Cider Summit Seattle 2017 Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is post 2/2 on Cider Summit Seattle 2017, with tasting notes on 21 ciders.  Post 1/2 covered the event (see here).

The Tasting Notes

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Alpenfire (Port Townsend WA) – Although I had previously tried the three ciders they were pouring (see my previous reviews here), I’m including Alpenfire here as they were debuting their new branding and future new cider releases.  They have a new logo, bottle labels, and website.  The future new cider releases include a rosé Pommeau, “Tempest” New England style, 3 Pommes (apple/pear/quince), a new release of Smoke (my all time favorite cider, which hasn’t been out for a couple years), a Foxwhelp apple single varietal, and even a Pommeau with an apple grown in the bottle (which will only be for the initial members of their new cider club).  Sounds like they have been busy!

Alpenfire did however have a cask-aged version of their Pirate’s Plank which I had a sip of.  It seemed a tad sweeter (dry not bone dry) and a bit more oaky than I remembered previously.

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Alter Ego (Portland OR) The Brute (6.5% ABV) – This was their first time at Cider Summit, although they were founded in 2014.  The Brute is one of their two flagship ciders; the other is The Guardian Angel, a blueberry-pomegranate cider (see my tasting notes here).  Semi-dry, slightly apple-forward, tart, crisp, and easy to drink, but overall a bit boring as the flavor intensity was low, as is common with a drier cider from dessert apple varieties (which is why most ciders from dessert apples are sweeter and/or flavored).

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Anthem (Salem OR) Rye Barrel Aged Cider (8.5% ABV) – Anthem is part of Wandering Aengus.  This is a draft-only release, aged in Rye whiskey barrels.  Semi-dry to dry and sharp, with moderate whiskey flavor and a hint of oak.

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Bad Granny (Chelan WA) Rainier Cherry – They launched a little over a year ago and are new to Cider Summit.  Rainier Cherry is a draft-only release using local Rainier cherries, although they sell their Original green apple cider in cans.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (I was told 9 grams sugar / 12oz), fuller bodied, moderate intensity real cherry flavor.

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Cider Riot (Portland OR) Everyday Semi-Dry (6.0% ABV) – I believe this was their first time at Cider Summit Seattle.  This cider is also available in cans.  Semi-dry to dry, with a hint of sourness, but very low flavor intensity and fairly blah.

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d’s Wicked (Kennewick WA) Bare Naked (6.7% ABV) – This is a new release, and currently draft-only.  It is a less sweet and non-spiced version of their flagship Baked Apple cider.  Semi-dry and flavorful, with unfiltered apple juice notes and a hint of honey flavor.

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Eden Specialty Ciders (Newport VT) Heirloom Blend Ice Cider (10.0% ABV) – I have tried this special treat previously, but my husband ended up getting a couple pours, burning the rest of his tickets, as it is amazing and a great value to get pours of at an event.  Ice cider is made using juice which has been frozen, concentrating the natural sugars and flavors, resulting in a sweet full-bodied intensely flavorful dessert cider.  See my previous review here, and my review of the brandy barrel-aged version of this cider here (which is my all time favorite ice cider).

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French Cider Inc. – I tried three French ciders imported by French Cider Inc. / Beauchamp Imports Inc.  They are Seattle based and fairly new to the market (I hadn’t even heard of them before I was looking over the Cider Summit list!), and thus this was their first time at Cider Summit.  French Cider’s focus is on importing French cidre (apple cider), poire (French perry, which is made from pears, not apples), and Calvados (French apple brandy).  The owner Joan Harkins (who I chatted with) speaks French and lives French culture.  She has hand-selected each variety in their collection after meeting with the cidermakers.  I hadn’t previously been aware of any of their selection being available in the U.S.  I found all three selections to likely be friendly to an unfamiliar palette, as they were all clean or fairly clean (no to low funk) and no sourness, lining up more with the style of the Brittany France ciders I’ve had more than the Normany France ciders I’ve had (although it appears all three were made in or near Normandy).  French Cider’s primary focus is on supplying shops and restaurants, but they also offer local pickup (appointment only) in Seattle, and soon, will ship.  Their website is amazingly informative, and they had a helpful handout for each of the three ciders (see below).  They are posting a photo blog featuring the French apple harvest season, which is currently underway (see their Facebook page).  Also, here is a recent article on the company from Seattle Dining.

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La Chouette (Mont-Saint-Michel Bay France) Cidre Demi-Sec (4.5% ABV) – This cider was produced in an area in between the Normandy and Brittany regions in France, from cider apples.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Lower carbonation and tannins than the other two I tried.  Clean (no funk).  Retails for $5-6 / 330ml bottle.

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Lefevre (Berville Normandy France) Cidre Brut (5.9% ABV) – This cider was produced just outside of Paris, by a 5th generation cidermaker, with cider apples.  The scent was the most complex of the three I tried.  Semi-dry.  Citrus in addition to apple notes, and more.  A hint of funk.  Low to moderate tannins.  French Cider’s website has an interview with the cidermaker, Eric Lefevre.  Retails for $5-6 / 330ml bottle.

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Pierre Huet (Cambremer Normandy France) Cidre Bouche Brut (4.5% ABV) – This cider underwent secondary fermentation in the bottle and was made with 7 or 8 varieties of cider apples by a 5th generation cidermaker.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Clean (no funk).  Low tannins.  Flavorful, apple forward, and easy to drink.  French Cider’s website has an article on their visit to Pierre Huet as well as an interview with the cidermaker, François-Xavier Huet.  Retails for $13-18 / 750ml bottle.

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Liberty Cider (Spokane WA) Spokane Scrumpy (6.4% ABV) – This cider was released in the Spring, and made with community harvested apples (of mostly unknown types, from dessert apples to crab apples) and wild yeast fermented.  $1 of each bottle sale goes to the Spokane Second Harvest food bank.  See this article.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (probably their sweetest cider), buttery, and complex.  I couldn’t really put my finger on the flavor profile with the sample size and time frame, so I’d be interested in giving a full bottle a try.

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Louis Raison (Le Theil-sur-Huisne France) Organic Dry (4.5% ABV) – This cidery is brand new to the U.S., and first launched here in Seattle.  They will have this cider on draft to start in Washington and Oregon, and eventually increase up to three bottled varieties in 2018 (adding Rouge Delice – made from red fleshed apples, and Original Crisp).  See here for more info on their launch.  Organic Dry is made in France from certified Organic bittersweet cider apples grown on co-op farms.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Apple and yeast forward and easy to drink.  I look forward to this being available in bottles as it sounds like it’ll be fairly affordable to keep around as an everyday cider.

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Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Plum Jerkum (6.5% ABV) – They have been around since 2014, but are new to the Seattle market and Cider Summit.  Although Mission Trail makes ciders and perries, they are best known for their other fruit wines, and specifically, jerkum (which is fermented stone fruit juice; the term originated just for plums, but has more recently been used to encompass all stone fruits).  They were actually only pouring jerkums at this cider event.  In this case it was 100% plum juice from 14 red-fleshed varieties.  The Plum Jerkum was semi-sweet to semi-dry, tart, with a moderately intense fruity berry flavor (I didn’t really pick up the prune/plum).

Mission Trail (Bradley CA) Goldmine Nectarine (6.0% ABV) – This is another jerkum, with 100% nectarine juice, barrel aged.  Semi-dry, quite tart, with pure nectarine flavor.  I didn’t pick up any barrel influence, but often it isn’t obvious.  I also recently tried their Peach Coast (see here), a peach wine / jerkum, which was my favorite of the three.

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Montana Ciderworks (Darby MT) Small Batch Dolgo (5.5% ABV) – This is a single varietal from the Dolgo crabapple, oak aged, part of their Small Batch series.  Semi-sweet, tangy, fruity, and apple-forward.

Random note:  I got some insight into labeling special releases.  In this case, “Dolgo” was stamped on, making it look handwritten with less effort.  Very cool.  However, many small batch special releases do have actual handwritten labels, like this one.  Getting a label approved by the TTB is a time consuming process, so often cideries have a general label they use for multiple small batches.

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Ole Swede (Tonasket WA) Mulberry & Friends – It was the cidery’s first time at Cider Summit, and they were founded last year.  This is a new cider release made with eight different types of berries and currants (mulberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, blueberry, gooseberry, black currant, and golden currant).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, smooth, low tartness & acidity, with a light real berry flavor.

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One Tree (Spokane WA) Pina Colada – This is a new draft-only release, part of the fruit cider challenge (and it turned out to be the winner – 2nd year in a row for One Tree – congrats!).  Sweet, very full flavored, with a bit more coconut than pineapple.  I loved the flavor of this (it reminded me a bit of Pear Up’s Pearjito Colada with the coconut, which hasn’t been used much in cider), but it would be a bit sweet to have much of.

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Pear Up (Wenatchee  WA) Pineapple Pear – This was their fruit cider challenge entry, a one-off draft only release.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry, low flavor intensity, with the flavor balanced between pear & pineapple.  They weren’t serving it through the pineapple, but it was a cool photo op nonetheless.

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Seattle Cider (Seattle WA) New England Style (9.5% ABV) – This is a seasonal release which appears to have not been released for a few years, possibly draft-only.  It was made in the New England style, typically characterized as a high ABV cider with brown sugar and raisins added.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, sharp & acidic, with caramel notes and a boozy finish.

Seattle Cider (Seattle WA) 2015 Washington Heirloom (7.0% ABV) – This is part of their Harvest series, made with heirloom apple varieties, and also available in bottles.  Semi-dry, herbal scent, sharp, with citrus, floral, and herbal notes.

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Swift (Portland OR) Pineapple Hop (6.7% ABV) – They have been around since 2014, but it was their first time at Cider Summit Seattle.  Semi-dry, balanced flavor between the pineapple & hops with only hints of bitterness, but overall the flavor intensity was low.

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Washington Gold (Chelan WA) Northwest Raspberry (5.5% ABV) – This is a brand new small batch canned release.  Semi-sweet to sweet, with intense real raspberry flavor.

It was impossible to taste all the ciders at the event (or even one from each producer), so I’d also like to share previous tasting notes and reviews on some of the producers I didn’t get to highlight:  101 Cider House, 2 TownsAspall, Atlas, Bull Run, Chatter Creek, Double Mountain, Dragon’s Head, Dunkertons, Eaglemount, E.Z. Orchards, Finnriver, Greenwood, Hi-Wheel, Incline, Jester & Judge, J. Seeds, Le Brun, Locust, Maeloc, Manoir du Parc, Methow Valley, Moonlight Meadery, New West, North IdahoNumber 6 Cider, Reverend Nat’s, Portland, Rambling Route, Samuel Smiths, Schilling, Sea Cider, Snowdrift, Sonoma, Spire Mountain, Steelhead, Summit, Tieton, Ulee’s, Wandering Aengus, WildCraft, and Worley’s

In Summary

My Favorite Ciders – Of the ones I tasted at the event, my favorites were the 4 French ciders, some of the sweeter ciders that were very flavorful (such as One Tree’s Pina Colada and WA Gold Cider’s Raspberry), Montana Cider’s Dolgo, and Liberty’s Spokane Scrumpy.

Other Interesting Selections – There were also some interesting beverages I didn’t try, such as Schilling’s guava barrel-aged sour, a cocktail from Incline with gin and their Compass Rose cider, apple whiskey from J. Seeds, a Cider Summit themed cider from Finnriver which has been available at all four Cider Summit events this year (see here), 101 Ciderhouse’s Black Dog with activated charcoal (see here), and Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry with ghost peppers (see here).

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Cider Summit Seattle 2017 Post 1/2 – The Event

Epic!  This was my third year attending (see here for previous posts), but was the eighth annual Cider Summit in Seattle Washington.  It took place on Friday & Saturday September 8th & 9th.  This is post 1/2, covering the event.  Post 2/2 will cover tasting notes on the dozens of ciders I tried [update – post 2/2 is now up – see here].

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Info

See my preview here.  We had some interesting weather for the weekend.  It was forecasted to be cool and cloudy with some showers, but it ended up being pretty hot when I was there on Friday.  See here for the full event info and here for the full list of cideries (~55) and ciders (~187).

There were some substitutions and a few less ciders than expected, plus this was a decrease in the number of cideries from the year before (although there were some new ones).  My favorite booths this year were for French cider (there were three booths pouring a total of six French ciders).  They were even pouring some meads (made from honey & water), non-apple fruit wines, apple whiskey, and cocktails in addition to ciders.  Although most ciders were from the PNW, there were a good number of national and international ones as well.  Also, the selections were primarily on the craft (vs. commercial) end.

There were 18 entries for the Fruit Cider Challenge.  I learned that the cideries were provided fruit puree from Oregon Fruit Products which they made cider with.  Votes were taken by text (1 per phone).

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Entry included a tasting glass, tickets (8 for regular and 12 for VIP, each one good for a 4oz pour of most ciders), and wristband.  A cool feature of this event is that in addition to in & out privileges, one entry fee gets you in both days (and you can even skip the line on the second day).  This event is very well organized, by far the best I have gone to.  It is also very consistent year-to-year.

Everything from detailed pre-event information online (even a full cider list) to signage at the event to thinking of the little things like having rinse water available and standing tables in addition to seating.  It is crazy to think about how much work goes into an event of this magnitude…renting a space, tables, canopies, and even fencing…finding volunteers, hiring staff for liquor enforcement and safety (at emergency exits), having extra ice and cider available, etc.

Another thing about this event that I really like is that the folks pouring the cider are associated with the cidery (cidery employees, sometimes even the cidermakers, or the distributor), so you can ask about the cidery and cider.  The crowd was really varied, from cider enthusiasts like myself to people who just wanted to drink.  There were also lots of vendors trying ciders (as it was common for a cidery to bring 2-3 people and swap out).  A number of people brought their dogs.

Layout

Besides the main attraction of cider booths, they had an event store (with t-shirts and such), an audio booth where they did interviews with some of the cidery reps, food for sale from Whole Foods, Capitol Cider, & SUSU rolled ice cream, cider cocktails from Capitol Cider, samples of unfermented juice from Ryan’s, a dog lounge, info from the Northwest Cider Association, and lots of misc booths (the most interesting was Alaska Bug Bites, who drove 40 some hours one way to sell their dried fruit).  The amenities were also above average for an outdoor event, with multiple food options for sale, standing tables, tables & chairs (some covered), port-a-potties (and the main ones in the front actually had outdoor sinks), and cold filtered water (from Easy Tap).

My Tips

Friday is typically much less busy than Saturday, especially earlier in the afternoon.  My game plan this year involved having a big lunch prior to the event and asking for smaller pours (often a booth would let you try a little bit of each cider they had for only 1 ticket), to maximize the number of ciders I could try.

I also always start with the new, expensive, and/or rare ciders, and visit the booths where I want to talk to the cidermakers first, before it gets too busy.  This year my backpack was full as I brought both rain and sun gear; I’m glad I brought the hat and sunblock though, as I ended up needing it, despite the cloudy forecast.

I also recommend good walking shoes, as you are on your feet for most of these types of events, and there was uneven grass at this site.  I also like bringing my own snacks, especially something starchy, like crackers.  Other must-haves for me are a notebook & pencil, and some baggies to put the tasting glasses in afterwards when they are sticky.  Its nice having a bag to put all that stuff in, as well as any free swag you want to collect (a couple booths were giving out good stuff like hats & t-shirts, but it was mostly the typical handouts, stickers, and coasters).  ID is required to get in, and cash never hurts, although some places take cards.

There are also a number of restaurants (and Whole Foods) within walking distance, so another food option is leaving, then coming back after a bit.  I have done that before, but this year we just powered through until dinnertime on Friday when we left.  Then my husband and I met up with a friend and did a bunch more walking, deciding where to have dinner, then waiting for a table (we went to Rocco’s pizza, which was amazing).

A great way to get free admission is to volunteer; they had several shift options each day, and I heard that if you work closing on Saturday you may even get leftover bottled cider.  For the best ticket price, buy them in advance, although there are taxes & fees for online sales.  Although VIP tickets are online sales only, if you want the best price on a regular ticket, they usually have at least one location to pick up tickets, which avoids the fees (this year the only place was Capitol Cider).  The event didn’t sell out as far as I know, but the ticket price was higher at the door.  Designated driver tickets ($5) were only available at the door.

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In addition to Seattle, there are Cider Summits in Chicago IL (February), San Francisco CA (April), and Portland OR (June).

 

At Cider Summit I also found about a new PNW cider event this year, the Olympic Penninsula Apple & Cider Festival, in Port Townsend WA (which is NW of Seattle), with multiple events the weekend of October 13-15.  Other upcoming WA cider events are Cider Swig (Gig Harbor, Sept 30) and the 1st annual Whidbey Island Cider Festival (Whidbey Island, Sept 30).

Cider Summit Seattle 2017 Preview

The epic 8th annual Cider Summit is coming to Seattle Washington on Friday September 8th (3-8pm) and Saturday September 9th (noon-5pm) at South Lake Union Discovery Center Lawn.  Check out my posts from last year:  previewevent, and tasting notes.

See here for the full event info and here for the full list of cideries (~57) and ciders (~187).  I found several dozen ciders I haven’t tried and am interested in tasting (mostly due to the fruit challenge ciders, most of which are new event-only releases), so I’ll see if I can get through them all.

Regular tickets are sold in advance online ($30 + service charge) or at the door ($40), and includes a tasting glass + 8 drink tickets.  VIP tickets are sold in advance online ($40 + service charge) and get you in an hour early on Friday (2pm instead of 3pm), and includes a tasting glass + 12 drink tickets.  Additional drink tickets are available at the event for $2 each.  Designated driver tickets are also available at the door for $5.

This outdoor event is 21+ but dog friendly.  They have covered seating, stand up tables, cold water on tap, and port-a-potties.  The event also includes a merchandise shop, bottle shop, food sales, cider cocktails (using the same drink tickets as ciders), and a dog lounge.  Another special feature is the Fruit Cider Challenge; many cideries are bringing a special fruity cider, and attendees can vote for their favorite.  Many booths have employees (or even cidermakers) from the cidery pouring ciders, a mix of keg and bottle pours.  They may also still be accepting volunteers (includes free admission after your shift and 50% off wearables).

The event has in & out privileges (if you keep your wristband and glass), so you can leave to grab food (such as at the Whole Foods just down the street), or even return the next day.  The last two years I’ve done both days (we even got a hotel both years, but are leaning against it this year due to cost).  On Friday it usually doesn’t get too busy until closer to 5pm, but it is pretty busy the rest of the time (line down the street when they open on Saturday, which you can skip if you already have a wristband & glass).

Cider Summit Seattle is part of Washington Cider Week (Sept 7-17).  Stay tuned for more posts here at Cider Says on Cider Summit and Washington Cider Week events.

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 – Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is Part 2/2 on Cider Rite of Spring 2017 in Portland Oregon, which includes tasting notes on the 18 ciders I tried.  See HERE for Part 1/2, covering the event itself.  Note that I have more notes on some ciders than others depending on how much of it I tried and what was going on at the event (kinda tough to take notes with one hand while holding on to your tasting glass in the other!)…its not a reflection on the cider itself.

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^ 5 Cider (Portland OR) Strawbasaurus Hop, 6.9% ABV, $6/500ml:  This is a flagship hopped strawberry cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied with a lot of foam.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  I couldn’t get past how overly hoppy the flavor was.  The light strawberry flavor with the intense hopped flavor was also odd.  I think hops are nice to enhance a cider’s flavor, but I don’t like when they overpower it.

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2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Pommeau, 19% ABV, $23/375ml, VIP offering:  This is an awesome Pommeau (apple brandy + apple cider, oak barrel aged for 1 year); see my previous review here.

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7 Bev / Queen Orchard (West Linn OR) Green Man, 6.7% ABV, draft only:  This cider is for the Willamette Ale & Cider House, expected to open in West Linn Oregon on June 15th, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  It was described as inspired by English cider, but I found it more farmhouse-style than anything else (none of the characteristic tannins of English cider).  Hazy hue.  Smells of sulfur, sourness, and funk, but those qualities oddly enough didn’t transfer to the flavor.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Apple-forward with citrus notes.  Nice flavor, but the scent was off-putting.  It could be a first production issue.

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Alter Ego Cider (Portland OR) The Guardian Angel, 6.5% ABV, $8/500ml:  This is a flagship blueberry pomegranate cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dark berry hue.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity, with blueberry, pomegranate, and grape, but not much apple.  High sessionability.  Juice-like.  Reminds me of Atlas’ ciders.  I liked it.

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Bauman’s Cider (Gervais OR) Peach Raspberry, 6.4% ABV, $12/22oz:  This summer seasonal cider adds peaches and raspberries, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate to high flavor intensity, with rather straight-forward peach and raspberry notes.  Well balanced with a lot of flavor without being too sweet.  I really enjoyed it.

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Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Grape Perry, 6.0% ABV, draft only:  This is a perry made from dessert pears, sweetened with Concord grape juice, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry.   Light bodied.  Very light fruity flavor, primarily grape.  I was expecting a sweeter more flavorful cider between the pear (unfermentable sugars typically lead to a higher residual sugar content even if fermentation isn’t stopped early) and grape, although you can tell even from the color than not a lot of grape juice was used.

Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Cherry’s Pie, 7.5% ABV, draft only:  This is a cider with cherries added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  I found the flavor a bit weird…kinda bitter…but I just had a sip or two shared with me.

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Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Apply Ol’ Fashion cocktail, VIP offering:  Made with Finnriver’s Spirited Apple Wine (brandy-fortified cider, 18.5% ABV, $25/500ml) and Oak and Apple cider (6.5% ABV, $10/500ml).  I’ve previously had both ciders on their own, but I didn’t like this cocktail in the least, and neither did my husband or friend, as none of us are fans of bitters.  Its likely the proportions may have got off since they made this rather rushed…it was quite an undertaking to serve a non-pre-mixed cocktail at a busy event like this.  They were also offering pours of just the Apple Wine, which is what I should have chosen.  See my Oak and Apple review here.  My favorite from Finnriver however is their Fire Barrel (see here); this year’s vintage was just released, and it is a great value at ~$11/500ml.

McMenamins Edgefield Winery (Portland OR) Black Cherry Cider, 6.8% ABV, draft only:  Semi-sweet.  Nice real cherry flavor.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity.  I liked it.  I had previously only tried Edgefield’s flagship cider.

Pear UP (formerly NV Cider, East Wenatchee WA) Raspberry Perry, unknown ABV, $5/500ml:  This is a perry (only pears, no apples) with raspberries.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Nice moderate to strong fresh raspberry flavor with a hint of pear.  Refreshingly flavorful.  I was surprised how much more flavorful this was compared to their Watermelon Perry, as it is only slightly more sweet.  I like the flavor intensity of this best of all their perries I’ve tried, but the watermelon flavor remains my favorite (I’m a huge watermelon fan).

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) New Moon Mandarin, 7.2% ABV, $7/500ml:  This seasonal cider is made with mandarin and tangerine juice, and finished with chamomile flowers.  Dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very mild citrus flavor.  Warm boozy finish.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Light of the Moon, 8.1% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their flagship cider made using heirloom apple varieties, and the first I’ve tried from this cidery.  Hazy hue.  Semi-dry.  Low tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of sourness and funk.   found this to be a slightly farmhouse-style apple-forward cider with some honey and citrus notes.  I liked it.

Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Old Hoot, 7.4% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their Farmhouse-style cider, made with English cider apple varieties.  Very hazy hue.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of sourness.  This was well made, but a bit too rustic for my liking.

Shoutout to Kelly McCune of Runcible Cider – she had actually heard of Cider Says prior to the event, and said she likes my blog – very cool!  They are a brand new cidery (this was their first event) and have their own orchard of 500 cider apple trees, which is awesome, as so many cideries actually aren’t orchard-based.  I think it takes a cidery’s cider to the next level.

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Square Mile Cider (Portland OR) Rosé, unknown ABV, draft only, VIP offering:  This special release cider was made with hibiscus and rose hips.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very light fruitiness, with floral and herbal notes.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Swift Cider (Portland OR) Marionberry, 6.8% ABV, $8/22oz:  This is a dry flagship cider with marionberries, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low berry flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Prickly Passion, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  This is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Very low fruity flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Hibiscus, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness acidity.  Low flavor intensity, more fruity than floral.  Slightly more flavorful than the Prickly Passion.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Woodbox (Portland OR) Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider, 12.7% ABV, $17/375ml:  This is a ice cider (made by using freezing temperatures to naturally concentrate the flavor and sugar content in apple juice before fermenting it) aged in whiskey barrels, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Rich flavor notes including caramel and vanilla.  High apple flavor.  Moderate to high whiskey flavor.  Moderate oak flavor.  Awesome!  They made a sign to highlight the cider’s price as the program had a mis-print of $33, which is quite a difference.

Closing Notes:

  • My favorite ciders of the event were the Woodbox Ice Cider and 2 Towns Pommeau (and my husband and friend agreed).
    • The ice cider was an especially good value too (often they run $30+ as they are so expensive to make), and the only bottle we ended up picking up (although our friend bought a number of ciders).
  • Of the non-specialty ciders, I most enjoyed Alter Ego Guardian Angel, Bauman’s Peach Raspberry, Pear UP Raspberry Perry, and Runcible Light of the Moon.
  • I was surprised how many dry ciders were being offered, and especially how many cideries were only offering dry ciders, which is nice.  However, especially when made from dessert apples, dry ciders can often end up very subtlety flavored, while I prefer a really in-your-face flavorful cider (whether an added flavor or due to use of cider apples).  I usually go for semi-dry to semi-sweet, as they tend to be more flavorful, but not too sweet.
  • There were also a number of cideries breaking from the pack and going more Farmhouse-style (like Runcible and Baird & Dewar), which isn’t typically as crowd-pleasing, but sticks to the roots of early American cider.
  • There were plenty of sweet offerings too, but mostly from the more established / larger cideries that I had already sampled (like Portland Cider Co., and the Seattle-area’s own Locust and Schilling cideries).

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That will do it for Cider Rite of Spring 2017.  Stay tuned for more tasting notes from my Portland trip, from Reverend Nat’s tap room and Bushwhacker Cider!

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 – Post 1/2 – Event Review

This past weekend I attended the 4th annual Cider Rite of Spring cider tasting event in Portland Oregon.  My husband and I drove down from Seattle (about 4 hours away) and stayed overnight.  It was a whirlwind with a lot of driving in two days, but fun.  This is the first of a series of posts about my Portland cider weekend, and will cover the event itself, with a forthcoming post with tasting notes on the ciders I tried.  Also refer to my preview of the event here.

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Overview:

This cider tasting event was held from noon to 6pm on a Saturday at a three-story indoor event space near downtown Portland (The Evergreen PDX).  It featured nearly 100 ciders from 31 cideries.  The event cost $25-$45, depending on if you purchased a regular or VIP ticket, and pre sale vs. at the door.  Entry included 8 drink tickets and a tasting glass.  VIP tickets also included access to an upstairs VIP lounge.  Each cidery had a booth with a cidery representative pouring 1-4 ciders, a mix of draft and bottle pours.

The event was hosted by the Northwest Cider Association, and also served as a fundraiser for the organization, which aims to bring cideries and cider lovers together to share knowledge, experience, and live the Northwest cider culture.  They promote cider and sponsor classes, workshops, events, and more.

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My experience:

I arrived a bit past noon with my husband and a friend of ours who lives out of state that we don’t get to see often enough (her parents live in Portland so she visits often).  There was a line to get in when they opened, as it required the typical ID check, wristband application, and check in (printed tickets vs. will call tickets vs. ticket sales).  We stayed about four hours total, tried over a dozen ciders, and bought some bottles to take home.

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The VIP lounge on the top floor.

My favorite parts:

  • The hourly VIP tastings.  They were all exclusive and/or rare releases, listed in the event program, and only being poured in the VIP area.  Each hour featured a different cidery and cider to taste, no tickets required.  The VIP lounge also included snacks (mostly cheese chosen to be paired with cider from Whole Foods) and some cider options available the entire time (although the one I tried was literally just cider apple juice, not fermented?).
  • Getting to try Oregon ciders which I don’t see in Washington, from cideries which don’t even distribute out of Oregon yet.  Several cideries hadn’t even had their official launch yet.
  • The bottle shop.  Many of the offerings were sold in the bottle shop (except some draft-only options).  It was regular retail price, but proceeds went to the Northwest Cider Association, and many are difficult or impossible to find in stores.
  • The event was well-planned.  There was sufficient information available online beforehand.  There was sufficient signage and it was laid out well, although squished.  The venue was nice besides the size, and indoors, so no weather to deal with.  It was even decorated with fresh flowers (very Spring-like).  They had water and non-alcoholic cider available, and jars to dump unwanted cider into.
  • Affordable ticket prices, as low as $25 plus a couple dollars in fees for pre-sales.

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The bottle shop offerings.

My least favorite parts:

  • The crowds!  It was literally elbow to elbow push & shove to get anywhere in the building, verging on dangerous.  At first the air conditioning wasn’t even on so it was starting to get very hot with all the bodies in the small space, but thankfully that kicked in after awhile.  Apparently this was a new venue for this year and they had approximately double the attendees as last year (900), so significantly more than they were expecting.  However, I really think they should have capped ticket sales before it got that bad.  There is already talk of a larger venue for next year.  I don’t mind lines (especially as it ensures you don’t drink too quickly and encourages you to talk to folks you are in line with), but it was difficult to even know where lines were, and to get between them.  There were less chances to talk to the cidery folks as someone was always behind you waiting.  Even the VIP lounge was overcrowded, which defeated part of its purpose.  This was tied for the most crowded tasting event I’ve ever been to.
  • Lack of seating, or even standing tables to set down your glass and take notes.
  • No early entry for VIP ticket holders.  Often events let you in an hour early, which is nice to get one-on-one time with cidermakers.  I had been hoping to get that in the VIP lounge, but it was busy there too.

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The event space and crowds.

The in between:

  • Pours were on the smaller side.  This can be good or bad…it enables you to try more ciders without feeling like you have to drink more than you want to or dump some out to try more, but it is easy to run out of tickets quickly (extras were being sold for $2 each).
  • This was a medium sized event.  Less options than the Cider Summit events for example (which also typically includes some imports and aren’t as regional, with cideries outside of just Oregon & Washington for the Seattle event for example), but more than Summer Cider Day in Port Townsend WA.
  • Lack of food options.  The only option was sushi, which seemed an odd choice as many folks don’t like it, and usually more carb-rich foods are better to go with alcohol.  There weren’t however any lines for food as is typical at events, as it was a quick prep item (and possibly as there was less interest than typical food offerings).  It was also priced low, especially for sushi.  However, this was announced in advance, so it wasn’t an issue; we ate lunch before the event and I always travel with snacks.
  • The downtown location.  This enabled us to stay at a hotel which was a cheap Uber ride to the event, restaurants, and cider bars,  However, hotel prices and parking are more expensive downtown.

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Event map and VIP tasting schedule.

My general cider tasting event tips:

  • As with any event, it is best to arrive early.  If you arrive 5-10 minutes before it starts, you can be among the first in line and get some cider tasting in before the space fills up.
  • Wear comfortable closed toe shoes.  Although there may not be much walking involved, there is typically a lot of standing.  I was surprised how many women I saw wearing heels and/or sandals.  I’m not a fan of having my feet hurting and toes stepped on…
  • Eat beforehand and bring some snacks.  Crackers are a good choice to absorb alcohol and cleanse your palette.  Not having to stop and eat a meal can save time as well (although sometimes taking a decent break is nice too).
  • Bring a bottle of water, although often it is easy enough to fill your tasting glass with provided water between ciders.
  • Bring a pen/pencil, and possibly a notebook.  You may want to at least note on the program what ciders you don’t want to miss, which you enjoyed and want to purchase bottles of (or if you are like me, take tasting notes).
  • If possible, plan what ciders you want to try ahead of time.  It is unfortunately impossible to try everything.  They didn’t release the cider list in advance this time, but I looked through it off the bat to get an idea of what I wanted to taste.  I suggest prioritizing ciders that are expensive, special releases, and/or not found in your area.  If possible, taste from dry and simple to sweet and weird.  What you taste before another cider can impact the next.  At least however avoid spicy (hot) ciders until the end of the day, as those wreck the palette the most.
  • Consider trying multiple ciders from the same cidery/booth.  That gives you a good idea of the range of the cidery’s options.  Often they will pour you a smaller sample of each offering for a single ticket if you ask / if they aren’t too busy.
  • If they will have a bottle shop, bring a bag you can put some ciders in, and/or a bottle bag.  At this event they were selling them for $5, or giving them away with the purchase of 6 bottles.  We ended up buying some ciders midway through the event as we weren’t sure if they would sell out, so a backpack was handy to keep our hands free.
  • For outdoor events, bring a sun hat, sunblock, and a jacket.

Bottom line:

I liked the cider aspect of the event of course, especially all the new-to-me Oregon ciders/cideries, and the VIP tasting opportunities were awesome.  However, I wouldn’t consider attending this event again unless they were going to hold it at a much larger venue with some breathing room and seating.  I have every confidence they will remedy this for next year.

I really do like the indoor events though, as for me alcohol + sun/heat isn’t a good combination, and indoor toilets always beat port-a-pottys.  Besides a larger venue, another option for them may be to split it into two sessions (with ticket sales for a specific session), which should then half the crowds.

Next time we do Portland we’ll definitely stay at least 2 nights and take some time off work.  Doing the drive on two days in a row is rough, and made for a very long day to drive, attend the event, and go out that night.  Plus now I’ve been playing catch up all week with all my usual weekend stuff, like house chores and blog posts.

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Square Mile had a tiny house on display outside that they will be giving away in a contest…it must have been interesting to navigate downtown and park the large pickup truck with trailer!

Event program:

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Stay tuned for Cider Rite of Spring 2017 post 2/2 covering tasting notes (NOW AVAILABLE – see here), as well as posts about my visits to Reverend Nat’s tap room and Bushwhacker Cider.

Notes on Cider at Debuts and Discoveries 2017

On March 18th, I attended a ‘Debuts and Discoveries’ tasting event in Seattle put on by the University Sunrise Rotary Club, to benefit Teen Feed.  It featured about 7 cideries, 7 breweries, 12 wineries, and 11 distilleries.  It was very cool to see an event with such a mix of beverage selections, as I’m only into cider and my husband is into everything else.  I took the night off from blogging, so unfortunately I don’t have any photos or tasting notes.  However, I thought I might as well do a quick writeup.

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The Ciders:

  • Chatter Creek (Woodinville WA) brought their ‘Pilot Project’ Golden Cider, ‘Chaider Clipper’ Chai Tea, and ‘Luya’ Ginger-Honey.
  • Elemental (Woodinville WA) brought their ‘Carbon’ Semi-Dry, ‘Calcium’ Blood Orange, and ‘Oxygen’ Pomegranate.
  • Locust (Woodinville WA) brought their Chili Pineapple, Smoked Blueberry, Thai Ginger, and Vanilla Bean.
  • Pear UP (formerly Neigel Vintners) brought a number of perries, including Ginger Pear, Hoppin’ Pear, Pear Essentials, Pearfect Pie, and Watermelon.
  • Schilling (Auburn WA) brought their ‘Reboot’ Blood Orange, Blueberry Cobbler, and London Dry.
  • Steelhead (Lake Chelan WA) brought their ‘Chimera’ Cherry, ‘Furious George’ Ginger, and ‘Peargatory’ Vanilla Pear.
  • Woodinville Ciderworks (Woodinville WA) brought their Asian Pear and something else.

What I Tried:

  • Chatter Creek’s Chaider Clipper was tasty, semi-dry, with a smooth moderate spiciness from the Chai.  I previously reviewed their Pilot Project.
  • Elemental’s Carbon and Blood Orange.  I preferred previous versions of Carbon that were more rich than citrusy, and less tart (see here).  My husband was crazy about the Blood Orange; the flavor was nice and mild.  Both had higher levels of carbonation, which is great too.  I previously sampled their Pomegranate.
  • Locust’s Blueberry + Vanilla and Chili Pineapple.  I had tried both the Blueberry and Vanilla before (see here), finding the Blueberry rather average and the Vanilla to have an amazing creamy vanilla flavor but too sweet.  However, mixed, they were an awesome semi-sweet concoction, and my favorite of the evening.  The Chili Pineapple surprisingly didn’t have any noticeable spiciness (I’ve had a number of spicy ciders which were crazy spicy), just a nice pineapple flavor.
  • Pear UP’s Watermelon, which remains my favorite from them (see here).  The pear and watermelon notes remain mild, but I’m a huge watermelon fan.
  • (I previously tried Schilling’s Blueberry Cobbler and London Dry)
  • Steelhead’s Cherry, which I previously tried (see here).  Nice cherry flavor, but rather tart.  I also previously tried their Peargatory.
  • (I previously tried Woodinville Ciderworks’ Asian Pear and Tropical)

The Event:

It was an indoor event (in an old hangar in Magnison Park – very cool), from 5-9pm on a Saturday.  The $40 entry fee included 15! drink tickets and a $5 food voucher.  They also provided free bottled water and snacks (like chips and trail mix), which I have never seen before and was much appreciated.  The event was to focus on new craft beverage businesses, and their published cutoff was four years, but I know some of the companies were more than four years old (like Woodinville Whiskey, which started in 2010).  There were four main food truck options (also indoors).

They had tables and chairs, but they could have used more (and unfortunately some folks would put their stuff down to “save” their spot, then leave).  Bottle sales were available from most makers, and it was tax-free as it was a charity event (a HUGE savings for hard alcohol…my husband picked up four bottles which were about $35 instead of $55).  The main negative for me was the live music…any live music indoors tends to be overly loud, making it was very difficult to hold a conversation, and giving me a headache.  I felt bad for the booths right next to the band.

All in all it was a fun time and I look forward to attending again next year!

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 Preview

This year I’m excited to be planning to attend a new-to-me event Cider Rite of Spring, on March 25th 2017 in Portland Oregon.  The 4th annual event is presented by the Northwest Cider Association.  Cider Rite of Spring has been named “The Best NW Cider Festival” by SIP Northwest Magazine.

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Date/Time/Location:  Saturday March 25th 2017, noon to 6pm, at The Evergreen ballroom (618 Southeast Alder Street) in Portland Oregon; this is a new venue for this year, and all indoors

Admission: $25 or $40* (tickets sold here), which includes 8 tasting tickets and a tasting glass; this is a 21+ event only

*$40 is for VIP admission, which has the same start time, but includes access to the VIP lounge, with complimentary cheese pairings by Whole Foods and one-on-one interaction with 6 PNW cidermakers who will share a special cider offering for tasting and purchase only to VIP ticket holders

Cidermakers:  30 planned (^5 Cider, 1859 Cider Co, 2 Towns Cider House, 7Bev Corp, Alter Ego Cider, Baird & Dewar Farmhouse, Bandon Rain, Bauman’s Cider, Bull Run Cider, Cider Riot!, Dragon’s Head Cider, Elk Horn Brewery & Cider House, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Locust Cider, McMenamins Edgefield, New West Cider, Pear UP, Portland Cider Co., Red Tank Cider, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, Runcible Cider Co, Schilling Cider, Seattle Cider Co, Snowdrift Cider Co, Spire Mountain Ciders, Square Mile Cider, Steelhead Cider, Swift Cider, Tieton Cider Works, Tumalo Cider Co, and Woodbox Cider)

Ciders:  100 planned

Bottle Shop:  Yes – many ciders will be available to purchase bottles of to take home.

Food:  Available for purchase from Wasabi Sushi

My Notes:  I’ve never tried ciders from 10 of the 30 cideries (many are Oregon cideries which don’t yet distribute to Washington).  My husband and I plan to make a weekend of it, driving down from Seattle on the morning of the event and staying overnight in a local hotel.  The location near downtown is great as we can park the car once and take The Max or an Uber to the event and dinner.

Stay tuned for a review of the event and tasting notes!

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