Alpenfire Smoke

Review of Alpenfire’s Smoke Pommeau (cider + apple brandy), their barrel aged dessert cider.  I’ve had a previous version of this (see here), plus I’ve tried most of their lineup (see here).  I missed out on the only release that I knew of in between the previous one I tried years ago and this one, so I was excited to buy some.

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Cider:  Smoke, 2017 Harvest
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  18%
How Supplied:  375ml bottles
Style:  American craft apple brandy-fortified barrel-aged cider from Estate-grown bittersweet cider apple varieties

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Availability:  very limited, likely mostly online, plus some specialty shops in WA

Cider Description:  A barrel aged desert cider blended for those who love a rich full bodied cider and a touch of peaty smoke in their whiskey. This after dinner tipple sits as the 2nd best cider in the world on RateBeer’s best of list….Harvested in 2017 and fermented dry, referemented and aged in a rye whiskey barrel, then matured in a peated whiskey barrel, then blended with cider aged over oak chips before estate Bittersweet apple brandy is added in to bring it up to 18%.

Cidery Description:  We invite you to experience the distinctive flavors of our estate grown heritage ciders. Shaped by our maritime climate’s mild summers and tempered by the foggy mist rolling off of Discovery Bay, our apples maintain the qualities they’ve been treasured for by generations of cider lovers.  Soft tannins, high sugars, hints of bitterness, and an incredible flavor range are the tools the apples bring us.  Slow, cool fermentation, lengthy maturation, and attention to detail is the way we say thank you!  Try Alpenfire Cider today and find your favorite expression of the Northwest.

Price:  $24.99
Where Bought:  their online shop
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  originally, browsing a shop

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First Impression:  Light gold hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of rich bittersweet apple, brandy / high ABV, aged spirits (esp. scotch), and oak barrel.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium body.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, oak, smoke, scotch/whiskey, and a hint of peat.  Long warm finish.  Moderate to high complexity and flavor intensity.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Very low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  However, I have to say that it didn’t live up to the previous version I tried, which was truly epic and one of the best things I’ve ever drank.  I imagine the years I waited to buy more of this served to further elevate my opinion on the previous version.  Never the less, as a stand-alone product, this Pommeau is superb, and I’ll happily drink the 3 bottles I bought.

Most Similar to:  a slightly lighter (less rich) and less sweet version of their previous Smoke, or a typical Pommeau with added barrel/smoke flavor

Closing Notes:  Alpenfire is a favorite of mine, and a highlight is their vast lineup, with offerings from dry to semi-sweet, fruity to rich, sessionable to not, and everything in between, all of which are exceptional.

Have you tried Alpenfire Smoke?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Smoke Barrel Aged Cider

Review of Alpenfire Cider’s Smoke Barrel Aged Cider.  See my past reviews of their ciders here.  I tried this cider before and loved it, but hadn’t been able to find it for awhile (it hasn’t been released for awhile and the next batch is still barrel aging…see my post here), so I was excited to stumble across some again.

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Cider:  Smoke
Cidery:  Alpenfire Cider
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  16.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  American craft port-style triple barrel fermented cider made from cider apples

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Availability:  Limited (and hasn’t been released in awhile), and only in Western Washington

Cider Description:  Smoke, our smoky-oaky after dinner tipple style cider has been triple fermented in whiskey and mead barrels.  It starts with Kingston Black, Dabinett and Vilberie apples for a very tannic base.  Aging in charred oak concentrates all the best features of each apple variety. 

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.

Price:  $17
Where Bought:  Special Brews
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, although I’ve tried it before.  I was surprised to see they had a couple cases of this on the shelf, consider how long its been since its release, and that no other shops have any left (including at the Alpenfire Cidery).

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First Impression:  Copper light orange amber hue.  No carbonation.  Smells rich & strong, of oak, peat, spice, orange, bourbon, scotch, honey, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, and baked apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Still.  Medium to full bodied.  Low acidity, tartness, and tannins.  A hint of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of oak, peat, spice, orange, bourbon, scotch, honey, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, and baked apples, with a focus on orange and spice (not as much spoke & peat as I remembered).  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple influence.  Moderate barrel influence.  High spirit influence.  Very low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Amazing!  This one is definitely one of my all time favorite ciders, and my favorite Alpenfire cider.  Its a great after dinner sipping cider, and one bottle lasted me awhile as a few ounces is plenty (and it keeps rather well as it isn’t carbonated).  This cider is highly complex, rich, very smooth, and tastes a lower ABV than it is.  I enjoyed this at a range of temperatures, from just out of the fridge to room temperature, although I think I tended towards colder.  I saw another post that ice could be used, and I think for a higher ABV flavorful beverage that isn’t out of the question (I’ve done so for Pommeau).

Most Similar to:   Not much else.  Maybe Sea Cider Prohibition / Rumrunner?  That is another high ABV complex (rum) barrel aged sipping cider, but even though its higher ABV, I’d say the flavor is a bit more harsh and in your face (its also drier though).  Another is Liberty Ciderworks Manchurian Crabapple.  It wasn’t barrel aged, but is a high ABV port-style single varietal with a lot of complexity.  This is also kinda similar to Pommeau with its complexity and high ABV.

Closing Notes:   I’m glad I bought two bottles of this one, as I still have another to tide me over until its next release.  This is definitely my kind of cider, having all the aspects I enjoy most–local, craft, higher ABV, sweeter, complex, flavorful, rich, made from bittersweet cider apples, and barrel aged.

Have you tried Alpenfire Smoke?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Out on a Limb Campfire Pancakes

Review of Woodchuck’s newest (7th) Out on a Limb release, Campfire Pancakes, a smoked maple cider (more info from Woodchuck here).  The ciders rotate every few months in the same six pack.  They were nice enough to send me a sample bottle.  I’ve reviewed a number of their ciders here.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Woodchuck.  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:  Campfire Pancakes (Out on a Limb)
Cidery:  Woodchuck
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles

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Availability:  Wide release, but only until April or whenever they run out (as Out on a Limb rotates varieties).

Cider Description:  Campfire Pancakes brings you our small batch hard cider with an infusion of smoked apple pomace. Topped off with a dash of Vermont Maple Syrup, this cider brings forward a delightfully smoky and sweet taste. LoVermont? Then you’ll love Campfire Pancakes.

Cidery Description:  Here at the Woodchuck Cidery in Vermont, we handcraft every batch of Woodchuck Hard Cider. Our Cider Makers utilize the highest quality ingredients and meticulously oversee each small batch from start to finish. We reinvigorated American cider in 1991 and continue to lead the category through our commitment to craft innovative and refreshing hard ciders.

Price:  n/a (but it runs $9-11 a six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Light carbonation with large bubbles.  Smells like smoke flavor, maple flavor, and apple candy.

Opinion:  Sweet.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Medium bodied.  It begins with the scent (but not flavor) of smoke, then apple juice with real maple and literally a starchy pancake-like flavor, then finishes with fake maple.  The maple scent in the air is quite strong.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple influence.  High sessionability.

Most Similar to:  Not much.  There are a handful of maple ciders (such as Seattle Cider Oaked Maple, Crispin The Saint, and Downeast Maple Blend) and smoked ciders (such as Alpenfire Smoke, Tieton Smoked Pumpkin, and Woodchuck Smoked Apple), but nothing like this.

Closing Notes:   I was really looking forward to this cider as I love maple, and love smoked ciders (such as Alpenfire Smoke), but it was disappointing.  It overall seemed very fake.  Although they used real maple syrup and smoked pommace, there is the less than 1% natural flavor listed, and I think they somehow even added maple aroma.  The fake maple scent lingered in the air after finishing the cider and putting away the glass.  I think that without the fakeness and with some barrel aging, a maple cider can be awesome.  Hopefully they will make an Out on a Limb cider more along the lines of Gumption or Winter Chill, which I enjoy.

Have you tried Woodchuck Campfire Pancakes?  What did you think?