Oliver’s Gold Rush Cider

Review of Oliver’s Gold Rush Cider, batch #2.  This was a collaboration between Tom Oliver (of Oliver’s Cider and Perry in the UK) and Gregory Hall (of Virtue Cider in Chicago).  I’ve previously tried Oliver’s Herefordshire Perry and Desire.

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Cider:  Gold Rush
Cidery:  Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Cidery Location:  Herefordshire United Kingdom
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  750ml twist-top bottle
Style:  English still cider from cider apples, wild yeast fermented, oak aged, secondary fermentation

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Availability:  limited, although in general Oliver’s can at least be found in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, and USA (see here).

Cider Description:  Have you noticed similarities between Tom Oliver’s wild yeast- fermented ciders and traditional lambics?  You aren’t the only one.  During a visit to Oliver’s farm in 2011, Greg Hall – former brewmaster at Goose Island, and current cidermaker at Virtue Cider in Chicago – proposed a collaborative cider made in the traditional way, but with a lambic yeast thrown in for further complexity.  The result is the Gold Rush: a…sparkling, medium dry cider with a deep, burnished color made from 100% bittersweet and sharp vintage cider apples from traditional Herefordshire farms. The juice was slow fermented by wild yeasts in old oak barrels through a cold winter and underwent malolactic fermentation in the warm spring.  Oliver then added fruit sugar and lambic yeasts for a second alcoholic fermentation, adding a touch more alcohol and complexity. It was finished in oak, for maturity, before final blending and bottling.  The first transatlantic cider that is everything a bittersweet cider should be.

Cidery Description:  Oliver’s strives to produce premium products, while valuing the health and well being of its consumers, its employees, the earth’s natural resources, and the environment. In fact, Oliver’s have created a charter that they hope all cider makers will follow. Its tenets are these:

  • To help secure the future of UK orchards and their ecosystems
  • Preserve the integrity of cider and perry as valuable products of recognized quality using only UK fruit
  • Declare ingredients (with traceability), based on a minimum juice content of 85%, control and minimize additives and use only natural products.”

Price:  $14.99
Where Bought:  The Jug Shop in San Francisco CA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing during a cruise port stop.

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First Impression:  Moderate amber hue.  Still (no carbonation) with some froth.  Smells amazingly complex, of bittersweet apple juice, caramel, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  High tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple, caramel, leather, orange, brown sugar, must, and spice.  Long finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor and complexity.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Amazing!  This was crazy rich and complex.  I love the color too – it is so rare to find such a naturally dark cider.  I was surprised to not find more funk or any sourness, which is rare for a wild fermented cider.  This is now one of my favorite English ciders.  Best drank at cellar temperature (in between fridge and room temperature).

Most Similar to:  Henney’s VintageRocquette XC Exceptional Cider, and Finnegan Harvest Blend

Closing Notes:  I hope I get the opportunity to try more varieties from Oliver’s!  I liked this one just slightly more than Desire (as Gold Rush was more tannic and complex).

Have you tried Oliver’s Gold Rush?  What did you think?

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Perry Tasting Notes

There was recently a perry tasting at my house (thanks Sarah, Merce, and Kevin from Cider Log for sharing!).  I took a few tasting notes.  Note that perry is similar to cider, but made from pears, no apples.  [In contrast to pear cider, which in the U.S. is often an apple cider with some pear juice/flavor added.]

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We didn’t end up opening every bottle, so we’ll need to have a perry tasting part 2!  Our dinner pairing was pizza, which worked surprisingly well.

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Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA) Methode Champenoise Perry (6.3% ABV), $29 / 750ml:  This is a special release of Dragon’s Head’s Perry, which was made in Methode Champenoise, a labor-intensive traditional way of making a naturally sparkling cider.  It was made from Taylor’s Gold and heirloom seedling Vashon Island pears .  High carbonation.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of pear juice & skin, floral, and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was very mildly flavored.  It would be a nice champagne alternative, albeit pricey (this was by far the most expensive bottle we opened).

Oliver’s (Herefordshire England) Herefordshire Perry (6.9% ABV), price unknown:  This is an English bottle-conditioned perry made from perry pears.  Smells very funky.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low sourness.  Moderate funk.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Pear-forward and floral.  I enjoyed it.

Hogan’s (Alcester, England) Vintage Perry 2010 (5.4% ABV), ~$10 / 500ml:  This is another English perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Hints of sourness, funk, tannins & bitterness.  Low tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward, rich, and nutty.  I really enjoyed it.

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Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Perry (6.0% ABV), price unknown:  This perry was made from Bartlett pears, and claims to be the only true perry (not pear cider) made in California.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness & acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pear, stone fruit, and honey.  I liked it, but this was the most “commercial” / pear cider type tasting of the group.

Viuda de Angelon (Asturias Spain) Sidra de Pera (5.2% ABV), $4 / 11.2oz:  This is a Spanish perry.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, frothy.  Hints of sourness & funk (less so than most Spanish ciders).  Low to moderate tartness & acidity.  Pear-forward with notes of apricot.  I liked it.

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Sea Cider (Saanichton B.C. Canada) Perry (6.5% ABV), $18 / 750ml:  This is a Canadian perry made from perry pears.  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Very light kinda weird flavor, more floral & herbal than pear.  I think this was a bit of an off bottle though, as it was infected with scobies.  I’ll have to give it another try sometime.

AEppelTreow (Burlington WI) Perry (7.5% ABV), $12 / 750ml:  This is a Methode Champenoise perry made from Comice, Bosc, and Bartlett pears.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness & tannins.  Tastes exactly like champagne, no pear, but juicy, plus notes of stone fruit and honey.  I enjoyed it, although it was not what we were expecting.  Also a nice champagne alternative, and an excellent value for Methode Champenoise.

The day after the group tasting I opened up my bottle of Samuel Smith’s perry, as it was already in the fridge.

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Samuel Smith’s (Tadcaster, England) Organic Perry (5.0 ABV), $3 / 12oz:  This is another English perry, and Organic, but the most commercial (ingredient list included water, pear extract, malic acid, etc).  Semi-sweet.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  No pear flavor, but notes of apple, apricot & other stone fruit, and honey (if I tasted it blind I’d call it cider, not perry).  I liked this, although it was definitely commercial tasting, and the sweetest option.

Our favorite was the Hogan’s (also an excellent value, under $10 I believe).  Our least favorite was the Sea Cider.  The most surprising was the AEppeltreow, as it was the least perry-like.

I’ve also previously tried these perries: Dan Armor Poire, Pear UP Half Past Prudent, Pear UP Cherry Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Perry, Pear UP Watermelon Raspberry Perry, Pear UP Raspberry PerryDomaine Pacory Poire Domfront, Dunkertons Organic Perry, Eaglemount Perry, Locust Seckel PerryNashi Orchards Asian Pear Chojuro Blend PerryNashi Orchards Island Harvest Perry, Portland Cider Pearfect Perry, Snowdrift Perry, Snowdrift Seckel Perry, Tieton Sparkling Perry, WildCraft Pioneer Perry, WildCraft Elderberry Perry, and William’s Sir Perry