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Entries in Cider Makers (Artisan & Traditional) (10)

Thursday
Sep182008

Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider

Blossomwood Cidery - Farmhouse Sem-Sweet Blossomwood Cidery - Farmhouse Sem-Sweet Label Art

This cider came to attention and my doorstep through what I can only call divine intervention. I think... Let's just call it a wonder of the internet. Whatever the case I'm very glad it it did. I sat down on a nice Summer evening with my girlfriend Heather and her brother Dave and had what I would consider real cider tasting. Tasting, focusing, concentrating, translating and recording the data with the sole purpose of writing this. I only hope we did it the justice it deserves.

In the bottle and then subsequently in the glass Blossomwood's Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider had an absolute crystal clear brilliance and light straw-like golden colored luminance. As clear as you could hope for with a clear pale gold with a sort of warm peachy rosé hue. Nice to look at. I know you can't judge a cider by it's clarity but as I looked at this cider it was hard not to get excited about what was to come.

The Aroma. As I recorded it we thought the cider had a clean sweet oakiness character with sweet aromas of brown sugar, caramel, apple pie, apple crisp. natural, clean, slightly baked and fresh baked.

Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider

I generally prefer dry cider but Blossomwood's Semi-Sweet Farmhouse really skewed my impression of what a "sweeter" cider could offer. Far from the "tastes like fresh apple juice" cider  or "hard cider" cliche I found it to be intensely refreshing and not overly sweet. Crisp fresh baked tangy apple flavors and well rounded grilled pineapple sweet acidity. Gracefully almost unnoticeably it finishes gently, nice and dry leaving just enough of an oaky tannin sort of impression behind. A little earthy even. Golden, baked, crisp, clean, refreshing, sort of earthy... Sounds like Colorado to me.

I don't know of much cider activity out Colorado way but they can rest assured Blossomwood seems like a traditional cider maker that does it right. Given chance and availability this cider could be a hit with just about anyone, from the hardcore discriminate cider traditionalist to the cider new-comer you are longing to ween off the Woodchuck. Approachable levels of complexity, oakiness and character, this semi-sweet can surely hold his own against some of the best North American ciders I've tasted. Given the chance I'd pick it up again in a second and drink it nearly as fast. If I had any criticism I might say it really didn't push the envelope, then again I do find myself wondering if semi-sweet ciders should.

If you live in or near Western Colorado look for it...

Wednesday
Jul232008

Cider Tasting at Gravity Beer Market

Gravity Beer Market ~ Olympia WA Gravity Beer Market ~ Olympia WA

It's been too long and I am way over due on the blog posts.
Cider School was great, everything I expected and more but I learned and experienced so much that I'm finding it difficult to decide exactly what to write about. That post will come soon.

In the meantime if any of you folks out there in and around Olympia are curious about ciders I will be helping Gravity Beer Market will be holding an informal cider tasting at their "Last Friday Tasting" which is this Friday.

Here are the details:
When: Friday, July 25th
Where: Gravity Beer Market
Time: 5-7pm
Cost: $5 per person with proper ID
Ciders: Strongbow (England), Aspall Dry (England), Sam Smith Organic (England), Wandering Aengus Semi Dry Organic (Oregon), Westcott Bay (Washington), Spire Pear (Washington)

Gravity co-owner Roma has chosen a wide variety of different ciders from the Northwest and England. We have a few craft ciders as well as a few production ciders. This would be a opportunity and introduction for folks wanting to learn a little bit about what the cider market has to offer these days.
Come with questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

PS: In the next day or so I'll posting tasting notes and reviews of a really impressive Cider and Perry from Blossomwood Cidery which is located in Cedaredge, Colorado.
Thursday
May152008

British Invasion: Samuel Smith Organic Cider?

Samuel Smith's NEW Cider
For me the release of Samuel Smith's Organic Cider comes completely out of left field. I've long enjoyed Sammy Smith beers and ales. Their Oatmeal Stout is one of my favorites, the Imperial Stout is tops, the Winter Warmer a Holiday favorite for sure and the Organic Lager and Ale always hits the spot. Let's face it for a larger independent brewer they represent consistent quality, and you can buy it absolutely everywhere and drink it most any time.

Sammy Smith's new cider holds true to standards set by it's hopped and malted forefathers. They call it an "Organic" cider and the label boasts the tag line "Produced from Organically grown apples.". That doesn't mean this isn't a cider produced from organically grown apples turned to concentrate. I haven't found any information that states whether or not it is or isn't. So who knows... The back label carries a USDA Organic logo up top. By Organic standards it looks legit.

I'd call Sammy's new cider a real solid medium sweet cider. It possesses nicely fermented apple flavors and was a lot bigger on taste and quality than I had expected. The sweetness is pleasantly backed up and balanced with a wee bit of tartness and acidity which I find absolutely necessary in a drinkable cider.

To sum it all up Samuel Smith's Organic Cider isn't as dry as I would like (not much is), nor as complex as I'd like (ditto) and I'd love to see a bit of tannin zip and zing to it (amen). It is however a really great "Daily Driver" and for what it is, what it costs and who it is competing against it is a terrific addition to the growing number of quality ciders on the market. If you like the Strongbows, Blackthornes, and Magners out there or if you are even just starting to look into enjoying ciders you are sure to enjoy Samuel Smith's new organic cider and I whole heartedly recommend it. This could be your "gateway" to real ciders.

Enjoy and if anybody out there is able to find it and give it a try, I'd love it if you would drop on back by and tell me what you think.

Got suggestions or even review requests? I'd be happy to oblige and/or add them to my list of "to-do's". In the not to distant future I hope to review 2 of my absolute Northwest favorites... Westcott Bay Ciders from San Juan Island Washington and Wandering Aengus from Oregon. Not to mention a couple bourbon recommendation.

Thanks for reading.

Update: Ran across a new post about Sammy Smith's new cider here http://blogs.timesunion.com/dowdondrinks/?p=504
Friday
Apr252008

Cider Academy.

Done deal. 4 years in the waiting and I'm finally going to attend Peter Mitchell's Cider Academy. The course I am taking is Cider Making - Principles & Practice course and it is held at the WSU Mount Vernon extension. Not too far away.

I'm pretty excited overall and the syllabus is a dream. I hope to really absorb a lot. I've never spoken with anyone who has attended these courses but I read great things. I'm hopeful as this isn't a cheap class to attend. I'm confident it will meet my expectations and be a great experience to say the least.

It is hard to choose but I expect some of the course highlights to be;

Cider Orcharding.
An really interesting topic for me. My Mom's side of the family is from Wenatchee here is Washington. The once self proclaimed "Apple Capitol of the World" is now host to a ailing apple industry and a virgining wine industry in neighboring Lake Chelan which is or was once equally apple heavy. Now orchards are being torn out to make way for vinyards. Other than just going organic can diversifying product by means of grafting cider varieties as well as other old time varieties be a viable answer? If you know apples you know apples... Why grapes? Anyway that is another blog post entirely.

Principles for Cider Production and Preparation for Fermenting.
Can you go over read about them enough times? When all is said and done this is the real reason behind going. It will be great to hear it all and take notes from a respected professional. Fruit selection, harvesting, processing, juice composition and preparation. Nice!

Commercial Cider Producer Visit
One of the days we'll be headed North of the border to Vancouver Island to check out Merridale Estate Cider. I've had sought out and had their cider twice now while in Victoria. Heading out there for a tour was high on my list for Heather and my next trip up there. It isn't harvest or anything but it should be a nice time of year to visit and for sure interesting to no end.

The Legislative Requirements, Assessment and Profiling of Cider, Blending, Lab Analysis and so-on. Honestly it all looks great and I'm pretty excited to finally be going.

On a side note some of my own pressed and blended batches are starting to take shape. Man oh man. Much much better than what I am using from the local cider mill. I don't know what they did to their recipe but at one point I was pretty successful with their juice... I was beginning to think it was me. Well anyways fresh pressed and thoughtfully blended is key, my fermentation temperature re-revelation didn't hurt either. Keep it cool brothers.

Sometimes apple picking/press partner, fellow fermenter and coffee colleague Michael Elvin wrote me up nice review of what I think will be one of the better batches yet. Surprisingly or not, it contains some great cider apples kicked down by a buddy on Whidbey. Thats trouble... How the hell am I suppose to get my hands on cider apples every year? Ideas offers and inquiries welcome...
Friday
Sep212007

Apple Crazy in Olympia.


1884 Apple Orchard, Washington


Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. The temperature, the weather, the colors, the sounds, the smells. It all works for me.

The past two years have left me Apple crazy during Autumn. This condition is exacerbated now that I own an apple press. I've been out hustling them apples and harassing my friends or anyone else I can think of for my share of the apples and/or pears that lay waste in backyards all across the Olympia/Tumwater/Lacey area. Lots of looking and lots of asking (well 1 note and 2 classifieds) but no finding... Until just this last week, it was all beginning to feel a little bleak.

Until I received an email last week from a guy Steve I met at the Darrington Bluegrass Festival in 2006 . Steve lives on Whidbey Island in or near a town named Coupeville. As we got to talking last year it was revealed to me that Steve has 2 or 3 Vintage Cider Apple varieties growing on his property. I don't recall them all by name but I do remember he's got a Kingston Black however. Well anyway Steve emailed to offer me 40-50 lbs of his cider apples. Although not enough press and ferment an entire batch, that amount of apples is more than adequate to supplement a good solid base of local Olympia neighborhood apple blend.


Besides all of that I got a phone call last night about some apples I was inquiring about on the Eastside of Olympia. My buddy Kaplan had lived in this house last year and Michael Elvin (of Batdorf & Bronson) and myself were able to take as many as we needed. We took more than we could press as it turned out but the cider that resulted from our pressings was really pretty good. Very tart but very nice. Tart and nice being WAY better than sweet and syrupy any day.

I've also had my eyes on a couple trees that are in a yard adjacent to my buddy Chris' backyard which may work out too.

If you live anywhere near the Olympia and know folks with apples or pears drop me a line. I'm not against rewarding donors or finders with some finished product... Sweet or fermented.

P.S. I promise part one of my Hard Cider Tutorials are coming. I've been too busy visiting great places and scamming apples to be inspired by the computer.

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Reeltime Travelers - Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider
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