Summer Cider Day 2016 in Port Townsend WA – Tasting Notes

This is Part 2/2 on Summer Cider Day 2016 in Port Townsend Washington, which includes tasting notes on the ciders I tried.  See HERE for Part 1/2, covering the event itself.

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Bull Run Pear Ice Wine, 12% – This is a 9% residual sugar ice perry, made from Hood River Oregon Bosc and Anjou pears, similar to how ice cider or ice (grape) wine is made (using the natural cold to concentrate the sweetness & flavor of the fruit).  Semi-sweet to sweet (less sweet than a typical ice cider oddly enough, despite perries usually being sweeter than ciders as pears have non-fermentable sugars).  Moderate to full bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  I found this unique, like a complex pear syrup, with a well-hidden ABV.  In addition to all the pear flavor, there were some honey, citrus, and melon notes.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate pear flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

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Nashi Orchards Barrel Fermented Cider, 6.9% – This is a cider made from primarily Winesap apples with some French & English bittersweets (from the WSU Mt. Vernon Cider Research Center), aged in neutral French oak barrels.  Dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Definite Winesap apple flavor with hints of richness from the bittersweet apples.  Notes of oak (low) and honey.  Moderate to long slightly boozy finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  Overall this is quite subtle, similar to their other products I’ve tried.  I would love to see them do something made from only bittersweet apples and barrel aged, as those are my favorites, but alas, good cider apples are hard to come by / expensive, so its not done much here in the U.S. (which is why I am also a big fan of English & French imports).

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Nashi Orchards Island Harvest Perry, 6.7% – This perry is from 90% Asian pears (Shinsseiki and perry pears) and 10% seedling pears foraged on Vashon island.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of pear, lemon, lime, and mineral.  Moderate sessionability.  Low pear flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  I found it to be very light; I think this would be great to pair with food.  It was also very subtle.

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New West Cidery – I thought I’d add a little about this cidery, as I hadn’t even heard of them before this event (their cider isn’t distributed to Seattle).  They are part of Sasquatch Brewing in Portland Oregon, which was founded in 2011.  They started making cider a few years ago under the New West name.  They are opening a separate cidery in Northwest Portland in a couple months which will have 90 barrel fermenters (which is very large capacity considering a standard keg holds half a barrel).  At the brewery’s tap room in Portland they currently offer 12 cider taps (including guest taps).

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New West Black & Blue, 6.8% – Lovely deep berry hue.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low carbonation.  Low tartness and acidity.  Very mild pure berry flavor, 50-50 blackberry and blueberry.  Quick finish.  No apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  I like a more flavorful cider, so I didn’t really care for this.

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New West Señor Cider, 6.8% – Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of several different hot peppers and a hint of citrus & honey.  Moderate heat, mostly at the end of the sip, which lingers with a long finish.  Low apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.  I don’t like spicy ciders, so I didn’t like this at all.  I think a spicy cider works better when the spice level is low, it has higher residual sugar, and there is some flavor balance (like significant honey notes).  Enough people must like these though, as cideries keep making them (for example – the Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA actually has a tap line dedicated to a rotating selection of spicy Schilling ciders).

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Rambling Route Pear, 6.9% – This is the second cider in Tieton’s Rambling Route line, their Apple variety with Bartlett pear juice added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Nearly still.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Moderate apple flavor.  Very light pear flavor.  High sessionability.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  I think I prefer their Apple variety, although I’m not really a fan of either.  I think Tieton’s regular line of ciders is superior (although that is likely to be expected from the price point), especially the recent draft-only Bourbon Peach (my tasting notes here).

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Snowdrift Cornice, 7.3% – I’ve tried this before (see here), but it was awhile back, and I was curious how this year’s version turned out.  This is their barrel aged cider made from cider apple varieties.  Smells mildly oaky.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Notes of oak, smoke, and honey.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Low flavor intensity.  I found this vintage to be more approachable than their previous one, but I really enjoyed both.

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Spire Mountain Dark & Dry, Jack Daniels Barrel Aged, 5.0% – This is a special version of their typical Dark & Dry cider which was aged in Jack Daniel whiskey barrels for 8 months.  Smells strongly of whiskey, plus some oak and brown sugar.  Semi-dry to dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high bitterness.  Low tartness and acidity.  Notes of brown sugar, molasses, whiskey, vanilla, and coffee.  Long bitter finish.  High spirit influence.  Low barrel influence.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Its crazy how the barrel aging changed this cider from a fairly simple sweet cider to a bitter complex dry cider!  I think they are on to something with barrel aging this cider, but it was aged too long for my liking (something I thought I’d never say…I always say I wish a cider was aged longer!), as it was too intensely bitter.

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Spire Mountain Dry Hop Apple, 5.0% – This is their Red Apple cider with Citra hops, their new Summer Seasonal.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, slightly syrupy.  Low tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  Subtle hops flavor, more herbaceous than citrusy, which is unusual for a Citra hopped cider.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  I thought this was pretty decent for a commercial cider; I liked how the hops flavor wasn’t overwhelming, although I think I like a more citrus-forward hopped cider.

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Wandering Aengus Wanderlust, 6.9% – This was their first cider variety they made 12 years ago.  Its an off-dry (0.5% residual sugar) English-style cider made from primarily heirloom sharp plus some bittersweet apples.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  Notes of bittersweet apples, oak, and mineral.  Sharp flavor with hints of richness.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and flavor intensity.  This time around I enjoyed it better than when I tried it awhile back; either this batch had less bitterness than previously and/or I’m not as sensitive to it anymore.

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Whitewood Gibb’s Farm, 6.7% – They nicknamed this limited release cider a “Farmer’s Reserve”.  It was made from a large number of varieties of apples only from Grant Gibbs’ farm outside of Leavenworth WA.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied with a nice texture, slightly syrupy.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Notes of sharp apples, honey, and lemon.  Moderate to long slightly boozy finish.  Moderate to strong apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability and flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  I enjoyed it.

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Whitewood Newtown Pippin, 6.9% – This is a Newtown Pippin apple single varietal, part of their Old Fangled Series, made from 2016 harvest apples from Hood River Oregon.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied, with a nice frothy texture.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  Moderate sessionability.  I found this to be very mild, which is characteristic of Newtown Pippins, but not something I prefer.

I didn’t taste ciders from every cidery there (as I had tried the remainder of the lineup), but here are photos of the other booths.

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Pacific Northwest Cider Awards Festival 2016 Tasting Notes

The third-annual Pacific Northwest Cider Awards Festival took place on Saturday June 25th 2016.  Its a chance for the public to try some of the ciders which were judged on the day prior.  It took place outside The Woods in Seattle WA, which hosts both Seattle Cider and the Two Beers Brewing company.  I attended the event with some cider friends.  Here is a list of the 2016 winners.

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Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Bittersweet (5.2% ABV): This is a draft-only one-off release using only bittersweet cider apple varieties from Poverty Lane Orchards (Farnum Hill) in New Hampshire, wild yeast fermented.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low carbonation.  Lovely rich bittersweet apple flavor with notes of caramel and honey.  Mild bitterness, tannins, acidity, and tartness.  Long finish length.  I wouldn’t have guessed at all that this was wild fermented, as it lacked any sourness or funk, although they mentioned it was a very long fermentation.  This is the first cider I’ve truly enjoyed from this cidery (see here for previous reviews)…they tend to be too bitter for my liking.  This won Silver in the Wild Ferment category.

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Phillippi Fruit (Wenatchee WA) Snow Dance (16% ABV): This is a Pommeau-inspired apple brandy fortified cider, and the first time I’ve tried anything from Phillippi (they aren’t even distributed to Seattle WA yet).  Semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Rich and boozy with notes of honey and caramel.  I really enjoyed it.  This would be nice served ice cold after dinner, but was a bit much just after noon!  I’m a big fan of Pommeau, ice cider, mead, etc.

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Longdrop Cider (Eagle ID) Electric Cherry (6.0% ABV): I previously tried a few of their ciders at a tasting event at the Schilling Cider House (see here).  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate to high tartness.  Light bodied.  Moderate cherry flavor intensity.  The tartness was a bit overpowering for me, but fans of tart cherry would like this.  The flavor was true and non-medicinal, which can be tough to pull off with a cherry cider.

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Apple Outlaw (Applegate OR) Thompson Creek (9.0% ABV): I’ve previously tried a few of their ciders (see here).  This is a new keg-only rye whiskey barrel aged cider, the first in their Heritage line.  Awesome whiskey and oak scent.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Mild bitterness, tannins, acidity, and tartness.  Overall the flavor was a bit harsh.  I think I would have liked it with more sweetness or less ABV.

Wards (Kelowna B.C. Canada) Original Hard Cider (5.5% ABV): I’ve actually never tried anything from this cidery, although I’ve seen them.  Semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate carbonation.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low flavor intensity and simple apple juice flavor.  I found this to be average.

Wards (Kelowna B.C. Canada) Festive Apple Cider (5.5% ABV): This ended up being cherry.  I had assumed it would be spiced (although its not really the season for that…).  I didn’t enjoy this semi-sweet cider at all…the cherry flavor seemed medicinal.  Someone else said it tasted like a Shirley Temple.

Carlton (McMinnville OR) Citizen Cider (6.75% ABV): I’ve tried a few ciders from them (see here).  This is their flagship cider, but I actually hadn’t tried it yet.  It is made from traditional English cider apple varieties.  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild to moderate tannins and bitterness.  I liked the flavor, and I’m probably being over critical, but I found it a tad bitter and not quite rich enough.  This won Bronze in the Traditional Sweet category.

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Spire Mountain (Olympia WA) Crisp and Dry (5.0% ABV): I’ve tried a few ciders from them (see here).  This is their newest release.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Apple-forward.  Notes of mineral and honey.  Quick finish.  We discussed this cider and decided that it may taste sweeter than it actually is as its tangy and fuller bodied.  However, its likely not anywhere near truly try, just dry for their cider lineup.  I found it to be average.

My favorite of the afternoon was the Wandering Aengus Bittersweet.  Overall the event was a bit disappointing, as they listed quite a few ciders online (and even in the handout they gave us) which they didn’t end up having.  I imagine cideries had said they would drop off kegs/bottles/cans and didn’t end up doing so, or changed what they brought.  These were about the only ciders I hadn’t tried before, and many of those were more commercial than I usually enjoy.

Admission was $25 + tax at the door for 8 cider tokens and a tasting glass.  A few ciders were 2 tokens instead of 1, and most were 4oz pours.  The venue was also a bit lacking in shade and seating.  Apparently they previously had this be an indoor-outdoor event, but this year switched to outdoor only.  The cider booths were under tents, they had a few standing tables, one food cart, kegs of water, and a few port-a-potties.  Its always fun to try new ciders and hang out with folks with a common interest though.

Spire Mountain Red Apple

Review of Spire Mountain’s Red Apple variety.  I’ve had this one a couple times before, same with their Sparkling Pear, but this is the first time since starting Cider Says.  My favorite cider from Spire Mountain is their Dark & Dry (which isn’t dry, but is a nice rich semi-sweet cider), which I reviewed here, one of my first reviews.

Cider:  Red Apple
Cidery:  Spire Mountain (Fish Brewing Company)
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles, kegs
Style:  American (New World) modern apple cider

Spire Red Apple
<cider reviewing on vacation means less photos; sorry!>

Availability:  AL, AK, CA, FL, HI, ID, IL, MI, MN, MT, ND, OR, PA, RI, SD, WA, Canada (Alberta & British Columbia), and online through BeerShip.com.  Red Apple, Sparkling Pear, and Dark & Dry are available year-round in six packs & kegs, Spiced Cider is available Nov-Jan in limited markets in 22oz bottles, and they have a new variety I haven’t even seen yet, Habanero Apple, which is also available Nov-Jan (I also assume in limited markets) in 22oz bottles.

Cider Description:  From the natural sweetness of famed Washington apples comes this delightful hard cider. Pleasant, light and with a snap of champagne effervescence, each glass is like a bite of crisp liquid apple. Perfectly balanced with just the right tartness, this is one of life’s natural pleasures.

Cidery Description:  Deep in the very heart of the Cascade Mountain Range, legend has it that there is a hidden mountain with an enchanted orchard, where the climate is ideal for growing the world’s finest apples and pears. For centuries, the inhabitants of this magical place known as Spire Mountain, have spent their days doing nothing but nurturing the fruit on the trees, and making the best cider on earth. Is it any wonder that Spire Mountain Cider is the oldest premium cider brand in America? The next time you order a cider, ask for the one made in the enchanted orchard on Spire Mountain!

Spire Mountain was founded in 1985 (yes that is correct, before even Woodchuck) and have a tap room (under Fish Brewing) in Woodinville WA and a Brew Pub (under Fish Brewing) in Olympia WA.

Price:  $6.50! / 12oz bottle (it runs around $8-$11 a six pack in stores)
Where Drank:  J.J. Hills in Leavenworth WA, which we visited to satisfy my husband’s prime rib desires.  Leavenworth is a quaint Bavarian-themed mountain town a couple hours East of Seattle WA, which we were visiting for one of their famous Christmas Lighting Festival weekends (it literally requires a reservation a year in advance to stay the weekend).
Their Cider Selection:  J.J. Hills offered Spire Mountain’s Red Apple and Sparkling Pear varieties in bottles.  The Spire rep must have hit up Leavenworth, as a couple years ago when we last visited, almost no cider was to be found, and now every place had an offering or two, mostly Spire (where in Seattle I rarely find it in a restaurant or bar).

I was able to order the following ciders during our weekend in Leavenworth:
– Spire Mountain Dark & Dry on draft at Bavarian Lodge (our hotel, which is awesome, and the only place we’ll stay in Leavenworth)
– Spire Mountain Dark & Dry on draft at Bavarian Bistro & Bar
Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet on draft at Cured
– Spire Mountain Red Apple in a bottle at J.J. Hills
– Woodchuck Amber in a bottle at Icicle Brewery
– this one doesn’t really count, but I brought a can of Downeast Cranberry Blend with us to enjoy in the room, and it tasted nice and festive

First Impression:  Light amber.  Low carbonation.  Smells like apple juice with a touch of acidity and tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, or funk.  Very apple-forward with crisp flavrs, but I also detected some mild tropical notes.  Juice-like, but not syrupy.  Highly sessionable and a well-hidden ABV.  Light to medium bodied.  Quick finish length.

My Opinion:  Above average.  Its a pretty standard tasting cider and doesn’t have any significant complexity.  However, its tasty, easy to drink, apple forward, and on the sweeter side but not crazy sweet or syrupy like some other easily available ciders are (such as Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Strongbow Gold Apple, and Smith & Forge).  Still, its on the commercial side, and they even add sugar after fermentation (listed on the ingredient list).

Most Similar to:  Semi-sweet apple-forward commercial and craft-commercial ciders.

Closing Notes:   Dark & Dry is definitely my favorite Spire Mountain cider, especially on draft, but Red Apple definitely hit the spot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it if it was available, although its not something I’d buy to keep in the house.

Have you tried Spire Mountain ciders?  What did you think?

Hard Cider Ice Cream Float, Anyone?

I’ve been meaning to try a hard cider float, and today was the day!  I’ve always thought a float would be best with a dark & sweet cider, and chose Spire Mountain Dark & Dry.  Woodchuck Barrel Select was a runner up, and yes I still have a six pack of that, and 2 or 3 six packs of Woodchuck Winter Chill!  I image folks who like spiced cider (I don’t) may like their float with spiced cider.  I looked for an all natural vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any local Vanilla ice cream at Fred Meyer (only vanilla gelato, vanilla custard, and flavored ice cream), but Hagaan Dazs worked just fine.

Ingredients Required:
cider, chilled (approx. 6 oz)
vanilla ice cream (approx. half a cup)
tall glass
long spoon
(straw optional)

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Instructions:
Scoop some ice cream into the glass (small chunks are easier)
Slowly pour cider (it may foam quite a bit)
Enjoy!

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Bonus:
You likely have some extra cider left to drink afterwards!

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The Verdict:
Quite tasty!  Very easy to make too.  I could barely tell there was any alcohol involved.  It looked just like a root beer float, and was kinda similar, although the foam was less sweet and the liquid tasted different.  I think I was spot-on with choosing Spire Dark & Dry.  I may have to try Woodchuck Barrel Select next, or maybe even Woodchuck Winter.  At the end of the day though, as much as I love cider, I may still prefer a root beer float.  Fun idea though!

Update:  I tried Woodchuck Barrel Select, and have to say it was even better!  For some reason the flavor worked even better, maybe due to the richness of the barrel aging?  Highly recommended to try a float with Barrel Select.  Unfortunately its a winter “Private Reserve” release from Woodchuck (that I stockpile along with Woodchuck Winter).

Spire Mountain Dark & Dry

Another one of my favorites.  And don’t let the name fool you…although it is dark, it definitely isn’t dry (although it isn’t too sweet either).  Their new packaging is pretty nifty too.

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Cider:  Dark & Dry
Cidery:  Spire Mountain (Part of Fish Brewing)
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV: 5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles (also available in 22oz bottles)
Availability:  year round

Description on Bottle:  Savor this refreshing glass of complexity. Dark & Dry’s assertive tartness is pleasingly balanced by a hint of molasses and brown sugar. More rounded and intricate than its sister ciders, this potion will appeal to beer aficionados, wine devotees, and cider enthusiasts alike.

Price:  $7.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine (I’ve also seen it at Fred Meyer & Central Market)
How Found: I think I originally found this just by browsing.
Where Drank:  home, a tasting event – Snohomish on the Rocks, and on tap at The Tipsy Cow in Redmond WA

Opinion:  This is a tasty cider!  I definitely pick up the molasses and brown sugar, and it has a rich & unique flavor.  I really enjoy these dark complex sorts of ciders.  There is a nice balance of dryness & sweetness.  Its even better on tap than bottled, and I like it better out of a glass than the bottle.  Spire Mountain also offer pear and plain apple varieties, which are also quite good, although I don’t like them quite as much as Dark & Dry.  At the tasting I was at, at the Spire Mountain table, the Dark & Dry seemed to be the clear winner.  The most similar cider I’ve had to this is Woodchuck 802, and I have to say that I like this one better…it seems more smooth and flavorful, and the 802 seems to have more acidity.  Woodchuck 802 probably has more nationwide availability though, and I’d still recommend it.  Highly recommended.