Schilling Excelsior

Review of Schilling Excelsior.  I first tried this on draft (see here), but I wanted to do a full review of a bottle.  I’ve also tried Schilling’s Oak Aged, Gold, Grapefruit, ChaiderGingerHoppedSriracha LimeBarrel #1Barrel #2Mischief Maker Pom-CranGrumpy Bear Coffee NitroPineapple PassionLumberJack (Rhubarb)Blackberry PearDryKing’s ShillingVanilla CloveRaspberry SmoothiePeach Grapefruit HabaneroBailoutTrouble in ParadiseBlueberry CobblerFrench BittersweetPippinAfterglowRoad Trip (Peach Citra)Grapefruit & ChillBoysenberry PommeauCampfire, and Watermelon Mint,

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Cider:  Excelsior
Cidery:  Schilling Cider
Cidery Location:  Auburn (Seattle) WA
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (plus draft, and soon, six packs of 12oz cans)
Style:  American craft imperial-style cider from dessert & bittersweet cider apples

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Availability:  Schilling Cider is sold at least in AK, AZ, CA, CT, ID, MN, NC, NV, OR, SC, VA, and WA, but this July 2018 release may have more limited distribution.  Also, it is unclear whether this is a limited release, seasonal release, or new year-round offering.

Cider Description:  Dear Earthlings, Schilling Cider has been on a lifelong quest to create a revolutionary cider.  We have dreamt of a world that offers an imperial canned cider that stays true to its roots, without any added nonsense.  Today, we introduce you to Excelsior, an Imperial Apple Cider that combined old world cider techniques with new world innovation.  We start with fresh-pressed Washington-grown apples, add heirloom cider fruit, then ferment with a hand-selected yeast strain.  This unique process highlights the apples’ aroma and tannin structure.  The addition of traditional cider apples builds complexity, adds depth, and creates a sessionable imperial cider.  Grab a bottle and get ready to blast off!

Cidery Description:  In 1881, Colin Schilling’s great-great-grandfather, August, founded the Schilling Spice Company in San Francisco. He brought pure, natural, spices to everyone, at a fair price. Today, at Schilling Cider, we carry August’s core values forward and pair them with innovative cider-making techniques to produce quality, complex, hard ciders.  Based in Seattle, Washington, Schilling Cider captures the essence of the Pacific Northwest by creating ciders that are deliberately innovative, bold and flavor forward. Never back-sweetened, we use only 100% fresh pressed apples, locally sourced non-GMO ingredients and individually hand select yeast strains to create a cider experience that is truly unique.

Price:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried it on draft that day

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First Impression:  Medium golden hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells mild, apple-forward, with a hint of richness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of apple pomace (skin), caramel, orange, leather, lemon, and brown sugar.  Long tart tannic finish.  Moderate apple flavor, complexity, flavor intensity, and sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  This has some great flavor.  The level of sweetness is perfect, as it helps cut the acidity and bitterness, and hides the higher ABV.

Most Similar to:  a cross between English, American heritage, and American modern ciders

Closing Notes:  Its really neat to see a very large craft cidery do a large release of a cider made even partially from cider apples.  Although others have done this, it wasn’t on as large of a scale.  Also, even though the cider apples were used in a blend, unlike most others I’ve tried, the bittersweet characteristics were still quite evident.  A big benefit of this being a large release and the cider apples being only part of the blend is the lower price, which at under $7 is in-line with most other ciders in 500ml bottles.

Have you tried any ciders made from bittersweet cider apples?  What did you think?

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Schilling Cider House Visit 32 Tasting Notes

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.

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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.

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<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?

Schilling Cider House Visit 31 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 31st 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 Tuesday afternoon with my husband, during our Winter Break.  I got a flight, as usual.

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<left to right:  Dragon’s Head Manchurian, Number 6 Peach, Sea Cider Sassamanash, Alpenfire Traditional Heirloom, Elemental Acai, and 2 Towns Naughty & Nice>

Dragon’s Head (Vashon WA) Manchurian (6.9% ABV):  This is made from Manchurian Crabapples, and also available in bottles.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and high acidity.  Mild flavor, with notes of citrus, honey, stone fruit, and floral.

Number 6 (Seattle WA) Peach (unknown ABV):  This appears to be a draft-only cider, but I couldn’t find anything online about it.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Definite moderate peach flavor, but it finished with an odd sourness I wasn’t a fan of.

Sea Cider (Saanichton, B.C., Canada) Sassamanash (9.9% ABV):  This is a new seasonal release, with cranberry and hibiscus, and also available in bottles.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Mild cranberry flavor with a hint of floral.  I enjoyed this more once it warmed up a bit, and you’d never guess it was nearly 10% ABV.

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Traditional Heirloom (6.9% ABV):  This is the name for their rotating draft-only cider from heirloom apples.  Dry.  Low tartness and moderate acidity, with some mild tannins.  The flavor was very mild, mostly citrus with some floral.  This one was also more enjoyable once it warmed up a bit, as it was less sharp.  I’ve had this previously, but it was likely a different batch; see here.

Elemental (Woodinville WA) Acai (6.0% ABV):  This appears to be a tap-only release.  Semi-dry.  I don’t know what acai tastes like, but I found it to have a mild pomegranate-cranberry flavor.  Moderate tartness and acidity.

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Nice & Naughty (10.5% ABV):  This is an imperial spiced cider, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry.  Apple-forward with some mild pie spices.  I’ve had this before, see here (and I’ve also had the draft-only barrel aged version of it; see here).

I also got a larger pour of Reverend Nat’s The Passion, which I’ve had previously (see here).  Then, my friend and manager of the cider house Sarah shared some ciders.

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) The Passion (6.9% ABV):  This cider is made using passion fruit juice, coconut, and vanilla, and also available in bottles.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate passion fruit flavor with hints of coconut, vanilla, and pineapple.  Yummy!

Carlton Cyderworks (McMinnville OR) Summer Set (7.1% ABV):  This is made from heirloom apples.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and high acidity.  Sharp heirloom apple flavor, with notes of citrus, floral, and honey.

Oliver’s (Hereford UK) Desire (4.2% ABV): This is a keeved English cider, which drank similar to a French cider, except it was still.  Semi-sweet.  Lovely rich bittersweet apple flavor with some caramel and brown sugar notes, and even some tannins.  Awesome!

My favorites were the selections from Sea Cider, Alpenfire, Reverend Nat’s, and Oliver’s.

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

My Favorite Ciders of 2017

Happy New Year!  Now that it is 2018, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2017.  This is becoming a tradition; see here for my list from 2016 and 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 enjoy, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  The cider world is very regional, so likely only readers in the NW would have a similar selection.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2017.  Some of the categories overlap.  Truth be told, for the most part, I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

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Budget-Friendly French Cidre:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut (Brittany) or L’Hermitiére Cidre Brut (Normandy) – These selections retail for $4.99 and $7.99 respectively.  The Dan Armor is only sold at Trader Joe’s.  Both are on the sweeter side of semi-dry and are true to their respective styles (although the Normandy one is more beginner friendly than many others, as it lacks sourness and only has minimal funk).  The Dan Armor is one of my top picks to introduce folks to good cider with, as it is different from sweet commercial selections, but not so out there as to turn folks off to it.  Its also a nice gauge on sweetness, as it is in the middle of the range.

 

Fancy French Cidre:  Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Doux or Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge Cidre – I tried so many amazing French cidres this year that I had to include more than one!  These selections cost a tad more than the previous two, $12 and $19.99 respectively, but also have more complexity.  Both of these are low ABV selections, and the Doux was significantly sweeter, as expected for the classification.

 

English Cidre:  Newton Court Gasping Goose (330ml bottles) or Henney’s Vintage (500ml bottles) – Both of these English imports are very budget friendly and tasty.  A bit sweeter than some English ciders (on the sweeter side of semi-dry), rich, and tannic, but not bitter.  Newton Court is available in Seattle, but I’ve only seen the Henney’s in Portland (and only tried the one bottle).

 

Swiss cider:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Premiers Emois – This cider from Switzerland reminds me of French cidre, but has a style all its own.  It was made from Organic native heirloom apples, and wild yeast fermented using traditional methods.  The result was a semi-sweet cider with an awesome fluffy texture and complex fruitiness (but with less apple and yeast forward flavor as most French cidres).

European-Style U.S. cider:  2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche – This cider is by far the closest to a French cidre than any other U.S. cider I’ve tried.  It was a noticeable improvement from last year’s vintage as well.  Lots of rich ripe bittersweet apple flavor.  Unfortunately it costs more than most French cidres, as even with the import cost, their production costs are lower, as cider apple varieties aren’t rare like they are here.

 

Perry:  Ramborn Perry – I tried two selections from Ramborn Cider in Luxembourg.  This perry was complex and amazing, with notes of canned pear, dried pear, mango, pineapple, and guava.  Like most perries, as pears have unfermentable sugars, it was a bit sweeter, semi-sweet to semi-dry.

New England style:  Cockrell Colonial Winter – This cider is of true New England style, a high ABV cider with the addition to raisins and brown sugar.  Rich, complex, and perfect for winter.  It is my favorite version of this style so far.

 

Food-Friendly Cider:  Eden Semi-Dry or Eden Guineveres Pearls – Of these, the Semi-Dry is drier, much easier to find, and less expensive.  Both however are excellent selections, quite flavorful, but without anything that would overwhelm or clash with most meals.  They are also some of the most tannic on this list, same as the English selections.

 

Rosé:  Alpenfire Glow – This sweet cider is made from rare red fleshed apples, and similar to Eve’s Rustica (listed below), is amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.  Here the flavor notes were watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb.  It was a perfect Valentine’s Day cider (a gift from my husband – he knows me well)!

Barrel Aged:  Finnriver Fire Barrel – Note that this pertains to the previous releases of this cider.  I haven’t been nearly as big of a fan of Fire Barrel once they moved to 750ml bottles, as it was not nearly as flavorful (plus the price increased significantly).  In the older version, I love the complexity, intense barrel aged flavor (which is rarely found in cider), and high tannins.

 

Fruity:  2 Towns Prickle Me Pink ^2 – This cider was made using prickly pear cactus fruit, plus, new for this year, watermelon.  The result is a fluorescent pink fruity cider which is surprisingly complex and flavorful, yet fairly dry.

Rich:  Angry Orchard Maple Wooden Sleeper – This cider was made from bittersweet apples, with Crown maple syrup, then bourbon barrel aged for 12 months.  It resulted in a 12% ABV cider, super rich and complex, with a flavor profile including caramel, brown sugar, maple, oak, vanilla, bourbon, and molasses.  This was a truly artisan small batch cider, worlds away from their typical commercial releases.

 

Spicy:  2 Towns Man Gogh – I’ve never been a fan of spicy ciders, but I finally found one I could enjoy!  Here the hint of spice (from habaneros) was balanced by the fruitiness, sweetness, and acidity of the cider with mango.  This was an imperial cider, but way too easy to drink.

Commercial:  Spire Mountain Dark & Dry – I typically drink craft ciders, but I still drink commercial ciders from time to time.  This one is far from dry (more like semi-sweet), but is dark, and has some great molasses flavor.  It pairs really well with greasy food, like a burger or fish & chips.

 

Unique:  Eve’s Rustica – This is Eve’s sweetest cider (besides their ice cider), and my favorite.  I loved all the flavor they were able to showcase without any additions (just apples & yeast), with notes of honey, cream, vanilla, melon, strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, and peach.

Unexpected:  Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve – This cider was made from heirloom & cider apples, but in contrast had a very unique unexpected flavor profile, with pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, and citrus notes.  It is unique, complex, and bubbly.  My husband is also an especially big fan of this cider.

 

Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (at Total Wine, actually cheaper than at the Cider House), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.  This is more sessionable than you’d expect too.  Semi-dry and semi-sweet, with notes of honey and citrus, plus hints of maple syrup, oak, and spice.

Unexpected & Value:  Finnegan Cider Harvest Blend – This was another unexpectedly awesome cider which was also a great value.  I picked this up in Portland, for just over $7 for 500ml of cider from cider apples.  Semi-dry, with richness, high carbonation, and notes of rich ripe apples, caramel, leather, orange, stone fruit, honey, oak, and apple brandy.

 

Favorite from a New-to-Me cidery:  Woodbox Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider – This was the first (and only) cider I have tried from Woodbox, at Cider Rite of Spring in Portland.  I bought a bottle, but haven’t wanted to open it yet.  Lots of whiskey flavor in addition to caramel, vanilla, oak, and more.  It was rather budget-friendly for an ice cider too, at $17 / 375ml.

Pommeau:  2 Towns Pommeau – This remains my favorite Pommeau.  Super flavorful, rich, and complex, with notes of ripe apples, oak, dried fruit, leather, brown sugar, caramel, burnt sugar, vanilla, tropical fruit, and peaches.

 

Ice Cider:  Eden Cellar Series The Falstaff – This year I was spoiled with an amazing treat, a bottle of Eden’s 7! year barrel aged ice cider.  This ties with Alpenfire Smoke for the most complex cider I’ve ever drank.  The flavor was all over the place, from molasses, caramel, and brown sugar, to tart green apple and lemon, to raisin, to pie spices.

Overall:  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 be it.  However, it is not an everyday sort of cider.  They recently released a new batch of it, but I haven’t tried it yet (I’m still working on my stockpile of the old version).

Other:  Also, while I’m at it, my favorite cider event in 2017 was Cider Summit Seattle, my favorite (and only) class was by Rev Nat, and my favorite bottle shop & bar was Schilling Cider House.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2017.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

Schilling Cider House Visit 30 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 30th 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 Monday during Washington Cider Week.  They had a Finnriver event with cider trivia that evening, but I left before it got underway.  I got a flight, as usual.  Four were new to me, and the two Alpenfire ciders were repeats that I’m always happy to retry.

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<left to right:  Greenwood Wild Blush, Hi Five Hop Hearder, Greenwood Peach, Schilling Boysenberry Pommeau, Alpenfire Apocalypso, and Alpenfire Glow>

Greenwood (Seattle WA) Blush (7.3% ABV):  Hazy orange hue.  This is also newly available in bottles (as well as their Dry, Hopped, and Huckleberry ciders).  Smells of citrus, specifically, tangerine.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Low sourness, tartness, and acidity.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  The flavor was odd for me, sour tangerine with a hint of berry, but my palate doesn’t like sour / it tends to overwhelm the other flavors for me.

^ Five (Portland OR) Hop Hearder (6.5% ABV):  Hi Five is newly distributed to the Seattle area, and this cider is also available in cans (including at the Schilling Cider House).  Dry.  Moderate to strong hops flavor, plus citrus.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Moderate flavor intensity.  I’ve been getting more into hopped ciders, but I think this was a bit much for me, between it being fully dry and quite hoppy.

Greenwood (Seattle WA) Peach (7.8% ABV):  Another likely tap only release, left over from the Greenwood tap night.  Semi-dry.  Low tartness, acidity, and sourness.  More citrus and general stone fruit than specific peach flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  It was a popular option for folks who like sour ciders, but I don’t.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Boysenberry Pommeau (21.5% ABV):  This is a tap-only special release, probably from the Schilling Cider House’s 3rd birthday party the previous week.  Pommeau is a mix of apple brandy (distilled) and apple cider (either fermented or non-fermented).  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins.  Intense berry and rich red wine flavor (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was apple brandy + apple juice + boysenberry juice, then red wine barrel aged).  Long warming finish.  High flavor intensity.  This was really unique and tasty, and the first flavored Pommeau I can remember trying or even hearing about.

I’ve had the two Alpenfire ciders a number of times, but I always order their ciders if I see them on draft, as they don’t do many kegs (mostly Apocalypso and their Traditional Heirloom Cider series, plus some Glow every so often).

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Apocalypso (6.9% ABV):   This is a tap-only version of their Calypso rum barrel aged blackberry cider which has extra blackberries.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  Compared to other batches I’ve tried (like this one), it seems like it had less rum & oak influence, but more berry flavor.  I liked it, but I wish it had been the other way around.

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Glow (6.8% ABV):  This cider is made from red-fleshed Hidden Rose apples.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Less flavorful than I remember, likely as this batch is drier than I remember as well.  Small cideries often have some variation in their ciders batch to batch.  However, it still had the characteristic strawberry and watermelon notes from the special apples, and maybe even a hint of kiwi type flavor and extra tartness this time around.  See my previous review here.

My favorites were the Pommeau and the two Alpenfire ciders.  I didn’t really care for the other three, as two were sour and the other was a bit too hoppy.

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

Tasting Notes from NW Cider’s Preview of WA Cider Week 2017

I was recently invited to a Washington Cider Week preview for media and buyers.  The 7th annual Washington Cider Week is September 7th-17th 2017, and will include numerous cider events, with Cider Summit Seattle being a main highlight.  This preview event was hosted by the NW Cider Association, and held midday on a Tuesday at Capitol Cider in Seattle.

WACW-2017-Logo

It was a pretty sweet invite-only event, and I enjoyed the excuse to take a half day off work!  My husband even joined me; it was nice to have a driver, as there were eleven PNW cidery representatives pouring samples.  Even though there weren’t many new-to-me ciders, it was a great opportunity to get some face time with the pourers, which often isn’t possible at the larger events.

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<view of part of Capitol Cider’s basement event space>

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend WA):  I’ve tried most of their lineup, which includes many favorites, but my husband requested a sample of Glow.  It is one of their sweeter options, made from rare red-fleshed apples.  It was a good choice as they rarely pour it at events.  Awesome as always, semi-sweet, and crazy fruity flavorful without any additives.

Bad Granny (Chelan WA):  This was my first time seeing them at an event (the cidery is less than a year old).  I learned that they are associated with Karma Vineyards, one of the few producers of Methode Champenoise wine in the state.  The cidery is a combination of their MC wine experience and their apple orchard family roots.  I had tried their flagship Green Apple cider on draft previously (it is also sold in cans), which is a great simple semi-sweet cider option.  They also brought their currently draft-only black currant cider, which I found to have only a very mild flavor, but overall was easy to drink, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with a fuller body than expected.  I learned of their plans to release some specialty ciders in large format bottles, such as one from red-fleshed apples and one from Dabinett traditional cider apples.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA):  They just released this year’s vintage of Kingston Black single varietal cider (which I tried last year).  However, I decided to go for the Traditional cider, which is my favorite from them – a semi-dry cider with complex rich bittersweet cider apple flavor.  I also sampled the Perry, as I wanted to compare it to the Methode Champenoise version I tried recently; I enjoyed this regular version better as it was sweeter (almost semi-sweet), and more flavorful / fruitier.  Sometimes I find that a very high carbonation can impede a cider tasting for me as it makes a cider seem every drier and more acidic than it really is.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA):  I tried their newish Cider Summit collaboration cider (poured at all four Cider Summit events in 2017 – Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and next, Seattle), called “Summit Saison”.  It is made with organic apples, Saison yeast, dried fruit such as apricots, and spices (which oddly enough included peppercorns).  I found it hazy, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with citrus & stone fruit notes with a hint of peppercorn on the finish.  I’m not a fan of pepper, even in food, so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  My husband however was a fan.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA):  This was a great opportunity to have a side-by-side tasting of their English-Style and Stonewall (barrel aged) ciders, which I’ve previously found very similar but hadn’t tried together.  I preferred the Stonewall, as it was a bit smoother, with less acidic bite, and the added whiskey & oak notes.  I also tried Turncoat, their hopped cider, which had nice herbal flavor without bitterness, which was my husband’s favorite.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA):  At this stop, as I said I had tried all of the regular line up (which was being poured from their new cans), I was treated to a sample of their limited release Bourbon Barrel Aged cider.  It was semi-dry, and very mild at first (especially for 14% ABV), then all of a sudden Bam!, an intense bourbon finish.  I thought I hadn’t tried it previously, but I actually had, over a year ago at their tap room (good thing for my Cider List!).  I liked it better this time because it was served cold, but despite enjoying the flavor, its not something I would drink too often.

Pear UP  – formerly Neigel Vintners / NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  I had a chance to have a longish chat with the always energetic co-founder Kevin.  He shared about the recent NW Cider trip where 10 PNW cidermakers traveled to France & England to learn about keeving (see this article).  I also learned about the cidery’s packaging changes, such as new 12oz instead of 16.9oz green Aluminum bottles (with a digital wrap instead of labels), and four packs of 12oz clear glass bottles (which enables that SKU to be at a lower price point).  I also learned about some new products they have released, including an interesting new partnership with a distillery, a brewery, and a label artist, resulting in Centre Ring, with an initial release of a cider and a perry, at a nice price point of $11.99 / 750ml bottle.  Interestingly enough, Centre Ring doesn’t only focus on cider/perry, but craft beverages and food in general.

I started with the new Centre Ring Reserve Pear, which reminded me of a slightly drier and slightly more complex version of their flagship Pear Essentials, as it was semi-dry, medium bodied, and pear-forward with some citrus notes.  Next I tried another new-to-me release (draft and bottles), Pearjito Colada; I didn’t pick up any mint, but the coconut was a fun bold flavor in the tasty semi-sweet perry.  Lastly, my husband wanted to try the Pearfect Pie, which I had never tried either; it was a bit odd to drink in summer, but is a semi-sweet perry with a hint of pie spice.

Schilling Cider (Auburn WA):  I tried the Grapefruit & Chill, which I learned was a different recipe than a grapefruit cider I had previously tried which was flavored with SodaJerk grapefruit soda syrup and I wasn’t a fan of; this time it was a surprisingly pleasant citrus-forward and higher carbonation semi-dry cider.  I also re-tried the Pineapple Passion, which is one of my favorite Schilling varieties, with some strong tropical flavor, but it is definitely on the sweeter end (semi-sweet to sweet).  My favorite from them is the King’s Schilling.

Seattle Cider (Seattle WA):  I tried two new draft-only releases.  First – Lavender Lemon, a semi-dry cider with the as-advertised flavor notes.  Second – Cucumber Hibiscus, which was semi-dry to dry, and started with cucumber on the nose, primarily hibiscus (fruity/floral) in the flavor, and a cucumber finish.  They were both more flavorful than most of the ciders I’ve previously had from them.  I found both pretty average – plenty drinkable, but not something I would seek out.

Snowdrift Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  No new ciders to try, but I tried the cider I had tried the least of and is the most rare – the Cidermaker’s Reserve.  I learned it was made under Methode Champenoise with apples from their 2014 harvest, including bittersweet varieties, and aged 3! years.  It is a highly carbonated cider with an awesome texture, on the sweeter side of semi-dry, with a very unique flavor profile – fruity with pomegranate notes, and almost grape champagne-like.  I was surprised to hear it had bittersweet cider apples, as it definitely didn’t have the typical profile I’d expect.  A fun and unique cider and an excellent value too, at $19 / 750ml (this was my husband’s favorite cider of the event, and he insisted we pick some up afterwards).

Tieton Cider Works (Yakima WA):  No new to me ciders here either, so I re-tried the Sparkling Perry.  I re-learned that this is made by keeving and is wild yeast fermented (neither of which I would have guessed nor remembered from my taste nearly two years ago).  I’d describe it as a semi-sweet to semi-dry pear-forward perry with fruity citrus notes.

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They had some nice swag too – tote bags, brochures, postcards, and stickers.

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I did some serious cider shopping that day, about 12 bottles between Capitol Cider, the Schilling Cider House, and QFC.  My coolest finds were at Capitol Cider, as I don’t get there often:  EZ Orchards “Pomme” (Pommeau, a mix of apple brandy & cider), last year’s release of Finnriver Fire Barrel (which I liked better than this year’s batch), and two different single varietals from Liberty (that I only thought were available in their tasting room and online).  The Schilling Cider House also had a couple new to me releases, a peach wine from Mission Trail and Gasping Goose from Newton’s Court in England.  I also picked up a re-supply of Dunkertons Black Fox, my current go-to English cider, and a couple others favorites from Aspall and EZ Orchards.

Stay tuned for more posts on Washington Cider Week 2017, especially Cider Summit Seattle.

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Schilling Road Trip (Peach Citra)

Review of Schilling Cider’s Road Trip (Peach Citra), a cider with peach and Citra hops.  It is my first time trying this, although I’ve previously sampled their Gold, Grapefruit, Oak AgedChaiderGingerHoppedSriracha LimeBarrel #1Barrel #2Mischief Maker Pom-CranGrumpy Bear Coffee NitroPineapple PassionLumberJack (Rhubarb)Blackberry PearDryKing’s ShillingVanilla CloveRaspberry SmoothiePeach Grapefruit HabaneroBailoutTrouble in ParadiseBlueberry CobblerFrench BittersweetPippin, and Afterglow ciders.

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Cider:  Road Trip (Peach Citra)
Cidery:  Schilling Cider
Cidery Location:  Auburn WA
ABV:  6.6%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles and draft
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with peach and CItra hops

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Availability:  Schilling Cider is sold at least in AK, AZ, CA, CT, ID, MN, NC, NV, OR, SC, VA, and WA, but this is a summer seasonal release (July-September) and is therefore likely to have more limited distribution.

Cider Description:  Sweet and juicy peach and farm fresh citra hops.

Cidery Description:  We capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest by creating hard ciders that are deliberately innovative, bold, and flavor forward. 

Price:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.

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First Impression:  Light peach amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mildly hopped and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of peach, tropical fruit, hops, and citrus.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low hops influence.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  Refreshing, with peach and citrus.  Nice level of sweetness and balanced flavor.

Most Similar to:  Other cider which were both fruity and hopped, such as 2 Towns Hop & Stalk, Incline Lemongrass LureReverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot, and Ratel Cider Dry Hopped

Closing Notes:  Schilling has really stepped up their game since they started out.  My favorite cider from them however remains King’s Shilling, a brandy barrel aged cider which is also an excellent value (as low as $4.50 / 22oz).

Have you tried Schilling Road Trip?  What did you think?