Summer of Cider

Cider has been top of mind this past summer, in part because of PR efforts from companies like 2 Towns Ciderhouse, McMenamins, and Angry Orchard, but also because I think there has just been more visibility with increasing numbers of cider makers and growth of the market. Here in Central Oregon we saw two new cideries open up this year. (Check out my early August article in our local paper for a rundown of local cider options.)

One result is having drank more cider these past several months, and a bit of a backlog of reviews for them. Not that this is a bad thing! But rather than post half a dozen of individual reviews, here’s a wrap-up of those various ciders (besides the reviews already posted).

2 Towns Ciderhouse Cot in the Act

2 Towns Cot in the Act

This seasonal apricot cider was 6.2% alcohol by volume and was received as a marketing sample from 2 Towns.

It was a hazy, pale yellow colored cider without much carbonation. The aroma was full of fresh apricots, very bright, ripe, and sweet, they really captured the essence of the fruit well. Drinking was much the same, it was a balanced fusion of a sweetish cider with fresh apricots, presenting some earthy fruit skin character. Light and drinkable, with a touch of tannic mouthfeel, it finishes with a bit of a Sweet Tart candy impression.

Fruity, refreshing, and enjoyable, I was impressed at how well they captured the apricot.

Blue Mountain Cider Oregonian Hard Cider

Blue Mountain Oregonian Hard Cider

Back in June we spent a weekend in Walla Walla, and on the way home stopped in at Blue Mountain Cider Company in Milton-Freewater (way up in northeast Oregon). The cider is produced by the same folks who run the Watermill Winery, and the tasting rooms share a space. After sampling through their ciders (and the wines), I bought three bottles.

The Oregonian Hard Cider is a semi-dry estate cider aged in oak. They say they “blended five apple varieties, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Golden Russet, JonaGold, and Winesap to achieve a cider as distinct and diverse as our great state!” It’s 6.4% abv.

It’s a still cider, no carbonation, and very clear and bright, with yellow sparkly highlights. On the nose it’s mild and mellow, and reminded me of a dry white wine with light fruit, hints of tart character, and a stony earthiness. Flavor-wise, it’s lightly tart and somewhat complex, with a touch of apple skin tannin. Tends toward acidic-to-dry, and I find it very pleasant; analogous to a Sauvignon Blanc wine.

Blue Mountain Cider Peach Cider

Blue Mountain Peach Cider

More Blue Mountain, this one infused with peaches. This 6% abv cider is clear, burnished gold in color, seemingly still as well—no head or apparent carbonation. The nose is subtle, a sweet apple juice aroma with a touch of sulfite and a hint of stone fruit.

It tastes like peach skin and juice, sweet to an almost cloying level, like juicy overripe peaches. There is a decent flavor of the apples coming through but it’s definitely the sweet body that dominates. It finishes cloying as well, almost syrupy sweet, but despite that it’s dangerously easy to drink.

Angry Orchard Easy Apple Cider

Angry Orchard Easy Apple

Boston Beer Company’s Angry Orchard came out with essentially a session cider in their Easy Apple, a “less sweet, easy-drinking cider” that is 4.2% abv, and sent me some. Besides the Oregonian (above), this is a departure from a number of the other ciders we’ve been drinking lately since there are no other added fruits or ingredients.

It poured a bit hazy, light golden-orange in color, with minimal carbonation. The aroma is straightforward apple—skin and juice, rather light and mellow. And “mellow” is the operative term here, along with the “Easy” in the name, since it drinks crisp, light, and yes, easy. Overall it’s a fairly neutral apple flavor that is lightly sweet and finishes clean and refreshing.

I’d say it hits the mark for a session cider, and would be an enjoyable drink on a hot day.

Blue Mountain Cider Cherry Cider

Blue Mountain Cherry Cider

Like the Peach, this cider is made with cherries, and is 6.25% with a deep red-amber garnet color. Blue Mountain says, “A refreshing balance of apple flavor with a splash of tart cherry freshness. Pair with rich chocolate and enjoy the perfect blend of sweetness and acidity.”

This is full of dark cherry aromas, like a cherry pie, mellow with a slight syrupy sweetness punctuated by hints of tart fruit and woody cherry pits. On the tongue the cherry flavor is big and strong—fresh, juicy, slightly tart with that same woody hint of pits; think of eating fresh, sweet Bing cherries and spitting out the pits. For all that, it’s fairly understated and not cloyingly sweet like the Peach; the fruit shines here, the apples getting out of the way to bring cherry juice to the table. Might be the best cherry cider I’ve tasted.

2 Towns Ciderhouse Hollow Jack

2 Towns Hollow Jack

Ah, the first pumpkin cider of the season! 2 Towns made this with heirloom pumpkins and sweet potatoes, with pumpkin pie spices (of course). They say, “Mischievous & spiced, Hollow Jack is far from empty. A brew of fresh-pressed apples, caramelized pumpkin and sweet potatoes is finished with a dash of honey and spices to carve out this special Fall cider.”

The requisite spices are there in the nose, not overpowering (thankfully) and they complement the underlying apple aromas well (think of spiced cider, or maybe even a Brown Betty dessert). There might be hints of caramelization from the pumpkin and sweet potatoes, but it’s a bit ephemeral to me (I’ll just need to open another one to confirm!).

Similar story for the flavor: solid apple cider, I had a hard time finding the pumpkin contribution other than in some of the caramelized flavors. The spices are mellow and work here and overall it definitely feels like autumn. As pumpkin ciders go, I’ve only had a few, but this would be at the top of my list as it’s neither cloyingly sweet nor over-spiced.

McMenamins Blackberry Cider

McMenamins Blackberry Cider

No formal review on this one, though you can read the one we posted here last year. McMenamins was once again kind enough to provide a growler of cider (technically, a half growler so I paid to fill the full 64-ounce), and this one is among the best of the ciders they make.

We had also received a six-pack of 2 Towns’ Made Marion in cans though have not formally reviewed that one. Suffice to say it is a solid berry-infused cider and a great addition to their (seasonal) canned lineup.

Received: Cans of Made Marion cider