2 Towns Afton Field

Review of 2 Towns Afton Field, part of their Traditions line.  I previously at least tried this on tap (see here), plus I’ve had most of their cider lineup (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 this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review que, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.>

Cider:  Afton Field, 2017
Cidery:  2 Towns Ciderhouse
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  375ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft heritage farmhouse-style dry cider, barrel aged 1 year, bottle conditioned (soured) with Brettanomyces yeast

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Availability:  limited release, yearly in April [in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago, and parts of Minnesota & Montana (see their cider finder)]

Cider Description:  Inspired by farmhouse ciders of the pioneer West, Afton Field is a testament to the tenacity of these settlers and their enduring orchards. Fresh-pressed, hand-picked Wickson crab, Newtown Pippin and other pioneer apple varieties are fermented, aged in oak barrels, and bottle conditioned with wild Brettanomyces yeast. Bone dry, unfiltered and uncompromising, this farmhouse cider is wild at heart and at home on the rustic table.

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 ~ $10)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Slightly hazy light straw yellow hue.  No carbonation.  Smells of musty sharp apple.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Moderate funk.  Low sourness and tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of sharp crab apple, lemon, must, straw, mineral, and a hint of herbs.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor and sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  This isn’t a style that personally appeals to me.  I’d recommend this for fans of bone dry farmhouse-style (sour, rustic) ciders and/or beers.

Most Similar to:  other bone dry farmhouse-style ciders, such as Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank, Gitche Gumee Ciderworks EntropyNumber 12 Sparkling DryRuncible Cider Light of the MoonAngry Orchard Walden Hollow, and Sietsema Traditional Dry

Closing Notes:  I think moving their ‘Traditions’ line from a separate brand of large ~$20 bottles to smaller ~$10 bottles under the 2 Towns brand (but differentiated by bottle type/size and label format) a couple years ago was a very smart move, as they are an easier sell.

Have you tried 2 Towns Afton Field?  What did you think?

2 Towns Camp Clementine

Review of 2 Towns Camp Clementine.  It is my first time trying this, although I have had most of their line-up (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 this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review que, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.>

Cider:  Camp Clementine
Cidery:  2 Towns Ciderhouse
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with clementines and passionfruit

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Availability:  seasonal (released April 2019), in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago Illinois, and parts of Minnesota & Montana – see their cider finder

Cider Description:  Juicy & Bright, Camp Clementine is an easy drinking summer cider packed with California clementines and yellow Maracuyá passion fruit. Sit back, relax and uncap some fond camp memories, or better yet, get out there and make some new ones!

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 ~ $6.99 / bottle)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  No carbonation.  Light yellow hue.  Smells of citrus and passionfruit.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of passionfruit, citrus, and green apple.  Long tart finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Low to moderate flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it, but would have preferred a bit less tartness.

Most Similar to:  2 Towns Passion Statement, plus citrus

Closing Notes:  I actually noticed more passionfruit than clementine flavor, despite the cider’s name.

Have you tried 2 Towns Camp Clementine?  What did you think?

2 Towns Two Thorns

Review of 2 Towns Two Thorns.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had most of their line-up (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 this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review que, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.>

Cider:  Two Thorns
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and cans and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with raspberries and rose petals

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Availability:  Spring seasonal, possibly in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago, and parts of Minnesota & Montana (see their cider finder)

Cider Description:  Tart and floral, Two Thorns unites fresh-pressed Northwest apples, raspberries and rose petals. The result is a uniquely fragrant cider with a vibrant red hue.

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 (probably ~ $5.99 / 500ml bottle or ~ $11.99 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Moderate red hue.  Still.  Smells of tart raspberry.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to strong tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No sourness, funk, bitterness, or tannins.  Notes of raspberry with hints of green apple, floral, and lemon.  Moderate tart finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complex.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  Nice tart raspberry flavor, and super fruity for how dry it is (only 6g of sugar / 12oz).

Most Similar to:  Most raspberry ciders I’ve had were much more sweet.  However, this is most similar to a lower ABV version of Blue Moon Winery Apple Raspberry, which was also tart and dry.

Closing Notes:  They had a previous cider with this same flavor and name which was only available in downtown Portland Oregon, a collaboration with the Portland Thorns women’s soccer team.

Have you tried 2 Towns Two Thorns?  What did you think?

2 Towns Easy Squeezy

Review of 2 Towns Easy Squeezy, a new year-round lemon raspberry cider, a spin on their previous limited release Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.  It is my first time trying this, but I’ve had most of their lineup (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 this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review que, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.>

Cider:  Easy Squeezy
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and 6 packs of 12oz cans, and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples with lemon and raspberry

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Availability:  year round, starting in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Chicago, and parts of Minnesota & Montana (see their cider finder)

Cider Description:  Citrusy and refreshing, Easy Squeezy is crafted with fresh-pressed Northwest apples, Meyer lemons and raspberries. Bringing the pink lemonade vibes, this cider goes down easy peasy!

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. 

They were founded in 2010 and have a tap room in Corvallis Oregon.

Price:  retails for ~ $5.99 / 500ml bottle or ~ $11.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Hazy pink lemonade hue.  Still.  Smells of tart lemonade.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  No tannins, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of lemon, raspberry, granny smith apples, and grapefruit.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really liked this.  A bit less mouth-puckering tart than the previous release.

Most Similar to:  an alcoholic version of a less sweet than normal raspberry lemonade

Closing Notes:  Glad to see they are doing this in cans in time for spring and summer!

Have you tried 2 Towns Easy Peasy?  What did you think?

2 Towns Boysenbarrel

Review of 2 Towns Boysenbarrel, a barrel aged boysenberry cider.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had most of their lineup (see here).

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Cider:  Boysenbarrel
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis Oregon
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft with from dessert apples with boysenberries, barrel aged

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Availability:  seasonal (winter), in some states (see their cider finder), plus online sales

Cider Description:  Tart and complex, Boysenbarrel is packed with Pacific Northwest grown boysenberries. Aged on heavy toasted French oak for a strong tannic backbone, this rich and tangy berry treat is perfect for the winter season.

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:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first read about it online

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First Impression:  Purple-red hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells of tart berry.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of berry with hints of lemon and green apple.  Long tannic oaky red wine finish (although I’m guessing the red wine flavor was just tannic berry + oak barrel, as they didn’t specify red wine barrels were used).  Low apple flavor and barrel influence.  Moderate flavor intensity, complexity, and sessionability,

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, it was a bit too red wine-like for me.

Most Similar to:  a non-sour version of 2 Towns Traditions La Mure (marion blackberry cider aged in red wine barrels), and Seattle Cider Red Wine Barrel Berry

Closing Notes:  I’d recommend this for folks of berry and barrel aged ciders, especially wine lovers.

Have you tried 2 Towns Boysenbarrel?  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?

Pick Cider Ideas for Thanksgiving 2018

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I actually remembered to do a Thanksgiving cider article this year, so here it goes!  A list of some suggestions (at least for folks who can get these in their area) for Thanksgiving-dinner friendly ciders.  Besides pairing with a variety of foods, I think the ideal holiday cider will appeal to a wide audience (presuming you will share it with the table).  However, these selections will of course sway towards my personal tastes.

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French ciders – French ciders are inherently food-friendly, and have a wide appeal, typically being mid-level sweetness and apple-forward, but often having surprising complexity.  Its fun to share something unique (imported) with guests too.  Plus, they have a lower ABV, which can be ideal for meals earlier in the day.  Some of my favorites are from Domaine de la MinotiereEric BordeletKystinLa ChouetteL’HermitiéreManoir de Grandouet, and Pierre Huet.  I recently picked up a 5L mini keg of Bordelet, but I’m saving that for Christmas.  The easiest French cider to find for some may be Dan Armor, sold at Trader Joe’s, and at only $5 / 750ml, its an excellent value, and something I wouldn’t hesitate to serve at my house.  My top American-made French-style cider pick is 2 Towns Cidre Bouche.

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AeppelTreow Appely Doux – This Wisconsin methode champenoise (naturally sparkling) selection is mid-level sweetness with a flavor profile of citrus, green apple, honey, and floral.  It would make a nice champagne alternative anytime.

Alpenfire Spark! – This Washington cider is a great introduction to heritage ciders, with some rich notes of apple pomace, honey, orange, and leather, but remaining mid-level sweetness and clean.

Bertolinos Hard Cider – This Italian cider is mid-level sweetness, has some good fizz, and notes of honey, pineapple, and grapefruit.  Especially wide crowd appeal from my experience.

Eden Specialty Ciders – This Vermont cidery may have started with ice ciders (which I cover later), but they make some amazing regular ciders with wide appeal, such as their super complex Sparkling Semi-Dry, rich Guinevere’s Pearls, or new canned Heritage cider, which has to be the highest quality cider I’ve ever seen in a can.

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Eve’s Rustica This New York mid-sweetness cider has some unique notes of honey, cream/vanilla, and fruit, all expertly crafted just from the apples and yeast.

Liberty Kingston Black This Washington single varietal is made only from the iconic Kingston Black apples, yet I think it would have a wide appeal, as it retains some sweetness (semi-dry), is flavorful, and doesn’t cross over into funky/sour/bitter territory.

Slyboro Old Sin This New York semi-dry cider has some rich tannic flavor reminiscent of English cider, with notes of butterscotch, caramel, and tropical fruit, and is another selection which would make a great introductory heritage cider.  Lovely color to it too!

Snowdrift – This Washington cidery has several Thanksgiving-worthy crowd-pleasing cider selections, such as their Cidermaker’s Reserve (semi-dry, sparkling, fruity, and complex), Seckel Perry (mid-level sweetness, made only from Seckel pears), and Cliffbreaks Blend (semi-sweet, tart, and fruity).

Tilted Shed Smoked This dry cider hails from California, and is unique, nuanced, oaky, and slightly smokey.  Probably a bit less likely to be widely appealing, but I think it would be appreciated by certain audiences, and to me seems uniquely suited to Thanksgiving dinner.

Wandering Aengus Bloom – This Washington cider is mid-level sweetness and made from heirloom apples, but has widely appealing familiar notes of honey, green apple, and tropical fruit.

Whitewood Jonathan – This Washington cider is a single-varietal of Jonathan apples, and dry to semi-dry, but super approachable, being apple-forward with notes of citrus and honey.

ice cider – For a special treat with dessert, try ice cider.  It is made from naturally concentrating apple juice using cold to increase the sugar content before fermenting, resulting in a higher ABV sweet dessert cider bursting with flavor.  One of my favorites is Eden Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom.

Pommeau – Also, Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) is another great dessert cider option.  It is made by fortifying cider (either fermented or unfermented juice) with distilled apple juice (brandy).  Like ice cider, it is a nice sipping option, although it is available in a wide range of sweetness.  Some of my favorites are from 2 Towns, Etienne DupontEZ OrchardsHerout, and Wandering Aengus.

Visit the Pick Cider campaign website for lots more great info, and try your local fine bottle shop or online, such as through Cider in Love or VinoShipper.  No matter which cider/s you choose, I’d encourage you to pick up some extra bottles, as a good cider can easily turn even those who have sworn off cider into cider lovers, holidays are holidays, and plus with the lower ABV, a bottle doesn’t go as far as wine.