Honey Moon CiderHead

Review of Honey Moon Mead & Cider’s CiderHead hard apple cider from Bellingham WA.

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Cider:  CiderHead Hard Apple Cider
Cidery:  Honey Moon Mead & Cider
Cidery Location:  Bellingham WA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans (and 750ml bottles)
Style:  American flagship dry craft cider

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Availability:  Year round, only in WA

Description:  We’ve been part of the cider revolution since we first opened our doors in 2005.   CiderHead is an English style cider, made from fresh local apples with no added sugar or concentrate.  And while our line-up has expanded to meet demand, our commitment to quality craft cider remains simple and true.  It feels good to be a cider head.  A CiderHead is a person who loves hard cider – a lot.  We believe there are two types of people: (1) those who are ciderheads, and (2) those who will be ciderheads.  If you are in the latter group, it’s time to taste our CiderHead and get on with things.  

We make all of our ciders using only fresh fruit.  We do not add sugar.  We do not use concentrate.  Just real craft cider made from fresh apples.  Naturally gluten free.  Our dry CiderHead is crisp and refreshing.  Unlike most of the ciders out there, it’s bone dry, but because we carefully select fruit with an acid profile it retains a tart, apple note. 5.5% ABV, it pairs perfectly with chicken, fish and pasta.

Made from a blend of cider and culinary apples.  They have a tasting room in Bellingham for their ciders and meads (and also serve wine and dessert) which is known for events such as live music and open mic nights.

Price:  ~$2.50 for a single can
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve seen this brand, but hadn’t got around to trying it, and now that at least the flagship variety is sold in cans (since last summer, although they took a bit longer to make it into my area), it was less of a commitment.

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First Impression:  Pale straw yellow hue with a hint of pink.  Low carbonation with a combination of small & large bubbles.  Smells of citrus & honey, and dry, funky, tart, sour, & acidic.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  High acidity.  Moderate tartness.  Low sourness, tannins, bitterness, and funk (but a clean funk).  Light bodied.  Notes of honey and citrus.  Long warming finish (tastes like a higher ABV than labeled).  Low apple influence.  Low sessionability.  Mildly flavored.

My Opinion:  This isn’t a style of cider I care for (I like more flavor and sweetness, and am not big on sourness or funk).  However, folks who like a truly dry local craft cider in the convenience of cans may be a fan.

Most Similar to:  Dry acidic slightly funky craft ciders such as Sixknot High Desert Dry, Boonville Bite Hard, and Attila Scourge of God.

Closing Notes:   I’m glad I finally got to try one of their ciders.  Maybe I’ll get around to trying something else from them next time, maybe even a mead.

Have you tried Honey Moon CiderHead?  What did you think?

Book Review #6, Craft Cider – How to Turn Apples into Alcohol

For the sixth book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first five):  “Craft Cider – How to Turn Apples Into Alcohol”, by Jeff Smith, published September 2015, with a suggested price of $17.95.  Jeff Smith is the one who started Bushwhacker Cider in Portland OR, a cider bar and cidery.  I suggested that my local library add this book to their collection, and they bought it for me to borrow!  I think libraries are great to check out a book to see if you may want to purchase it.

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I always like reading about cider, and this was a nice quick weekend vacation read.

This book includes the following Chapters:

  • The World of Cider (the cider industry & some cider history)
  • Styles of Cider (English, Spanish, French, American, German, Irish, Scandinavian, Ice, & Pommeau)
  • Sourcing Fruit and Juice (Farmer’s Markets, Local Orchards, Grocery Stores, Juice, Neighbors, What Makes a Cider Apple Different?, and Apple Varieties)
  • A Cider Maker’s Necessary Equipment (Fermentation Vessel, Sourcing and Using Wood Barrels, Hydrometer, Wine Thief, Thermometer, pH Meter and pH Strips, Airlocks and Bungs, Cleaning Chemicals, Sanitizer, Siphons, Bottling Equipment, Kegging Equipment, More About Kegging)
  • Step by Step (process of making cider)
  • So You Want to Press Your Own Apples? (Presses, Basic Overview)
  • Recipes (Basic Dry, Bushwhacker Smoked, New England Style, Lingonberry, Local Cyser, Scrumpy, Cherry, Ginger, Pear Cider and Perry, Dry Oaked, Spanish-Style, Cranberry, High Gravity, Bushwhacker Italian Plum, Spiced, Sweet, Bushwhacker Alice, Forgotten Trail)
  • How to Taste Cider (Tasting at Home, Setting up a Tasting, Cellaring Ciders, Terms)
  • Cooking with Cider (Bushwhacker Cider Vinaigrette, Apple Coleslaw, Pulled Pork Butt, Cider House Fondue)
  • Cider Cocktails (Pommeau Manhattan, Bushwhacker G&T, Apply Brandy “Cide-Car”, Cherry 88, Cider Mule, Forgetful Rob, Basque-Tini, Cider Dark & Stormy, Cider Julep, Apple Cosmo, Big Apple Iced Tea)
  • Resources (Blogs, Organizations, Events, Country-Specific Cider Terms, Cider-Making Terms)

My favorite parts were those which were unique to this book, such as about using wood barrels, pros & cons of kegging, and cellaring cider.

Overall this book isn’t a bad choice for a newbie to cider, especially one who wants to get into making their own cider, but for others like me, they may not get much out of it.  I also didn’t like how often the book mentioned the author’s cider bar & cidery, Bushwhacker (it literally seemed like almost every page), and its language was almost too informal (didn’t seem like it had much editing).  I’m glad I got to get it from the library, but its not something I see the need to buy for my own collection.

Craft vs. Commercial Cider – What Are The Differences?

Do you know the difference between craft and commercial cider?  The subject is open to interpretation, but here is what I think.

Commercial Cider:

  • Made in large batches
  • May use apple juice concentrate (which needs to be watered down to be re-constituted), which is often imported
  • May add additional sweeteners to aid in fermentation
    • As it is assumed that any added sugars will be fully fermented, companies need only call the finished product “hard cider” on the ingredient list, without mention of what they use, which could even include HFCS
    • It has been confirmed that Angry Orchard uses HFCS, but it is unclear whether many other large cideries use it
      • Statement from Angry Orchard, 11/12/2015, correcting the info from 2012:  “There is no HFCS in Angry Orchard ciders. The main ingredients in our ciders are bittersweet and culinary apple juices, and we choose which apple varieties based on the specific flavor profile we’re looking for. Sometimes that means that we need to add a little sweetness back into the cider to achieve the balanced taste we’re looking for. We do that by adding things like non-fermented apple juice, cane sugar and honey.”
      • Additional information from Angry Orchard, 11/16/2015: “To answer your question, we started changing our recipes in 2014 to use cane sugar instead, as we’ve found it does a better job of achieving the flavor profile and balanced sweetness we’re looking for. All our cider recipes were transitioned earlier this year.”
  • May add artificial colors & flavors
  • Will have more consistency batch-to-batch
  • Often shipped long distances to consumers
  • Often made by big beer companies which have a large advertising budget

Craft Cider:

  • Made in smaller batches
  • Uses fresh-pressed apple juice
  • Minimizes the use of sugar as a fermentation aid, and if used, it is table sugar
  • Does not use any additives (besides yeast, sorbates, any spices/hops/juice, etc)
  • May be inconsistent batch-to-batch
  • Often only available locally/regionally
  • Typically does not have a significant advertising budget

Some cider folks believe that craft cider may have another sub-category, Artisan, which could be defined by cideries using apples they grow in their own orchards.  Many craft cider companies don’t have their own orchards, and either buy apples to press themselves or buy the juice.

On this note, I thought I would point out that there are some “ciders” on the market which aren’t actually cider at all…in that they aren’t even made from fermented apple juice!  They instead rely on water, juice, sugar, and flavoring, and should be considered “Alcopop”, not cider.  For example, Rekorderlig and Kopparberg.

Although I am quite pro-craft cider, I’m not particularly anti-commercial cider.  I think commercial cider is a gateway to craft cider, and is definitely more widely available for a lot of folks in areas without craft cider.  I will drink commercial cider; sometimes I just want something sweeter, easy drinking, and affordable (I haven’t found too many entry level craft ciders I like)  Woodchuck for example will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first cider I tried, and I was one of the winners of their 2014 contest to attend Ciderbration, celebrating the opening of their new cidery.  That said, I try to support craft cider as I believe in its ideals.  I wish there were better commercial cider options out there that didn’t add all the artificial stuff.

I think the main point I’m trying to make with this writeup is that its important for consumers to know what goes into what they are drinking.  I hope better labeling is required sometime soon, as currently it is difficult to know what really went into what we are drinking.

Compass Cider – What Exactly is Craft Cider
Cider Journal – American Hard Cider and the Meaning of “CRAFT”
ATLAS – Hard Cider History
Ciderplex – Rekorderlig and Kopparberg Are NOT Cider
Pete Brown’s Blog – Alcopop: The Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Affording Craft Cider

As much as I love to support local craft cideries, there are two reasons I often buy commercial cider in addition to craft cider.

Sweetness:  I tend towards liking sweeter cider.  Most of the craft cider I’ve tried tends towards dry, which is admittedly traditional for hard cider.  Luckily there are a few good local craft cidery options for sweeter cider, such as Spire Mountain and Schilling, which both offer affordable craft cider in multi-packs.

Cost:  Its a bit spendy to only buy craft cider.  Even though I typically only drink on the weekends, and don’t drink an excessive amount, its difficult to always justify spending $6-$20 for a bottle of cider when I could get a four or six pack which will last me the entire weekend for $7-$10.  However, I love sampling new ciders, so I typically buy a mix of craft & commercial, which appeases both my taste buds and my wallet.  Its a treat to pick up something new to try!  I’m curious what everyone else thinks on this topic:

Cider Says Weekly Preview

What posts to expect in the upcoming week at Cider Says:

  • Sunday: 8 Reasons Cider on Tap May Taste Better
  • Monday: Neigel Vintners (NV) Cider Half Past Prudent Review
  • Tuesday: Affording Craft Cider
  • Wednesday: Celt Cidre Breton Traditional Review
  • Thursday:  7 Things I Love About Hard Cider
  • Friday/Saturday: Mystery Cider Review

Stay tuned, and remember to follow by e-mail (sidebar on right, or at bottom of page on mobile devices) or follow on WordPress (top left bar) to be notified of new posts here at Cider Says.  Have a great week!

Anthem Cider

Here is a review of Anthem’s flagship / original hard apple cider:


Cider:  Anthem Cider
Cidery:  Anthem (by Wandering Aengus Ciderworks)
Cidery Location:  Salem, OR
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12 oz bottles (or a single 22oz bottle, or apparently just recently a six pack of 12 oz cans)
Availability:  year round (since 2010); widely available in OR, WA, & CA, and less so in ID, MT, MI, UT, IL, NM, NJ, TX, ID, TN, PA, VA, & WA D.C.

Description:  Anthem Cider offers the tart acidity of the apple’s natural malic acid with a clean fruit forward finish. Anthem Cider is the foundation for all the Anthems. Semi-Dry. Medium Tart.  We only use fresh pressed apples and other fruits, herbs sourced from the Pacific Northwest of known varieties – they are listed on every bottle and keg. To make great real cider, the varieties of apples, fruit additions and herbs matter. As does where the ingredients are grown and how far removed they are from their original form (degrees separated through processing from the farm to the bottle).  The fresh pressed apples we use provide all the sugars for fermentation and the malic acid (source of the tartness). Any and all residual sweetness in Anthem is provided by the apples we started with or the fruits we finish with.  The result is a line up of real ciders made the way you expect; apples pressed and fermented.
Cidermaker’s Description of Anthem vs. Wandering Aengus: Wandering Aengus Ciders are made from heirloom cider apple varieties that have traditionally been used over the centuries for ciders in French, England and pre-prohibition America. We grow these rare heirloom apples ourselves in Salem and have a handful of growers around Oregon that grow for us. These heirloom apples are pressed only once a year. The apples for Anthem are pressed and fermented year round from the common apple varieties that are grown on a large scale in Washington and Oregon. Anthem Cider is also finished with fresh pressed juices of other fruits or hops while Wandering Aengus Ciders are not blended with other fruits.

Price:  $8.99 / four pack (although I bought a single bottle for about $3)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: Browsing, wondering why I hadn’t tried this previously
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  My first impression is this cider’s dry plain apple scent.  My nose did not deceive me this time.  Anthem Cider is described as a semi-dry cider, and I would mostly agree…I’d put it smack between semi-dry and semi-sweet, which may appear to a lot of folks as there isn’t much available in this sweetness range.  The flavor was a bit “blah” for my tastes…it doesn’t have much complexity going for it.  Even if it has been slightly sweeter (as my tastes tend that way), I still don’t think I would have been impressed.  The most similar cider I’ve sampled is Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet, which has a similar sweetness and flavor.  However, I think I’d have to give Seattle Cider the edge in the comparison, as it is a bit more clean & refreshing.  I remember having the Seattle Cider on tap with some fish & chips awhile back and it was tasty, but drier and more plain of a flavor than I prefer.  Overall, I found Anthem Cider to be fine, but not impressive.

Closing Notes: Anthem also offers pear, cherry, and hops varieties.  I was surprised to find that most Anthem Cider reviews online are of their Hops variety.  Note that each Anthem batch is slightly different based on what apple varieties they used (based on availability due to the time of the year), and their website will even tell you what is in a certain batch.  I sampled batch 127, which was a blend of red delicious, gala, granny smith, pink lady, jonagold, & opal apples.  Their approach seems unique, as most other cideries will name a cider different if there is a significant variation such as this (or clearly note a vintage).

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

Hard Cider Blogs & Websites I Enjoy

Here are some great blogs & websites about hard cider which I enjoy:

Hard Cider News – A monthly newsletter which includes new cider releases, cider maker interviews, news, and more.

Bad Rider Reviews – A cider & beer review blog.  The cider reviewer Phoebe is also from the PNW.

Along Came a Cider – A more technical but enjoyable cider blog which includes reviews, trip reports, and more.  The author Meredith lives in New York.

Cider Sage – A cider blog which includes reviews, tutorials, trip reports, and more.  The author Dan lives in Colorado.

The Cider Journal – A more technical cider blog with reviews, news, events, and views.  They review a number of unique & rare ciders.

Cider Tasting 101 – An introductory cider tasting guide by Tilted Shed Ciderworks which includes tasting tips & descriptors.

Northwest Cider Association – Northwest cider events, news, recipes/pairings, and more.

Cidercraft Magazine – Online features of the biannual print magazine:  Cider 101, feature stories, features, recipes, reviews, and cider directory.

cidery websites – The website for a cidery can have some great additional information on their cider varieties and more.

There are some other great blogs I didn’t include as they don’t have current updates.
Have any recommendations of your own?