Tasting notes from my 32nd visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA. Its actually been a few times more than that as sometimes I just pop in to buy bottles. Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.
I was there on a Friday around lunchtime as I got off work early. It has been so long since my last visit as its not on my way home from work anymore, as I now both live and work up North, so its a bit of a long drive. I got a flight, as usual. Its pretty sweet that even with all the ciders I’ve tried, there were 5 new-to-me varieties.
<left to right: Schilling Excelsior, Schilling Campfire, Woodbox Heritage,
Channel Marker Lavender Bergamot, and Redstone Cyser>
Schilling (Auburn WA) Excelsior (8.5% ABV): This is their new Imperial-style cider made from bittersweet and dessert apples, also available in bottles (I picked one up – $7 / 500ml – an amazing value), and soon, cans. Semi-dry to semi-sweet. Nice rich bittersweet apple flavor with some caramel and orange. Hints of tannins and bitterness. Noticeable ABV. The tartness picked up as it warmed. I liked that they left this a bit sweeter, which makes it even more flavorful, and likely helps cut down on the bitterness. This is quite different from English cider, but was not advertised as English-style, which I appreciate (it seems like every U.S. cider I’ve had that was labeled as English-style didn’t come even close, which is understandable as even if the same techniques and apples were used, which often isn’t the case, the terrior and cidermaker experience is different here). Excellent, and a great use of the bittersweet apples. Lately I’ve been seeing them used in blends with heirloom apples, which I think tends to hide their flavor. Its great to see a cidery use them exclusively, make a product that is likely to be fairly widely appealing (vs. going dry & bitter with it), and still come in at an awesome price point!
Schilling (Auburn WA) Campfire (6.5% ABV): This is their new draft-only “Smokey Vanilla Bourbon” cider, bourbon barrel aged. Semi-dry to semi-sweet. Smells of vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor is less intense than it smells, and it finishes with smoke, bourbon, and oak. Moderately flavored. I really enjoyed it, and wouldn’t consider it a novelty at all. It would be neat to see this bottled.
Woodbox (Portland OR) Heritage (8.1% ABV): This is the first cider I’ve tried from them besides their barrel aged ice cider (see here). This is their flagship cider, made from heirloom, English, and French apple varieties, partially wild fermented, and also available in bottles. Smells sour. Semi-dry to dry. The flavor is tart heirloom apples with some citrus. Moderate tartness and acidity. Low bitterness and tannins. Hints of sourness. I didn’t personally care for this due to the sourness and bitterness and as the flavor was a bit nuanced. These sorts of farmstyle ciders seem to be getting more common though, so there must be a demand.
Channel Marker (Seattle WA) Lavender Bergamot (6.9% ABV): This is the first time I’ve tried anything from this cidery, which was established in 2016 but I didn’t start to hear about until quite recently. This variety is made with lavender and bergamot (a type of oranage – I had to look that up), and said to be their cidermaker’s favorite. Hazy hue. Semi-dry to dry. Very tart and bitter. The lavender was only present in the scent and the finish for me. In between was a tart bitter apple-citrus flavor. I didn’t like this one at all.
Redstone (Boulder CO) Cyser (8.0% ABV): The meads (honey wines) from this meadery are fairly widely distributed, in blue glass bottles. This is the first cyser (from apples and honey) I’ve seen from them, although I’ve tried at least one of their meads previously. Sweet. Full bodied. Simple honey-apple flavor (with more honey than apple) with hints of caramel. Well-hidden ABV. I liked it. However, although they are a nice budget-friendly mead & cyser option, but don’t really stand up against some of the higher quality more complex (and admittedly mostly more expensive) meads I’ve tried, such as from Superstition (Prescott AZ), Æsir (Everett WA), Sky River (Woodinville WA) and Moonlight (Londonderry NH).
I also had a taste of a new cider they just tapped.
Schilling (Auburn WA) Watermelon Mint (6.6% ABV): This is a brand new tap-only release. Smells of watermelon toothpaste. On the sweeter side of semi-dry. Very light bodied. The mild flavor was all watermelon, with a hint of mint on the finish. Refreshing. I liked it, although its not something I’d really choose to drink a pint of.
My favorites were Schilling’s Excelsior and Campfire and the Redstone Cyser. I also picked up some bottles, as usual, as they have an excellent selection (and prices) – I got a bottle of the Excelsior (for $7, why not?), Alpenfire’s new Foxwhelp single varietal, a new to this area Worley’s English cider (Red Hen), restocked my supply of go-to English ciders (Newton Court’s Gasping Goose and Dunkertons Black Fox), and got a fancy barrel aged Moonlight cyser. Plus at PCC down the street I picked up a four-pack of Locust Watermelon (it was the first time I had seen it in cans – I tried it on draft awhile back).
Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says! Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?