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3 weeks?

Banjo's obsession

Has it really been over three weeks since my last entry? Besides being busy with work, making cider, attending Bluegrass Festivals and entertaining a tennis ball obsessed pooch I don't have any excuses.

I've photographed and taken notes of my cider making process in an attempt to write "step by step" blog entries. It is almost time to rack my "Blog Cider" so I better get on putting up Step 1.

I also have an article in this month's Barista Magazine co-written with the bossman Terry Z about portafilter baskets called "Basket Case" for all the coffee folks out there. If coffee folk is what you are pick up a copy or better yet subscribe Barista Magazine is really a great publication.

Doc's Draft Hard Cider ~ Warwick Valley Winery NY

Doc's Draft Hard Cider - Warwick Valley Winery NY

I had some pictures of these bottles up on my Flickr account was asked last night about the taste of this cider. I had every intention of blogging a review however that request kind of kicked into gear. Below is an edited and amended version of my response.


Late one Saturday night about a month ago I was checking out some cider and cidery websites and I ran across a good review of Doc's Draft Hard Ciders from Warwick Valley Winery in New York. I surfed on over to their website, read some of their descriptions and company info and was equally impressed. I happen to see a "buy now" link and plopped a few bottles into their website's shopping cart thinking the shipping would be outrageous. The shipping price turned out to be very reasonable so I placed an order for 4 bottles of their standard hard cider only passing up the raspberry blend for some unknown reason. I make both a raspberry and a blackberry blend myself I have no clue as to why I didn't order any. As I said it was pretty late and I know I wasn't thinking clearly thanks to some previously ingested ciders.


The ciders arrived promptly about a week or so later on the 3rd of July from Warwick Valley Winery. I popped a couple in the fridge and waited a whole day to open them on the 4th of July to see just what I had ordered. As some may know ciders can be scary things in North America with bodies and sweetness bordering on Kool-Aid. I can say that I was pleasantly surprised (maybe surprised isn't the word) to find that this was some really really great cider. As the back label stated and as I assumed Doc's is fermented using Champagne yeast which is one of the most common yeasts used in cider production today. I've used it myself more than anything else. Doc's cider was clean and perfectly sweet, not too sweet as it is fairly dry compared to those sickly sweet commodity ciders some companies out there produce.


Doc's cider as promised was big on fresh apple taste and had a really nice balance of alcohol to taste ratio. Don't get me wrong I like them strong but in my opinion flavor can end up playing second fiddle to alcohol strength at times. It may have been the patriotic day and all although Bluegrass, Bourbon and Cider is about all I get patriotic about these days... but I imagined that this cider from an area as old as our country tastes exactly like the type of ancestral East Coast ciders our colonial fore fathers use to enjoy. I've had others I like better here on the West coast however Doc's Draft is well worth the price and shipping.I'll be placing another order very soon that Raspberry blend is more than intriguing now that I know the quality of drink is there.


Beer Goggles... 

Okay... I don't usually make it a habit of posting videos however this is an exception. Watch a first six days of the fermentation of a stout beer in 3 minutes, if you have the time you have to watch it. It is a great video with a hilarious soundtrack selection.

Gravity Global Beer Market ~ Olympia WA

Gravity Beer Market ~ Olympia's own beer store!

As of about three weeks and possibly $150+ (of my money) ago Olympia was gifted with it's very own specialty beer shop, The Gravity Global Beer Market located at 1001 4th Ave E. Besides copious amounts of premium beers from near and far they also are even offering a quite few ciders I'm happy to say. Here is a Google map link for the locals.

For those who don't live here (or those who don't go out) I should explain that we are far from destitute. As small as we are here Olympia has it's share of notorious bars and world class microbreweries that serve up the best of the best. We have Fishtale and Dick's Brewing companies which are both renowned all across the Northwest for the quality of their fermentations. But until that fateful afternoon a few weeks ago, going out was the only way to get guaranteed quality and selection.

I don't recall how many pilgramages I've made so far to our new oasis appropriately named The Gravity Room. I do know I've dropped $15-30 on each visit and I know these folks are getting a good chunk of my paycheck from now on. The Gravity Room owners, a husband and wife team are really great. Not only are they very sociable, they know their stuff when it comes to the brew and during a recent conversation I found out one of them was former employee of Columbia Distributing, which is one of the bigger beer distributors in our area carrying 80 varieties of beers on a regular basis.

Gravity offers up a great selection of beers as I mentioned earlier with more on the horizon I've been told. I've expanded my horiszon and had some great beers from the Gravity Room. I'll share one of the highlights so far.

La Gunitas Brewing CompanyLagunitas Undercover Shutdown Ale.
Among some of the finer beers I've picked up is Lagunita's Undercover Shutdown Ale. Lagunitas for those who haven't had the pleasure, could be Northern Cali's premier brewing company at the moment. Now that is my opinion and with out a doubt it is saying a lot. I'm a longtime fan and advocate of the beers brewed by our near neighbors to the South. Anchor Steam, Northern Cali has it's share of great Mendocino, Anderson Valley, North Coast, Lost Coast. Anyway Lagunitas Brewing Company's Undercover Shutdown Ale as advertised is a really bitter beer with tons of fruity fermented flavors. I caution you anymore than one of these bad boys and you are likely to need a cab or better yet just enjoy these at home. If you live in Oly and near the Gravity Room, or if you have a great beer store in your town or region I highly recommend you pick up this 9+% especially bitter ale.

Cider Press!

Rebuilding the Apple Press
Beverages seem to rule my world. Don't ask me how this has happened but it has. I happened to fall into a job in the specialty coffee/espresso industry about 5 years ago and it is a great place to be. Lots of good people and tons of the best coffee. If you buy your coffee from the grocery store. Don't. If you think you enjoy your espresso at the mermaid or some other chain do some research and really try (I mean really really look) for good espresso shop in your area. There is a world of difference and you'll know it when you taste it. If you can't find one give me a shout and tell me where you live.

Anyway enough about espresso for now. I grew up in Seattle during the renaissance of the micro brewery. I can remember buying cases of Ballard Bitter from a small "hole in the brewery" shop that was Redhook for my Uncle at Xmas because "you couldn't buy it in Wenatchee". I've been known to enjoy a beer or two and was even lucky enough to have friends who home brewed that taught me the joy of making your own.

I don't recall if I turned away from beer a few years back or turned towards hard cider. Maybe it was the six pack and a 22 nights at Evergreen. After finding a good cider or two my favor just seemed to drift away from beer. Cider is like coffee in a way, you think you've had it and enoyed it from some of the larger more readily available brands. You really haven't drank a good cider until you have located some "micro brewed" artisan crafted small batch ciders. Cider is a true American tradition, is one of the first fermented drinks produced in this country and it is NOT SWEET. To me a great traditional cider is well balanced and usually dry, however I'll make an exception here and again. I'll get into that topic a bit deeper eventualy I'm sure.

So for the past 3 or so years I've dedicated a good chunk of my free time to making my own hard cider. I've probably made 20+ batches, I've read plenty of books about it, experimented with juices, yeasts, sugars, honeys and other adjuncts. I even got to press apples last fall and fermented that. Pressing cider yourself should be the goal of any self respecting serious cider maker. Not only can you ferment single varietals, you can also test your hand at the art of blending apples. Something that should sound familiar to the coffee folks. I've been wanting a press for years and never got around to getting one.

About a week or so ago I noticed an entry in my Craigslist rss feeds I had searching for a cider press all across the State(Washington). I figured since well we are a pretty serious apple producing State and do have the once self proclaimed "Apple Capital of the World" I'd be sure to find one eventually. Anyway there it was in Spokane's classifieds... Cider Press $550. Some quick and wise consultation with the girlfriend and a call or two to my brother who lives in Spokane and I knew that this was possibly the press I'd been waiting for.

The press was exactly what I had been looking for; a Happy Valley Ranch American Harvester Double-Tub Cider & Wine Press. I called the press's owner, asked a few questions, was told it was owned by a little old lady and only used to go to the grocery store and church. In all seriousness it was owned by a little old lady and it was supposedly used once. The next day I transfered $550 to my brother's checking account. Since he was coming out to Seattle last weekend I was able to get it fast. There is most definitely something to be said for instant gratification.

My hard cider making days using our local cider press may not be completely over as it is an economical and quick way to start a batch. My new press will allow me to ferment single varietals as well as some custom blending.

Apple season here I come. Coincidentally if you live in the Olympia area and have apple trees drop me a line.