Preview of Washington Cider Week 2019

I was recently invited to a preview of Washington Cider Week for media and industry folks.  The 9th annual Washington Cider Week is September 5th-15th 2019, and will include numerous cider events, with Cider Summit Seattle being a highlight (see my posts here).  The preview event was hosted by the NW Cider Association, and held in the orchard at Dragon’s Head Cider on Vashon Island in WA.

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It was a sweet invite-only event, and I enjoyed the excuse to take a half day off work and taste cider with my husband from about a dozen cideries, and chat with cidery reps.  New for this year they had a panel discussion, hosted by Erin James (of CiderCraft and Sip NW magazines), featuring Emily Ritchie (the Director of NW Cider) and folks from PCC, Zeek’s pizza, and Teku Tavern, who shared about the role of cider in their businesses.

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Erin James shared some interesting facts, like that cider grew 10 fold in 10 years (faster than craft beer did), 6-8% of beer sales in WA are cider (vs. 1-3% in most other states), and 1/3 of NW cideries are orchard-based (like Dragon’s Head).

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NW Cider also showed off their new interactive map of NW cideries, categorized the list of tasting options by United States Association of Cidermakers cider styles, and shared about the Certified Cider Professional program.

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They had some nice swag too – a bottle tote bag, brochures, keychain bottle opener, and a bottle stopper (as the NW Cider association is pushing the idea of bars & restaurants offering cider from bottle pours, not just kegs, especially as many of the smaller heritage cideries don’t keg their ciders).

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Now, on to the cider!

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2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Suns Out Saison (5.6%):  Their 2nd fruit seasonal release of the year, from dessert apples and peaches, fermented with Saison beer yeast, a re-release of the 2016 version (see my review here).  Semi-dry with notes of peach, citrus, yeast, and earth.  I learned their 3rd fruit seasonal will be Cosmic Currant, made with black currant and cranberry.  I was also told to be on the lookout for Marissimo later this year, a limited release marionberry barrel aged Pommeau.  A tasty summery cider with flavor but not to much sweetness.

Snowdrift (Wenatchee WA) Forefathers (7.5%):  A new draft-only release, from a combination of apples including both cider and dessert apple varieties.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, with notes of citrus, floral, and honey, and a hint of tannins.  Approachable.

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Pear UP (Wenatchee WA) Grapefruit:  A new canned release, a grapefruit perry (from 100% pears, no apples).  The grapefruit was stronger on the nose than the flavor.  Very refreshing, almost like a grapefruit soda, but only mid-level sweetness, and nearly still.  I wouldn’t have guessed it was perry.

Tieton (Yakima WA) Single Varietal Harrison:  A new release, bottled & kegged, a single varietal from Harrison bittersharp cider apples.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, with notes of citrus & honey.  I really enjoyed it, as its more approachable than a lot of other heritage ciders, being sweeter.  I was surprised with the lack of sharpness and/or bitterness.  Awesome.

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Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Fire Barrel:  A whiskey barrel aged cider from cider apples.  I’ve tried this before (see here), but I think this is a newer vintage.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Super rich, with notes of smoke, oak, and orange.  I really enjoyed it, but prefer the original vintages (see here).

Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Golden Russet:  Made from ‘russeted’ cider apples, primarily Golden Russet.  Dry to semi-dry, acidic, with notes of citrus and earth.  A bit nuanced for my tastes.

Bad Granny (Wenatchee WA) Reserve:  A new release using cider apples, and for the first time for them, methode champenoise, a traditional labor intensive method to make a naturally sparkling cider.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light fluffy texture with lots of bubbles.  Notes of sharp apple and citrus with hints of bitterness and tannins.  Also a bit nuanced for my tastes.

Bad Granny (Wenatchee WA) Honey Crisp:  A flagship offering, but per my notes I actually haven’t tried it.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, apple-forward, with a bit of honey flavor.  Nice.

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Herb’s (Bellingham WA) Blue Note:  Made from heirloom apples and blueberries, co-fermented (vs. being added in a secondary fermentation).  Fully dry.  Very light blueberry flavor.

Herb’s (Bellingham WA) Traditional Bittersharp:  Made from bittersharp & bittersweet cider apples.  Dry.  Sharp and rich.

Herb’s (Bellingham WA) Crescendo:  Made from Cox Orange Pippin apples.  Dry.  Lots of orange with a hint of floral notes.

I was impressed with all 3 selections from Herb’s as they had some awesome flavor profiles, but I wish they had a bit more sweetness.

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Nashi (Vashon WA) Idyllacres Bittersweet Cider:  Made from English & French bittersweet cider apples.  On the sweeter side of dry.  Tannic and complex.  Notes of apple pomace, orange, caramel, and leather.  Quite lovely.

Nashi (Vashon WA) Chojuro Asian Pear Perry:  Unique scent, of spice / black pepper.  However, the flavor profile was lemon and floral, with only a hint of pear.  Semi dry.  Perplexing.

You can tell what order I tasted these in, as I forgot to get photos of the last few…

Bauman’s (Portland OR) Dry:  Made from a variety of apples, including dessert and cider.  Dry, with notes of citrus & floral, and hints of bitterness & tannins.  A bit nuanced for my tastes.

Bauman’s (Portland OR) Orange Blossom:  Made with oranges and a hint of pineapple.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, tannic, with notes of orange.  Great.

Bauman’s (Portland OR) Loganberry:  Made with loganberries.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Berry forward with mild tartness and hints of tannins.  I enjoyed the unexpected complexity.

Liberty (Spokane WA) Lafayette:  Made using French bittersweet cider apples and keeved, which creates a naturally sweet apple-forward flavorful cider.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Rich and tannic, with notes of bittersweet cider apple pomace and orange.  Awesome.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon WA) Heritage Rosé:  Made from Redfield and Mountain Rose red-fleshed apples.  Amazing fruity scent.  Semi-dry, with notes of strawberry and rhubarb.  Tasty, with more complexity than flavored rosé ciders.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon WA) Heritage:  Made from English and French cider apple varieties (previously named ‘Traditional’).  Dry to semi-dry.  Earthy, with sharp citrus heirloom apple flavor.  A bit nuanced for my tastes; I seem to remember the Traditional being sweeter.

Stay tuned for more posts on Washington Cider Week 2019 (especially Cider Summit Seattle) at Cider Says.

For those in WA, check out the WA cider week event calendar for Sept 5-15.

Also, for cider industry folks in the NW, save the date for the first-annual NW Cider Symposium, which has been announced for March 10th 2020 in Tacoma WA.

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 – Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is Part 2/2 on Cider Rite of Spring 2017 in Portland Oregon, which includes tasting notes on the 18 ciders I tried.  See HERE for Part 1/2, covering the event itself.  Note that I have more notes on some ciders than others depending on how much of it I tried and what was going on at the event (kinda tough to take notes with one hand while holding on to your tasting glass in the other!)…its not a reflection on the cider itself.

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^ 5 Cider (Portland OR) Strawbasaurus Hop, 6.9% ABV, $6/500ml:  This is a flagship hopped strawberry cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied with a lot of foam.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  I couldn’t get past how overly hoppy the flavor was.  The light strawberry flavor with the intense hopped flavor was also odd.  I think hops are nice to enhance a cider’s flavor, but I don’t like when they overpower it.

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2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Pommeau, 19% ABV, $23/375ml, VIP offering:  This is an awesome Pommeau (apple brandy + apple cider, oak barrel aged for 1 year); see my previous review here.

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7 Bev / Queen Orchard (West Linn OR) Green Man, 6.7% ABV, draft only:  This cider is for the Willamette Ale & Cider House, expected to open in West Linn Oregon on June 15th, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  It was described as inspired by English cider, but I found it more farmhouse-style than anything else (none of the characteristic tannins of English cider).  Hazy hue.  Smells of sulfur, sourness, and funk, but those qualities oddly enough didn’t transfer to the flavor.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Apple-forward with citrus notes.  Nice flavor, but the scent was off-putting.  It could be a first production issue.

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Alter Ego Cider (Portland OR) The Guardian Angel, 6.5% ABV, $8/500ml:  This is a flagship blueberry pomegranate cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dark berry hue.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity, with blueberry, pomegranate, and grape, but not much apple.  High sessionability.  Juice-like.  Reminds me of Atlas’ ciders.  I liked it.

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Bauman’s Cider (Gervais OR) Peach Raspberry, 6.4% ABV, $12/22oz:  This summer seasonal cider adds peaches and raspberries, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate to high flavor intensity, with rather straight-forward peach and raspberry notes.  Well balanced with a lot of flavor without being too sweet.  I really enjoyed it.

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Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Grape Perry, 6.0% ABV, draft only:  This is a perry made from dessert pears, sweetened with Concord grape juice, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry.   Light bodied.  Very light fruity flavor, primarily grape.  I was expecting a sweeter more flavorful cider between the pear (unfermentable sugars typically lead to a higher residual sugar content even if fermentation isn’t stopped early) and grape, although you can tell even from the color than not a lot of grape juice was used.

Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Cherry’s Pie, 7.5% ABV, draft only:  This is a cider with cherries added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  I found the flavor a bit weird…kinda bitter…but I just had a sip or two shared with me.

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Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Apply Ol’ Fashion cocktail, VIP offering:  Made with Finnriver’s Spirited Apple Wine (brandy-fortified cider, 18.5% ABV, $25/500ml) and Oak and Apple cider (6.5% ABV, $10/500ml).  I’ve previously had both ciders on their own, but I didn’t like this cocktail in the least, and neither did my husband or friend, as none of us are fans of bitters.  Its likely the proportions may have got off since they made this rather rushed…it was quite an undertaking to serve a non-pre-mixed cocktail at a busy event like this.  They were also offering pours of just the Apple Wine, which is what I should have chosen.  See my Oak and Apple review here.  My favorite from Finnriver however is their Fire Barrel (see here); this year’s vintage was just released, and it is a great value at ~$11/500ml.

McMenamins Edgefield Winery (Portland OR) Black Cherry Cider, 6.8% ABV, draft only:  Semi-sweet.  Nice real cherry flavor.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity.  I liked it.  I had previously only tried Edgefield’s flagship cider.

Pear UP (formerly NV Cider, East Wenatchee WA) Raspberry Perry, unknown ABV, $5/500ml:  This is a perry (only pears, no apples) with raspberries.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Nice moderate to strong fresh raspberry flavor with a hint of pear.  Refreshingly flavorful.  I was surprised how much more flavorful this was compared to their Watermelon Perry, as it is only slightly more sweet.  I like the flavor intensity of this best of all their perries I’ve tried, but the watermelon flavor remains my favorite (I’m a huge watermelon fan).

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) New Moon Mandarin, 7.2% ABV, $7/500ml:  This seasonal cider is made with mandarin and tangerine juice, and finished with chamomile flowers.  Dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very mild citrus flavor.  Warm boozy finish.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Light of the Moon, 8.1% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their flagship cider made using heirloom apple varieties, and the first I’ve tried from this cidery.  Hazy hue.  Semi-dry.  Low tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of sourness and funk.   found this to be a slightly farmhouse-style apple-forward cider with some honey and citrus notes.  I liked it.

Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Old Hoot, 7.4% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their Farmhouse-style cider, made with English cider apple varieties.  Very hazy hue.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of sourness.  This was well made, but a bit too rustic for my liking.

Shoutout to Kelly McCune of Runcible Cider – she had actually heard of Cider Says prior to the event, and said she likes my blog – very cool!  They are a brand new cidery (this was their first event) and have their own orchard of 500 cider apple trees, which is awesome, as so many cideries actually aren’t orchard-based.  I think it takes a cidery’s cider to the next level.

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Square Mile Cider (Portland OR) Rosé, unknown ABV, draft only, VIP offering:  This special release cider was made with hibiscus and rose hips.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very light fruitiness, with floral and herbal notes.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Swift Cider (Portland OR) Marionberry, 6.8% ABV, $8/22oz:  This is a dry flagship cider with marionberries, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low berry flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Prickly Passion, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  This is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Very low fruity flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Hibiscus, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness acidity.  Low flavor intensity, more fruity than floral.  Slightly more flavorful than the Prickly Passion.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Woodbox (Portland OR) Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider, 12.7% ABV, $17/375ml:  This is a ice cider (made by using freezing temperatures to naturally concentrate the flavor and sugar content in apple juice before fermenting it) aged in whiskey barrels, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Rich flavor notes including caramel and vanilla.  High apple flavor.  Moderate to high whiskey flavor.  Moderate oak flavor.  Awesome!  They made a sign to highlight the cider’s price as the program had a mis-print of $33, which is quite a difference.

Closing Notes:

  • My favorite ciders of the event were the Woodbox Ice Cider and 2 Towns Pommeau (and my husband and friend agreed).
    • The ice cider was an especially good value too (often they run $30+ as they are so expensive to make), and the only bottle we ended up picking up (although our friend bought a number of ciders).
  • Of the non-specialty ciders, I most enjoyed Alter Ego Guardian Angel, Bauman’s Peach Raspberry, Pear UP Raspberry Perry, and Runcible Light of the Moon.
  • I was surprised how many dry ciders were being offered, and especially how many cideries were only offering dry ciders, which is nice.  However, especially when made from dessert apples, dry ciders can often end up very subtlety flavored, while I prefer a really in-your-face flavorful cider (whether an added flavor or due to use of cider apples).  I usually go for semi-dry to semi-sweet, as they tend to be more flavorful, but not too sweet.
  • There were also a number of cideries breaking from the pack and going more Farmhouse-style (like Runcible and Baird & Dewar), which isn’t typically as crowd-pleasing, but sticks to the roots of early American cider.
  • There were plenty of sweet offerings too, but mostly from the more established / larger cideries that I had already sampled (like Portland Cider Co., and the Seattle-area’s own Locust and Schilling cideries).

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That will do it for Cider Rite of Spring 2017.  Stay tuned for more tasting notes from my Portland trip, from Reverend Nat’s tap room and Bushwhacker Cider!