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).

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Schilling Cider House Visit 24 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 24th 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 random Thursday.  I started with a flight.

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<left to right:  Locust Winter Banana, Liberty McIntosh, Pilton English Keeved, Golden State Dry, Christian Drouin Poire, and Greenwood Red River Wolf Crab>

Locust (Woodinville WA) Winter Banana (6.0% ABV):  No, this isn’t a banana cider…it is a single varietal made from the Winter Banana apple.  Draft-only.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Apple-forward flavor with honey and citrus.  Nice flavor.

Liberty (Spokane WA) McIntosh (8.1% ABV):  Another single varietal, this time of a more common apple, the McIntosh (which is actually the spelling for the apple pronounced MAK-in-tosh).  Also available in bottles.  Dry to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Higher carbonation.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  For its dryness, it remained rather apple-forward, with some honey and citrus notes too.  I think this is one of their better dry acidic ciders.  I liked this, especially at first when it was cold (it got a bit harsh when it warmed up with the higher ABV).

Pilton (Somerset England) English Keeved (5.0% ABV):  This is my first time trying any cider from Pilton, as well as my first time trying an English cider which is made using the keeving process, which is much more common for French cider.  Keeving starves the cider of nutrients so it creates a naturally sweet apple-forward cider.  Hazy hue.  Dry to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low sourness.  Low tannins.  Moderate funk.  Notes of apple pomace, yeast, and citrus.  This is rather dry for a keeved cider, which usually average semi-sweet.  I wasn’t a fan of this due to the sourness; it reminded me more of a Normandy France style cider (due to the sourness & funk) than an English cider (which often have higher tannins & bitterness).

Golden State (Sebastopol CA) Mighty Dry (6.9% ABV):  It is my first time trying their cider, which is newish to the Seattle area.  Also available in cans.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied, and a bit syrupy, which is interesting for the level of dryness.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Apple-forward with some pineapple and green apple notes.  This is a nice flagship cider.

Christian Drouin (Normandy France) Poire (4.0% ABV):  This is a French perry.  Its nice to see these types of high end ciders of draft, as the bottles are expensive.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate to full bodied.  Higher level of carbonation.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  More pear fruit than pear juice forward, with notes of pineapple and mango as well.  I loved this.

Greenwood (Seattle WA) Red River Wolf Crab (7.4% ABV):  The interesting title for this draft-only cider refers to the use of red-fleshed crab apples as well as forraged apples from the Wolf River region.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of sourness & funk.  Apple-forward, with notes of sharp crabapples and citrus.  Of a sad note, I was told they lost their lease, so they are no longer operating from Greenwood, but Lake City (both in Seattle); I imagine they will keep the name though.  I thought this was pretty average.

Sarah also shared another cider with me:

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Spiced Tonic Shrub (6.0% ABV):  This interesting draft-only concoction is made using cider, vinegar, and spices.  “Shrub” typically refers to a vinegared cocktail.  This one definitely wasn’t to my liking, between the vinegar, saltiness, and pepper.  Apparently it is selling really well though.

My favorite was the Christian Drouin Poire; it reminded me of selections from Eric Bordelet and Domaine Pacory.

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 23 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 23rd 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 for a Portland Cider tap takeover / luau / potluck.  I started with a flight.

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<left to right:  Alpenfire Glow, Sandford The General, Liberty Cellar Series, Bad Granny Green Apple, Portland Mojito, and Tieton Russian Red>

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend WA) Glow (6.8% ABV):  This is a drier version of their Glow (made from red fleshed apples) than is found in bottles (which I’ve reviewed here), apparently as it had to be significantly more filtered when kegged.  Semi-dry, compared to the bottled version which is semi-sweet to sweet.  Compared to the bottled version, its not nearly as flavorful (strawberry and watermelon notes) or complex, and is more tart and lighter bodied.  Very nice, but I prefer the intensely flavorful and sweet bottled version (which I have a bottle of in the fridge that my husband got me for Valentine’s Day).

Sandford Orchards (Crediton UK) The General (8.4% ABV):  This is the first time I’ve seen any cider from this English cidery.  This variety is made from Devon cider apples, then spirit-aged and casked.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Low tannins.  Apple-forward flavor with some sharpness.  Moderate to long finish.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and flavor intensity.  This tasted like a typical English cider, although more bitter and less complex than I prefer.  Its good to see an international cider on tap, and made from cider apples too.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) Cellar Series (8.0% ABV):  This is an unknown variety of their Cellar Series (they are usually named with a letter and two numbers), draft only.  Most of their cellar series ciders are wild yeast fermented and barrel aged.  Orange amber hue.  Dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Hints of sourness and funk.  Low bitterness.  Sharp flavor with crabapple notes and hints of oak.  Moderate to long finish length.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low to moderate sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  I didn’t really like this one, as I found it a bit harsh.

Bad Granny (Lake Chelan WA) Green Apple (6.9% ABV):  This cider is made from dessert apples and sold both in tallboy cans and on draft.  Nearly clear hue.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Definite green apple flavor, plus some white grape.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.  I liked it.

Portland Cider (Portland OR) Mojito (6.7% ABV):  This draft-only limited release cider had mint, lemon, and lime added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of mint, citrus, and a hint of soap?  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.  The flavor of this seemed weird, but maybe it is just me.

Tieton Ciderworks (Yakima WA) Russian Red (6.9% ABV):  This draft-only special release cider is made from red fleshed apples (like Snowdrift Red and Alpenfire Glow).  Bright red hue.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Notes of cranberry and cherry.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  I liked it.

They also had Portland’s Sangria and Pineapple ciders on tap.  The Sangria is especially awesome by the way.

Sarah also shared a new Snowdrift release with me:

Snowdrift Cider (East Wenatchee WA) Cidermakers Reserve (8.3% ABV):  They have had this Méthode Champenoise cider listed on their website for awhile, but I haven’t ever seen it, so I think they took a few years off from production (or else it was very limited release).  This batch is only available in bottles.  Odd scent which none of us could accurately describe, but it didn’t transfer to the flavor.  Semi-dry.  High carbonation.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of tannins and bitterness.  Fruity, with notes of sharp pomegranate and some crabapple.  I really liked the flavor and the bubbles, but the scent was bizarre.

My favorites were the Alpenfire Glow, Tieton Russian Red, and Snowdrift CIdermakers Reserve.  The Bad Granny was good too, especially for its simplicity.  I really wanted to like Sandford Orchards The General as I’m an English cider fan, but it was quite bitter.

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

Liberty Ciderworks New World Style

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ New World Style.  I’ve tried a number of their ciders, including Manchurian Crabapple Single VarietalCrabensteinEnglish Style, Abbess, Stonewall Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel AgedGravenstein, and Cellar Series #G15.

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Cider:  New World Style
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft New World Style cider, made from heirloom apples and crabapples

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Availability:  Fairly limited.  Per the cidery they currently self-distribute to Spokane and Seattle.  In Seattle, I have seen them at Capitol Cider, Schilling Cider House, Total Wine, Full Throttle Bottles, and Special Brews.  Look for them in bottle shops in WA which specialize in local craft cider.  Liberty’s website lists some locations to find their ciders.

Cider Description:  A modern take on colonial-era ciders, New World combines Palouse-grown McIntosh, Cortland, Empire and Liberty apples with tiny, flavor-rich Manchurian crabapples. This off-dry cider features soft aromatics, wine-like tannic structure and vanilla overtones. (PNWCA 2014 Bronze Medal Winner)

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.

Price:  ~$9
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m a fan of Liberty and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells overall mild–acidic, slightly sour, of citrus and with a slight mustiness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Astringent but not tannic.  Low bitterness.  Hints of sourness.  No funk.  Notes of citrus, honey, light floral, and mineral.  Quick to moderate length finish.  Low apple influence.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t so into this one…it was very acidic, and a bit harsh for my liking.  I think with some additional sweetness it would have been more doable for me.

Most Similar to:  Other dry acidic ciders.

Closing Notes:   My favorite Liberty cider remains their English Style.  I look forward to trying more from them, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of this one.

Have you tried Liberty New World Style?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 6 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 Sidra event, but that is one type of cider I’m just not into, so I sampled some non-Sidra selections from of the tap list (and some bottles).  The Cider Log crew was there, and brought an awesome spread of Spanish treats–thanks for sharing!

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I started with a flight of six, as usual.

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<from left to right: Tieton Cranberry, Doc’s Pumpkin, Rev Nat’s Ciderkin,
Liberty Gravenstein, Finnriver Cranberry Rosehip, & Apple Outlaw Blackberry>

Tieton Cider Works Cranberry, 6.9% ABV:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Very tart!  Lots of cranberry flavor.  More tart than the Finnriver cranberry cider I tried at the same time (see below).  A bit astringent.  I’m a bit over cranberry (I used to like it more), so I prefer most of Tieton’s other ciders to this one.  This is a new release for them, and its also available bottled.

Doc’s Draft Pumpkin, 5.0% ABV:  Sweet.  Lots of pumpkin pie spices with a bit of earthiness & pumpkin flavor.  Full bodied.  Unlike many pumpkin ciders & beers, this one uses actual pumpkin.  I’m not a pumpkin or spice fan, so needless to say I didn’t really enjoy this cider (I tried it more out of curiosity).  The folks who blind tasted it for this article were much bigger fans though, giving it the highest score of 23 pumpkin ciders & beers!  This is a yearly seasonal release for Doc’s, and also available bottled.  This was my second time trying Doc’s, but neither were flavors I’m a fan of…hopefully I get a chance to try something I have a better shot of actually enjoying soon (I’ve been eyeing their Sour Cherry, but alas it isn’t sold in the Seattle area, so I may need to make a trip down to Portland OR or order online).

Reverend Nat’s (and Cider Riot!) Ciderkin, 3.2% ABV:  Dry.  Ginger!  Moderate tartness, astringency, and acidity.  Slightly funky.  Ciderkin is a lower alcohol content cider traditionally made from the pommace (apple skin and pulp leftover after pressing apples into juice).  This one however is quite different than the version of ciderkin I had awhile back from Argus (tasting notes here).  The ginger (although admittedly mild) was overwhelming for my palate as I’m just not a fan of it.  My favorite cider from Rev Nat’s so far is their Revival.  They’ve released this Ciderkin cider a few times, but it doesn’t appear to be available bottled.

Liberty Ciderworks Gravenstein, 8.0% ABV:  Dry.  Moderate sourness, tartness, astringency, tannins, and acidity.  Almost no carbonation.  Very mild on the nose.  Although this was a Gravenstein single varietal, I picked up a lot of crabapple notes…it reminds me of their Crabenstein, which used Gravenstein and Crabapples, although not quite as harsh.  So far I prefer their Manchurian Crabapple, English Style, and Stonewall to this one.  This cider is also available bottled.

Finnriver Cranberry Rosehip, 6.5% ABV:  Semi-sweet.  Moderate tartness.  Lots of cranberry flavor.  I didn’t really pick up any herbal (rosehip) flavor, but I imagine it mellowed the cranberry a bit, especially drinking it side by side to the Tieton variety.  I liked this one better than the Tieton Cranberry, probably as it isn’t as tart.  However, my favorite “cranberry” cider so far is probably a tie for this and Schilling’s Mischief Maker (cranberry-pomegranate).  Cranberry Rosehip is part of Finnriver’s Elijah Swan Seasonal Botanical line, which is also available bottled, and includes some of my favorites such as Honey Meadow and Lavender Black Currant.

Apple Outlaw Blackberry Bounty, 5.5% ABV:  Semi-dry.  Very mild berry flavor.  Mild tartness.  This seems to be another one of the drier and milder flavored berry ciders coming out.  This one was pretty average in my book.  It is also available bottled.  This was my first time trying their regular line of ciders (although I tried their Oaked Sweet Dark Cherry at Cider Summit Seattle 2015, which appeared to be a special draft release).

I also had a sip of Whitewood Red Cap.  It was a bit weird…dry and almost Sidra-ish with some sourness and quite mild flavored.  They describe it as a Session cider, which usually indicates a low ABV and easy to drink cider, but its 6.2% ABV.  Also available bottled.  It reminded me some of their Summer Switchel, but without the salty & ginger notes.  Both are quite different from their Kingston Black Whiskey Barrel Aged cider, which is amazing!

I mostly wanted to sample what Schilling had on tap that I hadn’t tried, despite not being too excited about the varieties.  Therefore there were a few I didn’t really enjoy, so I ended up not finishing a lot of the flight.  Thankfully that freed up some ability to try more ciders!  Next up we sampled a couple bottles (which I don’t believe they sell at the Cider House).

Ace Space (blood orange) was another weird one.  Odd hazy orange hue.  Semi-dry.  The nose and some of the flavor was almost medicinal/artificial (like Tang or a Vitamin C supplement), but there is definitely some blood orange flavor too.  Mild tartness and sourness.  I wasn’t really a fan…not sure what they were thinking with this one?  This is Ace’s newest cider, a special release.  I kinda had the same opinion on their last special release, Blackjack 21, which tasted like Chardonnay to me (although admittedly it was aged in Chardonnay barrels, so maybe they were going for that).  Apparently I’m in the minority though as it sold well so they are releasing it again this year.

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Carlton Cyderworks Sugar and Spice.  Semi-sweet.  I was surprised I liked this, as I usually don’t tend towards spiced cider.  However, the spice was quite mild and balanced.  It also wasn’t overly sweet.  This is a seasonal bottled release for them, new for this year.

I also had a pint of Snowdrift Red–yum!  One of my favorites.  However, this batch seemed a bit more tart than previous, and with a bit less fruitiness.  There can definitely be variability from batch to batch in a craft product.  I like when cideries such as Snowdrift batch label their ciders, so you know whether what you buying may be slightly different.  Anthem is another example of a cidery which does this, but they actually go so far as to use different apple varieties in different batches of their flagship cider (and you can look up what was used by the batch number on the bottle).

Oddly enough the Carlton Sugar and Spice was the winner of the afternoon as far as a new cider I enjoyed the most!  I think it would taste really good warm (which is how I like mead, but I haven’t tried that for cider as I usually avoid spiced cider).

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?

Liberty Ciderworks Stonewall (Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel Aged)

Review of Stonewall (a Dry Fly whiskey barrel aged cider) from Liberty Ciderworks, part of their Reserve series.  I’ve tried a number of ciders from Liberty, including Manchurian Crabapple, English Style, Crabenstein, and Abbess.

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Cider:  Stonewall (Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel Aged)
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  8.4%
How Supplied:  750ml bottle

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Availability:  Fairly limited.  Per the cidery they currently self-distribute to Spokane and Seattle.  In Seattle, I have seen them at Capitol Cider, Schilling Cider House, Total Wine, Full Throttle Bottles, and Special Brews.  Look for them in bottle shops in WA which specialize in local craft cider.  Liberty’s website lists some locations to find their ciders.

Cider Description:  Named for General “Stonewall” Jackson – who reportedly enjoyed blending cider and whiskey – ‘Stonewall’ is our English blend aged in Dry Fly™ whiskey barrels. This oaky, dry cider serves up scents and flavors reminiscent of vanilla, ripe apple, and coconut. (GLINTCAP 2015 Gold Medal & “Best In Class” Winner)

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 and offers over 10 varieties of cider.  Here are links to two articles discussing this cider’s win at GLINTCAP, from Inlander and NW Cider.

Price:  $13.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I was on the lookout for this variety after reading about it online, as I’m really into barrel aged ciders.

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First Impression:  Copper amber hue.  Lovely brilliant sheen.  Very little carbonation.  Mild rich apple, whiskey, and barrel scent.

Opinion:  Dry.  Moderate acidity, tannins, bitterness, astringency, and tartness.  Medium bodied.  Long finish.  Rich caramel, vanilla, and ripe apple notes.  The whiskey and barrel notes are mild to moderate.  Note that I don’t like aged spirits at all, but love those flavors in a barrel aged cider.  At first the tannins, astringency, and bitterness were a bit harsh, but as the cider warmed up and I had a few sips, I warmed up to it.  I definitely find some similarities to their English style cider, which is what this cider is, except it was aged in whiskey barrels.  I’m not really sure if I like this one or the English style better…I like the whiskey & barrel notes, but I found this one to have a bit more bitterness.

Most Similar to:  Other barrel aged ciders made from cider apples, such as Traditions Ciderworks Bourbon Barrel 2012 and Whitewood Cider Kingston Black Whiskey Barrel Aged, which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (tasting notes here).

Closing Notes:   Tasty!  The price point is also quite good considering this is a craft cider from a small cidery, made using cider apples, is a higher ABV, and was barrel aged.  Another great selection from Liberty Ciderworks!  I look forward to continuing to try their ciders.

Have you tried Liberty Stonewall?  What did you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cider hunters
<Bill Bradshaw himself>

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

tap list desserts

cocktails flights

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

event list 9 pours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bottles

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

list1  list2

list3  list4

list5

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

book autograph

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