 99

Review of Number Six Hard Cider Dry 99.  Its my first time trying this cider, although I’ve tried a couple others from them (see here).

Cider:  Dry 99
Cidery:  Number Six Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Seattle WA
ABV:  4.2%
How Supplied:  four pack of 16oz cans
Style:  American craft dry sessionable cider from dessert apples

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Availability:  Western Washington

Cider Description:  None given.  It is marketed as a dry low calorie cider (99 calories per 12oz serving).  Note however that any dry low ABV cider will have a similar calorie count.

Cidery Description:  Whats Number Six?  It’s a tunnel in the mountains. But this is no ordinary tunnel. This mile of rail at 7000 Sierra Nevada feet connected east to west like no other. In 1867, Transcontinental Tunnel Number 6 finally broke through solid granite after 2 years of hand picks, dynamite, willpower and a startling disregard for safety. Number Six was the most deadly and ambitious railway tunnel ever built. What used to take 25 days to cross, now could be done in a matter of hours. People, materials, and cider now flowed freely.

Number 6 Hard Cider is a tribute to hard fought progress and the connections it creates. Come taste our flagship True Cider and crafted seasonal releases at our rail-side cidery and taproom. 100% Washington apples and a relentless toil for perfect taste is what we’re made of. Raise a cold, crisp pint to progress. Onward!

They have a tasting room in Seattle Washington.

Price:  ~ $2.50 / single can
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I hadn’t tried it, and was picking up some Reverend Nat’s Tepache (fermented pineapple juice with spices), and this sounded like it would mix well.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Completely still (no carbonation).  Smells mild, of sharp apples.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low astringency.  Low bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Sharp bite.  Notes of lemon, honey, mineral, and floral.  Moderate length finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I found this to be an average dry sessionable cider.  As expected, it wasn’t overly flavorful.  It did however mix well with Reverend Nat’s Tepache (although it didn’t add much to Tepache’s 3.2% ABV).

Most Similar to:  Original Sin Extra Dry (which I prefer as I found it to be more complex) and Ace Joker (which is carbonated).  It is becoming easier to find drier ciders, even on the more commercial end of the industry.

Closing Notes:   If you are in Washington and a fan of dry sessionable ciders, this may be something you’d enjoy.  Although this is on the conservative end of Number Six’s lineup, they also have some ciders which push the envelope, like their Cold Brew Coffee cider (which I haven’t tried yet, although I have tried Schilling’s take on it, Grumpy Bear, which is now available in Nitro cans).

Have you tried Number 6 Dry 99?  What did you think?

Eden Imperial 11 Rosé

Review of Eden’s Imperial 11 Rosé.  This is their newest cider, an Imperial cider made with red currant, sweetened with a bit of ice cider.  I’ve previously tried a number of their ciders; see here.  I ordered this and a few other bottles through their online store, so stay tuned for more Eden reviews.

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Cider:  Imperial 11 Rosé
Cidery:  Eden Specialty Ciders
Cidery Location:  Newport VT
ABV:  11.o0%
How Supplied:  375ml (and 750ml) bottles
Style:  American craft Imperial (high ABV) rosé (blush colored) cider with red currant, sweetened with ice cider

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Availability:  Their ciders are at least sold in AK, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, IL, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, SC, VT, WA, and British Columbia, although this one has less distribution, and likely didn’t make it too far beyond VT.  Eden also offers online sales when allowed by state.

Cider Description:  Heirloom apple cider made with red currant and lightly dosed with ice cider. It is just off-dry and gently fizzy, with bright acidity and chewy tannic structure. A perfectly refreshing summer sipper!

This semi-dry tannic rose cider is fermented with red currant juice and slightly sweetened.  It is made from a blend of traditional and heirloom apple varieties grown within 200 miles of our cidery.

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.  Their current product line includes at least eight ice ciders, two Aperitif ciders, and dry & semi-dry sparkling ciders.  They also have a cider club where members get access to special release ciders not available to the public.

Price:  $7.00 (for 375ml; or $14 for 750ml)
Where Bought:  Eden’s online store
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had read about its release on Facebook, and had been wanting to do an online order for awhile, as there are a number of varieties not available locally.

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First Impression:  Lovely rosé red hue.  Low carbonation with tiny tiny bubbles.  Smells of strawberries and watermelon.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of red currant, strawberry, watermelon, honeydew melon, and raspberry.  Long slightly boozy finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Yum!  I also think this cider is an excellent value, especially considering the high ABV (the 375ml bottle was plenty for me for the evening due to the 11% ABV) and the high cost of heirloom apples and red currants.

Most Similar to:   I more commonly see black currant used in cider.  The only one with red currant I’ve had is Finriver’s newish Liberry Brandy Wine (see here), although I heard Schilling made a Red Currant Ginger cider recently.  I’ve a huge fan of Imperial cider though.

Its uncommon to have a fruity/flavorful Imperial cider.  I think it would be quite difficult to pull off, as a high ABV cider typically requires high sugar content apple juice fermented completely dry, which often results in a less flavorful cider.  Yet in this case the red currants still shown through, which I think is a sign of experienced cidermaking (and likely a lot of experimentation!).  I think the bit of ice cider back sweetening helped in this case make it less harsh, as a completely dry, tart, and high ABV cider can be a bit much.

Closing Notes:   Another winner from Eden!

Have you tried any rosé ciders?  What did you think?