Grand Illusion Blue Illusion

Review of Grand Illusion Hard Cider’s Blue Illusion, a blueberry-lavender cider.  I previously tried their Mystic Citra Pineapple.

Cider:  Blue Illusion
Cidery:  Grand Illusion Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Carlisle PA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with blueberries and English lavender

>>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Grand Illustion.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

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Availability:  in Pennsylvania, primarily at their taproom, but soon, at some other locations

Cider Description:  This well-balanced blueberry-lavender cider offers a pleasant sweetness and a light berry fruitiness; it finishes with a touch of English lavender.

Cidery Description:  We are Grand Illusion, a hard cider production company located in Carlisle, PA.  We use fresh pressed apples from Adams and York County to create magical ciders for all to enjoy.  Our taproom in downtown Carlisle has become a destination, with 15 ciders, 5 beers, and 8 wines – all on draft and all from Pennsylvania.

Here is an article from a local newspaper on the cidery.  They serve both their own ciders and ciders from other cideries at their taproom; see their tap list here.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $44 / case, likely ~ $11 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidery owners contacted me

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First Impression:  Lovely purple-blue hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of lavender with a hint of berry.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of citrus and a hint of berry.  Moderate length finish with a hint of hops? (I had this after one of their hopped ciders, but my glass was clean, I also picked it up straight out of the can, and my husband was able to taste it too).  Low apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it, but I would have liked more sweetness and flavor.  I only picked up the lavender in the scent, where it was quite prevalent, so it was a bit of a letdown for it to not transfer to the flavor.  However, I’ve had that happen with quite a few ciders I’ve tried.  The finish with hops was unexpected.  The flavor combination was nice though, and it was quite drinkable, plus for me it was more sessionable than their two hopped varieties I tried, due to the lack of bitterness.

Most Similar to:  Greenwood Lavender Blackberry.  Or, a less sweet and lower flavor intensity version of Finnriver Lavender Black Currant (which I really enjoy).  I was surprised upon searching my list that I’ve tried at least 7 ciders with lavender and 6 ciders with blueberry; I would have guessed less.

Closing Notes:  Per Cider Culture, this was Grand Illusion’s first release, in April.  Next up I have their hopped grapefruit variety.

Have you tried lavender infused cider?  What did you think?

Ole Swede Blueberry Hard Cider

Review of Old Swede’s Blueberry Hard Cider.  They are a relatively new cidery from North Central middle of nowhere WA, and its the first time I’ve tried their cider.  Their second introductory release is a Sour Cherry Perry.

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Cider:  Blueberry Hard Cider
Cidery:  Old Swede
Cidery Location:  Tonasket WA
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles
Style:  American craft cider made from dessert & crab apple varieties, with blueberries

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Availability:  Only in WA

Cider Description:  Our Cider is crafted from Jonathan, Jonagold, Gala, and Manchurian Crab apples handpicked near the Okanogan River on the Maldonado Family Orchard and Big Check Orchard near Loomis.  These apples were naturally fermented with blueberries from Hunter’s Moon Farm creating a delicious libation.  Nicely balanced, dry to medium dry cider with a hint of blueberries.  Bright, Balanced, Refreshing.

Cidery Description: Our ciders are hand crafted from farm to bottle.  Out family farm was homesteaded in 1899 as new territories were opened in the west, near Havillah, Washington.  Old Swede is born from our roots in North Central Washington’s Okanagan Highlands, a place of natural beauty perched above a valley known around the world for apple production.  We moved back to the family homestead in 2014 and began to take our cider into the world in 2015.

They don’t have a tasting room, but do offer mobile juicing and event catering.

Price:  $9
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  A friend recommended this cider, and I hadn’t tried anything from them, so I thought I’d pick it up.

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First Impression:  Light red wine hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of red wine, grape, blueberries, and tannins.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Hints of sourness and funk.  Notes of red wine, tannic blueberry skin, cherry, pomegranate, and lemon.  Long finish with lingering tartness.  Moderate complexity.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  I found this a bit too tart and in general wasn’t wowed by the flavor, but berry cider isn’t typically my favorite.  However, my husband (a red wine drinker) fell in love with this cider, and said its probably his favorite ever!  He kept stealing sips of it.

Most Similar to:  Red wine; I got a lot of grape notes from this, and the blueberry skins and crab apples added some significant tannins.  I’ve previously tried two blueberry ciders, WildCraft Cider Works Blue River Blueberry and Superstition Meadery Blueberry Spaceship Box.  This actually really reminds me of the Blueberry Spaceship Box, with the tartness and blueberry skin tannins.  Although the Blue River Blueberry also had the tartness and blueberry skin tannins, it was much drier and slightly sour.  It also reminds me of Finnriver’s Black Currant cider, which is also grape-like and tart.  I’m curious how different a blueberry cider would turn out if they used blueberry juice vs. throwing in crushed blueberries (which I assume is what they do as all 3 blueberry ciders had that tannic blueberry skin flavor, and would be much less expensive and much easier than adding blueberry juice).

Closing Notes:   This is a great selection in their cider lineup, and will likely be especially appealing to red wine drinkers.  I’m interested to see what else they will release.

Have you tried Ole Swede cider?  What did you think?

WildCraft Cider Works Blue River Blueberry

Review of WildCraft Cider Works’ blueberry cider.  WildCraft opened in Eugene Oregon in November 2014.  They were nice enough to send me a box full of their cider (which is especially awesome as they aren’t yet available in WA), so I have a number of varieties from them to review in the coming weeks.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by WildCraft Cider Works.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

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Cider:  Blue River Blueberry
Cidery:  WildCraft Cider Works
Cidery Location:  Eugene OR
ABV:  6.3%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  Year round, but currently only in Eugene, Portland, and Medford Oregon.

Cider Description:  Bright whole blueberries from Organic Redneck Farm in Leaburg are fermented on skin, in a blend of Willamette Valley apples & wild yeast strains. Grown by our community, for our community. All Oregon grown, all the time.

Made from Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples.

Cidery Description:  At WildCraft Cider Works, we pride ourselves on developing innovative, artisanal dry ciders inspired by traditional and wild methodology. Insisting on whole fruit and botanicals grown in Oregon to create pure ciders without artificial flavorings, sulfites or added sweeteners. WildCraft cider is uniquely dry cider unpasteurized & bottle conditioned. We consider ourselves stewards of the outdoors; always acting consciously to ensure that our ingredients are regional.

WildCraft sets themselves apart from most other cideries by using mostly fruit from old homesteads that would otherwise go unused, plus unwanted fruit from community drives.  All their fruit is Oregon-grown and pressed at the cidery.  In addition to ciders, they also have a line of perries (made from pears).  They avoid the use of sulfites in their ciders, which is quite rare and can be difficult to pull off.

WildCraft has a tap house at their Eugene OR cidery with 10 of their ciders & perries on tap at a time, plus they have a full bar (including cider cocktails), and a full farm to table restaurant!  This article from Feb 2015 has a nice writeup on them.

Price:  n/a (but retails for $7.25)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Facebook and word of mouth

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First Impression:  Light blueberry-grape type hue with a few large bubbles at the edge of the glass.  Slightly funky, dry, sour, and tart apple-blueberry scent.

Opinion:  Completely dry.  Moderate acidity, sourness, tartness, astringency, and funk.  No bitterness.  Light bodied.  Moderate carbonation.  Relative quick finish, and fairly sessionable.  The blueberry influence remained quite mild, but added a nice fruitiness and a bit of tannins (blueberry skin type flavor).  You can definitely tell they add real blueberries, not just blueberry juice (or worse, flavoring).

Most Similar to:  Nothing I have tried.  Although I’ve had a number of berry ciders, none was this dry.  This is more approachable than some ciders of a similar style (Millstone comes to mind), but may still be a big step for someone used to approachable sweet commercial cider.

Closing Notes:   This was quite an interesting cider, but it wasn’t really to my liking.  Without the sourness and with a bit more residual sugar, I think I would have found it more enjoyable.  I also tend to like more of a full-flavored cider.  I think they are doing some great things at WildCraft though, and are very reasonably priced.  I think folks looking for a unique cider on the dry end of the spectrum which aren’t opposed to some sourness and funk should give this a try.  I look forward to trying the rest of the ciders that came in my sample box!

Have you tried any WildCraft ciders?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Summer Time

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


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.