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?

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Sheppy’s Somerset Draught Cider

Review of Sheppy’s Somerset Draught Cider.  This is the second Sheppy’s cider I’ve had; the first was their Oak Matured cider, which was truly amazing.

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Cider:  Somerset Draught Cider
Cidery:  Sheppy’s
Cidery Location:  Somerset, Taunton, UK
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  500ml brown glass bottle

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Availability:  Wide release in UK, but likely limited in the U.S.

Cider Description:  First created in 2010, this product combines traditional cider apples and eating apples to produce a crisp fruity cider. Medium taste.

This cider was oak barrel aged.

Cidery Description:  Farming 320 acres at Three Bridges Farm since 1917, three generations of the Sheppy family have weathered the ups and downs of farming and cidermaking by embracing change and opportunity.  Craftsmen cidermakers for over 200 years.  Quality is central to all our ciders, which are produced from local and home-grown apples here at Three Bridges Farm. Modern technology has been used to assist the completely traditional production of fine English cider, but never to compromise the quality which is associated with the name Sheppy’s Cider.  We are proud to share with visitors from far and wide our beautiful farm and orchards, and to show you as much as possible of how and where we make our delicious ciders.

Price:  $6.50
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, after really liking Sheppy’s Oak Matured

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Still (no carbonation), despite the label saying it was lightly sparkling.  Smells dry, acidic, tart, yeasty, and appley.

Opinion:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (so my nose deceived me on the level of sweetness).  Mild tannins, tartness, and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Slightly rich, but still fairly sessionable.  Medium bodied.  Moderate finish length.  Mild notes of honey, vanilla, and oak.  This would particularly make a nice summer cider.  I wouldn’t however call it overly fruity or apple-forward.

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, although its a bit on the lighter side (slightly less rich, less tannins, and less bitterness).

Closing Notes:   Yum!  I really enjoyed this cider.  However, I preferred their Oak Matured, as it was more rich and had a lovely heavy oak influence.  Both cider are very good values, especially for imported craft cider.  Most other imported English ciders seem to run a couple dollars more per bottle, and I haven’t enjoyed them nearly as much.

Have you tried any Sheppy’s ciders?  What did you think?

Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013

Review of Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013.  I had been on the lookout for a cider with a bold barrel influence, and this one matches that description!

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Cider:  Oak Matured Somerset Cider, Vintage Reserve 2013
Cidery:  Sheppy’s
Cidery Location: Somerset, Taunton, UK
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml brown glass bottle

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Availability:  Wide release in UK, but likely limited in the U.S.

Cider Description:  Vintage Reserve is a fine traditional English cider from the Sheppy family cidermakers.  This quality sparkling cider is crafted from apples from a single year’s harvest grown in the Sheppy orchards in Somerset, England.

Cidery Description:  Farming 320 acres at Three Bridges Farm since 1917, three generations of the Sheppy family have weathered the ups and downs of farming and cidermaking by embracing change and opportunity.  Craftsmen cidermakers for over 200 years.  Quality is central to all our ciders, which are produced from local and home-grown apples here at Three Bridges Farm. Modern technology has been used to assist the completely traditional production of fine English cider, but never to compromise the quality which is associated with the name Sheppy’s Cider.  We are proud to share with visitors from far and wide our beautiful farm and orchards, and to show you as much as possible of how and where we make our delicious ciders.

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Price:  $7.00 / 500ml bottle
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, remembering a recommendation from Sarah of Cider Log

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First Impression:  Golden amber.  Little carbonation.  Distinct rick oak apple scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Wow, this is actually heavily oak aged!  I had been on the lookout for a cider I could say that about, and found it.  For me, it is a favorable heavy oak flavor.  I also pick up caramel, burnt sugar, and vanilla.  My only complaint is the moderate bitterness with the medium-length finish.  However, once it warmed up a bit from fridge temperature, it became less bitter and the flavor smoothed out a bit.

So, I’d recommend between fridge and room temperature with this cider.  At room temperature it got a bit funky.  I find it odd this was described as sparkling cider when I found little carbonation, but maybe they meant not still?  It was also a relatively non-descriptive description on the bottle, which didn’t do this cider justice.  I like that they vintage this cider, as I’d imagine the cider crop can vary significantly year to year, which can definitely impact the flavor, so this way consumers know they may be getting a slightly different product than they had previously.  This is a thick, rich, earthy, and smokey cider with a strong oak barrel flavor.

Most Similar to:  English ciders, but with a more rich & heavy oak flavor.  If you want something sweeter with a less intense but still bold flavor, I’d recommend Thistly Cross Whisky Cask.

Closing Notes:   Yum!  I started off questioning whether I liked this cider, but it really grew on me, and I was sad when the bottle was empty.  For an imported craft cider this seemed to be a good deal at $7.  Full Throttle Bottles is the only shop I’ve seen Sheppy’s at so far, and they had one other variety when I bought this one (Somerset Draught Cider I believe).

Have you tried Sheppy’s Oak Matured cider?  What did you think?

Do you have any other recommendations for me for ciders with a heavy barrel influence?