Schilling Cider House Visit 36 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes #36 from the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts from the cider house here.

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I was here on a Monday afternoon with my husband and a friend from out of town.  We skipped work to hang out with our friend at Pike Place and the cider bar.  I ordered most of the ciders they had that I hadn’t previously tried.  It appears that most if not all of these are draft-only.

Photo Jan 27, 2 02 25 PM<left to right:  Schilling Brut, Independent Barreled Blackberry Perry, Channel Marker Quince, Finnriver Bourbon Barrel Aged Heritage, and Cider Riot New Wave>

Schilling (Auburn WA) Imperial Brut (8.5% ABV):  On the sweeter side of dry, tart, with rich bittersweet cider apple flavor

Independent Cider (Dryden WA) Barreled Blackberry Perry (5.9% ABV):  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, with berry, and a hint of oak (barrel), but no detectable pear

Channel Marker Cider (Seattle WA) Quince (7.8% ABV):  Dry to semi-dry, tart, with mild general fruitiness

Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Bourbon Barrel Aged Heritage (9.5% ABV):  Semi-dry, with heirloom apple flavor with some tannins and bitterness

Cider Riot (Portland OR) New Wave (5.1% ABV):  Dry to semi-dry with sharp heirloom apple flavor

I liked the Blackberry Perry, but wasn’t too into the others, mostly as they were on the drier / tart / sharp / bitter side.  I probably should have just ordered something I knew I would like, but I like to try new ciders, especially at the lower price of a taster.  I was more excited about the bottle shopping I did – I picked up a bunch of Dunkertons (an English cider which is a favorite of mine that hasn’t been available for quite awhile) and Alpenfire (a local favorite), plus a few others.

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 35 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 35th visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  However, 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 a bit distracted and totally forgot pictures this time, but I thought I might as well share tasting notes.  I was there on a Thursday afternoon, the day before Cider Summit Seattle 2019, for the cider house’s 5th birthday.  I ordered a flight, as always.  Its awesome even with how many ciders I’ve tried, they always have at least a few new to me selections.

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Golden Fox (6.9% ABV):  This is their 17th draft-only Traditional Heirloom Cider release, this time from Golden Russet, Golden, and Foxwhelp apples.  Dry, with notes of heirloom apple and lemon, with hints of bitterness & tannins.

Brownrigg (Seattle WA) Rum Barrel (7.5% ABV): I had forgotten I actually tried this 1 year ago.  Their rum barrel aged cider, which like all their ciders appears to be draft-only, and super limited release.  Dry and tart, with oak, citrus, and herbal flavor, and low sourness (back of the palate).

Longdrop (Boise ID) Strawberry Vanilla (5.5% ABV):  This appears to be a draft-only release.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet, with mild berry flavor, and vanilla on the nose and finish.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) Watermelon (4.5% ABV):  This is seasonal, and also available in bottles, as Holy Water(melon), and advertised to also have ginger and lime in addition to the walermelon.  Semi-dry, with a mild watermelon flavor and a hint of grapefruit and ginger, and a sour finish (back of the palate).

Schilling (Auburn WA) Blueberry Pommeau (21% ABV):  This is a draft-only birthday release, where Pommeau = apple brandy + apple juice, then barrel aged, with blueberry added.  Semi-sweet, fuller bodied, with a tart fruity berry start and a rich boozy finish.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Guava Mint (8.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only release for the fruit cider challenge at Seattle Cider Summit.  Semi-sweet, full bodied with a guava pulp mouthfeel, lots of guava flavor, and a hint of mint on the finish.  Hidden ABV.

I didn’t care for the Rev Nat’s or Brownrigg selections, due to the sourness, but liked all the others, especially the Schilling Guava mint, which I ordered more of.

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 2018

Happy New Year!  Now that it is nearly 2019, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2018.  This is a tradition here at Cider Says; see here for my list from 2017, 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 2018.  Some of the categories overlap.  However, I cheated a bit, as I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

barrel aged:  Tieton Bourbon Peach – This has more juicy peach flavor than bourbon, but the two go well together, and there is some nice complexity for being made from dessert apples.

botanical-infused:  Finnriver Lavender Black Currant – This mouth-puckering tart cider is primarily black currant flavored, but also has hints of lavender.

brewery-made:  Central City Limited Edition Imperial Cider – Most ciders I’ve tried that were made by breweries were disappointing, but this one was awesome, complex, imperial-style, and bourbon barrel aged.

canned commercial:  Woodchuck 802 Collection ‘Lil Dry – Many commercial ciders are overly sweet and uninspired, but this was semi-dry, flavorful, and craft tasting.

cyser:  Merridale Cyser – This cyser was imperial style and had some nice flavor and complexity, beyond just tasting like apple and honey.

draft commercial:  Somersby Apple Cider – As much as I enjoy craft cider, sometimes a commercial cider really hits the spot, plus often that is all you can find.  This cider is from Denmark but I tried it in Canada on vacation.  Apple forward and not too sweet.

everyday English cider:  Newton Court Gasping Goose – I’m a huge fan of English cider, and this was a go-to of mine, although unfortunately it is no longer available.  Tannic, rich, flavorful, clean, and sessionable.

fancy English cider:  Oliver’s Gold Rush batch #2 – This cider is crazy rich and complex, and a lovely deep hue too.  A steal at $15/bottle.  Wish I could find more.  I picked some up on vacation, and got lucky when I returned the next year and they still had 1 bottle left, but haven’t seen it locally.

French cidre:  Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tender and Ferme de Beau Soleil Cidre Fermier Bio Brut – I’m also a big French cider fan, and tried a number of great selections this year, but these stood out.

French perry:  Pierre Huet Poire Demi-Sec – This French perry is unique, with its fluffy texture, tartness, great real pear flavor, and a bit less sweet.  I haven’t found any American perries like the French ones I’ve had.

French Pommeau:  Hérout à Auvers Pommeau de Normandie AOC – I tried this awesome Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) at Cider Summit.  I’m looking forward to opening the bottle of it that I bought.

fruity:  Portland Sangria – Very fruity, with unexpected complexity, a fruit salad sort of cider.

ginger-infused:  Kystin Kalysie – I’m not a ginger fan, but I actually enjoyed the hint of ginger in this French perry.

ice cider:  Woodbox Double Barrel – This is a less sweet ice cider, with rich concentrated flavor, and a twist, having been whiskey barrel aged.

large craft cider made with cider apples:  Schilling Excelsior – This was made using bittersweet cider apples in addition to regular varieties, but remains beginner-friendly, staying a bit sweeter and clean and such.  I’m seeing more mainstream ciders being made using cider apples, although often it seems like it must have been a small amount.  The cider apple influence was definitely noticeable in Excelsior though.

New England style:  Alpenfire Tempest – The style is characterized by the use of brown sugar and raisins, and this is a great example.  It even reminded me of English cider.

pineapple cider:  2 Towns Pacific Pineapple – This cider is bursting with real fresh pineapple flavor, yet its less sweet.

Pommeau:  Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance – This U.S.-made Pommeau is super flavorful and complex, and reminiscent of cyser.

rosé:  Manoir du Parc Authentic Rosé and La Chouette Cidre Rosé – Both of these sweet French rosés are made from red-fleshed apples plus pears, and have a lovely fluffy texture.  I’m not sure if I could even tell them apart in a taste comparison, they are so similar.

single varietal:  Liberty Kingston Black – Made from only Kingston Black cider apples.  Tart, rich, and complex, with a hint of sweetness, which I appreciated, as often these sorts of ciders go completely dry.

tannic cider:  Finnriver Fire Barrel version 1 – Super tannic, flavorful, and complex, reminiscent of English cider.  I wasn’t as much of a fan of their more recent version 2 of it though.

tropical:  One Tree Staycation – I loved the complexity of this, which was unexpected for a cider from dessert apples.  I drank way too much of this over the summer!

unexpected:  Fresh Cut Watermelon Cider – Based on the can design and flavor, I was expecting this Canadian cider to be fake and syrupy, but this was superbly done, real tasting and semi-dry.

unique:  Kystin Cuvée XVII – 16 varieties of apples plus chestnuts are used in this unique, complex, tannic, and nutty French cider.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2018.  They have a lot in common – most are mid-level sweetness, rich, complex, and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

Schilling Cider House Visit 34 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 34th 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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<tap list>

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<“firkin” options from Wildcraft Ciderworks – my husband tried both and liked them, but I don’t do 20% ABV at room temperature>

I was there on a Friday afternoon with my husband and two out of town friends, after taking the day off and visiting Pike Place market.  I got another awesome poke (sushi) bowl from Just Poke a few doors down to share with my husband.  I ordered a couple flights for our friends and a few tasters for me, getting about half of the 32 ciders on tap (basically everything but the driest and sweetest ones).

Its awesome even with how many ciders I’ve tried, they always have at least a few new to me selections.  And they always have some really interesting stuff too, like Earl Grey tea infused, rhubarb-hops, and grapefruit gin, plus occasionally some imported selections (this time they had Louis Raison – see my previous tasting notes here).  I only have tasting notes on the few I ordered just for myself though.

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<left to right:  Moonlight Meadery Last Apple, Cider Riot La Luna, Liberty Kingston Black>

Moonlight Meadery (Londonderry NH) Last Apple (16% ABV):  A barrel aged cyser (cider from apples + mead from honey).  Also available in bottles, such as on their website, $27-28 / 375ml.  See my previous full review here.  Sweet.  Full bodied.  Full flavored sweet rich apple and honey notes with a quick finish.  I didn’t detect any barrel influence this time, but I’m guessing it smoothed out the flavor and contributed to the well-hidden ABV.  I may have drank it a bit too cold – warmed may have maximized its complexity.

Cider Riot! (Portland OR) La Luna (7.0% ABV):  Made from bittersweet cider apples with some dessert apples, then oak barrel aged.  Also available in bottles, but probably only in their taproom.  Completely dry.  Predominately oaky (more so than most barrel aged ciders I’ve had) with a hint of rich bittersweet cider apple flavor.  Low tartness and tannins.  I think I would have liked this more with some sweetness, as it had a low flavor intensity, especially in comparison to the next selection – the oak was my favorite part.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) Kingston Black (8.0% ABV):  A single varietal from Kingston Black cider apples.  Previously available in bottles for ~ $15, although they don’t have any current availability on their website, and I haven’t seen it locally, so this specific batch may be draft-only.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Lovely bold bittersweet cider apple flavor with hints of honey and oak.  High tartness and moderate tannins.  I liked that they went a tad sweeter with this, as often they seem to go full dry, which can make a cider seem a bit harsh, especially if it is tart.

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Both me and my husband loved the Liberty Kingston Black – its probably my favorite Kingston Black single varietal to date (including from Farnum Hill, Eve’s, Whitewood, and Dragon’s Head).  So, we split a pint.

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I picked up some awesome bottles to take home, and even an Eric Bordelet (French cidre) 5L mini keg!  A bit spendy, but a rare opportunity.  Unfortunately it is getting more difficult to get English ciders, like Newton’s Court Gasping Goose and Dunkertons Black Fox, due to distributors going out of business or dropping cideries, but at least I was able to pick up some Worley’s Mendip Hills, my favorite of their four varieties available in the U.S.

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 33 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 33rd 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 Thursday afternoon, before the event for the 4th anniversary of the cider house.  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 still plenty of new-to-me varieties (I skipped some which didn’t sound interesting though).

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<left to right:  Schilling Passionfruit Lime, Schilling Imperial Passport, Channel Marker Cucumber Blackberry, Schilling Impearial, and Cider Head Pineapple Rum>

Schilling (Auburn WA) Passionfruit Lime (8.0% ABV):  This is a draft-only trial of a passionfruit cider with lime.  Semi-sweet.  Full bodied, and juice-like.  Notes of tart passionfruit and orange with a lime finish.  Hidden ABV.  I especially enjoyed the lime flavor.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Imperial Passport (8.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only trial of an imperial (higher ABV) version of their “Passport” cider, pineapple-passionfruit.  Very similar to the one above, except with pineapple instead of lime.  On the sweeter side of semi-sweet.  Full bodied, and juice-like.  Tart notes of passionfruit with hints of pineapple and mango.  Hidden ABV.  I like both this and the original version of Passport (see my review of a similar cider here).

Channel Marker (Seattle WA) Cucumber Blackberry (7.0% ABV):  This is my second time trying their cider.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Very tart.  Slightly fruity, but to me it was more cranberry-pomegranate than blackberry, and I didn’t pick up any cucumber.  I thought it was average.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Impearial (8.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only trial version of sweeter version of their new Excelsior (see my review here), except with pear.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Notes of tart pear, bittersweet apple, and oak.  Hidden ABV.  I liked this, especially as it is less tart as the canned version of Excelsior.

Honey Moon Mead & Cider (Bellingham WA) Cider Head Pineapple Rum (6.1% ABV):  This appears to be a draft-only new release.  Nearly clear and nearly scent-less.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Mild pineapple flavor with an alcohol-forward rum & oak finish.  I would have preferred more flavor with this one.

My favorites were the three Schilling releases.  I also got a pint of the Passionfruit Lime, but didn’t finish it, as it was a bit filling and sweet to have in that quantity.  I was able to pick up some bottles to take home, but they were out of my favorite English ciders, so I guess I’ll just have to come back!  I tried a new food option this time, a poke bowl from Just Poke (a few doors down the street), which was awesome.

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

Cider Summit Seattle 2018 Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is post 2/2 on Cider Summit Seattle 2018, with tasting notes on 21 ciders.  Post 1/2 covered the event.  Sorry some of these photos aren’t that great, but this isn’t a photography blog…

The Tasting Notes

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2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Pommeau – I’ve had their Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) a number of times (see my full review here), and have a bottle in my “cellar”, but its probably my favorite U.S.-made Pommeau.  Both me and my husband didn’t want to pass up a sample.  Semi-sweet, rich, easy to drink despite the high ABV, and awesome as always.

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Angry Orchard (Walden, NY) Dear Brittany – This is one of the small batch ciders made at their Innovation Cider House, a French-style keeved cider.  Semi-dry, tart, and funky, with a hint of sourness, although I picked up more heirloom than bittersweet apple flavor.  As expected for a keeved cider, it was very apple-forward and flavorful in general for not being very sweet.

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Blue Mountain (Milton-Freewater, OR) Pete Limely – Semi-dry to dry with notes of tart citrus (especially lemon-lime).  This was a bit too dry and mildly flavored for me, but I liked the overall flavor notes.

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Brownrigg (Seattle WA) Rum Barrel Aged – This is apparently not a new cidery (I read they started in 2014), but this is my first time seeing them, and my first time trying their cider.  Dry.  Very mild flavor, slightly tart, with a rum finish.  I think I would have liked this better if it was a bit sweeter.

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Chelan Craft Cider (Chelan WA) Cider with Lemon – This is a new cidery, and my first time trying their cider.  Semi-dry, with lots of tart refreshing lemon flavor.  I liked it.  I’m curious how they will do in the market though, as their bottles were listed for $23 / 750ml [update – I was told that was a mistake and the real price is $15/bottle].  I couldn’t tell what type of apples they used – maybe dessert, maybe heirloom.  The price would be more in-line with heirloom, but still on the high end of what I see in stores.

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Cider Riot! (Portland OR) Everyday Passionfruit – Awesome tropical scent, on the drier side of semi-dry, but the passionfruit flavor was very mild and mostly on the finish, which was a bit of a let down.

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d’s Wicked (Kennewick WA) Tropical  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, tart, with notes of orange, pineapple, and passion fruit.  I liked how flavorful it was without being sweet.

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Herb’s Cider (Bellingham WA) Triplet Special Reserve French Oak Aged Semi-Dry – This is a new cidery, and my first time trying their cider.  Semi-dry to dry, thin bodied, super mild flavor intensity, with notes of heirloom apples and hints of oak.  This was a bit too mildly flavored for me.

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Hérout à Auvers (Normandy France) Pommeau de Normandie AOC – Imported by Beauchamp Imports (French Cider Inc.) – they have online sales too by the way.  This Pommeau is made from 3/4 apple cider and 1/4 Calvados (French apple brandy), then aged at least 14 months in oak barrels.  Semi-sweet, both rich/oaky/earthy and fruity (both my husband and I agreed on strawberry), clean (no funk or sourness), easy to drink for the higher ABV, and overall awesome.  I bought a bottle to take home, and think it was an awesome value at $40 / 750ml (as most local Pommeaux run $25 / 375ml).  Pommeau keeps very well by the way, and you can leave a bottle open for months and just have a bit at a time – I think this will be perfect at cellar temp in my cider fridge.  They also brought La Chouette Rosé, Kystin Opalyne, and Herout AOC Cotentin Extra-Brut, which I’ve previously sampled.

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Idun Cider (Seattle WA) Heirloom Dry – This is a new cidery, and my first time trying their cider.  They currently only have this single flagship release.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, medium bodied, very apple forward, but overall mild in flavor.  I didn’t really taste the heirloom apples (this is listed as having Gravenstein, Winesap, and Newtown Pippin), but I kinda liked it.

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Manoir du Parc (Normandy France) Authentic Rosé – Made from red-fleshed apples and pears.  Semi-sweet, lovely fluffy natural carbonation, and notes of strawberry, watermelon, and pear.  Very reminiscent of La Choute Rosé.  Awesome!

Manoir du Parc (Normandy France) Authentic Cidre – I also re-tried their flagship cidre.  On the drier side of semi-dry, funky and tannic, apple and yeast forward, with a hint of sourness.  My husband surprisingly liked this (usually he dislikes funk, like I dislike sourness).  I think it was because the cidermaker? (or at least some very knowledgeable French dude) was telling us all about it during the tasting.  That sort of experience is what makes me love Cider Summit.

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Miloslawski (Poland) Perry – Imported by Browar Polska Imports.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, with a very mild canned pear flavor.  I surprisingly liked it.  I was expecting it to be super sweet, but it was a perfect sweetness level for me.

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Ole Swede (Tonasket, WA) Bada Bing! Cider – 90% apple and 10% cherries, co-fermented.  Semi-dry, tart, with a mild real cherry flavor.  They also have a Cherry Perry, which I thought I had tried, but I can’t find anything that I wrote about it, so I guess not!

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One Tree (Spokane WA) Tropical – Semi-sweet, full bodied, juice-like, with a very very similar flavor to Schilling’s Imperial Passionfruit that I tried the night before (as it was made using the same puree from Oregon Fruit Products), but with a hint of pineapple (which One Tree added in addition to the puree and apple juice).  I really enjoyed it, and think it would have been awesome to use it in a cocktail with rum.

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Pear UP (Wenatchee WA) Barrel Hoppin Pear – A barrel aged version of their hopped perry (100% pears, no apple).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Smooth, mild flavor, with hints of pear, hops, and oak.  I usually don’t go for the mild flavored ones, but that worked well for this one, as hops isn’t something you want to go too overboard with.

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Possmann (Germany) Pure Cider Rosé Black Currant – Imported by Browar Polska Imports.  Semi-sweet with a light fruity flavor, although I couldn’t specifically identify black currant.  I surprisingly liked this, despite the commercialness.

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Ruwet (Belgium) Cidre – Imported by Browar Polska Imports.  Semi-dry, mild overall flavor with apple & citrus.  It tasted a bit commercial to me though, and I would have liked more flavor intensity.  I think this is my first Belgium cider, very cool.

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Schilling (Auburn, WA) Red Wine Barrel Aged Pommeau (paired with chocolate) –  Semi-dry, smells of red wine barrel, but for me the flavor was mostly apple-flavored alcohol burn.  A bit too boozy for my liking.  My husband was a bigger fan.  They also have this on tap at Schilling Cider House right now.

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Seattle Cider (Seattle WA) Red Wine Barrel Berry – On the drier side of semi-dry,  super mild, with hints of berry, oak, and botanicals, and a red wine finish.  Characteristically Seattle Cider.  Surprisingly complex, but for some reason I didn’t really like it, although I couldn’t say why.

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Tieton Ciderworks (Yakima, WA) Oak Barrel Aged Cider Summit Collaboration – Semi-dry, higher carbonation, tart, super mild smooth citrus & oak flavor.

In Summary

It was impossible to taste all the ciders at the event (or even one from each producer), so I’d also like to share previous tasting notes and reviews of ciders from the other cideries I didn’t get to highlight:  Alter Ego, AnthemAvid (previously Atlas), Bad GrannyChatter CreekDouble MountainDragon’s HeadEaglemount, Eden, ElementalFinnriverHi-WheelInclineJester & JudgeJ. Seeds, LibertyLocust, Longdrop, Louis RaisonMaeloc, MontanaMoonlight MeaderyPortlandReverend Nat’sSamuel SmithsSea CiderSnowdriftSteelhead, SwiftWandering Aengus, Washington GoldWildCraft, and Worley’s

My favorites of the day were Herout Pommeau, 2 Towns Pommeau, One Tree Tropical, d’s Tropical, and Manoir du Parc Authentic Rosé.

This event is always the highlight of Washington Cider Week, and the biggest and best cider event of the year in the Seattle area!

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?

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.

Photo Jun 01, 12 18 40 PM

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.

Photo Dec 26, 2 08 44 PM.jpg Photo Dec 26, 1 20 34 PM.jpg Photo Dec 26, 1 26 14 PM.jpg

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?

Schilling Cider House Visit 27 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 27th 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 Sunday afternoon, with my husband and a friend from out of town.  The good thing about having folks with me was I got to order more ciders!  I chose all the ciders for our group, which was fun.

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<left to right:  Schilling Pippin, Locust Seckel Perry, Anthem Pear, Finnriver Dry Hopped, Cockrell Raspberry Habanero, and Schilling Afterglow>

Schilling (Auburn WA) Pippin (6.5% ABV):  This is a draft-only special release, a single varietal from Pippin apples I believe.  Semi-dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Mild to moderate bitterness.  Hints of sourness.  Lots of citrus!  I wasn’t really a fan with the sourness and acidity.

Locust (Woodinville WA) Seckel Perry (6.5% ABV):  I rounded out my flight with this, as I enjoyed it my last visit (see here).  However, this time I found it sour, and wasn’t a fan.  I’m curious if it was the same keg or not.

Anthem (Salem OR) Pear (6.5% ABV):  This is a pear-flavored cider, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Very mildly flavored, apple and pear.  I found it plenty drinkable, but boring.

Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Dry Hopped (6.9% ABV):  I’ve tried this previously, and mostly ordered it for my husband.  It is also available in bottles.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Citrus notes with hints of floral and hops.  Not bad.

Cockrell (Puyallup WA) Raspberry Habanero (7.8% ABV):  This is a popular cider of theirs, also available in bottles.  Semi-dry.  Moderate berry flavor.  Moderate to strong level of spiciness, especially on the finish.  I’m not a fan of spicy ciders, and mostly tried this out of curiosity.  This was the only one we didn’t finish.

Schilling (Auburn WA) Afterglow (5.1% ABV):  This is a special release, also available in bottles, made with cranberries, blood orange, and rose hips.  Semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild to moderate berry flavor with a hint of herbs.  I didn’t pick up any blood orange.  I enjoyed it.

We also ordered 2 more flights, with:
– Schilling Pineapple Passion (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Grumpy Bear Cold Brew Coffee (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling Blackberry Pear (which I’ve reviewed here)
– One Tree Huckleberry (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Margarita (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Elemental Blood Orange (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Schilling King’s Schilling (which I’ve reviewed here)
– Jester & Judge Pineapple (which I’ve reviewed here , although this batch wasn’t so great, as it was less flavorful than usual)
 – Elemental Pom-Lavender (which I really enjoyed, semi-sweet and flavorful, fruity with a hint of lavender)
– Elemental Black Currant (which I thought was good, but I like Finnriver’s better, as the flavor is more intense – see here)

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We also ordered a bottle of Aspall Imperial (which I’ve reviewed here).  I love that all their bottles at the cider house are pre-chilled and there isn’t a markup for drinking them onsite.

My favorite was the Aspall.  After that, the Schilling Afterglow, Elemental Pom-Lavender, Schilling Pineapple Passion, and Schilling’s King Schilling.

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 26 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 26th 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 Thursday night when they had Schilling Cider’s 4th anniversary party.  I started with half a flight, waiting for them to put more on tap once the event started.

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Snowdrift (Wenatchee WA) Orchard Select (7.3% ABV):  The scent has hints of funk.  Fully dry.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness, especially on the finish.  Low funk.  Hints of sourness.  Low to moderate tannins.  Sharp flavor with citrus, herbal, and possibly crab apple notes.  I found this a bit harsh for my liking between the dryness, sharpness, and acidity.  I think their Cliffbreaks Blend is more likable, although that is significantly sweeter.  Fans of dry cider from cider apples will likely really enjoy it; I think it reminds me of a lot of ciders I’ve had from the Northeast.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Hibiscus (5.0% ABV):  This appears to be a draft-only special release.  Pink hue.  Smells floral and fruity.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  More fruity than floral, with notes of rhubarb, strawberry, and watermelon.  I really enjoyed it.  I’m curious what they added to this.

Eric Bordelet (Normandy France) Nouvelle Vague Sidre (5.0% ABV):  This is the first time I’ve seen this variety in the U.S. (although we get a handful of their ciders in bottles).  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low carbonation.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Simple but tasty flavor profile, apple and yeast forward.  This reminded me a bit of English cider in addition to French cider, with a higher level of tannins, clean flavor (no funk), and lower carbonation (although likely to it being on draft vs. bottled).  I enjoyed it, especially as it warmed up.

Next Sarah shared some of a Hogan’s 3 liter bag-in-box variety (retails for $33, which works out to $8.25 / 750ml).

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Hogan’s Cider (Alcester United Kingdom) Hazy Daisy (3.9% ABV):  I’ve only seen this in the 3L bag-in-box in the U.S.  Semi-dry.  Still.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  Hints of bitterness, funk, and sourness.  The flavor is very mild, apple and citrus forward.  This would be a perfect summer session cider, and possibly my favorite from Hogan’s so far oddly enough (I’ve also tried Medium Cider and Picker’s Passion), as it had a bit less sourness (especially compared to the Medium).  I enjoyed it.

The full event lineup was finally on tap a bit after the event started at 6pm.  It ended up being a lot of the usual suspects, sours, and high ABV barrel aged spirit-style ciders.  I ended up only ordering one more thing, as it was getting late for me and very very busy.

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Schilling Cider (Auburn WA) French Bittersweet (unknown ABV):  A draft-only special release from French bittersweet apple juice.  Very dark hazy brown hue, like unfiltered non-alcoholic cider.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Moderate tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  The flavor was very cider apple juice forward–it really didn’t taste alcoholic.  I think this may have been the same cider I tried at Cider Rite of Spring which tasted just like juice to me (maybe it was there?).

My favorites were the Locust, Eric Bordelet, and Hogan’s.

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 25 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 25th 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 when they were having a 2 Towns event (they had Return of the Mac, Made Marion, Cherried Away, Flight of the Kiwi, and Sun’s Out Saison on tap).  I started with a flight.

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<left to right:  Finnriver Fire Barrel, 2 Towns Sun’s Out Saison, Locust Seckel Perry, Sea Cider Wolf in the Woods, Cockrell Dusty, and Alpenfire Heirloom Dry>

Finnriver (Chimacum WA) Fire Barrel (9.0% ABV):  This year’s Fire Barrel was just released (I’ve tried it previously; see here).  It is made from cider apples (this year they are all Organic and all from Finnriver’s own orchard), then Whiskey barrel aged for 5 months (previously it was aged in charred Bourbon barrels).  They have a detailed fact sheet on this and all their other ciders now too.  This time around it is a higher ABV, and is being released in a 750ml corked bottle (part of their Orchard Series) for $23, instead of a 500ml bottle for $11.  I prefer smaller bottles for lower prices.  I think it was underpriced before (I recognize these barrel aged ciders from real cider apples cost significantly more to produce), but $23 is a bit steep.
Darker hue.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, tannins, and funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, caramel, and molasses.  Long warming finish. Oddly enough I liked this better as it warmed up, as it seemed to have more depth (often for a higher ABV cider, they become harsh as they warm). Moderate flavor intensity, apple flavor, sessionability, and complexity.  Low to moderate oak and spirit flavor.  I really enjoyed it, but the previous version was better, as it seemed more complex (I didn’t pick up the vanilla this time) and had more oak & spirit flavor, likely as it was a bit sweeter.

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Peach Saison / Sun’s Out Saison (5.8% ABV):  I thought this was something I hadn’t tried, as it was labeled Peach Saison (they write whatever the keg label says on the tap list board, so sometimes it varies from the official name), but it turns out it is Sun’s Out Saison, back for its 2nd seasonal release (also available in bottles); I’ve tried it previously (see here).  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of peach, pear, citrus, and green apple.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate to high sessionability.  Low to moderate complexity.  I really enjoyed it.  This year’s release seemed slightly sweeter and more flavorful.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA) Seckel Perry (6.0% ABV):  This draft-only perry is made from Seckel pears.  Smells slightly of vinegar, sourness, funk, and citrus.  Hazy hue.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied, with a nice texture.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mouth-puckering without being overly tart or acidic.  Hints of sourness, funk, bitterness, and tannins.  Pear-forward with some citrus, even lime.  I enjoyed it.  Snowdrift also makes a nice Seckel Perry (see here).

Sea Cider (Saanichton B.C.) Wolf in the Woods (9.9% ABV):  This is a special release cider, part of their Canadian Invasion Series, with hops and pine tips, also available in bottles (for more info see here).  Dry to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Low tannins.  Flavor notes were on the earthy and botanical side, with hops, wood, and citrus.  Long warming finish, but that was the first time the ABV showed up.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  Low sessionability.  I enjoyed it.

Cockrell Cider (Puyallup WA) Call Me Dusty / Dusty Dry (6.8% ABV):  This is their flagship dry cider, also available in bottles.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  Rather apple-forward and flavorful for a drier cider.  Hints of peach, pineapple, and lemon.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and apple flavor.  I enjoyed it.

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Traditional Heirloom Dry (8.0% ABV):  This is a draft-only new cider release from heirloom apples.  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Apple-forward flavor with some citrus and floral notes.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, complexity, and sessionability.  I enjoyed it.  Even Alpenfire’s simpler ciders are exceptional (like their Simple Cider).

Sarah also shared a few sample ciders with me.

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Carlton Cyderworks (McMinnville OR) Sidra Natural (6.9% ABV):  This is a special release Spanish Sidra-style cider (first available November 2016), made from bittersweet & bittersharp PNW apples.  Semi-dry to dry.  Low to moderate tartness, acidity, and sourness.  Low funk.  Notes of citrus but not much else.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  I found this rather uninspiring, plus I’m not really a fan of Sidra / sour ciders.  However, this would be a good introductory Sidra for someone as it isn’t overly harsh.  Interestingly, imported real Spanish Sidra can be bought around here for significantly less than local Sidra-style cider, so I’m curious how these cider styles will sell.  Rustic and farmhouse-style ciders seem to be gaining in popularity in the PNW (or at least, in production).

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Aval (Bretagne France) Cidre Artisinal (6.0% ABV):  This is a semi widely available French cider from the Brittany region, known for sweeter and higher carbonated apple-forward ciders, typically without the sourness & funk which is common is ciders from the Normandy region.  Darker hue.  Smells sweet, of caramel.  Unknown carbonation level (this had gone flat, but I’m guessing it was higher to start with).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Low tartness, acidity, tannins, and bitterness.  Notes of apple pomace and caramel.  Quick finish.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  I enjoyed this; it is a very easy-drinking French cider, similar to Celt, which is a staple cider in my house and a steal at $7.99 for four 11.2oz bottles.

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North Idaho Cider (Hayden ID) Logger (6.9% ABV):  This cidery’s ciders are new to the Seattle area (see this article), and this one retails for ~ $7.99 / 22oz.  Logger is a dry cider aged on oak and pine.  Dry.  Low sourness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of oak/wood, earth, and citrus.  Mild flavor intensity and apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability and complexity.  I thought this was nice, and reminded me of Grizzly Ciderworks The Ridge.

For probably the first time, I actually enjoyed every cider in my flight.  However, my favorites were the Finnriver Fire Barrel and 2 Towns Sun’s Out Saison.  Of the bottle pours, I enjoyed the Aval best.  It was awesome to have several true artisan cider selections on tap (those made from cider apples by cideries with their own orchards), as most of the draft selections tend towards ciders made from dessert apples with added flavors (fruit, hops, etc).

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

Notes on Cider at Debuts and Discoveries 2017

On March 18th, I attended a ‘Debuts and Discoveries’ tasting event in Seattle put on by the University Sunrise Rotary Club, to benefit Teen Feed.  It featured about 7 cideries, 7 breweries, 12 wineries, and 11 distilleries.  It was very cool to see an event with such a mix of beverage selections, as I’m only into cider and my husband is into everything else.  I took the night off from blogging, so unfortunately I don’t have any photos or tasting notes.  However, I thought I might as well do a quick writeup.

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The Ciders:

  • Chatter Creek (Woodinville WA) brought their ‘Pilot Project’ Golden Cider, ‘Chaider Clipper’ Chai Tea, and ‘Luya’ Ginger-Honey.
  • Elemental (Woodinville WA) brought their ‘Carbon’ Semi-Dry, ‘Calcium’ Blood Orange, and ‘Oxygen’ Pomegranate.
  • Locust (Woodinville WA) brought their Chili Pineapple, Smoked Blueberry, Thai Ginger, and Vanilla Bean.
  • Pear UP (formerly Neigel Vintners) brought a number of perries, including Ginger Pear, Hoppin’ Pear, Pear Essentials, Pearfect Pie, and Watermelon.
  • Schilling (Auburn WA) brought their ‘Reboot’ Blood Orange, Blueberry Cobbler, and London Dry.
  • Steelhead (Lake Chelan WA) brought their ‘Chimera’ Cherry, ‘Furious George’ Ginger, and ‘Peargatory’ Vanilla Pear.
  • Woodinville Ciderworks (Woodinville WA) brought their Asian Pear and something else.

What I Tried:

  • Chatter Creek’s Chaider Clipper was tasty, semi-dry, with a smooth moderate spiciness from the Chai.  I previously reviewed their Pilot Project.
  • Elemental’s Carbon and Blood Orange.  I preferred previous versions of Carbon that were more rich than citrusy, and less tart (see here).  My husband was crazy about the Blood Orange; the flavor was nice and mild.  Both had higher levels of carbonation, which is great too.  I previously sampled their Pomegranate.
  • Locust’s Blueberry + Vanilla and Chili Pineapple.  I had tried both the Blueberry and Vanilla before (see here), finding the Blueberry rather average and the Vanilla to have an amazing creamy vanilla flavor but too sweet.  However, mixed, they were an awesome semi-sweet concoction, and my favorite of the evening.  The Chili Pineapple surprisingly didn’t have any noticeable spiciness (I’ve had a number of spicy ciders which were crazy spicy), just a nice pineapple flavor.
  • Pear UP’s Watermelon, which remains my favorite from them (see here).  The pear and watermelon notes remain mild, but I’m a huge watermelon fan.
  • (I previously tried Schilling’s Blueberry Cobbler and London Dry)
  • Steelhead’s Cherry, which I previously tried (see here).  Nice cherry flavor, but rather tart.  I also previously tried their Peargatory.
  • (I previously tried Woodinville Ciderworks’ Asian Pear and Tropical)

The Event:

It was an indoor event (in an old hangar in Magnison Park – very cool), from 5-9pm on a Saturday.  The $40 entry fee included 15! drink tickets and a $5 food voucher.  They also provided free bottled water and snacks (like chips and trail mix), which I have never seen before and was much appreciated.  The event was to focus on new craft beverage businesses, and their published cutoff was four years, but I know some of the companies were more than four years old (like Woodinville Whiskey, which started in 2010).  There were four main food truck options (also indoors).

They had tables and chairs, but they could have used more (and unfortunately some folks would put their stuff down to “save” their spot, then leave).  Bottle sales were available from most makers, and it was tax-free as it was a charity event (a HUGE savings for hard alcohol…my husband picked up four bottles which were about $35 instead of $55).  The main negative for me was the live music…any live music indoors tends to be overly loud, making it was very difficult to hold a conversation, and giving me a headache.  I felt bad for the booths right next to the band.

All in all it was a fun time and I look forward to attending again next year!

Schilling Cider House Visit 24 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 24th 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 random Thursday.  I started with a flight.

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<left to right:  Locust Winter Banana, Liberty McIntosh, Pilton English Keeved, Golden State Dry, Christian Drouin Poire, and Greenwood Red River Wolf Crab>

Locust (Woodinville WA) Winter Banana (6.0% ABV):  No, this isn’t a banana cider…it is a single varietal made from the Winter Banana apple.  Draft-only.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Apple-forward flavor with honey and citrus.  Nice flavor.

Liberty (Spokane WA) McIntosh (8.1% ABV):  Another single varietal, this time of a more common apple, the McIntosh (which is actually the spelling for the apple pronounced MAK-in-tosh).  Also available in bottles.  Dry to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Higher carbonation.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  For its dryness, it remained rather apple-forward, with some honey and citrus notes too.  I think this is one of their better dry acidic ciders.  I liked this, especially at first when it was cold (it got a bit harsh when it warmed up with the higher ABV).

Pilton (Somerset England) English Keeved (5.0% ABV):  This is my first time trying any cider from Pilton, as well as my first time trying an English cider which is made using the keeving process, which is much more common for French cider.  Keeving starves the cider of nutrients so it creates a naturally sweet apple-forward cider.  Hazy hue.  Dry to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low sourness.  Low tannins.  Moderate funk.  Notes of apple pomace, yeast, and citrus.  This is rather dry for a keeved cider, which usually average semi-sweet.  I wasn’t a fan of this due to the sourness; it reminded me more of a Normandy France style cider (due to the sourness & funk) than an English cider (which often have higher tannins & bitterness).

Golden State (Sebastopol CA) Mighty Dry (6.9% ABV):  It is my first time trying their cider, which is newish to the Seattle area.  Also available in cans.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied, and a bit syrupy, which is interesting for the level of dryness.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Apple-forward with some pineapple and green apple notes.  This is a nice flagship cider.

Christian Drouin (Normandy France) Poire (4.0% ABV):  This is a French perry.  Its nice to see these types of high end ciders on draft, as the bottles are expensive.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate to full bodied.  Higher level of carbonation.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  More pear fruit than pear juice forward, with notes of pineapple and mango as well.  I loved this.

Greenwood (Seattle WA) Red River Wolf Crab (7.4% ABV):  The interesting title for this draft-only cider refers to the use of red-fleshed crab apples as well as forraged apples from the Wolf River region.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of sourness & funk.  Apple-forward, with notes of sharp crabapples and citrus.  Of a sad note, I was told they lost their lease, so they are no longer operating from Greenwood, but Lake City (both in Seattle); I imagine they will keep the name though.  I thought this was pretty average.

Sarah also shared another cider with me:

Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) Spiced Tonic Shrub (6.0% ABV):  This interesting draft-only concoction is made using cider, vinegar, and spices.  “Shrub” typically refers to a vinegared cocktail.  This one definitely wasn’t to my liking, between the vinegar, saltiness, and pepper.  Apparently it is selling really well though.

My favorite was the Christian Drouin Poire; it reminded me of selections from Eric Bordelet and Domaine Pacory.

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 23 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 23rd 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 Thursday for a Portland Cider tap takeover / luau / potluck.  I started with a flight.

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<left to right:  Alpenfire Glow, Sandford The General, Liberty Cellar Series, Bad Granny Green Apple, Portland Mojito, and Tieton Russian Red>

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend WA) Glow (6.8% ABV):  This is a drier version of their Glow (made from red fleshed apples) than is found in bottles (which I’ve reviewed here), apparently as it had to be significantly more filtered when kegged.  Semi-dry, compared to the bottled version which is semi-sweet to sweet.  Compared to the bottled version, its not nearly as flavorful (strawberry and watermelon notes) or complex, and is more tart and lighter bodied.  Very nice, but I prefer the intensely flavorful and sweet bottled version (which I have a bottle of in the fridge that my husband got me for Valentine’s Day).

Sandford Orchards (Crediton UK) The General (8.4% ABV):  This is the first time I’ve seen any cider from this English cidery.  This variety is made from Devon cider apples, then spirit-aged and casked.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Low tannins.  Apple-forward flavor with some sharpness.  Moderate to long finish.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and flavor intensity.  This tasted like a typical English cider, although more bitter and less complex than I prefer.  Its good to see an international cider on tap, and made from cider apples too.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) Cellar Series (8.0% ABV):  This is an unknown variety of their Cellar Series (they are usually named with a letter and two numbers), draft only.  Most of their cellar series ciders are wild yeast fermented and barrel aged.  Orange amber hue.  Dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Hints of sourness and funk.  Low bitterness.  Sharp flavor with crabapple notes and hints of oak.  Moderate to long finish length.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low to moderate sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  I didn’t really like this one, as I found it a bit harsh.

Bad Granny (Lake Chelan WA) Green Apple (6.9% ABV):  This cider is made from dessert apples and sold both in tallboy cans and on draft.  Nearly clear hue.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Definite green apple flavor, plus some white grape.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.  I liked it.

Portland Cider (Portland OR) Mojito (6.7% ABV):  This draft-only limited release cider had mint, lemon, and lime added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of mint, citrus, and a hint of soap?  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.  The flavor of this seemed weird, but maybe it is just me.

Tieton Ciderworks (Yakima WA) Russian Red (6.9% ABV):  This draft-only special release cider is made from red fleshed apples (like Snowdrift Red and Alpenfire Glow).  Bright red hue.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Notes of cranberry and cherry.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  I liked it.

They also had Portland’s Sangria and Pineapple ciders on tap.  The Sangria is especially awesome by the way.

Sarah also shared a new Snowdrift release with me:

Snowdrift Cider (East Wenatchee WA) Cidermakers Reserve (8.3% ABV):  They have had this Méthode Champenoise cider listed on their website for awhile, but I haven’t ever seen it, so I think they took a few years off from production (or else it was very limited release).  This batch is only available in bottles.  Odd scent which none of us could accurately describe, but it didn’t transfer to the flavor.  Semi-dry.  High carbonation.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of tannins and bitterness.  Fruity, with notes of sharp pomegranate and some crabapple.  I really liked the flavor and the bubbles, but the scent was bizarre.

My favorites were the Alpenfire Glow, Tieton Russian Red, and Snowdrift CIdermakers Reserve.  The Bad Granny was good too, especially for its simplicity.  I really wanted to like Sandford Orchards The General as I’m an English cider fan, but it was quite bitter.

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 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?