It is no secret how hot the Cider industry in New York is – growing faster than craft beer and wine. I spent most of last year defining hard cider, but after all, that’s half the fun – introducing people to what they believe is a new drink. When Applewood Orchids started producing cider 20 years ago, you can imagine the surprising feedback they received. Following the demise of prohibition, hand crafted hard cider was now being reincarnated.
According to the World Map of Cider (you can view it here), New York State, a dominating force in the cider industry, is home to 27 hard cider producers. Warwick, New York has two: Applewood Winery, the producers of Naked Flock Hard Cider and Docs Hard Cider from Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery.
Jonathan Hull, Applewood’s cider master, was generous enough to send me a few of his Naked Flock hard ciders. Admittedly, I am a “late loser”, finally featuring Naked Flock in a post.
I was initially drawn to the “impossible to miss” label on their bomber-size bottles. On the center of the label, a featherless goose symbolizes a local folk tale where Moby Dick Author Herman Melville brought his great friend seeds from his trip to the Orient. The Pastor planted the seeds in his garden and they grew into beautiful poppies. One day the geese broke into the garden and ate the sleep inducing flowers. They fell into a coma-like sleep and were thought dead. Their feathers were plucked by the pastor’s children until after several hours they awoke and staggered around naked. A premature slaughtering of the geese was to be taken place when the pastor’s children pleaded for their life. The pastor obliged and defended the Naked Flock. “Keep me away from the poppies and keep me away from that congregation”.
Presently available from Naked Flock are the Draft, Citra and Original. Hopped ciders are becoming a separate style altogether and are gaining in popularity, so I have picked the Citra to review first. Besides, it was the bitter cone-like sweetheart that turned me on in my early craft beer drinking days. Hops play an important role in beer production, adding bitterness, aroma and flavor. As for cider, hops are not needed for balance as they are for beer but are primarily used for flavor and aroma, adding another layer of complexity. Enough of the nerdiness, here goes the review:
Citra comes in a bomber -sized bottle and is fermented with Champagne yeast and flavored with citra hops. “You had me at citra.”
The citra poured just like a sparkling wine, aggressive with tight, tiny bubbles. This is probably the most aggressive pour I have had in some time. Just what you would expect from a sparkling wine. Like I was wearing goggles in a pool, the pristine, brilliantly clear pour took on several shades of gold, depending on it’s background.
The first sensation to hit my nose was an explosion of hops. As expected from citra hops, tropical fruit such as pineapple and kiwi took center stage subsiding into light notes of fresh apple. Completing the fruit salad were white grapes and finally a mineral finish.
If the tasting stopped there I would be totally satisfied but the fun had just begun. The hops were much more prevalent in aroma than they were in flavor. The front profile was mildly flinty with white grape and light apple peel in the middle. The medium bodied texture sat well with me; I am a texture fanatic. Naked Flock Citra had just enough acidity to keep the character from going flat. The tropical fruit came through after the cider warmed up a bit. Tannins were subdued but still played a minor roll. To my liking, the cider was dry but not bone-dry. My palate was refreshed and an empty glass was a lonely glass so I said what the hell, “pour on dude.”
My over all impression was that Citra is an incredibly balanced cider. A quaffable and all year-round cider that will pair well with spicy cuisine. It won’t cut the heat but will accentuate it. The warmer it got, the more the acidity shined through. I will be hitting up Jonathan for more and this time it won’t take so long to review.
Here is a tasting tip: Test out your tasting preference by evaluating the aroma and flavor throughout the tasting experience and compare the attributes from the different temps. Like our British friends, I prefer a cool temp, closer to the 50 degree range. The acidity and hop profile shines best at this temperature. For a crisper and cleaner experience, consume a bit colder. It is your choice after all.