<left to right: Finnriver Fire Barrel, 2 Towns Sun’s Out Saison, Locust Seckel Perry, Sea Cider Wolf in the Woods, Cockrell Dusty, and Alpenfire Heirloom Dry>
Finnriver (Chimacum WA) Fire Barrel (9.0% ABV): This year’s Fire Barrel was just released (I’ve tried it previously; see here). It is made from cider apples (this year they are all Organic and all from Finnriver’s own orchard), then Whiskey barrel aged for 5 months (previously it was aged in charred Bourbon barrels). They have a detailed fact sheet on this and all their other ciders now too. This time around it is a higher ABV, and is being released in a 750ml corked bottle (part of their Orchard Series) for $23, instead of a 500ml bottle for $11. I prefer smaller bottles for lower prices. I think it was underpriced before (I recognize these barrel aged ciders from real cider apples cost significantly more to produce), but $23 is a bit steep.
Darker hue. Semi-dry. Medium bodied. Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, tannins, and funk. No sourness. Notes of apple pomace, caramel, and molasses. Long warming finish. Oddly enough I liked this better as it warmed up, as it seemed to have more depth (often for a higher ABV cider, they become harsh as they warm). Moderate flavor intensity, apple flavor, sessionability, and complexity. Low to moderate oak and spirit flavor. I really enjoyed it, but the previous version was better, as it seemed more complex (I didn’t pick up the vanilla this time) and had more oak & spirit flavor, likely as it was a bit sweeter.
2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Peach Saison / Sun’s Out Saison (5.8% ABV): I thought this was something I hadn’t tried, as it was labeled Peach Saison (they write whatever the keg label says on the tap list board, so sometimes it varies from the official name), but it turns out it is Sun’s Out Saison, back for its 2nd seasonal release (also available in bottles); I’ve tried it previously (see here). Semi-sweet to semi-dry. Light bodied. Low tartness and acidity. Notes of peach, pear, citrus, and green apple. Quick finish. Low apple flavor. Low to moderate flavor intensity. Moderate to high sessionability. Low to moderate complexity. I really enjoyed it. This year’s release seemed slightly sweeter and more flavorful.
Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Seckel Perry (6.0% ABV): This draft-only perry is made from Seckel pears. Smells slightly of vinegar, sourness, funk, and citrus. Hazy hue. On the sweeter side of semi-dry. Medium bodied, with a nice texture. Low tartness. Moderate acidity. Mouth-puckering without being overly tart or acidic. Hints of sourness, funk, bitterness, and tannins. Pear-forward with some citrus, even lime. I enjoyed it. Snowdrift also makes a nice Seckel Perry (see here).
Sea Cider (Saanichton B.C.) Wolf in the Woods (9.9% ABV): This is a special release cider, part of their Canadian Invasion Series, with hops and pine tips, also available in bottles (for more info see here). Dry to semi-dry. Medium bodied. Moderate tartness and acidity. Low to moderate bitterness. Low tannins. Flavor notes were on the earthy and botanical side, with hops, wood, and citrus. Long warming finish, but that was the first time the ABV showed up. Low apple flavor. Moderate flavor intensity and complexity. Low sessionability. I enjoyed it.
Cockrell Cider (Puyallup WA) Call Me Dusty / Dusty Dry (6.8% ABV): This is their flagship dry cider, also available in bottles. Dry to semi-dry. Light to medium bodied. Moderate tartness and acidity. Hints of bitterness and tannins. Rather apple-forward and flavorful for a drier cider. Hints of peach, pineapple, and lemon. Low to moderate flavor intensity. Moderate sessionability, complexity, and apple flavor. I enjoyed it.
Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Traditional Heirloom Dry (8.0% ABV): This is a draft-only new cider release from heirloom apples. Dry to semi-dry. Moderate tartness and acidity. Low tannins. No bitterness, sourness, or funk. Apple-forward flavor with some citrus and floral notes. Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, complexity, and sessionability. I enjoyed it. Even Alpenfire’s simpler ciders are exceptional (like their Simple Cider).
Sarah also shared a few sample ciders with me.
Carlton Cyderworks (McMinnville OR) Sidra Natural (6.9% ABV): This is a special release Spanish Sidra-style cider (first available November 2016), made from bittersweet & bittersharp PNW apples. Semi-dry to dry. Low to moderate tartness, acidity, and sourness. Low funk. Notes of citrus but not much else. Low flavor intensity and complexity. I found this rather uninspiring, plus I’m not really a fan of Sidra / sour ciders. However, this would be a good introductory Sidra for someone as it isn’t overly harsh. Interestingly, imported real Spanish Sidra can be bought around here for significantly less than local Sidra-style cider, so I’m curious how these cider styles will sell. Rustic and farmhouse-style ciders seem to be gaining in popularity in the PNW (or at least, in production).
Aval (Bretagne France) Cidre Artisinal (6.0% ABV): This is a semi widely available French cider from the Brittany region, known for sweeter and higher carbonated apple-forward ciders, typically without the sourness & funk which is common is ciders from the Normandy region. Darker hue. Smells sweet, of caramel. Unknown carbonation level (this had gone flat, but I’m guessing it was higher to start with). On the sweeter side of semi-dry. Low tartness, acidity, tannins, and bitterness. Notes of apple pomace and caramel. Quick finish. High sessionability. Moderate flavor intensity. Moderate to high apple flavor. Low to moderate complexity. I enjoyed this; it is a very easy-drinking French cider, similar to Celt, which is a staple cider in my house and a steal at $7.99 for four 11.2oz bottles.
North Idaho Cider (Hayden ID) Logger (6.9% ABV): This cidery’s ciders are new to the Seattle area (see this article), and this one retails for ~ $7.99 / 22oz. Logger is a dry cider aged on oak and pine. Dry. Low sourness. Moderate tartness and acidity. Hints of bitterness. Notes of oak/wood, earth, and citrus. Mild flavor intensity and apple flavor. Moderate sessionability and complexity. I thought this was nice, and reminded me of Grizzly Ciderworks The Ridge.
For probably the first time, I actually enjoyed every cider in my flight. However, my favorites were the Finnriver Fire Barrel and 2 Towns Sun’s Out Saison. Of the bottle pours, I enjoyed the Aval best. It was awesome to have several true artisan cider selections on tap (those made from cider apples by cideries with their own orchards), as most of the draft selections tend towards ciders made from dessert apples with added flavors (fruit, hops, etc).
Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says! Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?