Alpenfire Calypso – Blackberry Rum Barrel Aged Cider

Review of Alpenfire’s Calypso, a cider with blackberries aged in rum barrels.  I’ve tried this before, as well as the draft-only version of this which has double the blackberries and is barrel aged 4 instead of 2 months, Apocalypso (see here), but this is the first bottle I’ve bought.  I’ve also sampled most of their line-up; see here.

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Cider:  Calypso
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from heirloom apples, with local blackberries, aged for 2 months in toasted oak rum barrels

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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:  Calypso, named for the legendary sea goddess and the research vessel of Captain Jacques Cousteau.  This delightful sparkling taste of the Northwest is aged in Bull Run Distilling Rum barrels to bring a hint of the South Seas to the mix.  Heirloom apple is the dominant flavor, the beautiful scent and hint of fresh Greysmarsh Farm blackberries comes second.  Bottle conditioning adds a delightful sparkle and full bodied flavor!  You don’t want to miss this limited production cider.

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.

They have an outdoor tasting room onsite at their Orchard in Port Townsend, open seasonally.

Price:  $11.99
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It sounded good that day, but I actually didn’t open it up for a few weeks.

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First Impression:  Deep cranberry hue.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mildly of blackberries with a hint of oak.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of blackberries, plus some raspberry & blueberry & red grape, and hints of oak.  Moderate length finish with slight warming.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate blackberry flavor.  Low rum and oak influence.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion: Yum!  Quite tasty.  This is my favorite berry cider, which typically isn’t a category I find impressive.

Most Similar to:  Other berry ciders, although I find this to be more sophisticated and complex, even a bit wine-like.  I prefer their Apocalypso with its stronger oak and rum notes, but it is quite seasonable / hard to find, and only on draft.

Closing Notes:   Another winner from Alpenfire!  I like nearly every cider they make, and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.  I think for what you get they are a great value, as they are a step above most other craft ciders, actually an Artisan product, as they grow most of the apples for their ciders themselves, as use primarily heirloom and cider apple varieties (instead of dessert apples).  Check out my post here from when I visited the cidery.

Have you tried Alpenfire Calypso?  What did you think?

Crispin 15 Men (Rum Barrel Aged)

Review of Crispin’s newest barrel aged limited release, 15 Men.  It is a dark rum barrel aged Colfax apple cider with wildflower honey and dark candi syrup.  The name 15 Men alludes to the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Crispin’s previous barrel aged limited release cider before this was Venus Reigns (my review here).  They have had a barrel aging program for 6 years.

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Cider:  15 Men
Cidery:  Crispin
Cidery Location:  Colfax, CA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz bottle

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Availability:  limited availability, but wide release, since early October 2015

Cider Description:  Buccaneers & buried treasure. Mutiny & murder. For the love of adventure and a barrel of rum. Drink and the devil had done for the rest. An epic saga of Colfax classic apple wine matured in dark rum casks, then laced with wildflower honey and dark candi syrup.  15 Men rolls strong like a deep ocean swell with notes of burnt caramel and oak, gentle hints of ripe fall fruits, vanilla and exotic floral fruit carried on the trade winds.  Before pouring, give a solid bottoms-up tilt and swirl to disperse sediment evenly and experience the complex aroma and bouquet.  Best enjoyed at cellar temperature, 50/55F.  With or without 1 or 2 ice cubes.

Cidery Description:  Classically refined, but not styled as a traditional “sweet beer” beer alternative, Crispin ciders are crisp and clean, not sweet and sticky and never sacrifice superior quality refreshment satisfaction for overbearing complexity.  Always true to the fruit, Crispin Hard Ciders are naturally fermented using fresh-pressed apple or pear juice, not from concentrate, from a premium blend of fruit from the west coast. Additionally, Crispin Ciders do not contain added malt, grape wine, or spirit alcohol. Crispin Ciders are all Gluten Free.

Price:  $9.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I read about this release online, then started the search for it.  Total Wine has a convenient online inventory, so I knew before I went in that it was in stock.

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First Impression:  No carbonation upon pouring.  Hazy honey orange amber.  Smells of ripe apples, honey, tropical fruit, light floral, caramel, and brown sugar.

Opinion:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Still (no carbonation).  In the taste, I again pick up the ripe apples, a lot of honey, some fruitiness & floral, and the caramel and brown sugar notes.  Additionally, some mild wood barrel notes, a bit of citrus, and mild spiced rum in the finish.  I thought the rum presented more in the lingering heat than the actual flavor.  I’m surprised by how much honey flavor there is!  Mild tartness and bitterness.  Medium acidity.  No significant tannins or astringency.  Medium bodied.  Average finish length.  The barrel and spirit influence stays mild.  This was better between fridge and room temperature, where it became very smooth and the honey flavor mellowed out a bit.

Most Similar to:  Rum barrel aged cider always reminds me of Sea Cider Prohibition / Rumrunner (my review here).  Honey reminds me of ciders such as Finnriver Honey Meadow (my review here).  However, this cider wasn’t anything like either of those.  The honey seemed to be competing with the rum & barrel aspects.  So, there aren’t really any similar ciders I’ve tried.

Closing Notes:   Overall this was a good but not great cider in my opinion.  The amount of honey flavor seemed to be too much, and I would have liked more rum & barrel influence.  A bit of carbonation wouldn’t have hurt either.  Overall it was unique.  However, $10 seems a bit steep for what it is, as at the end of the day, Crispin is a commercial cidery.

Have you tried Crispin 15 Men?  What did you think?

Cider Cocktails for the Independence Day Holiday, Anyone?

I’ve been wanting to get into trying cider cocktails, and in my research found some of the following ideas:

Woodchuck Watermelon Cider Cubes:  A blended mix of watermelon, pineapple, & raspberries, frozen in an ice cube tray to add to cider (such as their hint of blueberry cider, Summer Time).  Useful in warm weather to keep a cider cool without watering it down.  They give a bonus recipe to pour any extra fruit mixture into half an empty watermelon, mix in their Gumption cider variety, and freeze it–slushy anyone?

Cider Sangria:  This sounds yummy, and I imagine there are many directions it can be taken.  Not sure I’d do a semi-dry cider with Grand Marnier and ice cider though (plus the later two ingredients would be expensive)…I’m thinking more of cider with juice & fruit.  I think even just adding fruit to cider would be yummy…it reminds me of Rev Nat’s Revival, with a wonderful tropical fruit flavor.

Cider Mimosa:  Either pear cider (perry) with orange juice (Perry Mimosa) or méthode champenoise (a champagne-like sparkling cider) with pineapple juice (Summer Mimosa).  Both are simple and sound yummy!  I imagine with these as well there are many directions they can be taken.

Cider Margarita:  Tequila, cider, and Grand Marnier.  Sounds interesting enough to be good!  They use cinnamon & sugar on the rim instead of salt.

Cider Ice Cream Float:  Not exactly a cocktail, but it is something I’ve been meaning to try for awhile.  For some reason I think it would be especially good with dark cider, such as Spire Mountain Dark & Dry.

Orchard Limeade:  Green apple cider, absinthe, and lime juice.  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

Apple Rum Punch:  Coconut rum, spiced rum, dark rum, cider, orange juice, and pineapple juice.  I’m curious how this would be with cider added.  I’ve had similar drinks without cider, and think they can be tasty if they aren’t overly sweet.

Have you tried any cider cocktails?  How did it turn out?