Fraser Valley Honey

Review of Fraser Valley Cider Co’s Honey.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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Cider:  Honey
Cidery:  Fraser Valley Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Langley, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  7.5%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Canadian craft cider with honey

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Availability:  probably only in British Columbia (see here)

Cider Description:  Our honey cider balances fruity apple aromas with the slightly spicy notes of wildflower honey from our farm hives. Our bees have done the hard work so you don’t have to – relax and enjoy.

Cidery Description:  After a 20 year career in engineering I was looking for a new challenge.   While mulling over a few ideas I took a course on cider making to improve my home cider skills and thought ….hey wait a minute!  And so a project was born.  We found our 12 acre farm in January 2014, picked out the site of our future cidery and made an offer.  In 2015 we built the cidery and with the help of friends we planted an orchard of 1800 trees.  With over 25 different varieties of english and french cider apples our aim is to grow the types of apples that make the highest quality cider.  Now we’re in our third season of operation and what a journey!  We’ve poured a lot of cider, had some fabulous parties in the tent and made lots of new friends along the way.  Each year we increase production (and still can’t keep up!) and this year we pressed the first fruit from our own orchard for a special estate blend cider.  The days are long but we’re living our dream and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

Price:  ~ $16 CAN
Where Bought:  Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  during a cruise port stop

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First Impression:  Hazy yellow hue.  Smells mild, of honey.  Low carbonation.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of honey, sweet lemonade, and green apple.  Moderate finish length with a hint of sourness.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed this.  Nice flavor and mid-level sweetness.  So many of the other B.C. ciders I’ve tried have been rather dry, tart, and bland.

Most Similar to:  Sea Cider Birds & Bees, except lower ABV

Closing Notes:  I hope to find more ciders from this cidery next time I’m in B.C.

Have you tried Fraser Valley Honey?  What did you think?

Long Drop Vanilla Honey

Review of Long Drop’s Vanilla Honey cider, from near Boise Idaho.  I tried this cider awhile back (see here), and thought I’d give it a full review.  I’ve also tried their Tanager Pear Cider, Derby Canyon, Semi-Sweet, and Electric Cherry.

Cider:  Vanilla Honey
Cidery:  Long Drop Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Eagle ID
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz cans
Style:  American craft cider with Madagascar Vanilla beans and Idaho honey

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Availability:  throughout Idaho, and in Seattle WA & Portland OR

Cider Description:  none given, but it has Madagascar Vanilla beans and local Idaho honey

Apple Varieties: Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Granny Smith

Cidery Description:  We do cider right. We start with the best apples in the world – 100% Northwest grown fruit. We ferment the fruit with only the most carefully selected yeast strains preserved since prohibition, each designed to retain classic apple flavors and aromas. And then we skillfully blend our handcrafted ciders together into unique offerings. No high fructose corn syrup. No phony flavors, or colors. Just the best apples from on high, the ones that make the long drop.

Price:  $2.50 / single can
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  This is the first time I’ve seen single cans since trying it at the Schilling Cider House (see here).

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First Impression:  Hazy dark straw yellow hue.  Nearly still.  Smells mild, of apple juice and honeycomb.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of honeycrisp & green apples, honeycomb, honey, and hints of vanilla.  Quick finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I’m a big fan of honey, and especially enjoyed the honeycomb flavor of this cider.  Its easy to drink, tasty, and not too sweet.

Most Similar to:  Finnriver Honey Meadow; it also has the awesome honeycomb notes.

Closing Notes:   I’m usually not a fan of sessionable cider, but I find this one keeps my interest.  Its my favorite from them so far.

Have you tried Longdrop Vanilla Honey?  What did you think?

Sea Cider Birds and the Bees

Review of Sea Cider’s Birds and the Bees cider.  I picked this up in Victoria B.C., a stop on our Alaska cruise.  I’ve tried a few ciders from Sea Cider (see here), but this one is part of their Canadian Invasion Series and only available in Canada.

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Cider:  Birds and the Bees
Cidery:  Sea Cider
Cidery Location:  Saanichton, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  9.9%
How Supplied:  750ml clear glass swing-top bottle
Style:  Canadian craft cider made from dessert apples, with fireweed honey and lemon bitters

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Availability:  Only in British Columbia Canada

Cider Description:  The birds & the bees are a welcome sign of spring, and we thought we’d pay tribute to the pollination season with a cider in their honour. Our farm-crafted apple cider is blended with Vancouver Island fireweed honey and lemon bitters for a zesty finish buzzing with goodness. Proceeds from our Canadian Invasion Series help combat invasive plants, so raise a glass to a springtime delight!

As part of the Canadian Invasion Series, Birds and the Bees was created to continue our awareness campaign around invasive species and their impact on farming and the natural world. In addition to increasing awareness, the Canadian Invasion Series is also a way for the Sea Cider team to create fun and interesting seasonal ciders infused with local ingredients. Birds and the Bees blends our apple cider with a hefty helping of lemongrass from our farm, Vancouver Island’s fireweed honey and our own apple eau de vie to create a sweet yet sharp cider sensation. Expect aromatic notes of citrus and lemon to harmonize with the light fresh, floral aroma of fireweed honey in a union as sweet and sprightly as a May morning.

Their Canadian Invasion Series uses dessert/culinary apples to allow them to blend in cool stuff, while their Heirloom Series is “all about the apples” (estate grown bittersharps and bittersweet, single varietals etc).  They hope to have the Canadian Invasion Series ciders available in the U.S. in the future.

Cidery Description:  Sea Cider is a farm-based cidery located on the Saanich Peninsula just minutes from Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Our ten acre farm is home to over 1,300 apple trees, made up of over 50 varieties of heritage apples.  Sea Cider opened its farm gate for business in 2007 when owner Kristen Jordan purchased the property with a vision of creating an organic farm and orchard and producing traditional fermented artisan ciders. Since then, we’ve grown to an annual cider production of over 7,000 cases and growing. We continue to pride ourselves on crafting traditionally fermented ciders from organically grown apples.

Price:  just under $20 CAN, which is abour $15 USD
Where Bought:  The Strath in Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, although I read about it online (and thought I’d never get a chance to try it).

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of apple, honey, citrus, and floral.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Still.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hint of bitterness.  No sourness or tannins.  Strong honey, moderate lemon, and some orange and floral notes.  Moderate length slightly warming finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Simple but very tasty.  Its unique to find a boozy spring/summer cider, as typically these sorts of ciders are lower ABV (although true cysers, when they ferment the apple juice with the honey instead of just adding honey afterwards, tend to be higher ABV).

Most Similar to:  Eaglemount Cyser (also a higher ABV and semi-sweet, but without the lemon)

Closing Notes:   I’m glad I got to try this cider!

Have you tried Sea Cider?  What did you think?

Carlton Cyderworks AHH!!! Apricot Honey Habanero

Review of AHHH!!! Apricot Honey Habanero from Carlton Cyderworks in McMinnville Oregon.  I’ve tried a few of their other ciders–Black Currant Scrumpy, Sugar and Spice, Slake, and First Fruits.

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Cider:  AHHH!!! Apricot Honey Habanero
Cidery:  Carlton Cyderworks
Cidery Location:  McMinnville Oregon
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples infused with apricot, honey, and habanero peppers

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Availability:  Oregon and Washington

Cider Description:  The award winning AHH!!! starts with tangy Oregon grown apricots and fresh NW apple juice.  Whole habanero peppers are added to the ferment, and when it is ready to bottle, we sweeten with honey from the Willamette Valley.  Take one sip and you’ll know why we call this cyder “AHH!!!”.

Cidery Description:  Family-owned Micro Cidery. We make some traditional cider. We make some modern cider. It’s all good stuff. 

Price:  $7.50
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I saw this was available in the Seattle area on Full Throttle Bottles’ Facebook feed, and decided to give it a try, despite usually not liking spicy ciders, as it sounded really interesting.

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First Impression:  Hazy straw yellow lemonade hue.  Low carbonation with some foam upon pouring.  Smells sour, of citrus, honey, and stone fruit.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low sourness.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of honey, then stone fruit / apricots, green apple, citrus, and yeast, and finishing with a bit of habanero flavor & heat.  The spiciness started rather mild and enjoyable, but the second half of the bottle was more in-line with what I’ve tasted with other spicy ciders, and too much for me and my friend I shared it with.  Medium to long finish length.  Low to moderate apple influence.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t a fan.  I was pleased with the low level of spice (more flavor than heat) at first, but it became disappointing.  I imagine lightly shaking the bottle before pouring would have more evenly distributed the spice.  Also, I think a bit more sweetness and less sourness would have been nice.

Most Similar to:  Other spicy ciders such as Sonoma Crowbar, Finnriver Habanero, and Schilling Siracha Lime.  My favorite spicy cider remains Elemental Hard Cider’s Margarita (Jalapeno Lime Cilantro), which has only the flavor but not spice from the jalapeno.  I’ve had plenty of other light semi-dry ciders with honey, stone fruit, citrus, and green apple notes though.

Closing Notes:   I’m glad I tried this one, but its not something I enjoyed.  My favorites from Carlton so far are Sugar and Spice and First Fruits.

Have you tried Carlton AHH!!!?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Day Chaser Semi-Dry

Review of Woodchuck’s newest core cider, Day Chaser Semi-Dry, from Middlebury Vermont.  It will launch to the public in March, but I got a sneak preview.  This cider is a digression from their primarily sweeter lineup, likely in response to consumers requesting a drier cider.  Angry Orchard also responded to this call with Stone Dry last Fall (my review here).  I’ve tried a number of Woodchuck’s other ciders (see past reviews here).

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>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Woodchuck.  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:  Day Chaser Semi-Dry
Cidery:  Woodchuck Cider
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles or 12oz cans (and draft)
Style:  American commercial semi-dry cider

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Availability:  Year round, nationwide, once it launches next month.

Cider Description:  Day Chaser celebrates those adventure seekers that never let a minute slip by. This sessionable cider combines bitter and sweet apples to deliver a semi-dry cider that is not too sweet and leaves you thirsty for another. Get the most out of every day and reward yourself as you welcome the night.

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:  n/a (suggested retail price of $9.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I saw some other bloggers online post about it, then my sample bottle showed up in the mail.

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First Impression:  Honey straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells mild, with hints of bittersweet apples, yeast, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Almost still (very low carbonation).  Mild tartness.  Mild to moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness.  Citrus, honey, and slight mineral notes.  Quick finish.  Mild to moderate apple flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Pretty good–sunshine in a glass!  Definitely very approachable too as a drier commercial cider.  It is also significantly lower calories than most commercial ciders (160), and is still 5.5% ABV.  Its interesting though that they dumbed the description down to say they used bitter and sweet apples, which I assume means both dessert (culinary/supermarket) and bittersweet (a type of cider apple) varieties…I tasted a hint of bittersweet, but definitely more dessert apples.  It also was fuller bodied than I was expecting for the level of sweetness, which folks used to sweet full bodied ciders will probably enjoy.  There was only the slightest fake commercial cider taste, less so than many of their past ciders.  I think a bit more carbonation would have been nice, but overall I don’t have any real complaints.

Most Similar to:  The honey and citrus notes remind me of a few ciders I’ve tried recently, such as Schilling Cider King’s Shilling (which is sweeter), Honey Moon CiderHead (which is drier), and Flatbed Cider Crisp Apple (which is quite similar although thinner bodied)

Closing Notes:   A solid cider, and definitely easy drinking.  I like this better than some of their sweeter varieties like Amber, but my current favorites are still Gumption, Private Reserve Barrel Aged Cherry, and Winter Chill.

Have you tried Woodchuck Day Chaser?  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?

My Visit to Superstition Meadery in Prescott AZ

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Yes, another mead post!  This time around our travels brought my husband and I back to Prescott (pronounced press-kit) Arizona, where we went to college (at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University).  A friend had told us about Superstition Meadery, and I just had to go.  This is a smaller mountain town (at least when I left over 7 years ago) so I was surprised to learn it now has a meadery!  Especially because they don’t even have a cidery, and only a handful of breweries.  Superstition also makes some cider, so its still semi on-topic for this blog.  Superstition Meadery is located in downtown Prescott, on “Whiskey Row”, under the “Old Capitol Market” shop (which sells spices and jams and such).  This tasting room has only been open about a year (they will have their first year anniversary party on Oct 24), but they have been selling their meads since 2012, and making them for about 10 years.

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<display rack in the store enticing folks to go downstairs into the meadery>

You oddly enough have to walk through the shop to get to the meadery (although apparently they only lease the space and aren’t associated with the shop).  If we hadn’t known it was there, it would have been easy to miss, even with the sidewalk sign and their name on the window.

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<the Old Capitol Market shop, and the Superstition sidewalk sign>

They make the mead (and cider) on-site, and one of the coolest parts of the tasting room is the window which looks into their workshop.  We visited on a Saturday afternoon with a few friends.  We had actually dropped by Friday night as some other friends were hanging out there (it was a big alumni reunion type weekend for us), but didn’t stay as the live music was way too loud.  I wanted to be able to enjoy my mead with less folks around, and maybe even chat up the staff.  During our Saturday visit my husband Aaron was lucky enough to spot an employee walking into the workshop and asked it we could have a tour.  Lucky us.  Thanks Justin!

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<view from the tasting room up the stairs>

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small batch mead in their workshop, including a few cherry trials on the left,
and some rhubarb which will have strawberry added at the far right>

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<kegs of aging mead stored under the stairs add to the decor>

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<more kegs, and their regular fermentation vessels for full batches>

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bottle filler>

It was a really classy place just to chill with friends, with a bar, comfy chairs & tables, and a nice overall vibe.  Pretty unusual for Prescott!

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<tables & chairs, and the bar area>

They serve mead (a type of wine made from fermenting honey & water), cider, grape wine, and appetizers/tapas.  Something to please most folks.  Plus, it appears to be an all ages place (they even have some kids food selections on the menu).  They offer a flight of all 12 selections (11 mead and 1 cider that day), or you can choose taster size pours individually, plus a few off-flight mead options (two which were barrel aged versions of the on-flight meads, and one cocktail).  Of course I opted for the full flight of 12, which was lower cost than purchasing individually as it worked out to only $2 each, when some were $3 individually.

Although it was $24, it was plenty for 2 people.  There were four of us to start (more showed up later), so after the flight we each got a couple more sample size glasses or a full glass of what we liked (and one person chose red wine instead of mead lol).  The pours were quite generous too.  Click to biggify the menu photos.  The only food we tried was the bread with oil & vinegar, which was a good choice considering the amount we drank!  No standard bar fare to be had here (I was kinda craving a soft pretzel).  The mead menu is laid out from dry to sweet, and they really ran the full spectrum.

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Tasting notes:

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<flight of 11 meads and one cider, with the cider up front;
I don’t have individual photos as the lighting wasn’t too great for photos>

Except for the cider, these were meads noted to be in order from Dry to Sweet, which I found mostly true:

Blueberry Spaceship Box, 6.9% ABV:  Blueberry cider.  Semi-dry.  Tart.  I get a lot of blueberry skin flavor, definitely from adding real blueberries, not just juice (or what some cideries do, artificial flavor).  Noticeable tannins and astringency.  Unique, but I didn’t find it to my liking (although all my table mates did).  I found it very interesting that this cider is actually the top user rated cider on!  Its pretty limited availability, so its interesting they got so many folks to try it and rate it highly.

Lagrimas de Oro, 13.5% ABV:  Bourbon barrel aged mead.  Dry.  More barrel notes in the scent than taste.  Alcohol-forward (boozy).  Tart and astringent.  Not a fan, and I don’t think anyone at the table was.

Alexander the Grapefruit, 8.5% ABV:  Grapefruit and hops mead.  Dry to semi-dry.  Floral and citrus notes, tart, and definitely hopped (although mild, I’m just a wuss when it comes to hops)!  Not a fan, but one or two folks at the table were.

Tahitian Honeymoon, 13.5% ABV:  Tahitian vanilla bean mead, oak barrel aged.  Semi-dry.  Lovely vanilla, honey, and oak notes.  The vanilla notes were on the tart side, and the barrel influence was moderate.  Kinda wine-like.  I enjoyed this one (my fourth favorite).

Amnesia, 14% ABV:  Cyser (made from apples & honey) with Welsh Mugwort.  Semi-dry.  Check out this issue of American Mead Maker for an article on Superstition and the backstory on Amnesia, which was a Welsh collaboration.  It tasted like cyser with a hint of weird herbal notes to me.  A couple folks at the table didn’t mind it though.

Let Them Eat Cake, 12% ABV:  Raspberry mead.  Semi-dry.  Sweet raspberry scent, but this was a drier tart mead.  This one was rather well received at our table.  Not bad.

Maple Stinger, 13.5% ABV:  Maple mead, bourbon barrel aged.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Maple-oak scent.  Maple start and barrel notes with the finish.  Not too much honey flavor came through.  Longer finish.  Awesome!  My second favorite.  I don’t remember anyone else at the table noting they liked it though.  I’m a huge maple and barrel aged fan however.

Mad Hatter, 16.5% ABV:  Apple, mango, and Belgian dark candi mead.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  I picked up berry notes in the scent oddly enough.  Tart.  All in all weird; I just didn’t get this one, and it seemed to have too many competing flavors.  I think it was aptly named!  I don’t think anyone at our table liked it too much.

Marion Mead, 13.5% ABV:  Marion berry, blueberry, and raspberry mead.  On the sweeter side of semi-sweet.  Very berry indeed.  Nicely balanced tart-sweet.  This was a big crowd pleaser at our table, but I wasn’t too big of a fan (I’m usually not too impressed by berry ciders though, so I wasn’t surprised).

Safeword, 12% ABV:  Belgian Dark Strong Mead (BDSM).  Sweet.  I picked up brown sugar, molasses, and a hint of coffee.  Slight herbal & spiced finish.  Very complex.  Another crowd pleaser at our table.  My third favorite.  However, I don’t think I’d want more than a small glass of it, as it was really rich.  I bet this would taste awesome warm.  This is the mead our friend who recommended Superstition said was his favorite, and it was my husband’s favorite.

Honey Highway, 12% ABV:  Prickly pear mead aged in new oak barrels.  Sweet.  Smelled of honey, tartness, and oak.  This one was pretty weird, and I don’t think any of my table mates liked it.  I didn’t find that the prickly pear directly came across; it only seemed to add tartness.

Ragnarok, 14% ABV:  Mead with local catclaw honey and mango nectar.  Sweet to very sweet (more like a desert mead I think).  The honey flavor came across with this mead more than the others.  Very smooth.  Lovely tropical notes.  I had this with the flight, then ordered another taster, as it was my favorite.  Well-hidden ABV.  Bold flavors.  This was another crowd pleaser at the table.  Amazing!

Barrel Aged Ragnarok, 14% ABV:  The same as above but barrel aged.  Sweet to very sweet.  As I was drinking the second Ragnarok taster, I realized they had an off-flight barrel aged version of it!  So, I ordered a taster and compared the two side by side.  Definitely oak barrel notes, mild to moderate.  Even smoother than the regular Ragnarok.  I think barrel aging really makes any cider or mead better.

Overall Superstition Meadery was a tad pricey (especially the bottles to take home), but its a local craft product, mead is expensive to produce, and we were on vacation.  I kinda wished they had half size bottles as many dessert wines do instead of the 750s, as that cuts down the commitment (both quantity and cost).  My husband had to convince me a bit to drop the $48 on my favorite mead there, the Barrel Aged Ragnarok, as that is far more than I’ve ever spent on a bottle of anything.  Their bottles were $28-$48 for 750ml (compared to $25 at Æsir Meadery for reference).

I was surprised they didn’t charge any more for the barrel aged version of the Ragnarok versus the regular, considering a barrel costs hundreds of dollars, and the mead ages for months or possibly years, taking up floor space and tying up money.  Its awesome they had so many barrel aged meads.  I learned they have a broker they use just to obtain barrels.  Also, they collaborate with some folks such as breweries to pass the barrels back and forth, which will add different flavor notes.  Check out the Barrel page on their website for great info.

However, in the end I was happy to splurge, and I think alcohol makes a great souvenir.  Apparently mead can stay open for quite awhile in the fridge as it doesn’t oxidize very quickly, so I’ll probably open a bottle when the mood strikes and work on a bottle for awhile.  I’m intrigued to try these warm, as I liked the mead selections at Æsir best when warm.  I ended up getting a bottle each of the Barrel Aged Ragnarok and Maple Stinger.  I had come prepared with bags, rubber bands, and bubble wrap, and am happy to report both bottles made it home in our checked luggage safely.  I should have taken a photo of my handiwork as it looked pretty funny.

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meads & merchandise for sale, and the bottles I took home>

I even got a chance to try the Tahitian Honeymoon mead again later in the night at Granite Mountain Brewing down the street.  They offer one mead and one cider from Superstition (on tap) at a time, but were out of the cider (although I probably would have chosen the mead anyways).  My drinking buddies all enjoyed their beer from there, and we were happy to find their outdoor patio tucked way in the back, to escape the ever-present live music which was way too loud to be able to converse.

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I highly recommend Superstition Meadery if you find yourself in Prescott AZ, or if you can find them elsewhere.  They have the most availability in AZ, a couple spots in CA, IA  (soon), and even Denmark, Singapore, Japan, and Thailand (soon).  They will also soon be shipping bottles to 33 states through VinoShipper (same as Æsir; VinoShipper appears to be the only mead-friendly online market).  Check out the Availability page on their website.

They are also expanding.  To start, they have secured a production facility location at the Prescott airport, where they plan to make most of their meads, and only make sours (which they don’t currently sell yet) at the current tasting room.  I really wish we still lived in Prescott as Superstition Meadery has a club where you get special access (such as tasting their mead experiments), behind the scenes info, special releases etc.  They actually have a waiting list just to get into the club next year!

So, you may ask, how does Superstition compare to the meads I had from Æsir (and to a lesser extend, Moonlight)?  I think they are all rather on-par for quality, but they had as many similarities as differences in their flavors.  From each I preferred the sweeter selections, as I found them more flavorful.  I’ve also confirmed I don’t like spiced or overly tart mead, same as I don’t like spiced or overly tart or bitter cider.  However, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean you won’t; they make so many varieties of mead & cider for a reason!

Finnriver Honey Meadow

Review of Honey Meadow from Finnriver, their Spring seasonal botanical release.  I’ve tried a number of other Finnriver ciders (Oak & Apple, Habanero, Black Currant, Lavender Black Currant, & Fire Barrel), but this is the first full Finnriver review at Cider Says!  Finnriver has gorgeous bottles, an awesomely informative website, and of course, tasty ciders!  They also make fruit wine (brandy and port-style).  Here is a great illustrated Finnriver product guide.

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Cider:  Honey Meadow
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle

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Availability:  Spring time 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’s ‘Elijah K. Swan’ Infused Botanical Hard Ciders are named after the good folks who sold us the farm (Lige & Kay Christian) and who first planted apple trees here, as well as for the trumpeter swans that overwinter in the valley.  This cider is a tribute to our neighbors and to those big white birds who remind us that earth is still wild.  Each season the ‘Elijah K. Swan’ release seeks to capture the wild and garden-grown taste of life on the Olympic Peninsula.

The Honey Meadow cider is our SPRING release, featuring Finnriver’s bright base of fermented organic apples, backsweetened with Olympic Peninsula honey and infused with local lemon balm and chamomile.  With thanks to Denise at Mountain Spirit Herbal Company and Tinker Cavallero, local gardener extraordinaire, for finding us just the right herbs for this blend.  Drinking this might make you feel like a happy honeybee after a great green day among the blossoms…

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)

Price:  $7.99 (on sale from $9.99)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, but I had heard of this cider before.

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First Impression:  Honey yellow hue.  Medium carbonation upon pouring, and tiny bubbles remain.  Smells of ripe apples, honey, and chamomile.

Opinion:  Semi-sweet.  Tastes of the honey and chamomile it smells like.  I think I pick up the lemon balm more with the moderate tartness (I wouldn’t have identified it without the description).  Carbonated mouthfeel and medium bodied.  Mild sourness and bitterness.  Mild earthy funk, and a flavor that makes me think of honeycomb?  Very unique and semi-complex.  I like the herbal qualities and don’t think it is overdone at all (which I was afraid of, but was unfounded).  Great for spring & summer time!  I picked this cider up a couple weeks ago and knew I wanted to drink it before the seasons changed (where has the summer gone?).

Most Similar to:  Woodchuck Out on a Limb Oopsy Daisy, which although it is a significantly sweeter and commercially-made cider, has some similar honey & chamomile flavors.  i think the Finnriver cider is much better done, with a more complex crafted balanced flavor.  I’ve had one other honey cider as well, Angry Orchard Summer Honey, but wasn’t a fan (tasted syrupy to me).

Closing Notes:   Tasty!  This makes me want to try more of their seasonal botanical line, as I liked both Honey Meadow and Lavender Black Currant.  I also really want to try some of Finnriver’s special releases (Artisan Sparkling, Apple Blueberry, Golden Russet, and Apple Abbey), but don’t remember seeing any of them near me.  Maybe now that I start looking I will though.

Have you tried Finnriver Honey Meadow?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Oopsy Daisy

This is a very unique and tasty Out on a Limb release from Woodchuck.

Cider:  Oopsy Daisy
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury, VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Availability:  limited release (flavors in Out on a Limb rotate)

Description on Bottle:  You ever screw something up? Oops. We all have. Bring on the stress mixed anxiety. Our advice? Take a moment, breathe deep and sip a Woodchuck Oopsy Daisy. This crisp cider is infused with the actual chamomile flowers after fermentation imparting the calming essence of Chamomile with notes of honey throughout. Sit back, sip, relax, and let the calm wash that stress away.

Price:  $8.99 / six pack
Where Bought:  Total Wine
How Found: Started to look for it after reading it on Facebook from Woodchuck.  Note that it can take awhile between when Woodchuck announces a flavor and it is stocked, especially if you are on the other side of the country.  Also, with Out on a Limb, stores are often waiting until they are out of the previous flavor to stock the next one.  Today I got lucky and was able to pick up both Oopsy Daisy and their newest Out on a Limb release, Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy, which was just announced this past week!
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  I pick up a lot more honey than chamomile flavor in this. I like it!  Very unique.  There is an appropriate amount of sweetness in my opinion, a bit less than many of their flavors (they have been releasing some drier varieties of late, I imagine to appeal to more folks as many say all Woodchuck varieties are sweet).  This unique sort of flavor is something you see more with the small cideries, not the large ones, so its nice to see, and is a great value in my opinion.  The most similar cider I’ve probably tried is Angry Orchard Elderflower, their 2014 summer release (this year they had Summer Honey), and it was still quite different.

It took me about half the bottle to figure out whether I liked it or not, which is unusual for me.  Usually by the second sip I’ve made my decision.  But, I liked this one enough to pick up a six pack (originally I only bought a single bottle), but not stock up on it.  I love when shops offer single bottles of six pack varieties!  Its worth the extra markup.  The unfortunate thing with Out on a Limb is that they are limited releases, with no guarantees of a variety ever coming back.  The good thing though is you get different varieties with the store only stocking essentially one cider.  Oopsy Daisy is good for someone who wants to try an herbal cider without it being overwhelming.  I don’t think someone needs to like Chamomile tea to enjoy this (I don’t).  GIve it a try, if you can still find it!

Note that the Woodchuck Out on a Limb series keeps the same packaging but rotates ciders every month or two, so check the bottle neck before assuming it is the same cider as you’ve seen before.  So far they have had:

  • Chocolate Raspberry
  • Splitter Splinter (with bittersweet apples and aged in whiskey barrels; not bad but I like Barrel Select better as this one was a bit tart)
  • Cheeky Cherry (apparently identical to their cellar series Sour Cherry release but 5.5% instead of 6.9%)
  • Oopsy Daisy
  • Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy (their take on a summer shandy, with lemon juice & lemongrass)

Have you tried Oopsy Daisy?  What did you think?

Methow Valley Honey Bear

And for my first review (drumroll please!), a lovely little cider I tried last night:

honey bear

Cider:  Honey Bear
Cidery:  Methow Valley Ciderhouse
Cidery Location:  Winthrop WA
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  750 ml (25.4 oz) clear glass bottle with a resealable top

Description on Bottle:  Honey Bear Hard Cider is a sweet, carbonated, refreshing cider with no hint of bitterness.  Honey Bear is wonderful after an active day of hiking or biking – a perfect compliment to a summer day.  Store in a cool dark place and serve chilled.

Price:  about $15 (although apparently you can return the empty bottle to the cidery for a $0.75 refund lol)
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA (awesome bottle shop & bar by the way)
How Found:  lucky enough to stumble across it (had wanted to try some since reading about it at the Bad Rider cider & beer blog)
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  Tasted like honey, and in a good way!  This was a yummy cider, especially suited to summer.  It was very smooth and easy to drink, and I unfortunately finished off the bottle by myself over the course of the night.  It was quite sweet (more of a dessert cider probably), but not in a gross syrupy sweet way.  The flavor profile was pretty complex.  Maybe it is just the sweetness, but it reminds me of ice cider (a sweeter variety of hard cider where they use frozen juice, although it typically has a higher alcohol content than this did).  Overall, if you like sweet ciders, I’d recommend trying it.  I feel lucky to even have found it, as apparently it doesn’t have a wide distribution net (definitely not outside of WA).  Other offerings from the Methow Valley Ciderhouse include Pinnacle Goat (ginger infused), Howling Wolf (hopped), and Eagle Screechin’ Scrumpy (English-style Scrumpy).