Notes from a Cider Tasting Class with Reverend Nat

For my third Washington Cider Week 2017 event, I attended a cider tasting class with Nat West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (in Portland Oregon), at Downtown Spirits in downtown Seattle.  It was my first time at that store, which had a large selection (spirits, wine, beer, cider, mead, etc), plus an area set up with chairs & tables for classes & tastings.

The Event

I only read about the event the day before, but it sounded like a cool opportunity, as The Reverend (as he is commonly referred to – and he is an actual online ordained Reverend) has a lot of interesting insight on the industry.  I already missed out on some fun cider week events as I didn’t find out about them until after the fact (apparently the official NW Cider calendar stopped accepting submissions pretty early), so I didn’t want to pass this up.

The tasting list was a bit underwhelming with multiple mass market PNW canned ciders, but the two hour event with 10 ciders only cost $10.  That was crazy good deal, as that probably only covered the cider (and maybe even not), so Nat was basically volunteering his time.  He took the train up from Portland just for this and one other event.  There were only 11 of us who attended (and 2 of those were store employees).

I liked that the class was very informal.  We were encouraged to ask questions whenever, and we were even allowed to just pass the ciders around and pour how much we wanted (with a suggested amount so everyone got to try some).  Although that meant we couldn’t go back and taste anything (unless there were leftovers), it also meant I didn’t have cider poured into my glass which I would have felt obligated to drink to move on.

Cider Tasting Notes

We tasted the following ciders, in this order:  Cascadia Granny Smith, Liberty McIntosh, Wandering Aengus Golden Russet, Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé , Seattle Cider Semi Sweet, Rambling Route Apple, Reverend Nat’s Revival, Bull Run Bramble Berry, 2 Towns Cot in the Act, and Reverend Nat’s The Passion.  The first was described as a palette cleanser, the next three as American Heirloom, the following three as American common, and the last three as flavored.  Most of the time he would also include some European ciders, like English, French, and/or Spanish, but I think he was limited to what this store had in stock and cold.

The only new-to-me cider was Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé.  Nat asked if anyone had tried all the ciders, and I said 9/10, and it was the same for him (apparently that is a new ish Seattle Cider release).  The majority of the class seemed to be more so fans of Reverend Nat’s cider (which tend to be beer fans), than overall cider enthusiasts like me.

Cascadia Ciderworks United (Portland OR) Green Apple (6.9% ABV) – This retails for $9.99 / four pack of 16oz cans, and is made by Reverend Nat’s.  Semi-dry, very tart, and definitely green apple flavor (single varietal).

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) McIntosh (8.1% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Liberty was described as a more traditional cidermaker, plus I know they are unique in that they are not orchard based, but only use heirloom & cider apples.  This single varietal is available in bottles and on draft, and retails around $16 / 750ml.  Nat described this apple variety as making a juice which is very appley (more than many other heirloom apple varieties), and it not being as common in the PNW as it is in the NE.  Semi-dry.  Low to moderate tannins.  Notes of apple juice, caramel, honey, and must.  Some other folks in the class were picking up hints of “bandaid” flavor (which is from a combination of Brettanomyces, tannins, and polyphenols).  I must not be sensitive to that, as I’ve never noticed it with any cider.  However, in contrast, I am very sensitive to sourness, common in farmhouse and Spanish style ciders.

Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Golden Russet (9.0% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Wandering Aengus was described as one of the first cideries in the NW, starting in the 1990s, under the name “The Traditional Company”.  This is a single varietal made using Golden Russet apples which they grew themselves, and dry farmed (no irrigation).  It retails for around $9 / 500ml.  I would have described it as on the sweeter side of semi-dry, but apparently this measures full dry (my all have different palettes!).  Tart, acidic, bitter, and slightly tannic.  Rich flavor.  Long acidic tannic finish.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Winesap Rosé (6.0% ABV) – I’ve tried multiple single varietals from Winesap apples, and multiple rosé ciders, but not this one.  Winesap Rosé is a single varietal from Winesap apples, and pink/rosé from being aged in red wine barrels.  It retails for around $11 / 500ml.  Semi-dry.  Watery.  Slightly fruity, with a hint of oak.  The carbonation was visible but not detectable.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  Quick finish.  I think this would appeal more to wine folks.  Like most of their ciders, the flavor was very mild.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Semi Sweet (6.5% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a very commonly found cider in Seattle, and retails for about $11 / four 16oz cans.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Fuller bodied.  Low acid.  Notes of apple juice, honey, and citrus.

Rambling Route (Yakima WA) Apple (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is made by Tieton, and retails for about $9 / four 16oz cans.  Higher carbonation.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Very similar to Seattle Cider, but slightly more apple-forward.  We were told these two ciders are so similar as they use the same dessert apple juice blend, same wine yeast, sugar for back-sweetening, etc.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) Revival (5.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This retails for about $15 / six 12oz bottles or $6 / 500ml bottle.  This is a very unique cider as it gets a lot of different flavors just from the use of multiple yeast strains, piloncillo sugar, and a secret ingredient which he told us but said I couldn’t write down.  It is made by mixing two batches of cider together.  One has yeast strain 1 and the sugar, and results in a high ABV.  The other has yeast strain 2, and results in a more typical ABV.  Then fresh juice is added, which is about 20% of the makeup.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Notes of apple juice, yeast, brown sugar, honey, and hints of tropical fruit.

Bull Run (Forest Grove OR) Bramble Berry (6.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This cider with marionberries, blackberries, and boysenberries retails for $8 / 500ml.  Semi-dry, with the berry more in the nose than the flavor, low acid, and hints of tannins from the berries.

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Cot in the Act (6.2% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal apricot cider (made using the whole fruit, not just juice) which retails for about $12.50 / six 12oz cans or $8 / 500ml.  Very strong apricot scent.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, juicy, notes of stone fruit, and flavorful.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) The Passion (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal cider made with Ecuadorian passion fruit juice, toasted coconut, and vanilla, and retails for about $14 / 500ml.  I had previously heard this described as a sour cider, but this bottle pour and my previous draft pour were both free from sourness, so I’m game to buy it sometime as I really enjoy the flavor.  Semi-sweet (his sweetest cider).  Tart.  High flavor intensity, with a strong passion fruit scent & flavor, with hints of vanilla & coconut.

My favorite ciders of those were from Liberty, 2 Towns, and Rev Nat’s.

Info from Rev Nat

  • We discussed some cider basics such as sweetness vs. acidity and the cidermaking process.  However, I was surprised that I don’t think the word “tannins” came up at all (although it was on the handout, which had one side of general cider info and one side with info about the 10 ciders), despite at least the Liberty and Wandering Aengus ciders being good examples.
  • Rev Nat’s has five cider bases, and two of them are the Cascadia green & blue cans
  • 2 Towns (another common Oregon cidery) is six times as large as Rev Nat’s (I assume in context of cider produced/year)
  • Rev Nat’s currently has 22 employees
  • Rev Nat’s will be moving into a new 25,000 sq ft cidery space, and will then convert their current 8,000 sq ft space into only a tap room, including food.  It doesn’t look like the news about this being finalized has been officially announced, but this article from last year mentioned the same info.
  • Profit margins are about the same for all cideries, so ciders that cost more do actually cost more to make.
  • Specific gravity is a way to measure the sweetness of a cider, using the weight of the cider compared to the weight of the same amount of water.  The interesting thing with SG however is that you can have a cider with a specific gravity lower than water, so that would say the cider was drier than water lol.
  • Single varietal ciders are apparently more of an American thing, due to our new experimental cider culture.  They are probably second most common in England.
  • Wine/champagne yeast is often used in cidermaking as it ferments cleanly at low temperatures, is easy to remove (it will clump at the bottom of the tank), and it is designed to not impact the flavor.
  • Rev Nat’s in contrast uses beer yeast, which is designed to impart flavor (we were told the yeast in beer is actually what has the most impact on a beer’s flavor, not the grains or hops).  I think this class did a good job showcasing Rev Nat’s ciders, as they were two of the 2-4 most flavorful ciders of the group of 10.
  • Nat said cider that is cloudy is more of a marketing gimmick, and cloudy ciders don’t really retain more flavor than the more commonly found filtered ones.  Cloudiness in a cider can be from suspended yeast, apple debris/pulp, or pectin (naturally in apples).  The first two can be filtered out, but not the last.  This really made me think, as I’ve had a number of ciders which were cloudy and very flavorful (Downeast comes to mind).  They did tend to be sweet and apple juice forward though, so its quite plausible they would have still tasted like that after filtering.  Also, I’ve never tried the same cider before and after filtering, which I think would be the real test.
  • Nat often does an expanded cider tasting class during Oregon Cider Week, which includes 30! ciders in 3 hours

After the Event

I forgot to snag a photo before the tasting, but I got one of the aftermath:

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After the event I looked around the Downtown Spirits shop and was excited to find an entire shelf of cider that was 50% off – Alpenfire, Eden, Eric Bordelet, Slyboro, etc.  Its sad, but the high end and/or imported ciders just don’t sell very quickly.  I’ve heard from several shops that they won’t be re-stocking those sorts of items.  It has got more difficult for me to get imports especially.  I hadn’t planned to pick up any cider as my cabinet is full, but I picked up six bottles of high end ciders for under $50, as it was too good of a deal to pass up.  Very cool!

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Wandering Aengus Bloom

Review of Wandering Aengus Bloom.  I tried this awhile back, pre-blog.  I’ve also previously tried their Wickson, WanderlustOaked Dry, Byrd, Golden Russet, Bittersweet, Wickson Barrel Aged, Cellar Door, and Pommeau.

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Cider:  Bloom
Cidery:  Wandering Aengus
Cidery Location:  Salem Oregon
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from heirloom apples

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Availability:  CA, ID, IL, IN, MI, MT, NJ, NM, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WA D.C.

Cider Description:  Orchards: Hood River, OR Sweet and fruit forward “hints of tropical fruit” Pairings: Spicy food or on its own.

Cidery Description:  At Wandering Aengus Ciderworks we press and blend over 20 cider apple varietals to craft our ciders. Our cider specific apples originate from France, England, and pre-prohibition America, but are grown now in Oregon. These heirloom varieties are essential for the depth of flavor, excellent body, and delightful aromatics of our distinctive ciders. All our ciders are always GLUTEN FREE.

They have a tasting room in Salem Oregon open on Fridays.

Price:  ~$8.99
Where Bought:  I forgot
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried it previously

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild and apple-forward.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, peach, pineapple, green apple, and mineral.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  This is a tasty cider.  It is a nice introduction to craft cider as it is on the sweeter and easy drinking end (not sour or funky for example).  I liked the honey and fruit notes.

Most Similar to:  Bertolinos Hard Cider and Honeywood Hard Apple Cider

Closing Notes:  This is one of my favorite Wandering Aengus ciders, as it is more approachable and less bitter than many of their other ciders.  I’m also a big fan of their Bittersweet cider, and their Pommeau is also amazing.

Have you tried Wandering Aengus Bloom?  What did you think?

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?

Wandering Aengus Wanderlust

Review of Wandering Aengus’ Wanderlust.  I previously tried this at Port Townsend’s Summer Cider Day (see here), although I haven’t done a full review.  I’ve had a number of their other ciders (see here).

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Cider:  Wanderlust
Cidery:  Wandering Aengus
Cidery Location:  Salem OR
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  American craft cider from heirloom apples

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Availability:  At least in Oregon and Washington

Cider Description:  Wanderlust is a semi-dry cider with a rich body and a long spicy finish.  Enjoy slightly chilled with BBQ, pork, turkey, or aged cheddar.  2015 Oregon Harvest of Organically Grown Golden Russet (45%), Roxbury Russet (21%), Ashmead’s Kernel (16%), Ribston Pippin (12%), and Cox Orange Pippin (6%).  Bottled June 30, 2016.

Cidery Description:  At Wandering Aengus Ciderworks we press and blend over 20 cider apple varietals to craft our ciders. Our cider specific apples originate from France, England, and pre-prohibition America, but are grown now in Oregon. These heirloom varieties are essential for the depth of flavor, excellent body, and delightful aromatics of our distinctive ciders. All our ciders are always GLUTEN FREE.

They have a tasting room in Salem Oregon.

Price:  $4.75
Where Bought:  PCC (a local natural food store chain)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I remembered liking this at Port Townsend’s Summer Cider Day (see my tasting notes here), and for $4.75, I thought it was worth another try.  At my next trip to PCC I found their ciders were on sale for $4, so I picked up a bottle of Bloom, which I haven’t had in awhile.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells acidic, slightly tannic, and of citrus, honey, and oak.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Sharp flavor.  Notes of lemon, honey, green apple, mineral, and oak.  Moderate to long finish length.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it, but it was slightly more bitter, sharp, and acidic than I prefer.  However, it mellowed a bit as it warmed some from fridge temperature.  I have found all of the Wandering Aengus ciders I’ve tried so far to have more bitterness than other similar ciders.

Most Similar to:  Wandering Aengus Golden RussetDragon’s Head Columbia Crabapple, and Eve’s Beckhorn Hollow

Closing Notes:   I liked this better when I tried it at Summer Cider Day (where I picked up some bittersweet cider apple flavor, vs. this time there was more sharpness & acidity).  As its a relatively small batch craft product, I imagine it changes batch to batch and year to year.  However, it was still enjoyable and a good value.

Have you tried Wandering Aengus Wanderlust?  What did you think?

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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<Finnriver>

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<Eaglemount>

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<I agree with this sentiment!>

Schilling Cider House Visit 18 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my eighteenth 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 last Thursday, for the One Tree Crisp Apple cider release party, and enjoyed a flight of four ciders, plus One Tree’s new cider.

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<left to right: Portland Pineapple, Wandering Aengus Barrel Aged Wickson, Tieton Bourbon Peach, & Locust Sweet Aged Apple>

Portland Cider Company (Portland OR) Pineapple (5.7% ABV): This draft-only pineapple cider poured foamy but settled down after awhile.  This may be their “Maui Cruiser” variety, which also has coconut blossom nectar, as I couldn’t find any evidence that they have a strictly Pineapple cider.  Smells of fresh pineapples.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Low acidity.  The flavor is purely pineapple, with low flavor intensity.  I felt this cider smelled much better than it tasted…it left me wanting more flavor.  The pineapple aroma was so strong (especially in comparison to the cider’s flavor) that it makes me curious if it was added.

Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Barrel Aged Wickson (8.0% ABV): This is a barrel aged draft-only version of their single varietal Wickson crab apple cider, which is available in bottles (which I tried previously and found overly harsh).  Smells mild, with hints of crab apples and oak.  Dry.  Low flavor intensity.  The barrel aging seemed to mellow the cider’s intensity compared to the original version.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Alcohol-forward with crab apple sharpness, oak, and honey notes.  This is best drank cold as it becomes more harsh as it warms up.  I found this more drinkable than the original version, but I still didn’t care for it.

Tieton (Yakima WA) Bourbon Peach (6.5% ABV): A draft-only bourbon barrel aged peach cider.  Hazy lemonade hue.  Smells of bourbon, peaches, and pineapple.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Hints of boozy bourbon (but not overpowering) and peach & pineapple notes.  Yum!  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low apple flavor.  Medium to high sessionability.  I’m a fan of bourbon barrel aged ciders, but often they tend towards being overly boozy, harsh, dry, etc…this one was tasty and easy to drink.

Locust (Woodinville WA) Sweet Aged Apple (6.9% ABV): This is a barrel aged cider made from dessert apple varieties which is available on draft and in bottles.  I’ve tried this previously (when it was called Aged Washington Dessert Apple; see here), but had heard they significantly changed the recipe, so I wanted to give it another try.  Last time it was quite hazy and unfiltered looking, but this time there was no haziness.  Smells mild and apple-forward.  Semi-sweet (less sweet than the previous recipe).  Less flavorful than the previous recipe, but much more sessionable.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Caramel, vanilla, and honey notes.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  I’m not sure which recipe I preferred, as there are pros & cons of each, but I enjoyed both versions.

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<One Tree Crisp Apple>

One Tree Hard Cider (Spokane WA) Crisp Apple (6.8% ABV): This is their new flagship cider, sold in four packs of 16oz cans and on draft.  Hazy.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Unfiltered baked apple flavor with honey notes.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  High sessionability.  Strong apple flavor.  I enjoyed this.  I found it very similar to 2 Towns Out Cider, but slightly sweeter and slightly more flavorful.  Much less sweet than any of the other ciders I’ve tried from them.

The Tieton Bourbon Peach cider was my favorite, and my favorite cider from Tieton so far.

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

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.