Blue Mountain – Peach

Blue Mountain Cider Peach Seasonal

Blue Mountain Cider Peach Seasonal

Every time I think “one of these days I’m going to run out of cider,” I realize there’s a cidery I haven’t reviewed anything from in months, if ever. In this case: Blue Mountain Cider.

Blue Mountain’s Peach seasonal cider is 6% ABV and clear with a definite orange hue, presumably owing to that extra boost of peach.

It has a light aroma, with a little tart acidity drifting in at the back. The flavor is much more sweet than dry, but acidic and tangy, the peach more or less blanketing the apple.

Try this cider with a pork dish, I think, or maybe salmon – it’s probably too strong for a mild seafood dish and not strong enough for something with rich red meat.

Blue Mountain has been around for a while, slowly growing and expanding their operation over time. They don’t have a cider locator, but you can buy directly from their online store, and they even have a cider club membership you can sign up for (I am sorely tempted).

Snowdrift Cider – Seckel Single Varietal Perry

Snowdrift Cider Seckel Single Varietal Perry

Snowdrift Cider Seckel Single Varietal Perry

I am having the best of all possible problems with pear ciders: enough cideries are making them now that some are actually making pear ciders I don’t like. Which is quite a feat, let me tell you, given my penchant for perry.

Snowdrift’s Seckel doesn’t fall into this category, but it’s very different from other pear ciders I’ve tried. At 8.6% ABV, it’s pretty substantial, and the color is a light amber closer to apple-based ciders than to the paler, more yellow appearance common to fully pear-based ciders.

The aroma is minimal — a little bit of yeast and cool spice. The flavor is very — well, very. It has a distinct character. I might have guessed this was a single-varietal perry even without being told.

With an ABV so high, it’s no surprise that it’s not particularly sweet even though it comes from a pear that’s known for its sweetness; the flavor is dense and strong, a little acidic. It’s much more like an apple cider than other pear ciders I’ve had, in the sense that it’s lacking the sort of cool, crisp, airy flavor I tend to associate with pear ciders.

Snowdrift really needs to update their website to include their latest offerings, but you can check their website for a distribution location near you.

Methow Valley Ciderhouse – Honey Bear

Methow Valley "Honey Bear"

Methow Valley “Honey Bear”

I’ve been a fan of this cider since I first tried it at my first Seattle Cider Summit, but I’ve never been able to find it in bottles around here — at least, until I dropped by the Schilling Cider House and spotted it.

Honey Bear is 6.8% ABV, and its color and clarity depend on whether you leave the considerable sediment at the bottom of the bottle or swirl it up and around. The former, and it’s an almost clear light yellow; the latter, and it approximates the opaque amber-brown of good unfiltered non-alcoholic cider.

It will come as a terrible surprise when I say that the highlight of Honey Bear is the honey. I know. Take a moment to recover. Behind the aroma and under the flavor come the apples, with a little tartness and acidity, but really this show is about the honey.

I don’t know where Methow Valley gets theirs but I’m betting it’s somewhere local, as both the aroma and flavor show off a honey that’s got a far more complex personality than your average supermarket plastic bear. (Bad Rider encourages everyone to support your local bees and beekeepers by buying local honey.)

That said, this cider manages to stay well away from being cloying or syrupy; yes, it tastes distinctly like strong honey, but it’s light and fresh enough to drink by the full-sized glass, unlike the thick, intense sweetness of something like an ice wine or ice cider that calls for a smaller serving size.

You can order Methow Valley online, or look for someplace local to pick some up (where local in this case means near Winthrop, Mazama, or Twisp, WA – site seems perhaps a little out of date). If you happen to stumble across this cider elsewhere, I encourage you to give it a try!

Crispin – Lion Belge

Crispin Cider Lion Belge

Crispin Cider Lion Belge

Remember my peeve about Angry Orchard’s expensive Cider House Collection — that you could do so much better for the price? Crispin is precisely the opposite. It’s taken me this long to review their Lion Belge because every time I get some, I get too wrapped up in enjoying it to fiddle with careful smelling and pausing and sipping and writing.

Lion Belge is the kind of pear cider that’s entirely from pear juice, fermented with Belgian Wit yeast and flavored with orange peel and coriander. It comes out of the bottle a lovely, pale yellow, more or less cloudy depending on how much if the sediment is suspended or settled. Don’t worry about being careful to pour it off the lees, Crispin encourages it to be tipped up and swirled around for maximum dispersal.

The aroma is light — a little of the orange, a little of the yeast, a very little bit of the coriander. The flavor, mild and complex, all the elements in good balance. There’s an edge of sweetness, the bitterness and citrus of the orange peel, the light touch of the yeast; all in all a quality drink with a much more reasonable price tag than Angry Orchard.

You can locate yourself some Lion Belge on Crispin’s site, and I thoroughly recommend you do so.

Tieton Cider Works – Apricot Semi-Dry

Tieton Cider Works Apricot Semi-Dry

Tieton Cider Works Apricot Semi-Dry

When last we met Tieton Cider Works, it was for their Smoked Pumpkin Cider back in October, so I figured it was high time I picked up something else from them for the pages of Bad Rider.

Tieton’s apricot cider is a medium amber, 6.9% ABV. The idea of an apricot cider being semi-dry is strange to me — but then, I freely admit I have unsophisticated opinions about fruit. Apricot? Not sweet? How odd. But sure enough: apricot, not sweet.

Dusty apricots distinctly dominate the aroma with more of a sharp, dried-fruit sort of smell, but then in the flavor the apricots come through fresh and tangy.

Tieton stays well clear of the “hint of [flavor]” approach that cider makers sometimes take with fruit blends. Of course the taste isn’t pure apricot like it might be if you were drinking straight juice, but the apples withdraw quite dramatically and really leave the apricot to shine.

You can locate yourself some Tieton via their website, and there are also some pairing suggestions here (those black bean burgers sound really good right now, actually).


Schilling Cider – Spiced Cider (& Chaider Revisited)

Schilling Spiced Cider & Chaider

Schilling Spiced Cider & Chaider

Big day for Bad Rider reviews: our first freebie! The kind folks at Schilling messaged us on Twitter recently to express their appreciation for our reviews, and even comped me a bottle of Spiced Cider from Schilling Cider House in Fremont after I mentioned wanting to compare it to the Chaider in last week’s review. Many thanks to Marc at the Cider House and to whoever manages Schilling’s Twitter account!

It is a little unseasonal to be drinking a Spiced Cider in February, but I’m hardly one to turn down free booze — especially when it’s For Science. And sure enough, now that I’m trying them side-by-side, the Chaider and the Spiced Cider really do have a lot in common.

Where the Chaider was cloudy, the Spiced Cider is a quite clear, a bit lighter in color, and a slightly stronger 6.9% ABV to Chaider’s 6.5%.

The aroma and flavor of both bear strong similarities of cinnamon and clove, though oddly I find the aroma and flavor of the two are in opposition when compared — the Spiced Cider smells more peppery than the Chaider, while the Chaider tastes more savory and complex.

I suppose it’s good for balance in either case: let the sweetness and cinnamon come through early in the aroma of the Chaider to balance the earthiness and spices to come in the taste, and let the Spiced Cider hold some kick in its aroma to offset the greater sweetness of the flavor.

Perhaps it’s just the associated of certain smells with pumpkin pie and eggnog and general holiday festivity, but there’s an aspect to the Spiced Cider that’s almost a little — eggy? Custard-y? It’s hard to capture and put down on paper. Perhaps it’s just the pumpkin notes mentioned on the bottle copy. In any case, it’s a smoother, softer, round-er sort of taste overall than the Chaider.

Both of these are good and interesting ciders — though my personal preference would be for the Spiced Cider more specifically during the winter holiday season and the Chaider as a more season-agnostic option. You can get either at Schilling’s Fremont location, or find a more local option via their site.

Sixknot Cider – High Desert Dry

Sixknot High Desert Dry

Sixknot High Desert Dry

Sixknot Cider is a small, organic outfit in a tiny town in northern Washington; I tried their Purple Sage apple/grape seasonal at the Seattle Cider Summit this past summer and was glad to see their stock at my local liquor store so I could give one of their regular varieties a try.

High Desert Dry has a softness to its aroma, a hint of vanilla, more of the orchard’s wood than its apples. It’s cloudy amber and 6.5% ABV.

The taste is light, kind of broad and airy. It’s a little tart, a tad acidic, but mostly woody and very, very dry.

This reminds me quite a bit of Alpenfire’s Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry; drinking it gives me the same sense of (tasty) liquefied timber, though Pirate’s Plank is more dense, with a stronger flavor.

I could see this being a good pairing for rich or strongly flavored meals — something to clear out your palate with.

Locate yourself some Sixknot here.

Schilling Cider – Chaider

Schilling Chaider

Schilling Chaider

Do you like cider? Do you like chai? If someone poured both those things into a single glass would you not immediately recoil in horror but instead entertain a curious thought or two about how the result might taste?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above, congratulations! A) We have something in common, and B) this is the cider chaider for you!

It’s really, genuinely, a little surprisingly…not terrible. And I don’t just mean “not terrible” in the sense that I somehow managed to choke it down — it’s interesting and totally drinkable.

Chaider is a kissing cousin to the whole pumpkin spice cider family, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, or think you might be into.

Cinnamon and cloves are light but noticeable in the aroma, and the spices turn make it cloudy amber in the glass.

There’s something about the flavor that’s more savory than your standard pumpkin spice set — cardamom, probably? — but it never gets too overpowering.

In fact, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, Schilling has managed to improve on last year’s chai cider recipe by moderating the overall spice level, making it less aggressive, more tempered and moderate. You’re definitely drinking chai cider, but it’s not going to reach out and demand the entirety of your attention.

(Some might call that a step backward, but I approve.)

I’d like to have tried this against their “Spiced Cider” winter seasonal to more precisely identify where the two differ, but I haven’t managed to get my hands on any of that one.

Think Chaider sounds interesting? Find some for yourself and give it a shot! And then tell Schilling what you think — I saw them asking on Twitter just yesterday whether anyone had tried it.

Alpenfire – glow

Alpenfire "glow"

The color looked much more striking and unique on the shelf, I must admit.

I’d be remiss in not stating right up front: this is a pricey cider ($28 for a 750mL bottle). The idea of a “rosé” cider intrigued me, especially given how much I loved Snowdrift’s beautiful pink Nebula Red, and I figured, well, it’s only one bottle. And if it turned out to not be worth the price, all the more reason to review it — so I could warn folks away.

While I was at the liquor store, I helped one of the guys finish off a couple of bottles of Finnriver from a tasting earlier in the evening, and when he saw I was planning to buy this cider he absolutely raved about it.

Given that the last cider this guy raved about to me was the disastrously vinegary Troy, the tang of acidity I got from Glow’s aroma had me alarmed at first — but it’s not too strong, and accompanied by a lush dessert-apple smell.

Glow is a moderate 6.8% ABV and though it definitely looks pinkish in the bottle — in fact it had quite a lovely gradation of sunset colors, which my camera and lighting have utterly failed to catch — it comes out more orange in the glass.

Happily, this cider holds up well to its price tag and to the hype. There’s a fresh sweetness to the flavor, bright and sugary but not in an artificial way. Like apple cotton candy (and there’s a product I could really get behind, come to think of it). The tart acidity I picked up in the aroma follows through behind the sweetness, keeping it from getting too syrupy and giving it a great balance.

So all in all, while I wouldn’t be inclined to purchase Glow frequently, I find myself agreeing with how it was described to me in the store — think about what you’re getting for your money in comparison to wine.

For $30 in the wine world, you can generally count on getting a solid, respectable wine (though I’ve had plenty of cheap good wines and expensive bad wines), but not necessarily anything spectacular. For $30 in the cider world, on the other hand, you’re getting some damn fine cider.

Locate some Alpenfire for yourself here!

2 Towns Ciderhouse – Fly’n South

2 Towns Fly'n South

2 Towns Fly’n South

I don’t know why it is that my local Bartell’s seems to have a lock on every new flavor 2 Towns puts out, but I’m certainly not going to complain. Fly’n South is a limited release cider, clear light yellow and clocking in at 6% ABV, fermented with Oregon gooseberries.

Keeping in the tradition of past 2 Towns ciders I’ve had, Fly’n South delivers as promised without going overboard. The gooseberry tartness comes through in the aroma, but not too much, and the flavor is moderately tart and dry.

The most interesting part about this cider for me is that the gooseberries also somehow bring in an acrid, slightly ashy, smoky aftertaste. Again, nothing overpowering or unpleasant — just a reminder, as I drink, of summertime in the desert and the almost-taste in the back of your throat on the hazy days when you can see a plume of smoke off in the distance.

It does transport me out of Seattle’s gray and gloomy winter, that’s for sure. Strange as it may sound, I think this cider came along at just the right time for me to appreciate it.

Check out 2 Towns’ site and find some for yourself!