2 Towns Return of the Mack

Review of 2 Towns Return of the Mack, a limited release unfiltered oak aged cider made with McIntosh apples.  I previously tried an earlier release of this on draft (see here).  I’ve also tried many other ciders from 2 Towns (see here).

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by 2 Towns.  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:  Return of the Mack
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis Oregon
ABV:  8.4%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft unfiltered cider with McIntosh apples, aged 12 months in oak foeders

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Availability:  Limited release, but 2 Towns ciders are generally available in AK, CA, HI, ID, OR, WA, and Minneapolis MN & Chicago IL.

Cider Description:  Rich and complex, Return of the Mack is a specialty cider aged for 12 months in 1800 liter oak foeders and finished with McIntosh apples.  So good.  Yes, I cried, yes, I cried.

From Dave Takush, head cider maker for 2 Towns Ciderhouse:  Return of the Mack is super rich, exceptionally juicy and has a big oak tannin backbone.  It makes a great pairing with dark and stormy nights, and 90s slow jams.

Cidery Description:  At 2 Towns Ciderhouse we believe that the long history of cidermaking demands respect and deserves to be done right. Starting with the highest quality whole ingredients from local farms, we take no shortcuts in crafting our ciders. We never add any sugar, concentrates or artificial flavors, and instead use slow, cold fermentation methods to allow the fruit to speak for itself. As a family-owned company, we are committed to the growth of our team and enrichment of our communities. We take pride in producing true Northwest craft cider.

Price:  n/a (retails for $7.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  It showed up at my door (I’m spoiled!).

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First Impression:  Hazy dark pumpkin straw yellow.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells like tart unfiltered apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Smooth with a well-hidden ABV.  Notes of unfiltered apple juice, lemon, orange, honey, and a hint of floral.  Quick to moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  Low oak influence (I expect it smoothed the flavor out more than adding any significant overt oak flavor).

My Opinion:  I enjoyed Return of the Mack, but it is more of a basic easy drinking cider which I would expect to find in a multi pack, vs. a single bottle specialty release.

Most Similar to:  I’d call this a sweeter, more boozy, and slightly more complex version of 2 Towns Out Cider.

Closing Notes:  2 Towns makes some great stuff.  My favorites are Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012, Bad Apple, Hop & Stalk, Traditions Cidre Bouche 2015, and Pommeau 2015.

Have you tried 2 Towns Return of the Mack?  What did you think?

Sonoma Cider The Wimble (Rhubarb Gose)

Review of Sonoma Cider’s The Wimble, a gose-style cider with rhubarb.  Gose is a German style of beer characterized by its use of salt.  Its my first time trying The Wimble, but I’ve had Sonoma Cider’s Hatchet, Pitchfork, Washboard, Anvil, Crowbar, Pulley, Dry Zider, and Dry Fuji.

Cider:  The Wimble (Rhubarb Gose)
Cidery:  Sonoma Cider
Cidery Location:  Healdsburg CA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans
Style:  American Organic gose-style cider with rhubarb

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Availability:  semi wide release, but it is a limited run

Cider Description:  The Wimble is our cidery take on “gose” an ancient German beer style.  Tart, briny, and eager to please.

Cidery Description:  Our story officially began in 2013 through a unique father and son partnership. Sharing an entrepreneur’s curiosity and deep passion for beverages, David and Robert Cordtz set out to reinvent the cider category. David, a celebrated cidermaster and winemaker, has had a nearly lifelong passion for beverages made from naturally grown and harvested ingredients. He has been lauded for his highly refined palate and ability to create unique and high quality flavor profiles. His son, Robert, has been learning the business of beverages from his veteran father for as long as he can remember. In creating Sonoma Cider alongside his father, Robert brings a fresh perspective, a knack for creating things, and is fond of questioning the status quo. As VP Operations and Cidermaker, Robert’s creative streak keeps his dad on his toes as he is constantly infusing new approaches and ideas to the business. Together they make Sonoma Cider anything, anything but run of the mill.

Price:  ~$2 / single can
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin orange-pink amber.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mild, salty and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Fully dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of salt, rhubarb, and citrus.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Very low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t a huge fan, but I liked it more than I expected.  The brine flavor wasn’t overwhelming, and it had a mild fruitiness.

Most Similar to:  Other gose-style ciders, such as from Seattle Cider, Gose and Plum Gose.

Closing Notes:   If you want a truly dry cider which is unique but doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor, you may like this one.  My favorite Sonoma Cider however remains The Anvil, their Bourbon-flavored cider.

Have you tried Sonoma Cider’s The Wimble?  What did you think?

Tilted Shed Lost Orchard

Review of Tilted Shed’s Lost Orchard.  It is my first time trying this cider, and my first time trying any of Tilted Shed’s cider.  See here for a writeup on their cidery.  I ordered three bottles to be shipped, as their ciders aren’t yet available in Washington.

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Cider:  Lost Orchard, 2014 vintage
Cidery:  Tilted Shed
Cidery Location:  Sebastopol  CA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from Organic cider apple varieties

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Availability:  40 cases released November 2016.  Tilted Shed ciders are sold primarily in California, but also in New York, New Jersey, and Portland Oregon (see here).

Cider Description:  Blend of very rare, feral English, French, and Old American traditional cider apples gleaned from lost cider orchards in Sonoma County. Varieties include Nehou, Muscat de Bernay, Porter’s Perfection, Yarlington Mill, Foxwhelp, Tremlett’s Bitter, and Roxbury Russet. Organically grown, from the 2013 harvest. Fermented to dryness in small batches by variety, then blended, aged, and bottle conditioned using organic cane sugar as dosage. Unfiltered, unpasteurized, minimal sulfites. A bone-dry, earthy, dense, savory, contemplative cider more reminiscent of orchard floor than of apples. Hazy, golden hue. Leesy, earthy aroma. Pours with a fine, lingering mousse that heightens the astringency. Notes of leather, cedar, lemon thyme, damp earth, cooked apple. Elegant tannic structure. Chill well prior to opening. Contains sediment. Pour carefully off the lees. Serve at 55° to 60°F in a white wine glass. Pair with well-aged cheese, pork, Dungeness crab, lamb, roasts, hearty seasonal fare.

Cidery Description:  We started Tilted Shed Ciderworks in 2011 out of an obsessive love for apples and cider. All of our apples are organically grown within 35 miles of our cidery, primarily in west Sonoma County. At our Sebastopol farm, we have planted 100 varieties of traditional cider apples and perry pears—a pomological research station on the edge of the Pacific. As cider evangelists, we are devoted to making ciders of individuality, integrity, artistry, and elegance. It’s thrilling to explore our unique terroir and the transformative powers of fermentation, and experience how our ciders shapeshift over time. We hope you’ll find our ciders to be a beautiful revelation of what the apple can do.

Price:  $20
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had read so many good things about their ciders online, and was glad to hear they can ship to Washington.

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin amber hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells of rich earthy cider apples, funk, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Moderate funk.  Hints of sourness.  Low to moderate tannins.  Notes of baked apples, earth, honey, grapefruit, orange, hay, yeast, and leather.  Long funky slightly sour finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  High complexity.  Low to moderate sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  However, this funky earthy complex cider won’t be for everyone.  My husband for example wasn’t a fan as he doesn’t like funk (but he likes sourness and I don’t).

Most Similar to:  Lost Orchard tends towards a farmhouse style or a wild fermented cider, although it is more funky than sour.  Very few ciders are made entirely from cider apple varieties, but the most similar I’ve tried is probably something from Farnum Hill, or Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented or Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank.

Closing Notes:  This is an incredible value for a cider made entirely from cider apple varieties which has been bottle conditioned for so long.  Stay tuned for reviews of their Barred Rock and Smoked ciders.

Have you tried Tilted Shed Lost Orchard?  What did you think?

2 Towns Traditions Riverwood New World Brut – 2015 Vintage

Review of 2 Towns Traditions Riverwood New World Brut, 2015 vintage, a champagne-style cider.  This is one of two ciders which were released to start off their new Traditions line.  Their Traditions line will replace their separate Traditions brand and focus on barrel aged vintage cider from heirloom apples.  The other is Cidre Bouche.  Two others will soon be released, Afton Field and La Mûre.  This is the third vintage of Riverwood.  I’ve tried the two previous vintages, Traditions brand 2013 vintage and 2 Towns brand 2014 vintage.  I’ve also tried many other ciders from 2 Towns (see here).

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by 2 Towns.  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:  Traditions Riverwood New World Brut, 2015 Vintage
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis Oregon
ABV:  6.3%
How Supplied:  375ml bottles
Style:  American craft champagne-style cider from heirloom apples, barrel aged

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Availability:  Limited (only 240 cases of 12 bottles), although 2 Towns ciders are generally available in AK, CA, HI, ID, OR, WA, and Minneapolis MN & Chicago IL.

Cider Description:  Willamette Valley grown Jonagold apples.  Oregon grown bittersharp cider apples.  Finished in chardonnay barrels.  Inspired by sparkling brut champagnes of the past, Riverwood is a contemporary take on a classic. Slow fermentation at cold temperatures allows the intense passionfruit-like aroma of freshly picked and pressed Jonagold and Porter’s Perfection apples to flourish. Dry, bright, and floral, this New World cider brings the brut style out of the past and into the present. Pairs well with lobster mushroom risotto, butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter, asparagus with lemon aioli and Moroccan chicken with dates and braised greens.

Cidery Description:  At 2 Towns Ciderhouse we believe that the long history of cidermaking demands respect and deserves to be done right. Starting with the highest quality whole ingredients from local farms, we take no shortcuts in crafting our ciders. We never add any sugar, concentrates or artificial flavors, and instead use slow, cold fermentation methods to allow the fruit to speak for itself. As a family-owned company, we are committed to the growth of our team and enrichment of our communities. We take pride in producing true Northwest craft cider.

Price:  n/a
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Moderate carbonation.  Smells mildly floral and of high acidity.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Subtle notes of floral, lemon, grapefruit, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  Low oak influence.

My Opinion:  This was well made, but not really a style I enjoy, with its subtle wine-like flavor and high acidity.  However, its very food-friendly and a great champagne alternative.

Most Similar to:  Cockrell Jonastar, Alpenfire Dungeness, and Seattle Cider Washington Heirloom.

Closing Notes:  I liked last year’s vintage better, as it seemed more apple forward, more intensely flavored, sweeter, and less acidic.

Have you tried 2 Towns Traditions Riverwood?  What did you think?

2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche – 2015 Vintage

Review of 2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche, a French-style keeved cider.  This is one of two ciders which they released to start off their new Traditions line.  Their Traditions line will replace their separate Traditions brand and focus on barrel aged vintage cider from heirloom apples.  The other is Riverwood, which I’ll be reviewing next.  Two others will soon be released, Afton Field and La Mûre.  Its my first time trying this cider, although I’ve tried many other ciders from 2 Towns (see here).

Keeving is a special labor intensive process of fermenting the cider slowly, starving it of natural nutrients.  It results in an apple-forward, naturally sweet, lower ABV, and higher carbonation cider.  This is typical for French cidre, but is very rare in the U.S.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by 2 Towns.  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:  Traditions Cidre Bouche
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis Oregon
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  375ml bottles
Style:  American craft French keeved style cider from heirloom apples, oak aged

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Availability:  Limited (only 240 cases of 12 bottles), although 2 Towns ciders are generally available in AK, CA, HI, ID, OR, WA, and Minneapolis MN & Chicago IL.

Cider Description:  Oregon grown bittersweet heirloom apples.  Old world keeving method.  Aged in French oak casks….Inspired by the bittersweet ciders of France, Cidre Bouché is made with an Old World process called keeving. We start with 100% traditional cider apple varieties like Kingston Black, Michelin, Reine des Pommes, Dabinett and Muscat de Lense, and then let the fruit ‘sweat’ and intensify in aroma. Next, 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. Pairs well with classic French fare— think savory crepes, pork terrine, camembert and blue cheese.

Cidery Description:  At 2 Towns Ciderhouse we believe that the long history of cidermaking demands respect and deserves to be done right. Starting with the highest quality whole ingredients from local farms, we take no shortcuts in crafting our ciders. We never add any sugar, concentrates or artificial flavors, and instead use slow, cold fermentation methods to allow the fruit to speak for itself. As a family-owned company, we are committed to the growth of our team and enrichment of our communities. We take pride in producing true Northwest craft cider.

Price:  n/a
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Hazy medium orange amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells slightly funky and apple forward.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acid.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of sourness and bitterness.  Notes of unfiltered apple juice, apple pomace, honey, orange, grapefruit, and butterscotch.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it, and thought it paired well with Thanksgiving dinner.  It got a bit funkier as it warmed up, so I preferred it cold.  I’m a fan of these sorts of bold and rich ciders, and of (not too funky or sour) French cidre.

Most Similar to:  French cidre.  It definitely seemed true to the style, in between Normandy and Brittany French cidre as it was a bit funky (as Normandy cidre can tend to be), but not overly so.  However, it was a bit higher acidity and more fruity though (although the grapefruit I picked up might have been more from the high acidity than anything else), which was a nice twist.

Closing Notes:   I look forward to trying the other ciders in their new Traditions line.  I think they made a great choice to release them in smaller 375ml bottles, as it will reduce the price point and increase the number of bottles available.  I also think the switch to keep these under their 2 Towns brand but in a separate category was a smart move.

Have you tried 2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche?  What did you think?

Whitewood South Sounder

Review of Whitewood’s South Sounder.  Its my first time trying it, but I’ve previously had their Summer SwitchelKingston Black Whisky Barrel Aged, Red CapGravenstein Old Fangled Series 2012 HarvestGravenstein Old Fangled Series Barrel Aged, Northland, Winesap, Gibb’s Farm, and Newtown Pippin.

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Cider:  South Sounder
Cidery:  Whitewood
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from community sourced apples, with quince added (an astringent & sour fruit that looks similar to a pear)

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Availability:  Per this list, only in Washington, including Olympia, Seattle, Federal Way, Tacoma, and Eastern Washington.

Cider Description:  Semi-dry cider.  Community sourced apples & quince.  Limited release.  Made exclusively from 2015 harvest apples and quince provided by friends and farms of South Puget Sound.

Cidery Description:  Whitewood Cider is the South Puget Sound’s first craft cidery. Officially we are a nano cider and can be hard to locate. Fear not as you’ll be able to find us at the finest bottles shops as well pubs and and restaurants that are the most dedicated to locally made craft cider.

Too often the word traditional is haphazardly thrown around when it comes to making cider. At Whitewood Cider Company we make hard cider seasonally, as traditional as it gets, just as cider has always been made.

  • We pick and press apples in the Autumn as they are ripe and properly sweated out to produce the thickest richest juices possible.
  • Our ciders ferment slow all throughout the Winter at the cold ambient temperatures of South Puget Sound
  • We rack and blend our ciders in the late Winter and early Spring.
  • Curing the late Spring after the ciders have had ample time torest and mature, we rack our cider once more and begin bottling and kegging. 

When it comes to apple selection and cidermaking we have a “no compromise” approach. We believe cidermaking is an art and that the best fruit and the best practices yield the best cider possible.

Whitewood Cider is owned and operated by Dave White (of Old Time Cider) and Heather Ringwood.  Visits to their Olympia Washington cidery are by appointment only.

Price:  $16.25
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Its one of the few (only?) ciders I hadn’t tried from Whitewood, so I was game to give it a go.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Nearly still.  Smells of pineapple, mango, and green apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of green apple skin, lemon, pineapple, mango, quince, grapefruit, and hints of floral & herbal.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  This would especially be a nice summer cider.  Its very tart and fruity and finishes with a bite.

Most Similar to:  Ciders with high tartness & acidity and tropical notes.  Eaglemount Quince, which I think I prefer, as it isn’t as tart.  Besides that the only other cider with quince that I’ve tried is Honey Moon CiderHead Quince, which had less complexity than both the Whitewood and Eaglemount ciders.

Closing Notes:   My favorite Whitewood cider remains the Kingston Black Whisky Barrel Aged, as I prefer richer flavor.  I also really liked Northland and Gibb’s Farm.  I’ll have to see if I can find any more to try from Whitewood!

Have you tried Whitewood South Sounder?  What did you think?

Cidrerie du Vulcain Transparente

Review of Cidrerie du Vulcain’s Transparente, from Switzerland.  Its my first time trying their cider.

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Cider:  Transparente (2014)
Cidery:  Cidrerie du Vulcain
Cidery Location:  Le Mouret, Switzerland
ABV:  7.1%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  Swiss semi-dry sparkling cider from native heirloom apples, wild yeast fermented, made using traditional methods

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Availability:  unknown

Cider Description:  Tart apples, peeled and sliced, just starting to brown, waiting to be arranged in a pie crust. With air: cinnamon —the pie is baking. The iron that you’d expect on Cidre de Fer. Floral. Slight animal. Near dry rather than off-dry. Heirloom fruit flavors. The acidity is savory like that of a bright rosé. Salt. A perfectly balanced trinity of salt, acidity, and delicate fruit, delivered with such lightness of texture —that Alpine feeling: not diluted but elusive and aerial, and incredibly refreshing.

Apple Varieties:  Transparente de Croncels, Reinette de Champagne, Pomme Raisin, and Rose de Berne

Cidery Description:  The cidery was started in 2006 by Jacques Perritaz; here is a great writeup.

Price:  $19
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Its the first time I’ve seen cider from this cidery or Switzerland.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Smells funky, yeast-forward and apple-forward.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Moderate carbonation, medium bodied, with a smooth frothy texture.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild funk.  Hints of sourness, bitterness, and tannins.  Notes of apple pomace, yeast, honey, green apple, and grapefruit.  Moderate length finish.  High apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I was a bit put off by the funky scent, but it wasn’t as apparent in the flavor as it was in the scent.  Great apple-forward flavor without tasting like alcoholic apple juice.

Most Similar to:  A combination of typical ciders from Normandy and Brittany France.

Closing Notes:   Fun fact – the cidery’s name is from the local Vulcan butterfly that feeds on the juice of fallen apples.  Too bad I haven’t seen any of their other ciders locally.  This was the first time I saw this one, so hopefully more will make it here soon.

Have you tried any ciders from Cidrerie du Vulcain?  What did you think?