Dragon’s Head Summer Cider

Review of Dragon’s Head Summer Cider.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their Traditional CiderWild FermentedKingston BlackColumbia CrabMethode Champenoise PerryPerry, and Manchurian.

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Cider:  Summer Cider
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon WA
ABV:  7.3%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft heritage cider from cider apples

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Availability:  probably only in Western Washington

Cider Description:  not given

Cidery Description: At Dragon’s Head Cider, we believe in producing high quality hard ciders with a traditional approach, which means you will never find us using apple juice concentrate, over sweetening our ciders, or adding other flavors to our ciders. We love the story that apples and pears can tell all by themselves. And so we keep it simple. Press high quality apples and pears, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle.  We believe one of the keys to creating great cider is to have control over the entire process. For this reason, we do the pressing, fermentation, blending and bottling all right here on the farm.

Wes and Laura Cherry moved to Vashon Island in 2010 with the dream of planting an orchard and starting a cidery. Dragon’s Head Farm, named for the dragon who guards the apples of immortality in the Garden of Hesperides, is now home to over 2,200 cider fruit trees as well as our production facility.

They have a tasting room on Vashon Island open Saturdays and Sundays.

Price:  ~ $18 ?
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells dry, acidic, and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Hints of sourness and bitterness.  No funk.  Notes of sharp apple, honey, pineapple, and floral.  Long tannic finish.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and apple flavor.  Moderate complexity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  It had a non-descript fruitiness that was nice, and it wasn’t too acidic.  However, its not a favorite of mine.

Most Similar to:  nothing specifically, although in general it is pretty typical of a complex heritage cider

Closing Notes:  My favorite from Dragon’s Head is their Traditional, plus their Perry and Kingston Black.

Have you tried Dragon’s Head cider?  What did you think?


Nomad Cider The Original

Review of Nomad Cider’s The Original.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

Cider:  The Original
Cidery:  Nomad Cider
Cidery Location:  Summerland, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  473ml cans
Style:  Canadian craft cider from dessert & heritage apples

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Availability:  probably only in B.C. Canada (see here)

Cider Description:  Crafted with care using local, fresh-pressed heritage cider and dessert apples. An honest Okanagan-Similkameen expression with it’s crisp and refreshing fruit forward apple aroma and palate. Primarily fermented with natural wild yeast.

Cidery Description:  We are nomads, endlessly exploring food, drink and culture. Our thirst for knowledge and new experiences continually inspire us to create great tasting regional centric ciders.  We are a farm-to-glass Summerland, BC craft cidery passionate about making cider the way it was traditionally crafted; by hand with only fresh pressed apples and pears.  We are devoted to producing exceptional cider made only from local apples and pears grown by us and our dedicated farming partners in the Okanagan-Similkameen region of BC.  Our focus is to be nomadic in global cider culture by stylistically representing cider regions from around the world.

Price:  ~ $3-4 canadian / 1 can?
Where Bought:  some bottle shop in downtown Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  We were on a cruise port stop and visited a number of bottle shops while walking around downtown.

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First Impression:  Low carbonation.  Light straw yellow.  Smells of sharp dry apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apple, lemon, and a hint of pineapple, with a bit of a chemical-like taste mid-sip.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  meh.  This was plenty drinkable, but I didn’t really enjoy it.  The non-specific chemical-like taste was off-putting.  Maybe its from the wild fermentation?  It didn’t have that funky and sour sort of flavor I’d expect though.  In contrast it was very undrinkable for my husband.

Most Similar to:  Dominion Magic Hour

Closing Notes:  There is also an unrelated Nomad Cidery in Michigan in the U.S.

Have you tried British Columbia Canadian cider?  What did you think?

Kite & String Baldwin Cider

Review of Finger Lakes Cider House’s Kite & String (formerly Good Life Cider) Baldwin.  This is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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Cider:  Baldwin
Cidery:  Kite & String
Cidery Location:  Interlaken, New York
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft heritage cider from Baldwin & Wickson crabapples, semi-dry, traditional method (methode champenoise)

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Availability:  likely only in the Northeast, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Made from Baldwin apples, with a modest addition of Wickson Crab, this blend highlights the bright tropical notes and intense acidity of these varieties. The high alcohol and robust flavor come from the cryoextraction process (similar to Ice Cider) used to concentrate this juice to 20 brix prior to fermentation. It is then fermented slowly to retain maximum esters and polyphenols, and aged for only a short time to best showcase its fresh and bright, fruit-forward nature.

Semi Dry, Traditional Method.  Pineapple, lime, and Riesling on the nose. Bursting with bright, tropical fruitiness and slight perceptive sweetness on the front palate, moving to thirst quenching mid palate and bracing acidity with a dry, weighty finish.

Cidery Description:  ‘Kite’ means light, playful, balanced, fun. ‘String’ means grounded to a place, our small farm.  Kite & String Ciders are produced at Finger Lakes Cider House on our organic and diversified farm in Interlaken, New York. Please come and visit us in the tasting room any time of the year.

Price:  $18
Where Bought:  online
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard they were doing free shipping for the holidays, and I’ve always read good things about their ciders, so it was an easy choice to place an order.  Plus, they have a nice wide selection for all tastes (although it looks like they sold out of this variety since I purchased it).  I also picked up their Honeoye and Royal Cider.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Moderate to high carbonation.  Smells of sharp apples and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness and acidity.  Low tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apple, lemon, grapefruit, mineral, and hints of floral.  Long tart warming finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and sessionability.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t super into this cider.  I thought the acidity, carbonation, and ABV overpowered the fruitiness, and it was mouth-puckering tart for my tastes.  Actually it tasted more like champagne than cider.  However, my husband loved it.  If you are into drier, super tart, highly carbonated champagne-alternative ciders, I’d recommend it.  I tried this at multiple temperatures and seemed to like it closer to room temperature to tone down the tartness some.

Most Similar to:  Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut cider

Closing Notes:  Despite being too tart for my liking, this was a great New Year’s Eve selection, as it is bubbly, and with a higher ABV, one bottle lasted all night.  I bet any leftovers would make good mimosas too, although we didn’t have any left…

Have you tried Kite & String cider?  What did you think?

Red Branch Hard Black Cherry

Review of Red Branch Hard Black Cherry cider.  It is my first time trying this, although I have had their Peach cider.

Cider:  Hard Black Cherry
Cidery:  Red Branch
Cidery Location:  Sunnyvale CA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with honey, sugar, and cherry

Photo Dec 28, 6 24 00 PM Photo Dec 28, 6 23 35 PM Photo Dec 28, 6 23 51 PM

Availability:  likely only in Northern California, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Our most popular cider, our Black Cherry is the perfect balance between sweet and tart and delicious. When we made the first batch we didn’t know what to think – now we can’t make enough of the stuff. Be a hero, bring this to the next party you attend. Trust us!

Cidery Description:  We believe that producing a quality hard cider of any variety is 90% art and 10% science. Toss in a bit of sweat and heartburn for good measure and you’ll have a typical small cidery. Crafting cider is a lot like crafting many other beverages, and our love of quality ingredients drives us to produce more than just an average cider, but what we believe, is the finest cider possible. Our passion is to create something special from one of the most natural substances on earth, and share it with everyone.

Quality and consistency are the most important aspects of our products, if they aren’t good enough for us to drink or offer to our own friends and family, then we won’t sell it to you!  Red Branch Cider Company offers both traditional and seasonal ciders with an innovative honey twist.

They were established in 1995 and have a tap room in Sunnyvale CA.

Price:  ~ $7-8 / bottle
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  at my in-laws
How Found:  I got this as a Christmas gift

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First Impression:  Smells of fake cherry flavor.  Medium cherry red hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of fake cherry flavor with a hint of cranberry.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I didn’t like this, and neither did any of the other folks I shared it with.  The cherry flavor was too artificial / cough-syrup-like.  It was borderline undrinkable for me.

Most Similar to:  Wards and Strongbow cherry ciders, both of which also had a similar medicinal cherry flavor

Closing Notes:  I’m surprised this is their most popular, as no one I tasted it with enjoyed it.  I think cherry ciders are one of the more difficult flavors to pull off.  However, I didn’t really like Red Branch’s peach cider either, so maybe their cidermaking style just isn’t for me.  That is ok though, as everyone won’t like every cider.

Have you tried Red Branch cider?  What did you think?

Eric Bordelet Nouvelle Vague Sidre 5L Keg

Review of Eric Bordelet’s Nouvelle Vague Sidre, in a unique format, a 5 liter keg.  I previously tried this cider on tap (see here), plus I’ve had his Poire AuthentiqueSidre Tendre, and Sidre Brut Tendre.

Cider:  Nouvelle Vague Sidre
Cidery:  Eric Bordelet
Cidery Location:  Normandy, France
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  5L mini (party) keg
Style:  French sparkling cider from cider apples

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Availability:  likely limited

Cider Description:  Eric Bordelet’s newest creation is going to be a big hit. This fresh, off-dry (but closer to dry) apple cider from his younger trees is fermented in a fresher style than his bottled ciders. Less skin maceration, makes for a more refreshing cider that will be even more versatile. Presented in 5L, re-closeable aluminum “kegs,” just put this in your fridge and the cider will stay fresh and vibrant for up to two weeks after opening. We bet it doesn’t last that long!

Cidery Description:  The Bordelet family’s biodynamic orchards are in southern Normandy. The orchards as well as the cider making is undertaken by former Paris sommelier Eric Bordelet. All tolled, the orchard is 37 acres, seven and a half of which bear apple and pear trees 50 years old. The estate holds 20 varieties of apples and 15 varieties of pear. This is cider you are going to want to make a special effort to seek out.

See here and here for more information.

Price:  ~$90
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  at my in-laws house over xmas break
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells super funky.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins.  Very high funk.  Hints of sourness.  Notes of bittersweet cider apple juice and pomace, orange, and leather.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, complexity, and flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Although I enjoyed the cider and had no problem finishing it, I was disappointed.  It wasn’t nearly as sparkling as I expected (vs. all other French ciders I’ve had, plus photos and videos of this specific kegged cider), and it was super funky.  Very different from when I tried it previously.  For the price, based on what I saw online, and my previous trial, I had high expectations.  I had planned to share it with others for Christmas dinner, but no one liked it as it was so funky.  Thankfully I had a week to finish it myself.  However, I understand that due to the style of cider (wild yeast fermentation), there will be variations batch to batch.  Also, maybe there was some user error with the keg as far as getting it to be sparkling (although we followed the instructions).

Most Similar to:  With it being nearly flat and super funky, this actually reminded me more of English than French cider.

Closing Notes:  I think I’ll stick to bottled Bordelet ciders in the future, as those have all been superb.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?

Lonetree Apple Peach

Review of Lonetree’s Apple Peach cider.  It is my first time trying anything from this Canadian cidery.

Cider:  Apple Peach
Cidery:  Lonetree
Cidery Location:  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  cans
Style:  Canadian cider from heirloom apples, with peaches

Photo Dec 22, 5 22 56 PM Photo Dec 22, 5 23 10 PM

Availability:  likely only in British Columbia, Canada

Cider Description:  Our Peach apple cider recipe is bursting with the taste of fresh & juicy BC peaches. We know you’ll taste the difference.

Cidery Description:  We are a small, BC-owned company, making cider the old-fashioned way. We start with real BC apples from old growth orchards, deep in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.  Our authentic dry ciders are natural and real – from apples that are crushed and fermented, then filtered fresh clear and pure – much like a premium quality wine.  We believe in local, natural, and sustainable farming. Our business concept started when we were introduced to 3rd generation family orchardists in Kelowna. To this day, we work with that same family, but have also expanded to work with BC Tree Fruits Co-Op which is made up of over 500 grower families in BC for our apple supply.  We selected the name “Lonetree” because we think we stand alone in our belief in a 100% BC quality product. And we use the phrase “old growth orchard” because many of the apple trees are nearly 80 years old.  We believe the old ways are still the best. We know you will taste the difference.

Price:  ~ $3-4 CAN / 1 can
Where Bought:  Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  When in port during a cruise.  I was able to buy a number of single cans downtown, mostly 16oz, which is awesome as cans pack the easiest (can fit in a gallon Ziploc baggie).

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First Impression:  Pale peach yellow hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of sweet peach puree.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of sharp heirloom apples and pomace, peach, and hints of citrus & apricot.  Moderate length tannic finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  Great peach flavor with a tannic finish, very unique.  Not overly tart either, which I appreciate.  Most cideries don’t use cider apples when making flavored ciders.  This is a bit of a mix between a heritage and modern cider, and I liked it.

Most Similar to:  I’ve tried over a dozen peach ciders (see here and search for ‘peach’), and Tieton Bourbon Peach is the closest to this, except the finish on that was bourbon instead of tannic apple.

Closing Notes:  I’m bummed this isn’t available locally, as I’d stock up.  Hopefully I can find it when I’m in Vancouver in May.

Random Note:  Lonetree’s ciders were apparently available in the U.S. for a short while under the name Soultree (due to a naming conflict).  However, the distributor went under, so their ciders are no longer available in the U.S.  I actually tried Soultree Dry previously, but I much prefer this peach one.

Have you tried Lonetree Apple Peach?  What did you think?

My Favorite Ciders of 2018

Happy New Year!  Now that it is nearly 2019, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2018.  This is a tradition here at Cider Says; see here for my list from 2017, here for my list from 2016, and here for my list from 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoy, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  The cider world is very regional, so likely only readers in the NW would have a similar selection.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2018.  Some of the categories overlap.  However, I cheated a bit, as I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

barrel aged:  Tieton Bourbon Peach – This has more juicy peach flavor than bourbon, but the two go well together, and there is some nice complexity for being made from dessert apples.

botanical-infused:  Finnriver Lavender Black Currant – This mouth-puckering tart cider is primarily black currant flavored, but also has hints of lavender.

brewery-made:  Central City Limited Edition Imperial Cider – Most ciders I’ve tried that were made by breweries were disappointing, but this one was awesome, complex, imperial-style, and bourbon barrel aged.

canned commercial:  Woodchuck 802 Collection ‘Lil Dry – Many commercial ciders are overly sweet and uninspired, but this was semi-dry, flavorful, and craft tasting.

cyser:  Merridale Cyser – This cyser was imperial style and had some nice flavor and complexity, beyond just tasting like apple and honey.

draft commercial:  Somersby Apple Cider – As much as I enjoy craft cider, sometimes a commercial cider really hits the spot, plus often that is all you can find.  This cider is from Denmark but I tried it in Canada on vacation.  Apple forward and not too sweet.

everyday English cider:  Newton Court Gasping Goose – I’m a huge fan of English cider, and this was a go-to of mine, although unfortunately it is no longer available.  Tannic, rich, flavorful, clean, and sessionable.

fancy English cider:  Oliver’s Gold Rush batch #2 – This cider is crazy rich and complex, and a lovely deep hue too.  A steal at $15/bottle.  Wish I could find more.  I picked some up on vacation, and got lucky when I returned the next year and they still had 1 bottle left, but haven’t seen it locally.

French cidre:  Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tender and Ferme de Beau Soleil Cidre Fermier Bio Brut – I’m also a big French cider fan, and tried a number of great selections this year, but these stood out.

French perry:  Pierre Huet Poire Demi-Sec – This French perry is unique, with its fluffy texture, tartness, great real pear flavor, and a bit less sweet.  I haven’t found any American perries like the French ones I’ve had.

French Pommeau:  Hérout à Auvers Pommeau de Normandie AOC – I tried this awesome Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) at Cider Summit.  I’m looking forward to opening the bottle of it that I bought.

fruity:  Portland Sangria – Very fruity, with unexpected complexity, a fruit salad sort of cider.

ginger-infused:  Kystin Kalysie – I’m not a ginger fan, but I actually enjoyed the hint of ginger in this French perry.

ice cider:  Woodbox Double Barrel – This is a less sweet ice cider, with rich concentrated flavor, and a twist, having been whiskey barrel aged.

large craft cider made with cider apples:  Schilling Excelsior – This was made using bittersweet cider apples in addition to regular varieties, but remains beginner-friendly, staying a bit sweeter and clean and such.  I’m seeing more mainstream ciders being made using cider apples, although often it seems like it must have been a small amount.  The cider apple influence was definitely noticeable in Excelsior though.

New England style:  Alpenfire Tempest – The style is characterized by the use of brown sugar and raisins, and this is a great example.  It even reminded me of English cider.

pineapple cider:  2 Towns Pacific Pineapple – This cider is bursting with real fresh pineapple flavor, yet its less sweet.

Pommeau:  Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance – This U.S.-made Pommeau is super flavorful and complex, and reminiscent of cyser.

rosé:  Manoir du Parc Authentic Rosé and La Chouette Cidre Rosé – Both of these sweet French rosés are made from red-fleshed apples plus pears, and have a lovely fluffy texture.  I’m not sure if I could even tell them apart in a taste comparison, they are so similar.

single varietal:  Liberty Kingston Black – Made from only Kingston Black cider apples.  Tart, rich, and complex, with a hint of sweetness, which I appreciated, as often these sorts of ciders go completely dry.

tannic cider:  Finnriver Fire Barrel version 1 – Super tannic, flavorful, and complex, reminiscent of English cider.  I wasn’t as much of a fan of their more recent version 2 of it though.

tropical:  One Tree Staycation – I loved the complexity of this, which was unexpected for a cider from dessert apples.  I drank way too much of this over the summer!

unexpected:  Fresh Cut Watermelon Cider – Based on the can design and flavor, I was expecting this Canadian cider to be fake and syrupy, but this was superbly done, real tasting and semi-dry.

unique:  Kystin Cuvée XVII – 16 varieties of apples plus chestnuts are used in this unique, complex, tannic, and nutty French cider.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2018.  They have a lot in common – most are mid-level sweetness, rich, complex, and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?