Far West Orchard Blend No. 1

Review of Far West Cider’s Orchard Blend No. 1.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their San Joaquin Sparkler.

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Cider:  Orchard Blend No. 1
Cidery:  Far West Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Richmond CA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples

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Availability:  mostly only in Northern California (see here), plus online sales

Cider Description:  This cider uses a combination of GoldRush, Cripps Pink and Granny Smith apples grown on Chinchiolo Family Farms. It is fermented with Champagne yeast at very low temperatures and aged to develop more complexity than your typical cider. Fruit-forward, sparkling, and just barely semi-sweet with great acid balance, this cider pairs nicely with warm patios, fancy brunches, funky tunes and pork.

Cidery Description:  Californian ciders from a 4th generation family farm in San Joaquin County.

They have a taproom in Richmond CA.

Price:  $11.99 (although its $11 at their online store)
Where Bought:  Village Market in the ferry building in San Francisco CA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  on a cruise port stop

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild, tart.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of green apple, citrus, and pineapple.  Long tart finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor, complexity, and overall flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  Tasty and easy to drink.  Overall this would probably have wide appeal.

Most Similar to:  Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet and Scandinavian Green Apple Craft Cider

Closing Notes:  I thought it was a bit spendy for being a typical craft cider from dessert apples, like you’d often find in a 4 or 6 pack for this price.

Have you tried Far West Cider Orchard Blend No. 1?  What did you think?

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Kite & String Honeoye

Review of Kite & String’s Honeoye.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’ve had their Baldwin.

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Cider:  Honeoye
Cidery:  Kite & String
Cidery Location:  Interlaken, New York
ABV:  6.3%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider, semi-sweet to sweet (5.1% RS), sparkling, from Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, McIntosh, & Liberty apples

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Availability:  probably only in the Northeast, plus online sales

Cider Description:  A tribute to the sweetness of a fall apple harvest. Sharp and heirloom apples fermented to dryness, balanced with a sweet reserve of high Brix fresh juice, cold concentrated on the farm to 29 Brix through cryo-extraction.  Semi-sweet. Sparkling. Aromatics of fresh baked apple and summer honey. Boldly fruit forward yet balanced with bright acidity and a rich juicy finish.

Cidery Description:  ‘Kite’ means light, playful, balanced, fun. ‘String’ means grounded to a place, our small farm.  Kite & String Ciders are produced at Finger Lakes Cider House on our organic and diversified farm in Interlaken, New York. Please come and visit us in the tasting room any time of the year.

Price:  $16
Where Bought:  their website
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard they were doing free shipping for the holidays, and I’ve always read good things about their ciders, so it was an easy choice to place an order.  Plus, they have a nice wide selection for all tastes.  I also picked up their Baldwin and Royal Cider.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Smells mild and sweet.  Low carbonation.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of honey, sweet apple, and tropical fruit.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate to high overall flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it – very honey-forward for not having honey added (which would be a cyser).  However, it was right on the edge of being too sweet for my liking.  For many it might be better as a dessert cider and/or something to share, but I drank it all myself.  Its a fairly simple cider as far as heritage ciders go, and with its qualities and sweetness, it would make a great introductory cider for folks new to heritage cider.

Most Similar to:  cyser, although most of those are much higher ABV, so I’d say Bertilinos and Austin Eastciders Texas Honey

Closing Notes:  I like seeing sweeter heritage cider options, as I prefer semi-dry to semi-sweet, and the majority seem to be dry.

Have you tried Kite & String Honeoye?  What did you think?

Whitewood Jonathan

Review of Whitewood Cider’s Jonathan.  I previously tried this on draft (see here).  Plus I’ve had their Summer SwitchelKingston Black Whisky Barrel AgedRed CapGravenstein Old Fangled Series 2012 HarvestGravenstein Old Fangled Series Barrel AgedNorthlandWinesapGibb’s FarmNewtown Pippin, and South Sounder.

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Cider:  Old Fangled Series, Jonathan (2015 harvest)
Cidery:  Whitewood Cider
Cidery Location:  Olympia WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft heritage cider from Jonathan apples, sugar added, medium dry

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Availability:  only in Washington – see here

Cider Description:  Jonathan is an early American variety and dates back to the early 1800’s. Whitewood’s Single Varietal Jonathan Cider starts out full up front good acid backbone followed by scant traces of a caramel/butterscotch flavors, and finishes clean with notes of, sour orange, meyer lemon, and citrus flavors. 

Cidery Description:  Whitewood Cider is the South Puget Sound’s first craft cidery. Officially we are a nano cider and can be hard to locate. Fear not as you’ll be able to find us at the finest bottles shops as well pubs and and restaurants that are the most dedicated to locally made craft cider.

They have a tasting room in Olympia; see here.

Price:  ~ $15 ?
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of juicy apple and lemon with hints of honey and tropical fruit.  Quick finish.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it, and so did my husband.  Super easy to drink and apple-forward, yet it had a bit of complexity – you can tell it is heritage craft cider.

Most Similar to:  a more complex and sessionable version of Portland Cider Perfect 10

Closing Notes:  This would make a great introductory craft cider, plus I’d like to see it in a multipack.

Have you tried Whitewood Jonathan?  What did you think?

Dragon’s Head Summer Cider

Review of Dragon’s Head Summer Cider.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their Traditional CiderWild FermentedKingston BlackColumbia CrabMethode Champenoise PerryPerry, and Manchurian.

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Cider:  Summer Cider
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon WA
ABV:  7.3%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft heritage cider from cider apples

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Availability:  probably only in Western Washington

Cider Description:  not given

Cidery Description: At Dragon’s Head Cider, we believe in producing high quality hard ciders with a traditional approach, which means you will never find us using apple juice concentrate, over sweetening our ciders, or adding other flavors to our ciders. We love the story that apples and pears can tell all by themselves. And so we keep it simple. Press high quality apples and pears, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle.  We believe one of the keys to creating great cider is to have control over the entire process. For this reason, we do the pressing, fermentation, blending and bottling all right here on the farm.

Wes and Laura Cherry moved to Vashon Island in 2010 with the dream of planting an orchard and starting a cidery. Dragon’s Head Farm, named for the dragon who guards the apples of immortality in the Garden of Hesperides, is now home to over 2,200 cider fruit trees as well as our production facility.

They have a tasting room on Vashon Island open Saturdays and Sundays.

Price:  ~ $18 ?
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells dry, acidic, and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate tannins.  Hints of sourness and bitterness.  No funk.  Notes of sharp apple, honey, pineapple, and floral.  Long tannic finish.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and apple flavor.  Moderate complexity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  It had a non-descript fruitiness that was nice, and it wasn’t too acidic.  However, its not a favorite of mine.

Most Similar to:  nothing specifically, although in general it is pretty typical of a complex heritage cider

Closing Notes:  My favorite from Dragon’s Head is their Traditional, plus their Perry and Kingston Black.

Have you tried Dragon’s Head cider?  What did you think?

Nomad Cider The Original

Review of Nomad Cider’s The Original.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

Cider:  The Original
Cidery:  Nomad Cider
Cidery Location:  Summerland, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  473ml cans
Style:  Canadian craft cider from dessert & heritage apples

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Availability:  probably only in B.C. Canada (see here)

Cider Description:  Crafted with care using local, fresh-pressed heritage cider and dessert apples. An honest Okanagan-Similkameen expression with it’s crisp and refreshing fruit forward apple aroma and palate. Primarily fermented with natural wild yeast.

Cidery Description:  We are nomads, endlessly exploring food, drink and culture. Our thirst for knowledge and new experiences continually inspire us to create great tasting regional centric ciders.  We are a farm-to-glass Summerland, BC craft cidery passionate about making cider the way it was traditionally crafted; by hand with only fresh pressed apples and pears.  We are devoted to producing exceptional cider made only from local apples and pears grown by us and our dedicated farming partners in the Okanagan-Similkameen region of BC.  Our focus is to be nomadic in global cider culture by stylistically representing cider regions from around the world.

Price:  ~ $3-4 canadian / 1 can?
Where Bought:  some bottle shop in downtown Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  We were on a cruise port stop and visited a number of bottle shops while walking around downtown.

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First Impression:  Low carbonation.  Light straw yellow.  Smells of sharp dry apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apple, lemon, and a hint of pineapple, with a bit of a chemical-like taste mid-sip.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  meh.  This was plenty drinkable, but I didn’t really enjoy it.  The non-specific chemical-like taste was off-putting.  Maybe its from the wild fermentation?  It didn’t have that funky and sour sort of flavor I’d expect though.  In contrast it was very undrinkable for my husband.

Most Similar to:  Dominion Magic Hour

Closing Notes:  There is also an unrelated Nomad Cidery in Michigan in the U.S.

Have you tried British Columbia Canadian cider?  What did you think?

Kite & String Baldwin Cider

Review of Finger Lakes Cider House’s Kite & String (formerly Good Life Cider) Baldwin.  This is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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Cider:  Baldwin
Cidery:  Kite & String
Cidery Location:  Interlaken, New York
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft heritage cider from Baldwin & Wickson crabapples, semi-dry, traditional method (methode champenoise)

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Availability:  likely only in the Northeast, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Made from Baldwin apples, with a modest addition of Wickson Crab, this blend highlights the bright tropical notes and intense acidity of these varieties. The high alcohol and robust flavor come from the cryoextraction process (similar to Ice Cider) used to concentrate this juice to 20 brix prior to fermentation. It is then fermented slowly to retain maximum esters and polyphenols, and aged for only a short time to best showcase its fresh and bright, fruit-forward nature.

Semi Dry, Traditional Method.  Pineapple, lime, and Riesling on the nose. Bursting with bright, tropical fruitiness and slight perceptive sweetness on the front palate, moving to thirst quenching mid palate and bracing acidity with a dry, weighty finish.

Cidery Description:  ‘Kite’ means light, playful, balanced, fun. ‘String’ means grounded to a place, our small farm.  Kite & String Ciders are produced at Finger Lakes Cider House on our organic and diversified farm in Interlaken, New York. Please come and visit us in the tasting room any time of the year.

Price:  $18
Where Bought:  online
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard they were doing free shipping for the holidays, and I’ve always read good things about their ciders, so it was an easy choice to place an order.  Plus, they have a nice wide selection for all tastes (although it looks like they sold out of this variety since I purchased it).  I also picked up their Honeoye and Royal Cider.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Moderate to high carbonation.  Smells of sharp apples and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness and acidity.  Low tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apple, lemon, grapefruit, mineral, and hints of floral.  Long tart warming finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and sessionability.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t super into this cider.  I thought the acidity, carbonation, and ABV overpowered the fruitiness, and it was mouth-puckering tart for my tastes.  Actually it tasted more like champagne than cider.  However, my husband loved it.  If you are into drier, super tart, highly carbonated champagne-alternative ciders, I’d recommend it.  I tried this at multiple temperatures and seemed to like it closer to room temperature to tone down the tartness some.

Most Similar to:  Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut cider

Closing Notes:  Despite being too tart for my liking, this was a great New Year’s Eve selection, as it is bubbly, and with a higher ABV, one bottle lasted all night.  I bet any leftovers would make good mimosas too, although we didn’t have any left…

Have you tried Kite & String cider?  What did you think?

Red Branch Hard Black Cherry

Review of Red Branch Hard Black Cherry cider.  It is my first time trying this, although I have had their Peach cider.

Cider:  Hard Black Cherry
Cidery:  Red Branch
Cidery Location:  Sunnyvale CA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with honey, sugar, and cherry

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Availability:  likely only in Northern California, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Our most popular cider, our Black Cherry is the perfect balance between sweet and tart and delicious. When we made the first batch we didn’t know what to think – now we can’t make enough of the stuff. Be a hero, bring this to the next party you attend. Trust us!

Cidery Description:  We believe that producing a quality hard cider of any variety is 90% art and 10% science. Toss in a bit of sweat and heartburn for good measure and you’ll have a typical small cidery. Crafting cider is a lot like crafting many other beverages, and our love of quality ingredients drives us to produce more than just an average cider, but what we believe, is the finest cider possible. Our passion is to create something special from one of the most natural substances on earth, and share it with everyone.

Quality and consistency are the most important aspects of our products, if they aren’t good enough for us to drink or offer to our own friends and family, then we won’t sell it to you!  Red Branch Cider Company offers both traditional and seasonal ciders with an innovative honey twist.

They were established in 1995 and have a tap room in Sunnyvale CA.

Price:  ~ $7-8 / bottle
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  at my in-laws
How Found:  I got this as a Christmas gift

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First Impression:  Smells of fake cherry flavor.  Medium cherry red hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of fake cherry flavor with a hint of cranberry.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I didn’t like this, and neither did any of the other folks I shared it with.  The cherry flavor was too artificial / cough-syrup-like.  It was borderline undrinkable for me.

Most Similar to:  Wards and Strongbow cherry ciders, both of which also had a similar medicinal cherry flavor

Closing Notes:  I’m surprised this is their most popular, as no one I tasted it with enjoyed it.  I think cherry ciders are one of the more difficult flavors to pull off.  However, I didn’t really like Red Branch’s peach cider either, so maybe their cidermaking style just isn’t for me.  That is ok though, as everyone won’t like every cider.

Have you tried Red Branch cider?  What did you think?