Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve

Review of Snowdrift’s Cidermaker’s Reserve.  I have sampled it twice before (see here and here), but I’m doing a full review this time.  I’ve also tried most of Snowdrift’s line-up:  CorniceRedPerryCliffbreaks BlendDrySemi-DrySeckel Perry, and Orchard Select.

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Cider:  Cidermaker’s Reserve
Cidery:  Snowdrift
Cidery Location:  East Wenatchee WA
ABV:  9.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from heirloom & bittersweet apples (2014 harvest), Methode Champenoise, aged 3 years

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Availability:  Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (see here), although this is a more limited release.  They also have an online store

Cider Description:  Taking the best of the best of our ciders, Cidermaker’s Reserve is a celebration of all the rich complexity cider apples have to offer. After a year of maturation, this cider then begins the full Méthode Champenoise process of in-bottle fermentation, which develops further layers of nuance. The labor of love pays off; its months of conditioning, riddling, and finishing yield a dry cider with continuously unfolding layers of spicy bittersweet apple character, citrusy brightness, and subtleties of toffee, aromatic wood and earth. 

Cidery Description:  We craft our ciders from great cider apples that we grow on our orchard in sunny East Wenatchee, WA. Our incredible region gives our trees the ideal conditions to grow apples packed with the flavors necessary to produce fine ciders. Hot sunny summers and cold snowy winters result in apples that mature with incredible aromatics and delicious flavors. When ripened to perfection, we pick these apples and craft them with the utmost care into fine cider blends, resulting in rich ciders full of delicious complexity.

Price:  $19
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had tried it before, but my husband really wanted a bottle (this is probably his all time favorite cider).

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First Impression:  Light gold amber hue.  High carbonation.  Smells acidic and fruity/grapey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied with a fluffy fizzy texture.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness.  Hints of funk.  Notes of pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, lemon, and orange.  Moderate to long warming finish, the only time when the 9% ABV is noticeable.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability and flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  Great!  I enjoy this cider.  Unique, complex, and bubbly, whats not to like?  However, to me it almost tastes more like champagne than sparkling cider, except for the tannins.

Most Similar to:  Nothing all that close, but in the same ballpark is AEppeltreow Appley Doux (slightly sweeter, and more green apple & floral), Alpenfire Cinders (much drier), and 2 Towns Traditions Riverwood Brut (more subtle)

Closing Notes:  My favorites from Snowdrift are the Red, Cornice, Cliffbreaks Blend, and Cidermaker’s Reserve.

Have you tried Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve?  What did you think?

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Ulee’s Light Cider Dry

Review of Ulee’s Light Cider’s Dry.  It is my first time trying this cider, which just launched this month.  This is described as the first cidery focusing on light cider (although some other cideries also offer something similar, such as Dry 99 by Number Six.

Cider:  Dry
Cidery:  Ulee’s Light Cider
Cidery Location:  Auburn WA (at the Schilling facility)
ABV:  4.0%
How Supplied:  six packs of 12oz slim cans (and kegs)
Style:  American craft low-calorie cider from dessert apples

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Availability:  Western Washington (mostly in the greater Seattle area) and Portland Oregon

Cider Description:  All of Ulee’s Light Ciders are created with 100% all natural ingredients from the Northwest. Our juice is fresh-pressed from Washington apples and then fermented, filtered and blended with Cascadia water. They are vegan, naturally gluten-free and only 99 calories per can.

Cidery Description:  Ulee’s Light Cider was founded in 2016 by three guys who love cider, but hate calories.  The journey started ten years ago when founder Scott Gallagher first began visiting Iceland.  During his trips he discovered that many of the locals drank hard cider instead of beer. Scott liked the flavor but after sampling many of the European varieties, he acquired a particular taste for Dry-Style ciders. After returning home to Portland, OR, he found that locally available ciders tended to be overly sweet with lots of calories.  

Scott and his two buddies, Don Forsythe and Matt Thompson, were drinking cider around the fire-pit—the place where great ideas are born—and started brainstorming what they would like in a cider. It had to by dry but flavorful, locally sourced and all natural, gluten-free, light in calories, and very, very drinkable.  It took a while but after working with expert cidermakers and experimenting with 25 different recipes, they finally came up with two ciders that exceeded their expectations.

Price:  $1.83 / single can (runs $9.99 / six pack)
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  On Facebook, as they had a launch party at the Schilling Cider House

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow.  Low carbonation.  Almost no scent.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of green apple, citrus, and mineral.  Moderate length finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Very low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  Very high sessionability.

My Opinion:  Meh.  This tastes like watered down cider (which it is).  I’d rather drink a less of a more flavorful cider, especially considering these cost the same as other ciders yet are only 4.0% instead of 5.0-5.9%+ ABV.  Its a bit more flavorful though if you drink it in gulps rather than sips.

Most Similar to:  Number Six Dry 99 and Seattle Cider Dry.  For a dry canned cider, my favorite is probably Original Sin Extra Dry (which isn’t yet sold in the PNW).  Or, for a dry cider which is more widely distributed (and more highly carbonated), Ace Joker.

Closing Notes:  I don’t really get the point of this (I bought it only out of curiosity), but it is doing pretty well on untappd and such.  It also got into a lot of stores very quickly, so they must have some connections.  Ulee’s also launched with a second hopped variety, called “Citra”.

Have you tried Ulee’s Light Cider?  What did you think?

Locust Honey Pear

Review of Locust’s Honey Pear cider.  It is my first time trying this cider, but I’ve previously had their Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark Cherry,  Washington Dessert AppleBittersweet ReservePumpkinThai GingerBourbon Barrel AgedWinesapAlder Smoked AppleMangoElder & OakWabi SabiApricotSweet Aged AppleBerry SessionSmoked BlueberryVanilla BeanWinter BananaChili PineappleSeckel Perry, and Hibiscus.

Cider:  Honey Pear
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  draft only
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with honey and pear juice

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Availability:  Likely only in bars & restaurants in the Seattle area (including Locust’s tap room), although in general their ciders are sold in CA, ID, OR, TX, and WA.

Cider Description:  none given

Cidery Description:  My brother Patrick and I founded Locust Cider in March 2015 with the mission of making outstanding hard cider using the fruit that is most available in Washington- the eating apple. Washington growers produce 60% of the apples in the United States, and cider-specific varieties are in a major shortage, so we set out to put innovative spins on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in the everyday apple. 

Our delicious ciders begin with great fruit- we primarily use “cull” apples- those that are not pretty enough or are too small or large to make it to grocery stores, diverting these from destruction because their juice is still great! Our unique process then transforms them into great cider- methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.

We are now made up a great small team: Chelsea, head cidermaker, Ryan, cellar manager, Shenna, tap room manager, Spring, events manager, and Chris, sales manager. We are a “family” passionate about cider, and we thank you for visiting our tasting room, and being part of our family!  -Jason Spears, founder of locust cider

Their Woodinville cidery has a tap room.

Price:  $6.50 / pint
Where Bought & Drank:  Tipsy Cow in Woodinville WA (an awesome burger restaurant)
How Found:  This was one of two ciders on draft at the restaurant (they also had D’s Baked Apple).

First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells very mild, slightly of tart apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  No tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of green apple, pear, honey, and citrus.  Quick finish.  Low complexity.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I thought this was very average.  I liked that it wasn’t very sweet (which most of Locust’s recent releases have been, and is common with draft cider at restaurants & bars in my area as it sells well).  However, I actually think the dryness was too much for this cider, as it was very tart and not very flavorful.  Also, both pear and honey ciders are typically sweeter, so that would be expected.

Most Similar to:  Longdrop Tanager Pear Cider

Closing Notes:  I always like finding local cider on tap to go with a nice meal, even if the offering isn’t a favorite of mine.

Have you tried Locust Honey Pear?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 28 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my 28th visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts with tasting notes here.

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I was there on a random Friday afternoon.  There were only 2 ciders on the board out of 32 that I hadn’t tried, so that meant I got to order some of my favorites.

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<left to right:  Incline Rosé, Finnriver Lavender Black Currant, Portland Sangria, NV Cider Watermelon Pear, Aspall Dry, and Snowdrift Cornice>

Incline (Auburn WA) Compass Rosé (6.5% ABV):  This was the only new-to-me cider in my flight.  It appears to be a year round release, and is also available in cans.  Like all their ciders, it is hopped, plus hibiscus, elderflower, ginger, and rose petals were added (no grape, which is typical for a rosé).  Pale pink hue.  Very mild fruity scent.  Notes of grape, watermelon, and strawberry to start.  As it warmed up, I got a hint of hops and some floral & herbal flavor.  I didn’t pick up any ginger (which is good, as I don’t like it).  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied. Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, tannins, or funk.  Mild flavor intensity.  Interesting that I found it more fruity than floral, but maybe I was tasting what I expected (I only found out later what was added).  I enjoyed it.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA) Lavender Black Currant (6.9% ABV):  This is a special release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here), similar to their regular Black Currant (see here).  This batch seemed a bit less sweet, with more lavender.  Too bad it wasn’t on one of their 2 Nitro taps, as that is a special treat.  I enjoyed it.

Portland Cider (Portland OR) Sangria (5.5% ABV):  This is a relatively new year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  This batch was a bit less flavorful and a bit fuller bodied, but still plenty fruity.  I enjoyed it.

Pear Up / NV Cider (East Wenatchee WA) Watermelon Pear (5.3% ABV):  This is a year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  This batch had much more pear than watermelon flavor, and had a hint of vinegar flavor & sourness.  I didn’t really care for it this time around with the slightly off flavor.  Their raspberry perry is my favorite so far (see here).

Aspall (Suffolk England) Dry (6.8% ABV):  This is an English import, available year round, also in bottles, which I’ve tried previously (see here).  Their Dry is actually my least favorite of their line-up, but still plenty good.  Their Imperial is my favorite so far (see here); too bad they stopped selling the black label version of it though, as that was a truly amazing cider.

Snowdrift (Wenatchee WA) Cornice (7.5% ABV):  This is a year round release, also available in bottles, which I’ve tried previously see here).  This batch of this barrel agsed cider was a bit more fruity / less rich.  I enjoyed it.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Locust Sweet Aged Apple

Review of Locust’s Sweet Aged Apple cider.  I thought this was my first time trying it, but turns out I tried it here, although I haven’t done a full review.  I’ve also sampled their Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark CherryWashington Dessert Apple, Bittersweet Reserve, Pumpkin, Thai Ginger, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Winesap, Alder Smoked Apple, Mango, Elder & Oak, Wabi Sabi, Apricot, Berry Session, Smoked Blueberry, Vanilla Bean, Winter Banana, Chili Pineapple, Seckel Perry, and Hibiscus.

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Cider:  Sweet Aged Apple
Cidery:  Locust
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  multi packs of 12oz cans, and draft
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, aged for 6 months

Availability:  Year round in CA, ID, OR, TX, and WA

Cider Description:  We leave a blend of pressed washington dessert apples on their own and let the wild yeasts do their work. then we age it for 6 months. the result is a semi-sweet, full bodied, deep, very appley, smooth and round cider. there is beauty in imperfection. great with meat and cheese, stands up!

Cidery Description:  My brother Patrick and I founded Locust Cider in March 2015 with the mission of making outstanding hard cider using the fruit that is most available in Washington- the eating apple. Washington growers produce 60% of the apples in the United States, and cider-specific varieties are in a major shortage, so we set out to put innovative spins on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in the everyday apple. 

Our delicious ciders begin with great fruit- we primarily use “cull” apples- those that are not pretty enough or are too small or large to make it to grocery stores, diverting these from destruction because their juice is still great! Our unique process then transforms them into great cider- methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.   -Jason Spears, founder of locust cider

Their Woodinville cidery has a tap room.

Price:  $6.50 / pint draft
Where Bought & Drank:  Tipsy Cow Burger Bar in Woodinville WA
How Found:  This was one of two draft cider options (the other was D’s Wicked Baked Apple)

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Smells like apple juice.  Low carbonation.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of apple juice, honey, brown sugar, and maybe a hint of oak?  Quick finish.  High apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I liked this.  However, it was a bit sweet for a full pint.  The flavor is really nice though.  Definitely a simple cider, but tasty.  Perfect for a canned multipack.

Most Similar to:  Locust Aged Washington Dessert Apple

Closing Notes:  Tipsy Cow is one of our favorite local restaurants, and it is awesome they have cider (and 2 local craft ciders at that).  However, I wish they had a drier option, as both are sweet.  Oddly enough I actually liked when they offered Spire Dark & Dry, as although not dry, it is drier than this, and it goes really well with greasy food.

Have you tried Locust Sweet Aged Apple?  What did you think?

Locust Cider Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry

Review of Locust Cider’s Hootenanny series Vanilla Bean and Smoked Blueberry ciders.  This is a two for one review as I enjoy these ciders mixed together.  Its not my first time trying these, but I hadn’t yet bought bottles / done a full review.  I’ve also tried a lot of other ciders from Locust:  Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Sweet Dark CherryWashington Dessert Apple, Bittersweet Reserve, Pumpkin, Thai Ginger, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Winesap, Alder Smoked Apple, Mango, Elder & Oak, Wabi Sabi, Apricot, Sweet Aged Apple, Berry Session, Winter Banana, Chili Pineapple, Seckel Perry, and Hibiscus.

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Cider:  Vanilla Bean & Smoked Blueberry
Cidery:  Locust Cider
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  5.0% & 5.0%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider infused with Madagascar vanilla (Vanilla Bean) or alder smoked apples and blueberries (Smoked Blueberry)

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Availability:  Year round in CA, ID, OR, TX, and WA

Vanilla Bean Description:  Washington apples meet real Madagascar vanilla, creating what is best described as an adult’s all natural cream soda. you don’t like sweet ciders??? Ok sure, try this.

Smoked Blueberry Description:  Some people do not like smoked foods and drinks. Ok fine, stop reading. for those who do, this is comfort in a drink, blending apples, smoked over alder wood, with real blueberries, this is unexpected but amazing.

Cidery Description:  My brother Patrick and I founded Locust Cider in March 2015 with the mission of making outstanding hard cider using the fruit that is most available in Washington- the eating apple. Washington growers produce 60% of the apples in the United States, and cider-specific varieties are in a major shortage, so we set out to put innovative spins on classic cider-making methods to bring out the best in the everyday apple. 

Our delicious ciders begin with great fruit- we primarily use “cull” apples- those that are not pretty enough or are too small or large to make it to grocery stores, diverting these from destruction because their juice is still great! Our unique process then transforms them into great cider- methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.

We are now made up a great small team: Chelsea, head cidermaker, Ryan, cellar manager, Shenna, tap room manager, Spring, events manager, and Chris, sales manager. We are a “family” passionate about cider, and we thank you for visiting our tasting room, and being part of our family!  -Jason Spears, founder of locust cider

Their Woodinville cidery has a tap room.

Price:  $7 each
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried these individually at Locust’s tap room awhile back, then at a tasting event I decided to try them mixed.

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First Impression:  Both nearly still (very low carbonation).  The Vanilla Bean is a light straw yellow hue and the Smoked Blueberry is a bright purple-blue hue.  The Vanilla Bean smells rather mild, just slightly sweet and of vanilla.  The Smoked Blueberry is a bit more fragrant, smelling of blueberry with a hint of smoke.

Vanilla Bean Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of vanilla, cream, and hints of citrus (reminiscent of cream soda).  Quick to moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Smoked Blueberry Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Medium to full bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of blueberry and grape with hints of smoke and alder wood.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

Mixed Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Both fruity and creamy.

My Opinion:  On their own, although plenty good, I don’t find either of these too remarkable.  The Vanilla Bean has a great flavor, but I find it a bit sweet to drink much of (although this batch is slightly less sweet than I’ve had before, but also slightly less flavorful).  The Smoked Blueberry is nice, but pretty typical.  However, mixed together, the result is a uniquely tasty.

Most Similar to:  Not much else.  I’ve had other smoked ciders, but they weren’t fruit-infused.  For example, Locust Alder Smoked Apple, and the more intense Tilted Shed Smoked and Alpenfire Smoke.  The closest I’ve had to the Vanilla Bean is probably Long Drop Vanilla Honey (but that has more honey than vanilla, with some awesome honeycomb notes).

Closing Notes:  Combining ciders is a fun way to mix things up.  I haven’t really got into cider cocktails, as to me, mixing cider with other beverages is something I would think of doing if I don’t like a cider (and have done actually).

Have you tried Locust Cider?  What did you think?

Three Kees Cider Dessert Apple

Review of Three Kees Cider’s Dessert Apple.  It is my first time trying any cider from this cidery.

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Cider:  Dessert Apple
Cidery:  Three Kees
Cidery Location:  Snohomish WA
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft farmhouse-style cider made from dessert apples, partially oak rum barrel aged

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Availability:  only in the greater Seattle WA area close to Snohomish; see this list

Cider Description from bottle:  Our artisan-crafted Dessert Apple Hard Cider is made from a blend of Washington-grown apples using slow, cool fermentation.  After aging in oak rum barrels and cider tanks, mature cider is blended to showcase apple flavors and balanced with sweetness, acidity and oak tannin structure.

Cider Description from website:  Semi-Dry Hard Cider, Tank-aged cider blended with rum barrel-aged cider, 6.7% ABV, Carbonated.  Distinct “cidery” apple aroma and flavors with rustic, earthy-oak and spirituous background notes.  Soft acidity and tannin structure with a slight sweetness, finishing semi-dry.

Cidery Description:  Our artisan-crafted beverages are made from a blend of Washington-grown fruit using slow, cool fermentation.  Fermented cider and perry is aged in cider tanks and oak rum barrels from 1 month to a year depending on the desired product.  Mature cider is blended to showcase the fruit and then balanced with sweetness, acidity and oak tannin for a complex structure and finish.  Talk with Roger about our products.  Our high quality cider and perry are achieved with quality, locally sourced ingredients and patience.

They are a new cidery, a family business (their last name is ‘Kees’, and the ‘Three’ in the name refers to their three kids).  Their official Grand Opening was just last week.  They have a tasting room at their cidery in rural Snohomish WA near Lake Roesiger, on 9 acres they purchased in 2013.  They planted a small apple and pear orchard (although it won’t be ready to harvest for 6-7 years).  Check out this news article.

Price:  $12.77
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It was the first time I had seen cider from this cidery.

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First Impression:  Very hazy lemonade type hue.  High carbonation, tiny bubbles.  Smells of citrus with hints of sulfur, sourness, and funk.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Light bodied with a frothy carbonated texture.  Very high tartness and acidity.  Low tannins, bitterness, funk, and sourness.  Notes of astringent lemon, grapefruit, lime, mineral, and floral.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.  Low sessionability.  No noticeable oak or rum influence.

My Opinion:  I found this to be a mouth-puckering Farmhouse-style cider, reminiscent of Spanish Sidra.  Unfortunately this is not a style I enjoy, as I find the sourness overwhelms my palate, especially when combined with low residual sugar, very high tartness & acidity, and high carbonation.  My husband however liked it; he enjoys dry acidic ciders with high carbonation, and doesn’t mind some sourness (although he isn’t as tolerant to funk as I am).

Most Similar to:  Farmhouse-style ciders and Spanish Sidra, although this was higher carbonation than most – Millstone Cellars Farmgate Dry, Angry Orchard Walden Hollow, WildCraft Flagship Dry CiderSietsema Traditional Dry Hard Cider, and Bereziartua Edición Gourmet.

Closing Notes:   I wish the bottle’s label had described the cider as Farmhouse-style or rustic, in which case I probably wouldn’t have bought it.  Their website however at least mentions rustic in this cider’s description.  This likely won’t be the most crowd-pleasing style of cider, but will appeal to folks who enjoy Farmhouse-style cider, Spanish Sidra, sour beers, and the like.  Sour ciders have been increasing in popularity and availability, at least in the Seattle area.

Update:  The cidermaker messaged me with more information.  This cidery doesn’t only make rustic-style ciders; the other two current selections (Dessert Pear and Cherry Flirt) won’t have the sourness and funk.

Have you tried Three Kees cider?  What did you think?