Liberty Ciderworks Hewe’s Crab SV

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ Hewe’s Virginia Crab single varietal.  Its my first time trying this, but I’ve had Liberty’s Manchurian Crabapple SV, Crabenstein, Abbess, Stonewall, Gravenstein, Cellar Series #G15, New World Style, Cellar Series (# unknown), McIntosh, Golden Russet SV, and Spokane Scrumpy.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Liberty Ciderworks.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Hewe’s Virgnia Crab SV
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft cider, a single varietal from Hewe’s Virginia crabapples

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Availability:  This is a limited release, but in general their ciders are sold in Washington and Oregon (see a list of locations here).  They also have online sales through Vino Shipper.

Cider Description:  An American original, this crab apple was cultivated in Virginia some time in the 18th century with the sole intent of turning it into cider. Another one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites, this crab apple’s 2016 crop yields floral, buttery plum, herbal aromas, with flavors of dried fruit, herbal sweetness with a dry, tannic finish.

Cidery Description:  Located in the largest apple-growing region on the continent, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center.  We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields to create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Sharing them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest.  Welcome to the cider revolution. 

They have a tap room in Spokane WA, which also now has a bottle shop of selections from around the world.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $14.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  one of the co-owners/cidermakers contacted me (Rick Hastings)

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First Impression:  The hue was in between dark straw yellow and light amber.  Very low carbonation.  Smells tart and tannic with a hint of richness.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of crabapple pomace, caramel, lemon, leather, grapefruit, and oak.  Moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  Low to moderate sessionability.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  I especially liked the richness and tannins.  I wouldn’t have minded a bit more sweetness and less tartness/acidity though.  This really tasted like a cider made from cider apples, not crabapples, which is pretty cool to be able to do with a crabapple single varietal.  I agree this cider is best drank closer to room than fridge temperature (I really wish I had a dedicated cider fridge so I could serve these types of ciders at cellar temperature!).

Most Similar to:  Liberty’s Manchurian Crabapple, but not quite as intense (as that one has a much higher ABV and is sweeter and more flavorful).

Side Note:  Crabapples are commonly used in cidermaking, especially by home cidermakers that want to add some tannins to their cider but don’t have access to cider apples.  They are typically used as part of a blend though, as very few varieties of crabapples are suitable as a single varietal, as they are so tart and tannic (and often nearly impossible to eat).

Closing Notes:  This was another great selection from Liberty, and would likely appeal best to fans of dry acidic cider.

Have you tried any ciders from crabapples?  What did you think?

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Liberty Ciderworks English Style

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ English Style.  I previously tried this at events such as Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (see here), but I haven’t reviewed a bottle.  I’ve also tried Liberty’s Manchurian Crabapple SV, Crabenstein, Abbess, Stonewall, Gravenstein, Cellar Series #G15, New World Style, Cellar Series (# unknown), McIntosh, Golden Russet SV, and Spokane Scrumpy.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Liberty Ciderworks.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  English Style
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft cider from cider apples, English style

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Availability:  Year round, in Washington and Oregon (see a list of locations here).  They also have online sales through Vino Shipper.

Cider Description:  Classic cider varietals from the mother country – including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Ashton Bitter – come together for this dry, English-style cider. Complex, layered aromas, a hint of bittersweet apple flavor, balanced acidity, tannins and residual sweetness: it’s the perfect accompaniment for both appetizers and dinner. And like all of Liberty’s ciders, it’s made entirely by hand.

Cidery Description:  Located in the largest apple-growing region on the continent, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center.  We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields to create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Sharing them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest.  Welcome to the cider revolution. 

They have a tap room in Spokane WA, which also now has a bottle shop of selections from around the world.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $12.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  one of the co-owners/cidermakers contacted me, Rick Hastings

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First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Still.  Smells of rich cider apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of caramel, leather, butterscotch, earth, orange, and lemon.  Moderate apple flavor, complexity, and flavor intensity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Great!  This was a fun combination between a high acidity U.S. cider from heirloom apples and a rich tannic English cider.  However, it seemes a bit drier and more acidic/sharp than previously.  I preferred it slightly sweeter and less acidic, so the tannins and richness could better shine through.

Most Similar to:  Eve’s Autumns Gold

Closing Notes:  This cider is an awesome value, as cider apples are expensive, and ciders made from them usually cost more than this.  However, my favorite remains their Manchurian Crabapple – a flavorful high ABV cider you’d think was brandy fortified, but is not.  Next up I’ll be reviewing Liberty’s Hewes Crab cider.

Have you tried Liberty’s English Style cider?  What did you think?

Liberty Ciderworks Spokane Scrumpy

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ Spokane Scrumpy.  I previously tried this at Cider Summit Seattle 2017 (see here), but I hadn’t reviewed a bottle.  It was made using community sourced apples and supports the Second Harvest food bank in Spokane Washington.  Here is an article on its release.  I’ve also tried Liberty’s Manchurian Crabapple SVCrabenstein, English StyleAbbessStonewallGravenstein, Cellar Series #G15New World StyleCellar Series (# unknown)McIntosh, and Golden Russet SV.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Liberty Ciderworks.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Spokane Scrumpy
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  6.4%
Residual Sugar: 1.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft cider from community-harvested apples, wild yeast fermented

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Availability:  Special release.  Their ciders are in general available in Washington and Oregon (see a list of locations here).  They also have online sales through Vino Shipper (although at the time of review I didn’t see this one listed).

Cider Description:  A hyper-local concoction of backyard, roadside and otherwise under-appreciated apples fermented wild for a light and refreshing, yet complex flavor profile. A partnership with Second Harvest food bank, a portion of proceeds goes toward helping feed people in need in our community. (WA sales only)

Cidery Description:  Located in the largest apple-growing region on the continent, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center.  We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields to create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Sharing them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest.  Welcome to the cider revolution. 

They have a tap room in Spokane WA, which also now has a bottle shop of selections from around the world

Price:  n/a (probably ~ $15 like their other ciders)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  one of the co-owners/cidermakers contacted me, Rick Hastings

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First Impression:  Hazy lemonade hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells very mild.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness, tannins, and funk.  No sourness.  Notes of lemongrass, green apple, honey, butter, straw, and mineral.  Long finish with a slightly sour aftertaste.  Moderate apple flavor, complexity, flavor intensity, and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  The flavor was really interesting in a good way, but the aftertaste was a bit weird/different, although mild.  Neither me or the two others I was tasting with could really describe it.  I think it was likely a slight sourness that only showed up on the finish.  Sourness wouldn’t surprise me, as this was a wild yeast fermented cider, which typically has significant sourness.  The apple-forward flavor and the bit of residual sweetness may have just covered up the sourness until the finish.

Most Similar to:  Nothing I can think of.  The flavor profile was unique.  This is a bit sweeter and less tart than most of Liberty’s lineup.  I’d recommend this for folks who want a little something different.

Side Note:  In the cider world, the term “scrumpy” has a range of definitions, but it currently seems most often used to describe a rustic Farmhouse-style cider made using traditional methods, often slightly cloudy (less filtered).  They are most commonly found in England, but a number of U.S. cidermakers also use this term.  Here is an article from CiderCraft pointing out five examples.

Closing Notes:  Too bad they couldn’t repeat this recipe, as it was a mix of random apples (probably mostly dessert apples, with some heirloom and crab apples).  Next up I have their English Style and Hewes Crab ciders.

Have you tried Liberty’s Spokane Scrumpy?  What did you think?

Notes from a Cider Tasting Class with Reverend Nat

For my third Washington Cider Week 2017 event, I attended a cider tasting class with Nat West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (in Portland Oregon), at Downtown Spirits in downtown Seattle.  It was my first time at that store, which had a large selection (spirits, wine, beer, cider, mead, etc), plus an area set up with chairs & tables for classes & tastings.

The Event

I only read about the event the day before, but it sounded like a cool opportunity, as The Reverend (as he is commonly referred to – and he is an actual online ordained Reverend) has a lot of interesting insight on the industry.  I already missed out on some fun cider week events as I didn’t find out about them until after the fact (apparently the official NW Cider calendar stopped accepting submissions pretty early), so I didn’t want to pass this up.

The tasting list was a bit underwhelming with multiple mass market PNW canned ciders, but the two hour event with 10 ciders only cost $10.  That was crazy good deal, as that probably only covered the cider (and maybe even not), so Nat was basically volunteering his time.  He took the train up from Portland just for this and one other event.  There were only 11 of us who attended (and 2 of those were store employees).

I liked that the class was very informal.  We were encouraged to ask questions whenever, and we were even allowed to just pass the ciders around and pour how much we wanted (with a suggested amount so everyone got to try some).  Although that meant we couldn’t go back and taste anything (unless there were leftovers), it also meant I didn’t have cider poured into my glass which I would have felt obligated to drink to move on.

Cider Tasting Notes

We tasted the following ciders, in this order:  Cascadia Granny Smith, Liberty McIntosh, Wandering Aengus Golden Russet, Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé , Seattle Cider Semi Sweet, Rambling Route Apple, Reverend Nat’s Revival, Bull Run Bramble Berry, 2 Towns Cot in the Act, and Reverend Nat’s The Passion.  The first was described as a palette cleanser, the next three as American Heirloom, the following three as American common, and the last three as flavored.  Most of the time he would also include some European ciders, like English, French, and/or Spanish, but I think he was limited to what this store had in stock and cold.

The only new-to-me cider was Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé.  Nat asked if anyone had tried all the ciders, and I said 9/10, and it was the same for him (apparently that is a new ish Seattle Cider release).  The majority of the class seemed to be more so fans of Reverend Nat’s cider (which tend to be beer fans), than overall cider enthusiasts like me.

Cascadia Ciderworks United (Portland OR) Green Apple (6.9% ABV) – This retails for $9.99 / four pack of 16oz cans, and is made by Reverend Nat’s.  Semi-dry, very tart, and definitely green apple flavor (single varietal).

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) McIntosh (8.1% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Liberty was described as a more traditional cidermaker, plus I know they are unique in that they are not orchard based, but only use heirloom & cider apples.  This single varietal is available in bottles and on draft, and retails around $16 / 750ml.  Nat described this apple variety as making a juice which is very appley (more than many other heirloom apple varieties), and it not being as common in the PNW as it is in the NE.  Semi-dry.  Low to moderate tannins.  Notes of apple juice, caramel, honey, and must.  Some other folks in the class were picking up hints of “bandaid” flavor (which is from a combination of Brettanomyces, tannins, and polyphenols).  I must not be sensitive to that, as I’ve never noticed it with any cider.  However, in contrast, I am very sensitive to sourness, common in farmhouse and Spanish style ciders.

Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Golden Russet (9.0% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Wandering Aengus was described as one of the first cideries in the NW, starting in the 1990s, under the name “The Traditional Company”.  This is a single varietal made using Golden Russet apples which they grew themselves, and dry farmed (no irrigation).  It retails for around $9 / 500ml.  I would have described it as on the sweeter side of semi-dry, but apparently this measures full dry (my all have different palettes!).  Tart, acidic, bitter, and slightly tannic.  Rich flavor.  Long acidic tannic finish.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Winesap Rosé (6.0% ABV) – I’ve tried multiple single varietals from Winesap apples, and multiple rosé ciders, but not this one.  Winesap Rosé is a single varietal from Winesap apples, and pink/rosé from being aged in red wine barrels.  It retails for around $11 / 500ml.  Semi-dry.  Watery.  Slightly fruity, with a hint of oak.  The carbonation was visible but not detectable.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  Quick finish.  I think this would appeal more to wine folks.  Like most of their ciders, the flavor was very mild.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Semi Sweet (6.5% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a very commonly found cider in Seattle, and retails for about $11 / four 16oz cans.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Fuller bodied.  Low acid.  Notes of apple juice, honey, and citrus.

Rambling Route (Yakima WA) Apple (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is made by Tieton, and retails for about $9 / four 16oz cans.  Higher carbonation.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Very similar to Seattle Cider, but slightly more apple-forward.  We were told these two ciders are so similar as they use the same dessert apple juice blend, same wine yeast, sugar for back-sweetening, etc.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) Revival (5.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This retails for about $15 / six 12oz bottles or $6 / 500ml bottle.  This is a very unique cider as it gets a lot of different flavors just from the use of multiple yeast strains, piloncillo sugar, and a secret ingredient which he told us but said I couldn’t write down.  It is made by mixing two batches of cider together.  One has yeast strain 1 and the sugar, and results in a high ABV.  The other has yeast strain 2, and results in a more typical ABV.  Then fresh juice is added, which is about 20% of the makeup.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Notes of apple juice, yeast, brown sugar, honey, and hints of tropical fruit.

Bull Run (Forest Grove OR) Bramble Berry (6.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This cider with marionberries, blackberries, and boysenberries retails for $8 / 500ml.  Semi-dry, with the berry more in the nose than the flavor, low acid, and hints of tannins from the berries.

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Cot in the Act (6.2% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal apricot cider (made using the whole fruit, not just juice) which retails for about $12.50 / six 12oz cans or $8 / 500ml.  Very strong apricot scent.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, juicy, notes of stone fruit, and flavorful.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) The Passion (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal cider made with Ecuadorian passion fruit juice, toasted coconut, and vanilla, and retails for about $14 / 500ml.  I had previously heard this described as a sour cider, but this bottle pour and my previous draft pour were both free from sourness, so I’m game to buy it sometime as I really enjoy the flavor.  Semi-sweet (his sweetest cider).  Tart.  High flavor intensity, with a strong passion fruit scent & flavor, with hints of vanilla & coconut.

My favorite ciders of those were from Liberty, 2 Towns, and Rev Nat’s.

Info from Rev Nat

  • We discussed some cider basics such as sweetness vs. acidity and the cidermaking process.  However, I was surprised that I don’t think the word “tannins” came up at all (although it was on the handout, which had one side of general cider info and one side with info about the 10 ciders), despite at least the Liberty and Wandering Aengus ciders being good examples.
  • Rev Nat’s has five cider bases, and two of them are the Cascadia green & blue cans
  • 2 Towns (another common Oregon cidery) is six times as large as Rev Nat’s (I assume in context of cider produced/year)
  • Rev Nat’s currently has 22 employees
  • Rev Nat’s will be moving into a new 25,000 sq ft cidery space, and will then convert their current 8,000 sq ft space into only a tap room, including food.  It doesn’t look like the news about this being finalized has been officially announced, but this article from last year mentioned the same info.
  • Profit margins are about the same for all cideries, so ciders that cost more do actually cost more to make.
  • Specific gravity is a way to measure the sweetness of a cider, using the weight of the cider compared to the weight of the same amount of water.  The interesting thing with SG however is that you can have a cider with a specific gravity lower than water, so that would say the cider was drier than water lol.
  • Single varietal ciders are apparently more of an American thing, due to our new experimental cider culture.  They are probably second most common in England.
  • Wine/champagne yeast is often used in cidermaking as it ferments cleanly at low temperatures, is easy to remove (it will clump at the bottom of the tank), and it is designed to not impact the flavor.
  • Rev Nat’s in contrast uses beer yeast, which is designed to impart flavor (we were told the yeast in beer is actually what has the most impact on a beer’s flavor, not the grains or hops).  I think this class did a good job showcasing Rev Nat’s ciders, as they were two of the 2-4 most flavorful ciders of the group of 10.
  • Nat said cider that is cloudy is more of a marketing gimmick, and cloudy ciders don’t really retain more flavor than the more commonly found filtered ones.  Cloudiness in a cider can be from suspended yeast, apple debris/pulp, or pectin (naturally in apples).  The first two can be filtered out, but not the last.  This really made me think, as I’ve had a number of ciders which were cloudy and very flavorful (Downeast comes to mind).  They did tend to be sweet and apple juice forward though, so its quite plausible they would have still tasted like that after filtering.  Also, I’ve never tried the same cider before and after filtering, which I think would be the real test.
  • Nat often does an expanded cider tasting class during Oregon Cider Week, which includes 30! ciders in 3 hours

After the Event

I forgot to snag a photo before the tasting, but I got one of the aftermath:

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After the event I looked around the Downtown Spirits shop and was excited to find an entire shelf of cider that was 50% off – Alpenfire, Eden, Eric Bordelet, Slyboro, etc.  Its sad, but the high end and/or imported ciders just don’t sell very quickly.  I’ve heard from several shops that they won’t be re-stocking those sorts of items.  It has got more difficult for me to get imports especially.  I hadn’t planned to pick up any cider as my cabinet is full, but I picked up six bottles of high end ciders for under $50, as it was too good of a deal to pass up.  Very cool!

Cider Summit Seattle 2017 Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is post 2/2 on Cider Summit Seattle 2017, with tasting notes on 21 ciders.  Post 1/2 covered the event (see here).

The Tasting Notes

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Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) – Although I had previously tried the three ciders they were pouring (see my previous reviews here), I’m including Alpenfire here as they were debuting their new branding and future new cider releases.  They have a new logo, bottle labels, and website.  The future new cider releases include a rosé Pommeau, “Tempest” New England style, 3 Pommes (apple/pear/quince), a new release of Smoke (my all time favorite cider, which hasn’t been out for a couple years), a Foxwhelp apple single varietal, and even a Pommeau with an apple grown in the bottle (which will only be for the initial members of their new cider club).  Sounds like they have been busy!

Alpenfire did however have a cask-aged version of their Pirate’s Plank which I had a sip of.  It seemed a tad sweeter (dry not bone dry) and a bit more oaky than I remembered previously.

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Alter Ego (Portland OR) The Brute (6.5% ABV) – This was their first time at Cider Summit, although they were founded in 2014.  The Brute is one of their two flagship ciders; the other is The Guardian Angel, a blueberry-pomegranate cider (see my tasting notes here).  Semi-dry, slightly apple-forward, tart, crisp, and easy to drink, but overall a bit boring as the flavor intensity was low, as is common with a drier cider from dessert apple varieties (which is why most ciders from dessert apples are sweeter and/or flavored).

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Anthem (Salem OR) Rye Barrel Aged Cider (8.5% ABV) – Anthem is part of Wandering Aengus.  This is a draft-only release, aged in Rye whiskey barrels.  Semi-dry to dry and sharp, with moderate whiskey flavor and a hint of oak.

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Bad Granny (Chelan WA) Rainier Cherry – They launched a little over a year ago and are new to Cider Summit.  Rainier Cherry is a draft-only release using local Rainier cherries, although they sell their Original green apple cider in cans.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (I was told 9 grams sugar / 12oz), fuller bodied, moderate intensity real cherry flavor.

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Cider Riot (Portland OR) Everyday Semi-Dry (6.0% ABV) – I believe this was their first time at Cider Summit Seattle.  This cider is also available in cans.  Semi-dry to dry, with a hint of sourness, but very low flavor intensity and fairly blah.

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d’s Wicked (Kennewick WA) Bare Naked (6.7% ABV) – This is a new release, and currently draft-only.  It is a less sweet and non-spiced version of their flagship Baked Apple cider.  Semi-dry and flavorful, with unfiltered apple juice notes and a hint of honey flavor.

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Eden Specialty Ciders (Newport VT) Heirloom Blend Ice Cider (10.0% ABV) – I have tried this special treat previously, but my husband ended up getting a couple pours, burning the rest of his tickets, as it is amazing and a great value to get pours of at an event.  Ice cider is made using juice which has been frozen, concentrating the natural sugars and flavors, resulting in a sweet full-bodied intensely flavorful dessert cider.  See my previous review here, and my review of the brandy barrel-aged version of this cider here (which is my all time favorite ice cider).

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French Cider Inc. – I tried three French ciders imported by French Cider Inc. / Beauchamp Imports Inc.  They are Seattle based and fairly new to the market (I hadn’t even heard of them before I was looking over the Cider Summit list!), and thus this was their first time at Cider Summit.  French Cider’s focus is on importing French cidre (apple cider), poire (French perry, which is made from pears, not apples), and Calvados (French apple brandy).  The owner Joan Harkins (who I chatted with) speaks French and lives French culture.  She has hand-selected each variety in their collection after meeting with the cidermakers.  I hadn’t previously been aware of any of their selection being available in the U.S.  I found all three selections to likely be friendly to an unfamiliar palette, as they were all clean or fairly clean (no to low funk) and no sourness, lining up more with the style of the Brittany France ciders I’ve had more than the Normany France ciders I’ve had (although it appears all three were made in or near Normandy).  French Cider’s primary focus is on supplying shops and restaurants, but they also offer local pickup (appointment only) in Seattle, and soon, will ship.  Their website is amazingly informative, and they had a helpful handout for each of the three ciders (see below).  They are posting a photo blog featuring the French apple harvest season, which is currently underway (see their Facebook page).  Also, here is a recent article on the company from Seattle Dining.

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La Chouette (Mont-Saint-Michel Bay France) Cidre Demi-Sec (4.5% ABV) – This cider was produced in an area in between the Normandy and Brittany regions in France, from cider apples.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Lower carbonation and tannins than the other two I tried.  Clean (no funk).  Retails for $5-6 / 330ml bottle.

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Lefevre (Berville Normandy France) Cidre Brut (5.9% ABV) – This cider was produced just outside of Paris, by a 5th generation cidermaker, with cider apples.  The scent was the most complex of the three I tried.  Semi-dry.  Citrus in addition to apple notes, and more.  A hint of funk.  Low to moderate tannins.  French Cider’s website has an interview with the cidermaker, Eric Lefevre.  Retails for $5-6 / 330ml bottle.

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Pierre Huet (Cambremer Normandy France) Cidre Bouche Brut (4.5% ABV) – This cider underwent secondary fermentation in the bottle and was made with 7 or 8 varieties of cider apples by a 5th generation cidermaker.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Clean (no funk).  Low tannins.  Flavorful, apple forward, and easy to drink.  French Cider’s website has an article on their visit to Pierre Huet as well as an interview with the cidermaker, François-Xavier Huet.  Retails for $13-18 / 750ml bottle.

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Liberty Cider (Spokane WA) Spokane Scrumpy (6.4% ABV) – This cider was released in the Spring, and made with community harvested apples (of mostly unknown types, from dessert apples to crab apples) and wild yeast fermented.  $1 of each bottle sale goes to the Spokane Second Harvest food bank.  See this article.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (probably their sweetest cider), buttery, and complex.  I couldn’t really put my finger on the flavor profile with the sample size and time frame, so I’d be interested in giving a full bottle a try.

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Louis Raison (Le Theil-sur-Huisne France) Organic Dry (4.5% ABV) – This cidery is brand new to the U.S., and first launched here in Seattle.  They will have this cider on draft to start in Washington and Oregon, and eventually increase up to three bottled varieties in 2018 (adding Rouge Delice – made from red fleshed apples, and Original Crisp).  See here for more info on their launch.  Organic Dry is made in France from certified Organic bittersweet cider apples grown on co-op farms.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Apple and yeast forward and easy to drink.  I look forward to this being available in bottles as it sounds like it’ll be fairly affordable to keep around as an everyday cider.

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Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Plum Jerkum (6.5% ABV) – They have been around since 2014, but are new to the Seattle market and Cider Summit.  Although Mission Trail makes ciders and perries, they are best known for their other fruit wines, and specifically, jerkum (which is fermented stone fruit juice; the term originated just for plums, but has more recently been used to encompass all stone fruits).  They were actually only pouring jerkums at this cider event.  In this case it was 100% plum juice from 14 red-fleshed varieties.  The Plum Jerkum was semi-sweet to semi-dry, tart, with a moderately intense fruity berry flavor (I didn’t really pick up the prune/plum).

Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Goldmine Nectarine (6.0% ABV) – This is another jerkum, with 100% nectarine juice, barrel aged.  Semi-dry, quite tart, with pure nectarine flavor.  I didn’t pick up any barrel influence, but often it isn’t obvious.  I also recently tried their Peach Coast (see here), a peach wine / jerkum, which was my favorite of the three.

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Montana Ciderworks (Darby MT) Small Batch Dolgo (5.5% ABV) – This is a single varietal from the Dolgo crabapple, oak aged, part of their Small Batch series.  Semi-sweet, tangy, fruity, and apple-forward.

Random note:  I got some insight into labeling special releases.  In this case, “Dolgo” was stamped on, making it look handwritten with less effort.  Very cool.  However, many small batch special releases do have actual handwritten labels, like this one.  Getting a label approved by the TTB is a time consuming process, so often cideries have a general label they use for multiple small batches.

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Ole Swede (Tonasket WA) Mulberry & Friends – It was the cidery’s first time at Cider Summit, and they were founded last year.  This is a new cider release made with eight different types of berries and currants (mulberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, blueberry, gooseberry, black currant, and golden currant).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, smooth, low tartness & acidity, with a light real berry flavor.

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One Tree (Spokane WA) Pina Colada – This is a new draft-only release, part of the fruit cider challenge (and it turned out to be the winner – 2nd year in a row for One Tree – congrats!).  Sweet, very full flavored, with a bit more coconut than pineapple.  I loved the flavor of this (it reminded me a bit of Pear Up’s Pearjito Colada with the coconut, which hasn’t been used much in cider), but it would be a bit sweet to have much of.

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Pear Up (Wenatchee  WA) Pineapple Pear – This was their fruit cider challenge entry, a one-off draft only release.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, low flavor intensity, with the flavor balanced between pear & pineapple.  They weren’t serving it through the pineapple, but it was a cool photo op nonetheless.

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Seattle Cider (Seattle WA) New England Style (9.5% ABV) – This is a seasonal release which appears to have not been released for a few years, possibly draft-only.  It was made in the New England style, typically characterized as a high ABV cider with brown sugar and raisins added.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, sharp & acidic, with caramel notes and a boozy finish.

Seattle Cider (Seattle WA) 2015 Washington Heirloom (7.0% ABV) – This is part of their Harvest series, made with heirloom apple varieties, and also available in bottles.  Semi-dry, herbal scent, sharp, with citrus, floral, and herbal notes.

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Swift (Portland OR) Pineapple Hop (6.7% ABV) – They have been around since 2014, but it was their first time at Cider Summit Seattle.  Semi-dry, balanced flavor between the pineapple & hops with only hints of bitterness, but overall the flavor intensity was low.

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Washington Gold (Chelan WA) Northwest Raspberry (5.5% ABV) – This is a brand new small batch canned release.  Semi-sweet to sweet, with intense real raspberry flavor.

It was impossible to taste all the ciders at the event (or even one from each producer), so I’d also like to share previous tasting notes and reviews on some of the producers I didn’t get to highlight:  101 Cider House, 2 TownsAspall, Atlas, Bull Run, Chatter Creek, Double Mountain, Dragon’s Head, Dunkertons, Eaglemount, E.Z. Orchards, Finnriver, Greenwood, Hi-Wheel, Incline, Jester & Judge, J. Seeds, Le Brun, Locust, Maeloc, Manoir du Parc, Methow Valley, Moonlight Meadery, New West, North IdahoNumber 6 Cider, Reverend Nat’s, Portland, Rambling Route, Samuel Smiths, Schilling, Sea Cider, Snowdrift, Sonoma, Spire Mountain, Steelhead, Summit, Tieton, Ulee’s, Wandering Aengus, WildCraft, and Worley’s

In Summary

My Favorite Ciders – Of the ones I tasted at the event, my favorites were the 4 French ciders, some of the sweeter ciders that were very flavorful (such as One Tree’s Pina Colada and WA Gold Cider’s Raspberry), Montana Cider’s Dolgo, and Liberty’s Spokane Scrumpy.

Other Interesting Selections – There were also some interesting beverages I didn’t try, such as Schilling’s guava barrel-aged sour, a cocktail from Incline with gin and their Compass Rose cider, apple whiskey from J. Seeds, a Cider Summit themed cider from Finnriver which has been available at all four Cider Summit events this year (see here), 101 Ciderhouse’s Black Dog with activated charcoal (see here), and Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry with ghost peppers (see here).

Tasting Notes from NW Cider’s Preview of WA Cider Week 2017

I was recently invited to a Washington Cider Week preview for media and buyers.  The 7th annual Washington Cider Week is September 7th-17th 2017, and will include numerous cider events, with Cider Summit Seattle being a main highlight.  This preview event was hosted by the NW Cider Association, and held midday on a Tuesday at Capitol Cider in Seattle.

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It was a pretty sweet invite-only event, and I enjoyed the excuse to take a half day off work!  My husband even joined me; it was nice to have a driver, as there were eleven PNW cidery representatives pouring samples.  Even though there weren’t many new-to-me ciders, it was a great opportunity to get some face time with the pourers, which often isn’t possible at the larger events.

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<view of part of Capitol Cider’s basement event space>

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend WA):  I’ve tried most of their lineup, which includes many favorites, but my husband requested a sample of Glow.  It is one of their sweeter options, made from rare red-fleshed apples.  It was a good choice as they rarely pour it at events.  Awesome as always, semi-sweet, and crazy fruity flavorful without any additives.

Bad Granny (Chelan WA):  This was my first time seeing them at an event (the cidery is less than a year old).  I learned that they are associated with Karma Vineyards, one of the few producers of Methode Champenoise wine in the state.  The cidery is a combination of their MC wine experience and their apple orchard family roots.  I had tried their flagship Green Apple cider on draft previously (it is also sold in cans), which is a great simple semi-sweet cider option.  They also brought their currently draft-only black currant cider, which I found to have only a very mild flavor, but overall was easy to drink, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with a fuller body than expected.  I learned of their plans to release some specialty ciders in large format bottles, such as one from red-fleshed apples and one from Dabinett traditional cider apples.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA):  They just released this year’s vintage of Kingston Black single varietal cider (which I tried last year).  However, I decided to go for the Traditional cider, which is my favorite from them – a semi-dry cider with complex rich bittersweet cider apple flavor.  I also sampled the Perry, as I wanted to compare it to the Methode Champenoise version I tried recently; I enjoyed this regular version better as it was sweeter (almost semi-sweet), and more flavorful / fruitier.  Sometimes I find that a very high carbonation can impede a cider tasting for me as it makes a cider seem every drier and more acidic than it really is.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA):  I tried their newish Cider Summit collaboration cider (poured at all four Cider Summit events in 2017 – Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and next, Seattle), called “Summit Saison”.  It is made with organic apples, Saison yeast, dried fruit such as apricots, and spices (which oddly enough included peppercorns).  I found it hazy, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with citrus & stone fruit notes with a hint of peppercorn on the finish.  I’m not a fan of pepper, even in food, so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  My husband however was a fan.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA):  This was a great opportunity to have a side-by-side tasting of their English-Style and Stonewall (barrel aged) ciders, which I’ve previously found very similar but hadn’t tried together.  I preferred the Stonewall, as it was a bit smoother, with less acidic bite, and the added whiskey & oak notes.  I also tried Turncoat, their hopped cider, which had nice herbal flavor without bitterness, which was my husband’s favorite.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA):  At this stop, as I said I had tried all of the regular line up (which was being poured from their new cans), I was treated to a sample of their limited release Bourbon Barrel Aged cider.  It was semi-dry, and very mild at first (especially for 14% ABV), then all of a sudden Bam!, an intense bourbon finish.  I thought I hadn’t tried it previously, but I actually had, over a year ago at their tap room (good thing for my Cider List!).  I liked it better this time because it was served cold, but despite enjoying the flavor, its not something I would drink too often.

Pear UP  – formerly Neigel Vintners / NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  I had a chance to have a longish chat with the always energetic co-founder Kevin.  He shared about the recent NW Cider trip where 10 PNW cidermakers traveled to France & England to learn about keeving (see this article).  I also learned about the cidery’s packaging changes, such as new 12oz instead of 16.9oz green Aluminum bottles (with a digital wrap instead of labels), and four packs of 12oz clear glass bottles (which enables that SKU to be at a lower price point).  I also learned about some new products they have released, including an interesting new partnership with a distillery, a brewery, and a label artist, resulting in Centre Ring, with an initial release of a cider and a perry, at a nice price point of $11.99 / 750ml bottle.  Interestingly enough, Centre Ring doesn’t only focus on cider/perry, but craft beverages and food in general.

I started with the new Centre Ring Reserve Pear, which reminded me of a slightly drier and slightly more complex version of their flagship Pear Essentials, as it was semi-dry, medium bodied, and pear-forward with some citrus notes.  Next I tried another new-to-me release (draft and bottles), Pearjito Colada; I didn’t pick up any mint, but the coconut was a fun bold flavor in the tasty semi-sweet perry.  Lastly, my husband wanted to try the Pearfect Pie, which I had never tried either; it was a bit odd to drink in summer, but is a semi-sweet perry with a hint of pie spice.

Schilling Cider (Auburn WA):  I tried the Grapefruit & Chill, which I learned was a different recipe than a grapefruit cider I had previously tried which was flavored with SodaJerk grapefruit soda syrup and I wasn’t a fan of; this time it was a surprisingly pleasant citrus-forward and higher carbonation semi-dry cider.  I also re-tried the Pineapple Passion, which is one of my favorite Schilling varieties, with some strong tropical flavor, but it is definitely on the sweeter end (semi-sweet to sweet).  My favorite from them is the King’s Schilling.

Seattle Cider (Seattle WA):  I tried two new draft-only releases.  First – Lavender Lemon, a semi-dry cider with the as-advertised flavor notes.  Second – Cucumber Hibiscus, which was semi-dry to dry, and started with cucumber on the nose, primarily hibiscus (fruity/floral) in the flavor, and a cucumber finish.  They were both more flavorful than most of the ciders I’ve previously had from them.  I found both pretty average – plenty drinkable, but not something I would seek out.

Snowdrift Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  No new ciders to try, but I tried the cider I had tried the least of and is the most rare – the Cidermaker’s Reserve.  I learned it was made under Methode Champenoise with apples from their 2014 harvest, including bittersweet varieties, and aged 3! years.  It is a highly carbonated cider with an awesome texture, on the sweeter side of semi-dry, with a very unique flavor profile – fruity with pomegranate notes, and almost grape champagne-like.  I was surprised to hear it had bittersweet cider apples, as it definitely didn’t have the typical profile I’d expect.  A fun and unique cider and an excellent value too, at $19 / 750ml (this was my husband’s favorite cider of the event, and he insisted we pick some up afterwards).

Tieton Cider Works (Yakima WA):  No new to me ciders here either, so I re-tried the Sparkling Perry.  I re-learned that this is made by keeving and is wild yeast fermented (neither of which I would have guessed nor remembered from my taste nearly two years ago).  I’d describe it as a semi-sweet to semi-dry pear-forward perry with fruity citrus notes.

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They had some nice swag too – tote bags, brochures, postcards, and stickers.

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I did some serious cider shopping that day, about 12 bottles between Capitol Cider, the Schilling Cider House, and QFC.  My coolest finds were at Capitol Cider, as I don’t get there often:  EZ Orchards “Pomme” (Pommeau, a mix of apple brandy & cider), last year’s release of Finnriver Fire Barrel (which I liked better than this year’s batch), and two different single varietals from Liberty (that I only thought were available in their tasting room and online).  The Schilling Cider House also had a couple new to me releases, a peach wine from Mission Trail and Gasping Goose from Newton’s Court in England.  I also picked up a re-supply of Dunkertons Black Fox, my current go-to English cider, and a couple others favorites from Aspall and EZ Orchards.

Stay tuned for more posts on Washington Cider Week 2017, especially Cider Summit Seattle.

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Liberty Ciderworks Golden Russet SV

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ Golden Russet, a reserve series single varietal cider made from golden russet heirloom apples.  It is my first time trying this, but I’ve had their Manchurian Crabapple Single VarietalCrabensteinEnglish StyleAbbessStonewall Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel AgedGravensteinCellar Series #G15New World StyleCellar Series (unknown), and McIntosh ciders.

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Cider:  Golden Russet SV
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  9.8%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft single varietal cider from golden russet apples

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Availability:  Likely only in WA, plus their online store (although this variety is no longer listed)

Cider Description:  Reserve Series #516.  Golden Russet apples are one of America’s greatest cider discoveries, found in New York – a chance seedling – in the early 1800s. This version presents characteristic butterscotch aromas with baked/dried stone fruit flavors. Golden Russets seem to thrive in our region, with off-the charts sugar levels in our 2015 vintage, giving this cider a 9.8% ABV.

Cidery Description:  Carrying the torch for Artisan Cider. Located in the largest apple-growing region on the planet, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center. We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields, create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Share them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest. Welcome to the cider revolution.  Cheers!  Rick & Austin

Liberty has a tap room in Spokane WA.

Price:  $17.00
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve tried much of their lineup and liked most of them.

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First Impression:  Light caramel amber hue.  Nearly still.  Yeast sediment floaters.  Smells rich and boozy.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of butterscotch, stone fruit, honey, orange, earthiness/wood, leather, and a buttery starchiness.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  Nice rich flavor.  However, I would have guessed this was a spirit barrel aged cider or even a brandy-fortified cider, as it was that strong (although it is only from the high-sugar apples in this case).  I agree with the label’s suggestion to drink it in between fridge and room temperature.

Most Similar to:  Liberty Stonewall Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel Aged, Aspall Imperial2 Towns Bad Apple, and Wandering Aengus Golden Russet (also, although not very similar, I’ve also tried another Golden Russet SV, from Reverend Nat’s, which was whiskey barrel aged with black currant and excellent – see here)

Closing Notes:  This is a heavy-hitting cider, probably best suited for winter sipping (its been sitting around my house awhile…), but enjoyable and an excellent value any time of year.

Have you tried Liberty Golden Russet?  What did you think?