Naramata – Dry Pear

Naramata Dry Pear

Naramata Dry Pear

This cider came down from BC, courtesy of my counterpart Andrea and our meetup at Welcome to Night Vale’s Halloween tour stop in Vancouver.

It’s a pale straw yellow, 6% ABV, and very fizzy. From the fizz and the enormous head it poured, I’m guessing it must have been fermented with champagne yeast.

The aroma is light, and a little cool in the way I think of pears as smelling and tasting somewhat cool. It’s distinct from the smell of a dry apple-based cider — Naramata used only pears in this cider, not a mix of pears and apples as some do.

It is, as advertised, quite a dry cider, but the pear flavor still comes through, alongside with some woody elements. The dryness and carbonation combine to make it taste almost spicy, but not in a bad way. I bet it would actually be a good accompaniment to a spicy meal.

In the past I’ve had dry perry that I really didn’t like (Sea Cider), and I think the difference in this case is the that the pear-ness of it isn’t getting dried into nonexistence.

Good luck getting your hands on any Naramata cider in the States, but if you’re in the Lower Mainland or Okanagan areas of BC, you might be able to find it. I might have to make the trip up north to try out some of their other stuff.

Left Field Cider – Pear Dry

Left Field Cider Co - Pear Dry

Earlier this summer, my Bad Rider partner in crime Andrea came down to visit and brought some cider from BC’s Left Field Cider Company for me to try.

Most of it, alas, I drank without reviewing, but I’ve saved their award-winning Pear Dry and their “Bourbon Barrel” Cidermaker’s Select because I wanted to be sure to get reviews written for them. Today I’m covering the Pear Dry.

(I will say of their Big Dry and Little Dry that they were not nearly as dry as I was expecting — both very nice, drinkable and crisp.)

The Pear Dry has a distinct pear aroma, sweet and light — not surprising given it’s a 100% pear cider, not an apple/pear mix or an apple cider flavored with pear after fermentation. It’s clear light yellow in color and clocks in at 6% ABV.

I can see why this cider has won awards. It’s got an interesting flavor — definitely pear-y, crisp, and quite surprisingly tart. It does come in more on the dry side than the sweet side (though like the Big Dry and Little Dry, it’s not as dry as one might expect), and there’s an aspect of juiciness to the flavor that I don’t usually associate with dry ciders.

This cider could be a really nice complement to the right meal, or a pleasant drink to have on its own. If you find yourself in BC or Alberta and can get your hands on some Left Field, I recommend giving them a try.

Crispin – Venus Reigns

Crispin Cider Venus Reigns

Crispin Cider Venus Reigns

Y’all, Crispin is killing me with these limited releases and fancy pear ciders. I can’t even feel guilty that they’re a big operation owned by MillerCoors, their stuff is just too good. Venus Reigns is a 6.9% ABV pear cider aged in red wine casks and finished with honey — if there exists a cider that is more my jam, I certainly cannot think of it at the moment.

The aroma strikes me as more like an apple cider than a perry, but it’s also got a distinct sense of red wine to it. I couldn’t possibly put a specific varietal name to it, but it tastes like a fairly young wine, not something that’s aged for very long.

I was halfway expecting a cider aged in red wine casks to turn out more or less pinkish, especially given the name and the lovely purple hues of the label, but Venus Reigns is a cloudy straw-amber color with perhaps a tiny hint of peach blush.

The flavor seems like it’s almost on separate levels — on the ground level, the pear cider mingling with red wine notes; on the mezzanine, the sweetness of the honey. It’s a party I could spend a lot of time at.

Overall it’s a fairly sweet cider, but though the honey doesn’t have distinct a profile as, say, Methow Valley’s Honey Bear, it’s still more than enough to keep Venus Reigns out of the “generic syrupy sweetness” category. I wouldn’t pair this with anything particularly bitter, but I think it could go well with savory dishes, or perhaps sweet-and-sour.

You can locate yourself some Venus Reigns on Crispin’s website, and I definitely recommend it. Crispin, please never stop with these weird limited editions and artisanal releases. Even if I am sad when they go away (RIP Steel Town).

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.

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.

Crispin – Pacific Pear

Crispin Cider Pacific Pear

Crispin Cider Pacific Pear

IT’S HERE! After the months and months of longing and searching since the Seattle Cider Summit, I finally found some Pacific Pear on shelves — at Bartell’s, of all places. And to my great delight, it is entirely as delicious as I remember.

Pacific Pear is made entirely from pear juice, not a mix of apple and pear juice as many perries are, and it really shows. Its aroma is cool and flowery and sweet but not cloying, the pear notes immediately distinct, and in the glass it’s a very clear, very pale yellow.

The taste of this cider is a glorious pear explosion, bursting on your tongue and all through your mouth. In addition to the pure-pear-juice composition, the low alcohol content (only 4.5% ABV) also leaves much of the fruit sweetness intact. This is a sweet cider, of that there’s no question, but it’s light and refreshing rather than heavy or syrupy.

It’s a real shame I only saw this in 4-packs of 12oz bottles, because what I’d really like is to be able to fill up a growler with this stuff. (Over and over and over again…)

To be clear: though I know it can’t be to everyone’s taste, I recommend this cider really without reservation. I loved it when I tried it at the Summit, I love it today, and now that it’s shown up on store shelves near me I look forward to loving it on a regular basis in the future. Run, don’t walk, to locate some for yourself on Crispin’s website here.

Dragon’s Head – Manchurian, Pear, and Pippin Ciders

Dragon's Head "Manchurian Cider" & "Pippin Cider" Bottles

Dragon’s Head “Manchurian Cider” & “Pippin Cider” Bottles

In this review I’m covering three ciders at once because I can’t tell the difference between them and I feel like it would be cheating to post the same review three separate times with only minimal changes.

Okay, fine, it’s not entirely true that I can’t tell them apart at all — they’re a light, clear yellow-gold color with mild fizz, but when I hold them up to the light the Pear is slightly more yellow and the Manchurian slightly more gold. All three taste light and fairly dry but not bone-dry; the Pear’s a bit more sweet and mellow while the Manchurian has more bite, and the Pippin is slightly more tart.

If it were the case that these ciders all tasted incredible I might not be bothered by the fact that they’re nearly identical; as it is, none of them are objectionable, but neither do they stand out in particular.

I’ll be the first to admit here that this may all well come down to my own palate being insufficiently refined, but if I tasted one of the three at random from a glass, I wouldn’t for the life of me be able to guess which one it was. If it helps, I have high hopes that their fourth cider, the “Wild Fermented,” will stand out from the other three. I mean, it ought to, right?

The Manchurian is made from (surprise!) Manchurian Crabapples, the Pear is made from (quoth the bottle) “a blend of seedling and traditional perry pears,” and the Pippin (again – surprise!) from America’s cider apple darling the Newtown Pippin. The Manchurian and Pippin are 6.9% ABV, the Pear is 6.5%.

If you want to try one, I recommend the Pear, which comes in a bottle double the size of the Manchurian and Pippin at a couple dollars less than double the price. You can locate some Dragon’s Head for yourself here.