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?

Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider

Review of Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider.  I’m a huge fan of English cider, and of Aspall, and have tried a few of their other ciders (reviews & tasting notes here).

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Cider:  Demi Sec
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  English craft cider made from heirloom & cider apple varieties

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Availability:  Fairly wide release at specialty bottle shops in the U.S. (and Europe of course)

Cider Description:  Golden color, with ripe apple and honey-ish aromas. Lightly sweet with a pleasant balancing acidity giving way to a nice off-dry finish.

Apple Varieties:  65% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Egremont Russett, & Royal Gala), 25% Sharp (Bramley Seedling & Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, & Dabinett).

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:  Browsing.  I’ve been wanting to try more Aspall varieties, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow with some orange.  Low carbonation and moderate foam upon pouring.  Smells of mild apple, floral, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Low to moderate acidity.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or bitterness.  Notes of honey, citrus (including grapefruit), floral, and green apple.  Moderate length finish.  Moderately flavored.  Moderate apple influence.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tasty!  Its light and refreshing, although with more sweetness and less richness than I expected.  It doesn’t have many of the characteristics of traditional English cider.

Most Similar to:  I found this more similar to “American” ciders than English ciders.  The following have similar honey and floral notes:  Moonlight Meadery How Do You Like Them Little Apples (except it is sweeter and barrel aged), Finnriver Honey Meadow (except it has chamomile and lemon balm), and EZ Orchards Hawk Haus (except it is much drier).

Closing Notes:   This was definitely enjoyable, but not what I was expecting.  My favorite from Aspall remains their Imperial (black label…not sure if it differs from the blue labeled bottles).

Have you tried Aspall Demi Sec?  What did you think?

Aspall English Imperial Cider (Black Label)

Review of Aspall’s English Imperial Cider.  I’ve previously had their Dry and John Barrington varieties, which are impressive.  Aspall has got to be one of the oldest cideries out there, founded in 1728!  Aren’t their tall bottles awesomely distinctive?  Note that it appears this cider has since been switched to a light blue label (similar description and same ABV), but I don’t have confirmation.

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Cider:  Imperial
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  Semi-wide release.  If you can’t find it locally, you can actually get it for $7 from ShipCider.com, which ships to a number of states.  Shipping can be spendy, but their cider prices are the lowest I’ve seen, so overall its not too bad, especially considering you can pick up ciders you normally don’t have access to.

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

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First Impression:  Rich amber.  No carbonation except for a few bubbles on the border of the glass.  Smells like rich ripe apples, tannins, oak, earth, and a hint of spice and honey.

Opinion:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Lovely rich full-flavored English cider.  Warming from the slightly higher ABV, but doesn’t taste boozy.  Moderate tannins.  No to low bitterness and tartness,  Low acidity.  No sourness or funk.  Medium bodied.  Medium length finish.  Still (no carbonation).  Tastes oaky (but isn’t barrel aged as far as I know) and has some caramelized sugar notes.  I particularly enjoyed the lack of bitterness and that the level of tannins was noticeable but not extreme.  I can definitely taste the bittersweet apple character.  From their website I also learned they use champagne yeast on all their ciders.  I found this cider’s taste didn’t too significantly change as it warmed up, so I’d recommend anywhere between fridge and room temperature, based on your preference.  My go-to cider pairing is pretzel bread, and it didn’t disappoint!

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 higher tannin ciders such as Cider Riot 1763, Alpenfire Ember, Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012, and Whitewood Kingston Black.

Closing Notes:   Awesome!  Probably easily in my top 10 favorite ciders, and my favorite Aspall variety so far (although their others are also awesome).  This cider is the epitome of my favorite qualities in a cider.  Its also a great value, at approximately the same cost as a lot of local craft ciders I see, many of which are made from dessert apples and have flavors added (fruit, hops, spices, etc), when this is imported and contains some cider apple juice.  Aspall makes some amazing ciders, and I look forward to trying more.  Their website it super informative on their history, cidermaking, and more, so check it out.  I highly recommend their ciders!  That said, its all a matter of taste…if you prefer a lighter flavor and easy drinking / low ABV / sessionable cider, this isn’t it.

Have you tried Aspall Imperial?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 4 Tasting Notes

Another trip to the Schilling Cider House!  I always have a blast (especially now that Sarah from Cider Log works there), and its kinda on my way home, and pretty affordable for a cider flight, so I make time for it when I can.

I had barely sat down this time when Sarah asked my opinion on the sweetness level of Cockrell’s Valley Red (raspberry) they had just tapped (as they color code the tap list by sweetness level).  My vote was semi-sweet.  I actually tried that one at the Seattle Cider tasting room (The Woods) awhile back.  Bright cherry-pink hue.  Semi-sweet.  Nicely balanced tart-sweet,  The raspberry comes across with a nice bite, and is easily noticeable, but not overpowering.

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Then, I ordered a flight.  It actually wasn’t too difficult to find 6 I hadn’t tried before, as they have 32 cider taps.

2015-10-09 15.29.24 Wandering Aengus Byrd, 8.5% ABV:
Made from Wickson Crabapples and Nehou English Bittersweets, wild fermented.  Semi-dry to Dry.  Orangeish hue.  Lots of crabbapple flavor and heavy tannins.  Richer but light bodied.  Slight funk.  Not too much bitterness.  Nice tang.  Quite tasty, my favorite Wandering Aengus so far by far (usually not a big fan of them or their subsidiary Anthem).  Reminds me of English cider.  Apparently the name was because a bird made a nest on top of the tank, so they decided to name whatever cider they made a variation on bird.

2015-10-09 15.29.33 Jester & Judge Sharp Cherry, 5.8% ABV:
First time I’ve tried Jester & Judge, although I have a bottle of their cider in the fridge to try.  They are a newish cidery out of Stevenson WA.  Semi-dry.  Orange/pink hue.  Very very mild cherry.  Some tartness.  Overall kinda blah.  I’d call it Hint of Cherry, not Sharp Cherry lol.  I guess I’m just a fan of bolder flavor.  By the way, my favorite cherry cider so far is made by Washington Gold, and has a lovely bold real tart cherry flavor.

2015-10-09 15.29.43 Blue Mountain Semi-Sweet, 6.3% ABV:
Second time I’ve tried Blue Mountain (only tried their Peach before).  Semi-dry.  Floral scent.  Kinda watered down tasting / mildly flavored.  Some tartness and some bitterness.  Very mild tannins.  Floral and citrus notes.  Easy drinking and I think this would be widely appealing.  Overall kinda average.

2015-10-09 15.29.53 Le Brun Organic Cidre, 4% ABV:
French cidre!  Semi-sweet.  Nice richer flavor with mild tannins.  I pick up some apple skin type flavor with this one, and its a bit larger bodied than some other French ciders I’ve had.  Overall quite good, but as far as French ciders go, I prefer Dan Armor, which I found to be more flavorful.  They carry this in bottles at the Schilling Cider House by the way.

2015-10-09 15.30.06 Waupoos Premium, 6.5% ABV:
I’ve heard of this cidery from Ontario Canada, but hadn’t had a chance to try their cider. On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Plain yeasty apple scent.  Some tartness, bitterness, and acidity, but rather mild.  A rather basic cider without much flavor, but I don’t really have any complaints about it either.  Well-hidden ABV.

2015-10-09 15.30.17 Doc’s Raspberry on Nitro, 5.5% ABV:
I’ve been wanting to try Doc’s.  Sarah recommends their Sour Cherry, but I haven’t seen it yet.  This one was weird…I picked up some saltiness.  Maybe from the tap line?  It also unfortunately didn’t take well to the Nitro (there wasn’t any noticeable Nitro influence; typically the ciders get really foamy & smooth).  Semi-sweet.  Nicely balanced tart-sweet raspberry.  Smelled better than it tasted though.  I’ll have to give them another try.

Overall:  The only ciders I truly enjoyed from my flight were the Wandering Aengus (oddly enough) and Le Brun.  I kinda wished I had got a flight of the ciders I knew I liked that they had on tap, but I’m a sucker for trying new things, especially ciders, and especially when I haven’t tried anything from that cidery.

While I was there they also put together a very unique Randall using Schilling Oak Aged cider, mushrooms, walnuts, and black olives!  The olives cam through most in the scent.  The taste was quite earthy with some funk, and a bit chunky honestly (I got the first pour I think).  It wasn’t as bad as it sounds though, although a couple sips was plenty.  Looks like Friday afternoons are their typical Randall time, as the same thing happened during my previous visit.

Sarah also shared some of a bottle of Aspall Dry with me!  This was the very first Aspall variety I had (at the Seattle International Beerfest; see my post here), and is quite excellent.  Its an awesomely crisp apple-forward semi-dry cider.  I haven’t been disappointed by any Aspall variety yet, and am looking forward to trying the bottle of Imperial I have at home.

So, all in all, obviously I highly recommend the Schilling Cider House!  By the way, the Schilling Cider House has a monthly potluck.  The next one is on Thursday October 22 from 5-9pm, and being called Dude…Sweet, with a theme of sweeter ciders, and asking folks to bring in sweet treats to share.  There will even be a new Schilling release!

Schilling Cider House – Washington Cider Week – 2 Towns Tap Night

The last Washington Cider Week event I attended was the 2 Towns Tap Night at the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood from Seattle (Thurs Sept 17, 2015).  I honestly would have rather gone to the Barrel Aged event they had the night before, but that didn’t work for my schedule.  I’m a fan of 2 Towns, and got to meet up with some great cider folks, so I was very happy nonetheless.

You can’t beat their 32 cider tap selection!  Plus they have a huge bottle selection, all chilled, and you can see every bottle and look at the label and such.  It was only my second time there, but I’ve already gone back for a third visit the following week.  Sarah from Cider Log is the manager at the Schilling Cider House now, I finally got to meet Mick from Click Distributing (we’ve chatted on Facebook quite a bit), and I also met some folks from some other distributors as well.

I got there quite awhile before the event started.  It was officially 6-9pm (when the 2 Towns guys were there), but they had the 2 Towns selections on tap much earlier.  I picked up a tasty Caprese sandwich from across the street.  I sat at the cider house bar for a few minutes to figure out what I wanted to start with.  Then Mick found me and I went over to the cool kids table with the distributor dudes.

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I started with a flight of 4 ciders.  I should have just gone for the full 6, as I think it ends up being cheaper, but I was holding out to try some 2 Towns stuff later.  Also, although I didn’t yet know it, I would also be trying some bottled cider!

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<left to right: Schilling Barrel #2, Moonlight Meadery Last Apple,
Aspall John Darington, Finnriver Barrel Berry Sour>

Schilling Barrel #2:  A 21% ABV concoction which was barrel aged.  I’m a little unclear as to how it was made (I heard once it was fortified with brandy and another time it was distilled cider).  However, its not really cider at this ABV, more like apple brandy, apple jack, Pommeau, apple spirits, whatever you want to call it.  Definitely booze-forward, but I found it easily drinkable on its own when it was cold (and I usually don’t do straight alcohol).  I loved the honey and almost floral notes.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Highly recommended!  They still had some of this on tap as of Sept 25 by the way.

Moonlight Meadery The Last Apple:  A 16% ABV cyser (when apple juice is blended with honey, then fermented).  It was then barrel aged in Jim Beam barrels for 6 months.  I’ve had both meads and ciders from Moonlight, and now a cyser.  On the sweet & syrupy side, but very flavorful.  Well hidden ABV.  I loved the honey flavor which was bold but not overdone.  All around complex and tasty!  This was also still on tap as of Sept 25.

Aspall John Barrington:  A 8.4% cider from Aspall in the UK.  I didn’t know anything about this cider going into it, but put it on my flight card as I’ve been impressed by Aspall so far.  The scent was quite dry, but it came across as semi-sweet to me in taste (although Schilling had it listed as dry per their taste test).  Almost still (very low carbonation).  Very smooth and rich flavor.  Acidic and slightly tart.  Lovely tropical notes.  I liked this one.

Finnriver Barrel Berry Sour:  A 6.5% sour blueberry-apple cider which was barrel aged.  Although I’m not a fan of sour cider (about the only sour thing I like is candy), I decided to give it a try as it was barrel aged, and I’m a sucker for barrel aged!  Definitely sour, and I thought more so than their Country Peach I tried at Cider Summit which was described as a sour (but didn’t have sour in the name).  Semi-dry.  For me the sour overwhelmed the flavor so much I couldn’t pick up the barrel influence or any other flavors  I’m not a fan, but glad I tried it.  Apparently lots of folks like sour ciders, beer, etc…I’m just not one of them.

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Next, I got to partake in samples of two bottled ciders that some of the guys bought, Poire Domfront from Domaine Pacory and Roman Beauty from E.Z. Orchards.  The Schilling Cider House doesn’t charge an extra fee beyond the bottle price to drink any of their bottled ciders on the premises, but I don’t see why you would want to with 32 ciders on tap?

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Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront:  A 5% ABV French perry made primarily with “plant de blanc” pears.  Rich sweet scent.  Fizzy / high carbonation.  Mick thought it was hilarious the first comment out of my mouth upon tasting it was “that’s fizzy!”.  I really do love a highly carbonated cider though, and we don’t get it too often here.  Semi-sweet.  Very light bodied.  I wouldn’t have guessed this was perry at all, as it really tasted similar to French ciders I’ve enjoyed.  Easy drinking and very tasty.  There was the slightest bit of funk when it warmed up a bit.

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E.Z. Orchards Roman Beauty:  A 4% ABV cider from Oregon.  Made primarily from Roman Beauty apples, bottle conditioned, and cold spontaneous fermentation.  Clean & crisp scent.  This one was also easy drinking and very tasty.  I didn’t mind at all that there was still cider left in the bottle after the guys left, and I continued to sample it.

Next, since it was 2 Towns time, I got a small pour of their Made Marion on Nitro.  I had tried or wasn’t interested in their other selections on tap:
Bad Apple, high ABV imperial style cider – awesome
Hop & Stalk, Sitra hops & rhubarb – didn’t care to try as I’m not a fan of either of its namesakes
Prickle Me Pink, pink from cactus fruit – quite good
Outcider, their unfiltered variety – average

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2 Towns Made Marion:  A 6% ABV marionberry cider.  I’m pretty sure I had this one awhile back, but 2 Towns makes a number of berry ciders, so I’m not 100%.  This one had lots of foam due to the Nitro tap.  Deep berry color and a tart berry scent.  Very smooth.  Semi-sweet.  I also picked up some boysenberry flavor in addition to the marionberry for whatever reason.  Mild tartness.  I found this a bit predictable, although I haven’t ever been too amazed by a berry cider; often they are quite juice-like.

They came around with samples of some 2 Towns ciders, which was quite nice.  Aaron Sarnoff, a co-founder and cider guru at 2 Towns whom I met at Cider Summit, was there with another co-worker.  It wasn’t very crowded (probably due to the rain), so Aaron chat with us all at the cool kids table for awhile.  I got a sweet 2 Towns pint glass!  My husband has been enjoying drinking his beer from it lol.  I’m not a huge fan of cider in a pint glass (its a bit too large for starters), but its a great collectible.

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On my way out I picked up a bottle of Cider Riot! 1763 (made from cider apples).  Earlier in the afternoon I had stopped at Full Throttle Bottles and got Traditions Ciderworks Bourbon Barrel 2012 (my favorite from Cider Summit…I’m very happy Erika from Full Throttle got some for me) and Carlton Cyderworks Slake (whiskey barrel aged).  I haven’t tried any ciders from Cider Riot or Carlton Cyderworks, and these seemed like good starting points as I love barrel aged cider!  Three bottles of cider added to my collection that I definitely didn’t need.  Its very tough to not buy cider that sounds amazing though.

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This concludes the Washington Cider Week festivities.  However, stay tuned for more trip reports.  I have posts in work for another trip I made to the Schilling Cider House, and to mix it up a bit, Aesir Meadery in Everett WA.

Seattle International Beerfest 2015 Trip Report

What a lovely day to be outside drinking cider in Seattle!  Luckily we had some cloud cover and it cooled off from the high 80s we’ve had of late to the low 70s.

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Although this was obviously a beer event, they had 10 cider choices out of the approximately 200 selections.  This was a three day event and we thankfully had the foresight to get there not too long after they opened at noon on the first day (Friday).  Yay for an excuse to take off work!  As the day went on it got only more crowded, and I can only expect the same for the rest of the weekend.

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Fisher Plaza in Seattle Center near the International Fountain was a great venue choice.  The event was mostly outside on the lawn, but there was also an inside portion.  Inside even had real restrooms (although there were also port a potties outside).  Sadly they did not allow outside beverages, even sealed bottles of water, so we dumped them and eventually found the water bottle fill station by the restrooms (otherwise it was $1 or $2 from a food vendor).

They housed the bottled selections inside and all the taps outside.  Most taps were coolers with two taps per cooler.  There was some seating & shade thankfully, so the blanket I brought wasn’t necessary (although it would be when they were busy).  There were numbered Tables with four selections per Table, and the event program listed all the beer/cider details and location.  This was very very well organized, especially compared to many tasting events I’ve been to.  I imagine Saturday afternoon here will be a zoo though!

This is a dog friendly event and we saw many many dogs.  They even had water bowls out for them, which I’m sure was appreciated.  There were also games to check out, which appeared to also be appreciated.  We saw lots of people just hanging out listening to the live music.  Others were more obviously beer aficionados.  There was even a smoking tent which kept the smell contained, although the cigar area at the top of the hill allowed cigar smoke to waft down a bit.

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before the crowds…

This event was staffed by volunteers, who gave up three hours of their time to serve beer & cider in exchange for a free t-shirt and entry to the event.  Tastes of beer & cider (4oz) cost between 1 and 7 tickets each, depending on the product cost, with a ticket worth $1.  Most selections were 2-3 tickets, but there were plenty of 1 ticket and 4-7 ticket selections.  They also offered some pints for 3 tickets, including Crispin Blackberry Pear.  I would have loved to have the brewers and cider makers at this event, but alas it was focused more on quantity and supposedly international & rare finds, than connecting drinkers with makers.

Lots of yummy food choices, although I was really craving a soft pretzel or pizza or something.  BBQ, gyros, burgers, burritos, grilled cheese, hot dogs, etc.  I ended up with a hot dog while my two drinking companions (hubby & friend) had Gyros.  We later snacked on some kettle corn and even a weird buckwheat pancake with butter & sugar confection (Miri’s Poffers).  There were also a few non-food vendors, everything from engraved growlers to beer themed t-shirts to beef jerky.

And now, on to the cider tasting notes…I ended up trying six ciders, four of which I hadn’t tried before.

(1) Aspall Dry Cider (bottle, 6.8%, from England, 3 tickets).  Dry English draft style cider.  This was the surprising winner of the day!  I would call it semi-dry.  Very crisp & smooth with a traditional English cider taste.  I found it to be pretty similar to Crispin Browns Lane.  I plan to try another selection of theirs which is available near me (the only one), Aspall Blush cider.

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(2) Reverend Nat’s Hopland #5 / Envy (draft, 10.2%, from OR, 2 tickets).  Intensely hopped cider with 11 hops varieties.  I didn’t expect to like this as I don’t like hops, but thought I might as well try it.  It has an unfiltered look to it, a bit orange and hazy.  Very very hoppy, both smell & taste!  It was also a bit boozy, which is to be expected at over 10%.  I really couldn’t pick up anything in this besides hops.  My companions tried it and couldn’t even taste that it was cider.  This is definitely a beer drinker’s cider.  Unfortunately after a couple sips it got dumped out, as it wasn’t even drinkable for my two beer loving companions.

(3) Wyder’s Reposado Pear (draft, 6.9%, from VT, 1 ticket).  Tequila barrel aged pear cider.  I’ve had this at home a number of times and was curious if it would taste any different on tap than bottled.  Surprisingly, not.  If anything I didn’t like it as much on tap as it seemed to have less carbonation.  For me this cider starts off with pear and finishes with tequila.  Its smooth, and sweet to semi-sweet.  I think its quite tasty.

(4) Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider (bottle, 5%, from England, 2 tickets).  This was pretty unremarkable for me.  It had a definite sweet apple scent, but tasted semi-dry.  It had a very quick finish to it and was overall quite plain.  I think there is much better cider to be had for the cost.

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(5) Anthem “Raz & Boyz” (draft, unknown ABV but I’d guess 5-6%, from OR, 2 tickets).  This was Wandering Angus’ mystery cider selection, from their Anthem line.  I really don’t have any info on it, as it wasn’t in the event program and it appears to be brand new (no information even online).  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a new selection they released for the first time for the International Beerfest for Portland & Seattle, as they are from OR.  All I could go off of was the name they scrawled on the small white board lol, so this likely isn’t even the cider’s real name.  Very very tart!  Semi-dry to dry.  Brilliant red color.  I only picked up raspberry, no boysenberry.  It was more palatable once it opened up a bit by the end of the tasting glass.  One of my companions thought it would be much better as a beer mixer than on its own, as it was just too dry & tart.  I had fun watching people take their first sip after getting a glass of it, as most scrunched up their face!

(6) Crispin Blackberry Pear (draft, 5%, from CA, 3 tickets for a full pint).  Pear cider with blackberry.  This was something else I’ve had at home but was curious if it was any different on tap (and I was out of new ciders to try).  This is a sweet fairly straight forward blackberry & pear cider.  Smooth, easy to drink, and slightly tart.  This appeared to be a very popular selection, and I saw more folks with this in their pint glass than beer!  It was actually a good deal too for $3 a pint as this cider runs about $9 for a four pack of 12oz bottles.  Plus it really hit the spot to finish out the day.

Sorry I don’t have photos of the draft ciders, but they unfortunately didn’t have info sheets nor was there a surface to take a photo on…

Overall, I highly recommend this Seattle-area tasting event.  It’ll be a crowd pleaser for beer & cider lovers alike.  It was unfortunately a bit spendy though:  $95 for advance purchase admission for three with 60 tickets, $15 for parking, and food & souvenirs.  Still a great way to spend the day though.  We ended up getting one pack of 40 tickets for one person and two packs of 10 tickets each for two people, which worked out well to share.  Although you can buy extra tickets, the “Big Deal” as they called it (advance purchase only) essentially gave you 10 free tickets, and having the tickets in advance encouraged us to go big and try some of the more expensive stuff (vs. having to shell out extra money for single tickets).

My best advice is to arrive Friday afternoon when they open at noon, as around 4pm the crowds really picked up.  Other advantages of arriving Friday are that you have in & out privileges (just need your wristband & tasting glass), and they may run out of some selections.  Looking forward to next year!