Finnriver Lavender Black Currant

Review of Finnriver Seasonal Botanical Series Lavender Black Currant.  I’ve had this at least a few times, but hadn’t done a full review of a bottle.  I’ve also tried the majority of their other ciders; see here.  They have new labels, which I think look really neat, more high end and sophisticated.

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Cider:  Lavender Black Currant
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA (outside of Port Townsend)
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  American Organic craft cider from dessert apples, with black currant and lavender

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Availability:  summer seasonal, sold in AZ, CA, CO, IL, MT, NV, NY, OR, TX, WA, and WI in the U.S., plus Alberta and British Columbia Canada (plus online sales, plus they have a plain Black Currant sold year round for $1-2 less)

Cider Description:  Farmcrafted in our Chimacum barn with a select blend of Washington organic apples, organic black currant juice, organic lavender flowers from Olympic Peninsula farms (Jardin du Soleil, Wilderbee, and Purple Haze), and organic cane sugar.

Cidery Description:  At Finnriver we ferment out dreams and pour our hearts into each bottle.  Our Botanical Ciders are rooted in ancient wisdom, inspired by the seasons and crafted with a spirit of adventure!  This bottle is an invitation to discover the possibilities of the apple and the earthly abundance of the farmed fields and wild meadows of the Olympic Peninsula.  We are glad to share the beauty and county of the land!

Check out their website for more info.  They have a tasting room on their farm+orchard outside of Port Townsend WA which is a family friendly destination, with food, games, and more.  If you are heading to Port Townsend, also check out Alpenfire and Eaglemount, and I highly recommend staying at the Inn at the Resort at Port Ludlow (check out my review here, which also links to my reviews of all 3 Port Townsend area cideries).

Price:  $9.99
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried this on draft at Schilling Cider House

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First Impression:  Deep purple-red hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells rich, fruity, and of lavender.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of grape, pomegranate, and blueberry (all three of which I imagine are the black currant flavor – I actually have never tried currants outside of cider so couldn’t really identify their flavor), plus hints of lavender especially on the finish.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and sessionability.  Low to moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoy this one.  I usually don’t go for something this tart, but the sweetness helps balance that.  It has some complexity beyond what you’d typically see for a flavored cider from dessert apples.  Its also pretty neat that they can make Organic cider from local ingredients for only $10 / bottle (even less on draft).

Most Similar to:  their plain Black Currant cider, except with lavender

Closing Notes:  This is my favorite cider from Finnriver’s regular lineup.  My other favorites are Fire Barrel (especially the previous recipe – I wasn’t nearly as big of a fan of the latest release), Farmstead, Oak & Apple, and Honey Meadow.  Both this and their regular year-round Black Currant are even better on Nitro draft, tasting crazy smooth.

Have you tried any of Finnriver’s botanical ciders?  What did you think?

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Barns Etc / Hard Cider Shed’s Country Elegance Heirloom Blend Medium

Review of Barns Etc (Hard Cider Shed) Counry Elegance Heirloom Blend cider, Medium sweet.  “Barns Etc” is the cidery in Wenatchee WA, and they have a tasting room called “The Cider Shed” in Cashmere WA.  This is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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Cider:  Country Elegance Heirloom Blend, Medium
Cidery:  Barns Etc / Hard Cider Shed
Cidery Location:  Wenatchee/Cashmere WA
ABV:  7.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft cider from heirloom cider apples

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Availability:  very limited (see here), mostly only through their tasting room, plus local delivery for large orders, a few shops in the Cashmere / Wenatchee / Leavenworth WA area, and possibly shipping

Cider Description:  Our attention to blending sweet and tart heirloom apples provides this wonderful cider. Grilled salmon pairs nicely with our Country Elegance Heirloom blend ~ medium. 

Cidery Description:  Country Elegance artisan hard ciders are hand crafted using all natural fresh pressed heirloom apples from Cashmere and Wenatchee, Washington family orchards.  The delicate blending of sweet and tart apples provide a pure and uniquely flavorful blend of ciders.

Price:  $22
Where Bought:  Broken  Barrel, a bottle shop + tasting room with wine & cider in Leavenworth WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, when we were in town for a few days in early December 2017; see my Leavenworth cider roundup post here

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First Impression:  Light gold hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells of acidic heirloom apple cider.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins and sourness.  No funk or bitterness.  Notes of heirloom apple juice & pomace, caramel, orange, and grapefruit.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  Moderate to high sessionability and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  Nice flavor and complexity.  A perfect amount of sweetness for my tastes.  Not super tart/acidic like so many heirloom apple ciders (likely balanced by the additional sweetness, as so often they go fully dry).  However, it would have been awesome without that hint of sour (I’m really sensitive to it and it just hits my taste buds wrong).  Also, at $22, I think it is a bit spendy, costing more than most all other local ciders I’ve bought, even those from cider apples, which usually run ~ $15-20, like from Alpenfire, Snowdrift, Liberty, Dragon’s Head, and Whitewood.  Although 750ml can look like a lot, its only 25.4 oz, and at only 7% ABV, it was easy for me to finish the bottle by myself in one night.  It always great to see ciders made from heirloom and/or cider apples, instead of the flavored ciders from dessert apples which make up the majority of the market.

Most Similar to:  nothing really, as it had a different flavor profile than most heirloom apple ciders I’ve had, but it was a bit similar to Frecon Farms Scrumpy and Eden Guinevere’s Pearls

Closing Notes:  They also have dry and sweet versions of this heirloom cider, as well as a cherry cider and a perry, all retailing for $22.

Have you tried any cider from north central Washington?  What did you think?

Locust Watermelon

Review of Locust’s Watermelon cider.  I previously tried this on draft (see here), but this time I am doing a full review of a can.  I’ve also previously tried Locust’s Sweet Dark Cherry, Original Dry, Green Tea Infused, Washington Dessert AppleBittersweet ReservePumpkinThai GingerBourbon Barrel AgedWinesapAlder Smoked AppleMangoElder & OakWabi SabiApricot 1Sweet Aged AppleBerry SessionSmoked BlueberryVanilla BeanWinter BananaChili PineappleSeckel PerryHibiscusHoney Pear (drier)Apricot 2PineappleHoney Pear (sweeter)

Cider:  Watermelon
Cidery:  Locust
Cidery Location:  Woodinville WA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz cans (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples with watermelon juice

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Availability:  likely at least in Washington, Oregon, Chicago, Florida, California, and Texas

Cider Description:  Washington apples, watermelon juice, & that’s all

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 them from destruction because their juice is still great. Our unique process then transforms the apples into great cider through methodical yeast selection, meticulous temperature control, slow aging, and creative and deliberate blending.

They have tap rooms in Woodinville WA, Seattle WA (Ballard), Tacoma WA, and Ft. Worth TX.

Price:  $9.99 / four pack
Where Bought:  PCC in Fremont Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, after visiting the Schilling Cider House

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First Impression:  Hazy light pink-orange hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells very mildly of watermelon.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of watermelon and a hint of white grape.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I like it, especially as I’m a huge watermelon fan.  Its a nice light option for spring & summer, less sweet, but still fairly flavorful, although fairly simple.

Most Similar to:  The only other watermelon beverages I’ve tried are a watermelon perry (from pears) from NV Cider and a watermelon session mead (from honey) from Bee Haven.

Closing Notes:  Locust has a great lineup of flavorful ciders, from dry to sweet, although my favorites from them are on the sweeter end (this one, Bittersweet Reserve, Sweet Aged Apple, and Vanilla Bean + Smoked Blueberry)

Have you tried Locust Watermelon?  What did you think?

One Tree Staycation

Review of One Tree’s Staycation, a new ish pineapple mango cider.  It is my first time trying this, but I have also had their Lemon Basil, Caramel Cinnamon, HuckleberryDark CherryCrisp AppleRaspberry, and Pina Colada.

Cider:  Staycation (Pineapple Mango)
Cidery:  One Tree
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  5.6%
How Supplied:  four pack of 16oz cans
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples, with pineapple and mango

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Availability:  Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Illinois, since October 2017, plus limited online sales

Cider Description:
Tropical Vacations are overrated.
-Sharks eat people, period. End of story
-Vog, It’s volcanic fog… Seriously look it up
-In the rain forest, all it does is rain ALL.DAY.LONG
-Sally doesn’t really sell seashells by the sea shore
-When a jellyfish stings you, there’s only one solution…

Cidery Description:  It all started with a love for the Washington apple and a father’s day gift of an at home cider kit … and the rest is history. One Tree Hard Cider is made from locally grown ingredients right here in Washington State. When we started on the journey we wanted to use a wide range of ingredients and flavors in our hard ciders to show that it all starts with apples but it doesn’t end there! Our core ciders are Lemon Basil, Caramel Cinnamon, Huckleberry, and Raspberry. We also release seasonal ciders such as Peach Tea, Ginger Apricot, Pumpkin and Cranberry, and keep your eye out for special draft-only limited release ciders! Whether you like your cider sweet or tart, you’ll find a One Tree Hard Cider just for you!

They have a cider house in Spokane Washington.

Price:  $3.99 / single can ($11.99 / four pack)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing (although I had been on the lookout for a single can, as I had seen it in four-packs)

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First Impression:  Hazy lemonade hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of pineapple with hints of coconut and mango.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pineapple, coconut, mango, and lime.  Quick finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Great!  I can’t remember the last time I tried a flavored cider I liked this much; so many are too dry or too sweet, barely flavorful, one dimensional, etc.  I loved the coconut flavor, although they didn’t say they added any, so maybe its just me?  Update – It has become a staple in my cider fridge, and unlike many other ciders, I liked it just as much (or even more) the second time I tried it.

Most Similar to:  One Tree Pina Colada, except more pineapple than coconut, and much less sweet.

Closing Notes:  This appears to be a year round release – yay.

Have you tried One Tree Staycation?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Tempest New England Style

Review of Alpenfire Tempest, a newish special release, New England Style (with raisins & brown sugar, high ABV, aged).  It is my first time trying this, although I’ve had other New England Style ciders, and tried most of Alpenfire’s line-up (see here).

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Cider:  Tempest
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  10%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American artisan New England Style cider (4 week fermentation, tank aged 5 months, bottle conditioned)

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Availability:  special release in fall 2017 (55 cases), likely only available in Western WA, although they have online sales (but I didn’t see this one at the time of review)

Cider Description:  Alpenfire’s Tempest, a new release from the 2016 harvest. Phenolic and spiritous, rounded and warming. A proper fall cider, estate apples refermented with raisins and brown sugar. Create your own tempest in a tea cup with this winter warmer.

Apple Varieties:  Muscadet de dieppe, Kingston Black, Liberty, Republican, Democrat, plus many more

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Cider, the West’s first certified organic cidery, growing traditional cider apples since 2003.  Family owned and operated.

Price:  $15
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Medium pumpkin orange amber.  Still.  Smells of bittersweet & heirloom apples with a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Low funk and tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  Notes of bittersweet apple, apple pomace, must, orange, and leather.  Long finish with a hint of sourness and an herbal quality.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and complexity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  This really reminded me of English cider, with the cider apple flavor, slightly higher sweetness, and funk.  I loved the flavor and style.  It really had all my favorites qualities all in one package, which is rare (rich, complex, flavorful, mid level sweetness, cider apples, and higher ABV).  I’m also a fan of the 500ml bottles, as I’m more likely to buy them (plus it probably reduced the price of this cider from ~$20 to $15).

Most Similar to:  New England style cider isn’t too common so I’ve only tried four others that I can remember, but this is my favorite by far, likely due to its similarity to English cider.  Otherwise, Alpenfire Tempest was similar to Cockrell’s Colonial Winter, more flavorful & complex than Seattle Cider’s New England Style, less sour than Reverend Nat’s Providence, and more traditional than Tilted Shed’s Barred Rock.

Closing Notes:  I am really excited to try more of Alpenfire’s new releases, which have been very plentiful of late, as they are are my favorite Washington cidery.

Have you tried New England Style cider?  What did you think?

Manchester Road 42

Review of Manchester Road’s “42”.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.  They appear relatively new, only available in a limited area of Washington, and to only have released this one cider.  Despite the name and theming, this is a locally owned and operated cidery, although the cidermaker is British.

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Cider:  42
Cidery:  Manchester Road Cider Co.
Cidery Location:  Chelan WA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and draft)
Style:  American cider from dessert apples, medium sweet

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Availability:  Very limited, in parts of WA, such as Chelan, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Orondo, and Cashmere (see here)

Cider Description:  42 is Manchester Road’s leading cider and our first to bring to market.  This cider is light and refreshing with full apple flavor. The recipe was developed over the last decade reminiscent of a modern, British draft, style cider. 42 tastes great with all types of food and is especially delicious on a warm, summer afternoon. 42 – a smooth, medium sweet, sparkling cider.  

Cidery Description:  Our production facility sits in the heart of Washington’s apple country with over 170,000 acres of orchards surrounding us. We are able to make our cider locally and with the best apples in the world. What truly makes us unique is the combination of Washington apples and a British cider maker.  With over 30 years of experience enjoying and making cider and growing up where cider originated, our cider maker was inspired by north central Washington apples to create a modern, refreshing cider that is popular today in British pubs.

Price:  ~$5.99
Where Bought:  Dan’s Food Market in Leavenworth WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing, when we visited in early Dec 2017

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First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Nearly still.  Smells of sweet apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of concentrated baked apple with honey and pear, and hints of spice.  Quick finish length.  High sessionability.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  However, it didn’t remind me of English cider in the least.  English cider would typically be made from bittersweet cider apples, and thus have their characteristic flavor (plus it is often drier and higher in tannins).  The flavor was most similar to a typical American craft cider from dessert apples.

I did however notice “natural flavoring” on the ingredient list, which puzzled me, as it is typically only found in commercial cider.  Maybe apple flavor?  This was quite apple-forward, but ciders of this style are often significantly back sweetened with unfermented apple juice, to impart an apple-forward flavor which can be muted when using dessert apples and fermenting to dryness (which is the easiest way to make cider), add sweetness, and reach a target lower ABV.

Most Similar to:  a mix of Locust Honey Pear and Locust Aged Apple

Closing Notes:  I’m interested to see what they release next.

Have you tried Manchester Road Cider?  What did you think?

Finnriver Fire Barrel

Review of Finnriver Fire Barrel.   I’ve tried the previous version of this (see here) as well as this new version on tap (see here), but now I’m reviewing a new bottle in more detail.  I’ve also tried most of Finnriver’s lineup (see here).

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Cider:  Fire Barrel
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  9.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottle (and draft)

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Availability:  Limited release.  Finnriver ciders are sold in WA, OR, CA, AZ, NV, TX, IL, CO, and Alberta & BC Canada (detailed info here).  They also have an online store (which can ship to WA, OR, CA, AK, CO, MN, FL, & WA D.C.), but I didn’t see this one at the time of review.

Cider Description:  A robust, bold and balanced taste of traditional cider apples— with a whisper of whiskey and rye spice; smoky aromas; notes of caramel and vanilla; and a mature, tannic finish.

100% Finnriver orchard organic cider apples: Chisel Jersey, Brown Snout, Harry Master’s Jersey, Medaille d’Or, Frequin rouge, Dabinette & Major.

Carefully farmcrafted and fermented with a blend of homegrown Finnriver orchard organic cider apples and white wine yeast in stainless steel tanks. Once the fermentation is complete, we cask the cider in Washington rye whiskey barrels for 5 months to impart depth and character. This award-winning cider was inspired by PNW cidermaker Drew Zimmerman, whose mentorship and cider apple trees helped us establish our orchard.

After chilling, allow the cider to warm slightly and serve; we favor Fire Barrel in a Belgian-style tulip glass. Try it with roasted pork, slow roasted brisket, a blue cheese burger, cured meats, smoked cheeses or any other hearty, savory fare. Caramelize an onion with Firebarrel cider and add to a dish for a feisty meal.

Cidery Description:  At Finnriver we gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you farmcrafted hard ciders and spirited fruit wines. We are inspired by the allure of the fruit, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive.  Our mission is to inspire a deeper connection to the land that sustains us….Some of these ciders are small-batch, seasonal and labor-intensive. Others are produced with contemporary methods and more readily available year-round…Finnriver grows over twenty varieties of traditional and heirloom apples in our organic orchard, to feature in our traditional and specialty ciders.

Finnriver has a great illustrated product guide (see here).  They have a tasting room and are on the Olympic Pennsylvania cider route, along with the Eaglemount and Alpenfire cideries.

Price:  $25
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  My husband got this for me for Christmas!  He didn’t know I had already tried this new release, but had remembered me loving the old one.

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First Impression:  Light caramel amber hue.  Nearly still.  Smells of cider apples, caramel, and bourbon.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Very light bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, caramel, brown sugar, leather, orange, bourbon, smoke, and oak.  Long bitter finish.  Moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  Low barrel influence and sessionability.  Low to moderate bourbon influence.  Moderate to high complexity.

Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  However, compared to the old release, this is a disappointment.  The price is significantly higher, it is drier, less flavorful, more bitter, and thinner bodied.  I agree to serve this at cellar temperature (between fridge & room temp), as colder would mute the flavor.  I even enjoy ciders of this style at room temperature.

Most Similar to:  Other ciders from bittersweet cider apples.  This reminds me of English cider, but with the added bourbon and oak.

Closing Notes:   I am curious about next year’s release, and if it will be more like the previous version that I absolutely love.

Have you tried Finnriver Fire Barrel?  What did you think?