D’s Wicked Cider – Baked Apple

D's Baked Apple Cider

D’s Baked Apple Cider

Like Angry Orchard’s Strawman, D’s Baked Apple isn’t a seasonal offering, but thematically it fits well enough.

D’s is a small outfit in eastern Washington, an area better known for its wines than its ciders — though, come to think of it, it’s also known for apple production, so I’m a little surprised I haven’t heard about a cidery out that way before now.

In color, Baked Apple cider is cloudy and amber like real non-alcoholic cider (not the fake rebranded juice crap), and there’s a sort of cinnamon-y, roasted aroma to it. Honest to goodness like baked spiced apples.

It’s quite sweet, but there’s also vanilla and a little bit of a pie crust sort of taste to it.

To be honest, the first time I tried this cider I wasn’t wild about it, but coming back to it after a couple of months I appreciate it more for doing exactly what it claims to. I mean, it’s named “Baked Apple” and it really does taste like baked apples.

If that sounds like something you’d be into, look for some in a store near you! No locator available but you can check out their website here.

Red Racer vs. Jumpin Jack

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Week Four: Red Racer vs. Tree Brewing

This October Bad Rider’s beer section is pitting gourd against gourd in a battle to determine which B.C. beer is king of the pumpkin patch. Welcome to Pumpkindrome.

The challengers: Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin’ Jack India Pumpkin Ale (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs Red Racer’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)


One of the more frustrating aspects of Pumpkindrome is that I feel like I’m penalizing innovation. On the weekend, it was Parallel 49’s chocolate and pumpkin porter failing to make the cut. This week, I’m having similar struggles with Tree Brewing’s marriage of IPA and pumpkin.

Here’s the problem, I think: pumpkin is not a particularly bold flavour. Add something strong, like IPA-appropriate concentrations of hops or chocolate, and you mask it. If you’re not amping up the spices to compensate, it doesn’t take much to lose any sense of your original purpose.

Jumping Jack is a darn bold IPA, too. While I’ve somewhat come around on my no-way-IPA stance lately, thanks to some delicious brews (most notably Gigantic Brewing’s offering out of Portland), this is not my kind of IPA. Forget nuance, this is all hops — and hops in a concentration that makes me think soap, not beer. If there’s any pumpkin here, I can’t find it. Probably because I’m too busy wincing.

Red Racer’s take on pumpkin beer, meanwhile, is as textbook as you could find, from its pumpkin pie smell to its spice blend. Here, as with other contenders, it’s mainly a cinnamon effort, though there’s a sense of ginger and nutmeg in the blend as well. I’d call it mid-sweet, but it’s really pushing that definition. And while the pumpkin isn’t as well-developed as I’d like, it’s definitely there.

It’s a perfectly good beer. Does exactly what it says on the label. And yet, I feel a bit bad that once again, I can’t give the risk-taker a bump. I’d love to taste a beer that marries IPA’s assertive hops with the pumpkin’s interesting, savoury freshness. Tree’s ain’t it.

Red Racer’s onto round two.

Woodchuck – Fall Harvest

Woodchuck Fall Harvest

Woodchuck Fall Harvest

With their fall seasonal release, Woodchuck is going not for pumpkin pie but for apple pie, and not for an explosion of spices but for something sweet and evocative of particular flavors without being overpowering (Seattle Cider I’m looking at you).

It’s a clear, dark amber and only 5% ABV, with a mild and sweet aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. The taste is (unsurprisingly) also quite sweet, with smooth vanilla and a little apple tartness.

All in all, a respectable entry into the fall seasonal category. Reminds me a little of the Neigel Pearfect Pie I tried at the Seattle Cider Summit, but less aggressively pie-tastic than I recall that one being.

Every cider I’ve had from Woodchuck has been on the sweeter side, but not so much that I feel bad recommending the ones I’ve liked to other people who like sweet ciders. Sometimes I’m not a fan of their flavor choices (like, surprisingly, the winter seasonal), but overall I trust them to deliver pretty solid commercial stuff.

Find yourself some Woodchuck here!

Lost Souls vs. Organic Pumpkin

Week Three: Parallel 49 vs. Nelson Brewing

Week Three: Parallel 49 vs. Nelson Brewing

This October Bad Rider’s beer section is pitting gourd against gourd in a battle to determine which B.C. beer is king of the pumpkin patch. Welcome to Pumpkindrome.

The challengers: Parallel 49’s Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (6.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) vs. Nelson Brewing Co.’s Organic Pumpkin Ale (5 per cent ABV, 650mL)


They both have pumpkin in their names, but today’s Pumpkindrome challengers couldn’t be less alike if I’d tried, instead of leaving this bracket to random chance. And, more than any match up so far, this week’s decision is coming down to personal preference and slightly twisty logic.

Parallel 49’s Lost Souls is on the low end of sweet, with a smooth, mostly chocolate taste — milk-chocolate, not dark. The chocolate’s balanced out with the sort of malty notes you’d expect from a beer of this style, and overall it’s a very cohesive drink. With a short of espresso dropped into your pint, you could drink this at brunch with absolutely no shame.

Nelson’s organic pumpkin brew is much more in the traditional line of things. The pumpkin is quite good here, very fresh and just a little vegetal. It feels like it could have been picked from the patch this morning. The spice blend on the other hand…

Do you remember those little red cinnamon hearts from Valentine’s Days past? This beer doesn’t seem to have the spice balance of the other comers so far. It’s all cinnamon, and when combined with the beer’s moderate sweetness you end up with a finish that’s uncomfortably bulk bin candy.

But, you ask, what about the pumpkin in Parallel 49’s beer?

That’s where the issue comes in, dear drinkers. I couldn’t taste any. If I’m being generous, I thought there were some hints of cinnamon rounding out the chocolate. You could see this more in the line of a chocolate spice bread — delicious, but unlikely to make pumpkin much of a star.

So while I think it’s well composed, very drinkable, and less discernibly flawed, I don’t think I can give Lost Souls the win. If I’d made it my only pumpkin purchase of the year, I’d be pretty disappointed, good as it is.

Nelson’s uneven, but you can’t deny it’s pumpkin. It moves on to round two.

[A note — last year Nelson brewed my favourite pumpkin ale, and I don’t remember this cinnamon issue at all. It could be uneven brewing, or my palate’s developed in the last 12 months, but I think I’ll be revisiting this bottle next fall out of curiosity.]

Ace – Pumpkin Cider

Ace Pumpkin Cider

Don’t do it, kids.

Hailing from California, Ace is not the local-est of local operations, but in my quest to bring you comprehensive coverage of pumpkin ciders I’m allowing it.

Buuuuuut I’m allowing it for one specific reason: to bring you a warning that it’s bad.

To start off with: it smells bad. Yes, there are spices there, and even some pumpkin. There’s also a smell that I most strongly associate with Nickelodeon Gak — that kind of sharp, chemical, plastic smell.

The taste never really makes up for the smell, nor does it particularly distinguish itself. It’s almost anticlimactic: sugary and pretty stock apple-juice with a side of pumpkin pie spices.

Don’t look for some Ace Pumpkin cider of your own. Try some Crispin Steel Town instead – while not strictly speaking a seasonal cider, given the competition it’s turning out to be one of the better ciders I’ve tried this fall.

Harvest Pumpkin vs. Pumpkineater

Week Two: Prohibition vs. Howe Sound

Week Two: Prohibition vs. Howe Sound

This October Bad Rider’s beer section is pitting gourd against gourd in a battle to determine which B.C. beer is king of the pumpkin patch. Welcome to Pumpkindrome, Week Two.

The Challengers: Prohibition Brewing Co.’s Harvest Pumpkin Spiced Ale (5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL) versus Howe Sound Brewing Co.’s Pumpkineater (8 per cent ABV, 1L)


I took my first sip of Prohibition’s Harvest Pumpkin and went into a panic that the beer had somehow spoiled in my refrigerator. That about set the tone for this round.

Compared to our last pumpkindrome outing, today’s beers appeared a little more in line with each other — both different degrees of the same orange-amber colour, both bubbly. But, one has a business being in this competition and one made me kinda sad.

If someone served me a glass of Prohibition blind, with no up-front info, I might have guessed it was a pilsner having a very bad day. It’s got those sweet, corny notes and the mouthfeel I associate with pilsners but holy cats is it ever sharp. My first couple sips were overwhelmingly citric acid, and that never much died down. If there was either pumpkin or spice to be tasted under all that, I never managed it.

Howe Sound, meanwhile, makes some interesting choices with their pumpkin offering. Specifically, I’m talking about the cloves and star anise in their brew — two unusual spices choices that come through fairly strongly in the beer. I also caught notes of the other usual pie spices, ginger in particular, but it’s that very subtle, fresh hint of liquorice and clove that I’ve always noticed most in Pumpkineater.

With a number of unusual flavours and about a medium sweetness (not to mention that 8 per cent ABV), it’s the kind of beer the benefits from a slow drink to suss out all the complex flavours.


while it’s a great spiced beer, I’m not sure it seems that pumpkin-like. While I got a whiff of pumpkin on the nose, there’s not much of it in the glass, and the spice mix doesn’t immediately make me think pie the way some of the others in Pumpkindrome have. It moves on to round two, but I’ll be curious to see how it stacks up to some of our other challengers in the days ahead.

2 Towns Ciderhouse – ‘Cot in the Act

2 Towns Ciderhouse "Cot in the Act"

2 Towns Ciderhouse “Cot in the Act”

I’ve been on a bit of a pumpkin spice mean streak so I wanted to mix things up and review something that’s not at all autumn-themed. My local Bartell’s was happy to oblige with some limited-release 2 Towns ciders such as this “‘Cot in the Act” apricot cider.

True to the name, it has a light apricot aroma; it’s a light, clear yellow with medium fizz and 6% ABV.

Though the apricot also comes out in the taste, it’s not terribly sweet overall and has some nice tartness backing it up. A bit sharp and acidic, but not too much.

As we already know, I’m not the world’s best guesser, but this definitely tastes to me like it’s got a definite portion of bittersweet and/or cider apples rather than just a straight dessert apple blend.

I wasn’t able to find info about this limited release on 2 Towns’ website, but the bottle copy does say it’s “just for the dog days of summer,” so you may be out of luck finding it locally yourself now that we’re well into October.

Best of luck, though — I feel like I’m starting to recognize the general taste profile of 2 Towns, and I enjoy it.

Beer Back Soon

Hey Bad Riders!

So, in celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, your faithful beer reviewer has come down with the kind of gross and disgusting cold that makes it difficult to discern any and all tastes. So as not to break the sanctity of Pumpkindrome, I’ve held off on continuing our pumpkin beer showdown until I can, you know, actually tell the difference between beers.

Sorry for the extended disruption! Regular service will resume Tuesday.

In the meantime, have a picture of Bad Rider Reviews’ Canadian mascot dressed as a unicorn.

again, real sorry

again, real sorry

Angry Orchard – Strawman

Angry Orchard Strawman

Angry Orchard Strawman

Neither pumpkin-flavored nor seasonal, Strawman is one of Angry Orchard’s trio of “Cider House Collection” ciders, meant to be “rare and innovative.” It’s made from “traditional culinary and bittersweet apples” then aged in oak.

It’s a cloudy orange, with low fizz, and a bitter, slightly spicy and funky aroma. Tart acid and bitterness dominate the taste, underlaid with a bit of wood and enough sweetness to keep it from being dry.

I thought Strawman seemed an overly brash, sharply boozy-tasting cider until I saw that it’s got an ABV of 10%; that explains the alcoholic bite to an extent, though I’d still place it closer to the 12% Prohibition than the comparable 10% Bad Apple.

All in all it’s an interesting cider, very aggressive, definitely not something you’d want to drink with sweet or mild foods.

While I’m happy Angry Orchard is trying out higher-end, more interesting and complex ciders than their regular lines (though really, all I want from them is Elderflower all year round), I’m gonna have to be That Cider Snob for a moment:

At the price point of Strawman (and the rest of the Cider House Collection), you can do better.

Instead of buying 750ml of Strawman, you could buy as much or more actual small-batch craft cider that’s just as creative and interesting, from small operations that are probably local to you (wherever you are) and probably could use your business and support more.

If you respect the Angry Orchard name and want to drinking something from them that’s a little more interesting than usual, by all means try the Cider House Collection. But folks, I encourage you to check out the smaller outfits in your area and give them a chance.

Tieton Cider Works – Smoked Pumpkin Cider

Tieton Smoked Pumpkin Cider

Tieton Smoked Pumpkin Cider

For those of you overwhelmed by pumpkin spice everything, you may be in luck on the cider front, as I’ve only been able to get my hands on three pumpkin/pumpkin spice ciders so far. Even at only one per week, I might be done with pumpkin ciders by Halloween.

Tieton’s Smoked Pumpkin cider smells kind of funky, like the jack-o-lantern you left out on your porch for a few days too long.

I do get some squash flavor in this one, unlike Seattle Cider’s spice domination; overall it has a dark, somewhat funky taste. It’s similar to, but distinct from, other bittersweet craft ciders I’ve had.

Tieton’s bottle copy talks about it starting with smoke, following with pumpkin, and finishing with apple — I don’t agree that it’s as neat a progression as they’re claiming, and the smoke doesn’t identify itself particularly strongly, but in general they’re not wrong about the profile.

It’s very still, a cloudy amber-gold, and 6.9% ABV. Founded in 2008, Tieton has been around a while in comparison to much of the recent cider boom — their locator page shows a presence in 13 states as well as British Columbia.