Original Sin Extra Dry

Review of Original Sin’s newest cider, Extra Dry, from York, New York.  It launched last month.  This is their first canned cider (previously most of their ciders were sold in six packs of 12oz bottles, and a couple special releases in 750ml bottles) and celebrates their 20th! anniversary.  I’ve previously tried their Cherry Tree, Elderberry, Pear and Northern Spy ciders.

>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Original Sin.  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.<<

Cider:  Extra Dry
Cidery:  Original Sin
Cidery Location:  York NY
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  four pack of 16oz cans
Style:  American sessionable canned craft cider made from dessert apples

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Availability:  Currently sold year round in FL, IL, MD, NC, OH, PA, and WA D.C.  In April it will launch nationally to more than 30 states (everywhere its ciders are currently distributed).

Cider Description:  Original Sin Extra Dry Cider contains a distinct blend of New York apples including Ida Red, MacIntosh, Cortland, and several russeted apples. The cider is complex, balanced, and sessionable with a minimal level of residual sugar.

Made from 100% fresh pressed New York apples, champagne yeast, and nothing else.  Their suggested pairings are ripe camembert, roasted oysters, and anything else you might enjoy on a back patio.

Cidery Description:  Established in 1996, Original Sin is one of the original modern-day U.S. cider companies. With a mere $5,000 in funding, founder Gidon Coll began making cider in Upstate New York and spent two years going bar to bar in New York City to develop his early market base. Today, Original Sin is still 100% independent and now distributed in 32 U.S. States, The United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan.

Original Sin started a New York State test orchard five years ago, which now features over 100 rare, cider and contemporary apple varieties. Each year, the company adds interesting and historically significant varieties to the Original Sin orchard’s genetic pool.

Price:  n/a (suggested retail price of $10.49 / 4 cans)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had read about this release online.  The founder of Original Sin, Gidon Coll, e-mailed and asked if he could send a sample, and I never turn down free cider…

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First Impression:  Pale straw yellow hue.  Moderate carbonation with tiny bubbles upon pouring, which quickly dissipated.  Smells dry, of tart green apples, yeast, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  High acidity.  Mild tartness.  Mild astringent tannins.  Hints of bitterness and sourness.  Light bodied.  Low carbonation.  Notes of juicy apple to start, then citrus, and hints of green apple, floral (I think I taste a hint of lavender of all things?), mineral, and yeast.  Moderate length finish.  Mild apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Enjoyable, although its not something I’d usually drink (I go more for full flavored then sessionable ciders).  It seems more flavorful than many sessionable ciders.  I think I’ve got more accustomed to dry ciders, as even 6 months ago I wouldn’t have liked a cider this dry.

Most Similar to:  Ace Joker (although this cider has more apple flavor), Farnum Hill Extra Dry (although this cider is less tannic and less bitter), and Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank (although this cider is less tannic and sweeter).

Closing Notes:   This probably ties with their Northern Spy for my favorite Original Sin cider so far.  I usually go for sweeter ciders, but it won me over.  Thankfully I have a second can to drink as well.

Have you tried Original Sin Extra Dry?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Private Reserve Barrel Select

Review of Woodchuck Barrel Select, one of their three current Private Reserve ciders (along with Pink and Pumpkin).

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Cider:  Private Reserve Barrel Select
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Style:  American commercial bourbon barrel aged cider

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Availability:  Wide release, Nov-Feb.  Winter Chill, one of their three current seasonal ciders, is also sold during that same time of year.

Cider Description:  Private Reserve Barrel Select is aged in small batches to bring out balanced hints of bourbon over a crisp apple backdrop. The cider is aged for six months in genuine white oak Kentucky Bourbon barrels. The barrels impart a copper hue on the cider as well as gentle notes of oak, vanilla, and whiskey. A truly rare cider which proves that patience is indeed a virtue.

Cidery Description:  Here at the Woodchuck Cidery in Vermont, we handcraft every batch of Woodchuck Hard Cider. Our Cider Makers utilize the highest quality ingredients and meticulously oversee each small batch from start to finish. We reinvigorated American cider in 1991 and continue to lead the category through our commitment to craft innovative and refreshing hard ciders.

Price:  ~$2 for a single bottle (runs $9-$11 a six pack)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve bought this cider the last couple years when it came out, along with Winter Chill, as I love barrel aged cider.

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First Impression:  Deep copper caramel amber (note that although barrel aging imparts color, they also list “caramel color” on the ingredient list).  A few medium sized bubbles and some foam upon pouring.  Smells of caramel, molasses, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, oak, and toffee.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Low acidity and tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, funk, or tannins.  The scent notes continued into the flavor.  Medium to strong apple flavor.  Mild barrel influence.  Moderate bourbon influence.  Rich, bold, and full flavored.  Medium bodied.  Medium length warming finish.

My Opinion:  Yum!  However, its quite rich and caloric, so its something I’ll only drink one of.  However, that is perfect for a middle of the week treat.  It was especially tasty in a float with ice cream.  I really wish they wouldn’t add caramel color and flavoring though.

Most Similar to:  Not much…barrel aging programs at commercial cideries are pretty rare.  However, this reminds me somewhat of Woodchuck Winter Chill (oak & vanilla but not spirit flavor), Woodchuck 802 (rich caramelized sugar notes but its not barrel aged), Crispin 15 Men (rum barrel aged with honey notes), and Spire Mountain Dark & Dry (rich molasses & brown sugar notes but its not barrel aged).

Closing Notes:   Enjoying some Woodchuck Barrel Select is becoming an annual tradition for me.  I prefer Winter Chill though, and plan to stock up on that one (although probably not as much as last year, when I got a full case of four 6 packs).

Have you tried Woodchuck Barrel Select?  What did you think?

Portland Cider Company “Apple”

Review of Portland Cider Company’s canned cider dubbed “Apple”.

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Cider:  Apple
Cidery:  Portland Cider Company
Cidery Location:  Oregon City, Oregon (near Portland)
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz cans
Style:  American craft canned cider made from dessert apples

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Availability:  OR & WA

Cider Description:  Medium-dry classic bursting with juicy crisp apple taste and a tart finish.

This cider was released in late 2015 for the first time, and I couldn’t find much information or a detailed description.

Cidery Description:  What do you do when you’re frustrated by the quality of the commercial cider available?  You start making your own!  What do you do when friends and family keep telling you it’s the best cider they’ve ever had?  You start a business!  That is the essence of how the Portland Cider Company got its start.  Founded by Jeff Parrish, an Oregon native, and his wife Lynda, an ex-patriot from the Somerset region of England (the Mecca of cider), the Portland Cider Company is based on the belief that good cider comes from good fruit, honest practices, and attention to detail. Our cider starts with fresh pressed juice from Northwest grown apples.  We then carefully ferment it using yeast that protects the delicate characteristics of the fruit.  The results are cider blends that are easy to drink, refreshing, and downright delicious.  Drink it, it’s good!

Portland Cider was started in 2012, and they have a taproom in the Portland area (with their ciders and some others).  They have four ciders available in 22oz bottles (Kinda Dry, Sorta Sweet, Hop’Rageous, and Pearfect Perry), plus Apple and Hop’Rageous in four packs of 12oz cans, and other ciders that are tap only.

Price:  ~$2.50 for a single can (runs around $8 for a four pack of 12oz cans)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, although I had seen a release announcement on Facebook from them.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Light carbonation upon pouring with large bubbles.  Smells of tart apples with a hint of honey.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Low acidity and tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, funk, or tannins.  I didn’t really pick up any other flavor notes besides apple, which was on the strong side.  No carbonation in the mouthfeel despite the visible bubbles.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.  Mildly flavored.  Highly sessionable.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed how much apple flavor this had without the apple juice type flavor that is common with sweeter commercial ciders which backsweeten.  I also liked that although it was light bodied and mildly flavored, it didn’t have a watered down tasting flavor.

Most Similar to:  Other semi-dry apple-forward flagship craft ciders, such as Jester & Judge American Apple.  However, although they are quite similar, I enjoyed this cider more.

Closing Notes:   This is a great basic cider option for folks who want a canned craft cider, but I prefer more flavor and complexity.

Have you tried Portland Cider Company ciders?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 9 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my ninth visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts here.  I hadn’t thought I’d have time for another visit in December, but managed to fit it into my schedule.

I was there for a Finnriver Bingo event, although I didn’t have much interest in the actual game & prizes, just used it as an excuse to go.  The event was a packed house!  There were six Finnriver ciders on tap:  Habanero, Black Currant, Barrel in the Forest, Cranberry Rosehip, Fresh Hopped, and Pear (all of which I’ve had except Fresh Hopped).

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<tap list of 32 ciders>

I started with a flight of six ciders.

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<left to right: Blue Mountain Estate Winesap, Seattle Cider Oaked Maple, Finnriver Barrel in the Forest, Locust Pumpkin, E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry, Grizzly Pomnivore>

Blue Mountain Estate Winesap, 6.75% ABV, Milton-Freewater OR:  This is a single varietal made with Winesap apples which Blue Mountain sells year round.  Nearly clear.  Tart, dry, and slightly funky smell.  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Mild bitterness.  Very mild tannins.  Hint of funk.  Slight floral and oak notes.  Light bodied.  Moderate to long finish.  I thought this was a basic dry & tart cider, and pretty low on flavor.

Seattle Cider Oaked Maple, 6.9% ABV, Seattle WA:  This is one of Seattle Cider’s winter seasonals (they also did a Cranberry cider this year).  I couldn’t remember if I had tried this before, but I’m leaning towards yes.  Dark straw yellow hue.  Smells of sweet maple and oak.  Semi-dry.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  Light bodied.  Very light oak and light maple flavor.  Quick finish.  I thought this was pretty good, but I would have liked more flavor.

Finnriver Barrel in the Forest, 6.5% ABV, Chimacum WA:  This is a limited release of a barrel aged version of Finnriver’s Forest Ginger cider (which I haven’t tried).  I usually don’t like ginger, but this sounded interesting.  Smells of sweet ginger.  Semi-sweet.  Light oak notes.  Very mild ginger notes, much less than most ginger ciders (which usually seem to hit me at the back of the throat and linger).  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Light bodied.  Moderate length finish.  The ginger flavor however increased as it warmed up.  This paired well with the Thai food I had for dinner.  Overall I didn’t mind this one, despite the ginger, but probably wouldn’t get it again.

Locust Ciderworks Pumpkin, 5.0% ABV, Woodinville WA:  This is a seasonal release from Locust, apparently draft-only.  Hazy pumpkin orange-yellow hue.  Smells of sweet pumpkin spice.  Very sweet.  Mild pumpkin and spice flavors, but overall very full flavored.  Low acidity and tartness.  Full bodied.  Moderate length finish.  I really liked this (even though I usually don’t go for pumpkin or spice), except it was too sweet for my liking, so not something I could have a pint of.

E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry, 6.9% ABV, Salem OR:  This is a regular release cider from E.Z. Orchards which uses French bittersweet apples.  After ordering this I remembered I had tried it before, at Cider Summit Seattle 2015.  Light amber.  Smells slightly rich.  Semi-dry.  Herbal notes.  Very light boded.  Low tannins and tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Quick finish.  Overall mildly flavored.  It tasted a bit off, and I wondered if the tap line could have used more flushing.  I also liked it much better at Cider Summit.  Different batches can turn out much differently.

Grizzly Ciderworks Pomnivore on Nitro, 6.7% ABV, Woodinville WA:  This is a tap-only release from Grizzly.  Light ruby red.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Low acidity and tartness.  Moderately flavored.  Quick finish.  I liked the pomegranate flavor without too much tartness like many pomegranate ciders have.

I met Nathan from Cider Chronicles (we just happened to sit next to each other at the bar!), who was awesome enough to share bottle pours of a couple ciders with me.  He said Sea Cider Wassail, J.K.’s Scrumpy Winterruption, and Elemental Seasonal Spiced Apple were his three favorite seasonal ciders, although Reverend Nat’s Winter Abbey Spiced may be replacing J.K.’s Scrumpy Winterruption in his cue.  I haven’t seen Rev Nat’s Winter Abbey, but picked up a bottle of Elemental Spiced, and tried the other two.

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Sea Cider Wassail, 14% ABV, Saanichton BC Canada:  This is Sea Cider’s winter seasonal.  Rich amber-orange hue.  Smells like orange and holiday spices.  Semi-dry.  Well-hidden ABV!  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  The orange and spice notes continued into the flavor.  Rich and full-flavored.  Medium bodied.  Moderate length finish with lots of heat.  I liked this a bit more as it warmed up from fridge temperature.  Overall this was enjoyable, but I like their Prohibition best.

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J.K.’s Scrumpy Cuvee Winterruption, 6.9% ABV, Flushing MI:  This is J.K. Scrumpy’s winter seasonal.  Very sweet.  Honey, orange, and mild spice notes.  Mild acidity and tartness.  Moderate to full bodied.  Apparently this cider usually has much more spice.  It was very easy drinking, between the sweetness and low ABV.  Overall I found it ok.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Dan Kelly’s Irish Cider

Review of Dan Kelly’s Irish Cider.  This is the second Irish cider I’ve tried (the first was Cragie’s Ballyhook Flier, plus I’ve also tried Dublin’s Pub, a Canadian Irish-style cider).

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Cider:  Cider
Cidery:  Dan Kelly’s
Cidery Location:  Drogheda Ireland
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  Irish craft cider

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None of the sub-pages of their website worked, including the one to contact them, so I couldn’t find much info straight from the source.

Availability:  Unknown, but it appears they have at least limited distribution in the U.S., plus in Ireland and Germany

Cider Description:  Dan Kelly’s Irish cider is crisp blend of cider apples with Bramley and dessert fruit using hand-picked apples from our own family orchard. These combinations give our craft cider a refreshing, crisp and extremely flavoursome finish every time.

Aged at least a year (I assume in a tank, as they didn’t mention barrels).  Fermented with wild yeast (which is rare, as typically ciders will add a predictable known yeast strain rather than rely on the yeast from the apples & environment).

Cidery Description:  Dan Kelly’s Cider is a new Irish cider made from hand picked apples from our very own family orchard. We are one of the only cider producers in Ireland to grow our own fruit. Our apples are blended to ensure the full fruit flavour comes through in our craft cider.

Price:  ~$9
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light amber-orange.  Low carbonation.  Smells dry, funky, and of oak.

Tasting Notes:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Low tannins, acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Slight funk.  Moderate apple flavor.  Medium bodied.  Notes of oak and herbalness.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  I thought this one was ok.  My main issue was a slightly off flavor I detected that I didn’t enjoy, likely from wild yeast fermentation (which is what can cause a cider to taste a bit funky).

Most Similar to:  English cider, although this one had a bit of unique flavor I assume is from the wild yeast.

Closing Notes:   I think I prefer English cider to Irish cider so far.  For a dollar or two less I can get an English cider I really enjoy, such as from Aspall or Sheppy’s.

Have you tried Dan Kelly’s cider?  What did you think?

Finnriver Fire Barrel

Review of Finnriver Fire Barrel.   I’ve tried probably 10 other Finnriver ciders.  Here is a great illustrated Finnriver product guide.

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Cider:  Fire Barrel
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  Limited release.  Finnriver ciders are sold in WA, OR, CA, AZ, NV, TX, IL, CO, and Alberta & BC Canada (detailed info here).  They also have an online store (which can ship to WA, OR, CA, AK, CO, MN, FL, & WA D.C.)

Cider Description:  Finnriver is honored to present master cidermaker Drew Zimemrman’s award-winning Fire Barrel cider.  Pressed from traditional bittersweet apples and aged in fire charred Kentucky bourbon barrels, this full-flavored cider offers a hint of whiskey, oak aroma, notes of caramel and vanilla, a lingering soft tannin finish.
  Drew’s passion for cider helped ignite the cider renaissance in the Pacific Northwest and now, here at Finnriver, we are grateful for his mentorship as we strive to carry on a rooted cider tradition.  Made with a seasonal blend of heirloom and traditional cider apples.

The label has “814” handwritten after “Bottled:”…it looks like this may indicate a bottling date of August 2014, although I only bought this a few months ago.

Cidery Description:  At Finnriver we gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you farmcrafted hard ciders and spirited fruit wines. We are inspired by the allure of the fruit, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive.  Our mission is to inspire a deeper connection to the land that sustains us….Some of these ciders are small-batch, seasonal and labor-intensive. Others are produced with contemporary methods and more readily available year-round…Finnriver grows over twenty varieties of traditional and heirloom apples in our organic orchard, to feature in our traditional and specialty ciders.  They have a tasting room open seven days a week, noon to 5pm, and are on the Olympic Pennsylvania cider route along with Eaglemount and Alpenfire cideries.

Price:  $11?
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I tried this a couple years ago and didn’t like it oddly enough.  Then I had it again at a Capitol Cider tasting with Bill Bradshaw and nine WA cideries (notes here) and really enjoyed it.  I imagine my tastes had changed since the first time I tried it, as then although I enjoyed barrel aged, I wasn’t into higher tannin ciders.  I had actually bought the bottle before the tasting, as I wanted to give it another try now that this type of cider is my favorite.

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First Impression:  Orange-amber hue.  A few large bubbles at the edge of the glass but otherwise still.  Smells like ripe apples, tannins, oak, vanilla, spice, and rum?.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Ripe apple, caramelized sugar, bourbon, oak, earth, smoke, and vanilla notes.  Lovely bittersweet apple flavor.  Although I picked up rum oddly enough in the scent (probably as I got a hint of spice), the flavor is more bourbon/whiskey, and I don’t pick up any spice.  Moderate to heavy tannins.  Low acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tartness.  Very light funk (more earthiness than anything else).  Mild to moderate barrel influence.  Mild to moderate spirit influence.  Pretty much still (no carbonation).  Medium bodied.  Moderate to long finish.  It start off with the tannins, then mellows out quite a bit.

Most Similar to:  Other tannin-forward ciders.  This reminds me of English style cider, but there is the added nice barrel & spirit flavor.

Closing Notes:   Awesome!  I really enjoyed this cider–one of my favorites, and definitely my kind of cider.  Bold and unique.  It definitely isn’t an introductory type cider (although still less harsh than for example Sea Cider Prohibition / Rumrunner and Alpenfire Smoke, which I also really enjoy), but is a great example of what can be made when you use cider apples and barrel age.

Have you tried Finnriver Fire Barrel?  What did you think?

2 Towns The Bad Apple

Review of The Bad Apple from 2 Towns.  I’ve had this cider before, and many other 2 Towns varieties.  Isn’t their bottle styling awesome?  Really eye-catching.

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Cider:  The Bad Apple
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  10.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle (or kegs)

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Availability:  Year-round, at least in OR, WA, CA, AK, HI, NV (limited), ID, IL (Chicago), & MN (Minneapolis)

Cider Description:  Big & bold, The Bad Apple is an imperial style cider, fermented with local meadowfoam honey and aged on Oregon White Oak. Complex notes of apples and wood make the Bad Apple a NW favorite. Sometimes…it’s good to be Bad!

Cidery Description:  2 Towns was founded in 2010 by partners Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff. Dave Takush joined us shortly thereafter. All three of us grew up together in the Corvallis, OR area. We’ve had explosive growth since our inception at which point we had intended to produce and distribute cider to the Corvallis, OR and Eugene, OR areas only (incidentally, the 2 Towns of our namesake). It became readily apparent that our initial vision needed to grow as we hit our maximum capacity in our first production space (a converted 1,000 sq ft garage) in roughly 2 months. We’ve since built 2 new production facilities with a total of 25,000 sq ft of production space and our team has grown to over 30 people to help us to distribute to 9 states and counting.

Over this time, we’ve kept to our original goal of bringing craft hard cider back to the people. We feel that a craft cider is made with fresh-pressed fruit and contain no artificial flavorings. Our fruit is all sourced in Oregon & Washington and all of our ciders are also free from added sugars other than those present in the juice and in some cases local honey. We feel that cider doesn’t need to be sweet to express the natural flavors of the fruits we ferment.

2 Towns Ciderhouse planted an orchard in 2011 with all traditional cider apple varieties such as Kingston Black, Dabinett, Jersey Brown Snout, and many others. 2 Towns has also contracted with several growers in the Willamette Valley and beyond to grow additional traditional cider fruit.

Price:  $7.50
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Initially, browsing.  I’ve had this cider at least once before and was in the mood to have another bottle.

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First Impression:  Yellow/orange tinted straw gold hue.  Moderate carbonation upon pouring with a light foam ring and tiny bubbles.  Smells like rich apples, honey, booze (whisky?), yeast, and oak.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Quite apple-forward, with rich apple, honey, vanilla, and oak notes.  The perceived barrel influence remains mild.  Moderate acidity and tartness.  I almost pick up some citrus with the tartness.  Mild bitterness and astringency.  No sourness or funk.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Longer finish with lingering tartness and acidity.  Well-hidden ABV, which mostly presents as warmth.  Complex but simple at the same time.  I enjoyed this fridge cold, which surprised me as usually with this style of cider I like it closer to room temperature than fridge temperature…when it warmed up the tartness seemed more present.

Most Similar to:  This kinda reminds me of Moonlight Meadery ‘How Do You Like Them Little Apples’ cider for some reason…probably as that one tasted like it was higher ABV (but wasn’t), and had honey and oak notes (but it was sweeter and more full bodied).  By the way, I find this cider very different from the other 2 Towns Imperial-Style cider I’ve tried, Serious Scrump, which is an 11% ABV English-Style cider available seasonally, which I found to be quite dry and bitter and not to my liking.

Closing Notes:   Awesome!  This is actually my favorite cider from their regular line so far (and I’ve tried at least 10 ciders from 2 Towns).  I think its a great value.  I also think 2 Towns is a really cool cidery in general…really down to earth and fun-loving.  Their tag line is “Damn Fine Cider” lol.  I hope to visit them someday in Corvallis OR.  I’ve actually met co-founder Aaron Sarnroff-Wood (at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 and a Schilling Cider House 2 Towns tasting event) and communicated with him by e-mail about their Cider Master Reserve Batch No 01, and he is super helpful.  I highly recommend this cider if you enjoy higher-ABV ciders and want something unique.

Have you tried any ciders from 2 Towns?  What did you think?

McMenamins Edgefield Hard Cider

Review of Edgefield Hard Cider, only available at McMenamins.  I tried this at their new Anderson School location in Bothell WA.  I was surprised to learn that Edgefield has been supplying McMenamins with cider for their locations since 1992, well before the more recent cider boom.

Cider:  Edgefield Hard Cider (Original)
Cidery:  McMenamins (made by Edgefield Winery)
Cidery Location:  Troutdale OR
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  tap-only (I am surprised they don’t sell it bottled, as they sell bottles of all their beers and wines onsite)

Availability:  All McMenamins locations (WA & OR)

Cider Description:  Pale yellow gold in color, Edgefield Hard Cider has aromas of fresh apple, apple skin, and pie spices.  Lively on the tongue, fresh apple flavor dominates with hints of pear and honey. Crisp and refreshing, the sweetness in this semi-sweet cider is balanced out by tart acidity.

Cidery Description: McMenamins has been crafting hard cider to serve in our pubs since 1992, offering clean, crisp flavors that highlight the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Using quality juices pressed from neighboring orchards in the Columbia River Gorge, we craft this gluten-free cider year-round at Edgefield Winery. The apples pressed off for our cider are primarily a blend of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious (added for color), Granny Smith (for acidity), and Fuji, Galas, and Honeycrisp (to increase sweetness). All of our ciders are lightly carbonated, just under 7% ABV and made with gluten-free ingredients.  The freshly pressed juice arrives at the Edgefield Winery, where it is pumped into temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.  Employing a cool fermentation to maintain as much of the fresh apple aromas as possible, we ferment the cider until it is completely dry.  A bit of fresh-pressed apple juice is then blended back into the hard cider for some sweetness and to balance the acidity.  We keg the cider with some CO2 spritz, and ship it off to all of our locations to enjoy!

Price:  $6.50 / pint
Where Drank:  McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell WA
How Found:  I had heard online that McMenamins made their own cider and it was pretty good, so when we attended an event at McMenamins, I knew I wanted to give it a try.  At the Anderson School they had Edgefield Apple and Blackberry ciders, and Schilling Ginger and Chai ciders (at the main bar…the smaller bars only had this one).  The actual location (literally a previous school) is pretty cool, with a hotel, multiple restaurants, multiple bars, a swimming pool, gift shop, brewery, movie theater, and event spaces.  There is definitely a lack of parking and though, and its pretty busy as they just opened.

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First Impression:  Pale straw yellow.  High carbonation (bubbles rising from bottom to top, which you can actually kinda see in the photo) and a bit of foam.  Smells of crisp fresh apples with a hint of yeast, but not much else.

Opinion:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  I was expecting sweeter (to appeal to the masses), so it was nice to find it more middle of the road.  I wouldn’t have guessed it was back sweetened (where they add un-fermented juice after fermentation to increase sweetness), as it isn’t really juice-like (as can often happen with back sweetened cider).  It was however obviously force-carbonated, but I enjoy high carbonation levels.  High acidity.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate astringency.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Light bodied.  Crisp and refreshing.  I pick up green apples, citrus, and tropical notes.

Most Similar to:  A lot of flagship ciders, such as Boonville Bite Hard, which is also acidic & tart, but a bit drier.

Closing Notes:   I’d definitely drink this again, but for my tastes it honestly isn’t too much above average (which isn’t really bad at all, as half of all ciders statistically would be below average in my book).  I thought it was quite good for an American flagship cider (which I usually tend away from liking), but I prefer a richer flavor.  I’m interested to try their other varieties.  For seasonal releases, Edgefield has Black Cherry (April-July), Blackberry (July-Oct), Ginger Perry (Nov-Jan), and Pomegranate (Jan-April).  Also, their limited release Estate Cider sounds awesome (barrel aged for 18 months, available in late June at select locations).

Have you tried McMenamins Edgefield Hard Cider?  What did you think?

Atlas Cider Company Hard Apricot Cider

Review of the Hard Apricot variety from Atlas Cider Company.  I’ve now tried all four of their varieties which are available by the bottle, Apple, Blackberry, Pom-Cherry, and Apricot.

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Cider:  Hard Apricot Cider
Cidery:  Atlas Cider Company
Cidery Location:  Bend OR
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  22oz clear glass bottle

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Availability:  Year-round in OR, WA, & ID.

Cider Description:  Pressed golden orange apricots dominate this uniquely tart cider. The Apricots add a subtle flavor that is like combining a peach and a plum but not quite as sweet. The Romans and Greeks had it right when they used apricots as a main ingredient of their drink known as the “Nectar of the Gods”. The driest of our ciders leaves a lasting round finish that calls for more. May the Gods be appeased.

Cidery Description:  ATLAS Cider Co. produces authentic hard cider fermented from 100% fresh pressed fruit from our region. Partnering with Northwest farmers to source our fruit has been a priority of ours from the beginning. Our ciders start with a base of NW varieties that are pressed to achieve a balance of sweetness, tartness, and dryness. We forge our ciders in the heart of the NW in Bend, OR.  Fermented from 100% fresh pressed fruit.  All fruit from our local OR/WA region.  No use of anything artificial or colorings.  Balanced with just a touch of sweetness.  Naturally Gluten free.  22oz bottles and kegs available.

Price:  $6
Where Bought:  My husband picked this up for me at Albertsons.  Actually, he brought home all three Atlas varieties they had there!  Apple, Apricot, and Blackberry.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  It showed up in the fridge (although I’ve seen them at almost every bottle shop in my area).

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First Impression:  Straw yellow with a hint of orange.  Light carbonation and foam.  Smells like apple, apricot, peach, and tropical/pineapple juices.

Opinion:  Semi-sweet.  Bold apple, apricot, peach, and tropical/pineapple flavors.  Very juice-like.  Well-hodden alcohol.  Light tartness and sourness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, astringency, tannins, etc.  Light bodied. Almost no carbonation. Quick finish.  Crisp and refreshing.  A bit one-dimensional.

Most Similar to:  Woodinville Ciderworks Tropical, which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (tasting notes here).  It also had bold fruitiness and was juice-like but I was a big fan.

Closing Notes:   I’m not a huge fruity juice-like cider fan, but I quite liked this.  Its an easy drinking cider which would be especially nice in summer.  My husband was also a huge fan.  I can see why Atlas is so popular!  They have tons of Facebook fans at least.  I think this cider had the best flavor of the four Atlas varieties, but overall I think I liked the Apple best as it was a touch more complex.  Maybe someday I’ll get to try some of their special releases, which mostly seem to be available at their taproom.

Check out their Vimeo site.  It currently includes three videos, including a behind the scenes look at the details to operating a cider company.

Have you tried Atlas Apricot?  What did you think?

2 Towns Cidre Moscato

Review of Cidre Moscato from 2 Towns, made using Muscat grapes.  I had this awhile back and couldn’t remember if I liked it before, so was curious to try it again when I stumbled upon a bottle in the walk-in cooler of a local grocery store.  This was a special release quite awhile ago, so I was surprised to find it.  I’ve had at least 10 selections from 2 Towns.

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Cider:  Cidre Moscato
Cidery:  2 Towns
Cidery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml glass bottle

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Availability:  Probably limited at this point as it was a special release in 2014 I think.  2 Towns ciders however are sold in OR, WA, CA, AK, HI, NV (limited), ID, IL (Chicago), & MN (Minneapolis).

Cider Description:  Out of the rich soils of the NW grow lush and zesty muscat grapes. Full of vibrant aroma, this blend of Muscat and hard cider will make you wave your pinky in the air like you just don’t care.

Cidery Description:  2 Towns was founded in 2010 by partners Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff. Dave Takush joined us shortly thereafter. All three of us grew up together in the Corvallis, OR area. We’ve had explosive growth since our inception at which point we had intended to produce and distribute cider to the Corvallis, OR and Eugene, OR areas only (incidentally, the 2 Towns of our namesake). It became readily apparent that our initial vision needed to grow as we hit our maximum capacity in our first production space (a converted 1,000 sq ft garage) in roughly 2 months. We’ve since built 2 new production facilities with a total of 25,000 sq ft of production space and our team has grown to over 30 people to help us to distribute to 9 states and counting.

Over this time, we’ve kept to our original goal of bringing craft hard cider back to the people. We feel that a craft cider is made with fresh-pressed fruit and contain no artificial flavorings. Our fruit is all sourced in Oregon & Washington and all of our ciders are also free from added sugars other than those present in the juice and in some cases local honey. We feel that cider doesn’t need to be sweet to express the natural flavors of the fruits we ferment.

2 Towns Ciderhouse planted an orchard in 2011 with all traditional cider apple varieties such as Kingston Black, Dabinett, Jersey Brown Snout, and many others. 2 Towns has also contracted with several growers in the Willamette Valley and beyond to grow additional traditional cider fruit.

Price:  $7 on sale from $9
Where Bought:  QFC grocery store
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing the walk-in fridge.  I also found the first bottle awhile back the same way.

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<looks nice in my new Sangria glass!>

First Impression:  Light carbonation, a few small bubbles.  Straw yellow, no haze.  Very light tropical and white grape scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Fruity, refreshing, and light.  The tropical and white grape notes continued into the flavor. Higher acidity.  Low to moderate tartness.  No bitterness.  Light astringency.  It has some sweet flavor notes without being sweet.  The flavor profile on this cider is pretty mild.  Very unique.  Moderately complex too.

Most Similar to:  Attila Scourge of God (review here), although that didn’t have the additional fruitiness.  Moa Kiwifruit was also on the drier side and had a light tropical kiwi flavor.  Most tropically ciders I’ve had were a bit sweeter, such as Reverend Nat’s Revival (review here) and Woodinville Ciderworks Tropical (review here).

Closing Notes:   Tasty!  This would especially be a great summer cider.  I was surprised I enjoyed it so much as usually I go for bolder ciders.

Have you tried 2 Towns Cidre Muscato?  What did you think?

Original Sin Pear

Review of the Pear variety from Original Sin.  Note that this is pear cider (apple cider with pear juice added), not perry (made from 100% pear juice).

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Cider:  Pear
Cidery:  Original Sin
Cidery Location:  New York NY
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles

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Availability:  year round, in over 30 U.S. states, the UK, and Japan

Cider Description:  Two parts pear, one part magic.  A Dry cider fermented with champagne yeast.  Original Sin Pear Cider was developed in line with the company’s mission to produce traditional cider leaving out artificial flavors and additives. Original Sin Pear is light and refreshing with a clean, dry finish.

Cidery Description:  20th-century American ciders were sweet, syrupy – a far cry from the dry, crisp, revolution-inciting ciders of our country’s past.  Gidon Coll wanted to reconnect America to its roots by creating a traditional cider with the complexity to satisfy today’s discriminating palates.  But where to begin?  Coll immersed himself in the history and the craft of cider. He experimented. He brewed batch after batch in a small upstate New York winery. He sought counsel from a local wine expert and from the owners, bartenders and patrons of bars he frequented in New York City’s Lower East Side and East Village. He collected feedback from everyone he knew, adjusting and tinkering with his cider’s flavor until it was clean, crisp, and practically perfect.  Then he enlisted friends to painstakingly hand-label bottle after bottle. He lugged cases and cases in and out of NYC’s subways, delivering bottles to establishments of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  And it wasn’t long before Original Sin began receiving wide acclaim from sources as diverse as The New York Times, New York Post, Paper Magazine and Market Watch.  Today, you can find  Original Sin’s unique, award-winning ciders in over 30 states, as well as overseas in the U.K. and Japan. But it all started here in the U.S. — inspired by our country’s past: a clean, crisp, DEVILISHLY DELICIOUS cider for our future.  [founded in 1997]

Price:  ~$2 for a single bottle (runs $10 for a six pack)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’d been wanting to review an Original Sin cider, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Almost clear, with a slightly yellow tint.  Smells of apples, pears, and citrus.  Highly carbonated.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Very fizzy and champagne-like.  However, the flavor is much more tart & tangy green apple with citrus than pear.  No bitterness.  Moderate acidity.  Light bodied.  No funk.  Some yeasty flavor.  I agree it is “light and refreshing with a clean, dry finish”, but I prefer a more boldly flavored cider.  I liked the carbonation level and the dryness though.

Most Similar to:  Portland Cider Pearfect Perry, which I tried on tap at the Schilling Cider House.  It was also rather mild with almost no pear flavor, but fizzy and refreshing.  That one however was a true perry (100% pear juice, Bartlett and D’Anjou), unlike Original Sin Pear.

Closing Notes:   Refreshing, but on the bland side and unimpressive.  Original Sin currently offers Apple, Apricot, Pear, Elderberry, Cherry Tree, Northern Spy, and Newtown Pippin varieties.  I’ve also tried the Elderberry and Cherry Tree, and would say they were also pretty average.  Original Sin’s ciders tend to be on the drier side of the 6 pack cider offerings.  They are an affordable and widely available craft cider option however, which is something to be commended.

Have you tried Original Sin Pear?  What did you think?

Virtue The Mitten Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider

Review of Virtue Cider’s The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples.  This is the first cider I’ve tried from Virtue.

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Cider:  The Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml green champagne bottle, capped (also available in kegs)

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Availability:  Limited release, winter seasonal.  Virtue cider may be available in GA, MD, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PN, RI, VA, VT, IL, ID, KY, MI, MN, OH, WI, CA, OR, WA, & TX.

Cider Description:  When the leaves fall, there’s a chill in the air and the evening greedily takes hours from daylight, we stand strong and embrace the wintertime. It’s a time of rich foods, roaring fires and our favorite sweaters. Drinks change from refreshing to intense and satisfying. The Mitten is a Winter cider, a blend of last seasons best, aged in bourbon barrels, with the new season’s fresh pressed apple juice. Straight cider, aged for 3 seasons, finds notes of vanilla, caramel and charred American oak, balanced with the best of the orchard, over-ripe apples and their sweet, tart, earthy juice. Many barrels are filled, but only a small portion, the very smoothest, will find their way into The Mitten. We love wintertime, especially when we have The Mitten to keep us warm and happy through the long, cold night.

Northern Spy, Cox’s Orange Pippin, McIntosh, and Jonathan apples blended with cider aging in our barrel house that is made from more than forty varietals of apples.

See Virtue’s info page on this cider.

Cidery Description:  Virtue Farm is located in Southwest Michigan, part of the state’s thriving Cider Coast.  Michigan’s Cider Coast boasts 200 miles of apple orchards, changing leaves, and stunning vistas best enjoyed with a glass of crisp cider. All along the coast, great cider being made by a bevy of wonderful cider makers, all working hard to revive dozens of varieties of heirloom apples ideal for juicing and fermenting.  Virtue Cider is proud to be part of this burgeoning revival of an important Michigan tradition.

They have a tasting room.  Also see this page on their barrel aging program.  This cider was bourbon barrel aged at least 6 months (depending on the vintage).  I’m guessing I tried the 2014 vintage.  The 2015 vintage is expected to be released in December by the way.

Price:  ~$24
Where Bought:  Capitol Cider in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve read a number of articles & reviews on this cider, which is quite well-received.  I’ve been on the lookout for it ever since (although I can find a number of Virtue’s other varieties, this one is more rare in WA).  I was very excited to see it on the bottle list at Capitol Cider, and just my luck, they still had it (they only update their printed bottle lists so often, so its possible they have since run out of items).

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First Impression:  High carbonation (foamed over when I opened it!).  Gold amber hue.  Lots of tiny bubbles and foam.  Hazy.  Rich medium sweet very ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, caramel, and brown sugar scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Frothy almost mousse-like sparkling/carbonated mouth feel.  Rich bold flavors but light bodied.  Very warming.  Mild to moderate barrel influence.  Moderate to heavy bourbon influence.  Moderate to high acidity.  Moderate bitterness,  Low to moderate tannins.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate astringency.  Ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, and caramel notes (quite similar to the scent, but tasted less sweet then it smelled).  Slightly earthy and smokey.  Long bitter finish.  The other reviews I’ve read didn’t seem to mention this high of a level of carbonation and the significant bitterness, but each palate is different, and they could have been from a different vintage (a craft product like this varies year to year).

Most Similar to:  Other drier bourbon barrel aged ciders with bitter notes.  My favorite bourbon barrel aged cider so far is Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012, made by 2 Towns, which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015.  This one definitely had the highest level of carbonation I’ve seen in this type of cider (often barrel aged ciders are presented almost still).  The level of heat reminded me of Sea Cider Prohibition / Rumrunner.  I would have guessed this cider was a much higher ABV, but it was very smooth and relatively easy to drink.

Closing Notes:   I think I psyched myself up a bit too much for this one.  I really liked it, but didn’t love it.  I think if it wasn’t for the bitterness in the finish, I would have been really impressed.  I think it also smelled better than it tasted (more sweetness came across in the scent).  Maybe all the sweet-type notes made me want a sweeter cider?  All in all it is a nice cider selection which makes me want to try more ciders from Virtue and from the Finger Lakes region (which similar to WA & OR is known for cider).

Second day update:  I didn’t finish this cider the first night (as its just me and I have a tendency to make small pours).  On the second night, I oddly enough found it had developed a distinct sourness (and remained pretty high carbonation).  I’m used to ciders losing flavor / mellowing out, but sour is a new one.  It was well-sealed with a flip top.  So, I’d recommend drinking this in one night.

Have you tried any ciders from Virtue?  What did you think?

Sixknot Cider Organic Goldilocks

Review of Organic Goldilocks from Sixknot Cider.

Cider:  Organic Goldilocks
Cidery:  Sixknot Cider
Cidery Location:  Twisp WA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  likely limited to WA, especially Western WA

Cider Description:  Goldilocks is made by arresting the fermentation process with cold shock prior to complete transformation of the natural sugars to alcohol. This process delivers a refreshing, elegant cider that is easy for the first time cider drinker to embrace, and still provides complexity for the experienced palate. As the name implies, Goldilocks is not too sweet or too dry, it is a true balanced cider. The cider is naturally effervescent.

Cidery Description:  Our farm and cidery rests on the banks of the Methow River near Twisp, Washington. We only press certified organic Washington apples, selected from our trees and other local orchards. We do not add sulfites, preservatives or sugars. To retain the subtle flavors often lost in processed ciders, we do not filter. Our cidermaking is kith and kin to the natural wine movement…organic practice in the orchard, and minimal intervention in the ciderhouse.

They sell three core bottled ciders, Goldilocks, High Desert Dry, and Gingerella.  They also have special releases (such as Purple Sage), and their ciders can be found on draft.

Price:  $11.00 (restaurant; retail is $9; pretty low markup actually)
Where Drank:  The Repp in Snohomish WA.  This is their only cider selection, and it isn’t even on the menu (I was glad I asked if they had cider the last time I was in).  The only other time I’ve had this cider was also there.  Its a great restaurant by the way, with good variety on the menu and reasonable prices for finer dining.  There is also Fred’s down the street, a unique bar with a huge Scotch collection and a few ciders (where I had Woodchuck Raspberry).
How Found:  I’d heard of Sixknot, but tried it mostly as that is what was available.

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First Impression:  I was still getting over being asked if I wanted ice with my cider!  After that, I noticed the lovely hazy lemonade color with light carbonation & foam.  Clean acidic apple scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Mild tartness and tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Some earthiness and the slightest bit of funk.  Mild citrus notes.  Very apple-forward.  I enjoy unfiltered ciders.  Some folks however consider haziness a flaw.  I’ve heard that overly filtering can take out some of the flavors.  This is a rather flavorful cider for being a flagship type variety, and I enjoyed it.  I think this variety would be pretty widely appealing, although some would probably like a bit more sweetness.  This was advertised as middle of the road sweetness but I found it a bit drier than that.

Closing Notes:   Quite tasty.  It was great to be able to enjoy some local craft cider at a local restaurant for our anniversary.  I had seafood pasta and my husband had red wine and a steak.  This wasn’t the greatest cider to pair with seafood pasta (I’d go for something a bit richer), but I was happy to have cider at all.  Oddly enough, even being in a huge producing cider area, lots of restaurants in my area still don’t have cider, or only Angry Orchard Crisp Apple.  Going to a non-chain restaurant increases the odds.  Note that I’ve had another cider from apples grown in the same Methow Valley region, Methow Valley Honey Bear, but it was quite a different style & level of sweetness.

Have you tried Sixknot Goldilocks?  What did you think?

Rambling Route Yakima Cider

Review of Rambling Route Yakima Cider, made by Tieton Cider Works.  This is their lower end canned cider (vs. their bottled ciders).

Cider:  Yakima Cider
Cidery:  Rambling Route (Tieton Cider Works)
Cidery Location:  Yakima WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  16oz tallboy can (four pack)

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Availability:  Semi-wide (19/50 states), year round

Cider Description:  The apple’s journey to America was parallel to man’s. The boat landed and the exploration began: in this vast new land the choices for thriving were endless. Some were happy to live on the coast where they landed, spreading out and staying diverse. Others were content to live amongst a few or be a solo tree in a town square. A few made it halfway across the land and settled in. The fearless joined the westward migration on horses and wagons, traveling thousands of miles looking for the perfect dirt, long sunny days and ample water. When it reached the land that would be called Washington, the apple knew. It was home at the end of a Rambling Route.

For those that appreciate the bold, crisp flavor of biting into a Washington grown apple, your quest for the perfect apple cider ends with Rambling Route. We grow and press only fresh apples from our family farm and carefully blend under the roof of our own cidery located in the heart of the Yakima Valley. Expect pineapple aromas and mineral qualities on the nose, snappy and racy acid levels on the palate, coupled by a deep full-bodied finish. No additives, no concentrates, or preservatives – ever!

Additional Info from Rambling Route:  We use a variety of bitter sharp and bitter sweets apples in our Ciders.  Along with some dessert varietals.  We launched our can division on April 1st which is the Rambling Route brand.  We will be launching Rambling Route in early 2016 with kegs.

Price:  ~$2.50 for a single can (runs $8-9 for a four pack in my area)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Since then, I’ve seen it promoted quite a bit.

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First Impression:  Mild dry acidic crisp apple scent.  Little carbonation upon pouring, but tiny bubbles.  Light straw gold hue.

Opinion:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Moderate to high acidity.  Mild tartness, bitterness, and astringency.  Citrus notes.  I noticed the slightest bit of tannic cider apple taste, but it left me wanting more.  Rather bland and watered down tasting.  Light bodied.  Longer finish with an odd almost soapy aftertaste (which I read can be a sign of stressed yeast).  I liked that it wasn’t too bitter, which I’ve often found with drier ciders.  I don’t agree with their description that it is bold or full-bodied.  It is however a crisp and easy drinking cider.  Well balanced, but I found it boring and unimpressive.

Most Similar to:  Other drier light bodied PNW flagship ciders such as HUB Hard Cider, Red Tank Happy Cider, 2 Towns Bright Cider, Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet, and Anthem Cider.

Closing Notes:   I commend Tieton for making an affordable craft cider (relatively small batch, made from fresh pressed juice, nothing artificial added, etc), and one that isn’t too sweet either.  However, it just isn’t to my liking.  I think if it was higher carbonation and had a richer flavor, they would be on to something I’d enjoy.  I’m still in search for an everyday drinking craft cider which is affordable (which usually means it comes in a multi-pack).  The cider folks I’ve talked to seem to either love or hate this cider.  I’m sorta ambivalent.

Have you tried Rambling Route Yakima Cider?  What did you think?

Angry Orchard Stone Dry

Review of Angry Orchard’s newest variety, Stone Dry.  It is their driest Core selection, and described as a twist on English cider.

This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Angry Orchard.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.

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They send me two bottles, a fact sheet, a note from head cider maker Ryan Burk, and a large quantity of bubble wrap (not pictured).

Cider:  Stone Dry
Cidery:  Angry Orchard
Cidery Location:  Walden NY (their new R&D facility)
Cider Production Locations:  Cincinnati OH & Breingsville PA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
(will also have limited draft availability to start, nationwide in 2016)

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Ingredient List:  Hard cider, water, sugar, apple juice concentrate, carbon dioxide, malic acid and sulfites to preserve freshness

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Availability:  year round, wide release, launched 09/24/2015 (part of their Core collection)

Fact Sheet from Angry Orchard: For more than two decades, the cider makers at Angry Orchard have been experimenting with ingredients from all over the world and tinkering with recipes to perfect the craft of cider making in the U.S.  In the UK – where cider is 15% of the beer segment, as opposed to around 1% in the U.S. – traditional English dry ciders have been around for centuries and are a cultural mainstay.  These styles are known for their use of traditional bittersweet apple varieties and showcasing naturally occurring tannins that create a drying effect on the palate.

Angry Orchard Stone Dry – the driest cider in Angry Orchard’s core collection – is an American interpretation of the traditional English dry cider style. It offers a bright apple aroma, juicy flavor, and a clean dry finish, showcasing an intricate balance between the sweetness and acidity of culinary apples and the tannins of traditional cider making apples. The traditional apples chosen by the cider makers are European bittersweet varieties like Dabinett, Binet Rouge, and Harry Masters Jersey, which contribute to the high tannic character and dry finish. The result is a refreshing, slightly puckering cider with a drying finish, most often felt on the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth.

While most of the juice from apples in the cider is fermented, Angry Orchard’s cider makers add a bit of non-fermented bittersweet apple juice into the cider during the post-fermentation stage to help achieve this cider’s balanced, dry taste.  This results in Stone Dry’s fuller tannic mouthfeel as well as perceived dryness and robust bittersweet aromatic notes – much like a very ripe apple.

As the palates of American cider drinkers have continued to grow in sophistication and evolve with the increasing popularity of hard cider here, Angry Orchard has developed a broad range of cider styles for drinkers to try and to showcase what American cider can be, including the newest year-round offering.

Angry Orchard Stone Dry pairs well with a wide variety of foods, from porcine plates to seafood dishes.  This take on a traditional European dry style cider is an excellent accompaniment to charcuterie, including cured meats and aged cheeses, and is a great introduction to fall foods and heartier dishes or stews with root vegetables.  It can also be used as an ingredient in recipes, such as mussels steamed in Angry Orchard Stone Dry cider.

Price:  retails for $7.50 a six pack in my area, although Angry Orchard’s fact sheet said $8.99-10.99
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  on my doorstep

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First Impression:  Amber hue with very little carbonation.  They got quite a bit of color out of this one.  Dry “cheap” apple scent….I just didn’t pick up much nose to this one.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Mild bitterness, tannins, astringency, and acidity.  Simple flavor.  Almost watered down tasting.  I get a bit of that bittersweet apple flavor, but this doesn’t remind me of English style cider at all (which to me often have a really rich flavor).  Quick finish.  Definitely more drinkable than their other varieties I’ve had (which is most of them), but I’m not impressed.  More flavor would definitely be nice.  Its unfortunate they use apple juice concentrate (and water & sugar oddly enough!).  It tastes like they were trying to eek some tannins out of dessert apples, although they note the use of bittersweet apples.

I find it interesting their description indicates more a drying flavor (which I’d call astringency) than dryness (lack of sweetness).  I actually through their fact sheet was kinda funny, coming from the biggest commercial cidermaker in the U.S.  It seems they are trying to reconnect with craft cidermaking, between releasing this variety and moving into an R&D facility with a 60 acre orchard earlier this year (article).  They have plans to open a tasting room there in the fall for their small batch creations.

Comparison to Woodchuck Gumption:  It seems this may be Angry Orchard’s response to Woodchuck’s latest hit, Gumption (in addition to responding to requests for a drier cider in general).  So, I thought a comparison was in order. Note that I didn’t however have a bottle of Gumption available (I may have to get one for a side by side test with my second bottle of Stone Dry), so I went by memory and notes. They both incorporate bittersweet apples and aim to make a drier cider for their core collection.  Stone Dry comes across as significantly drier than Gumption (even more so than the 7 vs. 13 grams of sugar per 12 oz would indicate).  Where it gets interesting is the calories, 150 for Stone Dry vs. 220 for Gumption (for equivalent ABV).  I found Gumption to be more flavorful and more rich in general.  Stone Dry includes concentrate (and water & sugar) where Gumption doesn’t.  However, Gumption is listed to have “natural flavor”.  Gumption gets my vote as far as likability, although for someone that wants the driest easily found commercial cider available, Stone Dry may be a good choice.  The driest commercial cider I’ve ever seen by the way is Ace Joker, which only has an impressive 3 grams of sugar per 12 oz, but it isn’t quite as readily available (I have a bottle of Joker at home to try).

Closing Notes:   Not bad.  Definitely drinkable.  If a bar had this and no other cider, I’d buy it.  I won’t on the other hand pay for Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple variety, which is too syrupy for my liking.  Stone Dry is an above average commercial offering, but I wouldn’t in any way say this is a craft cider (neither would I describe Woodchuck as craft though).

Have you tried Angry Orchard Stone Dry?  What did you think?

Angry Orchard The Muse

Review of Angry Orchard’s The Muse, part of their Cider House Collection (along with Iceman and Strawman).  I had forgotten about this bottle, as for some reason it was in with our champagne & white wine, instead of with my ciders.  So, especially since I didn’t know how long ago I bought it, I thought I’d better drink this one!

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Cider:  The Muse
Cidery:  Angry Orchard
Cidery Location:  Cincinnati OH
ABV:  7.7%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottle

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Availability:  wide release, year round

Description from Angry Orchard:  Our Cider House Collection includes rare and innovative ciders, harvested from our cider makers’ passion and creativity. To bring you these new distinct styles, we experimented with juice blends, wood aging, fermentation techniques, and other traditional processes learned from 15 years of cider making exploration and craftsmanship.

Inspired by the festive nature of slightly sweet demi-sec champagnes and sparkling wines, The Muse is a bubbly, effervescent cider made from traditional culinary and bittersweet apples and aged on French oak. The cider is sweet upfront with a juicy apple aroma and bright acidity, and slightly drying on the finish with a lingering sweet apple note. The French oak adds a subtle wood impression, imparting notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and hints of vanilla. 7.7% ABV.

Price:  ~$15
Where Bought:  Costco?  Its pretty widely available though, even at the supermarkets near me.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve had The Muse and Iceman probably a few times each.

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First Impression:  Darker amber.  High foam & carbonation.  Cooked apple scent.

Opinion:  Sweet to very sweet.  Tastes like a sparkling ice wine.  High carbonation.  Moderate acidity.  Medium bodied.  Effervescent mouthfeel.  No noticeable bitterness, tartness, or astringency.  I don’t pick up any barrel influence or the spices that are mentioned in the description.  I do however pick up some bittersweet apple, cooked apple, and vanilla notes.  There are some poor syrupy and juice-like qualities to this cider.  Longer length finish.  Slightly less sweet than Iceman.  In contrast, Iceman has a higher ABV, some discernible barrel influence, and less carbonation.

Most Similar to:  Angry Orchard’s Iceman.  Check out this post I did with mini reviews of all the Angry Orchard ciders I’ve tried.

Closing Notes:   This cider is pretty good, but I think much better can be had for the money.  Also, I’d really rather support a local craft cidery.  This is however a good introduction to a more craft-like cider product for those with limited cider availability and for those whose palates like a sweet cider.  I have tended towards drier ciders lately and this one is a bit too sweet now for me.

Have you tried Angry Orchard The Muse?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Sour Cherry

Review of Woodchuck Sour Cherry.  This was a Cellar series release in Spring 2014.  They have since discontinued the Cellar series and now have the Out on a Limb series (six pack where the variety rotates every 45-60 days).  I was told that Sour Cherry is the same as Out on a Limb Cheeky Cherry, except 6.9% ABV instead of 5.5% ABV.

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Cider:  Sour Cherry
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz brown glass bottle with a cute cherry motif

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Availability:  discontinued

Cider Description:  Woodchuck Cellar Series Sour Cherry is crafted in the tradition of age-old Belgian sour beers.  Culinary and bittersweet cider apple varieties make up the fermented cider.  Cherries sourced from Belgium are then added.  The cherries bring a deep red color to the cider and leave behind subtle tat and sour fruit notes.  This is a very delicate cider full of complexity if you are willing to sip slowly and seek it out.  We hope you enjoy our latest from the cellar!  -John Matson, Cider Maker

Price:  $4 or $5 ?
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I think I ended up buying 5 or 6 of these bottles at the time!

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First Impression:  Lovely cherry red hue.  Cherry scent.  This was lacking carbonation due to its age (the bottles I drank in Spring 2014 had moderate carbonation).

Opinion:  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Very fruit-forward.  It starts sweet then moves to a moderate tart (quick) finish.  This cider (like most fruity ciders in my opinion) is quite juice-like.  The alcohol is well hidden.  It isn’t complex (I don’t pick up any flavor notes besides cherry), but has a nice flavor.  I’ve never found a fruity cider which truly impressed me like other cider varieties, but this one is probably my favorite fruit-flavored cider along with Finnriver Lavender Black Currant (which does have more complexity).  Other favorite ciders of mine which have a lovely fruit-forward flavor but aren’t “flavored’ are Eaglemount Quince and Reverend Nat’s Revival.

Most Similar to:  Other sweet cherry ciders.  This Woodchuck variety has more cherry flavor than many other cherry ciders though (such as Elemental Cherry, Locust Sweet Dark Cherry, and Original Sin Cherry Tree).

Closing Notes:   What a tasty blast from the past!  Its probably good I finally decided to open this bottle, as it had lost some carbonation, and the flavor was probably next to go.  I think I mostly hung on to it as it was the last Cellar Series release.  I was initially quite disappointed when Woodchuck dropped their Cellar Series and moved to Out on a Limb.  However, it has turned out quite well as it is even less of a commitment; I can get a single 12 oz bottle from the six pack (many stores split them up) instead of a 22 oz bottle.  This was my favorite Cellar Series of Sour Cherry, Mint, and Chocolate (I never tried Smoked Apple, Dry Hop, or Ginger).  They definitely came out with some weird ones!

Have you tried Woodchuck Sour Cherry or Cheeky Cherry?  What did you think?

Tieton Cidermaker’s Reserve

Review of Cidermaker’s Reserve from Tieton Cider Works.

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Cider:  Cidermaker’s Reserve
Cidery:  Tieton Cider Works
Cidery Location:  Yakima WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml mini champagne bottle, corked & caged

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Availability:  Year round.  Tieton ciders are available in WA, OR, AK, HI, B.C., ID, CA, NV, MT, WY, UT, CO, AZ, NM, TX, FL, MI, IL, and OH (per their website).  They also take orders by phone to be shipped in WA (info here) and have a tasting room (info here).

Cider Description:  This two-year-old bourbon barrel-aged bittersweet cider has a nose that brings out the haze of vanilla, plum, and slight bourbon notes. Pours a golden hue with hints of charred oak, vanilla, and late harvest apples on the palate.

Cidery Description:  We are continually asked: how did you get into the cider business?  The answer is easy: we were in the apple growing business. Period. If we had not been a farming family, cider would not have held an interest.  The fruit that is used in Tieton Cider Works cider comes from Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards. This land has been in our family since the 1920’s when our grandfather planted his first trees in Tieton, Washington. We take our stewardship of the land seriously and have been farming organically for the last 25 years.  As a third generation Yakima Valley farmer with a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and over thirty five years’ experience in marketing produce, Craig has always been curious about the back-story: the history, production, science, and industry of food. Growing different varieties of trees is truly what makes Craig happy and he is always looking for new varieties to plant and nurture.  In 2008 he was introduced to cider apple varieties, those gnarly, inedible wild apple varieties needed to make great cider.  He planted twenty five varieties in a test block of two acres to study the growing patterns: did each fit into the existing bloom and harvest schedule of the farm, what were the flavor profiles of the fruit and how did that variety add to the cider that we wanted to make.  From that original twenty five, Craig has narrowed it down to the eight most suitable for commercial production, never closing the door on annual experimentation when he learns of a new variety. We now have the largest acreage of cider apples and Perry pears in the state of Washington with 55 acres.  The Yakima Valley is the largest apple producing region in Washington and there is an infrastructure existing in our valley that provides many advantages when you are making cider.  Whether we are storing our apples in controlled atmosphere, sending our apricots and cherries to be processed, or selecting the complementary hops and pumpkin for our seasonal ciders – it all exists in the valley we call home. A love of land, food and drink has inspired us to make cider with the fruit we are growing at our ranch, Harmony Orchards.  We know the ciders we make are an expression of the harvest and reflective of the fruit and the place that it is grown. We are thrilled to be involved in re:interpreting the tradition of cider making.

Price:  $9.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve seen this cider at Total Wine, and even tried it awhile back (can’t remember if it was a tasting or an entire bottle).  However, I wanted to give it another go as I didn’t really remember it, and am now more into drier ciders than I was a year or two ago.

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First Impression:  Medium carbonation upon pouring.  Light champagne yellow.  Smells of ripe acidic apples and oak.

Opinion:  Dry to semi-dry.  I definitely pick up the oak barrel influence, but it isn’t overpowering in the least.  I also pick up some vanilla and bourbon notes.  Moderate acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Medium bodied.  Some astringency.  Moderate length finish with some lingering acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Clean refreshing taste.  Its awesome they are a Washington cidery and have such a large cider apple orchard.  Overall a solid well-balanced and well-composed cider, but isn’t one of my favorites.  It is tending towards the bold & unique category that I like, but not quite there yet.

Most Similar to:  Other local craft oak aged ciders I’ve tried such as Schilling Oak Aged, Finnriver Oak & Apple, and Snowdrift Cornice, although slightly more dry & acidic.

Closing Notes:   I look forward to trying more Tieton ciders!  I’ve tried a good deal (Cidermaker’s Reserve, Apricot, Smoked Pumpkin, Wind, Wild Washington, Cherry, and Blossom Nectar), but this is the first I’ve reviewed here at Cider Says.  I’d especially like to try their Sparkling Perry and Frost (ice cider) varieties.

Have you tried Tieton Cidermaker’s Reserve?  What did you think?

Locust Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider

Review of Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider from Locust Cider.  This is their first limited release offering, and also the first to be packaged in a large bottle (instead of a multi pack of cans or bottles, or on tap only).

There is a bit of a funny story with this bottle of cider:  Upon arriving home from the bottle shop with this cider I found it on its side in my car in my bottle tote in a small puddle of cider.  Thank goodness for waterproof floor mats…  The bottle was hissing slightly.  I guess the cap hit something in my car when it rolled around a bit and the edge got lifted slightly.  It definitely could have been worse though.  After cleaning up the mess I decided I needed to finish opening the cap and put on the attached flip-top cap before putting it in the fridge.  I hadn’t been planning to drink it that night, and it wasn’t cold anyways.  The following night I opened the bottle and it proceeded to violently foam over!  So, I had cleaned up after this cider twice before even drinking any…  I definitely got a foamy bottle which went a bit overboard in bottle conditioning!  Thankfully only a few ounces of cider was lost in those messes.

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Cider:  Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA (Northeast of Seattle)
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml clear flip-top bottle

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Availability:  Locust Cider is currently available in WA and ID.  This is a limited release however so it may not be available everywhere that Locust Cider is sold.

Thanks to Jason Spears, co-founder of Locust Cider, for extra info on this cider!

Cider Description:  Made from Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith dessert apples.  Fermented with wild yeast (the yeast on the fruit itself, in contrast to most ciders which add new yeast). The outcome of a wild yeast fermentation is more unpredictable, and Locust described losing several batches of cider that didn’t turn out well.  The cider is then tank aged for 6 months, where they allow a small amount of oxygen into the system to initiate malolactic fermentation.  This is from secondary bacteria, as opposed to yeast, and changes the cider, reducing acidity and adding body & mouthfeel.  This technique is not always desirable, but is what they were going for with this cider variety.  Then the fermented cider is blended with fresh pressed juice and bottled ulfiltered, to allow for bottle conditioning.

Cidery Description:  Real people making a cider for real people.  They aim to make extremely drinkable ciders, with balanced flavors, not overly sweet or sour.  All ciders are made from Pacific Northwest apples and fruit, with no artificial sweeteners, only apples and yeast.  Founded by two brothers, Jason & Patrick Spears, from Texas, in early 2015.  Their name is a reminder to embrace life without compromise, after Jason was calmed by a gentle orchestra of locusts in a field after a near death experience.

Their tap room is open Thursday thru Sunday in the Woodinville WA warehouse district.

Locust Cider currently offers Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark Cherry (had been tap only but bottles are on their way to stores now), Summer Berry (tap only), Thai Ginger (tap room only), and Washington Dessert Apple Cider.

Price:  ~$10
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown area of Seattle WA, where they were having a tasting of Locust Cider (Original Dry and Green Tea Infused) and Argus Fermentables (Ciderkin and Ginger Perry).  Of those I only liked the Ciderkin, which I reviewed here previously.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I hadn’t heard of this one before.

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First Impression:  Foam!  Hazy/unfiltered honey hue.  Smells of sweet unfiltered cider, honey, and a slight earthiness.

Opinion:  Sweet but not very sweet.  Taste is similar to unfermented sweet cider, except with that hard cider kick.  High acidity.  Moderate carbonation, high foam/fizz, and a bit of tang.  No noticeable funk, but a bit of earthiness.  Moderate finish length.  No significant bitterness or astringency.  Mild tartness.  Medium bodied.  Notes of honey and cooked apples.  Moderate complexity.  This cider is slightly booze-forward, and I probably would have guessed it to have an even higher ABV.

Most Similar to:  Farmhouse style unfiltered ciders such as J.K.’s Scrumpy (from whom I’ve tried Orchard Gate and Northern Neighbor, which are a bit sweeter than this cider).

Closing Notes:   Overall this cider is a solid unique selection.  However, I’m curious how the taste was affected by the apparently aggressive bottle conditioning.  I opened this cider on a Wednesday, had a small glass Thursday, a small glass Friday, and the rest on a Saturday, and even on Saturday it had plenty of fizz left and tried to overflow the glass upon pouring!

I’ve tried most of Locust Cider’s other offerings:  their Sweet Dark Cherry on tap at Schilling Cider House and their Original Dry (canned) and Green Tea Infused (bottled) at the tasting at Full Throttle Bottles when I picked up this cider, all of which I found to be a bit lacking in flavor.  The Washington Dessert Apple however is much different and much more full-flavored than the other three.  I’ll definitely try any other limited release and/or full-flavored cider from Locust Cider, even though their current regular offerings don’t appeal to me.

Have you tried Locust Washington Dessert Apple Aged Hard Cider?  What did you think?

Atlas Blackberry

Review of Atlas Hard Blackberry Cider.  This cider appears to be made from fermented apple juice, then blackberry, elderberry, & black currant juices are added after fermentation.

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Cider:  Hard Blackberry Cider
Cidery:  Atlas Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Bend OR
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  22oz clear glass bottle

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Availability:  Year-round in OR, WA, & ID.

Cider Description:  Oregon has a state flag, song, flower, and this my friends is our nomination for a state cider.  A deep hue of purple fills the glass as we took zero short-cuts with this fine blend of blackberries and elderberries.  The tartness of the blackberries is rounded out by the complex characteristics of the elderberries.  Filled with tannins this cider leaves a delightful fry and rich finish.  Cheers to NW berries.

Cidery Description:  ATLAS Cider Co. produces authentic hard cider fermented from 100% fresh pressed fruit from our region. Partnering with Northwest farmers to source our fruit has been a priority of ours from the beginning. Our ciders start with a base of NW varieties that are pressed to achieve a balance of sweetness, tartness, and dryness. We forge our ciders in the heart of the NW in Bend, OR.  Fermented from 100% fresh pressed fruit.  All fruit from our local OR/WA region.  No use of anything artificial or colorings.  Balanced with just a touch of sweetness.  Naturally Gluten free.  22oz bottles and kegs available.

Price:  $5.50 (usually runs $7 though)
Where Bought:  My husband picked this up for me at Albertsons.  Actually, he brought home all three Atlas varieties they had!  Apple, Apricot, and Blackberry.  I did a review of the flagship Apple variety awhile back.  Atlas also makes a fourth variety, Pomegranate-Cherry.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  It showed up in the fridge lol.

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First Impression:  Deep berry purple red.  Foam rim.  Little carbonation.  Strong berry-grape scent.

Opinion:  Semi-sweet.  Fairly tart, especially to finish.  Dan at Atlas told me the majority of the apples used in their ciders are granny smith, which I find quite interesting (they say it gives their ciders “a nice flavorful punch that are lacking in many”).  I pick up the berry notes (blackberries & elderberries), but the black currant tastes more like grape to me.  I found this cider to be quite simple and juice-like.  Thin bodied and quick finishing.  I think I would have liked more carbonation and acidity.  It was however refreshing and flavorful.

Most Similar to:  Other berry-forward ciders.  Finnriver Lavender Black Currant is a favorite of mine.

Closing Notes:   I look forward to trying their Apricot variety I already have at home; apparently it is their driest offering.  I enjoyed the Apple better than the Blackberry.  I think its awesome that Atlas uses only 100% Northwest juice and no artificial ingredients, and can still be sold at a very reasonable price point.  Plus they are family owned and operated (I give them major kudos on that one especially as family is tough enough to get along with at home sometimes!).  They have a huge almost cult-like following, especially on Facebook.  Overall Atlas Blackberry a solid berry cider but I’m not truly impressed.  However, I’ve discovered I’m not a huge fruity cider fan…I tend to like a richer bold flavor, unique, barrel aged, etc.

Check out their Vimeo site.  It currently includes three videos, including a behind the scenes look at the details to operating a cider company.

Have you tried Atlas Blackberry?  What did you think?