Alpenfire Flame

Review of Alpenfire Flame, a methode champenoise style Extra Brut cider.  It is my first time trying this one, although I have tried every other cider from Alpenfire:  DungenessSpark, SmokeApoCalypsoEmber, Simple Cider, Calypso, Pirate’s Plank, Glow, Cinders, Shrub, Spiced Tonic Shrub, and Heirloom Dry.

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Cider:  Flame (2011 vintage)
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottles
Style:  Organic American artisinal champagne-style cider

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Availability:  Primarily Western Washington, including these retailers.  They also have an online store through Vino Shipper which ships to states which allow it.

Cider Description:  A true “Methode Champenoise” cider. Made Primarily with Fox-whelp and Muscadet de Dieppe apples. We use Champagne traditions to develop a crackling carbonation with bright acidity and dryness. (This is part of their estate line of ciders, made from their own orchard’s organic apples.)

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Organic Cider is made from our estate and locally grown organic apples. We planted our WSDA certified organic orchard in 2004 with over 800 trees and 10 varieties of English, French & Early American cider specific apples. These apples have been used for hundreds of years for the unique qualities they bring to cider production. Namely the tannins and bitters not found in dessert style apples. While the juice, much less the fruit, of many of these apples would be hard to enjoy by the glass they become amazing with a little fermentation. One of our favorites, the “Muscadet de Dieppe”, has a viscous, winey, yes, even musky juice. It takes months of slow, cool fermentation for that to develop the subtle aroma and flavor you will find in our bone-dry cider. We augment our juice and mellow the flavors with organic apples from other local orchards.

Price:  $24.99
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It was the only cider from them I hadn’t tried yet.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation (which was surprising…I’m guessing this lost its fizz over the last 6 years).  Smells acidic, of citrus, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Light bodied, with a creamy but slightly effervescent mouthfeel.  Moderate tartness.  Very high acidity.  Low bitterness, funk, and tannins.  Hints of sourness.  Sharp flavor notes of lemon, heirloom apple pomace, herbs, vinegar, yeast, and mineral.  Moderate length warming finish.  Moderate complexity.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Low sessionability.  Low apple flavor.

My Opinion:  This was nice, but not a favorite style of mine.  I was hoping for some bittersweet apple flavor, but it was more bittersharp and heirloom (for a lot of bittersweet apple flavor, as well as high tannins, try their Ember).  I’m curious if the flavor also changed with the loss of carbonation.

Most Similar to:  Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank, Eden Sparkling Dry, Eve’s Beckhorn Hollow, Eve’s Autumn’s Gold, Farnum Hill Extra Dry, Liberty Crabenstein, and Liberty New World Style

Closing Notes:  I can now say I’ve tried every Alpenfire cider!  My favorite remains Smoke, which is in a class of its own (but I also really enjoy SparkApoCalypsoSimple Cider, CalypsoGlow, and Heirloom Dry).

Have you tried Alpenfire Flame?  What did you think?

AEppelTreow Winery Appely Doux

Review of AEppelTreow Winery’s Appely Doux methode champenoise sparkling cider.  I’ve previously tried their Barn Swallow cider on draft.

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Cider:  Appely Doux
Cidery:  AEppelTreow Winery
Cidery Location:  Burlington WI
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottle
Style:  American methode champenoise craft sparkling cider

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Availability:  At least in CA, DE, IA, IL, KY, LA, MA, MD, MN, NY, OR, PA, SD, WA, WI, and WA D.C.

Cider Description:  Appely Doux is semi-sweet, fruity and floral.  It is inspired by French Country Ciders, and crafted from a blend of modern and heirloom apple varieties.

Made from Red Delicious, Cortland, and “various old baking apples”.  My bottle was labeled 2012.140.1 and said 2,560 produced (which looks like it was made in 2012, so it may have sat around awhile before me buying it in August 2015).

Cidery Description:  ÆppelTreow Winery & Distillery is a producer of small batch cider, perry and spirits.  Cider and Perry?  We use the pre-Prohibition meaning of ‘cider’, so we’re talking about fermented or ‘hard’ cider. Perry is the pear analogue to cider.  We use lots of different kinds of apples and pears in our products.  Some modern.  Some heirloom – no longer grown for stores. We make a range of styles: sparkling, draft, still/table, and fortified/dessert.  Within a style, we lean to the dry end – but also have some medium-sweet offerings.

They have a tasting room in Burlington WI and opened in 2001.

Price:  ~$17
Where Bought:  Capitol Cider in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had heard of this cider (the Brut version) from Meredith at Along Came a Cider and it sounded like something I’d like.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow.  High carbonation, tiny bubbles with foam.  Smells sweet, of rich ripe apples, yeast, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low tartness.  Low tannins.  No bitterness or sourness.  Fizzy and frothy mouthfeel.  Notes of citrus, green apples, yeast, honey, and floral.  Slight richness.  Medium bodied.  Medium length finish.  Moderate to high apple influence.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Yum!  This is a tasty, unique, and complex well-balanced sparkling cider.

Most Similar to:  This reminds me some of ciders from Brittany France, although slightly lighter.  Its truly sparkling, which most ciders aren’t.

Closing Notes:   This cider was quite enjoyable, so I look forward to trying more from AEppelTreow.

Have you tried AEppelTreow Winery Appely Doux?  What did you think?

Eden Sparkling Semi-Dry

Review of Eden Ice Cider’s Sparkling Semi-Dry cider.  This is made using the traditional labor-intensive methode champenoise, which makes naturally sparkling cider.  I previously tried Eden’s Sparkling Dry cider, and this is described as the same cider (although made with different apple varieties) with a bit of their ice cider to add some additional sweetness (which also adds an additional 1% ABV).

I sampled this cider on New Year’s Eve, and it unfortunately turned out to be a poorly sealed bottle whose taste wasn’t as intended, and Eleanor at Eden was awesome enough to send me a sample bottle to replace it (and two ice ciders to review!).  Cider from the original bottle was nearly flat, and was on the dry, funky, and sour side….the cap must have been sealed enough so it wouldn’t leak, but allowed for air transfer.

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Eden Ice Cider.  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.<<

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Cider:  Sparkling Semi-Dry
Cidery:  Eden Ice Cider
Cidery Location:  Newport VT
ABV:  9.5%
How Supplied:  375ml or 750ml capped champagne bottle
Style:  American methode champenoise sparkling cider

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Availability: At least in AK, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, IL, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, SC, VT, WA, British Columbia.  Eden also offers online sales when allowed by state.

Cider Description: Eden Sparkling Ciders are made with locally grown apples. We use the same blend of traditional and heirloom apples that we use for our ice ciders, and then add classic Bittersweet cider varieties. True cider variety apples are sweeter and have much more tannin than eating apples.  They are pretty awful to eat so you won’t ever find them in a grocery store.   The Sparkling Dry is made with Kingston Black.  The Sparkling Semi-Dry is made with Dabinett and Yarlington Mill.

The cider is fermented and aged in French oak puncheons for a year, the bottles with a secondary fermentation that is created with additional juice rather than sugar.  After another 6 months each bottle is hand-disgorged in a careful process and removes the yeast but retains the vibrant natural effervescence of the in-bottle fermentation.  For our Semi-Dry, we add in a little bit of our ice cider for sweetness.

Eden Sparkling ciders are full-flavored, tannic, and clean with a champagne-like mouth feel and balanced acidity.  They are unfiltered and unpasteurized, with higher ABV and much less sweetness than mass marketed industrial hard ciders.

Cidery Description: Eden Orchards and Eden Ice Cider began on a trip to Montreal in 2006 when we first tasted ice cider and wondered why nobody was making it on our side of the border.  We had dreamed for years of working together on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom; it was a dream that had vague outlines including an apple orchard, cider, and fermentation of some sort.  That night we looked at each other and knew ice cider was it.  In April 2007, we bought an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont and got to work.  Since then we have planted over 1,000 apple trees, created 5 vintages of Eden Vermont Ice Ciders, and have introduced a new line of Orleans Apertif Ciders.  Out goals are to create healthy soils and trees in our own orchard, to support out Vermont apple orchard partners who do the same, to minimize our carbon footprint, to contribute to the economic and environmental health of our employees and our Northeast Kingdom community, and most of all to make world-class unique ciders that truly reflect our Vermont terroir.

They have a tasting bar on the main floor of the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in downtown Newport VT.  Their current product line includes at least eight ice ciders, two Aperitif ciders, and dry & semi-dry sparkling ciders.  They also have a cider club where members get access to special release ciders not available to the public.

Price:  n/a, but retail price of $15-$20 (750ml)
Where Bought:  n/a (but originally the Schilling Cider House)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard about Eden on Facebook, met cidermaker Eleanor Leger at an event surrounding Cider Summit Seattle 2015 where I tried their Sparkling Dry cider, tried their Heirloom Blend cider at Cider Summit (and my husband bought me a bottle for our anniversary, reviewed here), and decided Semi-Dry would be a great New Year’s Eve cider selection.

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First Impression:  Honey-pumpkin light amber hue.  Moderate carbonation with tiny bubbles (even before opening the bottle, with a gentle shake, I could tell it had more carbonation than the first).  Smells luscious, of honey, tropical fruit, coconut, apricot, floral, and high-tannin cider apples (Dabinett and Yarlington Mill).

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  Moderate tannins.  Slight hints of bitterness, funk, and sourness.  Flavor notes of tropical fruit, apricot, peach, honey, and green apple.  Slight richness.  Moderate carbonation with a fizzy mouthfeel.  Medium bodied.  Moderate apple influence.  Mild oak barrel influence.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion: Yum!  It had a lovely flavor complexity–you could really taste the hint of ice cider in comparison to the Sparkling Dry.  The ice cider added both sweetness and additional flavor (especially tropical fruit).  My husband also really enjoyed it.  All in all I think this cider is awesome.  Its also a wonderful value, as the apple varieties are expensive, and the production method is labor-intensive.

Most Similar to:  I’ve had other methode champenoise ciders such as Finnriver’s Artisan Sparkling Brut Cider, but this one was less champagne-like (more fruitiness).  The tropical fruit notes also reminded me of ciders such as Eaglemount Quince and Slyboro Old Sin, except with added carbonation.

Closing Notes:   Eden Ice Cider really makes some amazing ciders.  I look forward to trying the Honeycrisp and Northern Spy (barrel aged) ice ciders Eleanor sent!

Have you tried Eden’s Sparkling Dry or Semi-Dry ciders?  What did you think?

Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut Cider

Review of Finnriver’s Artisan Sparkling Brut cider, made using the traditional labor intensive méthode champenoise.  I’ve tried a good portion of Finnriver’s lineup, but I think this is the first time I’ve tried a special release cider.

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Cider:  Artisan Sparkling Brut
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  375ml corked & caged champagne bottle (also more widely available in a 750ml size)
Style:  American méthode champenoise sparkling cider

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Availability:  In general, 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.).  However, this is a special release, and likely has more limited availability.

Cider Description:  Crafted using the traditional, labor-intensive méthode champenoise, this bright, naturally carbonated brut champagne-style cider offers an effervescent apple bouquet, tart elements of the orchard, and a crisp, clean finish.  To make this cider, we learned old world methods of secondary fermentation in the bottle that require daily hand turning of each bottle on woodenriddling racks (constructed by our boat-building neighbor Pete), and then disgorging residual yeast sediment one bottle at a time.  This is ‘slow cider’ that results in golden clarity and enduring bubbles in every glass.  A unqiue alternative to champagne that features Washington organic dessert apples at their most sparkling!

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.  I look forward to visiting in February for my birthday!

Price:  $10
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been wanting to try this cider for awhile, but previously only saw 750ml bottles for about $22, which was more commitment then I was interested in.  When I saw half bottles, I knew it would be perfect to try for New Year’s Eve.  Oddly enough the half bottles were less expensive per ounce too.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Very high carbonation.  Smells dry, crisp, and of yeast, with only a hint of apple.

Tasting Notes:  Completely dry.  Moderate acidity and tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, or funk.  Very champagne-like.  Yeast, floral, citrus, and green apple notes.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.  Moderate sessionability.  Low apple influence.  I enjoyed this cider better as it warmed up from fridge cold.

My Opinion:  This was enjoyable, but not really a style I enjoy (I like a sweeter and richer cider).  It was definitely a sparkling cider, moreso than any other cider I’ve tried I think (but luckily the bottle didn’t overflow when I opened it…the bottle even includes a warning).

Most Similar to:  Dry champagne and other méthode champenoise ciders.

Closing Notes:   This cider is a great champagne alternative and was very appropriate for New Year’s Eve.

Have you tried Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut cider?  What did you think?