Portland Cider Cranberry

Review of Portland Cider Company’s Cranberry seasonal cider.  It is my first time trying this, although I’ve had their Passion FruitPearfect Perry, Kinda Dry, Hop’Rageous, London Dry Gin, Apple, Scrumpy, Strawperry, Pineapple, Sangria, and Mojito.

<This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Portland 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 this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review que, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.>

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Cider:  Cranberry
Cidery:  Portland Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Portland OR
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  22oz clear bottles (and draft)
Style:  seasonal American craft cider from dessert apples, with cranberries

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Availability:  seasonably (~ Nov-Jan), in Oregon (especially in the Portland area, including at all Safeways, and some Fred Meyers, New Seasons, Whole Foods, and Market of Choices) and Washington

Cider Description:  Get into the Holiday Season (which is somehow already here – crazy!!) with our Cranberry cider! A blend of freshly pureed cranberries from local Everest Farms in Bandon, Ore., with our 100% NW apple cider, this cider is brilliantly red in color and incredible to drink. Tastes just like Cranberry relish, making it the perfect pairing for the Thanksgiving table!

Ingredients:  apples (honeycrisp, pink lady, golden delicious, fuji), cranberries, and orange zest

Cidery Description:  Authentically crafted Cider with quality Northwest ingredients.  Our business is based on the belief that good cider comes from good fruit, honest practices, and attention to detail.  Our cider starts with fresh pressed juice from 100% Northwest grown apples.  We then carefully ferment it, using yeast that protects the delicate characteristics of the fruit.  The results are ciders that are high quality – easy to drink, refreshing, and downright delicious.  That’s why we say, Drink it, it’s Good!

They were founded in 2012 and have tap rooms in Hawthorne and Clackamas in Portland Oregon.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~ $6.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the cidery contacted me

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First Impression:  Pink hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mild – fruity and tart.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness.  No tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of berry and citrus to start, then distinctive tart cranberry on the long finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate to high flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  This had some great real cranberry flavor.  However, due to that, if you are like me and not really a fan of cranberry, it may not be appealing.  If you like cranberry, you are likely to enjoy it.

Most Similar to:  Tieton Ciderworks Cranberry, Apple Outlaw Cranberry Jewel, and d’s Wickled Cranny Granny (which is sweeter).

However, I prefer the less intensely cranberry ciders, like Downeast Cranberry BlendFinnriver Cranberry Rosehip, and Schilling Mischief Maker Pom-Cran,

Closing Notes:  The cidery has three suggested cocktail recipes – one with vodka (similar to a Cosmo), a cranberry Sangria, and another with Vodka & ginger.

Do you like cranberry cider?  What did you think?

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Reverend Nat’s Viva La Pineapple

Review of Reverend Nat’s Viva La Pineapple.  I first tried this cider awhile when I visited their tap room (see here), during my Portland cider trip, which also included Cider Rite of Spring (see my event review and my cider tasting notes).

I have also tried Rev Nat’s Revival¡Tepache!Hopland #5 / EnvyNewtown PippinCiderkinWinter Abbey SpiceHallelujah HopricotDeliverance Gin & TonicRevival DrySacrilege Sour CherryThe PassionWhiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black CurrantNew Moon MandarinRevelation Belle de BoskoopWooden Hellfire, and Tassjara Peach Book.

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Cider:  Viva La Pineapple
Cidery:  Reverend Nat’s
Cidery Location:  Portland Oregon
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  craft cider from dessert apples with pineapple juice and a touch of spices

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Availability:  Summer seasonal.  Rev Nat’s ciders are in general sold in AK, CA, HI, ID, MT, NY, OR, and WA, as well as Alberta & B.C. Canada, and Japan.  They have a cider finder and also have online sales for Tent Show ciders.

Cider Description:  This cider is a blend of fermented fresh apple juice (sourced, like all the apples I use, from Oregon and Washington, but mostly Eastern Washington in the case of this cider), and unfermented fresh pineapple juice. A touch of spice is added (cinnamon and cloves and allspice) and it is not to be consumed by those allergic to pineapples.

Cidery Description:  Reverend Nat is a single-minded cider evangelist who searches the world for superior ingredients to handcraft the most unusual ciders that no one else will make.

Price:  ~$7.99
Where Bought:  Whole Foods in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried this at the cidery’s Portland tap room

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First Impression:  Still (no carbonation).  Dark straw yellow hue.  Smells of pineapple juice.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pineapple juice and lime.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  However, I didn’t pick up any of the spices mentioned in the description, which was just fine with me.  Definitely on the easy drinking side.  It would be perfect on a hot summer day.  I recommend lightly shaking the bottle before pouring as otherwise it will be a bit chunky at the end.

Most Similar to:  Jester & Judge Pineapple Express (although I’ve also previously tried pineapple ciders from Ace, Atlas, Locust, Pear Up, Portland Cider, Schilling, Swift, and Wyder’s)

Closing Notes:  My favorite ciders from Reverend Nat’s have been the most mainstream ones, like this one, Revival, and The Passion, plus Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant.

Have you tried Reverend Nat’s Viva La Pineapple?  What did you think?

Bushwhacker Cider Forgotten Trail

Review of Bushwhacker Cider’s Forgotten Trail.  I tried this previously on draft at their cider house (see here).  My husband picked up a few bottles at that time as he liked it so much.  This is the only house cider I’ve tried from Bushwhacker (although they offer some others).

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Cider:  Forgotten Trail
Cidery:  Bushwhacker Cider
Cidery Location:  Portland OR
ABV:  5.6%
How Supplied:  single 12oz bottles and draft
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples

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Availability:  Likely only at Bushwhacker’s cider house in Portland Oregon

Cider Description:  Our flagship cider, named after a trail that you may not have time to travel on as much as you’d like. This is a blend of estate grown fruit, sourced from Eastern Oregon. It comes out as a semi-dry cider, appealing to fans of dry cider, yet has a bit of natural sweetness to please a customer with a sweet tooth.

Cidery Description:  We opened Bushwhacker Cider – Brooklyn in the fall of 2010 as Portland’s first cidery and the country’s original cider pub. Starting with every cider available in Oregon, we had a measly selection of 35 bottles. This selection has exploded to over 340 bottles of cider from around the country and around the world. Located in Portland’s historic Brooklyn neighborhood our small pub quickly became a place to chat with neighbors and enjoy the diverse flavors that can be found in the cider world.

Price:  ~$3 / single bottle
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker’s cider house (which I did quite a bit of shopping at; see here)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  drinking (and shopping) at their cider house

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells very mild.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Notes of apple juice and honey.  Moderate length finish.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I found this pretty average.  Very easy to drink and plenty tasty, but a bit boring.  Its unlikely to offend anyone, but I doubt too many folks would find it very impressive either.  However, its a great local craft option which isn’t too sweet or too dry.

Most Similar to:  Semi-dry flagship ciders from dessert apples, like 2 Towns BrightCider, McMenamins Edgefield Flagship, and Boonville Bite Hard

Closing Notes:  This is a really interesting cider.  My husband and I have tried it three times now (draft, and twice bottled, bought at the same time).  It was completely different each time.  The first time it was very dry and champagne-style, like my husband likes, so he picked up a few bottles to take home (and he’s not usually a cider drinker so that is saying something…).  The second time, when we opened the first bottle, it was semi-sweet and rich, so he was disappointed but I was happy (I liked that version better than this one which I am reviewing).  This time (second bottle), it was semi-dry and very mild.  I’m guessing that what we tried on draft that time was a different one of their house ciders (maybe Alice?  the hue was completely different too, nearly clear), and the bottles were from different batches.  My husband asked the bar tender if they had any in bottles and she pointed us to the Forgotten Trail bottles in the cooler, but maybe she forgot my husband was drinking their Alice variety?  Its an intriguing mystery.

Have you tried any Bushwhacker Cider flagship ciders?  What did you think?

Bushwhacker Cider and Cider Purchases in Portland Oregon

Bushwhacker Cider was the last stop of the weekend, on Sunday, on our way out of town.  We arrived when they opened just after noon.  It was quiet as expected due to the time of day, with only a couple people stopping in to buy some bottles while we were there.  The atmosphere is very casual, with some bar seating, and high top & regular tables, as well as arcade games.  The bartender was very friendly and helpful.

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They offer up to 8 ciders on tap (mostly their own) plus 6 bottle pours, and some snacks.  There are small and large pour size options too.  I think the bottle pours are especially awesome as you don’t see that much; they focused on ciders which keep well (like the awesome Etienne Dupont Pommeau which I’ve tried previously; see here).  I also really liked that they had detailed descriptions of the ciders they were pouring.

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I started off by browsing their bottle selection, which was awesome by the way, on par with the Schilling Cider House, with hundreds of options.  Everything was organized by region (and even subregion – their French ciders were labeled Normandy vs. Brittany), and refrigerated.  There was a focus on Northwest ciders of course, but also selections from across the U.S., England, France, Spain, and more.

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My husband sampled Bushwhacker’s flagship Forgotten Trail cider on tap, made from Oregon apples.  After I finished picking out bottles, I sampled a bag in box pour of Hogan’s Picker’s Passion, an English cider (they also sell at least one Hogan’s variety packaged this way with 3 liters of cider, which would be a fun option for a party and apparently keeps very well long term too).

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Bushwhacker Forgotten Trail (5.7% ABV):  Nearly clear hue (the bar’s “house water” lol).  Low carbonation.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of citrus and granny smith apples.  Low apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  High sessionability.  This reminds me of champagne except with lower carbonation.  My husband really enjoyed it and bought a few single bottles.  I thought it was average.  Easy to drink and refreshing, but not remarkable.

Update – Based on my review of a bottled version of Forgotten Trail (see here), this may have been their “Alice” variety.

Hogan’s Picker’s Passion (5.3% ABV):  Hazy unfiltered apple juice type hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Very thin bodied.  Semi-dry.  Low tartness, acidity, tannins, and bitterness.  Hints of funk and sourness.  Notes of apple pomace and bittersweet apple juice, but overall the flavor is simple and mild.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  Moderate apple flavor and sessionability.  Warming moderate to long finish.  I thought it was average (I would have preferred more body and flavor).  English cider is one of my favorite categories.  So far I prefer English ciders from cideries such as Sheppy’s, Dunkertons, Worley’s, and Aspall over Hogan’s, PiltonBurrow Hill, Thatchers, Sandford Orchards, and Ross on Wye, as I enjoy a flavorful cider without significant bitterness, sourness, or funk.

I thought this was a good post to summarize what bottles we purchased over the weekend, especially as the majority were from Bushwhacker’s.

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We had a great cider weekend in Portland and look forward to another (hopefully longer) trip sometime soon!

Tasting Notes from Reverend Nat’s Tap Room in Portland Oregon

Reverend Nat’s tap room was the next stop in our Portland Oregon cider weekend adventure after Cider Rite of Spring (see my event review and tasting notes), checking into our hotel (the Embassy Suites on Pine St – nice for being in a historic building), and dinner at The Ringside steakhouse (I’m not a steak eater but my husband was a big fan…dinner there was his only request of the weekend).

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Reverend Nat’s Cider has been around officially since 2011, and moved into the current building in 2013, although “The Reverend” Nat West (he is actually ordained online) has been making cider since 2004.  They specialize in making weird & interesting ciders that no one else would have the guts to make, and they actually sell very well.

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It was shockingly quiet in the tap room for a Saturday night, but I guess its not really in an area which gets a lot of foot traffic, despite being in the downtown area.  Its a cool building, with high ceilings, and one wall was a roll-up garage door.  There were about four barstools at the main bar, a few at a center bar, one booth, and the rest were stools pulled around wine barrel tables.  There were maybe six other patrons and one bartender there with us.

They have 12 ciders on tap (and sometimes bottle pours), and sell bottles & growlers of their ciders as well as some merchandise.  Many of the ciders poured in the tap room are varieties which never leave the tap room.  They also offer a “Tent Show” cider club which gives members first pick at special release ciders (and only if any bottles are left are they sold in the tap room); there is currently a waiting list to even sign up for their cider club.

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The tap room is also the production area (although obviously not in use late at night), so I got to have a peek at the cidery itself.  I was surprised how small it was compared to how large Reverend Nat’s (and Cascadia Ciderworks United‘s) cider distribution is.

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My husband and I ordered some tasters to share ($2-$5 for 4oz) of #7 Viva la Pineapple!, #10 Tent Show Wooden Hellfire, #11 Tassjara Peach Book, and #12 Belle de Boskoop (I’ve previously tried the Revival, Sour Cherry 2016 and 2015 versions, Hallelujah Hopricot, and New Moon Mandarin).

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<left to right:  Viva la Pineapple!, Revelation Belle de Boskoop, Tent Show Wooden Hellfire, and Tassjara Peach Book>

Viva la Pineapple! (6.0% ABV):  Described as a granny smith apple cider with pineapple juice and cinnamon.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate pineapple flavor.  Mild spice.  This was reminiscent of their Tepache, but apple not pineapple based, less spiced, and more drinkable by itself.  I really liked it.

Revelation Belle de Boskoop (6.8% ABV):  Described as a single varietal cider from an heirloom apple variety.  Semi-dry.  Apple forward.  However, the flavor for me was overwhelmingly vinegary with some sourness too.  I wasn’t a fan.

Wooden Hellfire (16.6% ABV):  This is a very unique cider which was started by boiling cider for 18 hours, making a concentrate (similar to freezing is used when making ice cider), then barrel aged for one year.  Very dark hue.  Dry to semi-dry.  Rich flavor with notes of caramel, prune, oak, and smoke.  High complexity and flavor intensity.  I liked the flavor (although the prune was odd), but this is something more to sip on a shot of than drink in any quantity or frequency.  My husband fell in love with it, saying it was the best cider he had ever tried, and ended up buying a bottle ($30, although its 750ml of 16.6% cider, if you can really call it cider anymore), plus two more bottles for some friends he told it about.  I really wish they would have sold this in smaller bottles, as 750ml is a lot of an intense high ABV cider, plus that would decrease the price point.

Tassjara Peach Book (8.5% ABV):  A cider with Mosaic hops, which are described as adding the scent and flavor of peaches to this cider without using any actual peaches.  Semi-dry.  There was definitely a very subtle peach flavor in addition to some citrus and hops notes.  Moderately bitter finish.  I found it to be average.

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Bottom Line:  To be honest, most of the ciders Rev Nat’s makes aren’t to my liking…they tend towards the weird, dry, spicy, sour, etc.  However, some of the staples such as Revival are awesome.  I also had a draft-only special release from them for last year’s Cider Summit (Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant) which I really enjoyed.

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 – Post 2/2 – Tasting Notes

This is Part 2/2 on Cider Rite of Spring 2017 in Portland Oregon, which includes tasting notes on the 18 ciders I tried.  See HERE for Part 1/2, covering the event itself.  Note that I have more notes on some ciders than others depending on how much of it I tried and what was going on at the event (kinda tough to take notes with one hand while holding on to your tasting glass in the other!)…its not a reflection on the cider itself.

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^ 5 Cider (Portland OR) Strawbasaurus Hop, 6.9% ABV, $6/500ml:  This is a flagship hopped strawberry cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied with a lot of foam.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  I couldn’t get past how overly hoppy the flavor was.  The light strawberry flavor with the intense hopped flavor was also odd.  I think hops are nice to enhance a cider’s flavor, but I don’t like when they overpower it.

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2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Pommeau, 19% ABV, $23/375ml, VIP offering:  This is an awesome Pommeau (apple brandy + apple cider, oak barrel aged for 1 year); see my previous review here.

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7 Bev / Queen Orchard (West Linn OR) Green Man, 6.7% ABV, draft only:  This cider is for the Willamette Ale & Cider House, expected to open in West Linn Oregon on June 15th, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  It was described as inspired by English cider, but I found it more farmhouse-style than anything else (none of the characteristic tannins of English cider).  Hazy hue.  Smells of sulfur, sourness, and funk, but those qualities oddly enough didn’t transfer to the flavor.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Apple-forward with citrus notes.  Nice flavor, but the scent was off-putting.  It could be a first production issue.

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Alter Ego Cider (Portland OR) The Guardian Angel, 6.5% ABV, $8/500ml:  This is a flagship blueberry pomegranate cider, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dark berry hue.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity, with blueberry, pomegranate, and grape, but not much apple.  High sessionability.  Juice-like.  Reminds me of Atlas’ ciders.  I liked it.

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Bauman’s Cider (Gervais OR) Peach Raspberry, 6.4% ABV, $12/22oz:  This summer seasonal cider adds peaches and raspberries, and is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate to high flavor intensity, with rather straight-forward peach and raspberry notes.  Well balanced with a lot of flavor without being too sweet.  I really enjoyed it.

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Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Grape Perry, 6.0% ABV, draft only:  This is a perry made from dessert pears, sweetened with Concord grape juice, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry.   Light bodied.  Very light fruity flavor, primarily grape.  I was expecting a sweeter more flavorful cider between the pear (unfermentable sugars typically lead to a higher residual sugar content even if fermentation isn’t stopped early) and grape, although you can tell even from the color than not a lot of grape juice was used.

Elk Horn Brewery (Eugene OR) Cherry’s Pie, 7.5% ABV, draft only:  This is a cider with cherries added.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  I found the flavor a bit weird…kinda bitter…but I just had a sip or two shared with me.

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Finnriver (Port Townsend WA) Apply Ol’ Fashion cocktail, VIP offering:  Made with Finnriver’s Spirited Apple Wine (brandy-fortified cider, 18.5% ABV, $25/500ml) and Oak and Apple cider (6.5% ABV, $10/500ml).  I’ve previously had both ciders on their own, but I didn’t like this cocktail in the least, and neither did my husband or friend, as none of us are fans of bitters.  Its likely the proportions may have got off since they made this rather rushed…it was quite an undertaking to serve a non-pre-mixed cocktail at a busy event like this.  They were also offering pours of just the Apple Wine, which is what I should have chosen.  See my Oak and Apple review here.  My favorite from Finnriver however is their Fire Barrel (see here); this year’s vintage was just released, and it is a great value at ~$11/500ml.

McMenamins Edgefield Winery (Portland OR) Black Cherry Cider, 6.8% ABV, draft only:  Semi-sweet.  Nice real cherry flavor.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  High flavor intensity.  I liked it.  I had previously only tried Edgefield’s flagship cider.

Pear UP (formerly NV Cider, East Wenatchee WA) Raspberry Perry, unknown ABV, $5/500ml:  This is a perry (only pears, no apples) with raspberries.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Nice moderate to strong fresh raspberry flavor with a hint of pear.  Refreshingly flavorful.  I was surprised how much more flavorful this was compared to their Watermelon Perry, as it is only slightly more sweet.  I like the flavor intensity of this best of all their perries I’ve tried, but the watermelon flavor remains my favorite (I’m a huge watermelon fan).

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Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) New Moon Mandarin, 7.2% ABV, $7/500ml:  This seasonal cider is made with mandarin and tangerine juice, and finished with chamomile flowers.  Dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very mild citrus flavor.  Warm boozy finish.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Light of the Moon, 8.1% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their flagship cider made using heirloom apple varieties, and the first I’ve tried from this cidery.  Hazy hue.  Semi-dry.  Low tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of sourness and funk.   found this to be a slightly farmhouse-style apple-forward cider with some honey and citrus notes.  I liked it.

Runcible Cider (Mosier OR) Old Hoot, 7.4% ABV, $17/750ml:  This is their Farmhouse-style cider, made with English cider apple varieties.  Very hazy hue.  Dry.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of sourness.  This was well made, but a bit too rustic for my liking.

Shoutout to Kelly McCune of Runcible Cider – she had actually heard of Cider Says prior to the event, and said she likes my blog – very cool!  They are a brand new cidery (this was their first event) and have their own orchard of 500 cider apple trees, which is awesome, as so many cideries actually aren’t orchard-based.  I think it takes a cidery’s cider to the next level.

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Square Mile Cider (Portland OR) Rosé, unknown ABV, draft only, VIP offering:  This special release cider was made with hibiscus and rose hips.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Very light fruitiness, with floral and herbal notes.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Swift Cider (Portland OR) Marionberry, 6.8% ABV, $8/22oz:  This is a dry flagship cider with marionberries, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low berry flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Prickly Passion, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  This is the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Very low fruity flavor intensity.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

Tumalo Cider (Tumalo OR) Hibiscus, unknown ABV, $6/500ml:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness acidity.  Low flavor intensity, more fruity than floral.  Slightly more flavorful than the Prickly Passion.  This was nice, but more subtle than I prefer.

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Woodbox (Portland OR) Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider, 12.7% ABV, $17/375ml:  This is a ice cider (made by using freezing temperatures to naturally concentrate the flavor and sugar content in apple juice before fermenting it) aged in whiskey barrels, and the first I’ve tried from the cidery.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Full bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Rich flavor notes including caramel and vanilla.  High apple flavor.  Moderate to high whiskey flavor.  Moderate oak flavor.  Awesome!  They made a sign to highlight the cider’s price as the program had a mis-print of $33, which is quite a difference.

Closing Notes:

  • My favorite ciders of the event were the Woodbox Ice Cider and 2 Towns Pommeau (and my husband and friend agreed).
    • The ice cider was an especially good value too (often they run $30+ as they are so expensive to make), and the only bottle we ended up picking up (although our friend bought a number of ciders).
  • Of the non-specialty ciders, I most enjoyed Alter Ego Guardian Angel, Bauman’s Peach Raspberry, Pear UP Raspberry Perry, and Runcible Light of the Moon.
  • I was surprised how many dry ciders were being offered, and especially how many cideries were only offering dry ciders, which is nice.  However, especially when made from dessert apples, dry ciders can often end up very subtlety flavored, while I prefer a really in-your-face flavorful cider (whether an added flavor or due to use of cider apples).  I usually go for semi-dry to semi-sweet, as they tend to be more flavorful, but not too sweet.
  • There were also a number of cideries breaking from the pack and going more Farmhouse-style (like Runcible and Baird & Dewar), which isn’t typically as crowd-pleasing, but sticks to the roots of early American cider.
  • There were plenty of sweet offerings too, but mostly from the more established / larger cideries that I had already sampled (like Portland Cider Co., and the Seattle-area’s own Locust and Schilling cideries).

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That will do it for Cider Rite of Spring 2017.  Stay tuned for more tasting notes from my Portland trip, from Reverend Nat’s tap room and Bushwhacker Cider!

Cider Rite of Spring 2017 – Post 1/2 – Event Review

This past weekend I attended the 4th annual Cider Rite of Spring cider tasting event in Portland Oregon.  My husband and I drove down from Seattle (about 4 hours away) and stayed overnight.  It was a whirlwind with a lot of driving in two days, but fun.  This is the first of a series of posts about my Portland cider weekend, and will cover the event itself, with a forthcoming post with tasting notes on the ciders I tried.  Also refer to my preview of the event here.

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Overview:

This cider tasting event was held from noon to 6pm on a Saturday at a three-story indoor event space near downtown Portland (The Evergreen PDX).  It featured nearly 100 ciders from 31 cideries.  The event cost $25-$45, depending on if you purchased a regular or VIP ticket, and pre sale vs. at the door.  Entry included 8 drink tickets and a tasting glass.  VIP tickets also included access to an upstairs VIP lounge.  Each cidery had a booth with a cidery representative pouring 1-4 ciders, a mix of draft and bottle pours.

The event was hosted by the Northwest Cider Association, and also served as a fundraiser for the organization, which aims to bring cideries and cider lovers together to share knowledge, experience, and live the Northwest cider culture.  They promote cider and sponsor classes, workshops, events, and more.

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My experience:

I arrived a bit past noon with my husband and a friend of ours who lives out of state that we don’t get to see often enough (her parents live in Portland so she visits often).  There was a line to get in when they opened, as it required the typical ID check, wristband application, and check in (printed tickets vs. will call tickets vs. ticket sales).  We stayed about four hours total, tried over a dozen ciders, and bought some bottles to take home.

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The VIP lounge on the top floor.

My favorite parts:

  • The hourly VIP tastings.  They were all exclusive and/or rare releases, listed in the event program, and only being poured in the VIP area.  Each hour featured a different cidery and cider to taste, no tickets required.  The VIP lounge also included snacks (mostly cheese chosen to be paired with cider from Whole Foods) and some cider options available the entire time (although the one I tried was literally just cider apple juice, not fermented?).
  • Getting to try Oregon ciders which I don’t see in Washington, from cideries which don’t even distribute out of Oregon yet.  Several cideries hadn’t even had their official launch yet.
  • The bottle shop.  Many of the offerings were sold in the bottle shop (except some draft-only options).  It was regular retail price, but proceeds went to the Northwest Cider Association, and many are difficult or impossible to find in stores.
  • The event was well-planned.  There was sufficient information available online beforehand.  There was sufficient signage and it was laid out well, although squished.  The venue was nice besides the size, and indoors, so no weather to deal with.  It was even decorated with fresh flowers (very Spring-like).  They had water and non-alcoholic cider available, and jars to dump unwanted cider into.
  • Affordable ticket prices, as low as $25 plus a couple dollars in fees for pre-sales.

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The bottle shop offerings.

My least favorite parts:

  • The crowds!  It was literally elbow to elbow push & shove to get anywhere in the building, verging on dangerous.  At first the air conditioning wasn’t even on so it was starting to get very hot with all the bodies in the small space, but thankfully that kicked in after awhile.  Apparently this was a new venue for this year and they had approximately double the attendees as last year (900), so significantly more than they were expecting.  However, I really think they should have capped ticket sales before it got that bad.  There is already talk of a larger venue for next year.  I don’t mind lines (especially as it ensures you don’t drink too quickly and encourages you to talk to folks you are in line with), but it was difficult to even know where lines were, and to get between them.  There were less chances to talk to the cidery folks as someone was always behind you waiting.  Even the VIP lounge was overcrowded, which defeated part of its purpose.  This was tied for the most crowded tasting event I’ve ever been to.
  • Lack of seating, or even standing tables to set down your glass and take notes.
  • No early entry for VIP ticket holders.  Often events let you in an hour early, which is nice to get one-on-one time with cidermakers.  I had been hoping to get that in the VIP lounge, but it was busy there too.

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The event space and crowds.

The in between:

  • Pours were on the smaller side.  This can be good or bad…it enables you to try more ciders without feeling like you have to drink more than you want to or dump some out to try more, but it is easy to run out of tickets quickly (extras were being sold for $2 each).
  • This was a medium sized event.  Less options than the Cider Summit events for example (which also typically includes some imports and aren’t as regional, with cideries outside of just Oregon & Washington for the Seattle event for example), but more than Summer Cider Day in Port Townsend WA.
  • Lack of food options.  The only option was sushi, which seemed an odd choice as many folks don’t like it, and usually more carb-rich foods are better to go with alcohol.  There weren’t however any lines for food as is typical at events, as it was a quick prep item (and possibly as there was less interest than typical food offerings).  It was also priced low, especially for sushi.  However, this was announced in advance, so it wasn’t an issue; we ate lunch before the event and I always travel with snacks.
  • The downtown location.  This enabled us to stay at a hotel which was a cheap Uber ride to the event, restaurants, and cider bars,  However, hotel prices and parking are more expensive downtown.

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Event map and VIP tasting schedule.

My general cider tasting event tips:

  • As with any event, it is best to arrive early.  If you arrive 5-10 minutes before it starts, you can be among the first in line and get some cider tasting in before the space fills up.
  • Wear comfortable closed toe shoes.  Although there may not be much walking involved, there is typically a lot of standing.  I was surprised how many women I saw wearing heels and/or sandals.  I’m not a fan of having my feet hurting and toes stepped on…
  • Eat beforehand and bring some snacks.  Crackers are a good choice to absorb alcohol and cleanse your palette.  Not having to stop and eat a meal can save time as well (although sometimes taking a decent break is nice too).
  • Bring a bottle of water, although often it is easy enough to fill your tasting glass with provided water between ciders.
  • Bring a pen/pencil, and possibly a notebook.  You may want to at least note on the program what ciders you don’t want to miss, which you enjoyed and want to purchase bottles of (or if you are like me, take tasting notes).
  • If possible, plan what ciders you want to try ahead of time.  It is unfortunately impossible to try everything.  They didn’t release the cider list in advance this time, but I looked through it off the bat to get an idea of what I wanted to taste.  I suggest prioritizing ciders that are expensive, special releases, and/or not found in your area.  If possible, taste from dry and simple to sweet and weird.  What you taste before another cider can impact the next.  At least however avoid spicy (hot) ciders until the end of the day, as those wreck the palette the most.
  • Consider trying multiple ciders from the same cidery/booth.  That gives you a good idea of the range of the cidery’s options.  Often they will pour you a smaller sample of each offering for a single ticket if you ask / if they aren’t too busy.
  • If they will have a bottle shop, bring a bag you can put some ciders in, and/or a bottle bag.  At this event they were selling them for $5, or giving them away with the purchase of 6 bottles.  We ended up buying some ciders midway through the event as we weren’t sure if they would sell out, so a backpack was handy to keep our hands free.
  • For outdoor events, bring a sun hat, sunblock, and a jacket.

Bottom line:

I liked the cider aspect of the event of course, especially all the new-to-me Oregon ciders/cideries, and the VIP tasting opportunities were awesome.  However, I wouldn’t consider attending this event again unless they were going to hold it at a much larger venue with some breathing room and seating.  I have every confidence they will remedy this for next year.

I really do like the indoor events though, as for me alcohol + sun/heat isn’t a good combination, and indoor toilets always beat port-a-pottys.  Besides a larger venue, another option for them may be to split it into two sessions (with ticket sales for a specific session), which should then half the crowds.

Next time we do Portland we’ll definitely stay at least 2 nights and take some time off work.  Doing the drive on two days in a row is rough, and made for a very long day to drive, attend the event, and go out that night.  Plus now I’ve been playing catch up all week with all my usual weekend stuff, like house chores and blog posts.

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Square Mile had a tiny house on display outside that they will be giving away in a contest…it must have been interesting to navigate downtown and park the large pickup truck with trailer!

Event program:

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Stay tuned for Cider Rite of Spring 2017 post 2/2 covering tasting notes (NOW AVAILABLE – see here), as well as posts about my visits to Reverend Nat’s tap room and Bushwhacker Cider.