Hogan’s Medium Cider

Review of Hogan’s Medium Cider, from the UK.  This is the first cider I’ve tried from them, although I’m a fan of English cider.

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Cider:  Medium Cider
Cidery:  Hogan’s Cider
Cidery Location:  Alcester, England
ABV:  5.4%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  English craft medium dry cider

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Availability:  UK, U.S. (including at ShipCider.com), Russia, Hong Kong, Finland, Australia, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, and Germany.

Cider Description:  Hogan’s Bottled Cider is fermented from only 100% fresh pressed English cider apples. Our cider tastes so good because we do not use apple concentrate and we do not add any sugars prior to fermentation. Containing more than 85% cider apple juice our premium bottled cider is made only from fresh pressed cider fruit and precious little else. Hogan’s bottled cider brings you the authentic taste of the English orchard.

Hogan’s Medium Bottled Cider is golden, well balanced, slightly sparkling cider with caramel, butterscotch and dried fruit aromas.

Cidery Description:  Hogan’s ciders and perries are fermented from just fresh pressed English apples and pears, no sugars are added prior to fermentation and no apple or pear juice concentrate is used.

We think cider should be made only from fresh pressed apples.  What we do is source fruit in the Autumn from lots of apple orchards in the counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Price:  $7.25
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m a big English cider fan and hadn’t seen this one before.  Their Dry Cider can also be found in my area.

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin orange amber.  Ring of foam and large bubbles.  Smells of rich ripe apples, yeast, and tannins.

Tasting Notes:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Mild tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  Hints of bitterness and sourness.  Still.  Medium bodied.  Slight richness with notes of caramel, brown sugar, and yeast.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  This was a bit disappointing; I’d call it average.  That slightest bit of sourness threw me off (I’ve never tasted that in English cider and I’m not a fan of sour in a cider at all).  I also found the depth of flavor just wasn’t there vs. other English craft ciders I’ve had.  I find it odd that they use sugar to back sweeten (vs. juice or stopping fermentation early) and list water as an ingredient (usually water is only required if a cidery uses concentrate, and they said only fresh pressed apple juice was used…so was it used to water down the cider to a certain ABV?).

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as from Aspall and Sheppy’s, both of which so far I like better.

Closing Notes:  English ciders are one of my favorite categories.  Maybe I’ll have to give another variety from Hogan’s a try.

Have you tried Hogan’s Cider?  What did you think?

Thatchers Gold English Cider

Review of Thatchers Gold English Cider.  I’ve previously tried Green Goblin from Thatchers.

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Cider:  Gold
Cidery:  Thatchers
Cidery Location:  Sandford, Somerset, England
ABV:  4.8%
How Supplied:  four pack of 11.2oz bottles
Style:  English medium dry cider

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Availability:  Unknown.  Thatchers Gold launched in September 2014 in the U.S. with plans to roll out to 20 states.  I read its the second best selling cider in bars in the UK.

Cider Description:  Thatchers Gold is a full flavored medium dry cider with a smooth and refreshing taste made using traditional techniques and expertise gained since 1904. Enjoy chilled.

Thatchers Gold tastes as good as it looks. Using the best of our traditional approach and modern techniques for a refreshing cider with a smooth appley taste and a bright sparkle.

10 grams of sugar per 11.2 ounces.  I read its made from cider apples including Dabinett, Redstreak, and Porters Perfection.

Cidery Description:  For generations we’ve been perfecting our orchards, our craft, and our cider.
Today we’ve got a whole range that takes you from fresh, vibrant and modern, to traditional, vintage, specialty and single variety

Price:  ~$2.25 for a single bottle (runs $7.50-$9.00 for a four pack)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Previously I’ve only seen (and tried) their Green Goblin cider.  English cider is one of my favorite varieties, so I was game to try a bottle.

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First Impression:  Pale gold.  Low carbonation with tiny bubbles.  Smells like champagne, dry, of yeast and must, with only a hint of apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Moderate acidity.  Low tartness.  Hints of bitterness, funk, and tannins.  No sourness.  Moderate sessionability.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Light butterscotch notes but otherwise low in flavor.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.

My Opinion:  I thought this cider was pretty average.  It overall tasted very commercial and was lacking in flavor (seemed watered down).  Plus the flavor seemed a bit odd, starting with the smell of champagne.  Definitely don’t let this one warm up.

Most Similar to:   I’d guess Magners and/or Bulmers, but I haven’t tried that one yet.  From those that I have tried:  Stongbow British Dry, plus Crispin Browns Lane (although less flavorful), Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider (although it had more cider apple flavor), and Dan Kelly’s Irish Cider (although not wild fermented).

Closing Notes:   This was nice to try, but I was a bit disappointed.  It seems to have good reviews online though.

Have you tried Thatchers cider?  What did you think?

Worley’s Premium Vintage 2013

Review of Worley’s Premium Vintage 2013 (Lot 9).  Note that apparently the “Premium” refers to Worley’s believing this was the best cider they made of that vintage.  This is real proper English craft cider, similar to Sheppy’s, not the fake stuff they import in larger quantities here in the U.S. such as Strongbow Gold Apple or Blackthorn (although Sheppy’s has been around far longer than Worley’s).  I’ve tried one other variety from Worley’s, their Special Reserve, at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (my tasting notes here).

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Cider:  Premium Vintage 2013
Cidery:  Worley’s
Cidery Location:  Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK
ABV:  6.4%
How Supplied:  500ml (16.9oz) clear glass bottle

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Availability:  limited in the U.S., but any higher end bottle shops which carry imported cider would probably carry it / be able to get it

Cider Description:  A medium-dry, slightly sparkling cider – with good tannin and a spicy finish. Best served chilled.  The 2013 Premium Vintage is a blend of early-season cider apple varieties from some of South Somerset’s finest orchards. Freshly pressed juice is fermented under the influence of natural yeasts then slowly matured on the cool slopes of the Mendip Hills. The full-juice cider is sweetened, filtered and lightly carbonated at bottling to produce an unparalleled cider with plenty of flavour and a long, spicy finish.

Cidery Description:  A hobby that got out of control.  We first made cider as a bit of fun for ourselves and our friends. Now here we are nearly a decade later and we’re still having fun but we’re making a lot more cider!  Our first experience of making was when we bought 50 gallons of juice off the farm press from the iconic Roger Wilkins in Mudgely, Somerset. We made the mistake of adding in a bit of sugar and ended up with 10.5% cider. It was lethal and one of the neighbours spent a few hours in a ditch as a result of downing a couple of pints.  Lesson learned, we began to find our own fruit in various small Somerset orchards and gradually started to master the mysterious arts of fruit selection and fermentation.  A few years ago we decided if wanted to carry on making cider we’d need the cider to start making a contribution to its upkeep. So we gradually started selling a bit. Now we’re making over 30,000 litres a year and don’t have time to have proper jobs any more!

Traditional cider made with care.  Here at Worley’s our main philosophy is that the best cider allows the fruit to do the talking.  All our ciders are made from fresh-pressed cider apple juice, once a year at apple harvest time. Using very high levels of apple juice is an approach only used by craft makers of traditional cider.  We always allow all our ciders to ferment at the cool ambient temperatures of autumn and winter, using only the natural yeasts found in and on the fruit and in the fermenting environment. This approach leads to complex but mellow flavours with maximum fruity tastes and aromas. It’s a bit of a gamble using wild yeasts as things don’t always go according to plan, which is why the larger makers don’t do it, but the results are well worth the risk in our opinion.  To make the best cider you need to use the best fruit at the peak of its ripeness. All the apples we use are the finest vintage cider apple varieties from the sun-drenched orchards of south Somerset. We use anywhere up to 16 different varieties, which we aim to blend into a decent cider before pressing. Then we do another round of blending once the different ciders have matured, which usually takes place in late May.

Price:  $11.75
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  The best selection of Worley’s I’ve seen in the Seattle area by the way was the Lake Union area Whole Foods, which had three varieties (Premium Vintage, Special Reserve, and Mendip Hills).  Full Throttle Bottles had Premium Vintage and Special Reserve I believe.

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First Impression:  Significant yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  Deep gold amber.  High carbonation upon pouring with residual foam.  Rich slightly funky sweet cooked apple scent.  This is one of those ciders I just wanted to sniff for awhile as it smelled scrumptious!

Opinion:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (some sources say this is back sweetened, which I find interesting).  Moderate to high tannins and astringency (definitely made from cider apples!).  Moderate lingering bitterness.  Low acidity.  Well balanced.  Rich sharp complex almost smokey flavor.  I pick up some wood notes although as far as I know this wasn’t barrel aged (but was aged both before and after bottling).  Full bodied.  Slightly funky with noticeable yeast presence (note that this was wild yeast fermented, which is rare as it is more unpredictable & risky; more commonly cidermakers kill off any natural yeast present and use a commercial yeast strain).  The carbonation started out rather high but rather quickly it went a bit flat.  This is a great example of what I believe to be real English cider!  Hopefully someday I’ll make it to England and see for myself (I’ve been before but as a child).  I enjoyed this cider more as it warmed up to between fridge and room temperature, as it smoothed out a bit.  My husband really liked this cider too, which is rare.

Most Similar to:  Other English and English-style ciders.  The closest I’ve probably had is Liberty Ciderwork’s English Style or Alpenfire Ember, both of which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (tasting notes here).  The Liberty one was lower tannin than this and the Alpenfire one was higher tannin than this.

Closing Notes:   Very good!  However, my favorite English cider so far is still Sheppy’s Oak Matured, and here in the U.S., Liberty Ciderwork’s English Style.  I especially like the strong oak barrel flavor from the Sheppy’s.  Both are a bit more affordable too, especially the Sheppy’s at $7 instead of almost $12 for a 500ml bottle (the Liberty runs $14 for a 750ml).  I look forward to trying more English ciders such as from Worley’s.

Have you tried any ciders from Worley’s?  What did you think?

Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013

Review of Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013.  I had been on the lookout for a cider with a bold barrel influence, and this one matches that description!

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Cider:  Oak Matured Somerset Cider, Vintage Reserve 2013
Cidery:  Sheppy’s
Cidery Location: Somerset, Taunton, UK
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml brown glass bottle

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Availability:  Wide release in UK, but likely limited in the U.S.

Cider Description:  Vintage Reserve is a fine traditional English cider from the Sheppy family cidermakers.  This quality sparkling cider is crafted from apples from a single year’s harvest grown in the Sheppy orchards in Somerset, England.

Cidery Description:  Farming 320 acres at Three Bridges Farm since 1917, three generations of the Sheppy family have weathered the ups and downs of farming and cidermaking by embracing change and opportunity.  Craftsmen cidermakers for over 200 years.  Quality is central to all our ciders, which are produced from local and home-grown apples here at Three Bridges Farm. Modern technology has been used to assist the completely traditional production of fine English cider, but never to compromise the quality which is associated with the name Sheppy’s Cider.  We are proud to share with visitors from far and wide our beautiful farm and orchards, and to show you as much as possible of how and where we make our delicious ciders.

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Price:  $7.00 / 500ml bottle
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, remembering a recommendation from Sarah of Cider Log

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First Impression:  Golden amber.  Little carbonation.  Distinct rick oak apple scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Wow, this is actually heavily oak aged!  I had been on the lookout for a cider I could say that about, and found it.  For me, it is a favorable heavy oak flavor.  I also pick up caramel, burnt sugar, and vanilla.  My only complaint is the moderate bitterness with the medium-length finish.  However, once it warmed up a bit from fridge temperature, it became less bitter and the flavor smoothed out a bit.

So, I’d recommend between fridge and room temperature with this cider.  At room temperature it got a bit funky.  I find it odd this was described as sparkling cider when I found little carbonation, but maybe they meant not still?  It was also a relatively non-descriptive description on the bottle, which didn’t do this cider justice.  I like that they vintage this cider, as I’d imagine the cider crop can vary significantly year to year, which can definitely impact the flavor, so this way consumers know they may be getting a slightly different product than they had previously.  This is a thick, rich, earthy, and smokey cider with a strong oak barrel flavor.

Most Similar to:  English ciders, but with a more rich & heavy oak flavor.  If you want something sweeter with a less intense but still bold flavor, I’d recommend Thistly Cross Whisky Cask.

Closing Notes:   Yum!  I started off questioning whether I liked this cider, but it really grew on me, and I was sad when the bottle was empty.  For an imported craft cider this seemed to be a good deal at $7.  Full Throttle Bottles is the only shop I’ve seen Sheppy’s at so far, and they had one other variety when I bought this one (Somerset Draught Cider I believe).

Have you tried Sheppy’s Oak Matured cider?  What did you think?

Do you have any other recommendations for me for ciders with a heavy barrel influence?