Number 109: Starcut Ciders Immortal Jelly

Jellyfish are a pretty weird animal. They have earned a monicker as similarly misleading as the pineapple in that they are neither made of jelly, nor are they fish. They are mysterious aquatic creatures that drift to and fro in a mesmerically beautiful way. Because they don’t actually have brains, or even a central nervous system, they almost seem like plantlife: floating in the tidal winds, their tendrils billowing like tongues Immortal Jellyof flame. 

Starcut Ciders’ Immortal Jelly was a uniquely enjoyable
cider. Packing the flavors of a quartet of berries (straw, blue, black, and rasp), the Immortal Jelly bears a pleasant aroma and aftertaste reminiscent of a fine jam. These berry flavors counterbalance the slightly acerbic
semi-sweet apple, leading to a very smooth, even finish.

This is my first cider from Starcut, and from the look of their website, they have a whole host of ciders that I have never seen before. The Immortal Jelly was a gift brought back from the depths of Wisconsin, so if I ever see any in my neck of the woods, I’ll be sure to pick it up.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8.5/10

Number 108: Ace Pineapple

I’ve always been able to separate out my opinion of something from the general hype surrounding it. When Netflix’s Stranger Things first arrived to the platform, social media was thoroughly abuzz with posts and articles about it, exalting its greatness and repeating the opinion that I “totally needed to watch it.” I waited a month or so, but when I eventually got around to watching it, I found it to be pretty good. Not revolutionary to the genre, nor by any means my favorite Netflix original series. It was just pretty good.

Ace Pineapple

Ace Cider’s Pineapple cider had been sitting in my queue for months, if not over a year. Of the ciders in my untested collection, it received the largest number of comments from houseguests. It seemed that everyone had an opinion on this cider. It was either the best pineapple cider they had ever had, or it was far too sweet and I was going to hate it. After trying it, I respectfully disagree with both opinions.

The Ace Pineapple does a pretty fantastic job of blending the apple and pineapple flavors, such that neither is battling too contentiously for the forefront of the flavor. Both are equally present, and the cider certainly benefits from this. Though the cider was sweet, I did not find it overpoweringly so. That is always a risk with such a saccharine fruit, but Ace does a nice job of keeping this in check. The aroma is full and fruity, and the finish is smooth and clean. Overall, as far as pineapple ciders go, I would say that the Ace Pineapple is not revolutionary, but pretty darn good.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10

Numbers 106-107: Woodchuck Semi-Dry & Seattle Semi-Sweet

SemisThis sampling was all about testing. First off, I wanted to see if I could truly taste the difference between a semi-dry and a semi-sweet cider. Secondly, I wanted to try something different, as every other group review I have written thus far has been about ciders from the same cidery. Not only were these different varieties of ciders from different makers, but one was from a can and the other a bottle, and both originated from opposite ends of the country. I have a lot of ciders to get through, and there are a number of interesting ways to group them.SemiDry

I began the sampling with the Woodchuck Semi-Dry. This cider greets the nostrils with a wholesome aroma that often accompanies darker, more amber-colored ciders. The dryness certainly comes into play with the aftertaste, as it leaves a lingering bitter taste on the tongue, which almost amounts to a mustiness. The cider certainly lives up to its name, as it isn’t overpoweringly dry and there are definitely notes of sweetness present. That said, dry is certainly the impression that it leaves. Historically, Woodchuck ciders are almost always a home run for me. I suspect that this one would appeal to someone who cares for dry ciders, but I think it might be my least favorite of the cidery’s body of work.

SemiSweet

The next cider on the docket  was Seattle Cider’s Semi-Sweet. This was a much livelier cider, with an aroma of crisp green apple. The Semi-Sweet was also quite full-bodied, and carried a pleasing tang that bordered on sourness. This cider also featured a very balanced flavor, with the scales tipping only ever so slightly in favor of sweetness over dryness. The liveliness of this cider’s smooth finish and lack of bitter aftertaste made it the more appealing of the two. I have not sampled much of Seattle Cider’s body of work, so as a manufacturer, it’s hard to rank this against their other varieties. But, as a bare-bones cider, I certainly enjoyed this one.

One of my favorite quotes from Parks & Recreation comes from Ron Swanson, who advises “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” I understand that sweetness/dryness is a spectrum, but I feel that the Semi-Dry might have been stronger had it just been a full-on dry cider, rather than getting muddled in the mixture. Here, the Semi-Sweet excelled, executing the balance between sweet and dry almost perfectly.

The Ciderman’s Rating:

Semi-Dry: 5/10

Semi-Sweet: 7/10

Number 105: William Tell Bone Dry

In the woods near the house behind the house where I grew up, my brother and I found a bone. It wasn’t small like a rabbit or raccoon, nor was it thin like a deer. It was thicker around than my fist, and the end of it was buried deep enough in the ground that it needed to be dug up almost in its entirety. My brother and I were young, so this couldn’t be anything other than a dinosaur bone. However, after all the excitement, further analysis revealed it to be a cow femur. What child doesn’t get excited about a cow bone?William tell Bone Dry

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I do not care for dry ciders, or really dryness in any beverage. And so, it always baffles me when ciders tout this as their strongest quality. William Tell’s Bone Dry is, as the name suggests, a very dry cider. It first strikes with an acerbic taste, but it finishes with a lingering dryness that coats the tongue and any part of the mouth it touches. Overall, this cider’s most forward quality is how dry it is, and unfortunately, that is not something that appeals to me as a cider drinker. With the ever-increasing number of ciders and cideries available, it’s hard to fathom how you couldn’t find a cider you enjoy. However, when it comes to my palate, I would much rather chase after dinosaurs than settle for the cow bone.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 4/10

Numbers 102-104: Keepsake Heartwood, Wood & Spirit, and Wild

This is a day I always knew would come. I have painstakingly curated my consumption of ciders, as well as the list that keeps record (in chronological order) of my exploits. However, what happens when I attend a festival or some kind of event in which I try a slew of new ciders? I suppose the answer is that I review them all at once. Fortunately for me, the event I attended was the soft opening for Keepsake Ciders’ tasting room, which kept all of the ciders I tried today within the same manufacture. I indulged in a beautiful trio of ciders, served on a hand-carved flight board, and here is the breakdown:

Keepsake Trio

Heartwood: Each of the ciders I sampled today was on the dry end of the spectrum, but the Heartwood truly embraced it. The cider was spritely and effervescent, with a tart flavor bordering on pleasantly acerbic. Of the three ciders I sampled, this one emerged as my clear favorite. I am never one to seek out a dry cider, but the Heartwood was inventive and enjoyable enough that it kept me engaged throughout the entire beverage.

Wood & Spirit: The Wood & Spirit was aged in oak whiskey barrels. Unlike several ciders I’ve had previously that have also employed this method, this was very apparent in the flavor. The dryness of the Wood & Spirit was very forward, and the aroma was much woodier than the Heartwood.

Wild: This was certainly a unique one. The Wild cider was fermented using the yeast that was native to the peel of the apples, and this certainly came through in the flavor. The Wild bore a very full body, and a lovely apple-forward taste. The aroma here was very inviting, and made for a polished overall presentation.

I had the opportunity to talk with Nathan, the cider maker at Keepsake, and was delighted to hear about his passion for working with other local orchards, as well as collaborating with other cideries to establish Minnesota as a state with a cider identity. Keepsake is a family-owned cidery, and a great addition to the high level of craftsmanship in Minnesota cider-making, and a fantastic place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The Ciderman’s Rating:

Heartwood: 9.5/10

Wood & Spirit: 8.5/10

Wild: 8/10

Number 101: Angry Orchard Easy Apple

One of the things that I keep under strict organization is my iTunes library. Call me old-fashioned, but there is a certain sense of security in owning my music and having the physical files stored on my computer. In organizing the songs, I have stumbled across the genre “easy listening.” What the hell does that mean? What is difficult listening? I can’t imagine popping my earbuds in, pressing play, and thinking “wow, this song is so easy to listen to!”unnamed

Angry Orchard’s Easy Apple was, in fact, very easy to drink. The Easy Apple is an unfiltered cider, which gives it a much fuller, richer flavor than the run-of-the-mill Crisp Apple. Not only that, but it also lacks what is often a sickly sweetness. Other than the initially misleading name, I think that the Easy Apple is a much more genuine-tasting cider than the mass-distributed Crisp Apple, and a much stronger product overall.

I’m very glad that a company as large and successful as Angry Orchard isn’t afraid to change things up or keep trying new things. Unfiltered ciders are, in my experience, some of the richest cider experiences, and Angry Orchard’s edition is a clear cut above many of their varieties.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10

Number 100: Ace SpAce

“At a cantina on a star in a planetary system far far away, the surviving beautiful sister, takes a hit on a hookah pipe and listens for incider information.” –Excerpt from the neck label of the Ace Space.Ace Space

Every May, in honor of May the Fourth, I expand on thosepithy “may the Fourth be with you” posts and commit an entire month to Star Wars-themed posts of pictures, questions, and witty thematic banter. A review of this, my 100th cider, seemed tangentially on theme until I read that caption from the bottleneck. It was only upon visiting the cider’s web page that I found out the owner of Ace Cider’s wife was an actor in the cantina scene in A New Hope.

The Ace SpAce is the first of its kind, a bold combination of flavors that are so diametrically opposite, they even have an aphorism based on their difference. Even the look of the cider is unique: a milky orange, reminiscent of Bespin at sundown. Perhaps the strongest quality of this cider is just how different and alien it tastes. The pulpy affect of orange juice is something not found in apple-based beverages. There is no suspension of disbelief in imagining drinking this at a cantina on Tatooine, a bar on Coruscant, or anywhere in the galaxy after a hard-fought victory against the empire.

The cider’s opening crawl features a hint of apple, but the orange flavor takes over shortly after and dominates the palate with its citrus notes. The flavor lingers on like a ghost, inviting you to experience more and complete the cider. Unfortunately, I do think that this cider could use more apple to bring balance to the overall presentation. But, for a special release, I feel that the SpAce certainly delivers.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10

Number 99: Angry Orchard Tapped Maple

The summer of 2016 was a summer that my fiancée and I will always remember as a deluge of matrimony. Collectively, she and I attended six weddings within a four month period. Though they are some of the happiest days of the newlywed’s life, weddings can unfortunately be a reminder that not everyone is given the gift of public address. And when following a particularly adroit toast, an underwhelming speech can leave you feeling like more could have been done. Obviously in the long run, it’s not something that matters. The wedding is still an enjoyable celebration (unless there are six of them in four months and you run out of joy), and a lackluster speech doesn’t have to leave a lasting impression.Angry orchard tapped maple

The latest in their seasonal series, Angry Orchard’s Tapped Maple is exactly what it sounds like: a maple-flavored cider. Maple is one of those flavors that very easily evokes sense memories, such as the warmth and smell of a waffle fresh out of the iron. Unfortunately, the sense memory that this maple cider evoked was that of the watered down maple syrup served with french toast sticks at school lunches. Sure, it tasted like maple syrup, but once you’ve had the good stuff there’s really no going back. The maple flavor was present in the cider, but the taste only made me feel like they could have done more with it.

On the whole, I found this cider to be underwhelming. The aroma was middling. The balance was definitely apple-forward with a weak backup of maple notes. The sweetness wasn’t over the top, but did linger a bit, as you can imagine would be the case with this flavor profile. I had high hopes for a maple cider, but I was left feeling unfulfilled.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 4/10

Number 98: Sociable Burn Out

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 debuted in theaters recently, and it was quite the hoot. With action, adventure, comedy, and some great cameos, it’s no surprise that it has quickly climbed to the number one spot in the box office. But what’s more, with its comedic timing, one-liners, and the ability of any one of the characters to crack a joke at any given moment, this movie epitomized the thought that has been in the back of movie-goers’ minds for years now: Marvel movies can get away with anything. Sociable Burnout
The cider notebook I’ve been using to record my recent samplings has a category to denote spice. I couldn’t imagine what a cider that maxed out that category would taste like, but now I have a pretty clear idea. The Sociable Burn Out is what I would classify as a “sipping cider,” not because of the high alcohol content, but because it is spicy as hell. I enjoy a good spicy beverage like a Bloody Mary every now and again, but it certainly threw me for a loop coming from a drink that I didn’t directly observe hot sauce being added to.
This cider is truly a wild ride. From the strong cucumber aroma to the sharp habanero flavor that shoots up the back of your nostrils, the Burn Out is a test for almost all of the senses. Once it comes into focus, the apples balance with the peppers rather nicely, resulting in a cider unlike any other. Of all the added flavors for ciders, I certainly would never have thought to put cucumber and habanero with apple, but somehow Sociable totally got away with it.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10

Number 97: Bold Rock

Despite having now visited 31 of the 50 United States, I do not like to travel. People in my generation don’t just value travel: they seem to aspire to it. My newsfeed is constantly bombarded by vacation photos, yet they do not instill in me the sense of wanderlust that seems to have permeated my peers. I am much more like a hobbit in this regard; I am perfectly content to sit at home in comfortable, stationary bliss, surrounded by familiarity.Bold Rock

I recently trekked the 22 hours out to Williamsburg Virginia to attend a good friend’s wedding. I had one goal for this trip: acquire and drink a local cider. This goal was met the first night of our stay, because after spending that long in a car, I sure as hell needed a drink. The local cider on tap happened to be Bold Rock, which I had also seen at some of the gas stations along the way and had been curious to try.

Unfortunately, I would not say that the Bold Rock is a cider worth crossing half the country for. The aroma was pleasant enough, but the flavor left something to be desired. It may have been served too cold (which seems to be happening to me a lot lately), but nothing about the flavor was forward enough to be notable. The finish was clean enough, but this was just a very average, middle of the road cider. I did see that Bold Rock makes several varieties, which I’d be happy to sample as long as I don’t have to cross five states to get it (I may have mentioned before, but I don’t particularly care for travel).
The Ciderman’s Rating: 5/10