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.

Woodchuck Summer Time

This is a perfect cider for summer, and one of my favorites.

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Cider:  Summer Time
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles (also available in cans, although more difficult to find)
Availability:  Spring/Summer (approx. March-July)

Description on Bottle:  The sounds of the lapping lake-shores, the mountain views, and memories of fresh picked blueberries, now in a convenient six-pack. Exhibiting a slight tartness, this cider begins with a full, robust flavor followed by a rich summertime taste.

Price:  $7.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I think I originally found this just by browsing.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  Yummy blueberry refreshing sweetness.  This is one of Woodchuck’s sweetest ciders.  I pick up more than “a hint of blueberry” as they say, but I like it.  It is part of Woodchuck’s seasonal line of ciders, which currently include Summer Time, Fall Harvest, and Winter Chill (now that they aren’t releasing the Spring one).  This is one of those ciders I like better out of the bottle than a glass.  I’ve also had it from a can twice, and the second time was better as it had been on ice instead of just in the fridge, although from a bottle is still better.  I recommend it for anyone who likes sweet ciders, as long as they like blueberries.  I’ll probably have to stock up a bit on this one, although it is available 5 months a year now they only have three seasonal releases.

Woodchuck Winter Chill

This is probably my favorite cider, especially for the price.  Not too many barrel aged ciders are available in affordable six packs (most are expensive single larger bottles).  I like this stuff so much I bought six 6 packs to try to tide me over for the year, since it is a seasonal release.

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Cider:  Winter Chill
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  Winter (approx. Nov-Feb)

Description on Bottle:  The chill of winter sends some running for the mountains, while others prefer to stay cozy in the comfort of the great indoors. Whichever way you enjoy winter, this cider is built to get you through. Aged in premium french and traditional american oak, Winter Chill brings a rich depth of apple flavor with hints of vanilla and Oak throughout.

Price:  $7.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I think I originally found this just by browsing.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This is some really tasty stuff.  It is one of Woodchuck’s more dry offerings, but definitely still on the sweeter side.  I definitely pick up the vanilla & oak flavors, and can tell it is barrel aged.  It is very easy to drink, and although it is more of a wintery cider, I like it year round.  I sure wish it was available year-round.  To me this cider is a very good value, as typically barrel aged ciders start at a higher price point (as they are typically from craft cideries).  I definitely did some stocking up this winter between Woodchuck Winter Chill & Barrel Select.  It is part of Woodchuck’s seasonal line of ciders, which currently include Summer Time, Fall Harvest, and Winter Chill (now that they aren’t releasing the Spring one).  When I went to the Woodchuck cidery I got to see the giant stack of barrels which held the aging cider.  Apparently this flavor has been available since 2008.  I highly recommend it!  Its a good intro to barrel aged ciders, as it isn’t as strong of a barrel aged flavor (I’d guess it is aged less than some of the others).

Woodchuck Pink

This is a cider I’ve had a few times, and although I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, it is quite good.

Pink-6Pack

Cider:  Private Reserve Pink
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV: 5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  Spring/Summer (approx. March-July)

Description on Bottle:  Reclaiming your life after cancer is a challenge. We want to help survivors meet that challenge. Woodchuck Pink was crafted to honor that effort. The Cidery’s donation supports Dragonheart’s Survivorship NOW mission which offers programs to help cancer survivors. Delicate in body yet full of crisp apple taste. Raise a bottle to all survivors and join us in helping them live a better life.

Price:  $8.99 / six bottles
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: I read about this online and started to look out for it in Spring 2014, as I try just about every Woodchuck flavor, since I always seem to like their ciders.  I bought some again this Springtime.  Unfortunately they no longer offer the Spring seasonal flavor, which was quite good, and had a maple & brown sugar flavor which reminded me of Vermont.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This cider has a fruity (berry) sweet sparkling wine type flavor.  It gets its pink hue from purple grape skins.  This is a nice choice for Spring & Summer, and has a light flavor.  It is surprisingly non-boozey.  I pick up more carbonation than usual in this variety.  This cider tastes better to me out of the bottle (vs. some of the stronger barrel aged type ciders which I find better out of a glass).  I also tried it on draft/tap once (at Ciderbration), and unlike many ciders, and oddly enough I didn’t notice much of a difference (often cider, like beer, tastes better on draft/tap).  Pink is part of Woodchuck’s Private Reserve Line, which currently has three seasonal releases (Pink, Pumpkin, & Barrel Select).  They recently cut out the fourth one, Belgian White.  Of the Private Reserve flavors, Barrel Select is my favorite.  Pink supports the Dragonheart Vermont Survivorship NOW initiative for breast cancer.  This variety has been available seasonally since 2013.

Have you tried Pink?  What did you think?

Crispin Venus Reigns

I drank this interesting cider two weeks ago:

crispin-venvs

Cider:  Venus Reigns
Cidery:  Crispin
Cidery Location:  Colfax CA
ABV: 6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz brown glass bottle

Description on Bottle:  The gift of the Golden Pear. To distract the gods while he stole fire for mortal man, Prometheus threw a Golden Pear into the courtyard of Olympus with the inscription, “For the most beautiful goddess”. This coveted pear was awarded to Venus, goddess of love, sensuality, and beauty. A goddess of nature, revered at springtime, the bringer of joy to gods and mortals. Venus Reigns caresses your lips with purity and charm. A soaring achievement of elegance and simplicity. Colfax golden pear wine aged to full maturity in specially selected red wine casks, finished with a gentle kiss of honey. Before pouring, give a solid bottoms-up tilt and swirl to disperse sediment evenly and best enjoy the complex aroma and bouquet. Best enjoyed at cellar temperature, 50/55F. With or without 1or 2 ice cubes.

Price:  about $9
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: Hubby actually found this at the supermarket and texted to ask if I wanted it, but I said no because I don’t like red wine.  I’m surprised it was there as this is a limited release.  Later in the week we were browsing Total Wine and I saw it, did some research on my phone about the flavor profile, and thought, why not?
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This is the first barrel-aged pear cider I’ve seen, as well as the first wine barrel aged cider I’ve seen.  Quite the interesting combination.  Even though I don’t like red wine, I pushed myself to try it, as it sounded really interesting.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed it.  I really didn’t pick up too much wine flavor, although my wine drinking hubby did.  It did however have a considerable amount of sediment from the wine.  I think a lot of what we pick up in cider flavors is a matter of perception.  I was surprised to read this was aged 26 months–wow!

I picked up a lot of fruit/berry flavor, and could taste that it was a perry (pear cider) and was barrel aged (although I wouldn’t have guessed for so long).  I’d recommend it for wine lovers and folks just wanting something different.  As with many of these special release ciders, I’m glad I tried it, but don’t see a reason to buy it again.  I’ve had quite a number of other Crispin ciders, including their regular release Original, Pear, & Blackberry Pear, and special releases such as Honeycrisp, Bohemian, The Saint, & Steeltown.

Methow Valley Honey Bear

And for my first review (drumroll please!), a lovely little cider I tried last night:

honey bear

Cider:  Honey Bear
Cidery:  Methow Valley Ciderhouse
Cidery Location:  Winthrop WA
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  750 ml (25.4 oz) clear glass bottle with a resealable top

Description on Bottle:  Honey Bear Hard Cider is a sweet, carbonated, refreshing cider with no hint of bitterness.  Honey Bear is wonderful after an active day of hiking or biking – a perfect compliment to a summer day.  Store in a cool dark place and serve chilled.

Price:  about $15 (although apparently you can return the empty bottle to the cidery for a $0.75 refund lol)
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA (awesome bottle shop & bar by the way)
How Found:  lucky enough to stumble across it (had wanted to try some since reading about it at the Bad Rider cider & beer blog)
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  Tasted like honey, and in a good way!  This was a yummy cider, especially suited to summer.  It was very smooth and easy to drink, and I unfortunately finished off the bottle by myself over the course of the night.  It was quite sweet (more of a dessert cider probably), but not in a gross syrupy sweet way.  The flavor profile was pretty complex.  Maybe it is just the sweetness, but it reminds me of ice cider (a sweeter variety of hard cider where they use frozen juice, although it typically has a higher alcohol content than this did).  Overall, if you like sweet ciders, I’d recommend trying it.  I feel lucky to even have found it, as apparently it doesn’t have a wide distribution net (definitely not outside of WA).  Other offerings from the Methow Valley Ciderhouse include Pinnacle Goat (ginger infused), Howling Wolf (hopped), and Eagle Screechin’ Scrumpy (English-style Scrumpy).

Hard Cider, a Recently-Realized Hobby

I’ve come to realize that sampling hard cider has become quite a hobby for me, and my husband has been suggesting I start a blog.  So, even if only to make a record of what ciders I’ve tried, I’m going for it.  Here is a bit about me, this blog, etc.

Name:  Kate
Location:  near Seattle, WA
Age:  30ish
Occupation:  engineer
Status:  married (very happily)
Pets:  one tortoise

First cider I tried:  Woodchuck Amber, around Dec 2013

Favorite types of ciders:  on the sweeter side of the spectrum, barrel aged, unique, local

Some of my favorite ciders:  Woodchuck Winter Chill, Spire Mountain Dark & Dry, Thistly Cross Whisky Cask, Reverend Nat’s Revival, Alpenfire Spark

Some of my least favorite ciders:  Strongbow, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Sonoma Cider The Washboard (the only literally undrinkable cider to date, although strangely enough my hubby loved it), Square Mile Cider Original Apple (maybe I got a bad batch, but it tasted like it had literally gone bad)

What I like about hard cider:  Its yummy, plain and simple!  I’ve never liked beer & wine, so cider is a great alternative.  There is so much variety & complexity as well.  Its fun to try new ciders, or old favorites.  I like that it is becoming more popular.  There are some really great products even in my own backyard (well, maybe not that close, but in my state at least).  Its pretty affordable, especially considering how much more they charge for many wines, when it isn’t all that different (fermented apple juice vs. grape juice).  I really enjoy trying new ciders, even if I’m not sure it’ll be quite up my alley and they are on the pricey side, just for the point of trying them.

One of my favorite cider experiences:  Winning a contest put on by Woodchuck to go to the grand opening of their new cidery (Ciderbration 2014).  It was an awesome VIP weekend in Middlebury VT.

Review style:  Simple.  I’m not into the fru fru reviews which discuss the hue, aroma, level of carbonation, food pairings, etc.  You either like a cider or you don’t.  Who cares about all that fancy stuff?

Blog name inspiration:  If the cider could speak, what would it say?