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Entries in Cider (17)

Thursday
Apr142011

"The Secret Stories of Cider" aspires to harvest international cider culture.

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

There is an amazing cider book in the works and I have the distinct honor and pleasure of announcing it to you all.

A collaborative endeavor between renown cider photographer Bill Bradshaw and award winning UK beer writer Pete Brown, this new cider will be based around craft cider, true cidermakers, cider culture, cider drinkers, celebrations, and their stories on an international scale. Bill and Pete plan to travel to the World's most prominent cidermaking regions, where they will meet cider folks, observe  and experience each culture while capturing amazing imagery and stories. And of course drinking some great cider too. Lucky gents... As they tell it their cider travels will take them from their homes in England, over to Spain and the Asturias, to France, Germany, and beyond. Best of all they even want to visit the North American cidermakers.

Read on and you will find out more about the both of them, their experiences with cider, their expectations and vision for the book, and how they came to join forces.

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: First of all I'd like to thank you two for inviting me to participate in a historic blog post like this. Having seen a lot of work from the both of you, all I can say that it is an honor.  You are inspiring examples in your respective fields.  Pete I love your blog, your video clips are great, and I cannot wait to buy the first of your books.  And...  A special congratulations to Bill who has quickly become one of the World's newest and most promising cider bloggers.

For those that don't know who you both are, can each of you start by briefly telling us a little bit about yourselves?  Where you live?  What you do?

B: Well, I’m 35, a freelance photographer based in UK and I’ve been doing photography since I was about 8, but only started to take it seriously when I started travelling seriously in 1997.  I’ve been self employed since 2003 and l love it. I live in Somerset, south-west UK.  It’s a really picturesque rural area, geographically perfect for growing apples so there are orchards and cider everywhere! Professionally, the majority of the work I do is creating images for businesses, I chose cider as an arena for my personal work so its all been shot in my own time.

P: Hi, I’m originally from Yorkshire, the industrial north of England - well, it used to be.  I moved to London and worked in advertising for a while, but I always wanted to be a writer, ever since I won a short story competition at school.  OK, so the only other entrant was a seven year old kid, and I was eleven, but you don’t need to know that.  I won a short story competition, wrote a dreadful first novel (trust me, I’m not being modest - I’m not a modest guy) and then drifted into writing about beer. Three books later, I was named UK beer writer of the year.  I write for a lot of magazines, and do a blog that’s read on both sides of the pond (http://petebrown.blogspot.com).  While I still love beer, I drink other stuff as well, and am looking forward to expanding the remit of both my pen and my glass.

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: You will embark on a project together very soon that I find very exciting.  Tell us what that is.

B: We’re trying to put together a new kind of cider book, one that looks at both the modern culture and social history of cider.  In it's early stages and we are still in discussion with publishers  but basically -we want to explore it honestly and thoroughly. I do that visually and Pete does it literally.  We want to cover the international aspect of cider too.  I am aware that each cider producing country (in Europe anyway!) seems to think that they have the most interesting cider culture, when actually, you take the time to explore them all, they are all fascinating, similar and yet unique.  That’s what I want to capture and show the rest of the world.  The book will be a platform that we use to showcase each cider culture, their similarities and idiosyncrasies.

P: I like to tell stories.  What interested me about beer was the culture surrounding it, the customs, its role in history, what it tells us about ourselves, how we use it to help shape our identities.  Through my beer work, people regularly assume I know loads about cider.  But until I met Bill, I hardly knew anything about it. So I figured I should learn.  And what I’ve seen of the cider culture so far, I absolutely love.  I’m hoping to tell the story of my journey of discovery around the world of cider.  And whereas there have been loads of books on beer and wine, we don’t think anyone has done a similar thing in cider to what Michael Jackson did in beer or Hugh Johnson did for wine.  We’re just finding out about the global cider culture - or cultures, I should say - and the opportunity to be the first to document the whole lot in one book is exhilarating.


Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: Do you guys both drink cider regularly?

P: Not as often as I would like.  I go and see Bill down in the West Country and it’s like nectar, but I think something happens to it when you bring it back into the city - it never tastes as good!  But I’m finding out all about the diversity of cider now, experimenting with cider cocktails, substituting stronger ciders for wine and even champagne, so it’s becoming a much bigger part of my repertoire.  And I’m trying to go down and see Bill more, to where the really good stuff is.

B: I do, you can’t avoid it in Somerset and I’m really proud of our tradition and how good our cider is.  I also make a point of trying the local stuff wherever I can find it - you have to really.  We have a really strong cider culture here and in many pubs you’re spoilt for choice of decent farmhouse.  We have traditions here going back hundreds of years, including riots when they introduced a cider tax in 1762 to pay for a war with France.  We even used to baptise our babies in it a long time ago, so it has a serious cultural foothold here which is something you grow up with.
People keep giving me samples to try, and besides its full of vitamin C!

 

OTC: Man I have got to see Somerset...  Whose idea was the book?  How did you decide to do it?

P: It’s weird.  I was looking through an old notebook the other day, and I found a rough plan for a book on cider that I sketched out some time last April.  I forgot all about it, and then when Bill contacted me it turned out we’d both been thinking about the same thing independently.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my cider idea, which is why I’d forgotten about it, but when I saw Bill’s photography it became obvious that we had to do it as an illustrated book, and I was very happy to follow his lead.  We were totally in tune on what we wanted it to be - even before we’d met in person!

B: Having been creating cider photos since 2004, I knew something needed to do something with them - at that time they had a limited purpose. I had been exhibiting them under the name IAMCIDER, with some success, but was frustrated with the limitations of an exhibition. I’d wanted to publish a book for a while but wasn’t really sure about how best to do it until I read Pete’s book ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’. It really cracked me up (as in laughed out loud funny). I realised he was someone many of us can relate to, someone who shares a massive enthusiasm and passion for beer. He has a unique, very English tone that really brings to life those feelings many of us have and it made me want to ask him about a beer project... then we got talking about cider.

 Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: Bill, how did you get your start photographing cider?

B: In September 2004 I was asked to document a project that an artist friend of mine as involved with called Apple Villages.  She (Kate Lynch) and author (James Crowden) were running a workshop in 5 significant apple growing areas in Somerset. The idea was to take kids out of the classroom, into their local orchard and teach them about the importance of apple and cider in their shared heritage. Each class was split into 2 groups, half did art -drawing the apples and the orchard. The other half did poetry writing about their experiences there. It lasted 6 months so they could follow the basic process of cidermaking from late summer to a Wassail in January and I was asked in to document it for their records.



OTC: What inspired you to choose cider as a regular inspiration for your art?

B: During the Apples Villages project, I was struck with how lovely the light was in the orchards, how the kids were reacting to it all, so excited and free. I loved the idea that they weren't stuck in a stuffy classroom plodding through the curriculum. Instead, they were outside in the fresh air, throwing apples at each other, enjoying orchards and experiencing life firsthand. Those kids will remember that for the rest of their lives. When the project ended, I couldn’t stop. I just kept visiting cidermakers, orchards, wassails, festivals etc and haven’t stopped since. And I like that you call it art!


OTC
:
I don't take the word art lightly.  While not all photography these days is art, once in a while one can find rare examples that transcend the ordinary and truly personify what art is about. You have some truly magnificent shots.

Back to it...

So exactly what is it about cider? What makes cider so special to you?

B: I’m not sure I know exactly, but I do know I have a compulsion to find out more about cider and our relationship with it and explain to others visually. I want to pay tribute to it with my images and I want to show it the way I feel it in my heart. I know that thing I am seeking has a value and that I can do it justice, because it comes from a loving place.

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: Do you have a favorite cider related subject to photograph?

B: I suppose its the respect people have for apples and cider which comes in many forms. It can be the look in someone's eyes, the effort they put into their packaging, the way they laugh, the state of their hands, the care they take on a simple task. As a photographer, you have to learn how to show those small things, the details that convey that level of respect, and also that what you like isn’t always what other people like. If its to have a wider appeal you have to take a step back, don’t think too much and go on gut feeling - you get good at it. You also have to be aware of how important the ‘edit’ is, the choice of photos you display. To show something holistically, you have to include everything, the good the bad and the ugly.


OTC
:
As you know I am really excited about this book. My girlfriend as my witness I track down whatever cider books I can find. Most of the good ones come from your part of the world. I have a number of very nice cider books. How will yours be different?

B: I like that question. If you’ve ever read any of Pete's books (they really are worth reading) it’ll give you a good idea - because there are no books about cider like that.  I love his honesty, self-deprecation and the tone with which he writes - its quite light. Visually speaking, cider has never quite been represented lovingly enough and I see my duty as doing something about that, especially a project of this size done with a dual vision.  It’ll be like travelling through cider from the inside and we are going to take you the best journey you could wish for.  Pete’s words are so good, they make you thirsty and the book will be something of a pilgrimage you will all want to make after reading it.

 

OTC: Okay Bill so you conceived an idea for a cider book, Pete had ideas of his own as well... How does Pete get involved with you and your project?

B: Well, fate has alot to answer for and when this kind of thing happens, you know its meant to.  Its one of those classic combinations of one thing converging at the same time as two or three others, like invisible cogs turning to open up a new unseen doorway.  Summer 2010 I was about to go on holiday, it was after 5pm one afternoon and our flight meant us leaving at 4am the following morning so I had about 20 minutes to walk to my local bookshop (which is a proper independent bookshop) and buy a book to read on holiday.  The only books that caught my eye as the kind of thing that I would enjoy, were these two books on beer.  I bought one ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’ and chucked it in my bag till we were on the plane.  When started reading it, I couldn’t stop- I didn’t speak to anyone else for about 3 or 4 days because I was too busy laughing to myself. I then really regretted not buying the other book (‘Hops & Glory’) as my wife had suggested.  I felt like I had to go cold-turkey until we flew back so I could buy it.

 

OTC: So when did you finally meet face to face? Drinks? What did you both have?

B: Taunton train station, Wednesday 22nd September 2010..... We went to a pub with free wi-fi because Pete needed to meet some deadlines (Pete ALWAYS has deadlines to meet.)  I think we drank ale because they had sold out of their local cider Gurt Dog. (Mmmmm, Gurt Dog.....)

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

 OTC: Pete you look to have a successful beer writing career.  You were the 2009 British Guild of Beer Writers - Beer Writer of the Year, you maintain a successful blog.  How long have you been writing about beer and beer culture?

P: In my advertising job I ended up working on beer, which was a fantastic experience.  I wanted to read a book that gave me the history and culture of beer, but I couldn’t find one.  So in September 1998, I decided to write it myself.  It kind of grew in scope as I worked on it.  Took me four years of working on it at weekends and holidays until I finally got a publishing deal, and then everything began to take off.  That first book was published in 2003, and my writing career began in earnest after that.

 

OTC: You have 3 books and I saw on your blog that you suggest people read them in the order that you wrote them in. Why is that? Do you have a favorite of the 3?

P: When people come to my readings and say they can only buy one book, and ask which one they should buy, it’s like asking me which one of my babies is the cutest. I tell them - and this is true - that the first one is the most popular, the second is the funniest, and the third is the best-written.  I’d say read them in order simply because that’s the order I wrote them in.  They’re very personal books - especially the last two, where I put myself and my wife and friends into the narrative, and if you read them in order you also read this meta-narrative of my relationship with beer, how it gradually sucks me in, takes over my life, to the point of threatening my marriage and even my sanity.  I think people would be pretty alarmed if they came cold to the third one first.  Likewise, if they did that they might then find the first one a little tame.

 

OTC: Have you written much about cider yet?

P: Not much, until now.  The odd piece here and there for people who, like I say, simply assumed I knew all about it just because I knew about beer, which in my eyes is very different.  I think cider is a very misunderstood drink, and that’s one of the hooks that really attracted me to it.

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: Pete, does writing about cider intimidate you at all?

P: Not really, but back at the beginning, meeting cider makers scared the hell out of me.  The first day we met, Bill took me to meet Julian Temperley, a very outspoken English cider maker.  He spent the first half hour telling me beer was nothing but a crude drink consumed by poor northern men who then go home and beat up their wives.  Then he treated us to a tutored tasting of his ciders.  In beer we get quite specific in the language we use to nail flavour compounds, but my cider palate was less educated, and I just wanted to say, “This tastes really nice.” But I didn’t let myself.  I tried my best, coming out with comparisons to wine and toffee apples.  And when we were on the care on the way home, Bill said, “All that flavour stuff - Julian doesn’t really go in for all that.  We usually don’t say much more than, “This tastes really nice.”  

 

OTC: Now that is hilarious.  I won't mention names but it sort of reminds me of an outspoken cidermaker of our own here in the states.

Why exactly did you decide to take up with Bill on this crazy cider project?

P: I wouldn’t say I’m bored of beer - I do get bored of it, but never for more than 24 hours.  But I kind of felt I’d gone as far as I could in beer without consolidating and revisiting old ground. I instinctively wanted to do a book on cider but had no momentum.  Bill came along with the passion, the excellent photography, the product knowledge, the contacts, the boundless enthusiasm... He makes the idea of writing this book seem very easy.  Well, as easy as the hellish long dark night of the soul of writing any book can be.

 

OTC: You guys will be traveling to well known cidermaking regions outside of England.  I’m very envious and I hate to ask, but... where are planning on going?

P: In the long gap between you asking these questions and me finally getting around to answering them, we went to the Frankfurt Apfelwein (apple wine) festival.  There were cider makers from all over the world, and our perceptions of what cider is, and what it can be, were stretched waaaay beyond what we’d even considered possible.  We also made loads of useful contacts.  Our priority locations are the US (of course!), Argentina, Asturias in northern Spain, France, and wherever else we can manage!


OTC:
Are you looking forward to any one location more than the others?

P: We’ve got a good feeling about Asturias.  We think we take cider seriously in the UK, but I suspect Asturias is going to be this hardcore culture unlike anything else we’ve seen.  And of course I would have to say the US.  I’m so in love with what you guys have done in beer, I’m keen to see how cider measures up.

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

 OTC: I know you have been or have been studying many of the areas where cider has traditionally been made.  From England to Asturias and France and even Germany, cider styles can vary widely by culture and country.  What is the perception amongst the various European cider making regions regarding one another? Do either of you have a region or cider style you prefer?

B: For me, its Somerset farmhouse, because its the best in the world.  Biased? I don’t know what do you mean?  I grew up with it so, it will always be my favourite.  Its a bit like comparing anyone else’s cooking to your mums, you may eat some amazing food from all around the world cooked by all sorts of talented people, but your mums cooking is going to taste the better because its what you grew up with, its the taste of your childhood.  Having said that, if its balanced, well crafted and made with 100% cider apple juice, it doesn’t really matter where its from, its probably going to taste pretty good!  I do love good Breton Cider... but maybe because I haven’t tried any from US yet.  I know, in a few years time when all is said and done, there will be some serious new contenders, which is such an exciting prospect.

P: Not yet - I’m working on it, but I think this requires a thorough evaluation of as many regions and styles as I can get through before making a decision...

 

Photo courtesy of Bill Bradshaw Photography

OTC: The most exciting part of all of this for me is that you are planning a North American trip to capture our newly re-emerging cider culture.  It certainly would have been much easier and nearly as monumental to collectively feature only European cidermakers and regions.  Comparatively speaking craft cider is new again to us.  What was it that made you want to come here at this moment in time?

P: Again, it’s the enthusiasm and openness I’ve seen in beer, and a curiosity to see how that manifests itself in cider.  To be very crude and horribly over-general, I think in brewing you see two different sides of America summed up perfectly.  In the macro brewers it’s ‘Hey, everything’s gotta be BIG! We got the biggest one of these in the WORLD!’ And in the micros you see that restless, questing spirit, the perpetual push west, and then out to the moon and stars, the breaking down of barriers and seeking out of what’s new.  I have a fairly large bet with myself that American cider making is going to be just as thrilling and inspirational as craft brewing

 

OTC: You are exactly right.  The more I travel to other cider destinations in North America the more I see how inspired the current generation of cidermakers are.

This seems like a very large and daunting project. Are you a bit intimidated by the scale?  When do you expect the book will be published?

B: It is large but the truth is we can only scratch the surface internationally, unless a massive amount of cash falls into our laps.  You only have to look at the OTC map of North American Cidermakers; think how long it would take to profile just one of them, them think about how long it would take to capture the others; then everything.  And then there are the festivals etc. And that's just USA! Anyway, I believe its best to leave a certain amount to the imagination.  I always preferred a semi dressed woman to a naked one, the joy is in the discovery!

P: It’s as large as we want to make it.  It can’t be exhaustive, but once you start something like this it’s hard to stop.  We’ll be limited by how far we can push budget plus people’s kindnesses.  Where we can’t go in person, we’ll do the best we can through long-distance contact to get a reasonable feel for what’s going on.  And if we ever did feel daunted... I look at Hugh Johnson’s World Wine Atlas and Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer, both of which are still in print and selling globally after four decades, and think, ‘That’s the prize.  If we do this right, if we pull it off, that’s pretty worthwhile.

 

OTC: When you visit the United States and Canada you will likely document craft cider, on the verge of getting it's due in North America.  We are trying hard to honor tradition and learn from the past, all the while blazing our own trail along the way.  We have a lot going on here in each of our cider regions. The Northeast, East, Great Lakes and Midwest, the Northwest, Quebec, Ontario… Plenty to see and taste. Thoughts? Do you have any expectations (good or bad) regarding American ciders?

B: Echoing what Pete said, I know that your craft beer/ale movement has held a mirror up to the more traditional aspects of European beer in recent years and really challenged us into having a more open mind.  I think (I hope) the ciders of US are at least as good of some of the ciders we have here and the cidermakers will do the same thing.  I know the culture is bound to be good, because its cider. I expect I’ll be blown away by the quality of some.

P: Ooh, I guess I answered this one two questions back...

 

OTC: Do you guys have a “wish list” of what would like to see when choosing the cidermakers you would like to visit, photograph and write about?  i.e. their own orchards, working farms, on-site press, fermentation? Tasting room?

P: People and their stories.  Parties, people coming together to make cider and drink it, rituals, celebrations...

 

OTC: Good plan gentlemen.  I couldn't imagine anyone being more suited for this job. I've filled Bill with plenty of recommendations, names and contacts. You guys have a big place to consider when you land in America.  It isn't as densely packed here as is Europe.  There is certain to be plenty more interest from our cidermakers from here on out.

As far as North American events go here, I got two words for you... CIDER DAYS.

I can't wait. Good luck. Maybe you guys will consider letting me chauffeur you around the Northwest when you make it here...


Want to contact Pete Brown and/or Bill Bradshaw? Leave a comment below for the fellas to see or drop me a line using my contact form and I'll forward it on to them. http://www.oldtimecider.com/contact-old-time-cider/

Keep an eye on both these guys by using the links of your choice below.

Bill's IAMCIDER Blog: http://iamcider.blogspot.com/
IAMCIDER on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/IAMCIDER/132932643399036
Bill Bradshaw on Twitter: @IAMCIDER

Pete Brown's Blog: http://petebrown.blogspot.com/
Pete on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PeteBrownBeer
Pete's Twitter account:@petebrownbeer

Check my Cider Book page for information on Pete Brown's book series.

Monday
Dec272010

Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

In Michigan apples and cider are just as serious business as they are in the Northeast or the Northwest. The Michigan cider scene also seems to be vibrant, well organized and also showing signs of growth. Locally they organize the Michigan Cider Guild which looks to be made up of juice makers and hard cider producers. Annually the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association puts on the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition which will be held next in early April 2011. Thus far the "GLINT CAP" is the only exclusively International cider and perry competition in North America. This contest has become an important yearly event on the North American cider calendar and is likely considered the most prestigious contest amongst fellow cidermakers here.

Michigan cidermaking/winemaking boys Mike Beck of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery and Lee Lutes of Black Star FarmsIf you know Michigan cider, then you probably know about Mike Beck and Uncle John's Fruit House Winery. Mike is easily one of the best cider folks I've become acquainted with. From the get-go it was obvious he was very passionate about cider. He was also one of the first to reach out to me with conversation, kind words, support, and even cider. I finally had the pleasure to meet Mike in person at CiderDays in Western Massachussets. I tell you something about Mike... This guy seems to be everywhere, doing everything he can to promote cider as a whole, not just his own products. I'd be shocked if he wasn't considered one of the major forces within and behind the Michigan cider community these days.

In Michigan Uncle John's is one of the best places to go to for craft cider. Each year Mike presents a solid lineup of ciders to choose from. Regular offerings include Apple, Pear, Apple Cherry and other Seasonal cider varieties. If that weren't enough Uncle John's also have an array of wines from grapes, fruit, and yes even honey wines. I also should mention Uncle John's "dabbles" in some delectable custom distillates like Apple Vodka and Apple Brandy. If you'd like to take a peek I have a good number of the Uncle John's bottles, including the distillates, photographed and posted in my Cider Gallery.

A couple months back we tasted and discussed Uncle John's Seasonal 2008 that sent by Mike to me this early last year. Heather and I took some solid tasting notes and this is what we thought...

 

Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

Uncle John's 2008 Seasonal Cider is a beautiful bright, vivid, pale straw color. We found the appearance of this cider to clear, near brilliant, and it seemed to almost be glistening . It had a steady stream of good effervescence, slightly stronger than fizzy and closer to sparkling.

The cider's aroma was light, delicate and subtle with fresh floral characteristics and of a good and pleasant quality. Very clean, dry and herbaceous, with glimmers of fresh herb and spices, ripe pears, thyme, lemongrass, lemon and other zesty citrus.

The 2008 Seasonal is a somewhat dry cider with only a kiss of sweetness, a refreshing acidic bite complimented by a very light touch of briny saltiness. We found this to be a buttery cider, laced with flavors of citrus, lemon, and pear. In fact it also had an interesting slight "pickle-like" quality that I've come to associate with perry.

There was an good amount of tannic astringency and bitterness to enjoy. Cider body was balanced and near perfect for my taste. A tad past medium bodied with some respectable heft and substance to it, yet not too heavy, with good length and a pleasant finish... Right where one would hope to find a high quality craft cider.

Overall we really enjoyed this cider. It only got better once we were both able to put the pencils down and just kick back with it. A delicious balanced cider on the drier side with lots of character. It possessed a fantastic mouth watering acidity followed conversely by a near mouth drying tannin astringency inevitably leaving us wanting more.

Uncle John's Fruit House Winery Seasonal Cider 2008 has everything I like in a good craft cider. Character, tannin, acid. If you enjoy a solid dry cider this one is for you.

Wednesday
Dec152010

16th Annual Franklin County Cider Days 2010 ~ Part 2 of 3.

Back to it.. Franklin County Cider Days Part 2 of 3.

 

The Conversation and Tasting with Leading Cidermakers.

The panel, I believe chosen by author Ben Watson was a classic set of cidermaking characters. There are other fine examples, but no doubt we had a terrific cross-section today's best cidermakers speaking. Cidermaking experience, all of them passionate about the craft, all positive role models and leaders in the North American cider community...  This might have been the best event of the day. Great cider tasting and great cider talk are two of my favorite things.

 

The Panel.

Who was on this esteemed panel of leading cidermakers?

As pictured above, from left to right: Judith Maloney - West County Cider, Steve Wood - Farnum Hill Cider, Diane Flynt - Foggy Ridge Cider, Nick Gunn - Wandering Aengus, Mike Beck - Uncle John's Fruit House Winery.

 

The Cider Tasting.

For the tasting portion(s) of the event each maker brought one choice selection from their offerings to pour. Ciders were presented one at a time. Each cidermaker talked a little bit about their selection, how they made it, varieties, blends and such. All followed by brief discussion from the panel. The ciders and each tasting also worked as a sort of improv topic and catalyst for further discussion on topics such as cider style and cidermaking theory. Cool stuff.

 

West County Cider Pippin James Kohn with Wandering Aengus Wickson Cider

 

Wondering which ciders were brought? I know I was curious.

  1. West County Pippin Cider
  2. Farnum Hill's Extra Dry Still
  3. Foggy Ridge's First Fruit Cider
  4. Wandering Aengus Wickson Single Varietal
  5. Uncle John's Fruit House Winery's Seasonal Baldwin Single Varietal

 

If you don't like big acid this wasn't your afternoon. In fact at one point Steve Wood, himself accused of giving Farnum Hill a sharp cutting acidity, hilariously exclaims "These ciders are ALL more acidic than mine!" And that might have been... Cider on the sharp side is my preference so I was right at home.

 

Each and every one of the ciders was great. Tops in fact. Collectively I recall that each was on the dry side, well balanced, high in acidity, complex, good tannin. All the major earmarks of a great cider. Individually each presented it's own unique character and flavor profile. I'd buy and drink up each one anytime. No problems.  If you have the chance to buy any of these selections don't hesitate to pick them up.

 

The Single Variety Ciders.

It was a real treat and a little unexpected to get the opportunity to taste two single varietal ciders in a sitting. It is rare and I know it isn't easy, but I like the idea that one apple can do it all. These two cider were both really great examples of what single variety ciders can be.

 

Uncle John's Baldwin Cider is in it's first ever bottling year and I have to say this cider really blew me away. The Baldwin apple turned out a shockingly well balanced single varietal cider. Sharp and I remember it having more tannin than you might expect from a popular heirloom variety. Really great cider. That cider might be my new favorite in the Uncle John's stable.

 

I've had the Wandering Aengus's Wickson a few times over the year and let me say I really do love this cider. It never ceases to amaze me. Pure joy. Cider nectar. Sweet-tart citrus aroma, smooth well-rounded flavor and a big body. Spicy. Sharp but not too sharp. Maybe too sharp for some. No one I know... I think one of the cool things about this cider is that the Salem Oregon based Wandering Aengus is using the West coast developed Wickson variety to craft what is a genuine West coast cider.

 

Diane Flynt and Nick Gunn. I don't recall what Nick was saying here but I'm pretty sure by the look on his face it was some rebutal aimed at Steve

The Discussion.

It was obvious that all the cidermakers were familiar friends and respected colleagues. They maintained a great chemistry, if they didn't all genuinely like each other they sure had me fooled.

Topics ran the spectrum. Everything one would expect or want to hear. Apples, orcharding, terrior. Some discussed their cidermaking process and shared theory. As there should be there was often varying and opposing opinions. To adjunct or not to adjunct, fermentation temperatures, using barrels, fermenting in barrels, blending at the press, blending after fermenting, nutrients, DAP, racking, aerating, filtering vs. unfiltered, carbonation forced or carbonation natural, pasteurizing good/pasteurizing bad. They seem to cover just about everything. When you consider the quality of all the ciders... All the answer you need was in the glass. There is no arguing that they all seemed to be doing something right.

 

West County Cider's Judith Maloney and Steve Wood from Farnum Hill Cider.That afternoon Judith Maloney shared the details of how longtime friend Steve Wood drove to West County Cider from New Hampshire each and every day after her husband Terry was tragically taken in an accident. Together Steve and Judith figured out what to do with the season's cider. She was ever so grateful and regardless of how embarassed Steve seemed, she was a woman determined to share the story. I thought was very touching and a terrific example of the great folks and unusual sense of community cidermakers seem too. I haven't had West County too often but Judith's Pippen Cider was easily on par with all the cider served that day. I can't wait to try it again.

Judith and Terry were one of the first to give cidermaking in America a serious try. They started CiderDays 16 years ago together as a way to celebrate and help bring to a close the end of the apple growing and cider pressing season. And they really did start something. CiderDays was by far the best cider event I've had the opportunity to attend. This year CiderDays and specifically the upcoming Harvest Dinner was in rememberance of Terry.

I can't say I knew Terry, but I wish I had. We did exchange a couple emails while I was searching for a place that shipped West County to Washington. Had I not gotten my hands on some he had offered to send it himself. He was passionate about cider and wanted to see it succeed. I've heard and read more than a few stories of Judith and Terry's generosity and cooperation helping the early craft cidermakers around the country. Thanks to Terry and Judith Maloney for giving all us cider drinkers and cidermakers so much.

 

Next up, thoughts on Cider Salon and the Harvest Dinner which will conclude the 2010 CiderDays posts.

 


 

Once again I'd like to mention that this weekend wouldn't have happened and was all made possible for me by the kind folks at Tieton Cider Works who offered to take me along and by doing so becoming my first ever "Cider Event Travel Sponsor". Super special thanks to Sharon, Craig, Cindy, Fred, and Marcus for their support. Their award winning ciders are becoming easier and easier to find every day.

Saturday
Nov202010

16th Annual Franklin County Cider Days 2010 ~ Part 1 of 3.

A couple weeks back it was my pleasure and honor to be able to travel back east to Western Massachusetts and attend Franklin County CiderDays. This is part 1 of a 2 part recap chronicaling my experience. For those that don't know, Franklin County CiderDays has got to be the premier cider event in all of North America. I was able to go to CiderDays thanks to a generous invite and offer from Tieton Cider Works. They offered to help me get there and in doing so becoming the very first Old Time Cider Travel Sponsor. Appreciation and graditude to Sharon, Craig, and crew at Tieton.

 

Friday November 4th 2010, the day before CiderDays...

I flew out of SeaTac airport late Thursday night only to arrive very early Friday morning in Boston. I took the Red-Line into Boston where I was able to find some excellent espresso and explore for a short while before eventually meeting up with friends Sharon and Craig Campbell owners of Tieton Cider Works to make our 2.5 hour drive to Western Massachusetts. During my trip I heard multiple times that we were a couple weeks too late for the full congregation of Autumn splendor which might have been the case but I found the area was still alive with the ripe colors and smells of Fall.

 

Although no official CiderDays events are scheduled we left Boston en-route for Greenfield MA that Friday early to meet with some of the country's leading cidermakers for what could be called a sort-of "state of cider" gathering. Each major cider producing area was represented more or less in what was from my perspective a collegial discussion revolving around basic cidermaker concerns. Category development, marketing/labeling hurdles, and Federal legislation issues were all discussed at great length.

 

Farnum Hill Cider's Steve Wood sharing his toughts.

Judith Maloney of West County Cider Sharon Campbell, Tieton Cider Works

 

Attending the meeting was educational and obviously thought provoking. The general sentiment seemed to be that cider has certainly come a long way in recent years but to develop as an official category of our own we have quite a but further to go. I got to meet lots of great folks from all over. Represented at the meeting was Wandering Aengus Cider Works, Tieton Cider Works, Foggy Ridge Cider, Uncle John's Fruithouse Winery, Black Star Farms, Eden Ice Cider, Tandem Ciders, Tideview Cider, Bellewether Cider and… Farnum Hill Cider. Ben Watson organizer of CiderDays.

Mike Beck from Uncle John's Fruit House Winery in Michigan

 

James Kohn of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks

Cidermakers at Hope & OliveAfter the meeting we adjourned to meet at a local restaurant  Hope & Olive for some eats and cider tasting. Soon after sitting down I had to leave to meet up with my buddy Al Yelvington who I was roommates with for the weekend. It was probably a fortunate time to take off. I know I would have had a blast but was dead tired and wouldn't have been 100% for the bug day on Saturday had I stuck around longer.

 

Saturday November 5th 2010, CiderDay

I was told that CiderDays used to be CiderDay. However with an expanded schedule there are now over 30+ events held on both Saturday and Sunday. All events occur in and around a handful of towns in Northwestern Massachusetts. Greenfield, Old Deerfield, Shelburne Falls, and Ashfield.

 

Apple Pancake Breakfast in Greenfield MA

CiderDays events list is varied from the family-friendly like Apple Pancake Breakfasts, Orchard Rides, Cider Press Demos, Apples for Baking, Identifying and Conserving Heritage Apples and even a Wassail-Orchard walk with none other than Michael Phillips author of The Apple Grower. To the right is Michael Phillips on the Cider Salon floor tasting ciders and talking apples.

Folks with cider of the fermented variety on their mind had plenty of tough choices to make. There are more cider related events scheduled than one could possibly hope to attend. Intro to Cider Making, Blending Apples for Cider, Making Barrel Cider, Home Cidermaker Tasting, Ice Cider Tasting, Apple Brandy, Pear Brandy Calvados and Scrumpy. Let's not forget the Cider Salon and CiderDays Harvest Supper in the evening. Cider tastings of all sorts all throughout the day. Cider tasting even at events you may not expect cider tasting to be at.

Shelburne Buckland Community CenterAs expected selecting from the overwhelming number of cider and apple events was a real chore. I stayed the course and attended events closely related to cider and cidermaking. As it turned out the cool white building in the picture above is the Sherburne Buckland Community Center where all my daytime events occurred. They had craft sales inside the community center in one room, the workshops and discussion took place in the main auditorium. Just outside the front doors you would find rare and heirloom variety apples sales courtesy of Scott Farm Heirloom Apples as well as an apple wood smoked bbq stand.

 

Lots of interesting varieties of old apples from Scott Farm Heirloom Apples http://www.scottfarmvermont.com/. To see more click on the image and check out the event set.

Blending Apples for Cider with Claude Jolicoeur

Claude Jolicoeur Pouring Claude Jolicoeur's cider samples

My first official event for CiderDays was one that I was really looking forward to. Blending Apples for Cider with Claude Jolicoeur. Claude's presentation covered the key elements of blending ciders. He highlighted the importance of accurate note taking and the recording measurements such as brix, pH, acidity and even tannin early on in his talk. Claude also discussed was the important balance of sugar, acid, and nitrogen for healthy fermentation and also how acids and tannin (soft and hard) influence cider flavor. Claude showed how to map out and plan a blend, which types or flavors of apples to look for, how ripe, sugar content, tannins, and so on. It was a really great presentation and although I certainly didn't expect it we got our day's first taste of cider early. Claude brought some of his own cider to pour, a really nice example of a French style cider from his home in Quebec.

 

Pouring Claude Jolicoeur's cider samples

Cider sample from Claude Jolicoeur

 

Home Cidermaker's Tasting

Home Cidermakers Tastings

Man did this discussion and tasting pack 'em in… Possibly the promise of several free samples of cider. It was led panel of 4 well seasoned, experienced home cidermakers who led a discussion on small scale cidermaking at home. I think some of the panelists pressed their own apples but there was a lot of discussion about custom cider pressings done by local cider presses like Pine Hill Orchards. Pine Hill Orchards appeared to be regionally known for pressing specialty batches for the cider hobbyist blended with fermenting in mind.

 

Selection of home cidermaker ciders

There was lots of discussion about making "New England" style ciders, and adding fruit to ciders and such. Fresh fruit, frozen fruit, boiled fruit even dehydrated fruit. A gathering like this wouldn't be complete without the eternal topic of which yeasts to use. Are beer yeasts okay? What about natural yeasts? The cider samples were pretty interesting, some good… One stand out in flavor and strength was a cider concoction heavily fortified with Laird's Applejack.

Check back for Part 2. Conversation and Cider Tasting with Leading Cidermakers.

 


 

I'd like to mention that this weekend wouldn't have happened and was all made possible for me by the kind folks at Tieton Cider Works who offered to take me along and by doing so becoming my first ever "Cider Event Travel Sponsor". Super special thanks to Sharon, Craig, Cindy, Fred, and Marcus for their support. Their award winning ciders are becoming easier and easier to find every day.

Wednesday
Sep152010

Cider Summit N.W. in Retrospect.

Cider Summit N.W.

It certainly doesn't need to be said that "all cider" events are pretty rare here in the US. However consider an event where the overwhelming percentage of bottles poured and kegs tapped are from craft cider makers. Well it finally happened in Seattle. Last Saturday marked what I hope is the first of many Cider Summit N.W. events.

In what was near perfect Seattle weather at Denny Park next to the new Discovery Center cider was given a grand showcase the likes of which we haven't seen yet here in the Northwest. An almost complete line up of the Northwest's craft ciders were pouring their wares and sharing their love of the drink. In England where small craft and local cider makers are more abundant this isn't a new concept. Even back on the Eastcoast, and the Midwest they tend to honor cider with it's exclusive own events. In fact the Great Lakes 3rd Annual Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival, a 2 day event, was also held this very same weekend at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns just North of Lansing Michigan.

Cider Summit N.W.The Cider Summit N.W. boasted some 40+ craft ciders and they delivered. In attendance from the NW craft cider ranks were Blue Mountain Cider Company, Carlton Cyderworks, Eaglemount Cider, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Red Barn Cider, Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works Vashon Winery/Irvines Vintage cider, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. We even had an extra special visit from my favorite BC cider maker Sea Cider. Visitors from abroad included Dupont & Drouin from France, and from England Aspall and Samuel Smith. I'd really love to see true English cider representation increased on the market and at the event.

Wildfire Cider - Pirate's Plank Bone Dry Cider, German Style Apfelwein, and Ember Semi Sweet CiderThe highlights? Oh man... Where to begin and too many to list. I've had the pleasure of drinking most of the ciders there and if I were to only name the highlights it might misrepresent the amount and quality of the craft ciders present. My favorite cluster of booths just happen to house my favorite regularly available cider selections. Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works, Wandering Aengus, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. Luck of the draw? Nope alphabetical order. I used my ticket allotment sparingly and tasted some from each of course.

Full pour at Snowdrift Cider Co.'s booth.At Snowdrift my current favorite offering is their Semi-Dry but my favorites from SDC generally depend on the day, the direction of the wind, and the mood.

My favorite at Tieton, Harmony Reserve, is a small batch release and unfortunately wasn't present but I happily quaffed some Semi-Dry Wild Washington Apple Cider.

At the Wandering Aengus booth I found myself in the unique position to try their hard to find (in Washington) Wickson Crab single varietal cider, and the new version of their Dry Cider.

Westcott Bay Cider's Rich Anderson was missing but his lovely new partners Hawk and Suzy Pingree were present and pouring Westcott's Dry and Medium-Sweet ciders. I had both of course but the Dry Cider is among my all time favorites and a must try for any dedicated cider drinker.

At Wildfire... Well I drank all they poured. German style Apfelwein, Pirate's Plank Bone Dry, and Semi-Sweet Ember.

Carlton CyderworksBeyond those there were some other real cider stand outs.

First up Carlton Cyderworks. Oh man these guys are new on the scene and tearing it up in Northern Oregon. Their offerings run on the sweeter side, but the Citizen Cider is absolutely lovely. Great color, great complexity nice light tannins. They also featured their sweet cider "Carrie Nation", and Duke a blend that included blueberry. I hope Carlton's ciders find their way up North to Washington soon.

Sea Cider RumrunnerSea Cider! With all cross border trips to Canada now requiring a passport, and me not having one yet, I thought my chances of sipping some of their finely crafted ciders to be pretty thin. I heard rumor of them coming down. I even read it on the Cider Summit website. Low and behold when I arrived they were there and set up. Dream come true. Sea Cider brought along with them their Pippins and Rumrunner blends. I sampled them both. A number of time. Both delicious but the standout was Rumrunner. This year's Rumrunner was quite a bit different than the 2007 version I recently reviewed. AT 12% the new Rumrunner was pleasantly a little lighter in alcohol than it's 2007 predecessor was at 14.5%. Also because of the availability of rum barrels, the cider is now aged in bourbon barrels cured with a bit of rum. This cider is unique, an absolute winner and one of my favorites.

Tietin Cider WorksCider Summit N.W. was also the inaugural event for the Northwest Cider Association of which many of the names above are members or on their way to becoming members. I spent a great deal of time preparing materials for the booth and manned the booth from 12:30 to 2:00 with my girlfriend and cider tasting partner Heather. We had a blast doing it and our shift sadly over before we knew it. I absolutely love to talk cider and it was really great to answer all questions about what exactly makes a craft cider, exchanging favorites and suggestions, and passing out literature on future events Northwest Cider Association and it's members are a part of. We also handed our new Northwest Cider Association buttons, and were taking $1 donations for our newly printed NWCA letterpress coasters printed by Jamie at The Sherwood Press in Olympia.

Big thanks to Alan Shapiro and SBS Imports, Whole Foods, Seattle Weekly and the other sponsors for believing in craft cider and planning a first class event. There were many surprised folks won over to craft cider and we have them to thank for that. Thanks guys!

More great NW Cider events on the way. Check out Vashon Island's Cider Fest October 9th, Portland Nursery's Artisan Cider Festival October 9th-10th and 16-17th, and Ivar's Salmon House 3rd Annual Fall Cider Celebration coming in November.