Aspall Perronelle’s Blush

Review of Aspall Perronelle’s Blush, an English cider with blackberry juice.  I tried this previously at Cider Summit Seattle 2016, but this is a full review of a bottle.  I’ve tried a few Aspall varieties, every one that I have seen locally – DryJohn BarringtonImperial (black label), Demi SecImperial (blue label), and Grand Cru.

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Cider:  Perronelle’s Blush
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk, England
ABV:  5.7%
How Supplied:  500ml tall bottle
Style:  commercial English cider with blackberry juice

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Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  Perronelle’s Blush Suffolk Cyder is inspired by our Grandmother Perronelle, who loved foraging for blackberries in the hedgerows around the orchards at Aspall.  Taste Descriptor:  Attractive apple and blackberry define a sweetish palate, with good acid balance and a long soft fruit finish.  Serving Suggestion:  Wonderful with duck & hoisin sauce, and sharp fruit-based puddings such as tarte au citron and gooseberry fool.  Apple Variety:  Bittersweet, Culinary & Dessert.

Their website lists this at 4% ABV, while the bottle says 5.7%, so they may have both local and for export only versions, or they changed the recipe at some point.

Cidery Description:  Our family cyder-making business was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family.

Price:  $4.99 (on sale from $6.99 – I’m guessing they are clearing out inventory to discontinue selling it)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I originally tried this at Cider Summit Seattle; this time I was just browsing

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First Impression:  Purple-red hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells mild, of berries.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of raspberry, blackberry, green apple, and lemon.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it – nice balanced berry flavor and a perfect level of sweetness for my tastes.  However, there was no noticeable English cider characteristics; I would have guessed this was a U.S. cider from dessert apples.  However, at the price point and for the style (flavored), I didn’t mind.

Most Similar to:  A U.S. made craft cider from dessert apples with berries or berry juice added.

Closing Notes:  My favorite Aspall by far is the black label Imperial, but they appear to have replaced that with the blue label Imperial.  I think they are all pretty tasty though, an entry level English cider (not as tannic or funky as many, so well suited to those not yet familiar with the style).

Have you tried Aspall cider?  What did you think?

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Aspall Dry

Review of Aspall’s Dry cider.  I tried this awhile ago, but at an event (this is the first bottle I’ve bought).  I’ve also previously sampled their John Barrington, Imperial (black label), Demi Sec, Imperial (blue label), Grand Cru, and Perronelle’s Blush.

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Cider:  Dry
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  Semi wide release (through Artisanal Imports)

Cider Description:  Mid straw-gold colour. Clean, light floral aroma of dessert apples. Dry, round and creamy on the palate with medium fullness. Good acid balance, pleasant soft tannins and elegant, long finish. A highly versatile partner for all kinds of food, for example charcuterie, sweet & spicy, and a variety of cheeses.

Apple Varieties:  50% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Early Windsor, Royal Gala, Katy), 35% Sharp (Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston)

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  $8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried Aspall (this one) at the Seattle International Beerfest in 2015, one of the first events I blogged (see here).

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells rich and tannic.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and tannins.  Low bitterness.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, lemon, and herbs.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor, and complexity.

My Opinion:  This isn’t my favorite Aspall, but it is a very solid selection and a great value.  I haven’t disliked anything I’ve tried from them so far.  I like slightly sweeter than this however as I find them more flavorful.

Most Similar to:  Other Aspall ciders (although this is their driest selection in the U.S. at least), Dunkertons Dry, and Crispin Browns Lane

Closing Notes:  I think there are still some Aspall varieties left for me to try.  The biggest disappointment is that they appear to have stopped selling the black label Imperial cider in the U.S., and now only have the blue label one (which is still great, but I liked the black label one better).

Have you tried Aspall English cider?  What did you think?

Aspall Grand Cru

Review of Aspall’s Grand Cru cider, from England.  I’ve also tried a number of their other varieties.

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Cider:  Grand Cru
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml tall black bottle
Style:  English cider made from sweet, sharp, and bittersweet apple varieties

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Availability:  Semi wide release (through Artisanal Imports)

Cider Description:  Rich, golden colour. Traditional bittersweet cyder-apple aroma with orchard fruit and floral notes. Palate initially slightly sweet, then mouth- filling and full bodied. Complex array of fruit flavours balanced by gorgeous soft tannins, producing a bone dry finish. Very long aftertaste, a true sign of a classic cyder of the highest quality. An ideal partner for highly flavoured meat dishes, especially duck confit and exotic food from Asia and North African with a hint of sweetness.

Apple Varieties: 40% Sweet (Discovery, Worcester Pearmain, & Chivers Deligh), 25% Sharp (Bramley Seedling, Grenadier, & Lord Darby), and 35% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, & Kingston)

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  $7.00
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m a big fan of Aspall, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Pale amber hue.  Low carbonation with some foam upon pouring.  Smells of apple juice, yeast, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Rich flavor.  Notes of granny smith apple skin, apple juice, yeast, honey, floral, stone fruit, mineral, and pineapple. Long strong finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate to strong flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  Yum!  Aspall hasn’t disappointed me yet.  I love the richness and tannins, and the extra sweetness, tartness, and flavor notes add some uniqueness.

Most Similar to:  This seems like a combination of English, French, and American cider…it has the tannins of an English cider, some yeastiness & additional carbonation of a French cider, and the sweetness & tartness of an American cider.  Its flavor is unique and I can’t really name any similar ciders.

Closing Notes:   This cider is quite enjoyable and an exceptional value too.  I look forward to continuing to try every Aspall variety I can find.  My favorite remains the Imperial (black label), although it seems they have may have replaced it with the blue label version.

Have you tried Aspall Grand Cru?  What did you think?

Aspall Imperial English Cider (Blue Label)

Review of Aspall’s Imperial English Cider.  This time I tried the blue labeled version of their Imperial cider, having previously tried the black labeled version.  I’ve also tried a number of their other varieties.

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Cider:  Imperial English Cider
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English Imperial

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Availability:  Semi wide release.

Cider Description:  We called this cyder Imperial in honour of our great grandfather JB Chevallier’s success at the Imperial Fruit Show in 1921. Every year we craft a special vintage. This is our 285th….Rich fudgy, tantalising flavour enhanced by bitter-sweet apples from a single year’s crop. Notes of raisins, dates and prunes. Sweet mellow finish.

Apple Composition:
Sweet (35%): Orange Cox Pippin, Royal Gala
Sharp (35%): Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder
Bittersweet (30%): Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston

Cidery Description:  Our family cyder-making business was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family….Aspall has been home to our family for nine generations. A tiny hamlet north of the small market town of Debenham in mid-Suffolk. It’s a rural and agricultural area characterised by the young river Deben flowing through our orchards.

Price:  ~$8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been curious for awhile if this was the same or different from the black labeled version of Imperial, and now I have my answer.

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First Impression:  Light copper orange amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of rich sweet bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, and melted butter.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild tannins, tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, orange, apple pomace, and yeast.  Moderate length warming finish with more alcohol burn than expected.  Strong apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Although I enjoyed this cider, I think it doesn’t even compare to their black label Imperial, which is one of my all time favorite ciders (and I believe an excellent value).

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as Aspall, Worley’s, and Sheppy’s, English-style ciders such as from Liberty Ciderworks (English Style and its barrel aged cousin, Stonewall) & Montana Ciderworks (Darby Pub), and ciders with significant bitterness / harshness.  The yeast-forward flavor actually reminds me of many French ciders.

Closing Notes:   I hope I can find the black label version of this cider again….so far my best guess is that this blue label version replaced it, as I haven’t seen it for awhile.  That would be unfortunate.

Have you tried Aspall cider?  What did you think?

Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider

Review of Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider.  I’m a huge fan of English cider, and of Aspall, and have tried a few of their other ciders (reviews & tasting notes here).

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Cider:  Demi Sec
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  English craft cider made from heirloom & cider apple varieties

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Availability:  Fairly wide release at specialty bottle shops in the U.S. (and Europe of course)

Cider Description:  Golden color, with ripe apple and honey-ish aromas. Lightly sweet with a pleasant balancing acidity giving way to a nice off-dry finish.

Apple Varieties:  65% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Egremont Russett, & Royal Gala), 25% Sharp (Bramley Seedling & Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, & Dabinett).

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  ~$8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been wanting to try more Aspall varieties, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow with some orange.  Low carbonation and moderate foam upon pouring.  Smells of mild apple, floral, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Low to moderate acidity.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or bitterness.  Notes of honey, citrus (including grapefruit), floral, and green apple.  Moderate length finish.  Moderately flavored.  Moderate apple influence.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tasty!  Its light and refreshing, although with more sweetness and less richness than I expected.  It doesn’t have many of the characteristics of traditional English cider.

Most Similar to:  I found this more similar to “American” ciders than English ciders.  The following have similar honey and floral notes:  Moonlight Meadery How Do You Like Them Little Apples (except it is sweeter and barrel aged), Finnriver Honey Meadow (except it has chamomile and lemon balm), and EZ Orchards Hawk Haus (except it is much drier).

Closing Notes:   This was definitely enjoyable, but not what I was expecting.  My favorite from Aspall remains their Imperial (black label…not sure if it differs from the blue labeled bottles).

Have you tried Aspall Demi Sec?  What did you think?

Aspall English Imperial Cider (Black Label)

Review of Aspall’s English Imperial Cider.  I’ve previously had their Dry and John Barrington varieties, which are impressive.  Aspall has got to be one of the oldest cideries out there, founded in 1728!  Aren’t their tall bottles awesomely distinctive?  Note that it appears this cider has since been switched to a light blue label (similar description and same ABV), but I don’t have confirmation.

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Cider:  Imperial
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  Semi-wide release.  If you can’t find it locally, you can actually get it for $7 from ShipCider.com, which ships to a number of states.  Shipping can be spendy, but their cider prices are the lowest I’ve seen, so overall its not too bad, especially considering you can pick up ciders you normally don’t have access to.

Cider Description:  We called this cyder Imperial in honour of our great grandfather JB Chevallier’s success at the Imperial Fruit Show in 1921. Every year we craft a special vintage. This is our 285th….Rich fudgy, tantalising flavour enhanced by bitter-sweet apples from a single year’s crop. Notes of raisins, dates and prunes. Sweet mellow finish.

Apple Composition:
Sweet (35%): Orange Cox Pippin, Royal Gala
Sharp (35%): Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder
Bittersweet (30%): Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston

Cidery Description:  Our family cyder-making business was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family….Aspall has been home to our family for nine generations. A tiny hamlet north of the small market town of Debenham in mid-Suffolk. It’s a rural and agricultural area characterised by the young river Deben flowing through our orchards.

Price:  $8?
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Rich amber.  No carbonation except for a few bubbles on the border of the glass.  Smells like rich ripe apples, tannins, oak, earth, and a hint of spice and honey.

Opinion:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Lovely rich full-flavored English cider.  Warming from the slightly higher ABV, but doesn’t taste boozy.  Moderate tannins.  No to low bitterness and tartness,  Low acidity.  No sourness or funk.  Medium bodied.  Medium length finish.  Still (no carbonation).  Tastes oaky (but isn’t barrel aged as far as I know) and has some caramelized sugar notes.  I particularly enjoyed the lack of bitterness and that the level of tannins was noticeable but not extreme.  I can definitely taste the bittersweet apple character.  From their website I also learned they use champagne yeast on all their ciders.  I found this cider’s taste didn’t too significantly change as it warmed up, so I’d recommend anywhere between fridge and room temperature, based on your preference.  My go-to cider pairing is pretzel bread, and it didn’t disappoint!

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as Aspall, Worley’s, and Sheppy’s, English-style ciders such as from Liberty Ciderworks (English Style and its barrel aged cousin, Stonewall) & Montana Ciderworks (Darby Pub), and higher tannin ciders such as Cider Riot 1763, Alpenfire Ember, Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012, and Whitewood Kingston Black.

Closing Notes:   Awesome!  Probably easily in my top 10 favorite ciders, and my favorite Aspall variety so far (although their others are also awesome).  This cider is the epitome of my favorite qualities in a cider.  Its also a great value, at approximately the same cost as a lot of local craft ciders I see, many of which are made from dessert apples and have flavors added (fruit, hops, spices, etc), when this is imported and contains some cider apple juice.  Aspall makes some amazing ciders, and I look forward to trying more.  Their website it super informative on their history, cidermaking, and more, so check it out.  I highly recommend their ciders!  That said, its all a matter of taste…if you prefer a lighter flavor and easy drinking / low ABV / sessionable cider, this isn’t it.

Have you tried Aspall Imperial?  What did you think?

Seattle International Beerfest 2015 Trip Report

What a lovely day to be outside drinking cider in Seattle!  Luckily we had some cloud cover and it cooled off from the high 80s we’ve had of late to the low 70s.

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Although this was obviously a beer event, they had 10 cider choices out of the approximately 200 selections.  This was a three day event and we thankfully had the foresight to get there not too long after they opened at noon on the first day (Friday).  Yay for an excuse to take off work!  As the day went on it got only more crowded, and I can only expect the same for the rest of the weekend.

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Fisher Plaza in Seattle Center near the International Fountain was a great venue choice.  The event was mostly outside on the lawn, but there was also an inside portion.  Inside even had real restrooms (although there were also port a potties outside).  Sadly they did not allow outside beverages, even sealed bottles of water, so we dumped them and eventually found the water bottle fill station by the restrooms (otherwise it was $1 or $2 from a food vendor).

They housed the bottled selections inside and all the taps outside.  Most taps were coolers with two taps per cooler.  There was some seating & shade thankfully, so the blanket I brought wasn’t necessary (although it would be when they were busy).  There were numbered Tables with four selections per Table, and the event program listed all the beer/cider details and location.  This was very very well organized, especially compared to many tasting events I’ve been to.  I imagine Saturday afternoon here will be a zoo though!

This is a dog friendly event and we saw many many dogs.  They even had water bowls out for them, which I’m sure was appreciated.  There were also games to check out, which appeared to also be appreciated.  We saw lots of people just hanging out listening to the live music.  Others were more obviously beer aficionados.  There was even a smoking tent which kept the smell contained, although the cigar area at the top of the hill allowed cigar smoke to waft down a bit.

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before the crowds…

This event was staffed by volunteers, who gave up three hours of their time to serve beer & cider in exchange for a free t-shirt and entry to the event.  Tastes of beer & cider (4oz) cost between 1 and 7 tickets each, depending on the product cost, with a ticket worth $1.  Most selections were 2-3 tickets, but there were plenty of 1 ticket and 4-7 ticket selections.  They also offered some pints for 3 tickets, including Crispin Blackberry Pear.  I would have loved to have the brewers and cider makers at this event, but alas it was focused more on quantity and supposedly international & rare finds, than connecting drinkers with makers.

Lots of yummy food choices, although I was really craving a soft pretzel or pizza or something.  BBQ, gyros, burgers, burritos, grilled cheese, hot dogs, etc.  I ended up with a hot dog while my two drinking companions (hubby & friend) had Gyros.  We later snacked on some kettle corn and even a weird buckwheat pancake with butter & sugar confection (Miri’s Poffers).  There were also a few non-food vendors, everything from engraved growlers to beer themed t-shirts to beef jerky.

And now, on to the cider tasting notes…I ended up trying six ciders, four of which I hadn’t tried before.

(1) Aspall Dry Cider (bottle, 6.8%, from England, 3 tickets).  Dry English draft style cider.  This was the surprising winner of the day!  I would call it semi-dry.  Very crisp & smooth with a traditional English cider taste.  I found it to be pretty similar to Crispin Browns Lane.  I plan to try another selection of theirs which is available near me (the only one), Aspall Blush cider.

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(2) Reverend Nat’s Hopland #5 / Envy (draft, 10.2%, from OR, 2 tickets).  Intensely hopped cider with 11 hops varieties.  I didn’t expect to like this as I don’t like hops, but thought I might as well try it.  It has an unfiltered look to it, a bit orange and hazy.  Very very hoppy, both smell & taste!  It was also a bit boozy, which is to be expected at over 10%.  I really couldn’t pick up anything in this besides hops.  My companions tried it and couldn’t even taste that it was cider.  This is definitely a beer drinker’s cider.  Unfortunately after a couple sips it got dumped out, as it wasn’t even drinkable for my two beer loving companions.

(3) Wyder’s Reposado Pear (draft, 6.9%, from VT, 1 ticket).  Tequila barrel aged pear cider.  I’ve had this at home a number of times and was curious if it would taste any different on tap than bottled.  Surprisingly, not.  If anything I didn’t like it as much on tap as it seemed to have less carbonation.  For me this cider starts off with pear and finishes with tequila.  Its smooth, and sweet to semi-sweet.  I think its quite tasty.

(4) Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider (bottle, 5%, from England, 2 tickets).  This was pretty unremarkable for me.  It had a definite sweet apple scent, but tasted semi-dry.  It had a very quick finish to it and was overall quite plain.  I think there is much better cider to be had for the cost.

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(5) Anthem “Raz & Boyz” (draft, unknown ABV but I’d guess 5-6%, from OR, 2 tickets).  This was Wandering Angus’ mystery cider selection, from their Anthem line.  I really don’t have any info on it, as it wasn’t in the event program and it appears to be brand new (no information even online).  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a new selection they released for the first time for the International Beerfest for Portland & Seattle, as they are from OR.  All I could go off of was the name they scrawled on the small white board lol, so this likely isn’t even the cider’s real name.  Very very tart!  Semi-dry to dry.  Brilliant red color.  I only picked up raspberry, no boysenberry.  It was more palatable once it opened up a bit by the end of the tasting glass.  One of my companions thought it would be much better as a beer mixer than on its own, as it was just too dry & tart.  I had fun watching people take their first sip after getting a glass of it, as most scrunched up their face!

(6) Crispin Blackberry Pear (draft, 5%, from CA, 3 tickets for a full pint).  Pear cider with blackberry.  This was something else I’ve had at home but was curious if it was any different on tap (and I was out of new ciders to try).  This is a sweet fairly straight forward blackberry & pear cider.  Smooth, easy to drink, and slightly tart.  This appeared to be a very popular selection, and I saw more folks with this in their pint glass than beer!  It was actually a good deal too for $3 a pint as this cider runs about $9 for a four pack of 12oz bottles.  Plus it really hit the spot to finish out the day.

Sorry I don’t have photos of the draft ciders, but they unfortunately didn’t have info sheets nor was there a surface to take a photo on…

Overall, I highly recommend this Seattle-area tasting event.  It’ll be a crowd pleaser for beer & cider lovers alike.  It was unfortunately a bit spendy though:  $95 for advance purchase admission for three with 60 tickets, $15 for parking, and food & souvenirs.  Still a great way to spend the day though.  We ended up getting one pack of 40 tickets for one person and two packs of 10 tickets each for two people, which worked out well to share.  Although you can buy extra tickets, the “Big Deal” as they called it (advance purchase only) essentially gave you 10 free tickets, and having the tickets in advance encouraged us to go big and try some of the more expensive stuff (vs. having to shell out extra money for single tickets).

My best advice is to arrive Friday afternoon when they open at noon, as around 4pm the crowds really picked up.  Other advantages of arriving Friday are that you have in & out privileges (just need your wristband & tasting glass), and they may run out of some selections.  Looking forward to next year!