Grand Illusion Blue Illusion

Review of Grand Illusion Hard Cider’s Blue Illusion, a blueberry-lavender cider.  I previously tried their Mystic Citra Pineapple.

Cider:  Blue Illusion
Cidery:  Grand Illusion Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Carlisle PA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with blueberries and English lavender

>>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Grand Illustion.  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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Availability:  in Pennsylvania, primarily at their taproom, but soon, at some other locations

Cider Description:  This well-balanced blueberry-lavender cider offers a pleasant sweetness and a light berry fruitiness; it finishes with a touch of English lavender.

Cidery Description:  We are Grand Illusion, a hard cider production company located in Carlisle, PA.  We use fresh pressed apples from Adams and York County to create magical ciders for all to enjoy.  Our taproom in downtown Carlisle has become a destination, with 15 ciders, 5 beers, and 8 wines – all on draft and all from Pennsylvania.

Here is an article from a local newspaper on the cidery.  They serve both their own ciders and ciders from other cideries at their taproom; see their tap list here.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $44 / case, likely ~ $11 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidery owners contacted me

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First Impression:  Lovely purple-blue hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of lavender with a hint of berry.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of citrus and a hint of berry.  Moderate length finish with a hint of hops? (I had this after one of their hopped ciders, but my glass was clean, I also picked it up straight out of the can, and my husband was able to taste it too).  Low apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it, but I would have liked more sweetness and flavor.  I only picked up the lavender in the scent, where it was quite prevalent, so it was a bit of a letdown for it to not transfer to the flavor.  However, I’ve had that happen with quite a few ciders I’ve tried.  The finish with hops was unexpected.  The flavor combination was nice though, and it was quite drinkable, plus for me it was more sessionable than their two hopped varieties I tried, due to the lack of bitterness.

Most Similar to:  Greenwood Lavender Blackberry.  Or, a less sweet and lower flavor intensity version of Finnriver Lavender Black Currant (which I really enjoy).  I was surprised upon searching my list that I’ve tried at least 7 ciders with lavender and 6 ciders with blueberry; I would have guessed less.

Closing Notes:  Per Cider Culture, this was Grand Illusion’s first release, in April.  Next up I have their hopped grapefruit variety.

Have you tried lavender infused cider?  What did you think?

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Grand Illusion Mystic Citra Pineapple

Review of Grand Illusion Hard Cider’s Mystic Citra Pineapple, a hopped pineapple cider.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

Cider:  Mystic Citra Pineapple
Cidery:  Grand Illusion Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Carlisle PA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with Citra & Cascade hops and pineapple

>>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Grand Illustion.  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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Availability:  in Pennsylvania, primarily at their taproom, but soon, at some other locations

Cider Description:  Has a pineapple ever played tricks on you? This cider will. Floral and fruity with passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple and lemongrass overtones. Dry hopped with a combination of Cascade and Citra hops.

Cidery Description:  We are Grand Illusion, a hard cider production company located in Carlisle, PA.  We use fresh pressed apples from Adams and York County to create magical ciders for all to enjoy.  Our taproom in downtown Carlisle has become a destination, with 15 ciders, 5 beers, and 8 wines – all on draft and all from Pennsylvania.

Here is an article from a local newspaper on the cidery.  They serve both their own ciders and ciders from other cideries at their taproom; see their tap list here.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $44 / case, likely ~ $11 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidery owners contacted me

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First Impression:  Light yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of hops, pineapple, and stone fruit.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low bitterness.  Hints of sourness.  No funk or tannins.  Notes of hops, pineapple, apricot/peach, and grapefruit.  Long slightly bitter hoppy finish.  Moderate hops intensity and overall flavor intensity.  Low to moderate complexity.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate to high sessionability.

My Opinion:  I would have liked it better with less bitter of a finish, but overall the flavor combination and level of sweetness were nice.  My husband was a bigger fan.  It was neat how many extra flavors there were.  Also, more fruity than citrus or floral, which I’d expect from Citra hops (they did say Cascade were also used though).  I think this would appeal well to beer drinkers.  It tasted less sweet than the labeled 17 grams of sugar; possibly as the acidity and bitterness helped cut that, or else this was less sweet of a batch.

Most Similar to:  Swift Pineapple Hop

Closing Notes:  Next up I have their blueberry-lavender and hopped grapefruit varieties.

Have you tried hopped cider?  What did you think?

Frecon Farms Scrumpy

Review of Frecon Farms Scrumpy cider, part of their Estate line.  This is my first time trying anything from this cidery.  I picked up this Pennsylvanian cider when I was in California.  Note that “Scrumpy” is a term used traditionally in English cider to describe a “rough” cider from unselected apple varieties, and to “scrump” means to steal fruit from an orchard.

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Cider:  Scrumpy
Cidery:  Frecon Farms
Cidery Location:  Boyertown PA
ABV:  7.8%
How Supplied:  750ml flip top bottle
Style:  American craft cider from dessert, heirloom, cider, & crab apple varieties, wild yeast fermented, barrel aged

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Availability:  limited, at least partially through Shelton Brothers, plus some online sales (although they have a cider finder, I only saw Philadelphia PA location on it)

Cider Description:  True to it’s west country heritage, this batch of Scrumpy features a diverse blend of unselected cider apples from England and the US. Barrel aged, this traditional english dry style has a nice coated mouth feel with a smooth but strong finish. The apples in this blend are Dolgo Crab, Gold Rush, Kingston Black, Ashmeads Kernel, Yarlington Mill, Wickson Crab, Roxbury Russet, Winesap, Northern Spy, Golden Russet, and Golden Delicious!  Grown and Harvested in 2016 in the Piedmont region of Pennsylvania.

Cidery Description:  We make traditional cider using classic techniques & use apples from our family orchard, which as been growing quality tree fruits since 1944. Using a blend of dessert, cider & aromatic apples, both heirloom & modern, our cider makers select the best balances to ferment into the final product. We’re proud to continue an American tradition of fine ciders that feature great aroma & flavor, recently recognized with bronze medals for the Hogshead and Crabby Granny by the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association.

Price:  $13.99
Where Bought:  K&L Wines in San Francisco CA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, when we were in San Francisco on a cruise port stop

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells of acidic heirloom apples, with citrus and a hint of sourness.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low sourness.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No funk.  Notes of sharp heirloom apple, lemon, grapefruit, mineral, and pineapple.  Moderate length sour finish.  Moderate flavor intensity and sessionability.  Moderate to high complexity.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low overt barrel influence, but I’m guessing it smoothed out the flavor.

My Opinion:  I don’t like sour, so I wasn’t personally a fan of this selection.  I was hoping for English style based on the description, but it was closer to farmhouse style.  Every cider isn’t for everyone though, and I’m glad I got to try it.  I’d recommend this to folks who like dry sour cider (farmhouse-style, rustic, wild yeast fermented, Spanish Sidra, etc).

Most Similar to:   Runcible Cider Light of the MoonAlpenfire Pirate’s PlankBrooklyn Cider House Half SourNumber 12 Sparkling DryAngry Orchard Walden Hollow, Sietsema Traditional Dry, and multiple varieties from Wrangletown

Closing Notes:  A number of times now I’ve seen cider described as English-style when it isn’t really close, primarily due to the use of different apples (dessert or heirloom instead of bittersweet cider apples).  At times it appears the term is used just to describe that it is dry and/or more rustic in style, and varies from the majority of U.S. cider which is sweeter and clean (no sourness or funk).  This is a great example of our need for consistent terminology, which will likely just take time.

Have you tried Frecon Farms cider?  What did you think?

Where Did My Cider Come From? (Major Cider Regions in the United States)

Lately I’ve been curious to learn more about the major cider regions in the U.S.  The Pacific Northwest (WA & OR), NY, and MI (Great Lakes / Finger Lakes) come to mind.  I was also surprised to learn that CA is a major cider producer, and PA is a major apple producer.

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Apples are grown commercially in 32/50 states in the U.S.  It all started on the East Coast in colonial times.  The top ten apple producing states in the U.S. are WA, NY, MI, PA, CA, VA, NC, OR, OH, and ID.

Here is some information about the top five apple producing states:

Washington – Apples primarily grown in the Yakima valley, while the majority of the cideries are in the greater Seattle area.

New York – Apples grown primarily in the Hudson and Champlain valleys, while many of the cideries are in the Hudson valley.

Michigan – Apples grown primarily in the Northwest corner of the Northern Lower Peninsula and the lower half of the state, same as the cideries.

Pennsylvania – Apples grown throughout the state, but comparatively there are few cideries.

California – Apples primarily grown in the San Joaquin Valley, while many of the cideries in contrast are in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

When it comes to which state has the most cideries, the statistics get a bit murky.  However, its pretty clear the top five in some order are NY, WA, OR, MI, and CA.  The stats are further complicated as some wineries, breweries, and even meaderies make cider.

Here are examples of some well-known craft cideries in each of those states:

New York – Eve’s, Aaron Burr, Bad Seed, Bellwhether, Nine Pin, Slyboro

Washington – Finnriver, Snowdrift, Tieton, Alpenfire, Whitewood, Westcott Bay, Dragon’s Head

Oregon – E.Z. Orchards, 2 Towns, Reverend Nat’s, Blue Mountain, Wandering Aengus

Michigan – Virtue, J.K.’s Scrumpy, Uncle John’s, Tandem, Vander Mill

California – Sonoma Cider, Tilted Shed, Julian Hard Cider

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Thats not to say cider isn’t available from cideries in other states.  Many have numerous cideries.  PA, CO, VT, NC, MA, NH, and VA come to mind.  Its also difficult to look at it by state as the populations & landmasses vary so much.  However, demand for cider is definitely skyrocketing, and new cideries are opening every week.  Cider grew 70% each of the last two years!

Cydermarket is a very cool website with a directory of cideries by state.

Sources:
World’s Best Ciders book (Bill Bradshaw & Pete Brown)
http://ciderjournal.com/top-five-cider-producing-states-u-s/
http://www.ciderguide.com/cider-maps/united-states/
https://cydermarket.com
http://www.usapple.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=179&Itemid=285
http://growlermag.com/cider2015/
http://www.statista.com/statistics/300851/us-number-of-cider-manufacturers-by-state/
http://www.orangepippin.com/orchards/united-states