Schilling Cider House Visit 9 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my ninth visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts here.  I hadn’t thought I’d have time for another visit in December, but managed to fit it into my schedule.

I was there for a Finnriver Bingo event, although I didn’t have much interest in the actual game & prizes, just used it as an excuse to go.  The event was a packed house!  There were six Finnriver ciders on tap:  Habanero, Black Currant, Barrel in the Forest, Cranberry Rosehip, Fresh Hopped, and Pear (all of which I’ve had except Fresh Hopped).

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<tap list of 32 ciders>

I started with a flight of six ciders.

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<left to right: Blue Mountain Estate Winesap, Seattle Cider Oaked Maple, Finnriver Barrel in the Forest, Locust Pumpkin, E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry, Grizzly Pomnivore>

Blue Mountain Estate Winesap, 6.75% ABV, Milton-Freewater OR:  This is a single varietal made with Winesap apples which Blue Mountain sells year round.  Nearly clear.  Tart, dry, and slightly funky smell.  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild bitterness.  Very mild tannins.  Hint of funk.  Slight floral and oak notes.  Light bodied.  Moderate to long finish.  I thought this was a basic dry & tart cider, and pretty low on flavor.

Seattle Cider Oaked Maple, 6.9% ABV, Seattle WA:  This is one of Seattle Cider’s winter seasonals (they also did a Cranberry cider this year).  I couldn’t remember if I had tried this before, but I’m leaning towards yes.  Dark straw yellow hue.  Smells of sweet maple and oak.  Semi-dry.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  Light bodied.  Very light oak and light maple flavor.  Quick finish.  I thought this was pretty good, but I would have liked more flavor.

Finnriver Barrel in the Forest, 6.5% ABV, Chimacum WA:  This is a limited release of a barrel aged version of Finnriver’s Forest Ginger cider (which I haven’t tried).  I usually don’t like ginger, but this sounded interesting.  Smells of sweet ginger.  Semi-sweet.  Light oak notes.  Very mild ginger notes, much less than most ginger ciders (which usually seem to hit me at the back of the throat and linger).  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Light bodied.  Moderate length finish.  The ginger flavor however increased as it warmed up.  This paired well with the Thai food I had for dinner.  Overall I didn’t mind this one, despite the ginger, but probably wouldn’t get it again.

Locust Ciderworks Pumpkin, 5.0% ABV, Woodinville WA:  This is a seasonal release from Locust, apparently draft-only.  Hazy pumpkin orange-yellow hue.  Smells of sweet pumpkin spice.  Very sweet.  Mild pumpkin and spice flavors, but overall very full flavored.  Low acidity and tartness.  Full bodied.  Moderate length finish.  I really liked this (even though I usually don’t go for pumpkin or spice), except it was too sweet for my liking, so not something I could have a pint of.

E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry, 6.9% ABV, Salem OR:  This is a regular release cider from E.Z. Orchards which uses French bittersweet apples.  After ordering this I remembered I had tried it before, at Cider Summit Seattle 2015.  Light amber.  Smells slightly rich.  Semi-dry.  Herbal notes.  Very light boded.  Low tannins and tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Quick finish.  Overall mildly flavored.  It tasted a bit off, and I wondered if the tap line could have used more flushing.  I also liked it much better at Cider Summit.  Different batches can turn out much differently.

Grizzly Ciderworks Pomnivore on Nitro, 6.7% ABV, Woodinville WA:  This is a tap-only release from Grizzly.  Light ruby red.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Low acidity and tartness.  Moderately flavored.  Quick finish.  I liked the pomegranate flavor without too much tartness like many pomegranate ciders have.

I met Nathan from Cider Chronicles (we just happened to sit next to each other at the bar!), who was awesome enough to share bottle pours of a couple ciders with me.  He said Sea Cider Wassail, J.K.’s Scrumpy Winterruption, and Elemental Seasonal Spiced Apple were his three favorite seasonal ciders, although Reverend Nat’s Winter Abbey Spiced may be replacing J.K.’s Scrumpy Winterruption in his cue.  I haven’t seen Rev Nat’s Winter Abbey, but picked up a bottle of Elemental Spiced, and tried the other two.

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Sea Cider Wassail, 14% ABV, Saanichton BC Canada:  This is Sea Cider’s winter seasonal.  Rich amber-orange hue.  Smells like orange and holiday spices.  Semi-dry.  Well-hidden ABV!  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  The orange and spice notes continued into the flavor.  Rich and full-flavored.  Medium bodied.  Moderate length finish with lots of heat.  I liked this a bit more as it warmed up from fridge temperature.  Overall this was enjoyable, but I like their Prohibition best.

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J.K.’s Scrumpy Cuvee Winterruption, 6.9% ABV, Flushing MI:  This is J.K. Scrumpy’s winter seasonal.  Very sweet.  Honey, orange, and mild spice notes.  Mild acidity and tartness.  Moderate to full bodied.  Apparently this cider usually has much more spice.  It was very easy drinking, between the sweetness and low ABV.  Overall I found it ok.

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

J.K.’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Summer

Review of Farmhouse Summer from J.K.’s Scrumpy.  This is their summer seasonal offering, and like all their cider, is organic, unfiltered, preservative/sulfite free, and made only from fresh pressed juice.

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Cider:  Farmhouse Summer
Cidery:  J.K.’s Scrumpy
Cidery Location:  Flushing MI (Almar Orchard)
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  22oz bottle

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Availability:  Summer seasonal, semi wide release, found in approximately 35/50 states, and in parts of Canada

Cider Description:  The Koan family invites you to try their seasonal offering: Grandfather’s Summer Cider.  Served to toiling farm hands for a job well done in the Michigan summer, this refreshing beverage with a zest of orange, the richness of plump raisins, and a hint of coriander, aims to quench your thirst.  Discover our cider, our farm, our history.  -Jim Koan, independent American Farmer.

Additional Information from J.K.’s Scrumpy:  They grow 50 varieties of apples on 500 acres on their farm.  In the 1970s there were 36 orchards in their area, and now, only 2! Approximately 16 of those varieties go into Farmhouse Summer, including Harrison, Spy, and Cortland.  The cider is fermented for 6-16 months, then blended for consistency.  Therefore no two batches are ever alike (as they say, just how Mother Nature intended).

 They sent me these links:
Thanks to Sabrina from J.K.’s Scrumpy for the extra info!

Cidery Description:  This Original Hard-Cider has been made on our family-owned farm in Flushing, Michigan for well over a hundred years. It was first pressed back in the 1850’s. Not much as changed in the process since then. We use the same apples from the same orchards as my great-great grandfather did before the time of the Civil War. We are proud of that. It gives us a sense of history.  The cider has played an important role in the ongoing history of our farm. The sale of cider actually saved our farm during the Great Depression. And, during the Prohibition people came from far and wide for our “Special Farm Cider.”  We grow vegetables and fruits here at Almar, but our cider has kept us in business when times have gotten tough. Regretfully, it seems that history has a habit of repeating itself…These past few years, many of our nation’s orchards have closed their barn doors and orchard gateways as the influx of apple juice made from cheap concentrates arrive in the USA from China and South America. Some call it a “sign of the times,” and others seem to appreciate the “bargain” at the grocery store.  All I can say is that our Orchard Gate Gold is the real thing. It’s not a “made using” or “contains” product. IT IS REAL CIDER. Pure, natural and uniquely flavorful. We grow, harvest, and press the apples right here on the farm. It is time-consuming, labor-intensive and worth every bit of what it takes to make it.  Our cider is not only natural, it is truly organic. It always has been. It’s simply a fact of what we do – and how we do it. We use no insecticides in the farm orchards. Rather, I do what my grandfather did. I have a large flock of guinea fowl that wander about and eat the bugs. Fallen apples that have hit the ground are always a food source for pests, so I let my Berkshire pigs wander the orchard and eat the fallen apples. In a fast-paced, instant gratification society all this may seem a little old fashioned, or not “cost-effective.” But, we have a cider that is not like any other, and the idea of playing around with what makes that happen… well, it just ain’t part of the plan.

Price:  $3.99 (on sale from $6.99)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had seen this variety, but had been hesitant to try it due to the orange, coriander, and raisins, which just sounded weird.  However, discussion at the Hard Cider Appreciation Society on Facebook indicated these flavors weren’t too prominent, so when I saw it on sale I thought I’d give it a try.

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First Impression:  Hazy light amber.  Still.  Smells like sweet ripe apples, pear, citrus, and cinnamon.

Opinion:  Very sweet.  Orange, citrus, and honey notes.  However, I didn’t taste any of the pear or spice I smelled.  Apparently coriander can taste like citrus (I looked that up as its not something I’m familiar with; I also learned coriander is the seeds of the cilantro plant).  No significant acidity, tartness, or bitterness.  Medium bodied.  Syrupy taste and texture.  Quick finish, but I got an annoying lingering aftertaste/feeling at the back of my throat with this cider, almost minty?  It wasn’t as prominent for my husband, but he noticed it once I mentioned it.

Some notes about this style of cider:

  • Apparently the high degree of sweetness in their ciders is from arrested fermentation.  Allowing the cider to completely ferment makes a drier cider (as the yeast has fermented most/all of the sugar to alcohol).  This is why cidermakers often back sweeten their ciders with unfermented juice (plus that is a way to bring the ABV down to a target level).  By arresting the fermentation process they retain more sweetness.
  • Scrumpy usually refers to cider made from “scrumped” apples (which is either defined as those stolen from the ground or those which are old & shriveled up) in the West Country of England, which can be a potent and rough style of cider.  I’ve had one true Scrumpy cider, Serious Scrump from 2 Towns, and it wasn’t for me.  However, currently this term is instead used to indicate that a cider is a craft / artisan product.
  • Almost all commercial ciders use sulfites (sulphur dioxide) as a preservative.  Avoiding their use is more difficult as sulfites are used to kill the natural yeast on the apples.  The use of sulfites makes a more standardized product and reduces the risk of spoilage.  Pasteurization can instead be used.  Some folks are sensitive to sulfites, so its good to see that folks have the option of cider without them (although a small amount can be naturally occurring from the fermentation process).

Most Similar to:  Other ciders from J.K.’s Scrumpy, which have a  unique sweet farmhouse (unfiltered) taste.

Closing Notes:   I really support all their practices at J.K.’s Scrumpy / Almar Orchards (organic, no preservatives, etc), but I didn’t care for this cider.  Its amazing how low they can keep their price point while maintaining all those practices.  However, I really like their Northern Neighbor cider, which is made from Michigan and Canadian Saskatoon apples.  I’ve also tried their flagship Orchard Gate Gold, but not their Winterruption (winter seasonal) or Pair Perry.  They will have Pair Perry at Cider Summit Seattle, so I look forward to trying that one!  J.K.’s Scrumpy ciders are great for folks who like a sweet cider but want a craft product (affordable and semi widely available too).

Have you tried J.K.’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Summer?  What did you think?