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?

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Merridale Scrumpy Cider

Review of Merridale’s Scrumpy Cider.  This is the first cider I’ve tried from them.  It isn’t available in the U.S., but I picked it up in Victoria B.C., a port stop on our Alaska cruise (one of six ciders I bought).

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Cider:  Scrumpy
Cidery:  Merridale
Cidery Location:  Cobble Hill, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  Canadian craft cider made from cider & crab apple varieties

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Availability:  Only in British Columbia Canada.  See Merridale’s website for locations.

Cider Description:  Winner of Gold & Silver North American Brewers Awards in Idaho Springs. If you’re a Scotch drinker, try this one. Scrumpy is strong and sharp, and rich in the flavours of our strongest cider apples. Once you acquire a taste for Scrumpy, nothing else will do! In old England, scrumpy was a cider made by farm workers who stole or ‘scrumped’ apples from the orchard.

Cidery Description:  Here at Merridale, we use cider apple varieties that have been proven for centuries in England, France, and Germany to make the best cider. All of our ciders are made from 100% pure juice, and only the first pressing is used. We do not add water or re-press the apples to increase the yield because we believe this compromises the flavour. Being purists, we do not use concentrates, chemicals at bottling, pasteurization, or fine filtration of juice. We ferment our juice slowly and naturally, to delicately bring out all of the flavour the fruit has to offer.

The Cowichan Valley mirrors the optimum growing and climate conditions of the renowned cider regions in the UK and Europe. Merridale’s location was chosen, after years of research, as the perfect combination of climate, aspect and soil conditions (our terroire) to grow world-class fruit. As with fine wines, you need world-class fruit to make a world-class beverage! We have two rows of Jonagold apples, the only dessert apples in the orchard. The rest are cider-specific varieties like Tremlett’s Bitter, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, Chisel Jersey, Kermerien, Julienne, Judaine, Frequin Rouge, and Hauxapfel.

At Merridale we take no shortcuts with our cider. We are passionate about following practices and procedures that do not ever compromise the quality. Greater care requires more labour and time, but the result is worth it. The way we handle our fruit, our fermentations, our packaging and our customers is consistent with this philosophy. We believe that consumers appreciate our passion. Some of our practices are important to know so that you can understand what is unique about Merridale.  As cider makers, our customers and our staff continue to inspire us. We hope you can taste the passion of our producers and all of us at Merridale.

Price:  ~$7.50 USD with the current exchange rate
Where Bought:  The Strath in Victoria B.C. (which had a great cider selection for a small shop by the way)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had heard of them, and I love high ABV (Imperial) and English-style ciders, so this sounded really good.

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First Impression:  Orange amber hue.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells rich, of tannins, caramel, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Nearly still.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tannins.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  No sourness.  A hint of funk.  Notes of apple pomace, caramel, honey, and oak.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tastes like an English-style cider with an extra kick of ABV (which I assume is from the crab apples, which are high in sugar) and slightly harsher flavor.  I really enjoyed it, but this is probably not for everyone (my husband didn’t like it at all, although he’s not a fan of English-style ciders like I am).

Most Similar to:  English Imperial style ciders and ciders made with crabapples.  This reminds me of a cross between Liberty’s Stonewall and Manchurian Crabapple.

Closing Notes:   I’m impressed!  This was also a good value with it being made with cider apples and being oak cask aged, especially good with the current exchange rate.  Hopefully I can try something else from Merridale in the future.

Have you tried Merridale cider?  What did you think?