Schilling Oak Aged

Review of Schilling Oak Aged.  This is my favorite Schilling Cider out of the seven I’ve tried.  Interestingly enough this cider is not oak barrel aged, but instead uses American oak chips in the fermentation and racking process to impart the oak flavor.  I’ve seen this done with other alcoholic beverages (such as whiskey) to be able to more quickly release a product, as barrel aging can be time consuming.  Chips can also cost significantly less.  Some traditionalists may call this “cheating” though.  Here is a cool barrels vs. chips blog post from ALEHEADS from the beer world.

IMG_0228 IMG_0229

IMG_0230 IMG_0231

(and yes of course the can I chose to drink/photograph out of the four has the dent…)

Cider:  Oak Aged
Cidery: Schilling Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Auburn WA (with Cider House in Fremont area of Seattle WA, and a brand new tasting room which opened July 31 2015 at the cidery in Auburn WA)
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied: 12oz can
Availability:  Year round, semi-wide release (probably more so in the PNW)

Cider Description:  Pours a hazy straw gold color with aromas of apples, cinnamon, vanilla, and oak with some smokiness. Flavors of apple, cinnamon, vanilla and oak with a nice spice finish. Fermented and finished on 100% NW oak this cider has a scotch taste complemented by a very smooth and lingering finish.

Cidery Description:  Craft cider company founded in 2012 in Seattle WA.  They use only local apples.  Their current line up includes Hopped, Ginger, & Oak Aged in four packs of 12oz cans, Gold & Dry in four packs of 16 oz cans, and Spiced, Chai, Chaider, & Grapefruit special releases in 22oz bottles (Grapefruit is also now in four packs of 16 oz cans).  Their Cider House also has a large number of cider offerings only available there, such as Berry & Sriracha Lime.  Note that they cite product protection, convenience, and environmental reasons for using cans for their regular lineup.

Price:  $6.50 / 4 cans
Where Bought: Total Wine (I’ve also seen it at Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, Full Throttle Bottles, Special Brews, Schilling Cider House, etc)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing awhile back.  I’ve had this cider a few times.


First Impression: Pale champagne hue.  Very light carbonation.  Mild apple, oak, smoke, & vanilla scents.

Opinion:  Semi dry.  This is a nice mild oaked cider.  I can’t really tell that it is with wood chips and not barrel aged, but I don’t have too refined of a palate.  Oddly enough I pick up very little spice in this (which is good as its not something I enjoy), in contrast to most folks who notice cinnamon & cloves.  I do however pick up the vanilla and some mild smokiness.  Like most ciders, it starts sweeter and finishes a bit drier.  It is a quick finishing cider, and I pick up a bit of acidity at the end.  The flavor really reminds me of champagne / sparkling cider, but less bubbly of course.  I think more carbonation and oakiness would be nice in this cider, as its on the mellow side.  However, it makes for easy drinking.

Most Similar to: Finnriver Oak & Apple, which I tried at the Schilling Cider House after being surprised they didn’t have their own Shilling Oak Aged on tap.  I give a slight edge to Finnriver over Schilling after tasting Schilling again (in my Schilling Cider House tasting notes I had thought the opposite).  There is however quite a cost difference between the two cider brands, with the Finnriver typically costing much more (although it appears Finnriver Oak & Apple isn’t currently available in bottles?).  Interestingly enough the Finnriver Oak & Apple is barrel aged.  I can’t however pinpoint why I have this preference without tasting them side by side.

Interesting Fact:  Founder Colin Schilling is the great-great grandson of August Schilling, founder of Schilling Spice Company (now McCormick).  (Source)

Closing Notes:  This is a solid and enjoyable cider.  The affordability is a nice bonus.

Have you tried Schilling Oak Aged?  What did you think?

8 Reasons Why Cider on Tap May Taste Better

My experience of cider on tap (or keg or draft or draught or whatever you want to call it) is unfortunately limited.  However, almost every time I’ve thought it tasted better on tap than from its bottled/canned cousin.  I have noticed this with Spire Mountain Dark & Dry, Seattle Cider Semi Sweet, NV Cider Pear Essentials, and Reverend Nat’s Revival, which are all ciders I’ve had both bottled/canned and on tap.  Some I had bottled/canned first, and others I bought it after trying it on tap.

I thought I’d explore this query.  Most of the available research is from beer, but I believe much of it can be applicable to cider.  Here are a few hypotheses from my research as to why cider on tap may taste better:

UV Light Exposure
Aluminum blocks out light better than glass.  Sunlight exposure can effect the taste of the product.  Clear & green glass lets in more light than brown glass, which is why many bottled beers & ciders are in brown instead of clear glass.  Therefore canned or kegged cider is typically exposed to less light in its shelf life than bottled.  I’ve noticed a number of craft cideries in my area use cans either predominantly or exclusively, which surprises me as canned beers are often perceived as “cheap”.  I had assumed it was a cost issue (both for their assembly line & shipping), but it appears there may be much more to it.  I’m also surprised how many ciders I’ve seen in clear glass bottles, so I wonder if cider actually isn’t as prone to the detriments of UV exposure as beer.

Storage Temperature
Kegs are often treated better than cases of cider bottles/cans, with less temperature variation.  Cold storage is best as it slows down the oxidation process of the beverage, causing it to taste “fresher” for longer.  A cider sitting on the shelf at room temperature in a store for a long period of time may not taste as “fresh”.

Drinking Temperature
An alcoholic beverage tastes different based on serving temperature.  Certain ciders are better at different temperatures, and cold isn’t always best.  Cider on tap may be served colder or warmer than from your fridge at home.

Kegs rarely sit long term.  Especially with specialty and/or expensive ciders, inventory may sit awhile in the store (and again once we get it home).  Time can add oxidative flavors, which have the product taste less “fresh”.  Higher turnover equals fresher cider.

Carbonation levels may vary based on if the product is bottled of kegged.  Brewers often add less carbonation for draft beer.  Higher carbonation forces more flavor into your tongue, which some folks find overwhelming.  This is one of the reasons why a cider can taste different when drinking out of a bottle/can vs. pouring it into a glass, as pouring it releases some of the carbonation.  I find I like richer or barrel aged ciders better from a glass, but some of the sweet & fruity ciders taste just fine from the bottle.

Draft beer typically isn’t pasteurized, when bottled beer is.  Bottled beer has to undergo pasteurization, heating it to kill off any bacteria that may grow between bottling and consumption.  However, pasteurization can also compromise the taste, and some of the aromatic ingredients can be filtered out.  Keg beer does not require pasteurization and is typically kept cold up until it is poured, so more flavor may be retained.  I’m curious if the same is true for cider.  I’ve read that commercial hard cider is pasteurized to remove yeast & apple particulates and retain carbonation, but I wonder if that is done 100% of the time.  For craft & homebrew cider, it seems less likely.

Pouring into Glass Effect
Having the cider poured into a glass can open up the aroma quite a bit, and smell is of course tied into taste.  This is one of the reasons why drinking a bottled/canned cider out of the bottle/can can taste different than out of a glass.

Placebo/Social/Cost Effect
Drinking during a night on the town is more exciting than at home.  It also costs more (and when we pay more, we expect more).  Plus, its exciting to find one of your favorite ciders on tap (too often they don’t have cider, or only Angry Orchard).  All of this may add up to have us perceive that the product tastes better when it really doesn’t, as we expect it.

But its also possible the opposite could happen…
A product on tap could actually end up tasting worse than bottled/canned if the tap lines are not maintained properly (bacteria…ick!), if it is served or stored at an improper temperature, if the keg has been sitting around a long time and/or not stored cold, etc.  You are likely better off ordering cider on tap at a place which sells a lot of it.

The freshest place to get cider is straight from the cidery itself (a growler).  I imagine its likely that the preference for bottled/canned vs. tap may come down to personal taste as well.  So, what do you think?