Seattle Cider – Washington Heirloom (2013 Vintage)

I’ve yet to find the Seattle Cider offering that really knocks my socks off, but they keep putting out solid, fairly interesting stuff, and the 2013 Washington Heirloom continues that trend.

This 6.9% ABV cider introduces itself with a syrupy-sweet aroma, edged in sourness, and pours a clear light yellow, fairly fizzy.

The flavor kicks off with hard sharp acidity, then eases into a tart, off-dry, off-beat flavor — the bottle copy mentions WInesap apples featuring prominently, and I can see how they may be lending some different, sort of dark fruit flavor than ciders that favor mainly dessert, bittersweet, or classic cider apples

The aftertaste is cool and crisp and a little woody, but doesn’t last long. To me this is a cider that tastes like winter: cold fruit from the ground, cold wood, the snap of cold air in your lungs.

Seattle Cider isn’t kidding around with their limited editions — only 2400 bottles of this have been made, so if you’d like to try some, get yourself to a store and check it out.

Judgement will get you nowhere

photo 2

So fizzy.

The Specs: Bad Tattoo Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.) Los Muertos Cerveza Negro
650mL, 5 per cent ABV


Bad Riders, we’ve been apart too long. Between the election I’ve been covering for my day job and a trip back to Alberta (where I drank much craft beer but made few notes), this blog hasn’t got its usual loving.

Luckily my fridge still contained one bottle that didn’t make the trip back to Wildrose country with the others on my top shelf. Why?

Well… ok. It’s shallow, but direct your eyeballs to the photo on the right side of the screen. Now look at that packaging.

As the B.C. brewering field gets more and more crowded, more and more brewing companies are stepping up their design. To pick a notable example, Fernie Brewing Co. went from a more homespun label to a modern, colour-blocked approach this year, briefly making me think the brewery might have something more exciting to offer than in years past (spoiler: not really).

Bad Tattoo’s label, by contrast, feels pretty dated compared to bottles from Barkerville, Tofino, Central City and other breweries that have passed through my kitchen as of late. With a teensy, hard to read logo and an awkward layout featuring an undersized picture it doesn’t speak of confidence and care.

Which is a shame, because Los Muertos Cerveza Negro is actually pretty good.

The taste profile is similar to quite a few of the stouts and porters I’ve been drinking as winter sets in — malty, with a mild milk chocolate flavour and some sweetness — but with a much lighter mouthfeel, hint of acid and enough of a hoppy finish to make it clear you’re drinking a lager.

And compared to your average stout it’s wildly carbonated. My bottle in particular was so fizzy that even a week’s rest in the fridge wasn’t enough to keep it from exploding a bit when I popped the cap.

Overall, it was a pleasant surprise. I’ll have to keep my eye on these guys after all. According to the company’s website, Bad Tattoo also does apple soda and rootbeer brewed in house, which I’m embarrassed to admit I want to taste even more than the rest of their beer lineup. Would that the craft soda market were half as well developed in B.C.

Schilling Cider – Oak-Aged

Schilling Cider Oak-Aged

Schilling Cider Oak-Aged

For Thanksgiving, I bring you all one of my favorite ciders: Schilling’s Oak-Aged. The very first time I tried Schilling’s Oak-Aged it went straight to my go-to list. It’s a mellow and easy-drinking cider, with a distinctive taste, at a reasonable price, from a local cidery. What more could a cider drinker ask for?

The aroma is sweet and spicy, more pepper and cinnamon than apple, with a kind of burnt, nutty smell following behind. It’s a clear, pale gold and 6.5% ABV.

After an initial hit of spice there’s an edge of sweetness to the taste, but it’s more than balanced out by the woody flavor and bitterness imparted by the aging process. The aftertaste lingers only a little and then fades. Still, it’s not brash — I stand by my description of “mellow.”

I definitely think this is a cider that would pair well with a wide variety of meals; I’ve had it on its own as well as with meals from sandwiches to sushi.

Schilling’s Oak-Aged is absolutely my favorite Schilling cider of their offerings I’ve tried thus far — sometimes they tend to go a little strong for regular drinking for my taste (as in their Chai Spice and Grapefruit ciders), but it’s hard to go wrong with the Oak-Aged.

Track yourself down some Schilling here, and don’t hesitate to check out some of their other flavors as well.



I’m not saying I didn’t see it coming from the pretentious “MCMXIII” labeling, but…

When I was at my local liquor store looking for something I haven’t yet tried and reviewed, the beer & cider buyer happened to be there, chatting to some other customers, and upon his very strong recommendation (produced in its turn by the strong recommendation of others that he try it) I picked up a bottle of Troy.

They’re apparently only on their second year of cider — the first year they took what they could get from around the accessible outside of an old fruit orchard and this past year they were able to get in and reach the interior.

The cider is barrel aged and wild fermented, and I noticed a considerable amount of sedimentary sludge in the bottle of the bottle.

My first whiff was sharp and acidic, almost vinegary. The cider is a light yellow, more or less cloudy depending on how much of the sediment you rustle up. I leaned toward trying not to disturb it.

Little did I know that that whiff of vinegar was only the prelude to a much stronger sourness and acidity in the taste of the cider. This stuff is aggressive.

It’s so strong that it’s hard for me to pick out any individual notes in this — it’s a different sort of cider to be sure, and I don’t know how much of that comes from its heirloom apple/pear/quince composition and how much comes from the wild fermentation.

To be honest, I flat out cannot recommend this cider. I suppose if someone was already a fan of drinking actual vinegar, they might like this cider, but other than that, pass.

Maybe I just got a bad bottle? I checked out some other reviews and they give quite a different impression of this cider. If you’d like to take a gamble, or you are one of those people who likes drinking vinegar, you can keep an eye out, but if you ask me? Just don’t.

Seattle Cider – Three Pepper

Seattle Cider Three Pepper

It looks so unassuming, until you take a whiff.

Being the kind of person who doesn’t usually take their Thai/Indian/Mexican food crying-spicy, I was dubious about this cider the first time I picked it up. THREE Pepper cider? I asked myself. It’s only one bottle, you can handle it, I replied. To myself.

After I tried it, someone doing their own exploration of regional cider offerings asked me how it was, and in the months since I recommended it they’ve apparently been drinking almost nothing else.

If you’re already ambivalent about the idea of drinking pepper cider, the aroma isn’t reassuring: it’s an immediate dramatic hit of jalapeno and capsaicin.

To my surprise, though, this cider is more bark than bite — when you actually take a sip you get mostly a medium-sweet cider, with some fresh pepper flavor and fire that hovers around the outside and eases in toward the finish.

The heat from the peppers lingers in the aftertaste, and the quicker you chug it down, the more it’ll make itself known, but over the course of a bottle it never gets to the point where it bothers me.

I’m a bit at a loss trying to think of what kind of meal you might pair it with — something else spicy, probably, but not so spicy you want your drink to save you.

Track down some Three Pepper for yourself here. It says small batch/limited edition, so you may have a hard time finding any, but I’ve seen it in my local store for months, so then again maybe not.

Pumpkindrome: The Finals

What? You try finding 18 glasses in an office.

What? You try finding 18 glasses in an office.

The Challengers: Phillips Crooked ToothHowe Sound Brewing Co.’s PumpkineaterRed Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale


After way, way too much tasting, it all comes down to this.

Over the past weeks I’ve gotten a little too close to these beers, developed some personal prejudices and a few too many opinions. So, for our Pumpkindrome finale I decided it was time to call in the big guns, to assemble a crack team of —

OK. I just asked my co-workers if they wanted to drink beer on a Friday.

Together, six of us sipped our way through a sorta-kinda blind taste test of our top three beers. The results were near unanimous. Let’s count ’em down.

3. When faced with solid competition, none of us could figure out how Red Racer had made it so far in the challenge. The hoppiest of the three beers, it garnered a less than enthused reaction in a room filled with IPA-deniers (my people, truly). This particular bottle seemed to have a slightly grassy finish as well, which didn’t sit well with the pumpkin. “Not my style of beer” was about the nicest comment, with several panellists saying they didn’t enjoy the beer at all.

2. Howe Sound performed valiantly in Pumpkindrome, winning praise from me all the way along for its complex spices. But, at the end of the day it wasn’t able to capture the hearts of most of my co-workers. “I like the way it tastes,” said one. “But I would get sick of it so fast.”

Only my editor staunchly defended Howe Sound as a number one pick, calling it smoother, creamier and richer than everyone else’s number one choice, “with a sweet kick that reminds me of a good honey brown.”

1. I had a feeling Phillips was going all the way the first time I tasted it. It’s bright, light qualities seemed to hook my co-workers (sans editor) too. “It’s a slam dunk,” said one, with another calling it the best-balanced between pumpkin and beer.

While I’ve complained about the difficulties of innovating with pumpkin beer, Phillips is a bit of a different breed — light and not as sweet than many of its competitors while still maintaining both pumpkin and spice flavours. If you do prefer something darker, however, you won’t go wrong with Howe Sound.

Personally, I knew where the win had to go as I was sneaking another glass while my co-workers made their tasting notes. The Crooked Tooth was gone before we’d finished tabulating the results.


Your winner: Phillips Crooked Tooth

Your winner: Phillips Crooked Tooth

Portland Cider – Kinda Dry

Portland Cider Kinda Dry

Portland Cider Kinda Dry

Trust Portland to be the kind of place with a cider named “Kinda Dry.” At least there aren’t any birds on the label.

Most ciders I drink have an aroma you have to look for and pay attention to, but my glass of Kinda Dry is sitting on my desk and the smell is steadily wafting into my nose from a couple feet away. It smells bittersweet, and almost boozy — but not like alcohol, more like fragrant orchard apples beginning to sour.

Living up to its name, Kinda Dry is not sweet, but retains just enough to keep it from giving ever entirely to bitterness and dryness.

Portland Cider Company’s website says it was founded in part by British expats “with the mission of bringing handcrafted cider in the English tradition to the northwest,” which explains why Kinda Dry puts me in mind of some English ciders I’ve tried in the past.

It’s hard to pin down notes of the flavor for me; various aspects chase each other around the corners of my mouth. It’s not predominantly bitter, nor sweet, nor dry, but it is all of those things in part; it’s light and finishes with a lingering woody aftertaste. Overall, I like it. It’s interesting.

Kinda Dry is a clear gold, low fizz, and 6.8% ABV. Find some for yourself here.

2 Towns Ciderhouse – Cidre Muscato

2 Towns Cidre Muscato

2 Towns Cidre Muscato

My love of muscat goes at least back to college, when I discovered Kasugai fruit gummies and ate a copious amount of them, especially the muscat and melon flavored ones. As I eventually developed a taste for wine, at first I leaned toward sweet wines such as muscats, and now that I’ve tried 2 Towns’ Cidre Muscato it’s not a surprise that I enjoy it as well.

It’s a clear, pale yellow, almost a tiny bit greenish even, and has a definite recognizable muscat aroma, light and sweet and sharp.

It’s definitely sweet — like a muscat wine would be, not syrupy. It really does taste rather like a muscat wine profile is sort of overlaying the cider. There’s an immediate hit of sweetness in the taste, and some acid, but then it dries out and develops into something more complex before fading and leaving an echo of grapes lingering in your mouth.

Overall, this cider seems lighter than a comparable muscat wine would be — understandable, since muscat wines tend to be 10% and up in ABV while this is only 6.9%. As far as I’m concerned, it’s another hit from 2 Towns. Locate some for yourself here!

And now for something completely different

In the chocolate vs. vanilla wars, I'm siding with Seaport.

In the chocolate vs. vanilla wars, I’m siding with Seaport.

I know you’re all wondering about the Pumpkindrome, but my expert panel (well, “expert”) has yet to convene. So, in the meantime, here’s something else I’ve been enjoying when I get sick of squash.

The Specs: Lighthouse Brewing Co. (Victoria, B.C.) Seaport Vanilla Stout
5.5 per cent ABV, 650mL, limited release


Actually, speaking of sick, this is a beer I was fully expecting to be irritated with by the end of my first pint.

If no one had told me what the special ingredient in Lighthouse’s special edition stout was, I feel fairly confident I’d have figured it out on my own. With a strong whiff of pure vanilla on the nose (think extract, not candy) and an equally strong vanilla finish, it’s hard to miss.

But my first impression of Seaport was less “pure Madagascar vanilla beans” and more chocolate bar. With its notes of coffee and mild chocolate combining with the vanilla finish, Seaport tastes like nothing so much as a Crispy Crunch-Coffee Crisp hybrid. (Americans, I believe you call such items ‘candy bars’ and do not experience the joys of Coffee Crisp. For this I can offer only my apologies.)

Given these are among my favourite chocolate choices, I was predisposed to enjoy this beer, but I figured after about half a glass I’d start to get irritated. As I’ve mentioned in past, really sweet beer is decidedly not my thing.

But, here’s what I noticed on further sipping — Seaport isn’t a particularly sweet beer. The vanilla is deceptive, offering the illusion of sugar where there is none and acting in the same way citrus notes do in other varieties of beer. With vanilla to cut the usual heaviness of stout, this beer doesn’t get heavy and stays light on the tongue.

When I reached the end of the glass, it was disappointment I felt, not relief. Lighthouse has done something a little different and decidedly tasty here.

Snowdrift Cider – Cliffbreaks Blend

Snowdrift Cider's Cliffbreaks Blend

Snowdrift Cider’s Cliffbreaks Blend

My first experience with Snowdrift Cider was a glass of their Nebula Red at Capitol Cider a while back. It was, and I put this mildly, like pure manna from heaven descended into a glass. Nothing I’ve tried from Snowdrift since then has quite lived up, as is so often the case, but I still get excited when I see their labels.

Deep golden in color, 7.8% ABV and mostly still, Cliffbreaks has a fresh, tangy scent underlaid with light bittersweetness.

For some reason the aroma led me to expect a drier cider than it turned out to be. In addition, the bittersweet notes in the aroma don’t particularly translate into bitterness in the flavor.

It has some tannins supporting a profile largely dominated by strong, mouth-puckering tartness and acidity, but is decidedly more on the sweet side than the dry.

That’s not to say it’s over-sweet, or that I’m bothered by the lack of bitterness — the balance is quite good. “Bold & Assertive” is how the bottle sums up Cliffbreaks, and I’m not inclined to argue (though I’m not entirely on board with the more detailed notes they claim, like an “aromatic coconut finish”).

Find yourself some Snowdrift here! They’re pretty small right now, so good luck if you’re not in Washington, but they do have an online shop, and I look forward to them expanding over the coming years.