Rumble in the Bramble: Seattle Cider’s PNW Berry vs. 2 Towns’ Throne of Thorns

PNW Berry and Throne of Thorns

PNW Berry and Throne of Thorns

It’s summertime, which means all manner of fruits and veggies and flowers and trinkets at the various farmer’s markets scattered throughout the Seattle area. In the past, I’ve been known to buy a truly outrageous amount of blackberries at the market near work on Thursdays, intending to use them in pies and cooking, but usually they end up unceremoniously dumped in a bowl and eaten as-is.

This summer brings us not one, but two berry-themed seasonal/limited-release ciders (actually, probably more than that, but these are the ones I’ve found so far) — Seattle Cider’s PNW Berry and 2 Towns’ Throne of Thorns. I’ve pitted them against each other for your (and my) enjoyment and edification.

Color: Seattle Cider gives us a lovely rosy peach color in the PNW Berry, while 2 Towns goes for a much more dramatic garnet.

Aroma: 2 Towns has a strong aroma, sweet-tart and fruity, while the PNW Berry has very little in the way of aroma at all, just a soft hint of sweetness.

ABV: PNW Berry clocks in at 6.9% to Throne of Thorns’ 6% even.

Flavor: These two ciders are a great illustration of how you can go very different places from a common start.

Despite the light, sweet aroma, Seattle Cider’s PNW Berry is quite dry, with some mild acidity and light fruit aspects coming through in the taste. It’s a fairly subtle interpretation of the “berry cider” concept (PNW Berry has a little blueberry in addition to the blackberry and raspberry).

On the other hand, Throne of Thorns is sweeter, stronger in flavor, more tart — it really centers the berries and lets them assert themselves. Throne of Thorns is a shout where PNW Berry is a murmured aside.

Overall: I wouldn’t say either one of these ciders is better than the other — they definitely both have their places. If there’s food involved, I would make sure to pair Throne of Thorns with something that’s going to stand up to its bold flavor, while PNW Berry could go with something that has lighter, more nuanced flavors.

Seattle Cider – Oaked Maple

Seattle Cider Oaked Maple

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As you can tell, we’re having a hard time getting back into the swing of things here at Bad Rider. But your regularly scheduled reviews have returned! (Hopefully. More or less.) First up in the new year, a cider I tried earlier in the winter which made me immediately think, “I have to review this because it’s so strange.”

My last interaction with maple in cider was Woodchuck’s spring seasonal, which was (to my own great surprise) not particularly to my taste. Usually I will be first in line for anything with maple and brown sugar.

Perhaps it’s something specific to maple in cider, because this Oaked Maple is also…weird. It starts off well enough, with a straightforward apple aroma and some of the oak notes underneath.

When I taste it, I get maple — but scarcely any sweetness. Which is bizarre, right? Maple should be sweet! I have a hard time wrapping my head around something tasting like maple but not being sweet the way maple-flavored things generally are.

Other than the strange non-sweet maple taste, Oaked Maple is fairly tart, and a little bitter. The bottle copy says it’s fermented with oak chips and raisins, and there is something of wrinkly dark fruit about it, an aftertaste like raisins picked out of a cake.

Seattle Cider needs to keep their website up to date (AHEM), as it currently only lists Pumkin Spice and PNW Berry as the available seasonals, but you can still use their locator to track yourself down some cider here.

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.

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.

Seattle Cider – Pumpkin Spice

Seattle Cider Pumpkin Spice

Seattle Cider Pumpkin Spice

For better or for worse, cider has become popular enough over the past few years that some cider makers are starting to hop on board the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon in fall.

While I won’t be running an actual bracket like Andrea, I will of course round up all the pumpkin and pumpkin spice ciders I can get my hands on and review them for you, in addition to any other autumn seasonals I find. And anything else that’s generally thematic, while we’re at it (Angry Orchard Straw Man, I’m looking at you).

We start today with Seattle Cider’s Pumpkin Spice Cider.

This is definitely more of a spice cider than a pumpkin cider — the bottle claims cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves followed by “just a touch of pumpkin,” but if the pumpkin’s there at all it’s extremely understated.

Cinnamon and cloves dominate the aroma; the other spices come forward in the flavor to mingle with the apple.

If this were an actual pumpkin pie, or even an apple pie, I would sigh and make adjustments to my recipe, because the proportion of spice to fruit/squash filling is way out of whack.

As a cider, it’s fine — just as long as you’re aware you’re on the express train to Spiceville and that’s where you want to be. I bet it would actually be pretty good mulled with an orange (NON clove-studded, plenty of clove in there already, thanks) and maybe some rum.

It’s medium/heavy fizz, golden in color, and 6.9% ABV. If you’re in WA, OR, MI, or AK, you can find some for yourself here.