My Favorite Ciders of 2016

What an awesome year 2016 was in the cider world!  Cider Says has now been up for a year and a half.  Like other cider bloggers, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite ciders of 2016.  See here for my list from 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoyed, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2016.

Multi pack:  Reverend Nat’s Revival – This one is complex for being made from dessert apples, with lots of unique flavor just from the yeast varieties used.  Celt – I always keep this easy drinking apple & yeast forward French cider in the house as its convenient & affordable.  Thatchers Green Goblin – For how commercial it is, I ended up really enjoying this sweeter simple English cider.

Canned:  One Tree Crisp Apple – I don’t usually go for plain flagship ciders, but this one had some nice unfiltered apple juice flavor without being over the top sweet.  Cidergeist Semi Dry – This reminded me of French cider; too bad it isn’t available locally.  Long Drop Vanilla Honey – Awesome honeycomb flavor.

French:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut – A $5 selection from Trader Joe’s which doesn’t disappoint and has some great apple forward sparkling goodness.  Christian Drouin Pays d’ Auge – I loved the bittersweet apple flavor, and that the funk remained mild.

English:  Aspall Imperial – Rich flavor, high ABV, and a low price tag.  Dunkertons Dry  (awesomely tannic) and Black Fox (nice fruity twist on an English cider), which I hope to find locally now that they are distributed in the U.S.

Italian:  Bertolinos – My first Italian cider, which I found to be simple but tasty, and budget friendly too.

Swiss:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Transparente – My first Swiss cider, which reminded me of French cider, in between the typical Brittany & Normandy styles.

Canadian:  Sea Cider Ruby Rose – This fruity high ABV cider is made with rhubarb and rose hips, making it a unique summer sipper.

Fruity:  Doc’s Draft Sour Cherry – A cherry cider is difficult to pull off without tasting medicinal, but the flavor is spot-on with this one.  Jester & Judge Pineapple Express – Although simple, this cider has some awesome pineapple flavor, a nice frothy texture, and a hint of lime.

Rosé:  Eden Imperial 11 Rosé – This drier cider with red currant is high ABV and amazingly fruity.  Alpenfire Glow – This sweeter cider is made from rare red fleshed apples and also amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.

Limited Release:  Angry Orchard & Eden collaboration, Understood in Motion: 01 – This cider is only available at Angry Orchard’s Walden NY cider house, and was made from Vermont heirloom apples, barrel aged, and mixed with some ice cider; awesome!

Hopped:  2 Towns Hop & Stalk – I wouldn’t call myself a fan of either rhubarb or hops, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed this cider; the flavors really complimented each other and created a unique and surprisingly complex cider (I’m also a sucker for Imperial / high ABV ciders).

High ABV:  Alpenfire Smoke – This 16% ABV sipping cider has an amazing complexity, with rich oaky smokey flavor.  If I had to name just one favorite cider, this would probably be it, although its not an everyday sort of cider.  I hope it gets released again soon, as I’m down to only one bottle!

Oaked:  Sheppy’s Oak Matured – I love the strong oak flavor in this cider; as a bonus, it is budget friendly too.

Barrel Aged:  Reverend Nat’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant – This was my favorite cider from Cider Summit Seattle 2016, with awesome berry, oak, and whiskey flavor.

Sparkling:  AEppelTreow Appely Doux – This methode champenoise cider has a wonderful texture & flavor, and would be a great champagne alternative.

Perry:  EZ Orchards Poire – I’m not a huge Perry fan, but those I do like tend towards the French Poire style; this one has a creamy texture and complex fruitiness.

Pommeau:  Etienne Dupont Pommeau – This is their Cidre Bouche aged in Calvados barrels with Calvados added, and is flavorful, rich, and complex.  Wandering Aengus Pommeau – Milder in flavor than some other Pommeaus, but still rich and complex.

Ice Cider:  Eden Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged – I’ve enjoyed all of Eden’s ice ciders, but this is my favorite, as it had the added depth from barrel aging in addition to all the rich complexity of their typical ice cider.

Great Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (and as high as $7), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.

Wine-like:  Honeywood Winery Hard Apple Cider – Quite different than I was expecting, but I liked it; this one reminded me of dessert wine with the white grape notes, higher ABV, and sweetness.

Draft-only:  Wandering Aengus Bittersweet – An amazingly rich and tannic cider made from bittersweet apple juice from Poverty Lane Orchards (Farnum Hill); wild fermented but it wasn’t funky.

Unexpected:   Gowans 1876 Heirloom – This cider almost seemed to good to be true, as it was so full flavored and apple forward.

Well, there you have it, a list of 32 of my favorite ciders from 2016.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  Still, it seems like so many great ciders didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate.

What are your favorite ciders?

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Longdrop Over Yonder

Review of Longdrop’s Over Yonder, from Idaho.  I’ve previously tried their Tanager Pear Cider, Vanilla Honey, Derby Canyon, Semi-Sweet, and Electric Cherry.

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Cider:  Over Yonder
Cidery:  Longdrop
Cidery Location:  Eagle Idaho
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from Idaho-grown Jonathan apples (single varietal)

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Availability:  Year round in Idaho, Seattle WA, and Portland OR.

Cider Description:  Idaho Jonathan cider.  Fresh pressed in Fall.

Cidery Description:  The wise chef knows to start with the ingredient, not the recipe. That’s our philosophy as well. We work with a team of local and regional foragers who source ingredients for ciders that respect the seasons. We never use stuff like high fructose corn syrup, or phony colors and flavors. Just Northwest and Idaho grown apples and other of the earth’s goodness. Enjoy.

They will soon have a Cider House in Boise Idaho.

Price:  $7.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I have tried the other Longdrop varieties available locally, but keep missing this one on draft, so I picked up a bottle.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells mild, of sharp apples, honey, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apples, citrus, honey, mineral, and floral.  Moderate to long bitter finish.  Moderate apple flavor and sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I found this a bit average.  There was some bitterness and sharpness I wasn’t expecting from it being made from dessert apples (Jonathans).  My favorite part was the honey notes.

Most Similar to:  Wandering Aengus Wanderlust

Closing Notes:   Longdrop’s Vanilla Honey remains my favorite so far.

Have you tried Longdrop Over Yonder?  What did you think?

Long Drop Vanilla Honey

Review of Long Drop’s Vanilla Honey cider, from near Boise Idaho.  I tried this cider awhile back (see here), and thought I’d give it a full review.  I’ve also tried their Tanager Pear Cider, Derby Canyon, Semi-Sweet, and Electric Cherry.

Cider:  Vanilla Honey
Cidery:  Long Drop Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Eagle ID
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz cans
Style:  American craft cider with Madagascar Vanilla beans and Idaho honey

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Availability:  throughout Idaho, and in Seattle WA & Portland OR

Cider Description:  none given, but it has Madagascar Vanilla beans and local Idaho honey

Apple Varieties: Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Granny Smith

Cidery Description:  We do cider right. We start with the best apples in the world – 100% Northwest grown fruit. We ferment the fruit with only the most carefully selected yeast strains preserved since prohibition, each designed to retain classic apple flavors and aromas. And then we skillfully blend our handcrafted ciders together into unique offerings. No high fructose corn syrup. No phony flavors, or colors. Just the best apples from on high, the ones that make the long drop.

Price:  $2.50 / single can
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  This is the first time I’ve seen single cans since trying it at the Schilling Cider House (see here).

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First Impression:  Hazy dark straw yellow hue.  Nearly still.  Smells mild, of apple juice and honeycomb.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of honeycrisp & green apples, honeycomb, honey, and hints of vanilla.  Quick finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I’m a big fan of honey, and especially enjoyed the honeycomb flavor of this cider.  Its easy to drink, tasty, and not too sweet.

Most Similar to:  Finnriver Honey Meadow; it also has the awesome honeycomb notes.

Closing Notes:   I’m usually not a fan of sessionable cider, but I find this one keeps my interest.  Its my favorite from them so far.

Have you tried Longdrop Vanilla Honey?  What did you think?

Pacific Northwest Cider Awards Festival 2016 Tasting Notes

The third-annual Pacific Northwest Cider Awards Festival took place on Saturday June 25th 2016.  Its a chance for the public to try some of the ciders which were judged on the day prior.  It took place outside The Woods in Seattle WA, which hosts both Seattle Cider and the Two Beers Brewing company.  I attended the event with some cider friends.  Here is a list of the 2016 winners.

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Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Bittersweet (5.2% ABV): This is a draft-only one-off release using only bittersweet cider apple varieties from Poverty Lane Orchards (Farnum Hill) in New Hampshire, wild yeast fermented.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low carbonation.  Lovely rich bittersweet apple flavor with notes of caramel and honey.  Mild bitterness, tannins, acidity, and tartness.  Long finish length.  I wouldn’t have guessed at all that this was wild fermented, as it lacked any sourness or funk, although they mentioned it was a very long fermentation.  This is the first cider I’ve truly enjoyed from this cidery (see here for previous reviews)…they tend to be too bitter for my liking.  This won Silver in the Wild Ferment category.

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Phillippi Fruit (Wenatchee WA) Snow Dance (16% ABV): This is a Pommeau-inspired apple brandy fortified cider, and the first time I’ve tried anything from Phillippi (they aren’t even distributed to Seattle WA yet).  Semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Rich and boozy with notes of honey and caramel.  I really enjoyed it.  This would be nice served ice cold after dinner, but was a bit much just after noon!  I’m a big fan of Pommeau, ice cider, mead, etc.

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Longdrop Cider (Eagle ID) Electric Cherry (6.0% ABV): I previously tried a few of their ciders at a tasting event at the Schilling Cider House (see here).  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate to high tartness.  Light bodied.  Moderate cherry flavor intensity.  The tartness was a bit overpowering for me, but fans of tart cherry would like this.  The flavor was true and non-medicinal, which can be tough to pull off with a cherry cider.

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Apple Outlaw (Applegate OR) Thompson Creek (9.0% ABV): I’ve previously tried a few of their ciders (see here).  This is a new keg-only rye whiskey barrel aged cider, the first in their Heritage line.  Awesome whiskey and oak scent.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Mild bitterness, tannins, acidity, and tartness.  Overall the flavor was a bit harsh.  I think I would have liked it with more sweetness or less ABV.

Wards (Kelowna B.C. Canada) Original Hard Cider (5.5% ABV): I’ve actually never tried anything from this cidery, although I’ve seen them.  Semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate carbonation.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low flavor intensity and simple apple juice flavor.  I found this to be average.

Wards (Kelowna B.C. Canada) Festive Apple Cider (5.5% ABV): This ended up being cherry.  I had assumed it would be spiced (although its not really the season for that…).  I didn’t enjoy this semi-sweet cider at all…the cherry flavor seemed medicinal.  Someone else said it tasted like a Shirley Temple.

Carlton (McMinnville OR) Citizen Cider (6.75% ABV): I’ve tried a few ciders from them (see here).  This is their flagship cider, but I actually hadn’t tried it yet.  It is made from traditional English cider apple varieties.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tannins and bitterness.  I liked the flavor, and I’m probably being over critical, but I found it a tad bitter and not quite rich enough.  This won Bronze in the Traditional Sweet category.

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Spire Mountain (Olympia WA) Crisp and Dry (5.0% ABV): I’ve tried a few ciders from them (see here).  This is their newest release.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Apple-forward.  Notes of mineral and honey.  Quick finish.  We discussed this cider and decided that it may taste sweeter than it actually is as its tangy and fuller bodied.  However, its likely not anywhere near truly try, just dry for their cider lineup.  I found it to be average.

My favorite of the afternoon was the Wandering Aengus Bittersweet.  Overall the event was a bit disappointing, as they listed quite a few ciders online (and even in the handout they gave us) which they didn’t end up having.  I imagine cideries had said they would drop off kegs/bottles/cans and didn’t end up doing so, or changed what they brought.  These were about the only ciders I hadn’t tried before, and many of those were more commercial than I usually enjoy.

Admission was $25 + tax at the door for 8 cider tokens and a tasting glass.  A few ciders were 2 tokens instead of 1, and most were 4oz pours.  The venue was also a bit lacking in shade and seating.  Apparently they previously had this be an indoor-outdoor event, but this year switched to outdoor only.  The cider booths were under tents, they had a few standing tables, one food cart, kegs of water, and a few port-a-potties.  Its always fun to try new ciders and hang out with folks with a common interest though.

Schilling Cider House Visit 15 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my fifteenth visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.  I was there on a Tuesday evening for a tasting event with Longdrop Cider (from the Boise Idaho area).

I started with a flight before the event, then sampled four Longdrop ciders (2 on tap, 1 bottled, and 1 canned) and a bit of a Canadian ice cider which Sarah opened.  There were supposed to be 4 kegs from Longdrop, but 2 didn’t make it in time.  I hadn’t previously tried any of their ciders.  Longdrop is relatively new to Washington (their ciders are sold throughout Idaho and in Seattle WA and Portland OR).  I got to meet their “head apple wrangler” (Chris Blanchard) and they had some giveaways (I got a sweet t-shirt).

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<left to right: Schilling Peach Grapefruit Habanero, Red Tank Roughneck, Whitewood Winesap, Farnum Hill Dooryard, Jester & Judge Pineapple, and Snowdrift Semi-Dry>

Schilling Peach Grapefruit Habanero, 5.0% ABV, Auburn WA:  This is a one-off keg of their Grapefruit cider infused with peach and habanero.  I’ve tried many of their ciders.  Very hazy.  Smells like grapefruit with some definite spiciness.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate tartness.  Mild acidity.  I didn’t really taste any peach, only grapefruit, and the spiciness was overwhelming for me.  Long spicy finish.  I learned that the Cider House will maintain one “spicy” tap line, and this currently replaces their Sriracha Lime.  I couldn’t do more than two tiny sips of this one; my favorites from them remain King’s Shilling and Pineapple Paradise.

Red Tank Roughneck, 6.5% ABV, Bend OR:  This is one of their flagship ciders.  I’ve tried a few of their ciders.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  A hint of bitterness and sourness.  Kinda bland / low flavor intensity, but it had a bit of unfiltered apple juice flavor, yeast, and earthiness.  For unfiltered ciders, I prefer 2 Towns OutCider.

Whitewood Winesap, 6.8% ABV, Olympia WA:  A special release tap-only cider.  I’ve tried a few of their ciders.  Semi-dry. Moderate tartness and acidity.  A hint of tannins.  Slightly sharp, apple-forward, and citrus-forward.  It mellowed out a bit as it warmed up.  Medium bodied.  I found this similar to the other single varietal winesap apple ciders I’ve tried from Blue Mountain and Locust, and slightly wine-like.  My favorite from them is the Whiskey Barrel Aged Kingston Black, which is one of my all time favorite ciders (and I was only able to sample a bit twice; hopefully it is released in bottles sometime).

Farnum Hill Dooryard, 7.5% ABV, Lebanon NH:  This is one of their best selling / flagship ciders; Farnum Hill typically labels the different batches of this cider with a code, and you can look up what is in them online (they vary apple varieties and such quite a bit under the same Dooryard label), but I don’t know what batch this was.  Also available in bottles, and sold from their Poverty Lane Orchard in growlers.  I’ve previously only tried their Extra Dry cider.  Dry.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Mild to moderate bitterness.  Mild funk.  A hint of sourness as it warmed up.  Mild tannins.  Citrus, vanilla, mineral, and clove notes.  Wine-like and nuanced.  This isn’t really my cup of tea.

Jester & Judge Pineapple Express, 5.5% ABV, Stevenson WA:  This is a new tap-only release.  I’ve tried a few of their ciders.  Hazy.  Semi-sweet.  Strong fresh pineapple flavor!  Nice fizziness/frothiness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.  I really enjoyed this one, despite its simplicity.  I found it similar to Schilling’s Pineapple Passion / Trouble in Paradise, but with slight lime instead of slight passion fruit notes.

Snowdrift Semi-Dry, 7.1% ABV, Wenatchee WA:  This is one of their flagship ciders, and although I’ve tried most of them, I had only seen their Dry variety previously.  Available in bottles and kegs.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild bitterness.  Mild tannins.  Medium bodied.  Sharp flavor with some crabapple, apple pomace, and brown sugar notes, and slight richness.  Moderate length finish.  My favorites from them remain Red, Cornice, and Cliffbreaks Blend.

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Longdrop Tanager Pear Cider, 6.0% ABV, Eagle ID:  This is their spring seasonal release, a pear cider (apple + pear, not perry), available in 22oz bottles.  Smells like juicy pear.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Light bodied, with a fizzy/frothy mouthfeel.  Quick finish.  Simple apple & pear flavor, but it was nice & light and easy to drink.

Longdrop Vanilla Honey, 6.0% ABV, Eagle ID:  This is one of their two most commonly found ciders.  Available in 12oz cans and draft.  Made from Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith apples, with Madagascar Vanilla beans and Idaho honey.  Smells strongly of honey.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Honeycomb flavor with a hint of vanilla.  Quick finish.  I really loved the honeycomb flavor; you can tell it was high quality honey.

Longdrop Derby Canyon, 6.9%, Eagle ID:  This is a special release for the 2016 Apple Blossom Festival, named after a landmark in Washington nearby where the apples for this cider are from.  This cider was made with 100% Wenatchee Valley apples…”it’s got a big apple taste with some complexity – probably because it’s got one of every kind of apple out there in it”.  Available in 220z bottles and kegs.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Apple-forward with some unfiltered apple juice flavor.

Longdrop Semi-Sweet, 5.5% ABV, Eagle ID:  This is one of their two most commonly found ciders.  Available in 12oz cans and draft.  Made from Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith apples.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Apple-forward with some vanilla notes and a hint of vinegar/salt?

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Pomme De Coeur ice cider, 6.9% ABV, Rougemont Canada:  This is the first Canadian ice cider I’ve tried, and the lowest ABV I’ve seen.  Its pretty widely available in boxed tall 375ml bottles.  Ice cider originated in Quebec, and is made with either apples or apple juice which has been exposed to cold cycles, which concentrates the sugar (and thus flavor), and produces a higher ABV beverage as well.  Smells like caramelized sugar.  Sweet but not as sweet as other ice ciders such as from Eden.  Medium bodied.  Very juice-like, with less complexity than other ice ciders.  It also doesn’t have the body and higher ABV of most ice ciders.  I liked the first couple sips, but after that its inferior quality was apparent.  I like the super concentrated intense flavor of other ice ciders; Eden Northern Spy (barrel aged) is my favorite so far.  Although its about $15 (vs. $30+) for 375ml, I’d rather get the good stuff.  I imagine there are much better Canadian ice ciders available than this (often the more commercial beverages are the ones which have the means to export their products), so I hope to try another in the future.

My favorite Longdrop cider was the Vanilla Honey, and my favorite cider from my flight was Jester & Judge’s Pineapple cider.

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