Notes from a Cider Tasting Class with Reverend Nat

For my third Washington Cider Week 2017 event, I attended a cider tasting class with Nat West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (in Portland Oregon), at Downtown Spirits in downtown Seattle.  It was my first time at that store, which had a large selection (spirits, wine, beer, cider, mead, etc), plus an area set up with chairs & tables for classes & tastings.

The Event

I only read about the event the day before, but it sounded like a cool opportunity, as The Reverend (as he is commonly referred to – and he is an actual online ordained Reverend) has a lot of interesting insight on the industry.  I already missed out on some fun cider week events as I didn’t find out about them until after the fact (apparently the official NW Cider calendar stopped accepting submissions pretty early), so I didn’t want to pass this up.

The tasting list was a bit underwhelming with multiple mass market PNW canned ciders, but the two hour event with 10 ciders only cost $10.  That was crazy good deal, as that probably only covered the cider (and maybe even not), so Nat was basically volunteering his time.  He took the train up from Portland just for this and one other event.  There were only 11 of us who attended (and 2 of those were store employees).

I liked that the class was very informal.  We were encouraged to ask questions whenever, and we were even allowed to just pass the ciders around and pour how much we wanted (with a suggested amount so everyone got to try some).  Although that meant we couldn’t go back and taste anything (unless there were leftovers), it also meant I didn’t have cider poured into my glass which I would have felt obligated to drink to move on.

 

Cider Tasting Notes

We tasted the following ciders, in this order:  Cascadia Granny Smith, Liberty McIntosh, Wandering Aengus Golden Russet, Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé , Seattle Cider Semi Sweet, Rambling Route Apple, Reverend Nat’s Revival, Bull Run Bramble Berry, 2 Towns Cot in the Act, and Reverend Nat’s The Passion.  The first was described as a palette cleanser, the next three as American Heirloom, the following three as American common, and the last three as flavored.  Most of the time he would also include some European ciders, like English, French, and/or Spanish, but I think he was limited to what this store had in stock and cold.

The only new-to-me cider was Seattle Cider Winesap Rosé.  Nat asked if anyone had tried all the ciders, and I said 9/10, and it was the same for him (apparently that is a new ish Seattle Cider release).  The majority of the class seemed to be more so fans of Reverend Nat’s cider (which tend to be beer fans), than overall cider enthusiasts like me.

Cascadia Ciderworks United (Portland OR) Green Apple (6.9% ABV) – This retails for $9.99 / four pack of 16oz cans, and is made by Reverend Nat’s.  Semi-dry, very tart, and definitely green apple flavor (single varietal).

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA) McIntosh (8.1% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Liberty was described as a more traditional cidermaker, plus I know they are unique in that they are not orchard based, but only use heirloom & cider apples.  This single varietal is available in bottles and on draft, and retails around $16 / 750ml.  Nat described this apple variety as making a juice which is very appley (more than many other heirloom apple varieties), and it not being as common in the PNW as it is in the NE.  Semi-dry.  Low to moderate tannins.  Notes of apple juice, caramel, honey, and must.  Some other folks in the class were picking up hints of “bandaid” flavor (which is from a combination of Brettanomyces, tannins, and polyphenols).  I must not be sensitive to that, as I’ve never noticed it with any cider.  However, in contrast, I am very sensitive to sourness, common in farmhouse and Spanish style ciders.

Wandering Aengus (Salem OR) Golden Russet (9.0% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  Wandering Aengus was described as one of the first cideries in the NW, starting in the 1990s, under the name “The Traditional Company”.  This is a single varietal made using Golden Russet apples which they grew themselves, and dry farmed (no irrigation).  It retails for around $9 / 500ml.  I would have described it as on the sweeter side of semi-dry, but apparently this measures full dry (my all have different palettes!).  Tart, acidic, bitter, and slightly tannic.  Rich flavor.  Long acidic tannic finish.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Winesap Rosé (6.0% ABV) – I’ve tried multiple single varietals from Winesap apples, and multiple rosé ciders, but not this one.  Winesap Rosé is a single varietal from Winesap apples, and pink/rosé from being aged in red wine barrels.  It retails for around $11 / 500ml.  Semi-dry.  Watery.  Slightly fruity, with a hint of oak.  The carbonation was visible but not detectable.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  Quick finish.  I think this would appeal more to wine folks.  Like most of their ciders, the flavor was very mild.

Seattle Cider Co. (Seattle WA) Semi Sweet (6.5% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a very commonly found cider in Seattle, and retails for about $11 / four 16oz cans.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Fuller bodied.  Low acid.  Notes of apple juice, honey, and citrus.

Rambling Route (Yakima WA) Apple (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is made by Tieton, and retails for about $9 / four 16oz cans.  Higher carbonation.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Very similar to Seattle Cider, but slightly more apple-forward.  We were told these two ciders are so similar as they use the same dessert apple juice blend, same wine yeast, sugar for back-sweetening, etc.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) Revival (5.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This retails for about $15 / six 12oz bottles or $6 / 500ml bottle.  This is a very unique cider as it gets a lot of different flavors just from the use of multiple yeast strains, piloncillo sugar, and a secret ingredient which he told us but said I couldn’t write down.  It is made by mixing two batches of cider together.  One has yeast strain 1 and the sugar, and results in a high ABV.  The other has yeast strain 2, and results in a more typical ABV.  Then fresh juice is added, which is about 20% of the makeup.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Notes of apple juice, yeast, brown sugar, honey, and hints of tropical fruit.

Bull Run (Forest Grove OR) Bramble Berry (6.8% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This cider with marionberries, blackberries, and boysenberries retails for $8 / 500ml.  Semi-dry, with the berry more in the nose than the flavor, low acid, and hints of tannins from the berries.

2 Towns (Corvallis OR) Cot in the Act (6.2% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal apricot cider (made using the whole fruit, not just juice) which retails for about $12.50 / six 12oz cans or $8 / 500ml.  Very strong apricot scent.  Semi-sweet to semi-dry, juicy, notes of stone fruit, and flavorful.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) The Passion (6.9% ABV) – See my previous notes here.  This is a seasonal cider made with Ecuadorian passion fruit juice, toasted coconut, and vanilla, and retails for about $14 / 500ml.  I had previously heard this described as a sour cider, but this bottle pour and my previous draft pour were both free from sourness, so I’m game to buy it sometime as I really enjoy the flavor.  Semi-sweet (his sweetest cider).  Tart.  High flavor intensity, with a strong passion fruit scent & flavor, with hints of vanilla & coconut.

My favorite ciders of those were from Liberty, 2 Towns, and Rev Nat’s.

Info from Rev Nat

  • We discussed some cider basics such as sweetness vs. acidity and the cidermaking process.  However, I was surprised that I don’t think the word “tannins” came up at all (although it was on the handout, which had one side of general cider info and one side with info about the 10 ciders), despite at least the Liberty and Wandering Aengus ciders being good examples.
  • Rev Nat’s has five cider bases, and two of them are the Cascadia green & blue cans
  • 2 Towns (another common Oregon cidery) is six times as large as Rev Nat’s (I assume in context of cider produced/year)
  • Rev Nat’s currently has 22 employees
  • Rev Nat’s will be moving into a new 25,000 sq ft cidery space, and will then convert their current 8,000 sq ft space into only a tap room, including food.  It doesn’t look like the news about this being finalized has been officially announced, but this article from last year mentioned the same info.
  • Profit margins are about the same for all cideries, so ciders that cost more do actually cost more to make.
  • Specific gravity is a way to measure the sweetness of a cider, using the weight of the cider compared to the weight of the same amount of water.  The interesting thing with SG however is that you can have a cider with a specific gravity lower than water, so that would say the cider was drier than water lol.
  • Single varietal ciders are apparently more of an American thing, due to our new experimental cider culture.  They are probably second most common in England.
  • Wine/champagne yeast is often used in cidermaking as it ferments cleanly at low temperatures, is easy to remove (it will clump at the bottom of the tank), and it is designed to not impact the flavor.
  • Rev Nat’s in contrast uses beer yeast, which is designed to impart flavor (we were told the yeast in beer is actually what has the most impact on a beer’s flavor, not the grains or hops).  I think this class did a good job showcasing Rev Nat’s ciders, as they were two of the 2-4 most flavorful ciders of the group of 10.
  • Nat said cider that is cloudy is more of a marketing gimmick, and cloudy ciders don’t really retain more flavor than the more commonly found filtered ones.  Cloudiness in a cider can be from suspended yeast, apple debris/pulp, or pectin (naturally in apples).  The first two can be filtered out, but not the last.  This really made me think, as I’ve had a number of ciders which were cloudy and very flavorful (Downeast comes to mind).  They did tend to be sweet and apple juice forward though, so its quite plausible they would have still tasted like that after filtering.  Also, I’ve never tried the same cider before and after filtering, which I think would be the real test.
  • Nat often does an expanded cider tasting class during Oregon Cider Week, which includes 30! ciders in 3 hours

After the Event

I forgot to snag a photo before the tasting, but I got one of the aftermath:

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After the event I looked around the Downtown Spirits shop and was excited to find an entire shelf of cider that was 50% off – Alpenfire, Eden, Eric Bordelet, Slyoboro, etc.  Its sad, but the high end and/or imported ciders just don’t sell very quickly.  I’ve heard from several shops that they won’t be re-stocking those sorts of items.  It has got more difficult for me to get imports especially.  I hadn’t planned to pick up any cider as my cabinet is full, but I picked up six bottles of high end ciders for under $50, as it was too good of a deal to pass up.  Very cool!

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Cider Summit Seattle 2017 Post 1/2 – The Event

Epic!  This was my third year attending (see here for previous posts), but was the eighth annual Cider Summit in Seattle Washington.  It took place on Friday & Saturday September 8th & 9th.  This is post 1/2, covering the event.  Post 2/2 will cover tasting notes on the dozens of ciders I tried [update – post 2/2 is now up – see here].

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Info

See my preview here.  We had some interesting weather for the weekend.  It was forecasted to be cool and cloudy with some showers, but it ended up being pretty hot when I was there on Friday.  See here for the full event info and here for the full list of cideries (~55) and ciders (~187).

There were some substitutions and a few less ciders than expected, plus this was a decrease in the number of cideries from the year before (although there were some new ones).  My favorite booths this year were for French cider (there were three booths pouring a total of six French ciders).  They were even pouring some meads (made from honey & water), non-apple fruit wines, apple whiskey, and cocktails in addition to ciders.  Although most ciders were from the PNW, there were a good number of national and international ones as well.  Also, the selections were primarily on the craft (vs. commercial) end.

There were 18 entries for the Fruit Cider Challenge.  I learned that the cideries were provided fruit puree from Oregon Fruit Products which they made cider with.  Votes were taken by text (1 per phone).

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Entry included a tasting glass, tickets (8 for regular and 12 for VIP, each one good for a 4oz pour of most ciders), and wristband.  A cool feature of this event is that in addition to in & out privileges, one entry fee gets you in both days (and you can even skip the line on the second day).  This event is very well organized, by far the best I have gone to.  It is also very consistent year-to-year.

Everything from detailed pre-event information online (even a full cider list) to signage at the event to thinking of the little things like having rinse water available and standing tables in addition to seating.  It is crazy to think about how much work goes into an event of this magnitude…renting a space, tables, canopies, and even fencing…finding volunteers, hiring staff for liquor enforcement and safety (at emergency exits), having extra ice and cider available, etc.

Another thing about this event that I really like is that the folks pouring the cider are associated with the cidery (cidery employees, sometimes even the cidermakers, or the distributor), so you can ask about the cidery and cider.  The crowd was really varied, from cider enthusiasts like myself to people who just wanted to drink.  There were also lots of vendors trying ciders (as it was common for a cidery to bring 2-3 people and swap out).  A number of people brought their dogs.

Layout

Besides the main attraction of cider booths, they had an event store (with t-shirts and such), an audio booth where they did interviews with some of the cidery reps, food for sale from Whole Foods, Capitol Cider, & SUSU rolled ice cream, cider cocktails from Capitol Cider, samples of unfermented juice from Ryan’s, a dog lounge, info from the Northwest Cider Association, and lots of misc booths (the most interesting was Alaska Bug Bites, who drove 40 some hours one way to sell their dried fruit).  The amenities were also above average for an outdoor event, with multiple food options for sale, standing tables, tables & chairs (some covered), port-a-potties (and the main ones in the front actually had outdoor sinks), and cold filtered water (from Easy Tap).

My Tips

Friday is typically much less busy than Saturday, especially earlier in the afternoon.  My game plan this year involved having a big lunch prior to the event and asking for smaller pours (often a booth would let you try a little bit of each cider they had for only 1 ticket), to maximize the number of ciders I could try.

I also always start with the new, expensive, and/or rare ciders, and visit the booths where I want to talk to the cidermakers first, before it gets too busy.  This year my backpack was full as I brought both rain and sun gear; I’m glad I brought the hat and sunblock though, as I ended up needing it, despite the cloudy forecast.

I also recommend good walking shoes, as you are on your feet for most of these types of events, and there was uneven grass at this site.  I also like bringing my own snacks, especially something starchy, like crackers.  Other must-haves for me are a notebook & pencil, and some baggies to put the tasting glasses in afterwards when they are sticky.  Its nice having a bag to put all that stuff in, as well as any free swag you want to collect (a couple booths were giving out good stuff like hats & t-shirts, but it was mostly the typical handouts, stickers, and coasters).  ID is required to get in, and cash never hurts, although some places take cards.

There are also a number of restaurants (and Whole Foods) within walking distance, so another food option is leaving, then coming back after a bit.  I have done that before, but this year we just powered through until dinnertime on Friday when we left.  Then my husband and I met up with a friend and did a bunch more walking, deciding where to have dinner, then waiting for a table (we went to Rocco’s pizza, which was amazing).

A great way to get free admission is to volunteer; they had several shift options each day, and I heard that if you work closing on Saturday you may even get leftover bottled cider.  For the best ticket price, buy them in advance, although there are taxes & fees for online sales.  Although VIP tickets are online sales only, if you want the best price on a regular ticket, they usually have at least one location to pick up tickets, which avoids the fees (this year the only place was Capitol Cider).  The event didn’t sell out as far as I know, but the ticket price was higher at the door.  Designated driver tickets ($5) were only available at the door.

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In addition to Seattle, there are Cider Summits in Chicago IL (February), San Francisco CA (April), and Portland OR (June).

 

At Cider Summit I also found about a new PNW cider event this year, the Olympic Penninsula Apple & Cider Festival, in Port Townsend WA (which is NW of Seattle), with multiple events the weekend of October 13-15.  Other upcoming WA cider events are Cider Swig (Gig Harbor, Sept 30) and the 1st annual Whidbey Island Cider Festival (Whidbey Island, Sept 30).

Tasting Notes from NW Cider’s Preview of WA Cider Week 2017

I was recently invited to a Washington Cider Week preview for media and buyers.  The 7th annual Washington Cider Week is September 7th-17th 2017, and will include numerous cider events, with Cider Summit Seattle being a main highlight.  This preview event was hosted by the NW Cider Association, and held midday on a Tuesday at Capitol Cider in Seattle.

WACW-2017-Logo

It was a pretty sweet invite-only event, and I enjoyed the excuse to take a half day off work!  My husband even joined me; it was nice to have a driver, as there were eleven PNW cidery representatives pouring samples.  Even though there weren’t many new-to-me ciders, it was a great opportunity to get some face time with the pourers, which often isn’t possible at the larger events.

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<view of part of Capitol Cider’s basement event space>

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend WA):  I’ve tried most of their lineup, which includes many favorites, but my husband requested a sample of Glow.  It is one of their sweeter options, made from rare red-fleshed apples.  It was a good choice as they rarely pour it at events.  Awesome as always, semi-sweet, and crazy fruity flavorful without any additives.

Bad Granny (Chelan WA):  This was my first time seeing them at an event (the cidery is less than a year old).  I learned that they are associated with Karma Vineyards, one of the few producers of Methode Champenoise wine in the state.  The cidery is a combination of their MC wine experience and their apple orchard family roots.  I had tried their flagship Green Apple cider on draft previously (it is also sold in cans), which is a great simple semi-sweet cider option.  They also brought their currently draft-only black currant cider, which I found to have only a very mild flavor, but overall was easy to drink, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with a fuller body than expected.  I learned of their plans to release some specialty ciders in large format bottles, such as one from red-fleshed apples and one from Dabinett traditional cider apples.

Dragon’s Head (Vashon Island WA):  They just released this year’s vintage of Kingston Black single varietal cider (which I tried last year).  However, I decided to go for the Traditional cider, which is my favorite from them – a semi-dry cider with complex rich bittersweet cider apple flavor.  I also sampled the Perry, as I wanted to compare it to the Methode Champenoise version I tried recently; I enjoyed this regular version better as it was sweeter (almost semi-sweet), and more flavorful / fruitier.  Sometimes I find that a very high carbonation can impede a cider tasting for me as it makes a cider seem every drier and more acidic than it really is.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA):  I tried their newish Cider Summit collaboration cider (poured at all four Cider Summit events in 2017 – Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and next, Seattle), called “Summit Saison”.  It is made with organic apples, Saison yeast, dried fruit such as apricots, and spices (which oddly enough included peppercorns).  I found it hazy, semi-dry to semi-sweet, with citrus & stone fruit notes with a hint of peppercorn on the finish.  I’m not a fan of pepper, even in food, so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  My husband however was a fan.

Liberty Ciderworks (Spokane WA):  This was a great opportunity to have a side-by-side tasting of their English-Style and Stonewall (barrel aged) ciders, which I’ve previously found very similar but hadn’t tried together.  I preferred the Stonewall, as it was a bit smoother, with less acidic bite, and the added whiskey & oak notes.  I also tried Turncoat, their hopped cider, which had nice herbal flavor without bitterness, which was my husband’s favorite.

Locust Cider (Woodinville WA):  At this stop, as I said I had tried all of the regular line up (which was being poured from their new cans), I was treated to a sample of their limited release Bourbon Barrel Aged cider.  It was semi-dry, and very mild at first (especially for 14% ABV), then all of a sudden Bam!, an intense bourbon finish.  I thought I hadn’t tried it previously, but I actually had, over a year ago at their tap room (good thing for my Cider List!).  I liked it better this time because it was served cold, but despite enjoying the flavor, its not something I would drink too often.

Pear UP  – formerly Neigel Vintners / NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  I had a chance to have a longish chat with the always energetic co-founder Kevin.  He shared about the recent NW Cider trip where 10 PNW cidermakers traveled to France & England to learn about keeving (see this article).  I also learned about the cidery’s packaging changes, such as new 12oz instead of 16.9oz green Aluminum bottles (with a digital wrap instead of labels), and four packs of 12oz clear glass bottles (which enables that SKU to be at a lower price point).  I also learned about some new products they have released, including an interesting new partnership with a distillery, a brewery, and a label artist, resulting in Centre Ring, with an initial release of a cider and a perry, at a nice price point of $11.99 / 750ml bottle.  Interestingly enough, Centre Ring doesn’t only focus on cider/perry, but craft beverages and food in general.

I started with the new Centre Ring Reserve Pear, which reminded me of a slightly drier and slightly more complex version of their flagship Pear Essentials, as it was semi-dry, medium bodied, and pear-forward with some citrus notes.  Next I tried another new-to-me release (draft and bottles), Pearjito Colada; I didn’t pick up any mint, but the coconut was a fun bold flavor in the tasty semi-sweet perry.  Lastly, my husband wanted to try the Pearfect Pie, which I had never tried either; it was a bit odd to drink in summer, but is a semi-sweet perry with a hint of pie spice.

Schilling Cider (Auburn WA):  I tried the Grapefruit & Chill, which I learned was a different recipe than a grapefruit cider I had previously tried which was flavored with SodaJerk grapefruit soda syrup and I wasn’t a fan of; this time it was a surprisingly pleasant citrus-forward and higher carbonation semi-dry cider.  I also re-tried the Pineapple Passion, which is one of my favorite Schilling varieties, with some strong tropical flavor, but it is definitely on the sweeter end (semi-sweet to sweet).  My favorite from them is the King’s Schilling.

Seattle Cider (Seattle WA):  I tried two new draft-only releases.  First – Lavender Lemon, a semi-dry cider with the as-advertised flavor notes.  Second – Cucumber Hibiscus, which was semi-dry to dry, and started with cucumber on the nose, primarily hibiscus (fruity/floral) in the flavor, and a cucumber finish.  They were both more flavorful than most of the ciders I’ve previously had from them.  I found both pretty average – plenty drinkable, but not something I would seek out.

Snowdrift Cider (East Wenatchee WA):  No new ciders to try, but I tried the cider I had tried the least of and is the most rare – the Cidermaker’s Reserve.  I learned it was made under Methode Champenoise with apples from their 2014 harvest, including bittersweet varieties, and aged 3! years.  It is a highly carbonated cider with an awesome texture, on the sweeter side of semi-dry, with a very unique flavor profile – fruity with pomegranate notes, and almost grape champagne-like.  I was surprised to hear it had bittersweet cider apples, as it definitely didn’t have the typical profile I’d expect.  A fun and unique cider and an excellent value too, at $19 / 750ml (this was my husband’s favorite cider of the event, and he insisted we pick some up afterwards).

Tieton Cider Works (Yakima WA):  No new to me ciders here either, so I re-tried the Sparkling Perry.  I re-learned that this is made by keeving and is wild yeast fermented (neither of which I would have guessed nor remembered from my taste nearly two years ago).  I’d describe it as a semi-sweet to semi-dry pear-forward perry with fruity citrus notes.

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They had some nice swag too – tote bags, brochures, postcards, and stickers.

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I did some serious cider shopping that day, about 12 bottles between Capitol Cider, the Schilling Cider House, and QFC.  My coolest finds were at Capitol Cider, as I don’t get there often:  EZ Orchards “Pomme” (Pommeau, a mix of apple brandy & cider), last year’s release of Finnriver Fire Barrel (which I liked better than this year’s batch), and two different single varietals from Liberty (that I only thought were available in their tasting room and online).  The Schilling Cider House also had a couple new to me releases, a peach wine from Mission Trail and Gasping Goose from Newton’s Court in England.  I also picked up a re-supply of Dunkertons Black Fox, my current go-to English cider, and a couple others favorites from Aspall and EZ Orchards.

Stay tuned for more posts on Washington Cider Week 2017, especially Cider Summit Seattle.

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Schilling Cider House – Washington Cider Week – 2 Towns Tap Night

The last Washington Cider Week event I attended was the 2 Towns Tap Night at the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood from Seattle (Thurs Sept 17, 2015).  I honestly would have rather gone to the Barrel Aged event they had the night before, but that didn’t work for my schedule.  I’m a fan of 2 Towns, and got to meet up with some great cider folks, so I was very happy nonetheless.

You can’t beat their 32 cider tap selection!  Plus they have a huge bottle selection, all chilled, and you can see every bottle and look at the label and such.  It was only my second time there, but I’ve already gone back for a third visit the following week.  Sarah from Cider Log is the manager at the Schilling Cider House now, I finally got to meet Mick from Click Distributing (we’ve chatted on Facebook quite a bit), and I also met some folks from some other distributors as well.

I got there quite awhile before the event started.  It was officially 6-9pm (when the 2 Towns guys were there), but they had the 2 Towns selections on tap much earlier.  I picked up a tasty Caprese sandwich from across the street.  I sat at the cider house bar for a few minutes to figure out what I wanted to start with.  Then Mick found me and I went over to the cool kids table with the distributor dudes.

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I started with a flight of 4 ciders.  I should have just gone for the full 6, as I think it ends up being cheaper, but I was holding out to try some 2 Towns stuff later.  Also, although I didn’t yet know it, I would also be trying some bottled cider!

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<left to right: Schilling Barrel #2, Moonlight Meadery Last Apple,
Aspall John Darington, Finnriver Barrel Berry Sour>

Schilling Barrel #2:  A 21% ABV concoction which was barrel aged.  I’m a little unclear as to how it was made (I heard once it was fortified with brandy and another time it was distilled cider).  However, its not really cider at this ABV, more like apple brandy, apple jack, Pommeau, apple spirits, whatever you want to call it.  Definitely booze-forward, but I found it easily drinkable on its own when it was cold (and I usually don’t do straight alcohol).  I loved the honey and almost floral notes.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Highly recommended!  They still had some of this on tap as of Sept 25 by the way.

Moonlight Meadery The Last Apple:  A 16% ABV cyser (when apple juice is blended with honey, then fermented).  It was then barrel aged in Jim Beam barrels for 6 months.  I’ve had both meads and ciders from Moonlight, and now a cyser.  On the sweet & syrupy side, but very flavorful.  Well hidden ABV.  I loved the honey flavor which was bold but not overdone.  All around complex and tasty!  This was also still on tap as of Sept 25.

Aspall John Barrington:  A 8.4% cider from Aspall in the UK.  I didn’t know anything about this cider going into it, but put it on my flight card as I’ve been impressed by Aspall so far.  The scent was quite dry, but it came across as semi-sweet to me in taste (although Schilling had it listed as dry per their taste test).  Almost still (very low carbonation).  Very smooth and rich flavor.  Acidic and slightly tart.  Lovely tropical notes.  I liked this one.

Finnriver Barrel Berry Sour:  A 6.5% sour blueberry-apple cider which was barrel aged.  Although I’m not a fan of sour cider (about the only sour thing I like is candy), I decided to give it a try as it was barrel aged, and I’m a sucker for barrel aged!  Definitely sour, and I thought more so than their Country Peach I tried at Cider Summit which was described as a sour (but didn’t have sour in the name).  Semi-dry.  For me the sour overwhelmed the flavor so much I couldn’t pick up the barrel influence or any other flavors  I’m not a fan, but glad I tried it.  Apparently lots of folks like sour ciders, beer, etc…I’m just not one of them.

2015-09-17 18.20.41

Next, I got to partake in samples of two bottled ciders that some of the guys bought, Poire Domfront from Domaine Pacory and Roman Beauty from E.Z. Orchards.  The Schilling Cider House doesn’t charge an extra fee beyond the bottle price to drink any of their bottled ciders on the premises, but I don’t see why you would want to with 32 ciders on tap?

2015-09-17 17.41.47

Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront:  A 5% ABV French perry made primarily with “plant de blanc” pears.  Rich sweet scent.  Fizzy / high carbonation.  Mick thought it was hilarious the first comment out of my mouth upon tasting it was “that’s fizzy!”.  I really do love a highly carbonated cider though, and we don’t get it too often here.  Semi-sweet.  Very light bodied.  I wouldn’t have guessed this was perry at all, as it really tasted similar to French ciders I’ve enjoyed.  Easy drinking and very tasty.  There was the slightest bit of funk when it warmed up a bit.

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E.Z. Orchards Roman Beauty:  A 4% ABV cider from Oregon.  Made primarily from Roman Beauty apples, bottle conditioned, and cold spontaneous fermentation.  Clean & crisp scent.  This one was also easy drinking and very tasty.  I didn’t mind at all that there was still cider left in the bottle after the guys left, and I continued to sample it.

Next, since it was 2 Towns time, I got a small pour of their Made Marion on Nitro.  I had tried or wasn’t interested in their other selections on tap:
Bad Apple, high ABV imperial style cider – awesome
Hop & Stalk, Sitra hops & rhubarb – didn’t care to try as I’m not a fan of either of its namesakes
Prickle Me Pink, pink from cactus fruit – quite good
Outcider, their unfiltered variety – average

2015-09-17 18.42.01

2 Towns Made Marion:  A 6% ABV marionberry cider.  I’m pretty sure I had this one awhile back, but 2 Towns makes a number of berry ciders, so I’m not 100%.  This one had lots of foam due to the Nitro tap.  Deep berry color and a tart berry scent.  Very smooth.  Semi-sweet.  I also picked up some boysenberry flavor in addition to the marionberry for whatever reason.  Mild tartness.  I found this a bit predictable, although I haven’t ever been too amazed by a berry cider; often they are quite juice-like.

They came around with samples of some 2 Towns ciders, which was quite nice.  Aaron Sarnoff, a co-founder and cider guru at 2 Towns whom I met at Cider Summit, was there with another co-worker.  It wasn’t very crowded (probably due to the rain), so Aaron chat with us all at the cool kids table for awhile.  I got a sweet 2 Towns pint glass!  My husband has been enjoying drinking his beer from it lol.  I’m not a huge fan of cider in a pint glass (its a bit too large for starters), but its a great collectible.

2015-09-19 14.04.25

On my way out I picked up a bottle of Cider Riot! 1763 (made from cider apples).  Earlier in the afternoon I had stopped at Full Throttle Bottles and got Traditions Ciderworks Bourbon Barrel 2012 (my favorite from Cider Summit…I’m very happy Erika from Full Throttle got some for me) and Carlton Cyderworks Slake (whiskey barrel aged).  I haven’t tried any ciders from Cider Riot or Carlton Cyderworks, and these seemed like good starting points as I love barrel aged cider!  Three bottles of cider added to my collection that I definitely didn’t need.  Its very tough to not buy cider that sounds amazing though.

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This concludes the Washington Cider Week festivities.  However, stay tuned for more trip reports.  I have posts in work for another trip I made to the Schilling Cider House, and to mix it up a bit, Aesir Meadery in Everett WA.

Cider Tasting with Bill Bradshaw and 9 Washington Cideries at Capitol Cider in Seattle

The Washington Cider Week posts continue!  The previous week brought me to Seattle Cider and the Burgundian (Eden & Alpenfire event ) on Thursday night to kick off Washington Cider Week, and Cider Summit Seattle 2015 on Friday & Saturday (see post 1 for tasting notes and post 2 about the event & photos).  This week brought me to Capitol Cider for a tasting event with Bill Bradshaw and nine Washington cideries (Tues Sept 15 2015, covered here), and to the Schilling Cider House for the 2 Towns tap night (Thurs Sept 17 2015, covered soon).

[Additions after initial post release are in brackets, and incorrect information is struck through.  Thanks Dave from Whitewood for the corrections and extra info!]

I had been to Capitol Cider once before, but it was probably over a year ago.  I really didn’t like that first visit much at all, as nothing really went well, from the food (it was early lunchtime on a weekend but they mostly had brunch items, not lunch), to the service (grumpy bartender), to the cider (didn’t like anything I tried, and the bartender wasn’t too forthcoming with samples; I would have preferred a flight, which they now offer).

Much has changed there since then!  Their service was good this time (I give them some slack as they had to give everyone a few handouts and 9 different ciders! in addition to taking any other orders).  Their bottle list has much improved / expanded.  However, unfortunately it is mostly just a list (they only have the smaller bottles in some fridges literally at floor level near the entry).  As it is a printed list, it easily gets out of date (both times I bought bottles they only had half of what I wanted, although I was requesting more rare & special release selections).  However, Capitol Cider isn’t really my sort of scene.  Getting there & parking is a nightmare for one.  The Schilling Cider House is honestly more my style, plus they have more taps (32) and a larger bottle selection (which you can see and look at the labels).

Bill Bradshaw is a cider expert who hails from the UK and has written several books about cider, among other things.  This special event was a guided tasting through ciders from nine Washington cideries.  Dave White from Whitewood Cider apparently helped Bill Bradshaw choose the cideries, although I’m not sure how the ciders got chosen (it didn’t appear Bill, Dave, or the cideries themselves chose the cider selections, so it may have been availability / mostly what they already had on tap).  [The cidermakers chose the ciders poured, although there was some confusion from one of the cideries as far as their selection.]  They are for the most part some of the more traditional cideries in WA.  For $30, I got a flight of nine ciders (probably a 3 or 4 oz pour each), plus a full glass of the cider of my choice.  I unfortunately had to drive, so I made due with my flight (finishing my favorite ciders and leaving the rest) and a couple tastes afterward, but no full glass of cider.  Most of the cideries had one or more cidermakers on hand who came up on the stage and explained about their chosen cider.

They were also selling Bill’s books, he was signing autographs, and many of the cideries brought some bottles which they opened after the event and poured tastes.  During the event there was a slideshow of Bill’s photos.  They also played the teaser for a documentary titled ‘Cider Hunters’ that he and Pete Brown (co-author of World’s Best Ciders) are fundraising for, about the history of cider in the U.S.  Cider is “the drink that built America”.  He described how it disappeared, breweries moved in, the craft beer movement started in the ’80s, and now we are in the age of craft cider, built from the beer explosion.  Throughout the event there was some discussion on whether cider is more similar to wine or beer.  It depends on who you ask.  Bill seemed to lean towards beer, but I’d probably lean more towards wine as scientifically speaking cider is a type of fruit wine, although the ABV of most ciders is more similar to beer than wine.

The event was also unfortunately at 6pm on a weeknight, which is late for me as I go to work at 6am.  So, I didn’t get to stay too long after they were done with the guided tasting a bit after 8pm.  I was surprised there were still some empty seats, as I had expected this to easily sell out (I purchased my ticket a few days in advance over the phone to ensure I wouldn’t get turned away).  Considering that almost all of the 9 cideries were represented and that many brought more than one person, plus the Capitol Cider folks and such, there were almost as many folks that were working the event as attending the event!  They were setting up live music and it looked like the party kept going after I left.  The event was held in Capitol Cider’s basement bar area, which has a small stage, tables, bar height tables, a bar, pool tables & such, and restrooms.

I had an awesome time!  Many of the cidermakers I had been chatting with the previous week were there.  I also hadn’t previously tried 6 out of the 9 ciders they were pouring, which is quite good odds as they are all local.  I tried to take some photos, but the lighting was pretty horrible.  Click to biggify.

bar
<bar area on the left. tables in the middle, and the stage was to the right>

cider hunters
<Bill Bradshaw himself>

Upon sitting down I spotted a clipboard full of menus.  They had menus for their cider tap list, beer & regular cocktails, cider cocktails, cider flights, food, and a cider bottle list!  I focused on photographing the cider stuff.  Weird angles to avoid glare; sorry.  Their food menu (gluten free restaurant by the way) is on their website.  I ate some pho before the event as I wasn’t sure if it would work well to try to eat dinner during it, and their menu is a bit fru-fru for my liking.  That was a good call as its difficult enough to taste cider and take notes!  I did however order some creme brulee, which was pretty disappointing, as it was almost half fruit, small, and expensive.

tap list desserts

cocktails flights

Now, on to the nine ciders of the night!  They were tasted in an order to try to minimize the effect the last would have on the next, not in the numerical (alphabetical) order.  I believe that all the ciders which were on their tap list were tap pours, and the remaining two (Nashi and Westcott Bay) were bottle pours.  I really enjoyed hearing about the ciders as I was tasting them.  They also took audience questions / comments.

event list 9 pours

(6) Tieton Ciderworks  Sparkling Perry, 5.5% ABV.  I hadn’t tried this one before, but have tried a number of varieties from Tieton.  Its part of their “top shelf ciders” along with the Cidermaker’s Reserve (which I’ve reviewed), available in pretty 500ml bottles.  Craig Campbell, a grower at Tieton’s orchard (and the one who started Tieton with his wife), was the presenter.  It is made from 11 varieties of perry pears grown in their orchard (which is the largest cider apple & perry pear orchards in Washington, but still small by orchard standards).  Craig noted that pears are much more difficult to grow and press into juice than apples.  This perry was made using a French keeving technique, where it is slow fermented with wild yeast for 5 months.  He said this method can calm some of the tannins of the perry pears.  Craig also noted that this perry was just bottled/kegged in May, and may taste even better after bottle aging for 1-2 years.  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Mild tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  Medium bodied.  Unique strawberry notes.  I would have liked more carbonation, but I imagine my sample may have sat for a bit / not been able to be poured correctly due to the size.  Pretty tasty!

(5) Nashi Orchards Issho Ni “Together” Cider, 6.9% ABV.  This was my first time trying anything from Nashi Orchards, although I have one of their perries at home.  Jim Gerlach, owner and cidermaker, was there to present.  This is one of the few (two?) ciders that Nashi Orchards makes; they specialize in perry.  Their orchard is full of asian pear varieties and they pride themselves in using traditional cidermaking methods.  This cider was made using apples from the Vashon Island community, which included a lot of crabapples and heirloom apple varieties.  It was dry fermented and not backsweetened.  Smells like English cider, of rich bittersweet apples.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Moderate to high tannins and bitterness.  Mild tartness.  I liked the bark better than the bite on this one (smelled better than it tasted).  It was a bit too high in tannins & bitterness for my liking, likely from the high crabapple content.  I imagine like most ciders, if I was having a full glass, I would have liked it better (vs. having a tasting glass).

(7) Snowdrift Dry, 7.6% ABV.  I’ve tried a number of Snowdrift cider varieties; my favorites so far are Red (made from red fleshed apples) and Cornice (barrel aged).  This one was presented by someone from Capitol Cider, but Snowdrift sent along some notes.  It was commented that they have a small orchard and cidery which is ideally located in East Wenatchee, with its hot summers and cold winters, ideal for cider apples which thrive with temperature variations.  Their orchard is mostly Yarlington Mill cider apples, but they have over 40 apple varieties.  They noted this cider won an international contest, which is rare for a PNW cider (vs. a UK cider).  Semi-dry.  Clean plain apple scent.  Low in tannins, bitterness, acidity, and tartness.  Some citrus notes, but I otherwise didn’t pick up much.  Smooth.  The alcohol is well hidden.  I found it kinda boring, but a very solid selection.

(2) Dragon’s Head Traditional, 6.9% ABV.  This is the variety I tried at Cider Summit.  I also have a bottle of their Wild Fermented at home.  Wes Cherry (co-owner with his wife) presented.  They are from Vashon Island, where they grow over 70 varieties of cider apples, mostly English and some French.  They moved their cidery from the Seattle area 5 years ago to start the orchard.  This year was their first significant harvest from their own orchard.  This cider underwent malolactic fermentation (which is when malic acid is converted to lactic acid, and can often be considered a fault but some cidermakers desire it) which was arrested to retain some residual sweetness and give some butterscotch notes.  Semi-dry.  Higher acidity.  Citrus and fruity notes.  Low to moderate tannins and bitterness.  Mild tartness.  I really enjoyed this cider.  Probably as it had a little more complexity to it and didn’t go too overboard on tannins and bitterness.

(8) Westcott Bay Semi-Dry, 6.8% ABV.  This was my first time trying any ciders from Westcott Bay.  Presented by Capitol Cider.  Westcott Bay has their own cider orchard in the San Juan Islands which dates back to the 1870s.  They re-planted in the mid 1990s and released their first cider in 1999.  They make more traditional apples using cider apple varieties such as Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Sweet Coppin.  Semi-sweet.  Similar to English cider.  Bitter finish, but still only mild to moderate.  Moderate tannins.  Bolder flavor.  I really enjoyed this cider.  I like ciders like this which have a bold flavor profile without being too bitter or too high in tannins.

(1) Alpenfire Simple Cider, 6.9% ABV.  I’ve had a number of ciders from Alpenfire, but hadn’t even heard of this one (it looks like it may be tap only at this time?).  I particularly like their Apocalypso and Spark! ciders.  Presented by Nancy Bishop.  They described themselves as a more traditional cidery whose ciders tend to be higher in tannins.  They planted their cider apple orchard in 2003, then needed to learn how to use it, and get people to buy their ciders!  This variety is their least traditional cider, made from basic heirloom and dessert apples.  It is sweeter and described as having some honeysuckle aromas, and was lightly oak aged.  On the sweeter side of semi-sweet.  Slightly hazy.  I picked up some honey, pear, and mild herbal notes.  No significant tannins, bitterness, acidity, tartness, etc.  I thought it was rather complex for a simple cider!  I really enjoyed it.

(4) Liberty Ciderworks Abbess, 7.6% ABV.  I’ve had a number of ciders from Liberty.  Presented by Rick Hastings.  This is a newer cidery from Spokane, open about a year and a half, and they currently produce 7,500 liters a year.  Unlike many of the cideries featured, they don’t have their own orchard.  However, they have found ways (probably at great expense) to obtain cider apples, primarily from three different orchards, including from Garfield WA.  They also use a lot of crabapples.  They aim to keep the apple centric, and don’t plan to do flavored ciders; their Turncoat Dry Hop cider and this one is as flavored as they get.  I particularly like their Manchurian Crabapple and English Style ciders.  Rick commented the Spokane cider market is growing slower than Seattle, but is still growing.  Liberty was tasting their new Abbess variety, with gin botanicals. Made from Empire, Macintosh, and Manchurian Crabapples.  Its been out for about a month in their tap room and has been popular.  English cider scent with a hint of botanicals.  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Bold flavored.  A hint of botanical flavor.  Significant tartness, bitterness, and tannins.  I’m not a huge fan of this one, but it didn’t have any faults and is a solid selection.

(9) Whitewood Cider Kingston Black, 9.7 ABV.  I had tried this cider at Cider Summit, but didn’t mind having it again in the least, as it was one of my favorites!  I’ve only tried Whitewood’s Summer Switchel and this one, but look forward to trying some others.  Presented by Dave White.  Whitewood released their first ciders in 2013, so this is their third season.  Dave aims to make more traditional ciders, with heirloom & cider apple varieties.  He noted their Southsounder cider is made from apples within 20 miles of Olympia.  This Kingston Black cider was made with champagne yeast, but Dave hopes to eventually make a wild fermented batch.  It is 80% Kingston Black and 20% Cornish [Porter’s] Perfection, much to Dave’s disappointment.  He aimed to make a single varietal, but apparently the Kingston Black apples were sliding around too much during pressing or something, as they were sweated to bring out more flavor.  Doing an almost single varietal Kingston Black cider must have been very expensive, as they are rare.  He noted some Woodinville Whiskey was added to the barrel before aging.  [The barrel was from Wishkah River Distillery in Aberdeen, WA.]  I don’t like aged spirits, but love the flavor in a cider.  This cider was taken out of fermentation in early 2014 and barrel aged until just recently.  Dry.  Whiskey and vanilla notes.  Rich bold flavor.  Very smooth, with hidden ABV.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Yum!

(3) Finnriver Fire Barrel, 6.5% ABV.  I’ve tried a large number of Finnriver ciders, and even tried this variety quite awhile ago.  I remembered really looking forward to it but being disappointed.  I bought another bottle recently as so many folks enjoy this cider, and I wanted to give it another chance, as my palate has changed. So, here will eventually be a full review of it here. Presented by Eric Jorgensen, a co-founder.  They were described as a small organic farm which started selling cider in 2010.  Eric thinks they were the least traditional of the nine cideries present.  However, he described this as their most traditional cider, as it is made from cider apples.  They started a second orchard three years ago and aim to remain sustainable and organic.  This cider recipe was original produced by Drew Zimmerman, who sold the rights when he retired.  It is made from Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, and Dabinett cider apple varieties.  This cider is no longer aged in Kentucky whiskey barrels though, as they aim to keep it more local, instead using UT or WA barrels.  This cider has inspired Finnriver to take on other barrel aging projects.  They mentioned they are barrel aging a small batch of their Black Currant cider, which sounds awesome, as that is one of my favorites of theirs, along with Honey Meadow.  Very smooth.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Mild barrel notes.  Bold flavor.  Moderate tannins, bitterness, and acidity.  I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this cider, in contrast to my memory from awhile back.  I look forward to drinking the bottle I have at home!

I was interested in buying four bottles to take home from Capitol Cider, but they only had two of the ones I wanted, Virtue The Mitten and AeppelTreow Appely Doux.  I had heard of both but didn’t know they even sold them in WA!  I had been wanting to try The Mitten ever since I got into cider; it often makes top cider lists.  Note that the prices shown on their bottle list below are to drink there, but you get a 25% discount to take home.  That brings their prices just a bit over local bottle shops for most ciders.  The cost to drink a bottle is much less of a markup than most wine lists.  However, with all those ciders on tap, why would you want to?  They initially forgot to apply the 25% discount (they were very busy and I was asked them to go to the back and find specific bottles), so I was very glad I checked my receipt.

bottles

Unfortunately the cider list was stapled at the top, so even taking it off the clipboard I couldn’t get good photos.  The angles are again to avoid glare from overhead lighting.  Impressive bottle list!  However, the win still goes to the Schilling Cider House in Fremont, as you can look at the actual bottles.

list1  list2

list3  list4

list5

I got my new copy of World’s Best Ciders (which I reviewed here recently) autographed by Bill Bradshaw, and even got to chat with him for a few minutes.

book autograph

Stay tuned for the last but not least Washington Cider Week event post, from the 2 Towns night at the Schilling Cider House!  Like Cider Says on Facebook for the latest info.

East Meets West: An Evening with Eden and Alpenfire Ciders at Burgundian Bar

Stop 2 on Thursday night brought me to the Burgundian bar in Seattle.  Cidermakers from Eden Ice Cider (Newport VT) and Alpenfire Organic Hard Cider (Port Townsend WA) were on hand to chat, they were pouring ciders from each, and there were even specialty cocktails using their ciders.  It started off very slow at 5pm, but that worked very well for me as I got some awesome conversations in while there were more industry folks than customers.  I met Kyle from Millstone Cellars (Monkton MD); I had e-mailed with him about their Cobbler cider and he remembered me.  I also met Dan from Orcas Distributing, which is one of the main cider distributors in the Seattle area.  I got to see both again the next day at Cider Summit.

The special event menu is below (click to biggify).  They also had a number of bottle pour ciders from Eden, Alpenfire, and more.  There was unfortunately only one draft cider as they apparently had some logistical issues.

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I started with a glass of Alpenfire Apocalypso, a double rum barrel aged blackberry cider.  This is their Calypso cider but rum barrel aged for four instead of two months.  This draft-only cider was $6 for 6oz (Calypso runs about $13 for a 500ml bottle).  6.9% ABV.  Middle of the road sweetness.  Berry with a touch of wood scent.  Lovely berry hue.  Fruity, moderately tart, with a hint of barrel influence.  Very tasty!  It had more complexity than your average fruity cider, which I really enjoyed.  There haven’t been too many fruity ciders I’ve been impressed with, but this is one.  Apocalypso is probably a tie with Spark! for my favorite Alpenfire cider so far.

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I chatted with Eleanor Leger from Eden Ice Cider for quite awhile.  it was awesome to learn more about Eden’s ciders, as I had seen them and was very interested, but hadn’t tried any yet.  Eden’s ciders are made by husband & wife team Eleanor & Albert Leger.  They specialize in and started with ice ciders, but have also branched out into aperitif and traditional ciders.  In addition to offering their customers more variety, both of these products are a way for them to use the same juice as their ice ciders, from a second and third pressing (the sugar content decreases).  They may actually be the only company selling cider apertifs at this time.  It was interesting to hear they are even trying to find uses for the “apple water” which is left after making the cider, such as selling it to a gin distillery which would use it in place of water for added flavor.

They were the first ice cider company in the U.S. and also have their own orchard of cider apples.  Ice cider by the way is a dessert wine variety which was developed in Canada, and is made from apples which have been concentrated by natural winter cold.  The apples are harvested at peak ripeness then kept in cold storage.  After pressing, the juice is set outdoors to freeze for 6-8 weeks, which results in a residual concentrate which is high in sugar and flavor.  The concentrate is then fermented, cold stabilized, filtered, and bottled, leaving a high alcohol and high residual sugar cider.  The final amount of cider is typically less than 1/4 of the original amount of juice pressed.  Eleanor told me approximately 20% of their juice is used for ice cider, 7% for apertif, 8% for cider, and the remaining 65% is “apple water”.

I then tried Eden’s Oak Aged Sparkling Dry Cider, 8.5% ABV, $9 for a 6oz bottle pour (runs around $10 for a 375ml bottle).  This is Eden’s first traditional cider (also available in Semi-Dry), released in 2013, and distribution was expanded outside of VT in 2014.  It is naturally sparkling from bottle conditioning using juice, not sugar (Methode Champenoise, which is VERY labor intensive; here is a great explaination).  This cider is crafted from traditional and heirloom apples (50% Kingston Black) grown within 200 miles of their cidery, aged in French oak puncheons (twice the size of typical barrels) for one year, then bottle conditioned for six months..  The purpose of the barrel aging in this case is to impart a more mature flavor, and it can actually increase the amount of tannins as well (vs. when a barrel from spirits is used it would also impart the flavor of the spirit, such as bourbon).

2015-09-11 12.36.32  2015-09-11 12.36.40
<disclaimer: these bottle label photos were taken at Whole Foods the following
day as I didn’t get a chance to ask the bartender to see the bottle>

Using such a large amount of Kingston Black apples is expensive, and Eleanor discussed the cost difference between using juice pressed from dessert apples ($2.50-4.00 / gallon) and juice pressed from cider apples ($8.00-10.00 / gallon) to make cider.  The high cost is primarily due to their rarity.  Hopefully in the coming years the cost will go down as availability increases, which will also increase the quality of ciders as more cidermakers use cider instead of dessert variety apples.  In addition to apples from Eden’s own orchard (which has about 1,000 trees and took approximately 5 years to go from planting to first harvest), they use a lot of apples from the nearby Scott Farm on Kipling’s estate, which is an old Macintosh orchard which was top grafted with many heirloom and cider apple varieties.  I also learned about Eden’s newest product addition, Imperial 11 Rose, which is an off-dry lightly sparkling 11% ABV cider made from heirloom apples and red currant.  Perfect for the wine-loving cider drinker.

On to the Eden Sparkling Dry cider tasting notes:  Lovely brilliant amber with tiny bubbles and a light foam ring.  Definitely dry, but there was a touch of residual sweetness.  Ripe apple scent and taste.  Moderate amounts of acidity, tannins, and bitterness.  Mild tartness.  Medium bodied.  High carbonation.  Hints of earthiness and funk.  Very well crafted and balanced.  I could really taste the difference from using cider apples (vs. dessert apples) and bottle conditioning (vs. force carbonating).  A perfect cider alternative to champagne.  Yum!

It was a special treat to enjoy it while sitting and chatting with the cidermaker.  I typically have trouble tolerating both dryness and bitterness in a cider, but both were so well balanced with the acidity, tannins, and carbonation that I found the cider enjoyable.  I may have to pick up a bottle of this to have on hand; the small bottle size and reasonable cost (moreso per bottle not per ounce) are nice.

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I also met Nancy Bishop and her son Philippe from Alpenfire.  Ron from DrinkingCider.com and crew also showed up later!

Eleanor from Eden even brought some specialty ciders with her all the way from VT that aren’t available here in WA.  I had to leave before the event was over as I had work at 6am the next day (Friday) so I was unfortunately only able to taste one, dubbed “Cinderella’s Slipper”.  It was a very special variety that hasn’t been released.  It was their first cider made only from (35 varieties of) apples from Eden’s own orchard.  It had literally been forgotten about, sitting in a tank at Eden’s old facility for a year.  I found it to be dry, still, slightly tart, highly acidic, and high in tannins.  Very unique!

Here is a photo of the bartender at the Burgundian making one of the specialty cocktails by the way.  They were all very pretty and involved many interesting ingredients (time consuming for the bartender when Eleanor decided to try all four lol).  See the photo of the menu at the top of this post.

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However, I didn’t try any, as I am pretty picky when it comes to food & drink, especially cocktails (I don’t like gin or any aged spirits for example), and none of them sounded good to me.  Plus, I don’t really get the point of mixing high end cider into a cocktail; to me it would be like mixing expensive vodka with orange juice or whatever.  I’d rather drink the cider on its own and get the full experience of it!  I will admit I haven’t tried a cider cocktail though, and its something I want to do.

Cider cocktails seem all the rage lately around here, with Capitol Cider pouring them at Cider Summit, and Darlene Hayes even wrote a book all about them!  I was lucky enough to meet Darlene Hayes at Cider Summit and chat with her for a bit (she likes my blog by the way–very cool).  Check out her blog as well, All Into Cider, which has some great stories and information about cider.

Stay tuned for more Washington Cider Week posts at Cider Says.  Up next are posts about Cider Summit itself (including more tasting notes on Eden and Alpenfire ciders), then the Bill Bradshaw tasting event at Capitol Cider, and Schilling Cider House (2 Towns night but also hoping for some barrel aged ciders left from the night before).  I have quite a lot of photos and tasting notes to go through from Cider Summit though, so I apologize if there is a delay in the Cider Summit post/s.  To give a hint, I believe the final count is 33 ciders that I tried!  However, I have some other cider review posts to cue up in the meantime.  Cheers!

Washington Cider Week Kickoff at Seattle Cider

Thursday night was a great kickoff to Washington Cider Week!  I started the evening at Seattle Cider (opening ceremonies, although I left before that), then moved on to the Burgundian Bar (East Meets West, An Evening with Eden and Alpenfire Ciders).  This post will cover Seattle Cider and another will cover the Burgundian (plus many posts to come on Cider Summit and other Washington Cider Week events!).  I mostly chose to stop by Seattle Cider as it was a Washington Cider Week event to fill the time between when I got off work and the event at the Burgundian started at 5pm, as the events were located between work and home.  Plus I hadn’t ever been to their tasting room, The Woods (which they share with their sister brewery, 2 Beers Brewing Company).

seattle cider

Seattle Cider ended up a bit disappointing of a stop as they only opened at 3pm, and nothing was actually going on for the Washington Cider Week kickoff yet.  There were plenty of folks there though, lots of growler fills, etc.  They were only setting up while I was there, but they did however have 16 ciders on tap (6 of their own and 10 from 10 other cideries), some free cider swag, and a hot dog cart.  Also, I got to meet fellow cider blogger Ron from DrinkingCider.com!  He had reached out that he would be in town for Cider Summit, and I let him know my schedule.  We ended up meeting up at Seattle Cider, the Burgundian, and Cider Summit, which was pretty awesome.  He even brought me some cider from Tod Creek in Victoria BC which I look forward to trying; very cool.  Too bad he couldn’t take cider back to CT.

We even got a mini tour from their tasting room manager.  They were in production so we couldn’t walk through the cidermaking area (although they have an opening you can look through to see it), but we got to see a few areas.  I learned that Seattle Cider currently only uses apples from Washington (all dessert varieties except their Harvest series).  It was also interesting to hear about and see their current construction project, a kitchen!  Probably a very welcome addition…more tasting room need to offer food, even if its only chips, crackers, pretzels, whatever.

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<view of their outside seating area from inside>

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<malt sack light fixtures>

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<game area>

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<game area and view into barrel storage>

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<view of cidery tanks from the cutout inside the tasting room>
<their current largest is 280 gallons, but they plan to literally raise the roof to fit larger ones>

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<manager at the Woods (left) and Ron from DrinkingCider.com (right) in their storage area>
<yes, those are 2/4 palates I saw of cans of their Dry and Semi-Sweet>

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<taps, bar area, and fridges of canned/bottled beer/cider for purchase>

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<half of their taps>

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<Seattle Cider’s Harvest series:  Perry, Washington Heirloom, and Gravenstein Rose>

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<cider tap list part 1; I don’t care for Ginger and previously had the Green Tea,
but I tried the Valley Red and Woodlander Wit; see below>

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<cider tap list part 2, where 13-18 are from Seattle Cider>
<I’ve had their Semi-Sweet and tried the Olympic Honey & Plum Gose; see below>
<I don’t care for hopped & green apple, previously had the Grapefruit & Black Currant,
and tried the Crabenstein; see below>

I ended up sampling five ciders at The Woods / Seattle Cider.  Unfortunately they didn’t have a sampler, but would pour tastes.  I really think a sampler is the best way to go anywhere which has multiple cider choices on tap.  So, I had a couple tastes, got a glass of one, then had a few more tastes.

Seattle Cider Olympic Honey.  This cider is a special release (August 2015) Seattle Cider did with the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, and only available at Seattle Cider and the restaurant/bar at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.  This used honey from the rooftop apiary at the hotel.  I had really wanted to try this after seeing a segment they did on King 5 local news on Facebook, so I was pleased they still had some.  Retail is $9 for a 22oz bottle, but I had a 13oz tap pour for $6.  6.9% ABV.  Semi dry.  I picked up only hints of honey, but it was refreshing, and probably my favorite Seattle Cider variety so far (I’m not a huge fan of their ciders, although they have a large local following).  Moderate acidity and and mild tartness.

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<Seattle Cider Olympic Honey>

Seattle Cider Plum Gose.  This is Seattle Cider’s twist on gose (a unique style of German beer which includes coriander and salt).  It includes Jacobsen sea salt (from Portland OR), coriander, and plums, and was made using Chardonnay yeast and added malic acid.  6.9% ABV.  Semi-dry.  Very unique but mild flavor from the ingredient additions.  Lovely light berry hue from the plums, but my taster was too small to get a clear photo of the cider’s color.  Higher carbonation.  A touch of saltiness.  Apparently they previously had a full Gose cider, and would often get requests to mix it with their PNW Berry, so they decided to make something similar with plums.

Liberty Ciderworks Crabenstein.  Made using Dolgo crabapples and Gravenstein apples with wild yeast fermentation.  7.3% ABV.  Dry.  Tart and mouth-puckering with a touch of funk, but the flavor profile is pretty mild.  I like Liberty’s Manchurian Crabapple single varietal better as it is bolder, but they are completely different styles of cider (for example, the Manchurian is 12.5% ABV).

Cockrell Valley Red.  Cider with Puyallip WA raspberries.  This is the first time I’ve tried a cider from Cockrell.  6.2% ABV.  Semi-dry.  Lovely fruity nose and red hue (again, no photo; sorry), acidic, and tart.  I didn’t pick up raspberries (nor did I know that was the fruit they used until I researched this cider), but for me it was more of a general tart berry than a specific flavor.  It reminded me some of Snowdrift Red (which I prefer).

Grizzly Ciderworks Woodlander Wit-Style.  They modeled this cider after Belgian wit-style beer (they used that variety of beer yeast).  I’ve previously tried their Ridge.  6.7% ABV.  Semi-dry.  Smells slightly woody.  I didn’t pick up any of the orange peel or coriander they included in this cider, but again, it was a pretty small taste.  I found it very similar to their Ridge, but slightly more sweet, tart, and complex, and slightly less flavorful.  I prefer the Ridge, which I found to have more of the woody & earthy notes I enjoy.

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This is just the start of my Washington Cider Week posts, so stay tuned for posts on Thursday night part 2 (Burgundian with Eden & Alpenfire ciders), Cider Summit, and events I’ll be attending next week at Capitol Cider and the Schilling Cider House!  Subscribe to Cider Says using the sidebar (on the right or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices) and like us on Facebook to ensure you don’t miss out!