Schilling Cider House Visit 16 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my sixteenth visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.  I was there on a Tuesday evening for a tasting event with Alpenfire Cider (from Port Townsend WA).  Its pretty rare they do events, besides some pricey (but awesome sounding) dinners with cider pairings.

Philippe (Nancy & Bear’s son) was there from Alpenfire.  The Cider House was featuring a flight of six ciders from Alpenfire (five of which were bottle pours, which was a first for the Cider House, and Apocalypso on draft, which is a rarity for Alpenfire) plus a Shrub cider cocktail.

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I arrived early so I tried a few ciders before the event.  I had been there just a week earlier, but quite a few of the taps turned over (although there weren’t too many I hadn’t tried).

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<left to right: Eaglemount Perry, Locust Apricot, and Carlton Bourbon Peachy Keen>

Eaglemount (Port Townsend WA) Perry (8.0% ABV): Smells of pear and citrus, slightly sour.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild bitterness.  Hints of sourness, funk, and tannins.  Notes of pear, citrus, spice, and vanilla.  Alcohol-forward and sharp.  Moderate length finish.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Apricot (6.0% ABV): Smells sweet, of apricot and peach.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Medium flavor intensity with simple but real tasting apricot flavor.  Quick finish.

Carlton Cider (McMinnville OR) Bourbon Peachy Keen (6.5% ABV): Foamy.  Smells of bourbon and fruitiness (peach and apricot). Semi-dry to dry.  Very light bodied with a frothy mouthfeel.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Low barrel influence.  Moderate spirit influence.  Medium to long length finish.  They also make a non barrel aged version of this cider.

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<Alpenfire cider tasting>

The Alpenfire ciders were ready as it got closer to 6pm.  I’ve previously tried all the ciders they were offering in the flight, so I decided to just order a pint of Apocalypso (a draft-only version of their Calypso blackberry rum barrel aged cider with double the blackberries and barrel aged 4 instead of 2 months).

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Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Apocalypso (6.5% ABV): Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Mild acidity.  Mild tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Mild rum influence.  Moderate barrel (oak) influence.  Moderate blackberry flavor.  Moderate length finish.

I also tried a couple sips of the Shrub cocktail, made with Alpenfire bittersweet cider, Alpenfire apple cider vinegar, blackberry puree, and sparkling water.

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Shrub: Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Vinegar more in the scent than flavor.  There is tartness and a hint of vinegar flavor, but not any sourness like I was expecting.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Moderate blackberry flavor.  Moderate length finish.  Unique, but not my thing.

My favorite of the night was the Alpenfire Apocalypso cider.  I liked this batch even better than the last one I tried for WA cider week 2015 at the Burgundian Bar (see here), as it was slightly sweeter, more fruity, and more oaky.

They even got in some bottles of Alpenfire Cinders (the Méthode Champenoise version of Glow, their rosé cider made with red-fleshed apples).  Its a rare find outside of the Alpenfire tap room (which I visited in February; see here).  I actually prefer Glow though, as its sweeter and more flavorful.

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

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Eaglemount Homestead Semi-Sweet

Review of Eaglemount’s Homestead Semi-Sweet cider, from Port Townsend Washington.  I’ve tried a number of their ciders (see here) and visited their tasting room (see here).  Eaglemount is unique in that they also make wine and mead in addition to cider.  Note that they also make a Dry version of this cider.

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Cider:  Homestead Semi-Sweet
Cidery:  Eaglemount Wine & Cider (& Mead)
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  750ml flip top brown bottle
Style:  American homestead-style craft cider made from Washingon-grown heirloom apple varieties

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Availability:  Limited release.  Eaglemount ciders are distributed in Western Washington, Portland Oregon, Farmer’s Markets in Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Ballard, and Tacoma WA, Eaglemount’s tasting room in Port Townsend WA, and their online store.

Cider Description:  Homestead Semisweet cider is made from heirloom variety apples from our homestead orchard and other old orchards on the Olympic Peninsula. This cider is crisp, clean, with a touch of sweetness and apple goodness.

Cidery Description:  Our winery is located on an original 1883 homestead on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  The heirloom apple varieties were the inspiration to continue the tradition of the original homesteaders by making hard cider.  Some of the heirloom varieties include Gravenstein, Winesap, White Pippin, Roxbury Russet, and twenty ounce.  We also source heirloom varieties from other old homestead orchards on the Peninsula.

Our Eaglemount Hard Ciders and Meads are made with certified organic or sustainably grown fruit.  The fruit comes from our homestead orchard, other homestead orchards in the area, our English and French cider orchard, and from certified organic growers in Washington State.

Price:  $14
Where Bought:  Eaglemount tasting room in Port Townsend WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried this at their tasting room and really enjoyed it.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow.  Very low carbonation.  Smells mild, of fresh apples, yeast, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Mild acidity and tannins.  Hints of bitterness and funk.  No sourness.  Notes of yeast, honey, citrus, spice, and must.  Slightly rich.  Medium bodied.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Mild to moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this, but I liked it better when I tried it at their tasting room.  Letting it breathe for a bit helped dissipate some of the harshness, but when I tried it previously I didn’t pick up the hints of bitterness, funk, and must.  Ciders can change batch to batch though.

Most Similar to:  Finnriver Farmstead Semi-Sweet.  Both are farmstead/homestead-style ciders on the sweeter side with significant tannins and honey & yeast notes.

Closing Notes:   I think my favorite from Eaglemount remains their Quince cider, although I also like this one and their Cyser.

Have you tried Eaglemount Homestead Semi-Sweet?  What did you think?

Port Townsend Cider Route – Eaglemount Wine & Cider (& Mead)

As a continuation of my trip report on the Port Townsend cider route, this is post 3/4, on Eaglemount Wine & Cider (here is overview post 1 and here is post 2 on Alpenfire).  It was our second cidery of the day.  Eaglemount is unique in that they also offer red grape wine and mead (honey wine) in addition to cider.  All of these are made by the co-owner Trudy.  It was quite busy, but I got a chance to chat with her and introduce myself.  I learned that Drew Zimmerman from Red Barn Cider in Mt Vernon WA was an inspiration in their making cider, wine, and mead.  Red Barn Cider closed a few years ago due to his retirement.  Its not the first time I’ve heard of Drew Zimmerman…his Fire Barrel cider is now made by Finnriver (who also bought his cider apple orchard).

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Eaglemount is owned & operated by the husband & wife team of Jim & Trudy Davis, since 2006, although they had been making these beverages for 10 years prior to that.  They moved their tasting room just over a year ago from their home, orchard, & cidery/winery/meadery to a separate property (the Palindrome).  I learned they often start their ciders fermenting with wild yeast, then may add yeast as required.  There is an Airbnb on the new property, and plans for a new septic system and commercial kitchen so they can host events.  At their orchard they are planting 800 cider apple trees to add to the current 200.  They currently use cider apples in a mix with dessert apples in their Dry & Semi-Sweet Homestead ciders.

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One of the disadvantages of visiting during an event was they were offering less tastings for a higher cost (due to the chocolate pairings), and they were served in plastic cups (for some reason cider always tastes better from a glass to me).  I went through two sets of four tastes at Eaglemount.  My husband also sampled some of their red wines.

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The cider & mead tasting options that day were Homestead Dry cider, Homestead Semi-Sweet cider, Cyser, Quince cider, Rhubarb cider, Raspberry cider, Raspberry Ginger cider, Ginger cider, Apple mead, Cherry mead, Cranberry mead, Quince mead, Apple Dessert Wine, and Harvest Apple wine.  The last two were described as apple wines as they had higher ABVs.  I believe the only cider from their lineup that wasn’t offered was Boot Brawl, their hopped cider.  Bottles of cider & mead ranged from $14-$26 (mostly $14-$16), and most bottles are 750ml.  They also had 5 red wines they were tasting out of the 6 in their lineup.

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<this brand of environmentally friendly mini plastic cups is quite popular, also used at Finnriver and at several other cider events I’ve been to; I later learned that the county requires the two tasting rooms to use disposable drinkware as they have not yet met certain requirements such as water use and septic monitoring history–quite interesting>

Homestead Semi-Sweet Cider, 8% ABV – This is the sweeter version of their Homestead cider, also available in Dry.  Smells likes sweet apples with a touch of honey.  Slightly hazy.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tannins.  Low tartness and acidity.  Yeasty, slightly rich, similar to English cider, but with a touch of honey notes.  Moderate finish length.  I liked this much better than their Homestead Dry that I tried at Cider Summit, as it didn’t have as much tartness or bitterness.

Rhubarb Cider, 8% ABV – Cider with organic rhubarb.  Smells tart and fruity.  Described as semi-sweet but I found it semi-dry.  Low carbonation.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Fruity notes, although I’m not sure I could have identified them as rhubarb.  A touch alcohol-forward.  Long finish length.

Quince Mead, 9% ABV – Made from honey and organic quince from San Juan island.  Smells sweet, fruity, and of honey.  Semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  Tropical notes.  Moderate finish length.  I prefer their Quince cider.

Apple Dessert Wine, 18% ABV – Apple brandy blended with apple juice (which would more commonly be called Pommeau).  Smells like apple brandy.  Semi-sweet.  Light bodied. Low tartness and acidity.  Oddly enough I picked up a hint of tannins.  Smooth.  Honey, caramel, and brown sugar notes.  Long warming boozy finish.

Raspberry Cider, 8% ABV – Cider (80%) with pure raspberry juice (20%).  Deep red hue.  Described as semi-sweet but I found it sweet.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  A hint of tannins.  Medium bodied.  Full flavored with lots of raspberry flavor.  Quick finish length.

Apple Mead, 10% ABV – Mead (made from honey from Sequim WA) with apples.  I’m not sure how this varies from their cyser (which is also made from honey and apples).  Smells mild, of apple juice and honey.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild acidity.  Moderate tartness.  A hint of bitterness.  A hint of tannins (apple skin flavor).  Notes of apple, honey, and pollen.  From memory I think this has more apple flavor and a higher ABV than their Cyser, which I prefer.  Moderate finish length.

Cherry Mead, 10% ABV – Mead (made from honey from Sequim WA) with Organic cherries.  Deep red hue.  Sweet.  I only picked up cherry notes, not honey, and they tended towards medicinal.  However, my husband really enjoyed this one.  I think at a lower ABV I may have liked it better.  Alcohol-forward.  Medium bodied.  Long warming finish.

Harvest Apple Wine – This is a new release for them, described as a dry wine crafted from heirloom apples and wild yeast.  They had planned to blend it, but liked it on its own.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate acidity and tartness.  Low tannins and bitterness.  Both apple and alcohol forward.  Long warming finish.

I picked up a bottle of Homestead Semi-Sweet (and my husband bought a bottle of red wine).  I think their Quince cider remains my favorite, followed by the Homestead Semi-Sweet and Cyser, which I find to be their most complex ciders.

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Stay tuned for post 4/4 on Finnriver!

Port Townsend Cider Route – Road Trip Report

I finally made it out the Olympic Peninsula to visit the three Port Townsend Washington area cideries, Alpenfire, Eaglemount, and Finnriver.  My husband took me on a birthday weekend getaway, and we stayed the night in Port Ludlow (South of Port Townsend).  This post will cover the trip as a whole, then I’ll have three other posts for tasting notes and info on each of the three cideries.

We planned this trip a couple months in advance, but it ended up being weekend 2/2 of a Red Wine (& Cider) & Chocolate Valentine’s Day thing, so unfortunately that meant I didn’t get the typical tasting experience.  In addition to having a different tasting selection, the cideries appeared to be charging more for tastings (as they were offering chocolate pairings).  However, that also meant that Alpenfire was open (they usually close for the Winter this time of year).

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It was an early wake up for a Saturday, as I wanted to allow extra time for ferry delays or whatever just in case, although the trip is only a couple hours.

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(1) We started with the 8am Edmonds to Kingston ferry, which is a quick 30 minute trip, but actually didn’t save us much time (vs. driving around to the South), but is fun and breaks up the trip.

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(2) Then we headed up North to Port Townsend, did a quick driving tour of the town, and ate a late breakfast at a cute French-themed restaurant called Sweet Laurette (which was very good).

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(3) Next we realized the Mount Townsend Creamery was on our route, and we had a bit of time, so that was a fun quick stop.

route map

(4) Then, on to our first cider stop, Alpenfire!  We got lucky as for this event weekend they opened at 11am instead of noon, giving us an extra hour.  Also, we ended up being the only guests at Alpenfire, likely as it was so early.

I should note that this area is lovely just to take a drive, surrounded by trees.

(5) Next was Eaglemount (at their new location by the way–the cider route maps still have their old address).  They are unique on the cider route as they also make grape wine and honey wine (mead) in addition to cider.

(6) After that we stopped in at the Chimacum Corner Farmstand to take a look.

(7) Last, we ended the cider route at Finnriver.  We made good time and finished up there just before 4pm (so without the hour head start it would have been 5pm).

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(8) Finally, we drove South to Port Ludlow to the Inn at the Resort at Port Ludlow.  It appears to be the nicest accommodations in the area.  There aren’t many newer / higher priced options in Port Townsend.  Port Ludlow is actually closer to Finnriver than Port Townsend (and closer to the ferry), so it wasn’t really an inconvenience.  The main thing it impacted was our dinner options, as Port Ludlow is much smaller than Port Townsend…we ended up at The Fireside restaurant at the Inn for both dinner and breakfast, which was very nice, but definitely added to the cost.  The Inn is beautifully situated on the marina in the planned community of Port Ludlow.

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I was surprised at how small it was, less than 40 rooms, although they also have several event and banquet rooms.  Overall I think it was overpriced (it looked nice on the surface but the room had a lot of little annoyances like a loud heater & mini fridge and uncomfortable bed), but for the level of accommodations we are used to, it was the best option.  We had time before dinner to walk along the waterfront.  Its a popular destination for weddings, and I imagine they are full all summer long (even without air conditioning!).  For our February stay however it was fairly quiet.

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I was drawn to the restaurant’s cider selection on their online menu, but it ended up being a disappointment…they had reduced their ciders from 4 by the glass, 4 by the bottle, 1 Pommeau, and several Finnriver brandywines to only 1 by the glass (Eaglemount Ginger), 1 by the bottle (Alpenfire Glow), and the Finnriver brandywines.  You’d think their best option would be to stock 500ml Finnriver bottles as to not have to keep anything open, have ciders that are widely appealing (not ginger), and have something that one person could order (plus although Glow is amazing, I’d call it more of a dessert cider than something to pair with dinner).  I ended up ordering a cocktail with Prosecco and Finnriver Black Currant brandywine.  The food was amazing but the service was absent at times.  Overall our stay met our needs but didn’t amaze us.

Wanting to make this trip yourself?  Here are my tips:

  • Although its doable to make it a day trip from the greater Seattle area (especially as the cideries are only typically open noon-5pm), staying overnight was great, and gave us a chance to have a leisurely dinner too instead of rushing home.  However, especially in the summer, be warned that hotels book very quickly, likely as there are few options.
  • Definitely be safe and have a designated driver, as its a lot of cider tasting in a short period of time.
  • Plan your route.  I’m glad I planned the order we’d visit the cideries, how long of a drive between them, etc.  It wouldn’t have been fun to go on the trip and end up only making it to 2/3 cideries for example due to running out of time.
  • Bring some snacks, as there are very few options once you start the cider route, and cider tasting on an empty stomach isn’t wise.  Apparently in summer some of the cideries may offer food though (such as pizza at Finnriver).  One option is the Chimacum Corner Farmstand, which is a mix between a roadside produce stand and a mini PCC (plus they even sell garden type stuff like fertilizer outside).  They are close to Finnriver and have some grab & go lunch type stuff.  We stopped in but didn’t end up buying anything.  Due to our large breakfast just before starting the cider route, we ended up being ok food-wise until the third stop at Finnriver, where we had some of the snacks we brought (I went a bit fancy and packed us a cheese plate in a cooler).
  • Cash wasn’t necessary, although it could be handy for tasting fees and tips.  All three cideries used the credit card payment app Square on an ipad (no extra fee).
  • Plan to purchase bottles (and cidery swag if interested), as you will get a chance to taste at least a few ciders that aren’t distributed.  Cinders at Alpenfire and Pommeau at Finnriver for example.

Stay tuned for my tasting notes from Alpenfire, Eaglemount, and Finnriver!

(UPDATE – Posts on Alpenfire, Eaglemount, and Finnriver are now up.)

Schilling Cider House Visit 8 Tasting Notes

Yes, I made yet another trip to the Schilling Cider House!  Check out my past posts here.  This time it was for a random visit in early December, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to go for awhile with the holidays.  I wasn’t disappointed, as there were a good number of ciders on tap I hadn’t tried previously.

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I had a flight of six ciders, then picked up a half growler of Locust Bittersweet (which I have a bottle of, but was a really good deal and is quite tasty) and a few bottles.  I was intrigued by a new Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) cider called Garretza, but learned it is a barrel aged sour, and passed as I’m not into sours.

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<left to right: Schilling Pineapple Passion, Number 6 Pomegranate, AeppelTreow Barn Swallow, Eaglemount Cyser, 2 Towns Nice & Naughty Bourbon Barrel Aged, and Cider Riot Champoeg X-17>

Schilling Pineapple Passion (aka Trouble in Paradise), 5% ABV, Seattle WA:  This is a brand new currently tap-only release at Schilling which added pineapple & passion fruit juices to cider, and may be canned in the future.  Slightly hazy pineapple-yellow hue.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate pineapple flavor.  I didn’t pick up any passion fruit flavor.  The only other pineapple ciders I’ve had are Ace Pineapple (apple cider backsweetened with pineapple juice) and Reverend Nat’s Tepache (made only using pineapple juice, very low ABV, and lots of spice).  In my mind I was comparing this to Ace’s pineapple cider.  I liked Schilling’s much better, as it wasn’t as juice-like (I used to really enjoy Ace’s Pineapple, but my tastes moved away from ciders which taste like juice).  However, Schilling’s Pineapple cider seemed to be missing something…maybe it needed more carbonation?

Number 6 Pomegranate, 5.4% ABV, Seattle WA:  I’ve previously only had their “True Cider” variety.  Light cherry / pomegranate type hue.  Semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Low acidity and tartness.  It remained light to moderate on the pomegranate flavor, similar to Elemental’s “Oxygen” Pomegranate cider (Elemental is also in the Seattle area, in Woodinville WA).  I found this to be rather average, as it left me wanting more flavor.  I mostly tried it as I hadn’t had it before.

AeppelTreow Barn Swallow, 6% ABV, Burlington WI:  This is the first cider I’ve had from them.  Made from Red Delicious, Cortland, Ida Red, and Greenings apples.  Semi-sweet.  Medium straw yellow.  Low acidity and tartness.  No bitterness.  Medium boded.  There was a slight richness which I enjoyed.  Overall definitely well above average, and quite tasty.  I look forward to trying the bottle of their Appely Brut I have at home.

Eaglemount Cyser, 8% ABV, Port Townsend WA:  Cysers are made by fermenting both apple juice and honey, so are classified in between cider and mead.  Smells dry, of yeast & honey, with a slight funk.  Medium straw yellow.  Semi-sweet.  Nice mild honey flavor.  Medium bodied.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  The higher ABV was noticeable.  Really nice!  However, I was more impressed with their Quince cider I had a bottle of awhile back, which was crazy complex and fruity.  I want to try more from them.

2 Towns Nice & Naughty Bourbon Barrel Aged, 10.5% ABV, Corvallis OR:  I had 2 Towns’ Nice & Naughty (their holiday seasonal) on tap only a couple weeks before this, but this one is a special bourbon barrel aged release of it which appears to be tap-only.  Smells spiced, rich, and alcohol-forward.  The spice remains very mild, even more so than the regular version.  Moderate barrel influence and mild bourbon influence for the flavor, but this tastes quite boozy.  Some caramel and vanilla notes, and oddly enough, ginger?  Mild tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Medium bodied.  Long finish with a lot of warmth.  I drank it last, letting it warm up to close to room temperature, based on my previous experience with the regular version of Nice & Naughty tasting better that way.  However, it may have been a mistake, as I didn’t really care for this version of the cider.  The high ABV, spice, barrel aging, and bourbon influence seemed to be competing for attention.  I much preferred the regular Nice & Naughty (which is odd as typically I love barrel aged ciders), but would be curious to try this one again when it was very cold.

Cider Riot Champoeg X-17 on Nitro, 4.6% ABV, Portland OR:  This is a hopped cider, part of their new Champoeg line, and made using an experimental hops variety.  Smells herbal & floral.  Semi-dry.  The hops flavor remains very mild, and is more herbal & floral than hoppy.  It reminded me some of Portland Hop’rageous and Tod Creek Mala-Hop, which are also both mild (although this cider was even milder on the hops).  Very light boded.  The Nitro tap didn’t seem to add much except additional foam (I think it works best with Berry ciders).  I’m not a hops fan, so I don’t think I fully appreciated it, but it wasn’t bad.  Overall it left me wanting more flavor, but I wouldn’t have wanted any more hops flavor.

My favorites of the evening were Eaglemount Cyser, AeppelTreow Barn Swallow, and Schilling Pineapple Passion, in that order.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Eaglemount Quince

Review of Eaglemount Wine & Cider’s Quince cider.  Note that this is apparently the only commercially-produced Quince cider (although it has been used in low quantities in cider blends).  From the description below it doesn’t appear to be a single varietal, but pretty close.  Here is a cool NY Times article on Eaglemount’s Quince, focusing on the apples, In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince.

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(sorry for the wrinkled label…I guess my fridge is a bit humid!)

Cider:  Quince
Cidery: Eaglemount Wine & Cider
Cidery Location: Port Townsend WA (note they are currently moving the tasting room)
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied: 750 ml clear glass bottle with a handy flip-top to reseal after popping the metal cap

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Availability:  Very limited release.  Distributed in Seattle WA & Portland OR, a Port Townsend WA area Farmer’s Market, Eaglemount’s tasting room in Port Townsend WA, and Eaglemount’s online store.  They also offer a cider club!

Cider Description:  A one of a kind cider made with Certified Organic Quince and heirloom variety apples.  This unique complex cider has notes of pineapple, grapefruit, honey, and more.  The Quince were grown in Washington’s San Juan Islands. Enjoy this delightful cider with roasted pear salad, light entrees, or as a chilled afternoon cordial by itself or mixed with your favorite spirits.  Our Quince Cider was featured in the New York Times April 2012 in an article on quince. Won Best Specialty Cider in SIP Magazine in 2013.

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(Quince apples, a photo from Eaglemount’s Facebook page)

Cidery Description: We started our winery in 2006 here on the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington State.  We own one of the original homesteads in the area and started making wine and then hard cider from the wonderful heirloom apples from our homestead orchard in 1996. Some of the varieties include: Gravenstein, Winter Banana, Jonathan, Roxbury Russet and more. We also have a cider orchard with French and English varieties of cider apples.

They have six cider varieties (Quince, Rhubarb, Ginger, Homestead Semi-Sweet, Homestead Dry, & Boot Brawl), one mead variety (Apple), one Cyser (mead-style cider), and five wine varieties listed on their website (online store), but it appears they have more (at least at their tasting room) from the reviews I’ve read.

Additional Info from Trudy Davis, the vintner at Eaglemount, in Response to My Request:  Our winery is located on an 1883 Homestead that has the original apple trees. These were the foundation for our first ciders. All of our apples come from a 20 mile radius here on the Olympic Peninsula. The quince come from a certified organic orchard in the San Juan Islands. Quince is a hard to describe flavor; honeysuckle, tropical fruit, and grapefruit are some descriptors.

Price:  $20.50
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown area of Seattle WA (I’ve also seen Eaglemount ciders at Special Brews, but not Quince)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, and I’ve read some reviews.  I’ve had my eye on Eaglemount and was deciding what variety would be best for me to try.  This definitely fit the bill!

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First Impression: Carbonated upon pouring.  Fairly clear yellow amber.  Distinctive scent, which I assume is the Quince apples, with a tropical flair.

Opinion:  Semi-dry, but due to the “sweet” flavors, it comes across a bit sweeter than I think it actually is.  Carbonated mouthfeel.  Very distinctive complex flavor which I agree is difficult to describe.  I definitely pick up tropical aspects, some vanilla & honey, and a touch of an herbal/floral quality.  It has only a slight tartness, and no bitterness, which can be difficult to accomplish with a drier cider.  This is a very well crafted cider–mighty fine!  It drinks more like 5% than 8% ABV; very smooth.  There are also some wine-like qualities to this cider, but not enough to discourage me, which often occurs with wine-like ciders.

Most Similar to: Reverend Nat’s Revival, which also has some tropical aspects to it.  Eaglemount by comparison is slightly less sweet and has a more distinctively complex flavor.

Closing Notes:  Epic cider–highly recommended!  I really enjoy complex ciders like this.  Eaglemount Quince is definitely a treat, worth the higher price tag.  I look forward to trying more of their ciders.  This variety definitely stuck out for me when choosing one, and from what I read, it seems very well received (most posts about Eaglemount seem to mention Quince).  I think I’ve mostly seen their Root Brawl (hopped cider) and Cyser (mead-style cider) around me.

Fun Fact:  Finnriver and Alpenfire are in the same Port Townsend area as Eaglemount; see this cider route map.  Roadtrip anyone?

Postscript:  I wish more craft cideries offered their product in smaller bottles.  For folks like me without someone to share the cider with most of the time (my hubby is more into spirits, beer, & wine), a 750ml bottle of a relatively high ABV cider is a bit much for one sitting.  Also, a smaller bottle would lower the price point.  500ml is a more manageable size.  I made a big dent in emptying the bottle, but had plenty left to drink a second night.  The flip top closure worked fairly well, especially at re-carbonation, and there was very little change in the cider’s flavor (as I’ve had happen before, it mellowed out just a bit).

Have you tried Eaglemount Quince?  What did you think?