Nashi Orchards Black Swan Cider

Review of Nashi Orchards’ Black Swan, a cider from apples foraged from Vashon Island Washington, then bourbon barrel aged.  It is my first time trying this variety, although I have had their Issho Ni ciderChojuro Blend Asian Pear Perry, Barrel Fermented Cider, and Island Harvest Perry.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Nashi Orchards.  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:  Black Swan (2016 vintage)
Cidery:  Nashi Orchards
Cidery Location:  Vashon Island WA
ABV:  7.3%
How Supplied:  200ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from foraged apples, barrel aged

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Availability:  Vashon Island (including Nashi’s tasting room), Seattle, and Tacoma Washington, per their website

Cider Description:  Island foraged apples (heirloom and bittersweet varieties) make up the base cider, which is then aged in a bourbon barrel (from Seattle Distilling).

Cidery Description:  We strive to make Perry and Cider that expresses the best qualities of the Asian and European pears and heirloom apples that we grow and source.  We carefully control fermentation to preserve some of the natural sweetness, use 100% juice pressed at our winery and do not add sugar or flavorings. Yes, we are purists.

Price:  n/a ($7 retail)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  The cidermaker, Jim Gerlach, dropped off a sample for me.  This year’s vintage was just released.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Smells very mild, of citrus and acidity.  Still (no carbonation).

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Moderate tartness.  Very high acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp crabapples, lemon, grapefruit, peach, mineral, and a hint of honey.  The finish length is moderate and a bit alcohol-forward.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.  There is no overt barrel or spirit influence/flavor; in fact, I tasted this cider blind and wouldn’t have guessed it was bourbon barrel aged.

My Opinion:  This is a wine-lover’s subtle food-friendly cider.  Well made, but not my favorite style.  Always nice to try something new though.

Most Similar to:  Other dry high acid subtle ciders made from heirloom apple varieties, such as other ciders from Nashi, Dragon’s Head, and Farnum Hill, and Montana CiderWorks Spartan Dry-Style.

Closing Notes:  I heard that Nashi is going to start kegging their perries and ciders, which is great, as it will increase their product visibility.  I find it interesting they release their products in such a small bottle compared to the ABV, ie. 7 ounces of cider is less than a typical serving size.  It must be a pain to fill all those little bottles without an automated line.  However, it does decrease the price per bottle.

Have you tried cider from Nashi Orchards?  What did you think?

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Summer Cider Day 2016 in Port Townsend WA – Tasting Notes

This is Part 2/2 on Summer Cider Day 2016 in Port Townsend Washington, which includes tasting notes on the ciders I tried.  See HERE for Part 1/2, covering the event itself.

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Bull Run Pear Ice Wine, 12% – This is a 9% residual sugar ice perry, made from Hood River Oregon Bosc and Anjou pears, similar to how ice cider or ice (grape) wine is made (using the natural cold to concentrate the sweetness & flavor of the fruit).  Semi-sweet to sweet (less sweet than a typical ice cider oddly enough, despite perries usually being sweeter than ciders as pears have non-fermentable sugars).  Moderate to full bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  I found this unique, like a complex pear syrup, with a well-hidden ABV.  In addition to all the pear flavor, there were some honey, citrus, and melon notes.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate pear flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

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Nashi Orchards Barrel Fermented Cider, 6.9% – This is a cider made from primarily Winesap apples with some French & English bittersweets (from the WSU Mt. Vernon Cider Research Center), aged in neutral French oak barrels.  Dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Definite Winesap apple flavor with hints of richness from the bittersweet apples.  Notes of oak (low) and honey.  Moderate to long slightly boozy finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  Overall this is quite subtle, similar to their other products I’ve tried.  I would love to see them do something made from only bittersweet apples and barrel aged, as those are my favorites, but alas, good cider apples are hard to come by / expensive, so its not done much here in the U.S. (which is why I am also a big fan of English & French imports).

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Nashi Orchards Island Harvest Perry, 6.7% – This perry is from 90% Asian pears (Shinsseiki and perry pears) and 10% seedling pears foraged on Vashon island.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of pear, lemon, lime, and mineral.  Moderate sessionability.  Low pear flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  I found it to be very light; I think this would be great to pair with food.  It was also very subtle.

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New West Cidery – I thought I’d add a little about this cidery, as I hadn’t even heard of them before this event (their cider isn’t distributed to Seattle).  They are part of Sasquatch Brewing in Portland Oregon, which was founded in 2011.  They started making cider a few years ago under the New West name.  They are opening a separate cidery in Northwest Portland in a couple months which will have 90 barrel fermenters (which is very large capacity considering a standard keg holds half a barrel).  At the brewery’s tap room in Portland they currently offer 12 cider taps (including guest taps).

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New West Black & Blue, 6.8% – Lovely deep berry hue.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low carbonation.  Low tartness and acidity.  Very mild pure berry flavor, 50-50 blackberry and blueberry.  Quick finish.  No apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  I like a more flavorful cider, so I didn’t really care for this.

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New West Señor Cider, 6.8% – Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of several different hot peppers and a hint of citrus & honey.  Moderate heat, mostly at the end of the sip, which lingers with a long finish.  Low apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.  I don’t like spicy ciders, so I didn’t like this at all.  I think a spicy cider works better when the spice level is low, it has higher residual sugar, and there is some flavor balance (like significant honey notes).  Enough people must like these though, as cideries keep making them (for example – the Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA actually has a tap line dedicated to a rotating selection of spicy Schilling ciders).

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Rambling Route Pear, 6.9% – This is the second cider in Tieton’s Rambling Route line, their Apple variety with Bartlett pear juice added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Nearly still.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Moderate apple flavor.  Very light pear flavor.  High sessionability.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  I think I prefer their Apple variety, although I’m not really a fan of either.  I think Tieton’s regular line of ciders is superior (although that is likely to be expected from the price point), especially the recent draft-only Bourbon Peach (my tasting notes here).

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Snowdrift Cornice, 7.3% – I’ve tried this before (see here), but it was awhile back, and I was curious how this year’s version turned out.  This is their barrel aged cider made from cider apple varieties.  Smells mildly oaky.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Notes of oak, smoke, and honey.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  I found this vintage to be more approachable than their previous one, but I really enjoyed both.

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Spire Mountain Dark & Dry, Jack Daniels Barrel Aged, 5.0% – This is a special version of their typical Dark & Dry cider which was aged in Jack Daniel whiskey barrels for 8 months.  Smells strongly of whiskey, plus some oak and brown sugar.  Semi-dry to dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high bitterness.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of brown sugar, molasses, whiskey, vanilla, and coffee.  Long bitter finish.  High spirit influence.  Low barrel influence.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Its crazy how the barrel aging changed this cider from a fairly simple sweet cider to a bitter complex dry cider!  I think they are on to something with barrel aging this cider, but it was aged too long for my liking (something I thought I’d never say…I always say I wish a cider was aged longer!), as it was too intensely bitter.

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Spire Mountain Dry Hop Apple, 5.0% – This is their Red Apple cider with Citra hops, their new Summer Seasonal.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, slightly syrupy.  Low tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Subtle hops flavor, more herbaceous than citrusy, which is unusual for a Citra hopped cider.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  I thought this was pretty decent for a commercial cider; I liked how the hops flavor wasn’t overwhelming, although I think I like a more citrus-forward hopped cider.

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Wandering Aengus Wanderlust, 6.9% – This was their first cider variety they made 12 years ago.  Its an off-dry (0.5% residual sugar) English-style cider made from primarily heirloom sharp plus some bittersweet apples.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Notes of bittersweet apples, oak, and mineral.  Sharp flavor with hints of richness.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and flavor intensity.  This time around I enjoyed it better than when I tried it awhile back; either this batch had less bitterness than previously and/or I’m not as sensitive to it anymore.

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Whitewood Gibb’s Farm, 6.7% – They nicknamed this limited release cider a “Farmer’s Reserve”.  It was made from a large number of varieties of apples only from Grant Gibbs’ farm outside of Leavenworth WA.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied with a nice texture, slightly syrupy.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Notes of sharp apples, honey, and lemon.  Moderate to long slightly boozy finish.  Moderate to strong apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability and flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  I enjoyed it.

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Whitewood Newtown Pippin, 6.9% – This is a Newtown Pippin apple single varietal, part of their Old Fangled Series, made from 2016 harvest apples from Hood River Oregon.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied, with a nice frothy texture.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  Moderate sessionability.  I found this to be very mild, which is characteristic of Newtown Pippins, but not something I prefer.

I didn’t taste ciders from every cidery there (as I had tried the remainder of the lineup), but here are photos of the other booths.

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<Finnriver>

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<Eaglemount>

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<I agree with this sentiment!>

Nashi Orchards Asian Pear Perry 2013 – Chojuro Blend

Review of Nashi Orchards’ Chojuro Blend Asian Pear Perry.  Note that true perry is a fermented beverage made only from pears.  In contrast, pear cider is typically apple cider back sweetened with pear juice.  Pear cider will typically be sweeter and have a stronger pear flavor, but perry is more traditional.

Nashi Orchards specializes in perry, especially from asian pears, and Chojuro Blend is their flagship product.  The word “Nashi” in Japaenese means “pear” by the way.  This is my first time trying their perry, although I sampled one of their ciders at a tasting event with Bill Bradshaw last summer at Capitol Cider during Washington Cider Week (tasting notes on Issho Ni “Together” cider here).

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Cider:  Asian Pear Perry 2013 – Chojuro Blend
Cidery:  Nashi Orchards
Cidery Location:  Vashon Island WA
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  187ml (6.2oz) clear glass bottle
Style:  American perry made from Chojuro and Olympic varieties of Asian pears

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Availability:  Limited to the greater Vashon Island, Seattle, and Tacoma areas of WA.  Nashi self-distributes to independent bottle shops, tap rooms, and fine restaurants in WA.  They also welcome visitors to their orchard and tasting room on Vashon Island.  Chojuro Blend is their most widely distributed perry.  They usually offer an additional 3 or 4 other perries and ciders at a time, some of which are small batch and only available directly through them.

Cider Description:  Our signature Chojuro Perry is lightly effervescent with a floral aroma, exhibits flavors of bright summer fruit and pear, and has a clean refreshing finish. Serve it as an aperitif or with NW oysters, halibut and turkey. We carefully control fermentation to preserve some of the natural sweetness, use 100% juice pressed at our winery and never add sugar or flavorings.

Cidery Description:  PASSIONATELY PURSUING DELICIOUS LIBATIONS.  Nashi Orchards uses sustainable practices to grow the finest Asian Pears and handcraft perry and hard cider. Our orchard and winery is located on beautiful Vashon Island, Washington where we are a part of a growing community of committed producers of artisanal foods, wines and spirits.

Additional Information: Jim Gerlach from Nashi was awesome enough to respond to my request for more info with some amazing detailed notes–thanks!

The Chojuro Asian Pear Perry is a blend of two varieties of Asian pear. The Chojuro pears are grown in our orchard on Vashon Island and are an orange bronze colored fruit with flavors of butterscotch. It is also called “the rum pear”.  The second asian pear is a Korean Giant, also called Olympic. We source these from Kiyokawa Orchards in Hood River. It is a very late pear and likes a bit more heat than we get in Puget Sound. Both pears benefit from extended maturation to bring out the flavors and aromatics. This extended maturation process also serves to convert some of the simple sugars into complex sugars which do not ferment and this provides a bit of residual sweetness. I would describe it as off-dry .

We typically ferment the varieties separately using different yeasts and do bulk blending in the spring after fermentation is complete. We like Epernay2 and DV10 for a clean expression of the fruit and use sake yeast on a portion of the batch to provide improved mouthfeel and complexity. 
In response to my question on perry from asian vs. other pear varieties:  The flavors are similar but I would say that the flavor and aroma of asian pear perry is a bit more floral and delicate.
Traditional european perry pears (Pyrus domestica) may have tannin and commercially available asian pears do not. Tannins will provide some structure as well as astringency and/or bitterness. That being said we have access to a trial orchard of Asian Pears (pyres pyrifolia) and have found varieties with massive amounts of tannins.  We are excited to propagate these and add these to our orchard.
The acidity of some Asian pears is thought to be quite low and this creates the need to blend or add acid to create an appropriate pH for fermentation. Most of the varieties of pears from our orchard have a relatively low pH. This is because we only irrigate as much as necessary to maintain tree health. More water in the fruit equals less flavor and less acidity. 
Storage, milling and pressing of Asian Pears is much easier than with European pears. European and perry pears are notoriously fickle in terms of ripening and can go from hard as a marble to slime in a matter of days. As I mentioned before, a long maturation process is key to extracting as much flavor as possible from the fruit. Asian Pears store for long periods of time, and mill and press quite readily. Some European pears can be very slimy and difficult to press without aids such as enzymes or rice hulls. 
Thanks again to Jim at Nashi for sharing all that awesome detailed info on this perry, asian pears, and their orchard!

Price:  $6.50
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  The cute bottle caught my attention.  Once at home it sat for quite a few months however as I didn’t find the right time to drink it (with such a small bottle it was more of an aperitif), but lately I’ve been trying to drink some of my oldest ciders, so into the fridge and into the glass it went.

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First Impression:  Pale straw yellow.  Light carbonation & foam.  Smells of pear (light), vanilla, spice, sour citrus, floral, and wild yeasr / funk.  Drank chilled.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light sourness, funk, tartness, and bitterness.  Mild to moderate acidity.  Very mild flavored in general, but complex.  The primary notes I picked up were pear and citrus, with some honey, floral, and vanilla.  I also found it quite wine-like.  Light bodied.  Medium length finish.  Moderate sessionability.  I found it a touch alcohol-forward (warming), despite its mild flavor & body.

My Opinion:  Although I think it was wonderfully complex and well-crafted, this perry wasn’t really to my tastes.  I enjoy full-flavored ciders, yet similar to most other perries I’ve tried, the flavor of this one remained mild.  It was nice to try it though.  Oddly enough I would have guessed wild yeast was used due to the mild amount of funk, but it sounds like they used some unique fermentation techniques and yeast, so that probably explains what I picked up.

Most Similar to:  Other perries and off-dry white grape wine (although I have no grape wine experience so I can’t be more specific than that…and I specify grape wine as cider & perry are actually classified as types of wine, which doesn’t technically only mean grape).  The level of funk seemed in between that of for example Snowdrift Perry (almost non existent) and WildCraft (mild to moderate, although Pioneer Perry was less so than the Elderberry Perry).  My favorite perry so far is Pear Essentials from Neigel Vintners (NV Cider), likely as it is sweeter and has a more intense pear flavor (as it is back sweetened), although I’ve also had their Half Past Prudent which was drier & milder.  Back sweetening perry (and cider) isn’t traditional, but is a technique that is quite common, as its the easiest way to get a sweeter beverage which is fruit-forward.  I don’t mind dry, but I prefer full-flavored, which often doesn’t occur with drier ciders & perries.

Closing Notes:   I don’t think I truly appreciate perry…I have found perries to have a lot of qualities similar to white wine, which I also don’t care for.  It was a nice aperitif though, and I’m glad I got to try it.  I’d recommend this perry for folks looking for something unique and local.  I think especially in summer it would be tasty.

Have you tried any true perries?  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.