Virtue Cider Michigan Brut

Review of Virtue Cider’s Michigan Brut.  It was my first time trying this, but I’ve previously had their MittenCherry Mitten, and Lapinette.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Virtue.  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:  Michigan Brut
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider, Brut (dry), from heirloom Michigan apples, oak aged

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Availability:  year round, in DE, GA, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, WA, and WI

Cider Description:  Our dry brut is a blend of hand-pressed heirloom apples aged in French oak barrels that features the scent of fresh apples, a touch of oak, and finishes crisp and tart.

See here for more info on the cider.

Cidery Description:  Virtue Cider is a Michigan-based craft cider company.  We produce European-style ciders from fresh apples – never from concentrate – and employ traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation, use of wild yeasts, and an expansive barrel aging program.

They have a tasting room in Fennville Michigan; see here.

Price:  n/a
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Still (no carbonation).  Light straw yellow hue.  Smells very mild – dry and tart.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry, but probably just as it was “juicy” tasting (as the label says 0g sugar).  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of juicy green apple, lemon, mineral, yeast, and a non-distinct herbalness.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate to high sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I felt pretty indifferent about this cider, due to the dryness and subtly of the flavor (opposite of my preferences).  If you usually prefer a dry and subtle (food-friendly) cider, I’d recommend it for you.  I didn’t pick up any oak flavor, but I imagine it contributed to the cider’s overall flavor, plus that could have been what helped the cider seem not as dry.

Most Similar to:  Seattle Cider Dry and Ace Joker

Closing Notes:  As far as dry ciders, I have preferred Original Sin Extra Dry.

Have you tried Virtue’s Michigan Brut?  What did you think?

Gitche Gumee Ciderworks Entropy

Review of Gitche Gumee Ciderworks’ debut release, Entropy.  It is my first time trying any of their cider.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Gitche Gumee.  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:  Entropy (2015 vintage)
Cidery:  Gitche Gumee
Cidery Location:  Hancock Michigan
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft “feral” cider from local wild apples, spontaneously (wild yeast) fermented, barrel aged, bottle conditioned

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Availability:  limited to Northwest Michigan, released August 2017

Cider Description:  We hand press wild, feral apples grown in the stunning Copper Country of Upper Michigan.  Long winters, fresh air, and beautiful summer days conspire to grow large crops of wild apples.  No shortcuts!  These small tart apples are hand-picked by our community, providing opportunities for local groups to forage our forests.  The juice is spontaneously fermented using the wild yeast naturally present on the apple.  No added yeast, water, sugar, sulfites, preservatives, or flavorings.  After a cold fermentation, it is cellar-aged 9 months in small French white oak barrels. The outcome is a delicious, dry, funky and naturally gluten free cider done in a time-honored tradition.  We’re making cider the hard way!

Cidery Description:  Hancock Michigan’s first Hard Cidery. We pride ourselves on producing quality products.

Price:  n/a (retails for $15)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidermaker contacted me (Phillip Kelm)

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells of funk, sourness, citrus, and must.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  Moderate funk.  Low sourness.  Notes of lemon, grapefruit, must, oak, honey, herbs, and vinegar.  Moderate length sharp finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity, complexity, and sourness.  Low barrel influence.

My Opinion:  Regular readers of my blog will know this isn’t my favorite type of cider.  Everyone doesn’t like every cider.  However, I can say that this is well-made, and an excellent value.  I’d recommend this for fans of dry farmhouse-style ciders.  It is less acidic & sour than some similar ciders I’ve tried, which is likely more friendly to folks not familiar with this style.  There was some nice complexity and flavor.

Most Similar to:  Alpenfire Pirate’s PlankBrooklyn Cider House Half SourNumber 12 Sparkling DryRuncible Cider Light of the MoonAngry Orchard Walden Hollow, and Sietsema Traditional Dry

Side Note:  Something was off with the cork.  I am used to the button top ones with champagne bottles, and this one seemed like a straight cork which was pushed in too far.  Just one of those first release hiccups.  It was all good though, as my husband got it open with a corkscrew and some muscle, and didn’t even get any chunks of cork in the cider!

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got a chance to try this cider (and was actually among the first, as it is a brand new release).  It’ll be fun to see what they come up with next.

Have you tried Gitchee Gumee cider?  What did you think?

Virtue Cider The Mitten

Review of Virtue Cider’s The Mitten.  I’ve tried this cider twice previously (see review #1 and review #2), but in a 750ml bottle.  Virtue’s most popular cider is now available in a four pack of 12oz bottles (along with Michigan Brut and Michigan Harvest; see this press release).  I’ve also previously tried their Cherry Mitten and Lapinette.

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Virtue.  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:  The Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles (and 750ml bottles and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider from Michigan apples, bourbon barrel aged

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Availability:  Year round in DE, GA, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, WA, and WI, per this list

Cider Description:  The Mitten, which was first released in 2013, is made with cider from 100% Michigan apples that has been aged for 11 months in 200 bourbon barrels from Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, and Heaven Hill.  We taste through each and every barrel before we move to final blending.  The aged cider is then blended together with juice from freshly pressed apples from this year’s harvest for a touch of sweetness.  The result is a 6.8% ABV semi-dry cider that shows off a balanced blend of charred bourbon and high-acid apple flavors.  Pronounced notes of vanilla and wood mingle with overripe apple, and maple flavors create a farm feel.

More info here.

Cidery Description:  Virtue Cider is a Michigan-based craft cider company.  We produce European-style ciders from fresh apples – never from concentrate – and employ traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation, use of wild yeasts, and an expansive barrel aging program.

They have a tasting room in Fennville Michigan; see here.

Price:  n/a (retails for $13.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidery’s press release

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mild, of honey and oak.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, lemon, oak, bourbon, vanilla, and white grape.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Low oak/barrel influence.  Low spirit/bourbon influence.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I’m a fan!  This also seemed less harsh than the previous versions – my favorite so far.  Usually I prefer a really intense cider, but for this one, I preferred it less so.  This is a more sessionable barrel aged cider, which is nice.

Most Similar to:  2 Towns The Bad Apple and Big B’s Grizzly Brand Bourbon Barrel Aged

Closing Notes:  I think this will be a hit.  It is a great deal too, at less than half the price per ounce vs. the 750ml bottle prices I’ve seen.

Have you tried Virtue The Mitten?  What did you think?

Virtue Lapinette

Review of Virtue Lapinette, described as a French Brut style cidre aged in French oak barrels.  It is my first time trying it, although I’ve had their Mitten and Cherry Mitten.

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Cider:  Lapinette
Cidery:  Virtue
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American French-style barrel aged cider

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Availability:  DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, WA, and WI (per this diagram)

Cider Description:  This Norman-style cidre brut is fermented with French yeast and patiently aged for months French oak.
Lapinette offers a complex nose of both farm and barrel, with a refreshingly dry, mineral finish.

Cidery Description:  Virtue is a craft cider company launched in 2011 in Fennville, Michigan, by Gregory Hall, former brewmaster at Goose Island, and co-founder Stephen Schmakel. Our mission is to make European-style ciders from fresh heirloom apples — never from concentrate — and employ traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation, use of wild yeasts, and an expansive oak barrel-aging program. We partner with local family farms by purchasing the highest quality apples for our ciders.

They have a tasting room in Fennville.

Price:  $10.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  This was a good deal, I hadn’t tried it, and it appeared to be a style I’d like (French), so I bought it.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of green apple, white grape, and must.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low funk and bitterness.  Hints of sourness and tannins.  Notes of green apple, white grape, lemon, yeast, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  Moderate sessionability and complexity.

My Opinion:  I was expecting a full on French-style cider, the typical apple-forward type (although if I had looked at photos of the cider online I would have known better just based on the color).  However, this is more of a Farmhouse-style cider, with astringency, heirloom apple flavor, citrus notes, and some sourness & funk.  This was nice (I especially liked how juicy the flavor was) and well made, but not a style I enjoy.

Most Similar to:  Millstone Farmgate Dry and WildCraft Dry

Closing Notes:  I hope to try more ciders from Virtue in the future.

Have you tried Virtue Lapinette?  What did you think?

Sietsema Traditional Dry Hard Cider

Review of Sietsema’s Traditional Dry Hard Cider, from Michigan.  Its the first time I’ve tried their cider.

Cider:  Traditional Dry Hard Cider
Cidery:  Sietsema
Cidery Location:  Ada Michigan
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles (and cans)
Style:  American farmhouse-style craft cider made from heirloom apples, fermented with champagne yeast

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Availability:  Only in Michigan

Cider Description:  Our take on the traditional American cider. We use champagne yeast to give our Yellow Label a carbonated kick, resulting in a full-bodied beverage that is dry, tart and just a little sweet.

Cidery Description:  Before founding Sietsema Orchard & Cider Mill on the ourskirts of Grand Rapids Michigan, Jerry Sietsema Sr. was in real estate. The year was 1934, and the Country and the state of Michigan was in the middle of the Great Depression. Jerry Sietsema Sr., decided to go out on a limb and start his own family farm and orchard where once was the countryside of Grand Rapids Michigan. He purchased some land at Knapp and the East Beltline. The land and homestead once owned by a minister and his wife, which where part of the Underground Rail Road. He knew the land would be great for planting an orchard on. It was located far enough out of town, and high enough elevation to help prevent the apple blossoms from freezing in the late spring.

Jerry Sietsema Sr. operated his orchard and family farm from the Grand Rapids location from 1934 to 1995. After that time Sietsema Orchards moved to 8540 2 Mile Road in Ada Michigan, where it resides today. Although the farm was fully operational and proving to be a success, the goods produced were sold on mainly a wholesale level to a Grand Rapids area packing house. Beginning in, 2010, we decided to expand our business and our dream. This is where the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation of Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill hope to thrive and grow. We are committed to providing quality produce, and by opening our doors to the public, providing a family farm experience that we hope you enjoy here in West Michigan.

Price:  n/a (tetails for &12.99; a friend brought this to a cider tasting dinner)
Where Bought:  n/a (she got it from a trade from Michigan)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Hazy light straw yellow.  Low carbonation with foam.  Smells sour, of citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Light bodied with a frothy texture.  Low tartness.  High acidity.  Moderate sourness.  Mild funk.  No bitterness or tannins.  Notes of lemon, grapefruit, and yeast.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I didn’t really care for this, as I don’t like sourness and funk.  My friends who enjoy this style of cider better than I do thought it was average, a bit too mild.

Most Similar to:  Farmhouse-style cider, or lighter version of Spanish Sidra.  This had a similar profile to Angry Orchard Walden Hollow and Millstone Cellars Farmgate Dry.

Closing Notes:   It was nice to try this cider, but I’m glad it wasn’t something I bought. It would pair very well with food as its so mild.

Have you tried Sietsema Traditional Dry Hard Cider?  What did you think?

Virtue Cider Cherry Mitten

Review of Virtue Cider’s Cherry Mitten, a cherry version of their The Mitten bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples.  Virtue sent me a sample bottle of this along with some swag and a replacement bottle of their regular Mitten cider (which I reviewed here), as from my original review they suspected it had refermented.

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

Cider:  Cherry Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  750ml green champagne bottle, capped
Style:  American craft bourbon barrel aged cider made from culinary & heirloom apples, Michigan cherries, and Ale yeast

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Availability:  Very limited release of only 300 bottles (in Michigan in their tasting room only), plus a few kegs made it to Chicago IL (including Cider Summit).  However, in general, 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.

See Virtue’s info page on the regular version of this cider.  For the cherry version, they added tart cherries from their next door neighbor’s 80 acre cherry farm, and described the cider as having a mild acetic finish.

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.

Price:  n/a (probably retails for $20+)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Bright cherry hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells sour with hints of cherry, yeast, and apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Mild to moderate sourness and tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, funk, or tannins.  Frothy mousse-like mouthfeel.  Light bodied.  Mild cherry flavor, but also some citrus, honey, vinegar, and floral notes.  Long sour finish at the back of the palate.  Low apple influence.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I can see the appeal of this cider (which is a true sour cherry, not tart cherry), but I’m just not a fan of sour ciders.  For some reason they seem to overwhelm my palate and I have a touch time detecting or appreciating much else about them.  My husband enjoyed this more than I did and gladly finished the bottle, but it was a bit sour even for him.  I’m surprised how often I see reviews of ciders I found sour which don’t even mention that fact, so there is definitely a disclaimer on this review that the sourness may not be nearly as significant for other folks.

Also note that often the terms sour and tart are used interchangeably, but I find them quite different.  Tart is much more common and hits more forward on the palate (green apple and citrus are examples), while sour is lingering and hits further back on the palate (its common with Spanish Sidra, certain English & French ciders, and wild fermented ciders).

Most Similar to:  I’ve had a number of cherry ciders, such as from Woodchuck, Washington Gold, Locust, Elemental, Tieton, Jester & Judge, Julian, and Original Sin, but none were sour.  I’ve heard of Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry, but haven’t tried it.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got to try this cider, especially as its such a limited release.  Hopefully I’ll get to try more ciders from Virtue in the future.

Have you tried Virtue Cider Cherry Mitten?  What did you think?

Virtue The Mitten Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider – 2014 Harvest

Review of Virtue Cider’s The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples.  I previously reviewed a prior release of this cider (see here), which must have been their 2012 or 2013 harvest release.  Virtue contacted me saying I may have had a bad bottle that re-fermented, and wanted to send a replacement.  They also sent a bottle of their new Cherry version of this cider and some sweet swag.

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

Cider:  The Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  750ml green champagne bottle, capped (also available in kegs)
Style:  American craft bourbon barrel aged cider made from culinary & heirloom apples and Ale yeast

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Even the bottle is quite different from the last one I tried…it includes Nutrition Facts (a rarity with craft cider), and white shrink wrap around the top.  The shrink wrap was quite an annoyance, but I assume it better protects the cap from letting air in but I learned it was only an extra precaution for shipping, so you’re unlikely to see it.

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.

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.  The barrel aged portion of this cider was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels at least 9 months.

Price:  n/a (retails for $20+)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of apple, yeast, citrus, oak, and sourness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Nearly still.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate acidity.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Hints of bitterness, tannins, and sourness.  No funk.  Notes of citrus, floral, oak, yeast, honey, and vanilla.  Slightly wine-like (interesting as its made with beer yeast).  Moderate length finish.  Mild apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Very low barrel influence.  No detectable bourbon influence.

This varied quite a bit from my previous review of a different release (which the cidery suspected had refermented).  That one had high carbonation (frothy and almost mousse-like), moderate bitterness, no sourness, and notes of ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, and caramel.  This time there wasn’t nearly as much barrel & spirit influence and I didn’t pick up the caramel flavor, but it was also lacking the bitterness I wasn’t a fan of.

My Opinion:  The two releases were quite different.  There were elements of each I liked and didn’t like.  Specifically, the texture and stronger bourbon & oak barrel flavor in the earlier release and the lack of bitterness in this release.  Overall I definitely enjoyed this cider, but same as previously, it didn’t really knock my socks off as much as it did for some other reviewers, such as Cider Journal and the Not So Professional Beer Blog.  Every person and palate is different though.

Most Similar to:  This one was unique as I picked up a wide variety of flavor notes, but I found some similarities to 2 Towns The Bad Apple.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got to try this cider again, as well as its Cherry cousin, which I will review soon.  Hopefully I’ll get to try more ciders from Virtue in the future.

Have you tried Virtue Cider The Mitten?  What did you think?