#ciderchat – Oregon Cider Week


6/12/14  6pm PST / 9pm EST


cider summit protlan

So far #ciderchat has been absolutely awesome. But this week we have a biggie. David White and I came up with the idea of dedicating an entire chat towards the upcoming Oregon Cider Week which starts June 20th.

I have contacted a few top guns and they agreed to join us as we chat about the weeks events  and of course whatever else comes up.  Special guests include Bushwhaker Cider,  Tieton Cider Works, Wandering Aengus, Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  and Schilling  Cider.

Join us on twitter and follow hashtag #ciderchat at 6pm PST/9pm EST 6/12/14.



#ciderchat with Tilted Shed Ciderworks


6/5/2014  6pm PST / 9pm EST

Ellen Cavalli and Scott Heath, are the husband and wife team behind Tilted Shed Ciderworks – a small cidery in the center of wine country, Sanoma County. Well actually Sanoma County was once a leader in apple farming and Tilted Shed aims to bring back that almost forgotten tradition.



Experimenting in New Mexico from 2007 to 2011, Scott Heath, the mad scientist/cider maker honed his cider making skills and brought his partner back to Northern California and opened Tilted Shed, producing small batch ciders the traditional way – from pressing to blending by hand.

Ellen, the master behind the scenes takes care of sales, marketing and distribution and will be joining us this week on #ciderchat along with Scott Heath, talking apples, cider making and the future of California cider.


Tilted shed


Join other cider fans on twitter by following hashtag #ciderchat on Thursday 6/5/2014 6pm PST / 9pm EST.  See you there.

#ciderchat with Gidon Coll of Original Sin Cider


5/29/14   6pm PST / 9 pm EST


Of all the guest host I have had on #ciderchat Gidon Coll is the only one I have personally met.  I met Gidon at Philly’s first cider fest Cider Core last autumn. Although it was pretty damn busy, we still were able to chat for a few minutes.

Gidon is a pretty damn cool bloke and really rocked the cider tent that afternoon.  Gidon is the cider maker and owner for Original Sin Cider, a New York award-winning cider company that specializes in refreshing and traditional ciders since 1997.

sin here


I can’t say it better than this so I took a section of Gidon coll’s beginning cider history from Original Sin’s web site:

“Coll immersed himself in the history and the craft of cider.  He experimented.  He brewed batch after batch in a small upstate New York winery.  He sought counsel from a local wine expert and from the owners, bartenders and patrons of bars he frequented in New York City’s Lower East Side and East Village.  He collected feedback from everyone he knew, adjusting and tinkering with his cider’s flavor until it was clean, crisp, and practically perfect. Then he enlisted friends to painstakingly hand-label bottle after bottle.  He lugged cases and cases in and out of NYC’s subways, delivering bottles to establishments of Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

30 states and 17 years later:

Join us as we get down and gritty with the man behind Original Sin Cider on Thursday 5/29/2014 at 6 pm PST / 9 pm EST.   Just follow #ciderchat and tweet along for an hour of fun with Gidon Coll.


#ciderchat With Bushwhacker Cider

#ciderchat 5/1/2014 6 pm PST/9 pm EST



You can always tell what kind of drinking city you have based on their local pubs. Philadelphia, one of the biggest beer drinking cities has hundreds of beer bars and rightfully so.  Will Philly ever have a cider pub?  sure but not anytime soon. But for Oregon they do (Bushwhacker Cider) and rightfully so. It just goes to how big cider is becoming in the NW.

We are on a roll with #ciderchat. We have gotten to know some big cider folks, well I mean the names are big not the people. This week we have Bushwhacker Cider, America’s first cider pub in Portland, Oregon.  bushwhacker produces in-house ciders and offers guest ciders on tap as well as over 200 bottles.  I live on the wrong side of the country. Continue reading

My Own Hop Fest Thank You Very Much

The Cider Stalker

I admit it, I am an online cider stalker or better yet, just call me a cider nerd.  I can take it.  I recently came across a cool event that Reverend Nat’s is hosting on Saturday March 29th. The Oregon cidery, located in Portland’s Rose Quarter, is playing host to a one of a kind, Hopped Cider Festival.

This is a perfect representation of collaboration at its best.  Hop heads can chose between 18 different hop-infused ciders.  For specific details see Reverend Nat’s event page here.  Just like all NW cider events, I cannot make it, mainly because I live on the East coast- damn big country of ours.  I’ll have my own damn hopped cider festival.  I knew I had at least one hopped cider at home and low and behold I have three.  I had four but that went down last week.  Sure enough, I have two of the ciders featured on the festival’s tap list. Continue reading

Cider Review – Naked Flock Citra

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.

applwood winer

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. Continue reading

Cidery Profile – Millstone Cellars

millstone tasting room

A passionate Chef walks the busy street market touching, smelling and inspecting the local produce for inspiration for today’s menu.  He finds heirloom tomatoes, yellow beets and, smoked duck.  Ooh La La “Todays salad.”

This is exactly what came to mind when I met  kyle Sherrer from Millstone Cellars, the award-winning cidery and meadery from Monkton, Maryland.  Kyle is a young, creative, and ambition bloke who is putting Maryland cider on the map.

Baby Ginger, Wildflower, Cranberry, Blueberry and Tulip Poplur Honey. local Chinook Hops, sour cherries and I thought I heard him mention gooseberries?  I hate to compare them to a craft brewer but this is certainly how the craft breweries went from pale ales in the early 90s to wild fermented ales and the exotic potions of today’s brews.

The difference is the cider makers of today have already taken that craft approach and are concocting basically whatever the hell they want.  Kyle and his father, along with 100 hundred other cider makers are combining tradition with artistic ingenuity, redefining what a cider should or shouldn’t be.

Millstone Cellars sits in a refurbished 1840s grist mill located in Monkton, MD. Millstone currently distributes to Washington, DC and Maryland.

Their tasting room is available for free tours and tastings every sat, 12  6pm.
I asked Kyle to reminisce the old days how he and his father started on this fermentation journey.  This is what he had to say:
We got started with my father being in the wine industry (went to UC Davis for viticulture and winemaking, winemaker in MD and VA during 80’s & 90’s) and I had just graduated from college with a degree in finance and saw this as an opportunity to get into a creative business that had growth potential.  Saw cider(and mead) as a way of exploring wine styles while remarkably old where it seems forgotten which allowed us to recreate them with some of our own idea’s and stylistic contributions in the process.
Kyle also shared with me the near future plans of Millstone Cellars.

Working on our fall line up now. Harvest, our still semi sweet aromatic style cider recreation from last year was just bottled and we are now getting ready to blend farmgate, our still bone-dry style cider focusing on the tart and tannic apples and has a nice oaky finish.  Seasonal ciders on the way are cherrykriek tart cherry cider, hopvine dry cascade hopped cider, and a session (8% alc.) plum mead.  Working on some cool projects to work on some new styles for next year involving wild yeast ferments, skin contact, perry, and  brettanomyces. 

Did he say brett? For those who are not familiar with brettanomyces. see this link I have decided to write my posts a little different from the previously traditional reviews. My main focus is to profile the cider makers and tell their story. Then dive into a variety of their ciders. This way I can compare their ciders and give a fresh perspective, plus it’s just fun.

Ciderberry is the first of three I tried this week.  This is what Kyle had to say about Ciderberry:

Ciderberry is a sour dry cider that we made using 10% red raspberry from Agriberry in V.A.  We liken it to a framboise style lambic but without the sweetness that you find in your average lindermans.  The red raspberries fermented and aged for about 6 months before we blended it into our cider. 
Cidderbery, a blush color, somewhat cloudy  medium bodied cider consisting of Red Raspberries, Rome Beauty, and Stayman Winesap apples. Tart raspberry, tangerine, sweet apple. light spice, oak and subtle vanilla make up the complex bouquet.
This was a dry, clean cider with an intense raspberry profile. I was reminded of a Flanders Red Ale, a drink for the sour lovers. I found notes of light apple, pink grapefruit, Mineola and oak aged characters, but not over the top. So you non-oaky folks out there won’t be discouraged.  The tart berries obviously steal the show.
millstone baby bginger

Next up Is Millstone’s Gingeroot. A straw-champagne colored semi-sweet cider constructed with Baby Ginger, Blueberry Honey, Mcintosh ,  and Summer Rambo apples.  Gingeroot starts with an aroma of crystalized ginger, lemon, sweet dessert apples and dried flowers.

Now this is the difference between dried and fresh ginger, The baby ginger must give it a sweeter and less sharp taste.  Ginger and lemon dominates the front and hides behind the tart middle palette then comes back stronger in the finish.  A lingering long dry finish leaves the palate refreshed.
Bringing in the rear of this threesome is Millstone’s Winesap.  Stayman Winesap, Tulip Poplur Honey and York Imperial are the main stars in this off-dry cider.

Aromas of sweet apple peel, tart apple sauce, floral, honeysuckle, quince. and star fruit makes for a complex nose.

Medium to full-bodied. Roasted apple, apple peel, and bitter apple seed makes up the front palette.   Acidity dominates the front and middle but finishes in balanced fashion. Tart apple follows through the end. Bitterness is higher than other ciders. a hop head’s delight. The finish was clean and quick.

I will say it now. Keep your eyes out for this young MD cider and mead producer.  They are a force to be reckoned with and they will help change the misconceived idea of what a cider is and should be.

Cider Review – Finnriver Habanero Cider

There are now over 160 Cideries in the U.S. and most of them are craft cider makers. The North West holds some of the best and most popular ciders.  When I first started following craft cider, Finnriver kept showing up. In media, Facebook, Twitter and online news. I just had to get my hands on them.  They rocked my cider collection by sending me three artisanal ciders.  One in particular cider that I just had to have was their Habanero cider. I am a chili head and this sounded like it would work well. Boy was I in for a treat.

According to their web site, this is their mission:

“At Finnriver Farm we are striving to create deep-rooted & fruitful connections…to the land we farm, to our wild and human neighbors, and to our community as a whole.

We are engaged in the earnest pursuit of wise land stewardship through the following commitments:

  • Practicing sustainable agriculture
  • Harnessing renewable energies
  • Contributing to vibrant local economy
  • Restoring riparian wildlife habitat
  • Reviving artisan traditions
  • Serving as an educational resource
  • Keeping a vibrant farm culture alive and well

Finnriver is 100% locally financed through a community network of visionary investors.

Thoreau wrote, “You must get your living by loving.” We love this farm and we welcome you come visit and become a part of our growing community.”

Well if that’s not enough to respect Finnriver as a community and agricultural conscious company, I don’t know what is.  They have invited me on occasions to visit them and stay at their farm. Oh yeah, I will be doing that.  Maybe next year if I can talk my wife into it.

The cidery sits on 33 acres of family farm-land along a restored salmon stream,  located off Center Road, in the rural Chimacum Valley, a traditionally agricultural region on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.  They are just 12 miles from historic Port Townsend, which I believe is where Seattle Cider Summit will be taking place.  Wish I could be there.  Maybe I will post a Kickstarter campaign to fly and stay in the NW.  What do you think?

Besides berries and currants, which happen to find its way into their ciders and wine, they grow  squash, mixed vegetables and heirloom apples.  They also raise chickens, ducks, pigs and goats.

After viewing some beautiful pictures of the farm and land, I can picture myself camping there for a week and living off the land, even though I am a little bit of a city boy.

If you want to get a better sense  of the pride of the family and beauty of the farm,  watch this video. You will be inspired.

Finnriver Farm & Cidery: Taste Life on the Land from varda hardy on Vimeo.

Well here goes my unbiased review on Finnriver’s Habanero Cider

The habanero poured the color of fresh farmstand apple juice with no mousse.  The tiny bubbles were speedy and tight.  No problems so far.

Woooooooh, fresh habanero dominates the nose. No apologies here.  Then I am  immediately hit with a whaft of fresh sweet apple.  This reminds me of one of my favorite snacks, sliced jicama tossed with fresh lime  juice and sprinkled with chili powder.  this is one of the most exciting ciders I have smelled.

The flavor profile was just as exciting, a fresh burst of habanero, almost took my breath away. Nearly tongue numbing. Chile flavor dominates front end and heat finishes on back pallete. Habanero was medium bodied which made this semi sweet cider easy to quaff,  though the habanero says wait, easy there fella.

I can’t get over the combination of acidity, spice and fruit. Layers of depth.  If this were dry, the heat would not subside as quickly as it did. Sweetness is a counter-balance of spicy.  Acidity is brash and it should be that way. Take it from Mexican cuisine;  take the main item, a squeeze of fresh  lime and a sprinkle of chili. This would almost make a good base for ceviche.  I think I’ll try that.

I have had many craft beers with chili and some have been good, others have missed the punch line, but chile and cider…holy habanero! It doesn’t get better than this. The chile smells so fresh. I asked Crystie Kisler from Finnriver to share how they kept the flavors so vibrant. She told me that chopped habaneros were soaked in the cider after fermentation. Kind of like dry hopping.

I hope you enjoyed this review as much as I enjoyed this cider.

Cider Review – Farnum Hill Summer Cider

Farnum Hill Summer DryYes, I have been slacking recently but since I have taken a position with Great Shoals, I truly feel a part of the cider industry even though my cider cyber presence has been lacking.

Don’t bury me yet!  I am still breathing apples and to prove it I have two posts awaiting your approval.  Here is the first.

I want to give a holler out to Merideth Collins on her new position with Bellwether up in NY.  Looks like we both are riding the cider wave. Like we are becoming the Rat Pack of Cider.  Oh hell, let’s call us the “Cider Pack.”   What a good idea for my next post…

I recently reviewed a cider from Farnum Hill.  It was their Extra Dry and what a cider it was.  After visiting their web site and browsing their other available ciders, I noticed they had a summer selection.  I had to have it so I asked Merideth if she would send one over and like a true player, she did.  The weather will be breaking soon so I wanted to get my summer fix out-of-the-way.

I confess, up until the last 2 years I have dedicated most of my time toward craft beer and have seen a lot of changes over the years.  One of the things the brewers have mastered is the art of seasonal releases.  It reminds me of the produce markets.  Local tomatoes and corn in the summer, pumpkins and apples in the fall and citrus in the winter.

Will the cider folks follow the same path?  I hope so and it looks like some already are.  Strawberries and rhubarb are hitting the blend, Pumpkin and  Spices in the fall. But when I found Farnum Hill’s summer, I just knew this would be my first of many summer seasonals to come.

This is what I expect from a summer cider.  A lighter but not weak body.  Approachable but not bashful flavors. Softer tannins and balanced acidity though I wouldn’t mind a more acidic forward cider.  A quick but not premature finish.  And finally a mature carbonation. Not gassy but not still either.  Lets see how Farnum Hill’s Summer fares.

Summer pours with a champagne appearance, tight and rapid bubbles.  This looked and reminded me of a grand finale during a 4th of July fireworks.  A white thin mousse forms and quickly dissipates.

The bouquet lived up to Farnum Hill’s reputation.  A fresh and clean nose with subtle notes of apple skin, green grape and when I concentrated enough I pulled out a bit of coriander. In the end I was surprisingly hit with a bit of booziness.

I admit I spent a ridiculous amount of time whiffing this amazing cider. Like other Farnum Hill’s ciders, the body was full and creamy.  Carbonation was softer than I expected, probably because I took so long smelling the damn thing.  I bet the following pour will be different.

This reminded me of the ciders from Distillery Lane. The acidity is less intense and gives the body more texture and therefore slows the overall drinking experience.  I got citrus  in the middle and back palate. Well actually, it was lemon only.  Tannins are there but not intimidating.  Complexity is enough to remain a badass cider but light enough to drink as a summer quencher. It definitely had those familiar farmhouse qualities.  The finish was clean and crisp, just as I anticipate a summer style to be.

My overall experience:

When I poured a second glass, the acidity and carbonation was more evident and created a perfect balance.  Lemon and farmhouse qualities stole the show.  Farnum Hill’s Summer had that outside warm weather attitude.  The cider was complex enough but did not over stimulate the senses. Left enough room to enjoy the hot heat and BBQ banter.  If it had a voice, it would have tapped the other ciders on the shoulder and said “Step aside fellas, I got this one.”

Cider Technique – Keeving

301767726_b0236dc328One of the things I love about cider is that one size does not fit all.  England, Spain, France and United States all have their unique style and techniques for producing renowned ciders.

As I covered the riddling process in a previous post, today we will discuss  the keeving technique mastered by French cider makers.  When I decided to write this post I wanted to find an American producer using the not so simple keeving technique.

Summing up the keeving process is no easy task but here is a brief description. I will try not to confuse you. Continue reading