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.

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Alpenfire 3 Pommes (Apple, Pear, Quince)

Review of Alpenfire’s 3 Pommes, made with apples, pears, and quince (which is a pomme fruit most similar to pears and apples).  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their DungenessSparkSmokeApoCalypsoEmberSimple CiderCalypsoPirate’s PlankGlowCindersShrubSpiced Tonic ShrubTraditional Heirloom CiderFlameTempestFoxwhelp SV, and Rosy Pommeau.

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Cider:  3 Pommes – Apple, Pear, Quince (2016 vintage, released 2018)
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from estate pomme fruit (apples, pears, & quince)
Varietals:  Muscadet de Dieppe, Dolgo Crab, Vilberie, Dabinett, & Pink Pearl apples; Bosc, Hendre Huffcap, & Romanian pears; Quince

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Availability:  likely limited to Western Washington, plus online sales

Cider Description:  A blend of estate bittersweet apples, perry & wild foraged pears, and locally grown quince. The early pears, crab apples and quince are hand pressed macerated and fermented in stainless. The late season apples are pressed and fermented then blended with the early fruit for aging. Very light bottle conditioning gives this cider a petulant carbonation, just enough to tease the nose.

Cidery Description:  We invite you to experience the distinctive flavors of our estate grown ciders. Shaped by our maritime climate’s mild summers and tempered by the foggy mist rolling off of Discovery Bay, our apples maintain the qualities they’ve been treasured for by generations of cider lovers.  Soft tannins, high sugars, hints of bitterness, and an incredible flavor range are the tools the apples bring us.  Slow, cool fermentation, lengthy maturation, and attention to detail is the way we say thank you!

Price:  ~ $17.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells primarily of canned pear.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Hints of bitterness and funk.  No sourness.  Notes of pear, tropical fruit, tart heirloom apples, and honey.  Long tannic finish.  Low apple flavor, Moderate pear flavor, flavor intensity, complexity, and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it, and so did the others I tasted it with.  Way unique.  Wine-like.  Fruity, but barely sweet.  However, it wasn’t sparkling like I had expected per the label, although it worked as a nearly still cider, and was probably easier to drink.

Most Similar to:  I’ve had cider with quince from Eaglemount and CiderHead, and this had some of the same tart tropical & honey notes, but the pear was more prominent.

Closing Notes:  Alpenfire is one of my favorite PNW cideries, and has a wide variety of unique selections.  My favorites however are probably their richest selections, Smoke and Ember.

Have you tried cider with quince?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Rosy Pommeau

Review of Alpenfire’s Rosy Pommeau.  This is apple brandy from bittersweet & heirloom apples + cider from Aerlie red-fleshed apples.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their DungenessSparkSmokeApoCalypsoEmberSimple CiderCalypsoPirate’s PlankGlowCindersShrubSpiced Tonic ShrubTraditional Heirloom CiderFlameTempest, and Foxwhelp SV.

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Cider:  Rosy Pommeau, 2015 vintage, 2018 release
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  18%
How Supplied:  375ml tall bottles
Style:  American craft Pommeau from bittersweet & heirloom apple brandy + Aerlie red-fleshed apple cider, oak aged

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Availability:  limited, 58 cases released in 2018, likely only available in WA, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Alpenfire’s Rosy Pommeau, Rich, red, high acid juice from Aerlie red apples is partially fermented before halting the fermentation with the addition of the eau de vie. The eau de vie is distilled from our estate organic cider varietals and locally grown organic heirloom apples. Once blended pommeau is aged in neutral oak for 15 + months before bottling. Great as an aperitif or accompanying dessert.

Cidery Description:  We invite you to experience the distinctive flavors of our estate grown ciders. Shaped by our maritime climate’s mild summers and tempered by the foggy mist rolling off of Discovery Bay, our apples maintain the qualities they’ve been treasured for by generations of cider lovers.  Soft tannins, high sugars, hints of bitterness, and an incredible flavor range are the tools the apples bring us.   Slow, cool fermentation, lengthy maturation, and attention to detail is the way we say thank you!

Price:  $26.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Pink-orange hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of caramelized strawberry alcohol.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of strawberry, watermelon, kiwi, and rich apple.  Long finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Very low sessionability.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, I prefer Alpenfire’s red-fleshed apple cider Glow, or a Pommeau from typical apples, not so much this combination, as for me the fruity red-fleshed apple flavor competed a bit with the rich boozy Pommeau.  My husband really enjoyed it however.

Most Similar to:  I’ve never had Pommeau from red-fleshed apples, although I’ve had several ciders from red-fleshed apples (Alpenfire Glow, Alpenfire Cinders, Snowdrift Red, Tieton Russian Red) and several Pommeaux (from 2 Towns, Wandering Aengus, EZ Orchards, Etienne Dupont, Finnriver, and Stem).

Closing Notes:  My favorite Alpenfire dessert cider is Smoke.

Have you tried Pommeau?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Foxwhelp SV

Review of Alpenfire Foxwhelp single varietal.  It is my first time trying this cider, but I’ve had most of their other ciders – DungenessSparkSmokeApoCalypsoEmberSimple CiderCalypsoPirate’s PlankGlowCindersShrubSpiced Tonic ShrubTraditional Heirloom Cider (batch 1 or 2)FlameTraditional Heirloom Cider (unknown batch)Tempest

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Cider:  Foxwhelp SV
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft orchard-based organic cider from Foxwhelp apples

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Availability:  limited, probably only in Washington, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Our first 100% estate single varietal, produced from our organically grown Foxwhelp apples. The Foxwhelp is an English bittersharp cider apple, known for its aromatics and versatility, one of the oldest surviving cider apples still in use, originally from the Gloucestershire area. Historically a single strength cider from this apple would fetch the same price on the market in London as imported French Wine.

Cidery Description:  We invite you to experience the distinctive flavors of our estate grown ciders. Shaped by our maritime climate’s mild summers and tempered by the foggy mist rolling off of Discovery Bay, our apples maintain the qualities they’ve been treasured for by generations of cider lovers.  Soft tannins, high sugars, hints of bitterness, and an incredible flavor range are the tools the apples bring us.  Slow, cool fermentation, lengthy maturation, and attention to detail is the way we say thank you!

Price:  $16.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m always game to buy anything Alpenfire, as they make some awesome ciders.  They have been coming out with all sorts of new varieties lately.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Smells very mild, acidic and musty.  Low carbonation.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and funk.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness.  Notes of acidic heirloom apple, lemon, must, nut/wood, yeast, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  I had expected more of a rich cider apple flavor, as Foxwhelp is a bittersharp, but this tasted more like an heirloom apple cider than a cider apple cider.  I enjoyed it though, as it was less acidic and more tannic than most heirloom apple ciders, so despite it being fairly dry, it wasn’t at all harsh for my tastes.  However, I still prefer a bittersweet cider apple cider, more like Alpenfire’s Ember.

Most Similar to:  This reminds me of some of Eve’s ciders, although the flavor notes were different.

Closing Notes:  I’m interested to try more of Alpenfire’s new ciders.  I already have a bottle of their Rosy Pommeau at home for example.

Have you tried a single varietal cider?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Tempest New England Style

Review of Alpenfire Tempest, a newish special release, New England Style (with raisins & brown sugar, high ABV, aged).  It is my first time trying this, although I’ve had other New England Style ciders, and tried most of Alpenfire’s line-up (see here).

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Cider:  Tempest
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  10%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American artisan New England Style cider (4 week fermentation, tank aged 5 months, bottle conditioned)

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Availability:  special release in fall 2017 (55 cases), likely only available in Western WA, although they have online sales (but I didn’t see this one at the time of review)

Cider Description:  Alpenfire’s Tempest, a new release from the 2016 harvest. Phenolic and spiritous, rounded and warming. A proper fall cider, estate apples refermented with raisins and brown sugar. Create your own tempest in a tea cup with this winter warmer.

Apple Varieties:  Muscadet de dieppe, Kingston Black, Liberty, Republican, Democrat, plus many more

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Cider, the West’s first certified organic cidery, growing traditional cider apples since 2003.  Family owned and operated.

Price:  $15
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Medium pumpkin orange amber.  Still.  Smells of bittersweet & heirloom apples with a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of bittersweet apple, apple pomace, must, orange, and leather.  Long finish with a hint of sourness and an herbal quality.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and complexity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  This really reminded me of English cider, with the cider apple flavor, slightly higher sweetness, and funk.  I loved the flavor and style.  It really had all my favorites qualities all in one package, which is rare (rich, complex, flavorful, mid level sweetness, cider apples, and higher ABV).  I’m also a fan of the 500ml bottles, as I’m more likely to buy them (plus it probably reduced the price of this cider from ~$20 to $15).

Most Similar to:  New England style cider isn’t too common so I’ve only tried four others that I can remember, but this is my favorite by far, likely due to its similarity to English cider.  Otherwise, Alpenfire Tempest was similar to Cockrell’s Colonial Winter, more flavorful & complex than Seattle Cider’s New England Style, less sour than Reverend Nat’s Providence, and more traditional than Tilted Shed’s Barred Rock.

Closing Notes:  I am really excited to try more of Alpenfire’s new releases, which have been very plentiful of late, as they are are my favorite Washington cidery.

Have you tried New England Style cider?  What did you think?

My Favorite Ciders of 2017

Happy New Year!  Now that it is 2018, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2017.  This is becoming a tradition; see 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 2017.  Some of the categories overlap.  Truth be told, for the most part, I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

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Budget-Friendly French Cidre:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut (Brittany) or L’Hermitiére Cidre Brut (Normandy) – These selections retail for $4.99 and $7.99 respectively.  The Dan Armor is only sold at Trader Joe’s.  Both are on the sweeter side of semi-dry and are true to their respective styles (although the Normandy one is more beginner friendly than many others, as it lacks sourness and only has minimal funk).  The Dan Armor is one of my top picks to introduce folks to good cider with, as it is different from sweet commercial selections, but not so out there as to turn folks off to it.  Its also a nice gauge on sweetness, as it is in the middle of the range.

 

Fancy French Cidre:  Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Doux or Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge Cidre – I tried so many amazing French cidres this year that I had to include more than one!  These selections cost a tad more than the previous two, $12 and $19.99 respectively, but also have more complexity.  Both of these are low ABV selections, and the Doux was significantly sweeter, as expected for the classification.

 

English Cidre:  Newton Court Gasping Goose (330ml bottles) or Henney’s Vintage (500ml bottles) – Both of these English imports are very budget friendly and tasty.  A bit sweeter than some English ciders (on the sweeter side of semi-dry), rich, and tannic, but not bitter.  Newton Court is available in Seattle, but I’ve only seen the Henney’s in Portland (and only tried the one bottle).

 

Swiss cider:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Premiers Emois – This cider from Switzerland reminds me of French cidre, but has a style all its own.  It was made from Organic native heirloom apples, and wild yeast fermented using traditional methods.  The result was a semi-sweet cider with an awesome fluffy texture and complex fruitiness (but with less apple and yeast forward flavor as most French cidres).

European-Style U.S. cider:  2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche – This cider is by far the closest to a French cidre than any other U.S. cider I’ve tried.  It was a noticeable improvement from last year’s vintage as well.  Lots of rich ripe bittersweet apple flavor.  Unfortunately it costs more than most French cidres, as even with the import cost, their production costs are lower, as cider apple varieties aren’t rare like they are here.

 

Perry:  Ramborn Perry – I tried two selections from Ramborn Cider in Luxembourg.  This perry was complex and amazing, with notes of canned pear, dried pear, mango, pineapple, and guava.  Like most perries, as pears have unfermentable sugars, it was a bit sweeter, semi-sweet to semi-dry.

New England style:  Cockrell Colonial Winter – This cider is of true New England style, a high ABV cider with the addition to raisins and brown sugar.  Rich, complex, and perfect for winter.  It is my favorite version of this style so far.

 

Food-Friendly Cider:  Eden Semi-Dry or Eden Guineveres Pearls – Of these, the Semi-Dry is drier, much easier to find, and less expensive.  Both however are excellent selections, quite flavorful, but without anything that would overwhelm or clash with most meals.  They are also some of the most tannic on this list, same as the English selections.

 

Rosé:  Alpenfire Glow – This sweet cider is made from rare red fleshed apples, and similar to Eve’s Rustica (listed below), is amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.  Here the flavor notes were watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb.  It was a perfect Valentine’s Day cider (a gift from my husband – he knows me well)!

Barrel Aged:  Finnriver Fire Barrel – Note that this pertains to the previous releases of this cider.  I haven’t been nearly as big of a fan of Fire Barrel once they moved to 750ml bottles, as it was not nearly as flavorful (plus the price increased significantly).  In the older version, I love the complexity, intense barrel aged flavor (which is rarely found in cider), and high tannins.

 

Fruity:  2 Towns Prickle Me Pink ^2 – This cider was made using prickly pear cactus fruit, plus, new for this year, watermelon.  The result is a fluorescent pink fruity cider which is surprisingly complex and flavorful, yet fairly dry.

Rich:  Angry Orchard Maple Wooden Sleeper – This cider was made from bittersweet apples, with Crown maple syrup, then bourbon barrel aged for 12 months.  It resulted in a 12% ABV cider, super rich and complex, with a flavor profile including caramel, brown sugar, maple, oak, vanilla, bourbon, and molasses.  This was a truly artisan small batch cider, worlds away from their typical commercial releases.

 

Spicy:  2 Towns Man Gogh – I’ve never been a fan of spicy ciders, but I finally found one I could enjoy!  Here the hint of spice (from habaneros) was balanced by the fruitiness, sweetness, and acidity of the cider with mango.  This was an imperial cider, but way too easy to drink.

Commercial:  Spire Mountain Dark & Dry – I typically drink craft ciders, but I still drink commercial ciders from time to time.  This one is far from dry (more like semi-sweet), but is dark, and has some great molasses flavor.  It pairs really well with greasy food, like a burger or fish & chips.

 

Unique:  Eve’s Rustica – This is Eve’s sweetest cider (besides their ice cider), and my favorite.  I loved all the flavor they were able to showcase without any additions (just apples & yeast), with notes of honey, cream, vanilla, melon, strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, and peach.

Unexpected:  Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve – This cider was made from heirloom & cider apples, but in contrast had a very unique unexpected flavor profile, with pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, and citrus notes.  It is unique, complex, and bubbly.  My husband is also an especially big fan of this cider.

 

Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (at Total Wine, actually cheaper than at the Cider House), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.  This is more sessionable than you’d expect too.  Semi-dry and semi-sweet, with notes of honey and citrus, plus hints of maple syrup, oak, and spice.

Unexpected & Value:  Finnegan Cider Harvest Blend – This was another unexpectedly awesome cider which was also a great value.  I picked this up in Portland, for just over $7 for 500ml of cider from cider apples.  Semi-dry, with richness, high carbonation, and notes of rich ripe apples, caramel, leather, orange, stone fruit, honey, oak, and apple brandy.

 

Favorite from a New-to-Me cidery:  Woodbox Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider – This was the first (and only) cider I have tried from Woodbox, at Cider Rite of Spring in Portland.  I bought a bottle, but haven’t wanted to open it yet.  Lots of whiskey flavor in addition to caramel, vanilla, oak, and more.  It was rather budget-friendly for an ice cider too, at $17 / 375ml.

Pommeau:  2 Towns Pommeau – This remains my favorite Pommeau.  Super flavorful, rich, and complex, with notes of ripe apples, oak, dried fruit, leather, brown sugar, caramel, burnt sugar, vanilla, tropical fruit, and peaches.

 

Ice Cider:  Eden Cellar Series The Falstaff – This year I was spoiled with an amazing treat, a bottle of Eden’s 7! year barrel aged ice cider.  This ties with Alpenfire Smoke for the most complex cider I’ve ever drank.  The flavor was all over the place, from molasses, caramel, and brown sugar, to tart green apple and lemon, to raisin, to pie spices.

Overall:  Alpenfire Smoke – This 16% ABV sipping cider has an amazing complexity, with rich oaky smokey flavor.  If I had to name just one favorite cider, this would be it.  However, it is not an everyday sort of cider.  They recently released a new batch of it, but I haven’t tried it yet (I’m still working on my stockpile of the old version).

Other:  Also, while I’m at it, my favorite cider event in 2017 was Cider Summit Seattle, my favorite (and only) class was by Rev Nat, and my favorite bottle shop & bar was Schilling Cider House.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2017.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

Alpenfire Ember

Review of Alpenfire Ember, made from bittersweet apples.  I tried this a couple years back (see here), but wanted to give a full bottle a go, as my tastes have changed since then.  I’ve also tried Alpenfire’s Dungeness, Spark, Smoke, ApoCalypso, Simple Cider, Calypso, Pirate’s Plank, Glow, Cinders, Shrub, Spiced Tonic Shrub, Traditional Heirloom Cider, and Flame.

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Cider:  Ember (old world bittersweet, estate sparkling cider)
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  7.3%
How Supplied:  750ml capped bottles
Style:  American organic artisan cider from bittersweet apples (from their own orchard), bottle conditioned

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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:  Alpenfire’s Ember is a late season Estate Organic Bittersweet cider. Medium Sweet with big round tannins and a long finish. Think…walking through an orchard in late fall.  Varietals – Vilberie, Dabinett, Brown Snout, & Yarlington Mill apple varieties.  Process – 8 week ferment, 7 month stainless maturation, bottle conditioned.

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 a tasting room in Port Townsend WA, open seasonally.

Price:  $18.99
Where Bought:  The Cave in Kirkland WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It was 20% off, so an easy decision.

Photo Dec 02, 4 53 31 PM (1).jpg

First Impression:  Moderate amber orange hue.  Very low carbonation with some foam and film.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  High tannins.  Low bitterness.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of rich bittersweet apple pomace, caramel, orange, leather, and honey.  Long tannic finish.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and complexity.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  Its crazy how much tastes can change in just a couple years, as I didn’t like this cider back then, but now its my favorite type of cider.  Rich and complex, with a lip-smacking amount of tannins.

Most Similar to:  This is the closest I’ve tasted to an English cider that was made in the U.S.  More than Liberty’s English Style for example, which has more acidity and less tannins.  As far as English ciders, it is most like Henney’s Vintage, Dunkertons Dry, and Newton’s Court Gasping Goose – which are all some of my favorites!

Closing Notes:  Although a bit more costly per ounce than many English ciders (as even though the cost of import is high, it costs much less over there to make a cider from cider apples), for being made locally, this is an amazing value (as these apples are rare).  Plus, it is even certified organic.  Alpenfire has been making a lot of changes lately, with a re-branding / new bottle labels, new cider releases, and the debut of a cider club.

Have you tried Alpenfire Ember?  What did you think?