Pick Cider Ideas for Thanksgiving 2018

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I actually remembered to do a Thanksgiving cider article this year, so here it goes!  A list of some suggestions (at least for folks who can get these in their area) for Thanksgiving-dinner friendly ciders.  Besides pairing with a variety of foods, I think the ideal holiday cider will appeal to a wide audience (presuming you will share it with the table).  However, these selections will of course sway towards my personal tastes.

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French ciders – French ciders are inherently food-friendly, and have a wide appeal, typically being mid-level sweetness and apple-forward, but often having surprising complexity.  Its fun to share something unique (imported) with guests too.  Plus, they have a lower ABV, which can be ideal for meals earlier in the day.  Some of my favorites are from Domaine de la MinotiereEric BordeletKystinLa ChouetteL’HermitiéreManoir de Grandouet, and Pierre Huet.  I recently picked up a 5L mini keg of Bordelet, but I’m saving that for Christmas.  The easiest French cider to find for some may be Dan Armor, sold at Trader Joe’s, and at only $5 / 750ml, its an excellent value, and something I wouldn’t hesitate to serve at my house.  My top American-made French-style cider pick is 2 Towns Cidre Bouche.

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AeppelTreow Appely Doux – This Wisconsin methode champenoise (naturally sparkling) selection is mid-level sweetness with a flavor profile of citrus, green apple, honey, and floral.  It would make a nice champagne alternative anytime.

Alpenfire Spark! – This Washington cider is a great introduction to heritage ciders, with some rich notes of apple pomace, honey, orange, and leather, but remaining mid-level sweetness and clean.

Bertolinos Hard Cider – This Italian cider is mid-level sweetness, has some good fizz, and notes of honey, pineapple, and grapefruit.  Especially wide crowd appeal from my experience.

Eden Specialty Ciders – This Vermont cidery may have started with ice ciders (which I cover later), but they make some amazing regular ciders with wide appeal, such as their super complex Sparkling Semi-Dry, rich Guinevere’s Pearls, or new canned Heritage cider, which has to be the highest quality cider I’ve ever seen in a can.

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Eve’s Rustica This New York mid-sweetness cider has some unique notes of honey, cream/vanilla, and fruit, all expertly crafted just from the apples and yeast.

Liberty Kingston Black This Washington single varietal is made only from the iconic Kingston Black apples, yet I think it would have a wide appeal, as it retains some sweetness (semi-dry), is flavorful, and doesn’t cross over into funky/sour/bitter territory.

Slyboro Old Sin This New York semi-dry cider has some rich tannic flavor reminiscent of English cider, with notes of butterscotch, caramel, and tropical fruit, and is another selection which would make a great introductory heritage cider.  Lovely color to it too!

Snowdrift – This Washington cidery has several Thanksgiving-worthy crowd-pleasing cider selections, such as their Cidermaker’s Reserve (semi-dry, sparkling, fruity, and complex), Seckel Perry (mid-level sweetness, made only from Seckel pears), and Cliffbreaks Blend (semi-sweet, tart, and fruity).

Tilted Shed Smoked This dry cider hails from California, and is unique, nuanced, oaky, and slightly smokey.  Probably a bit less likely to be widely appealing, but I think it would be appreciated by certain audiences, and to me seems uniquely suited to Thanksgiving dinner.

Wandering Aengus Bloom – This Washington cider is mid-level sweetness and made from heirloom apples, but has widely appealing familiar notes of honey, green apple, and tropical fruit.

Whitewood Jonathan – This Washington cider is a single-varietal of Jonathan apples, and dry to semi-dry, but super approachable, being apple-forward with notes of citrus and honey.

ice cider – For a special treat with dessert, try ice cider.  It is made from naturally concentrating apple juice using cold to increase the sugar content before fermenting, resulting in a higher ABV sweet dessert cider bursting with flavor.  One of my favorites is Eden Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom.

Pommeau – Also, Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) is another great dessert cider option.  It is made by fortifying cider (either fermented or unfermented juice) with distilled apple juice (brandy).  Like ice cider, it is a nice sipping option, although it is available in a wide range of sweetness.  Some of my favorites are from 2 Towns, Etienne DupontEZ OrchardsHerout, and Wandering Aengus.

Visit the Pick Cider campaign website for lots more great info, and try your local fine bottle shop or online, such as through Cider in Love or VinoShipper.  No matter which cider/s you choose, I’d encourage you to pick up some extra bottles, as a good cider can easily turn even those who have sworn off cider into cider lovers, holidays are holidays, and plus with the lower ABV, a bottle doesn’t go as far as wine.

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Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tendre

Review of Eric Bordelet’s Sidre Brut Tendre.  I’ve previously had the non-Brut (sweeter) version of this same cider (see here), as well as his Poire Authentique and Nouvelle Vague Sidre.

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Cider:  Sidre Brut Tendre
Cidery:  Eric Bordelet
Cidery Location:  Normandy, France
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  French craft cider from cider apples, sparkling, brut (dry), naturally fermented

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Availability:  Semi wide release.  In addition to France and the U.S.A., the website says the ciders are available in Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brasil, and South Africa.

Cider Description:  Traditional semi dry cider.

They also make a non-brut (sweet) version of this cider.  I’ve read the only difference between the two is that this drier version was allowed to ferment fully, while the sweeter version has fermentation stopped early.

Cidery Description:  The Bordelet family’s biodynamic orchards are in southern Normandy. The orchards as well as the cider making is undertaken by former Paris sommelier Eric Bordelet. All tolled, the orchard is 37 acres, seven and a half of which bear apple and pear trees 50 years old. The estate holds 20 varieties of apples and 15 varieties of pear. This is cider you are going to want to make a special effort to seek out.

See here and here for more information.

Price:  $12
Where Bought:  Cheese Plus in San Francisco CA (across the street from The Jug Shop) – I highly recommend both shops
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, on a cruise port stop – it was a really neat store, with lots of fancy wine and other beverages (they probably had 8 cider varieties, national, Spanish, and French – I also picked up some cans of Embark cider), cheese, charcuterie, and other fine foods – perfect to pick up items for a dinner party, or just a sandwich for lunch

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First Impression:  Moderate gold hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of apple pomace.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Moderate tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apple juice and pomace, yeast, caramel, oak, and orange.  Moderate length finish.  High apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I think I enjoyed this more than the sweeter version.  I loved the complexity (more than the sweeter version).  Completely clean (no sourness or funk), so it would be a great introduction to French cider.  It is amazing that Bordelet can create such a clean cider with wild fermentation.  This would also make a nice brunch cider, due to the lower ABV, and it is food-friendly (I had it with some smoked salmon).

Most Similar to:  Bordelet Sidre Tendre (non-brut), Bordelet Nouvelle Vague Sidre, and Christian Drouin Pays d’Auge

Closing Notes:  It looked like this bottle sat around for awhile in the store, as the label was messed up (and it was at a lower price than I’d expect).  It was also a bit less carbonated than I’d expect, which can happen over time.  However, it was still awesome.  Ciders like this can even improve with age.

Have you tried Eric Bordelet cidre?  What did you think?

Eric Bordelet Sidre Tendre

Review of Eric Bordelet’s Sidre Tendre.  It is my first time trying this one, but I’ve previously tried Bordelet’s Poire Authentique and Nouvelle Vague Sidre.

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Cider:  Sidre Tendre
Cidery:  Eric Bordelet
Cidery Location:  Normandy, France
ABV:  3.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  sweet sparkling French cidre from cider apples, wild yeast fermented

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Availability:  Semi wide release.  In addition to France and the U.S.A., the website says their ciders are available in Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brasil, and South Africa.

Cider Description:  Smooth fruity citrus cider with aromas of wild apples from low alcoholic autumn – 3.5% / vol. (Accompanies perfectly on desserts and pastries). 

They also make a Brut (dry) version of this cider.  The only difference between the two is that this sweeter version has the fermentation stopped early, while the Brut is allowed to ferment dry.

Cidery Description:  The Bordelet family’s biodynamic orchards are in southern Normandy. The orchards as well as the cider making is undertaken by former Paris sommelier Eric Bordelet. All tolled, the orchard is 37 acres, seven and a half of which bear apple and pear trees 50 years old. The estate holds 20 varieties of apples and 15 varieties of pear. This is cider you are going to want to make a special effort to seek out.

See here and here for more information.

Price:  50% off $17.99
Where Bought:  Downtown Spirits in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, after attending a cider tasting class taught by Rev Nat.  The shop had a 50% off shelf filled with all sorts of awesome ciders!

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First Impression:  Light orange amber hue.  Low carbonation with some foam.  Smells of complex sweet apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Hints of tannins.  Notes of overripe bittersweet cider apple, yeast, and orange.  High apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate to high flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  Although this lovely cider is rather juice-like and lower complexity, it is far from boring.  This would make a wonderful introduction to fine cider for someone who is used to drinking sweet commercial cider.  It retained the apple & yeast forward qualities of French cider, but lacks any of the more difficult to appreciate qualities often found in Normandy French cider, such as sourness & funk.  It is amazing that Bordelet can create such a clean cider with wild fermentation.

This would also make a nice brunch cider, due to the lower ABV, and its complex simplicity would make it food-friendly.  Also, although it is rather sweet, it drank like a drier cider (I drank the entire bottle myself and it wasn’t a sugar overload).

Most Similar to:  Christian Drouin Pays d’Auge and Eric Bordelet’s Nouvelle Vague Sidre, although both of those are significantly drier.  Clos des Ducs is sweeter than this, but Eric Bordelet’s ciders are far superior in flavor and complexity.

Closing Notes:  I hope I can find more Eric Bordelet varieties to try!

Have you tried Eric Bordelet sidre?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 26 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 26th 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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I was there on a Thursday night when they had Schilling Cider’s 4th anniversary party.  I started with half a flight, waiting for them to put more on tap once the event started.

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Snowdrift (Wenatchee WA) Orchard Select (7.3% ABV):  The scent has hints of funk.  Fully dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness, especially on the finish.  Low funk.  Hints of sourness.  Low to moderate tannins.  Sharp flavor with citrus, herbal, and possibly crab apple notes.  I found this a bit harsh for my liking between the dryness, sharpness, and acidity.  I think their Cliffbreaks Blend is more likable, although that is significantly sweeter.  Fans of dry cider from cider apples will likely really enjoy it; I think it reminds me of a lot of ciders I’ve had from the Northeast.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Hibiscus (5.0% ABV):  This appears to be a draft-only special release.  Pink hue.  Smells floral and fruity.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  More fruity than floral, with notes of rhubarb, strawberry, and watermelon.  I really enjoyed it.  I’m curious what they added to this.

Eric Bordelet (Normandy France) Nouvelle Vague Sidre (5.0% ABV):  This is the first time I’ve seen this variety in the U.S. (although we get a handful of their ciders in bottles).  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low carbonation.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Simple but tasty flavor profile, apple and yeast forward.  This reminded me a bit of English cider in addition to French cider, with a higher level of tannins, clean flavor (no funk), and lower carbonation (although likely to it being on draft vs. bottled).  I enjoyed it, especially as it warmed up.

Next Sarah shared some of a Hogan’s 3 liter bag-in-box variety (retails for $33, which works out to $8.25 / 750ml).

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Hogan’s Cider (Alcester United Kingdom) Hazy Daisy (3.9% ABV):  I’ve only seen this in the 3L bag-in-box in the U.S.  Semi-dry.  Still.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  Hints of bitterness, funk, and sourness.  The flavor is very mild, apple and citrus forward.  This would be a perfect summer session cider, and possibly my favorite from Hogan’s so far oddly enough (I’ve also tried Medium Cider and Picker’s Passion), as it had a bit less sourness (especially compared to the Medium).  I enjoyed it.

The full event lineup was finally on tap a bit after the event started at 6pm.  It ended up being a lot of the usual suspects, sours, and high ABV barrel aged spirit-style ciders.  I ended up only ordering one more thing, as it was getting late for me and very very busy.

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Schilling Cider (Auburn WA) French Bittersweet (unknown ABV):  A draft-only special release from French bittersweet apple juice.  Very dark hazy brown hue, like unfiltered non-alcoholic cider.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Moderate tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  The flavor was very cider apple juice forward–it really didn’t taste alcoholic.  I think this may have been the same cider I tried at Cider Rite of Spring which tasted just like juice to me (maybe it was there?).

My favorites were the Locust, Eric Bordelet, and Hogan’s.

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

Schilling Cider House Visit 5 Tasting Notes

This time an event brought me to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA, a great excuse to drink cider on a weeknight if you ask me.  It was their monthly potluck, which this month had a “sweet” theme, for both cider and food.  There were still plenty of drier cider options on tap too (and with 32 tap selections and hundreds of bottles, there is something for everyone).  I even found out there is one hush-hush bottled beer selection at Schilling.

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I started with a flight of six.  However, I ended up staying there for over 4 hours, so it definitely wasn’t the only thing I drank!  I picked up a nice weird dinner at PCC of some coleslaw, cheese, and pretzel bread (which is one of my favorite things to have with cider, unsalted though).

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<left to right: Fox Tail Sweet Tooth, Carlton Black Currant Scrumpy, Cragie’s Ballyhook Flyer, Bull Run Strawberry Fields, Finnriver Pear, and Elemental Atomic Root Beer>

Fox Tail Sweet Tooth, 5.0% ABV:  This is the second cider I’ve had from this Hood River OR cidery (the first was Fuzzy Haven, tasting notes here).  This was an interesting selection as they called it sweet, but it was more semi-dry?  Probably more that it was sweet for their cidery.  Straw yellow hue, no haziness.  Rather plain and on the mild & boring side, but I don’t have any complaints.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Nicely balanced.

Carlton Black Currant Scrumpy, 4.4% ABV:  This is the first cider I’ve had from this McMinnville OR cidery, although I have a bottle of their Slake at home to try.  Rich black currant scent and a lovely deep berry hue.  Semi-dry.  Sour!  Definitely wasn’t expecting that.  Unfortunately I’m not a fan of sour cider so I didn’t have more than a couple sips.

Cragie’s Ballyhook Flier, 5.8% ABV:  This is an Irish cider which I’ve seen in bottles and have wanted to try, so here was my chance.  Hazy yellow-orange hue.  Dry cider apple and yeast scent.  Dry.  Moderate bitterness.  Mild sourness, funkiness, tartness, and astringency.  Moderate tannins.  Complex and unique.  However, it was too bitter for my liking.  I think some additional sweetness to balance it would have been nice.  I’ve had some ciders made from higher tannin cider apples which weren’t bitter, but it appears to be difficult to pull off.

Bull Run Strawberry Fields, 6.5% ABV:  This is the first cider I’ve had from this Forest Grove OR cidery, although I’ve been meaning to try their ciders for awhile (way too much good stuff available around here).  Light cherry color.  Lovely real sweet strawberry scent.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Moderate strawberry flavor.  I imagine it was difficult to develop this cider, to get a true strawberry flavor without seeming fake or being too sweet.  I have found very few fruity ciders that were full flavored without being very sweet or overpowering the apple (Snowdrift Red and Eaglemount Quince are two I love, but they are on the more spendy side).  I’m a fan!

Finnriver Pear, 6.5% ABV:  I’ve had a number of Finnriver selections, but hadn’t had this one before (Chimacum WA).  This is a cider (apple juice) with pear juice added (ie. its not perry, which are made only using pear juice).  Straw yellow, no haze.  Light clean pear scent.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Plain, but it had a nice real pear flavor.  Quite good, but not my favorite from them (I’d recommend Lavender Black Currant, Honey Meadow, and Fire Barrel).

Elemental Atomic Root Beer, 6.5% ABV:  I’ve tried a couple of their ciders, but I was curious about this new one (Woodinville WA).  Its a hard root beer, but in contrast to other products (such as Not Your Father’s Root Beer), it is cider instead of malt based!  Nice caramely root beer hue.  Smells of root beer with a hint of baked apple.  Tastes like a nice mild root beer with a hint of baked apple at the core.  Only semi-sweet, which I appreciated.  It could have used some additional carbonation, but I say that about most ciders.  Tasty!  I can see why this one has been a huge hit for them.

I then realized I had finished my first flight and the actual event hadn’t started yet, as I got there so early (due to my work schedule).  So, I ordered a half flight.  Without realizing it I got three berry ciders (they were about the only ones left on the board I hadn’t tried, besides ginger & hops & such that I don’t care for).

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<left to right: Atlas Pom-Cherry, Cider Riot Never Give An Inch Oregon Blackberry, and Elemental Oxygen (Pomegranate)>

Atlas Pom-Cherry, 5.8% ABV:  I’ve had the Apple and Blackberry selections (reviews here and here) from this Bend OR cidery.  I also have their Apricot variety at home to try.  Tart cherry scent.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Lots of pomegranate flavor.  Only mild tartness and the slightest hint of sour.  Thin bodied.  Bold flavored.  It was my favorite of these three, but I still think I like their plain apple best of the three varieties I’ve tried from them so far, and overall its not a favorite of mine or anything.

Cider Riot Never Give An Inch Oregon Blackberry, 6.9% ABV:  This is the first cider I’ve had from this Portland OR cidery, although I have a bottle of their 1763 at home to try.  Dry.  Very tart.  Only mild berry flavor.  I found it kinda unremarkable, and my least favorite of these three.  It was too tart for my liking and I don’t think I finished it.  Tart fans who like berry ciders but find them all too sweet may want to give this one a try though.

Elemental Oxygen (Pomegranate), 6.5% ABV:  I’ve had a number of ciders from this Woodinville WA cidery.  Poured very foamy.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Tart.  Thin bodied.  Rather mild flavor, which appears typical for them.  Their Atomic Root Beer is definitely my favorite from them so far.

During this time the actual potluck started (5pm), and it got busy (for awhile I was the only customer!).  I got to see Mick from Click Distributing again, meet two guys from D’s Wicked Cider (Kennewick WA), meet Sarah’s mom, and see Merce from Cider Log again.  Plus I nimbled on some tasty treats.

I sampled D’s Wicked Baked Apple, their new 6.9% instead of 8.5% ABV variety.  Apparently most folks won’t be able to taste the difference.  One of the reasons they did this was because there is an apparent WA state rule against doing growler fills above 7% ABV.  This is the first cider I’ve tried from them.  I had avoided buying a bottle of this one as I assumed it would be too spiced for my liking (not a spiced cider fan, or any spices in general…not even pepper on food).  However, the cinnamon was quite mild (at least when the keg wasn’t fully cold yet), and it had more baked apple flavor.  Quite tasty actually.  They said the cinnamon showed up more when it was fully cold though.  Nice and frothy and on the unfiltered side.  Semi-sweet.  Medium to heavy bodied.  Its not something I’d buy, but I was pleasantly surprised, and definitely see why they are so popular.

Also, Sarah remembered about a bottle of Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique in the cool room (I think this was a sample or something, as its not one of the Bordelet varieties they carry).  It was definitely flat after being open about a week (apparently its typically quite sparkling), but we all found it tasty (there was enough for a couple sips each).  At only 3.5% ABV, this French perry is easy drinking at its finest.  I have only heard rave reviews about Bordelet and they’ve been on my want to try list.  Bold flavor, but clean, unlike some perries.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Rich flavor and very balanced.  I really enjoyed this one, but I’m not sure I could bring myself to pay $15-20 for a 750ml bottle of a sub 4% ABV cider.  This reminded me of the bottle pour of another Poire I had here, Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront (tasting notes here).

They also had a Randall going that night where they infused Schilling Gold cider with oranges, coconut, and Chai tea.  An interesting combination, as always!  It was pretty tasty, although I would have preferred no tea and lots more coconut.  The tea seemed to make the cider seem drier than I remembered Gold tasting (which is one of Schilling’s sweeter varieties, and their only plain cider I believe).  Sarah said this was her favorite Randall so far.

Mick also decided to pick up a bottle of Millstone Farmgate Dry and share it with us.  I had this one at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (tasting notes here), in an attempt to see if there was any variety from Millstone I’d enjoy (as I definitely didn’t like their Cobbler).  This variety is definitely sour & funky, but less harsh than Cobbler by a few times probably.  I’m always surprised to see Cobbler make cider lists without any notes of its sour flavor, but apparently a lot of folks like that sort of thing (like sour beer I guess).  Its a good thing they make so many ciders, so there is something for everyone.

I definitely tried a lot of cider and had a blast, as always.  Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?