Schilling Cider House Visit 28 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 28th visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.

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I was there on a random Friday afternoon.  There were only 2 ciders on the board out of 32 that I hadn’t tried, so that meant I got to order some of my favorites.

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<left to right:  Incline Rosé, Finnriver Lavender Black Currant, Portland Sangria, NV Cider Watermelon Pear, Aspall Dry, and Snowdrift Cornice>

Incline (Auburn WA) Compass Rosé (6.5% ABV):  This was the only new-to-me cider in my flight.  It appears to be a year round release, and is also available in cans.  Like all their ciders, it is hopped, plus hibiscus, elderflower, ginger, and rose petals were added (no grape, which is typical for a rosé).  Pale pink hue.  Very mild fruity scent.  Notes of grape, watermelon, and strawberry to start.  As it warmed up, I got a hint of hops and some floral & herbal flavor.  I didn’t pick up any ginger (which is good, as I don’t like it).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied. Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Mild flavor intensity.  Interesting that I found it more fruity than floral, but maybe I was tasting what I expected (I only found out later what was added).  I enjoyed it.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA) Lavender Black Currant (6.9% ABV):  This is a special release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here), similar to their regular Black Currant (see here).  This batch seemed a bit less sweet, with more lavender.  Too bad it wasn’t on one of their 2 Nitro taps, as that is a special treat.  I enjoyed it.

Portland Cider (Portland OR) Sangria (5.5% ABV):  This is a relatively new year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  This batch was a bit less flavorful and a bit fuller bodied, but still plenty fruity.  I enjoyed it.

Pear Up / NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA) Watermelon Pear (5.3% ABV):  This is a year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  This batch had much more pear than watermelon flavor, and had a hint of vinegar flavor & sourness.  I didn’t really care for it this time around with the slightly off flavor.  Their raspberry perry is my favorite so far (see here).

Aspall (Suffolk England) Dry (6.8% ABV):  This is an English import, available year round, also in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  Their Dry is actually my least favorite of their line-up, but still plenty good.  Their Imperial is my favorite so far (see here); too bad they stopped selling the black label version of it though, as that was a truly amazing cider.

Snowdrift (Wenatchee WA) Cornice (7.5% ABV):  This is a year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously see here).  This batch of this barrel agsed cider was a bit more fruity / less rich.  I enjoyed it.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Schilling Cider House Visit 27 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 27th visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.

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I was there on a Sunday afternoon, with my husband and a friend from out of town.  The good thing about having folks with me was I got to order more ciders!  I chose all the ciders for our group, which was fun.

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<left to right:  Schilling Pippin, Locust Seckel Perry, Anthem Pear, Finnriver Dry Hopped, Cockrell Raspberry Habanero, and Schilling Afterglow>

Schilling (Auburn WA) Pippin (6.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only special release, a single varietal from Pippin apples I believe.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Mild to moderate bitterness.  Hints of sourness.  Lots of citrus!  I wasn’t really a fan with the sourness and acidity.

Locust (Woodinville WA) Seckel Perry (6.5% ABV):  I rounded out my flight with this, as I enjoyed it my last visit (see here).  However, this time I found it sour, and wasn’t a fan.  I’m curious if it was the same keg or not.

Anthem (Salem OR) Pear (6.5% ABV):  This is a pear-flavored cider, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Very mildly flavored, apple and pear.  I found it plenty drinkable, but boring.

Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Dry Hopped (6.9% ABV):  I’ve tried this previously, and mostly ordered it for my husband.  It is also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Citrus notes with hints of floral and hops.  Not bad.

Cockrell (Puyallup WA) Raspberry Habanero (7.8% ABV):  This is a popular cider of theirs, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry.  Moderate berry flavor.  Moderate to strong level of spiciness, especially on the finish.  I’m not a fan of spicy ciders, and mostly tried this out of curiosity.  This was the only one we didn’t finish.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Afterglow (5.1% ABV):  This is a special release, also available in bottles, made with cranberries, blood orange, and rose hips.  Semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild to moderate berry flavor with a hint of herbs.  I didn’t pick up any blood orange.  I enjoyed it.

We also ordered 2 more flights, with:
– Schilling Pineapple Passion (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Grumpy Bear Cold Brew Coffee (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Blackberry Pear (which I’ve reviewed here)
– One Tree Huckleberry (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Margarita (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Blood Orange (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling King’s Schilling (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Jester & Judge Pineapple (which I’ve reviewed here , although this batch wasn’t so great, as it was less flavorful than usual)
 – Elemental Pom-Lavender (which I really enjoyed, semi-sweet and flavorful, fruity with a hint of lavender)
– Elemental Black Currant (which I thought was good, but I like Finnriver’s better, as the flavor is more intense – see here)

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We also ordered a bottle of Aspall Imperial (which I’ve reviewed here).  I love that all their bottles at the cider house are pre-chilled and there isn’t a markup for drinking them onsite.

My favorite was the Aspall.  After that, the Schilling Afterglow, Elemental Pom-Lavender, Schilling Pineapple Passion, and Schilling’s King Schilling.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Aspall Dry

Review of Aspall’s Dry cider.  I tried this awhile ago, but at an event (this is the first bottle I’ve bought).  I’ve also previously sampled their John Barrington, Imperial (black label), Demi Sec, Imperial (blue label), Grand Cru, and Perronelle’s Blush.

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Cider:  Dry
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  Semi wide release (through Artisanal Imports)

Cider Description:  Mid straw-gold colour. Clean, light floral aroma of dessert apples. Dry, round and creamy on the palate with medium fullness. Good acid balance, pleasant soft tannins and elegant, long finish. A highly versatile partner for all kinds of food, for example charcuterie, sweet & spicy, and a variety of cheeses.

Apple Varieties:  50% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Early Windsor, Royal Gala, Katy), 35% Sharp (Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston)

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  $8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried Aspall (this one) at the Seattle International Beerfest in 2015, one of the first events I blogged (see here).

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells rich and tannic.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and tannins.  Low bitterness.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, lemon, and herbs.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor, and complexity.

My Opinion:  This isn’t my favorite Aspall, but it is a very solid selection and a great value.  I haven’t disliked anything I’ve tried from them so far.  I like slightly sweeter than this however as I find them more flavorful.

Most Similar to:  Other Aspall ciders (although this is their driest selection in the U.S. at least), Dunkertons Dry, and Crispin Browns Lane

Closing Notes:  I think there are still some Aspall varieties left for me to try.  The biggest disappointment is that they appear to have stopped selling the black label Imperial cider in the U.S., and now only have the blue label one (which is still great, but I liked the black label one better).

Have you tried Aspall English cider?  What did you think?

My Favorite Ciders of 2016

What an awesome year 2016 was in the cider world!  Cider Says has now been up for a year and a half.  Like other cider bloggers, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite ciders of 2016.  See 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 enjoyed, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2016.

Multi pack:  Reverend Nat’s Revival – This one is complex for being made from dessert apples, with lots of unique flavor just from the yeast varieties used.  Celt – I always keep this easy drinking apple & yeast forward French cider in the house as its convenient & affordable.  Thatchers Green Goblin – For how commercial it is, I ended up really enjoying this sweeter simple English cider.

Canned:  One Tree Crisp Apple – I don’t usually go for plain flagship ciders, but this one had some nice unfiltered apple juice flavor without being over the top sweet.  Cidergeist Semi Dry – This reminded me of French cider; too bad it isn’t available locally.  Long Drop Vanilla Honey – Awesome honeycomb flavor.

French:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut – A $5 selection from Trader Joe’s which doesn’t disappoint and has some great apple forward sparkling goodness.  Christian Drouin Pays d’ Auge – I loved the bittersweet apple flavor, and that the funk remained mild.

English:  Aspall Imperial – Rich flavor, high ABV, and a low price tag.  Dunkertons Dry  (awesomely tannic) and Black Fox (nice fruity twist on an English cider), which I hope to find locally now that they are distributed in the U.S.

Italian:  Bertolinos – My first Italian cider, which I found to be simple but tasty, and budget friendly too.

Swiss:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Transparente – My first Swiss cider, which reminded me of French cider, in between the typical Brittany & Normandy styles.

Canadian:  Sea Cider Ruby Rose – This fruity high ABV cider is made with rhubarb and rose hips, making it a unique summer sipper.

Fruity:  Doc’s Draft Sour Cherry – A cherry cider is difficult to pull off without tasting medicinal, but the flavor is spot-on with this one.  Jester & Judge Pineapple Express – Although simple, this cider has some awesome pineapple flavor, a nice frothy texture, and a hint of lime.

Rosé:  Eden Imperial 11 Rosé – This drier cider with red currant is high ABV and amazingly fruity.  Alpenfire Glow – This sweeter cider is made from rare red fleshed apples and also amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.

Limited Release:  Angry Orchard & Eden collaboration, Understood in Motion: 01 – This cider is only available at Angry Orchard’s Walden NY cider house, and was made from Vermont heirloom apples, barrel aged, and mixed with some ice cider; awesome!

Hopped:  2 Towns Hop & Stalk – I wouldn’t call myself a fan of either rhubarb or hops, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed this cider; the flavors really complimented each other and created a unique and surprisingly complex cider (I’m also a sucker for Imperial / high ABV ciders).

High ABV:  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 probably be it, although its not an everyday sort of cider.  I hope it gets released again soon, as I’m down to only one bottle!

Oaked:  Sheppy’s Oak Matured – I love the strong oak flavor in this cider; as a bonus, it is budget friendly too.

Barrel Aged:  Reverend Nat’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant – This was my favorite cider from Cider Summit Seattle 2016, with awesome berry, oak, and whiskey flavor.

Sparkling:  AEppelTreow Appely Doux – This methode champenoise cider has a wonderful texture & flavor, and would be a great champagne alternative.

Perry:  EZ Orchards Poire – I’m not a huge Perry fan, but those I do like tend towards the French Poire style; this one has a creamy texture and complex fruitiness.

Pommeau:  Etienne Dupont Pommeau – This is their Cidre Bouche aged in Calvados barrels with Calvados added, and is flavorful, rich, and complex.  Wandering Aengus Pommeau – Milder in flavor than some other Pommeaus, but still rich and complex.

Ice Cider:  Eden Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged – I’ve enjoyed all of Eden’s ice ciders, but this is my favorite, as it had the added depth from barrel aging in addition to all the rich complexity of their typical ice cider.

Great Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (and as high as $7), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.

Wine-like:  Honeywood Winery Hard Apple Cider – Quite different than I was expecting, but I liked it; this one reminded me of dessert wine with the white grape notes, higher ABV, and sweetness.

Draft-only:  Wandering Aengus Bittersweet – An amazingly rich and tannic cider made from bittersweet apple juice from Poverty Lane Orchards (Farnum Hill); wild fermented but it wasn’t funky.

Unexpected:   Gowans 1876 Heirloom – This cider almost seemed to good to be true, as it was so full flavored and apple forward.

Well, there you have it, a list of 32 of my favorite ciders from 2016.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  Still, it seems like so many great ciders didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate.

What are your favorite ciders?

Cider Summit Seattle 2016 Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is post 2/2 on Cider Summit Seattle 2016, covering tasting notes.  Post 1/2 (see here) covered the event.

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2 Towns (Corvallis Oregon) Hollow Jack (6.4% ABV) – This fall seasonal pumpkin cider was just released.  They added caramelized pumpkin, sweet potato, honey, and spices.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Notes of pumpkin, squash, and cinnamon.  It was very lightly flavored, unlike many other pumpkin (and more frequently found, “pumpkin” spice ciders, which actually don’t have any pumpkin) which are overwhelming.

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Apple Outlaw (Applegate Oregon) Chocolate Raspberry (unknown ABV) – This was their fruit cider challenge entry.  The chocolate was added by soaking cacao bean husks in the raspberry cider.  These husks would otherwise be discarded in the chocolate making process.  Smells delicious, purely chocolate and raspberry.  Semi-dry.  The flavor is almost all raspberry, but hints of dark chocolate shone through in the slightly bitter and tannic finish.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  This was a bit of a novelty, but nice.

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Aspall (Suffolk England) Perronelle’s Blush (4% ABV) – Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Light to medium bodied.  Lovely fruitiness with moderate blackberry flavor plus hints of cranberry and blueberry.  This is a nice sessionable summer sipper without forgoing flavor.  I’ve never been disappointed by Aspall.

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Boonville (Boonville CA) Bite Hard Semi-Sweet (6.9% ABV) – Their semi-sweet flagship cider is a follow up to their Dry Bite Hard variety.  I found it as advertised, semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Fruity, with notes of tropical fruit like pineapple, plus green apple (all from the apples).  I prefer this semi-sweet cider to their drier variety, which was more wine-like (which corresponds to their wine making background and methods).

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Bull Run (Forest Grove Oregon) Mango (unknown ABV) – This was their fruit cider challenge entry.  This hazy cider looked like mango juice.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Very juice-like and moderate mango flavor intensity.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Simple but tasty.

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Carlton Cyderworks (McMinnville Oregon) Impearial Asian Pear Hard Cider (5.8% ABV) – This is a pear cider (apples + Asian pears + Hood River Oregon pears).  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Light sourness.  Mildly flavored with notes of pear, pineapple, lemon, green apple, and mineral.  I prefer more flavor, but this would pair well with food.

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Coquerel (Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France) Calvodos Fine VSOP (40% ABV) – This was my first time trying straight Calvados, an aged apple brandy (I’ve only had it with cider, as Pommeau).  Semi-dry.  Definitely boozy, with a very long warming finish.  It surprisingly had only a mild apple flavor, although its possible my palate was a bit overwhelmed by the alcohol.  I’m not really into straight alcohol (especially when served room temperature).  I think I’ll stick to Pommeau.

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d’s Wicked (Kennewick WA) Cranny Granny (6.9% ABV) – This is a granny smith apple cider with cranberry juice.  Hazy pink hue.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Simple with only notes of moderately tart granny smith apples and cranberry.  If you like tartness and cranberry, you’ll like this cider.

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Dragon’s Head (Vashon WA) Columbia Crabapple Cider (6.7% ABV) – A single varietal cider made from Columbia crabapples.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity with hints of bitterness and tannins.  Sharp flavor with notes of mineral, green apple, honey, white blossom, and lemon.  Wine-like and nuanced with low flavor intensity.  This is the sweetest variety I’ve tried from them.  Their Kingston Black or Traditional is probably my favorite though.

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Double Mountain Brewery –  I’ll add a bit about them as they aren’t yet distributed in Washington, only Oregon.  They have brewed beer for 9 years, but just started making cider, and have one introductory variety.

Double Mountain (Hood River Oregon) Jumpin Jack Heirloom Cider (7.3% ABV) – Fully dry.  Mild sourness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild bitterness and tannins.  Notes of green apple and a hint of hops (not sure if they were added, or there might have been some tap line contamination).  I didn’t pick up the richness of any of the cider apple varieties they added, but there was definitely sharp heirloom apple flavor.  I thought it was ok.

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Finnriver (Chimanum WA) Apple Abbey (6.5% ABV) – A Belgian-inspired cider made from dessert apples.  Foamy and hazy.  Smells of sourness and citrus.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Yeast-forward.  Notes of citrus and green apple.  Hints of sourness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  I liked it.

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Finnriver (Chimanum WA) Pomona’s Nectar (6.5% ABV) – This is a new Crew Selection sour nectarine cider.  Smells like Spanish Sidra.  Semi dry.  Mild to moderate sourness.  Notes of lemon, yeast, and mineral (I didn’t pick up any stone fruit).  I’m still trying to acquire the taste for sour ciders, but I found this one pretty tolerable; its a bit more approachable than the average Sidra.

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Incline Cider (Auburn WA) Scout (6.5%) – A hopped marionberry cider.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Light marrionberry and moderate hops flavor.  I think I prefer their plain Explorer hopped cider variety.

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J. Seeds (Fairfield CA) Apple Cider Whiskey (35% ABV) – Whiskey made including apple cider.  Semi-sweet.  Apple forward and quite tasty, although I don’t have anything to compare it to as I’m not a whiskey drinker (I’ve previously found it too harsh).  However, I’m not into straight booze, so I think I’d prefer it watered down or mixed.  It looks to be available locally and is quite affordable.  I wouldn’t mind trying this again.  Being sweeter, it reminds me of what flavored sweetened vodka is to plain vodka.

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Maeloc Cider (Galithia Spain) Dry (4.8% ABV) – This is a commercial Spanish Sidra.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet (despite the “Dry” name).  Medium bodied.  Mild sourness and funk.  Notes of citrus and green apple.  It is a more approachable Sidra, a style I’m still learning to acquire a taste for.  I learned they use apples from within 50 miles of the cidery, grown in a damp climate similar to the PNW, and use wild yeast fermentation for all their ciders.  Overall it was ok.

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Montana CiderWorks (Darby MT) Spartan Dry-Style (5.5% ABV) – This is a small batch oak aged single varietal made with Montana-grown Spartan apples, in the style of Northern Italy’s Sauvignon Blanc.  Dry.  Light bodied.  Nuanced and wine-like, with high acidity, and sharp green apple, herbal, and baked apple notes.  It was nice, but I prefer their fuller flavored Darby Pub cider.  This is a wine-lovers cider.

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Moonlight Meadery (Londonderry NH) Crimes of Passion (4.1% ABV) – A black currant seasonal cider.  Semi-dry.  Light sourness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild to moderate black currant flavor intensity.  I enjoyed it, although without the sourness I would have enjoyed it more.  I was excited to learn they will soon be offering their How Do You Like Them Little Apples cider in cans (currently all their ciders are draft-only), starting in October/November, including in the Seattle area.

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Nectar Creek (Corvallis Oregon) Honeycone (6.9% ABV) – This is a hopped mead (no apples, just honey and water).  The smell is all hops, no honey.  Semi-dry.  Mild flavor intensity with more hops than honey.  I found this sessionable lightly carbonated mead to be lacking the full flavor I enjoy in the higher ABV sweeter meads.

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Number Six Cider (Seattle WA) Peach Fuzz (6.5% ABV) – This was their fruit cider challenge entry, a spiced peach cider.  Semi-dry.  Very full bodied (chunky and smoothie-like).  Low peach flavor and moderate to high spice intensity.  It was a bit too strange for my liking as it was so full bodied, and overly spiced.

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NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA) Watermelon Raspberry (unknown ABV) – This perry (no apples) with watermelon and raspberry was their fruit cider challenge entry, and was served through a watermelon.  Semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderately flavorful, but with more raspberry than watermelon notes, and no pear.  I prefer their watermelon perry without the raspberry.  Both however are refreshing options.

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland Oregon) Sour Cherry (7.2% ABV) – This cider was made from granny smith apples, with pie cherry juice which was soured, pear juice, and “hint” of ghost chili peppers.  Semi-dry.  Moderate cherry flavor.  Low sourness.  Low to moderate heat/spiciness from the ghost chili peppers.  I liked the cherry portion of the cider, but spicy ciders aren’t my thing (and a bit of a palate killer too).  I’d love to see this without the spiciness (which I believe was new for this year).

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland Oregon) The Passion (6.9% ABV) – Cider with passion fruit juice, coconut, and vanilla.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild sourness.   Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  Strong passion fruit flavor with hints of vanilla, pineapple, and coconut. I really enjoyed it.  I liked how fruity it was without being too sweet.  I had heard this was very sour so I hadn’t got around to trying it, but I wish I had sooner!  I wonder if they did away with the sour aspect this year, as I really didn’t pick up any.  I’ll have to try this again to see if my sour taste buds were busted when I tried it.

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland Oregon) Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant (9.5% ABV) – This is Wandering Aengus’ Golden Russet cider with black currant puree from Oregon Fruit Products, aged for 6 months in whiskey barrels.  It was made for the Portland and Seattle Cider Summits, but will be a Tent Show cider club release in October.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild tannins and bitterness.  Moderate barrel and spirit influence.  Awesome!  I really loved this cider.  I usually find berry ciders to be boring, but when barrel aged, they can be amazing.  This reminded me of Alpenfire Calypso and Apocalypso, except more boozy, and whiskey not rum barrel aged.  Too bad they weren’t selling bottles of this at the event, as I would have picked some up.

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Sea Cider (Saanichton, B.C., Canada) Ruby Rose (9.9% ABV) – This summer seasonal is made with rhubarb and rose hips.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  Intensely fruity, with floral, rhubarb, strawberry, and watermelon notes.  I really liked it!  Oddly enough I didn’t find it too boozy, despite being 9.9% ABV.

Sea Cider (Saanichton, B.C., Canada) Witch’s Broom (9.9% ABV) – I got a taste from the first bottle poured in the U.S. of this fall seasonal.  It was described as a “bouquet of pumpkin patch spices”.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  It was moderately spiced with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and baked apple.  Mild tannins, bitterness, tartness, and acidity.  Cinnamon was the most present, both in the nose and the finish.  One of my favorite spiced ciders, but I’m not usually a huge fan of them.

Both of these ciders from Sea Cider are part of their Canadian Invasion Series, meant to draw attention to invasive species and their threat to farms and natural areas.

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Seattle Cider (Seattle Washington) City Fruit (6.3% ABV) – This is a special release cider only sold at Whole Foods, made using apples collected in the Seattle community by the non-profit City Fruit.  Dry to semi-dry.  Wine-like and acid forward.  Notes of red grape and mineral.  Overall very mild flavor intensity.  This is a wine-lovers cider, and would pair well with food.

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Steelhead Cider (Manson WA) Chimera Cherry Apple (5.5% ABV) – This is a newer cidery who just started distributing (at least kegs) in the Seattle area.  I previously tried their Peargatory.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to strong real cherry flavor.  It was sweeter than I prefer, but I liked the intense cherry flavor.

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Summit Cider – I’ll add a bit about them as they aren’t yet distributed in Western Washington (only Idaho and Eastern Washington).  This cidery was started in 2014, making them the first in Idaho, and the only in Coeur d’Alene.  Their bestseller is Apricot, although of late their Hibiscus cider has been popular with wine drinkers.  They have a tap room in Coeur d’Alene.  I met co-founder Davon Sjostrom, who has a background in Botany, which I imagine brings something new to cidermaking.

Summit Cider (Coeur d’Alene Idaho) Apple (6.5% ABV) – Semi-dry.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Rather plain, but likeable.

Summit Cider (Coeur d’Alene Idaho) Apricot (6.5% ABV) – Semi-dry.  Lots of (true) apricot flavor for the level of dryness (typically drier ciders have a less intense flavor than sweeter ciders).  I really enjoyed it.  Davon described testing out many varieties of apricots to find the one whose flavor came across best in cider.

Summit Cider (Coeur d’Alene Idaho) Hibiscus (6.9% ABV) – Semi-dry with nuanced light floral and herbal notes.  I can see why this would be a wine-lovers cider.

Summit Cider (Coeur d’Alene Idaho) Blackberry (unknown ABV) – This was their fruit cider challenge entry.  I found it semi-dry and very mild in flavor.  I think with some barrel aging it would have been nice though.

In Summary

My Favorite Cider – Reverend Nat’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Black Currant

Other Favorite Ciders – Reverend Nat’s The Passion, Summer Cider Apricot, Sea Cider Ruby Rose, and Steelhead Cherry

Most Interesting Cider – One Tree’s PB&J cider, a raspberry cider with peanut butter whipped cream (I didn’t try it, but a photo is available here – more dessert than cider).

Other Interesting Ciders – Reverend Nat’s Sour Cherry, due to the use of ghost chili peppers.  Schilling’s Grumpy Bear, due to the use of coffee and a Nitro can (my tasting notes here).  Schilling’s Sour Raspberry Smoothie, due to its high viscosity (apparently for some of their ciders with high fruit content, they have a keg or two per batch which are smoothie-like).  Apple Outlaw’s Chocolate Raspberry, due to the use of chocolate in a cider (I’ve only heard of Woodchuck doing this previously).  1o1 Ciderhouse Black Dog, due to the use of activated charcoal (poured last year, with my tasting notes here).

Aspall Grand Cru

Review of Aspall’s Grand Cru cider, from England.  I’ve also tried a number of their other varieties.

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Cider:  Grand Cru
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml tall black bottle
Style:  English cider made from sweet, sharp, and bittersweet apple varieties

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Availability:  Semi wide release (through Artisanal Imports)

Cider Description:  Rich, golden colour. Traditional bittersweet cyder-apple aroma with orchard fruit and floral notes. Palate initially slightly sweet, then mouth- filling and full bodied. Complex array of fruit flavours balanced by gorgeous soft tannins, producing a bone dry finish. Very long aftertaste, a true sign of a classic cyder of the highest quality. An ideal partner for highly flavoured meat dishes, especially duck confit and exotic food from Asia and North African with a hint of sweetness.

Apple Varieties: 40% Sweet (Discovery, Worcester Pearmain, & Chivers Deligh), 25% Sharp (Bramley Seedling, Grenadier, & Lord Darby), and 35% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, & Kingston)

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  $7.00
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m a big fan of Aspall, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Pale amber hue.  Low carbonation with some foam upon pouring.  Smells of apple juice, yeast, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Rich flavor.  Notes of granny smith apple skin, apple juice, yeast, honey, floral, stone fruit, mineral, and pineapple. Long strong finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate to strong flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  Yum!  Aspall hasn’t disappointed me yet.  I love the richness and tannins, and the extra sweetness, tartness, and flavor notes add some uniqueness.

Most Similar to:  This seems like a combination of English, French, and American cider…it has the tannins of an English cider, some yeastiness & additional carbonation of a French cider, and the sweetness & tartness of an American cider.  Its flavor is unique and I can’t really name any similar ciders.

Closing Notes:   This cider is quite enjoyable and an exceptional value too.  I look forward to continuing to try every Aspall variety I can find.  My favorite remains the Imperial (black label), although it seems they have may have replaced it with the blue label version.

Have you tried Aspall Grand Cru?  What did you think?

Aspall Imperial English Cider (Blue Label)

Review of Aspall’s Imperial English Cider.  This time I tried the blue labeled version of their Imperial cider, having previously tried the black labeled version.  I’ve also tried a number of their other varieties.

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Cider:  Imperial English Cider
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English Imperial

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Availability:  Semi wide release.

Cider Description:  We called this cyder Imperial in honour of our great grandfather JB Chevallier’s success at the Imperial Fruit Show in 1921. Every year we craft a special vintage. This is our 285th….Rich fudgy, tantalising flavour enhanced by bitter-sweet apples from a single year’s crop. Notes of raisins, dates and prunes. Sweet mellow finish.

Apple Composition:
Sweet (35%): Orange Cox Pippin, Royal Gala
Sharp (35%): Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder
Bittersweet (30%): Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston

Cidery Description:  Our family cyder-making business was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family….Aspall has been home to our family for nine generations. A tiny hamlet north of the small market town of Debenham in mid-Suffolk. It’s a rural and agricultural area characterised by the young river Deben flowing through our orchards.

Price:  ~$8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been curious for awhile if this was the same or different from the black labeled version of Imperial, and now I have my answer.

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First Impression:  Light copper orange amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of rich sweet bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, and melted butter.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild tannins, tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, orange, apple pomace, and yeast.  Moderate length warming finish with more alcohol burn than expected.  Strong apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Although I enjoyed this cider, I think it doesn’t even compare to their black label Imperial, which is one of my all time favorite ciders (and I believe an excellent value).

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as Aspall, Worley’s, and Sheppy’s, English-style ciders such as from Liberty Ciderworks (English Style and its barrel aged cousin, Stonewall) & Montana Ciderworks (Darby Pub), and ciders with significant bitterness / harshness.  The yeast-forward flavor actually reminds me of many French ciders.

Closing Notes:   I hope I can find the black label version of this cider again….so far my best guess is that this blue label version replaced it, as I haven’t seen it for awhile.  That would be unfortunate.

Have you tried Aspall cider?  What did you think?