Perry Tasting Notes

There was recently a perry tasting at my house (thanks Sarah, Merce, and Kevin from Cider Log for sharing!).  I took a few tasting notes.  Note that perry is similar to cider, but made from pears, no apples.  [In contrast to pear cider, which in the U.S. is often an apple cider with some pear juice/flavor added.]

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We didn’t end up opening every bottle, so we’ll need to have a perry tasting part 2!  Our dinner pairing was pizza, which worked surprisingly well.

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Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA) Methode Champenoise Perry (6.3% ABV), $29 / 750ml:  This is a special release of Dragon’s Head’s Perry, which was made in Methode Champenoise, a labor-intensive traditional way of making a naturally sparkling cider.  It was made from Taylor’s Gold and heirloom seedling Vashon Island pears .  High carbonation.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of pear juice & skin, floral, and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was very mildly flavored.  It would be a nice champagne alternative, albeit pricey (this was by far the most expensive bottle we opened).

Oliver’s (Herefordshire England) Herefordshire Perry (6.9% ABV), price unknown:  This is an English bottle-conditioned perry made from perry pears.  Smells very funky.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low sourness.  Moderate funk.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Pear-forward and floral.  I enjoyed it.

Hogan’s (Alcester, England) Vintage Perry 2010 (5.4% ABV), ~$10 / 500ml:  This is another English perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Hints of sourness, funk, tannins & bitterness.  Low tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward, rich, and nutty.  I really enjoyed it.

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Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Perry (6.0% ABV), price unknown:  This perry was made from Bartlett pears, and claims to be the only true perry (not pear cider) made in California.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness & acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pear, stone fruit, and honey.  I liked it, but this was the most “commercial” / pear cider type tasting of the group.

Viuda de Angelon (Asturias Spain) Sidra de Pera (5.2% ABV), $4 / 11.2oz:  This is a Spanish perry.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, frothy.  Hints of sourness & funk (less so than most Spanish ciders).  Low to moderate tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward with notes of apricot.  I liked it.

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Sea Cider (Saanichton B.C. Canada) Perry (6.5% ABV), $18 / 750ml:  This is a Canadian perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Very light kinda weird flavor, more floral & herbal than pear.  I think this was a bit of an off bottle though, as it was infected with scobies.  I’ll have to give it another try sometime.

AEppelTreow (Burlington WI) Perry (7.5% ABV), $12 / 750ml:  This is a Methode Champenoise perry made from Comice, Bosc, and Bartlett pears.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness & tannins.  Tastes exactly like champagne, no pear, but juicy, plus notes of stone fruit and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was not what we were expecting.  Also a nice champagne alternative, and an excellent value for Methode Champenoise.

The day after the group tasting I opened up my bottle of Samuel Smith’s perry, as it was already in the fridge.

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Samuel Smith’s (Tadcaster, England) Organic Perry (5.0 ABV), $3 / 12oz:  This is another English perry, and Organic, but the most commercial (ingredient list included water, pear extract, malic acid, etc).  Semi-sweet.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  No pear flavor, but notes of apple, apricot & other stone fruit, and honey (if I tasted it blind I’d call it cider, not perry).  I liked this, although it was definitely commercial tasting, and the sweetest option.

Our favorite was the Hogan’s (also an excellent value, under $10 I believe).  Our least favorite was the Sea Cider.  The most surprising was the AEppeltreow, as it was the least perry-like.

I’ve also previously tried these perries: Dan Armor Poire, Pear UP Half Past Prudent, Pear UP Cherry Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Raspberry Perry, Pear UP Raspberry PerryDomaine Pacory Poire Domfront, Dunkertons Organic Perry, Eaglemount Perry, Locust Seckel PerryNashi Orchards Asian Pear Chojuro Blend PerryNashi Orchards Island Harvest Perry, Portland Cider Pearfect Perry, Snowdrift Perry, Snowdrift Seckel Perry, Tieton Sparkling Perry, WildCraft Pioneer Perry, WildCraft Elderberry Perry, and William’s Sir Perry

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).

Schilling Cider House Visit 19 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 19th 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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<can’t beat 32 cider taps!>

I was there on a Monday for 2 Towns’ re-release of Made Marion (this time in cans) and the re-release of their Cot in the Act cider (this time as a Fruit Seasonal).

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I enjoyed a flight of four ciders, then samples of Cot in the Act and Made Marion.

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<left to right: Incline Lemongrass & Hops, Locust Berry Session, Dragon/s Head Columbia Crab, and Etienne  Dupont Apéritif>

Incline (Auburn WA) Lemongrass Lure (6.5% ABV): This is a draft-only limited release cider with Citra hops and lemongrass.  Smells of lemongrass, citrus, and herbs.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied with a nice frothy texture.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of lemon, grapefruit, herbs, and only a hint of hops.  Low apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  I enjoyed it; I think it had just the right amount of hops–not overpowering (the flavor was primarily lemongrass).

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Berry Session (4.0% ABV): This is a draft-only sessionable berry cider.  Smells of blackberries and strawberries.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  The flavor is just berry, mostly blackberry with some strawberry.  High sessionability.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  I’m usually not a huge fan of berry ciders as I find them overly simple, but I thought it was pretty good.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon WA) Columbia Crab (6.0% ABV): This is a new draft & bottled cider made from crabapples.  Smells of sharp crabapples, honey, and lemon.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Light flavor, not as sharp as most crabapple ciders.  notes of crabapples, honey, lemon, and white blossoms.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  This is much sweeter than the other ciders I’ve tried from them, which was surprising, but I’m guessing it may have been perceived.  I enjoyed it.

Etienne Dupont (Pays d’Auge France) Aperitif / Pomme / Pommeau (17% ABV): This is a special release of Pommeau (cider mixed with apple brandy).  It is Cidre Bouche from bittersweet apples, aged in a Calvados barrel, with 1998 reserve Calvados mixed back in.  Smells boozy, like Pommeau, rich, and of caramel.  Semi-sweet to sweet (although apparently it is very low residual sugar so it may just perceive sweeter).  Still.  Medium to full bodied.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk (which was surprising considering the base Cidre Bouche definitely had that going on).  Notes of rich bittersweet apples, caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla.  No sessionability.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate complexity.  High flavor intensity.  Amazing!

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<2 Towns Cot in the Act>

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Cot in the Act (6.0% ABV): Although this unfiltered apricot cider has been out for a few years, it is being newly released as a Fruit Seasonal, in both bottles and kegs.  Smells mild and fruity.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hint of bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of apricot and peach.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate to high sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low flavor intensity.

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<2 Towns Made Marion>

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Made Marion (6.0% ABV): Smells strongly of blackberries.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  The flavor is primarily blackberry, with hints of blueberry.  Low apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low flavor intensity.

The Etienne Dupont Pommeau was my favorite; I wish bottles were available of it locally.  I thought it was worth the $5 for 2oz!  Its probably my favorite Pommeau so far, although I also enjoy the 2 Towns and Finnriver varieties.

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

Dragon’s Head Kingston Black

Review of Dragon’s Head Kingston Black cider, a single varietal from Vashon Island Washington.  I’ve previously tried their Wild Fermented and Traditional ciders.

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Cider:  Kingston Black
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon WA
ABV:  7.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Kingston Black single varietal craft cider

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Availability:  Limited release (I bought this a few months back so I assume they are sold out by now).  Dragons’ Head ciders are only sold in OR and WA.

Cider Description:  Kingston Black apples are known for being the ultimate cider apple, producing a well balanced, full bodied cider with a distinctive rich flavor.  This cider is made from 100% Kingston Black apples.

Cidery Description:  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we believe in producing high quality hard ciders with a traditional approach, which means you will never find us using apple juice concentrate, over sweetening our ciders, or adding other flavors to our ciders. We love the story that apples and pears can tell all by themselves. And so we keep it simple. Press high quality apples and pears, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle.  We believe one of the keys to creating great cider is to have control over the entire process. For this reason, we do the pressing, fermentation, blending and bottling all right here on the farm.

Wes and Laura Cherry moved to Vashon Island in 2010 with the dream of planting an orchard and starting a cidery. Dragon’s Head Farm, named for the dragon who guards the apples of immortality in the Garden of Hesperides, is now home to over 2,200 cider fruit trees as well as our production facility.

They have a tasting room on Vashon Island open Saturdays and Sundays.

Price:  $19.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  The cider house posted about it on Facebook, and I was glad it was still in stock when I made it there.  Didn’t see any more next time I was there.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Very low carbonation, a mix of tiny and large bubbles.  Some small bits of sediment.  Smells rich, slightly sweet, boozy, of caramel, oak, & vanilla, and acidity & tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Moderate tannins, tartness, and acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  No sour or funk.  Medium bodied.  Not as rich as the scent suggested, but had a smooth almost buttery texture with light carbonation.  Notes of oak (although it doesn’t appear to be barrel aged), vanilla, and caramel.  Long warming finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this cider, but I think I had too high of expectations due to it being a Kingston Black single varietal, and was slightly disappointed.  I think with less tartness the other flavors could have better shined through and made it more to my liking.  Barrel aging this cider would also have been amazing.

Most Similar to:  Other dry and tart ciders with slightly rich flavors, although I can’t think of any in particular that are similar to this one.

Closing Notes:   Kingston Black ciders don’t disappoint, but I enjoyed Whitewood’s Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black cider more than this one.  Too bad in the U.S. they are all really limited release (due to the lack of cider apples), as I couldn’t buy a bottle of either of them if I tried.  Farnum Hill also just released a Kingston Black cider, although it won’t make it out here to Seattle.

Have you tried any Kingston Black single varietal ciders?  What did you think?

Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented

Review of Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented cider.  A wild fermented (wild yeast) cider uses the yeast naturally present on the apples and in the environment, in contrast to most ciders which destroy any natural yeast and add their own known strain.  A wild fermented cider is typically more unpredictable and difficult to make than typical ciders.  I’ve also tried Dragon’s Head Traditional cider, and also have a bottle of their Kingston Black cider in my collection.

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Cider:  Wild Fermented
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon Island WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottle

2015-11-25 19.01.56 2015-11-25 19.02.06 2015-11-25 19.02.22

Availability:  Year round in WA and OR.  See their list of locations.

Cider Description:  This is the Dragon’s Head Cider version of a farmhouse cider. Rather than carefully selecting a yeast strain for the fermentation, we allowed the wild yeast present on the skin of the apples to ferment the cider. It’s a bit of a fun gamble, but one we believe is worth taking.

Cidery Description:  From apple to bottle, all right here on our farm.  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we take a traditional approach to cider making. Our focus is on the apple varieties that we use and the quality of the fruit. We love the story that apples alone can tell through cider, altering the flavor by changing the blend of apple varieties that we carefully select. The process is simple and the ingredients list is short. Perhaps we’re a little old fashioned.

Dragon’s Head has a tasting room.

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

2015-11-25 19.03.52

First Impression:  Slightly hazy pale straw yellow.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of sour citrus, acidity, funk, yeast, and honey.

Opinion:  I perceived it as completely dry, but it has 7 grams  of sugar per liter. Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild sourness and funk.  No bitterness.  Moderate length finish.  Light bodied and crisp.  Honey, citrus, pear, oak, yeast, earthy, and slightly herbal & floral notes.  The flavors remain rather mild yet complex.  Best enjoyed chilled.

Most Similar to:  Wild fermented ciders, Sidra, sour ciders, Farmhouse-style ciders, etc.  This very much reminded me of WildCraft ciders, especially the Pioneer Perry for some reason, probably as I had this the day after trying the Pioneer Perry.

Closing Notes:   I wasn’t really a fan.  Since buying this I’ve found that I’m not a fan of ciders of this style, so knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t have bought it.  Its still always nice to try new ciders though, and I was able to share it with a friend who liked it a bit more than I did.  I’d suggest this for folks who don’t mind this style of cider–dry, sour, and funky.  Its definitely unique and well-crafted.

Have you tried any ciders from Dragon’s Head?  What did you think?

Cider Tasting with Bill Bradshaw and 9 Washington Cideries at Capitol Cider in Seattle

The Washington Cider Week posts continue!  The previous week brought me to Seattle Cider and the Burgundian (Eden & Alpenfire event ) on Thursday night to kick off Washington Cider Week, and Cider Summit Seattle 2015 on Friday & Saturday (see post 1 for tasting notes and post 2 about the event & photos).  This week brought me to Capitol Cider for a tasting event with Bill Bradshaw and nine Washington cideries (Tues Sept 15 2015, covered here), and to the Schilling Cider House for the 2 Towns tap night (Thurs Sept 17 2015, covered soon).

[Additions after initial post release are in brackets, and incorrect information is struck through.  Thanks Dave from Whitewood for the corrections and extra info!]

I had been to Capitol Cider once before, but it was probably over a year ago.  I really didn’t like that first visit much at all, as nothing really went well, from the food (it was early lunchtime on a weekend but they mostly had brunch items, not lunch), to the service (grumpy bartender), to the cider (didn’t like anything I tried, and the bartender wasn’t too forthcoming with samples; I would have preferred a flight, which they now offer).

Much has changed there since then!  Their service was good this time (I give them some slack as they had to give everyone a few handouts and 9 different ciders! in addition to taking any other orders).  Their bottle list has much improved / expanded.  However, unfortunately it is mostly just a list (they only have the smaller bottles in some fridges literally at floor level near the entry).  As it is a printed list, it easily gets out of date (both times I bought bottles they only had half of what I wanted, although I was requesting more rare & special release selections).  However, Capitol Cider isn’t really my sort of scene.  Getting there & parking is a nightmare for one.  The Schilling Cider House is honestly more my style, plus they have more taps (32) and a larger bottle selection (which you can see and look at the labels).

Bill Bradshaw is a cider expert who hails from the UK and has written several books about cider, among other things.  This special event was a guided tasting through ciders from nine Washington cideries.  Dave White from Whitewood Cider apparently helped Bill Bradshaw choose the cideries, although I’m not sure how the ciders got chosen (it didn’t appear Bill, Dave, or the cideries themselves chose the cider selections, so it may have been availability / mostly what they already had on tap).  [The cidermakers chose the ciders poured, although there was some confusion from one of the cideries as far as their selection.]  They are for the most part some of the more traditional cideries in WA.  For $30, I got a flight of nine ciders (probably a 3 or 4 oz pour each), plus a full glass of the cider of my choice.  I unfortunately had to drive, so I made due with my flight (finishing my favorite ciders and leaving the rest) and a couple tastes afterward, but no full glass of cider.  Most of the cideries had one or more cidermakers on hand who came up on the stage and explained about their chosen cider.

They were also selling Bill’s books, he was signing autographs, and many of the cideries brought some bottles which they opened after the event and poured tastes.  During the event there was a slideshow of Bill’s photos.  They also played the teaser for a documentary titled ‘Cider Hunters’ that he and Pete Brown (co-author of World’s Best Ciders) are fundraising for, about the history of cider in the U.S.  Cider is “the drink that built America”.  He described how it disappeared, breweries moved in, the craft beer movement started in the ’80s, and now we are in the age of craft cider, built from the beer explosion.  Throughout the event there was some discussion on whether cider is more similar to wine or beer.  It depends on who you ask.  Bill seemed to lean towards beer, but I’d probably lean more towards wine as scientifically speaking cider is a type of fruit wine, although the ABV of most ciders is more similar to beer than wine.

The event was also unfortunately at 6pm on a weeknight, which is late for me as I go to work at 6am.  So, I didn’t get to stay too long after they were done with the guided tasting a bit after 8pm.  I was surprised there were still some empty seats, as I had expected this to easily sell out (I purchased my ticket a few days in advance over the phone to ensure I wouldn’t get turned away).  Considering that almost all of the 9 cideries were represented and that many brought more than one person, plus the Capitol Cider folks and such, there were almost as many folks that were working the event as attending the event!  They were setting up live music and it looked like the party kept going after I left.  The event was held in Capitol Cider’s basement bar area, which has a small stage, tables, bar height tables, a bar, pool tables & such, and restrooms.

I had an awesome time!  Many of the cidermakers I had been chatting with the previous week were there.  I also hadn’t previously tried 6 out of the 9 ciders they were pouring, which is quite good odds as they are all local.  I tried to take some photos, but the lighting was pretty horrible.  Click to biggify.

bar
<bar area on the left. tables in the middle, and the stage was to the right>

cider hunters
<Bill Bradshaw himself>

Upon sitting down I spotted a clipboard full of menus.  They had menus for their cider tap list, beer & regular cocktails, cider cocktails, cider flights, food, and a cider bottle list!  I focused on photographing the cider stuff.  Weird angles to avoid glare; sorry.  Their food menu (gluten free restaurant by the way) is on their website.  I ate some pho before the event as I wasn’t sure if it would work well to try to eat dinner during it, and their menu is a bit fru-fru for my liking.  That was a good call as its difficult enough to taste cider and take notes!  I did however order some creme brulee, which was pretty disappointing, as it was almost half fruit, small, and expensive.

tap list desserts

cocktails flights

Now, on to the nine ciders of the night!  They were tasted in an order to try to minimize the effect the last would have on the next, not in the numerical (alphabetical) order.  I believe that all the ciders which were on their tap list were tap pours, and the remaining two (Nashi and Westcott Bay) were bottle pours.  I really enjoyed hearing about the ciders as I was tasting them.  They also took audience questions / comments.

event list 9 pours

(6) Tieton Ciderworks  Sparkling Perry, 5.5% ABV.  I hadn’t tried this one before, but have tried a number of varieties from Tieton.  Its part of their “top shelf ciders” along with the Cidermaker’s Reserve (which I’ve reviewed), available in pretty 500ml bottles.  Craig Campbell, a grower at Tieton’s orchard (and the one who started Tieton with his wife), was the presenter.  It is made from 11 varieties of perry pears grown in their orchard (which is the largest cider apple & perry pear orchards in Washington, but still small by orchard standards).  Craig noted that pears are much more difficult to grow and press into juice than apples.  This perry was made using a French keeving technique, where it is slow fermented with wild yeast for 5 months.  He said this method can calm some of the tannins of the perry pears.  Craig also noted that this perry was just bottled/kegged in May, and may taste even better after bottle aging for 1-2 years.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Mild tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  Medium bodied.  Unique strawberry notes.  I would have liked more carbonation, but I imagine my sample may have sat for a bit / not been able to be poured correctly due to the size.  Pretty tasty!

(5) Nashi Orchards Issho Ni “Together” Cider, 6.9% ABV.  This was my first time trying anything from Nashi Orchards, although I have one of their perries at home.  Jim Gerlach, owner and cidermaker, was there to present.  This is one of the few (two?) ciders that Nashi Orchards makes; they specialize in perry.  Their orchard is full of asian pear varieties and they pride themselves in using traditional cidermaking methods.  This cider was made using apples from the Vashon Island community, which included a lot of crabapples and heirloom apple varieties.  It was dry fermented and not backsweetened.  Smells like English cider, of rich bittersweet apples.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Moderate to high tannins and bitterness.  Mild tartness.  I liked the bark better than the bite on this one (smelled better than it tasted).  It was a bit too high in tannins & bitterness for my liking, likely from the high crabapple content.  I imagine like most ciders, if I was having a full glass, I would have liked it better (vs. having a tasting glass).

(7) Snowdrift Dry, 7.6% ABV.  I’ve tried a number of Snowdrift cider varieties; my favorites so far are Red (made from red fleshed apples) and Cornice (barrel aged).  This one was presented by someone from Capitol Cider, but Snowdrift sent along some notes.  It was commented that they have a small orchard and cidery which is ideally located in East Wenatchee, with its hot summers and cold winters, ideal for cider apples which thrive with temperature variations.  Their orchard is mostly Yarlington Mill cider apples, but they have over 40 apple varieties.  They noted this cider won an international contest, which is rare for a PNW cider (vs. a UK cider).  Semi-dry.  Clean plain apple scent.  Low in tannins, bitterness, acidity, and tartness.  Some citrus notes, but I otherwise didn’t pick up much.  Smooth.  The alcohol is well hidden.  I found it kinda boring, but a very solid selection.

(2) Dragon’s Head Traditional, 6.9% ABV.  This is the variety I tried at Cider Summit.  I also have a bottle of their Wild Fermented at home.  Wes Cherry (co-owner with his wife) presented.  They are from Vashon Island, where they grow over 70 varieties of cider apples, mostly English and some French.  They moved their cidery from the Seattle area 5 years ago to start the orchard.  This year was their first significant harvest from their own orchard.  This cider underwent malolactic fermentation (which is when malic acid is converted to lactic acid, and can often be considered a fault but some cidermakers desire it) which was arrested to retain some residual sweetness and give some butterscotch notes.  Semi-dry.  Higher acidity.  Citrus and fruity notes.  Low to moderate tannins and bitterness.  Mild tartness.  I really enjoyed this cider.  Probably as it had a little more complexity to it and didn’t go too overboard on tannins and bitterness.

(8) Westcott Bay Semi-Dry, 6.8% ABV.  This was my first time trying any ciders from Westcott Bay.  Presented by Capitol Cider.  Westcott Bay has their own cider orchard in the San Juan Islands which dates back to the 1870s.  They re-planted in the mid 1990s and released their first cider in 1999.  They make more traditional apples using cider apple varieties such as Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Sweet Coppin.  Semi-sweet.  Similar to English cider.  Bitter finish, but still only mild to moderate.  Moderate tannins.  Bolder flavor.  I really enjoyed this cider.  I like ciders like this which have a bold flavor profile without being too bitter or too high in tannins.

(1) Alpenfire Simple Cider, 6.9% ABV.  I’ve had a number of ciders from Alpenfire, but hadn’t even heard of this one (it looks like it may be tap only at this time?).  I particularly like their Apocalypso and Spark! ciders.  Presented by Nancy Bishop.  They described themselves as a more traditional cidery whose ciders tend to be higher in tannins.  They planted their cider apple orchard in 2003, then needed to learn how to use it, and get people to buy their ciders!  This variety is their least traditional cider, made from basic heirloom and dessert apples.  It is sweeter and described as having some honeysuckle aromas, and was lightly oak aged.  On the sweeter side of semi-sweet.  Slightly hazy.  I picked up some honey, pear, and mild herbal notes.  No significant tannins, bitterness, acidity, tartness, etc.  I thought it was rather complex for a simple cider!  I really enjoyed it.

(4) Liberty Ciderworks Abbess, 7.6% ABV.  I’ve had a number of ciders from Liberty.  Presented by Rick Hastings.  This is a newer cidery from Spokane, open about a year and a half, and they currently produce 7,500 liters a year.  Unlike many of the cideries featured, they don’t have their own orchard.  However, they have found ways (probably at great expense) to obtain cider apples, primarily from three different orchards, including from Garfield WA.  They also use a lot of crabapples.  They aim to keep the apple centric, and don’t plan to do flavored ciders; their Turncoat Dry Hop cider and this one is as flavored as they get.  I particularly like their Manchurian Crabapple and English Style ciders.  Rick commented the Spokane cider market is growing slower than Seattle, but is still growing.  Liberty was tasting their new Abbess variety, with gin botanicals. Made from Empire, Macintosh, and Manchurian Crabapples.  Its been out for about a month in their tap room and has been popular.  English cider scent with a hint of botanicals.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Bold flavored.  A hint of botanical flavor.  Significant tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  I’m not a huge fan of this one, but it didn’t have any faults and is a solid selection.

(9) Whitewood Cider Kingston Black, 9.7 ABV.  I had tried this cider at Cider Summit, but didn’t mind having it again in the least, as it was one of my favorites!  I’ve only tried Whitewood’s Summer Switchel and this one, but look forward to trying some others.  Presented by Dave White.  Whitewood released their first ciders in 2013, so this is their third season.  Dave aims to make more traditional ciders, with heirloom & cider apple varieties.  He noted their Southsounder cider is made from apples within 20 miles of Olympia.  This Kingston Black cider was made with champagne yeast, but Dave hopes to eventually make a wild fermented batch.  It is 80% Kingston Black and 20% Cornish [Porter’s] Perfection, much to Dave’s disappointment.  He aimed to make a single varietal, but apparently the Kingston Black apples were sliding around too much during pressing or something, as they were sweated to bring out more flavor.  Doing an almost single varietal Kingston Black cider must have been very expensive, as they are rare.  He noted some Woodinville Whiskey was added to the barrel before aging.  [The barrel was from Wishkah River Distillery in Aberdeen, WA.]  I don’t like aged spirits, but love the flavor in a cider.  This cider was taken out of fermentation in early 2014 and barrel aged until just recently.  Dry.  Whiskey and vanilla notes.  Rich bold flavor.  Very smooth, with hidden ABV.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Yum!

(3) Finnriver Fire Barrel, 6.5% ABV.  I’ve tried a large number of Finnriver ciders, and even tried this variety quite awhile ago.  I remembered really looking forward to it but being disappointed.  I bought another bottle recently as so many folks enjoy this cider, and I wanted to give it another chance, as my palate has changed. So, here will eventually be a full review of it here. Presented by Eric Jorgensen, a co-founder.  They were described as a small organic farm which started selling cider in 2010.  Eric thinks they were the least traditional of the nine cideries present.  However, he described this as their most traditional cider, as it is made from cider apples.  They started a second orchard three years ago and aim to remain sustainable and organic.  This cider recipe was original produced by Drew Zimmerman, who sold the rights when he retired.  It is made from Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, and Dabinett cider apple varieties.  This cider is no longer aged in Kentucky whiskey barrels though, as they aim to keep it more local, instead using UT or WA barrels.  This cider has inspired Finnriver to take on other barrel aging projects.  They mentioned they are barrel aging a small batch of their Black Currant cider, which sounds awesome, as that is one of my favorites of theirs, along with Honey Meadow.  Very smooth.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Mild barrel notes.  Bold flavor.  Moderate tannins, bitterness, and acidity.  I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this cider, in contrast to my memory from awhile back.  I look forward to drinking the bottle I have at home!

I was interested in buying four bottles to take home from Capitol Cider, but they only had two of the ones I wanted, Virtue The Mitten and AeppelTreow Appely Doux.  I had heard of both but didn’t know they even sold them in WA!  I had been wanting to try The Mitten ever since I got into cider; it often makes top cider lists.  Note that the prices shown on their bottle list below are to drink there, but you get a 25% discount to take home.  That brings their prices just a bit over local bottle shops for most ciders.  The cost to drink a bottle is much less of a markup than most wine lists.  However, with all those ciders on tap, why would you want to?  They initially forgot to apply the 25% discount (they were very busy and I was asked them to go to the back and find specific bottles), so I was very glad I checked my receipt.

bottles

Unfortunately the cider list was stapled at the top, so even taking it off the clipboard I couldn’t get good photos.  The angles are again to avoid glare from overhead lighting.  Impressive bottle list!  However, the win still goes to the Schilling Cider House in Fremont, as you can look at the actual bottles.

list1  list2

list3  list4

list5

I got my new copy of World’s Best Ciders (which I reviewed here recently) autographed by Bill Bradshaw, and even got to chat with him for a few minutes.

book autograph

Stay tuned for the last but not least Washington Cider Week event post, from the 2 Towns night at the Schilling Cider House!  Like Cider Says on Facebook for the latest info.

Cider Summit Seattle 2015 Tasting Notes

What an epic event!  This long-awaited post will cover my tasting notes on the 32 ciders I tried at Cider Summit 2015 (Sept 11 & 12 2015 at South Lake Union).  Another post (post 2/2 now up HERE) will cover information about the event and have lots of photos, including of the swag I picked up and the event program.  I was lucky enough to attend both days, and after a couple tastes I learned to ask for a smaller pour!

When you are going for quantity (vs. many of the folks who were just there to drink some cider and didn’t care so much what type or trying as many as they could), the smaller the taste the better, as long as you can get a couple good gulps in.  Sorry in advance I don’t have too many cider photos (its difficult at an event like this to juggle a glass, notepad, camera phone, etc), but post 2 will have more event & booth photos.  Hopefully someone enjoys these notes, as it took me many hours.

101 Cider House Black Dog Black Cider (Westlake Village CA).  6.9% ABV.  This is a unique “black cider”, which is from adding activated charcoal (apparently a new beverage trend, and is good for the digestion too).  It also includes lemon and agave nectar.  The color turned out a very weird green-blue-black tint (see below).  Fairly dry.  I’d say similar to Spanish Sidra (as it had a lot of sour citrus flavor) with a hint of weird from the charcoal.  I thought of it as more of a novelty, but some of my tasting buddies said they would actually buy a bottle.  This was more drinkable than their Cactus Red (which was crazy tart), but not my thing.

black dog

2 Towns Prickle Me Pink (Corvallis OR).  6.0% ABV.  This cider was released just this week, and uses prickly pear cactus fruit juice from California (reminiscent of my time in Arizona).  Semi-dry.  Fluorescent pink color!  Tart.  Nice and flavorful.  Some cactus fruit flavor (yes I’ve actually eaten one before and know what they taste like), but also some berry and watermelon notes.

prickle

Alpenfire Ember (Port Townsend WA).  7.2% ABV.  This one is made from French & English bittersweet apples, organic, wild fermented, and bottle conditioned.  Semi-dry.  Higher carbonation.  Very high tannins and moderate astringency (I’d almost describe the mouthfeel as “chunky” lol).  I wasn’t really a fan, but folks who like a really high tannin ciders probably would.  I really love their Spark! and Apocalypso though, which are their more approachable and sweeter varieties.  Their Smoke was also pretty tasty.

Anthem Ap-Bee-Cot (Salem OR).  6.5% ABV.  Apple-apricot cider fermented with natural yeast from bee pollen.  Draft only.  Semi-dry, unfiltered, and tart, with mild apricot & honey notes.  I’ve not really been a fan of any of Wandering Aengus / Anthem’s ciders.

Apple Outlaw Oaked Sweet Dark Cherry (Applegate OR).  unknown ABV.  Tart with mild cherry notes and the slightest hint of oak barrel flavor.  Not really impressed, but it wasn’t bad at all either.  The first time I’ve tried their ciders.  At this time they also offer Original, Rabid Dry, Ginger Bite, Cranberry Jewel, Hoppin’ Holdup, and Tangerine Twist in bottles.

Dragon’s Head Traditional (Vashon Island WA).  6.8% ABV.  Semi-dry, rather still, smooth, acidic, mild tartness, and moderate tannins.  My first time trying their cider (although I have a bottle of their Wild Fermented at home).  A pretty solid selection.

Eaglemount Homestead Dry (Port Townsend WA).  8.0% ABV.  Hazy.  Dry, tart, and bitter.  Made with heirloom apple varieties including Gravenstein, White Pippin, Stayman’s Winesap, and Tolman Sweet.  Not really my thing.  I love their Quince though!  I mostly tried it as I wanted to try another one of their offerings, and nothing else sounded interesting (Rhubarb, Raspberry Ginger, and Boot Brawl, which is hopped).  A solid choice for those who like this style of cider though.

Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider (Newport VT).  10% ABV.  Very sweet.  Syrupy but awesome bold full flavor.  Well-hidden ABV.  Vanilla and brown sugar notes.  I look forward to trying more from Eden!  It was awesome to meet Eleanor at the Burgundian event the night before and try two of their other ciders.  I hadn’t tried any of their ciders before this weekend.  My husband surprised me with a bottle of this for our anniversary!  Happy wife.

E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry (Salem OR).  6.4% ABV.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Uses French bittersweet apples, which have lower acidity and bring in some tannins and tartness.  This was my first time trying their ciders.  Pretty tasty.

Farnum Hill Extra Dry (Lebanon NH).  7.5% ABV.  I’d still call this one dry, not extra dry, as I picked up a hint of residual sugar.  Very tannic and acidic with moderate bitterness.  Significant carbonation.  Not really my cup of tea, but I think this is a great wine-lovers cider.  I had wanted to try their Dooryard, which had been on the tasting list, but they didn’t have it.

Finnriver Country Peach (Chimacum WA).  6.5% ABV.  Hazy slightly pink lemonade color.  Semi-dry.  Sour and tart, but a more approachable sour than some (vs. their Barrel Berry Sour and traditional Sidra and such).  More of a peach skin than peach taste.  Acidic and slightly vinegary.

Finnriver Cyser Cider (Chimacum WA).  6.9% ABV.  Honey cider made with mead yeast.  Semi-dry.  Similar to their Honey Meadow, but without the hint of herbal flavor (I like Honey Meadow better).  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Earthy.

cyser

Liberty Ciderworks English Style Cider (Spokane WA).  8.0% ABV.  Made with cider apples (including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Ashton Bitter) and aged for over a year.  Semi-dry.  Lovely bittersweet flavors with a bit of a “bite”.  Tannic and acidic.  Bright amber.  Very tasty, and definitely English-style.  I’m a big fan of theirs, and looking forward to trying the bottle of their Stonewall Dry Fly Barrel-Aged cider I have at home.

liberty

Manoir du Parc Authentic Cidre (Normandy France).  5% ABV?  A naturally carbonated (bottle conditioned) wild yeast fermented traditional French cider with “no shit added” per the French dude pouring it lol.  Semi-dry.  Funky, tart, high carbonation, and high tannin.  A bit too traditional / funky for my tastes, maybe from the wild fermentation?  So far I’ve been more impressed with Dan Armor and Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront from France.

Millstone Cellars Farmgate Dry (Monkton MD).  8.5% ABV.  I really wanted to give Millstone another chance, as I didn’t care for their Cobbler at all.  I chose this one mostly as the other varieties they were pouring weren’t appealing (hopped, ginger, and strawberry rhubarb).  Barrel aged and made from 40% Stayman Winesap, 30% Northern Spy, 25% Jonathan, and 5% Cameo apples.  Apparently they are known for tart, funky, and astringent ciders which are similar to Sidra, although of course no one told me!  In contrast to Cobbler, I found this drinkable, but I still didn’t care for it.  Definitely dry, tart, sour, funky, and astringent.  To me all those qualities were overpowering such that that the cider couldn’t shine and I couldn’t detect any barrel influence, etc.  A lot of folks really like sour ciders (and beers) though.  Shoutout to Kyle who I e-mailed with, was there pouring cider, and really wanted me to find something from them I liked!  I also saw him at the Burgundian the night before.  They recently re-did their website, and I think it does a much better job of describing their cider style.  The mis-advertisement on the bottle and their website was my main complaint about Cobbler (I get not everyone likes every cider so I never fault a cider because I didn’t like it)…that it wasn’t described as sour, tart, astringent, funky, etc.

Montana Ciderworks Darby Pub Cider (Sula MT).  5% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Described as “semi-dry new world style”.  Sold in MT, WA, and CO.  English cider flavor with some woody & earthy notes, but its an easy drinking and approachable variety.  Fuller bodied and effervescent.  Mostly Spartan (Montanan) apples, but the earthy notes are from some bittersharp and crab apples.  I wasn’t expecting it to be as sweet as it was (slightly back sweetened), but it was nice.  This was my first time trying their cider, and I’m impressed!

Moonlight Meadery How do you like them Apples Bourbon Barrel Cider (Londonderry NH).  13.5% ABV.  Draft-only cider with honey and brown sugar, aged at least 3 months in Jim Beam bourbon barrels they used for their Last Apple mead.  Very similar to their How do you like them Little Apples I tried at the Schilling Cider House, which was also bourbon barrel aged (this one was slightly sweeter and had more barrel flavor).  Very tasty!  Definitely sweet and syrupy, but it has a lovely rich barrel flavor too.

Moonlight Meadery Kurt’s Apple Pie Mead (Londonderry NH).  16.8% ABV.  Mead bottle pour.  Made from local apple cider, Madagascar-bourbon vanilla, and Vietnamese cinnamon spice.  My husband got a small pour and I tried a sip.  Not really my thing because of the spice, but very smooth.  This is one of their most popular products.

Neigel Vintners (NV) Cider Cherry Perry (Wenatchee WA).  5.1% ABV.  They announced this new variety when I interviewed brothers and co-founders Kevin & Mark Van Reenen, and this weekend was its release.  They left this fairly unfiltered, so there was a nice thicker mouthfeel with both pear and cherry flavors.  Very balanced between the two flavors.  Sweet but not overly.  Yum!  I was surprised to see a couple other local cideries also make a “Cherry Perry”, Wildcraft and Carlton.  They don’t currently plan to bottle it, but if they do, they noted it would have to be slightly more filtered so it would be more stable.

One Tree Caramel Cinnamon (Spokane Valley WA).  6.8% ABV.  Sweet.  Cinnamon with a hint of caramel.  Syrupy.  Spiced cider isn’t really my thing, but I was intrigued.  Their booth was very popular at the event.

One Tree Lemon Basil (Spokane Valley WA).  6.5% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Nice lemonade-type tartness with a hint of herbal basil flavor.  Very unique.  This was my first time trying ciders from One Tree.  They are fairly new, but seem to quickly be building a following.  At this time they also offer Cranberry, Huckleberry, and Ginger in bottles, and Crisp Apple in cans.

Sea Cider Bramble Bubbly (Saanichton B.C.).  9.9% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  My sample didn’t have much if any carbonation, so I missed out on the “bubbly” part, but it was the end of the bottle.  Lovely berry/rosé color but the blackberry flavor was a bit underwhelming and sorta standard.  Some tartness.  Overall it was disappointing…I had really been looking forward to trying this one (its difficult to find this side of the border and I’d always rather taste something than commit to a bottle, especially when its in that $20 price range for a 750ml).  I will say that it hid the alcohol very well though, and was well-crafted.  I really love their Prohibition, but that is a completely different flavor profile!

bramble bubbly

Snowdrift Cliffbreaks Blend (Wenatchee WA).  7.6% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  I picked up a lot of pear notes with this one for some reason?  Its supposed to be more of an English / bittersweet apple cider with some melon & dried fruit notes.  A bit tart with a hint of citrus too.  I tried it at a different time than the Perry (below) too.  Bold flavor, but I didn’t really get that richness I was expecting.  Very tasty nonetheless.  This is probably the most popular of their regular line.  Their Red & Cornice are probably their most popular overall.  I was happy to hear they are increasing production & distribution of both of those, as they are my favorites…the Red slightly more so, which is odd as barrel aged is usually my favorite.  I was very happy to pick up two bottles of Red for $12 each at Whole Food’s 20% off cider day (Friday of Cider Summit).  Its a good thing I picked them up near home, as they were out at the one near the Summit.

Snowdrift Perry (Wenatchee WA).  10.1% ABV.  Semi-dry.  I was expecting different with this one…I tasted a lot of bitterness & tartness, and only a very mild pear flavor.  I haven’t had too many true perries though, so I probably didn’t know what to really expect.  Its made in the labor-intensive way of Méthode Champenoise (secondary fermentation).  I wasn’t really a fan.  Red is definitely still my favorite from Snowdrift….and it was getting a lot of love at the Summit!

Sonoma Cider Dry Zider (Healdsburg CA).  6.9% ABV.  Cider aged in Red Zinfandel oak barrels for 7 months.  Rosé wine-like cider.  Very dry (0.3 BRIX).  Light berry/salmon color.  A bit tart.  Nice fizz.  Not bad, but not really my sort of cider.  This one is a special release that is available now (has slowly been rolling out for a few months).

Sonoma Cider The Pulley (Healdsburg CA).  unknown ABV.  This is a brand new variety for them, and launched at the event (not even bottled yet)!  They referred to it as absinthe-style, and said the only addition was fennel.  Dry.  Slight herbal flavor.  Very unique.  Not bad, but not my sort of cider.  I got to meet David (one of the cidermakers, with his son Robert).

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Amity Rose 2012 (Corvallis OR).  6.5% ABV.  Made from traditional French and English cider apples grown in Amity OR.  Semi-sweet (but maybe it just came across that way?  I’m guessing it would test drier).  Rather plain, but wine-like with some honey notes.

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Bourbon Barrel 2012 (Corvallis OR).  6.9% ABV.  On the sweeter side of dry.  Strong unique bourbon barrel flavor, but not overwhelming.  Very smooth.  Light bodied.  Higher in tannins.  Aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for 4 months (apparently they got their barrels very wet, so it adds more of the flavor of the spirit).  Made with Dabinett & Kingston Black cider apples and wine yeast.  Awesome!  This was my first time trying their Traditions line, which uses cider apples and is sold in 750 ml bottles (vs. the regular 2 Towns line which uses dessert apples and is sold in 500ml bottles, plus a couple selections in cans).  Definitely try this one if you can find some!  I was very happy to get my hands on a bottle (at Full Throttle Bottles, as they ran out at Cider Summit, or couldn’t find it or whatever).

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Riverwood 2013 (Corvallis OR).  6.9% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Made with Jonagold apples (a cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan) and inspired by sparkling brut champagnes.  I found it very similar to their Amity Rose but slightly sweeter, with some floral notes.  I imagine if I sat down with both of them I’d have better tasting notes, but I had just a few sips of each one after the other.

Wandering Aengus Oaked Dry (Salem OR).  6.8% ABV.  Made from English and French bittersweet apples.  Dry.  Mild barrel earthy flavor.  Fairly easy drinking for a barrel aged cider.  Like all of their ciders though, I picked up more bitterness than I prefer, so I’m not a big fan.

Whitewood Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black (Olympia WA).  9.7% ABV.  I was really looking forward to this one (mostly as Kingston Black is a famous epitome of a cider apple and I’ve never had a single varietal of it), and it didn’t disappoint!  Apparently this isn’t a true single varietal (ended up 80% Kingston Black and 20% Porter’s Perfection due to some pressing difficulty due to the type of apples), but very close.  Aged almost 2 years in Wishkaw River whiskey barrels!  Dry.  Significant rich barrel flavor.  Higher acidity and tannins with some tartness.  Longer finish.  Very similar to Traditions Bourbon Barrel, but more cider apple than (good) boozy flavor (although this one is higher ABV as Kingston Black has a high sugar content).  Quite different from their Summer Switchel I tried previously.  Definitely try this one if you can find some (very small run)!

Woodinville Ciderworks Tropical (Woodinville WA).  6.3% ABV.  Tap pour.  Cider from dessert apple juice (granny smith, gala, fuji, etc, from Fruit Smart) with mango & passionfruit essence (fresh made concentrate) to backsweeten.  Semi-sweet.  Definitely some nice bold tropical flavor going on.  Mild tartness.  Good fizz.  Definitely a tasty easy drinking cider that I think with the right price and advertising would sell well.  I found it very interesting that the cidermaker/owner Leroy said he made this (added: put the finishing touches on this) Tuesday for the weekend event, comparing to his experience in the wine industry where it takes much longer to get out a product.  (added: the cider was tank aged for 4 months and back sweetened just before the event)  Most craft cidermakers I’ve talked to will at least tank age then bottle age a bit, if not bottle condition, their ciders, so although the product is done quickly, they don’t consider it ready for many months.  This event was their release!  They said bottles should be in stores in about a month.  Overall I think its a solid introductory craft cider, kinda similar to Atlas.  The flavor of their Tropical reminded me a bit of Rev Nat’s Revival, although Rev Nat didn’t add any tropical flavor to the cider (it was all from the yeast, which must have been difficult).  I’m very intrigued to see what they will price their bottles at.

Worley’s Special Reserve (Shepton Mallet England).  5.4% ABV.  A keeved bottle conditioned cider made from cider apple varieties.  Semi-sweet.  Slightly hazy, moderate tartness, and high tannins.  This was my first time trying their cider, although I have a bottle of their “Premium Vintage” at home.  It was a solid selection, but nothing too remarkable.  Maybe as it wasn’t all that cold and had lost some fizz, which is a drawback of bottle pours from events like this.

So, what were my favorite ciders you may ask?  Traditions Bourbon Barrel followed by Whitewood Kingston Black.  Both were fairly similar bold barrel aged ciders, which is my typical favorite cider type.  I was disappointed I couldn’t get a bottle of either at the event (they were out or couldn’t find them or whatever).  However, I was able to try the Whitewood Kingston Black again at the Bill Bradshaw tasting event with 9 local cideries at Capitol Cider the Tuesday after Cider Summit, and found a bottle of the Traditions Bourbon Barrel at Full Throttle Bottles.

Other favorites included Liberty’s English Style, Eden Heirloom Blend, Moonlight Meadery How do you like them apples bourbon barrel, and Montana Ciderworks Darby Pub Cider.  Definitely impressed.  I didn’t really have a single bad cider (there aren’t too many out there), although there were some I didn’t care for.  Stay tuned for Cider Summit 2015 post 2/2, and posts on the remaining two Washington Cider Week events I went to!

Let me know what you think!  Comments please.

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