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

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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

Number 95 & 96: Sapsucker Farms Yellow Belly Barrel Aged & Ginger

The thing about birds is that they often flock together. Since Sapsucker Farms has only three different varieties, all of which are available Yellow Belly Barrel Agedat my local store, I felt compelled to sample the whole lot.

I began with the Barrel-Aged Yellow Belly, knowing that my preference for ginger would color my view of this cider. I have to say, I found this one rather uninteresting. It might be my palate, but I didn’t find much that separated this cider from the Semi-Sweet variety that I initially tried. Not only that, but I couldn’t taste anything barrel-aged at all. It was a fine cider, but there wasn’t really anything that made it stand out for me. I also found the presentation and color to be lacking. I’d think that a barrel-aged cider would grow dark and amber-colored, but this was one of the clearest ciders I’ve had in recent memory.

Yellow Belly GingerDays later, I moved on to the Ginger Yellow Belly. This one, I feel, is Sapsucker Farms’ strongest showing. I found it to have an excellent balance between ginger and apple flavor, if favoring the ginger slightly. This cider featured a spritely aroma and a very smooth finish. The Ginger was a cider that was exciting, yet very sessionable. This is not always the case with ginger ciders, as the flavor can grow tiresome on the palate.

Overall, I found the ginger to be the most enjoyable variety that Sapsucker Farms has to offer. I’m very happy that more and more cideries are cropping up in my area, even if it means more work for me. Minnesota, keep them coming!

The Ciderman’s Ratings:

Barrel Aged: 6/10

Ginger: 9/10

Number 94: Sapsucker Farms Yellow Belly

All of the blog posts wherein I take a moment to talk about my feelings and deepest-seated views on various alcohols have one thing in common: they are all about liquids. In this particular post, I am going to describe my view on something that I am surprised hasn’t come up before: birds. Although I find their forms majestic, their behavior and overall noise output have caused me to form this solid and unmoving opinion:yellowbelly-sapsucker

I hate birds. The are obnoxious, hollow-boned demons that poop everywhere, have no respect for circadian rhythms, and have no teeth.

Like a songbird’s cry piercing through my REM cycle, Sapsucker Farms’ Yellow Belly is lively and awakening. Quite possibly the most effervescent cider I’ve tried to date, a great portion of the Yellow Belly’s tasting comes from the sharp, acidic punch it delivers on the initial tasting. After that, the flavor smooths out into a lovely, semi-sweet taste.

When I first tried the Yellow Belly, little did I know, the temperature was much too cold. This flattened the flavor into something far less vibrant than its potential. After reading the cider’s reviews on their website, I had to go out to the liquor store to pick up another bottle to try this award-winning cider again. It’s not something I do often, but when I’m feeling nonplussed about a supposedly great cider, I try to figure out why that is. And I am very glad that I did.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8.5/10

Number 93: Wyder’s Prickly Pineapple

I’m always eager to try new things, but occasionally, they can feel a little too far into uncharted territory. A friend recently recommended that the next time I make scrambled eggs to mix in some cottage cheese. As a rule, cottage cheese is something that repulses me. The smell, the semisolid texture, and I do not get along. However, I told him I would try it, and I’m a man of my word. As it turns out, it’s a pretty tasty combo.

wyders-prickly-pineappleCottage cheese and scrambled eggs are not a perfect analogy for pineapple and apple. Unlike cottage cheese, I am never one to turn down pineapple-flavored anything. I was hesitant, however, to procure a full 6-pack of Wyder’s Prickly Pineapple because I was not convinced that pineapple and apple could be blended in a way that wasn’t overpowering toward one flavor or the other.

I was wrong.

The pineapple is eager to jump out in front as the most prominent flavor, but once the cider settles into the palate, the apple comes out to reveal the careful balance between the two very different fruits. The aroma is far more tropical than most ciders, giving it a zesty, fresh quality. The cider is a little on the sweet side, but the balance and overall presentation makes this much more forgivable than for an average cider.

This is the first pineapple cider I’ve tried, and I have an Ace pineapple cider already lined up in the queue for the future, so I will be excited to compare the two.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10

Number 92: Schilling Ascender

As a child, I did not understand the concept of the lazy river. Why, in a place filled with water slides and wave pools, would you ever want to just sit in an inner tube and do nothing? At a water park, the thrill-seeker in me wanted all the excitement and verticality that the lazy river was perfectly inept to offer.schilling-ascender

Going in to the Schilling Ascender, I had a number of expectations. The imagery on the can led me to believe that this was going to be a fairly carbonated cider with a crisp apple base and a clear ginger flavor that felt as invigorating as cold mountain air. What I found after pouring the cider from the can was considerably different.

In place of the bevy of bubbles I had expected, the cider was clouded with ginger particles floating lazily about. The flavor itself was yeastier than I imagined it would be, and the ginger, while present, was far less crisp than other ginger ciders on my list.

The aroma was pleasant, and the overall cider was an enjoyable albeit unexpected beverage. I definitely wouldn’t have marketed it with such an air of adventure. It was good in the way a lazy river is good, but definitely not in the same way as a water slide.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 5/10

Number 91: Michelob Ultra Light Cider

Those who know me know that I have a special love for bad movies. I have seen every installment of the Underworld, Twilight, Resident Evil, and Transformers franchises. There’s something that just tickles me about these stupid, formulaic movies that are designed for the sole purpose of selling tickets. I laugh hard at the bad exposition, the “acting,” the clunky dialogue: any part of the movie that wasn’t expressly made to be funny.michelob-light

It has been a truly long time since I’ve had a bad cider. Every time I write one of these reviews, I find myself thinking that if I’m giving every cider a 7 or above, is there any real relevance to the ratings? This Michelob cider was great because it assured me that I’m not just being generous with my ratings; the quality of ciders I’ve been drinking is just that high. This cider reassured me that my scale is, in fact, properly calibrated.

My god, was this cider bad.

I’m not sure what kind of apples Michelob used, or if they just poured two parts concentrated apple juice into 10 parts of just plain ol’ water. This cider was magnificently weak, with an empty flavor composition that leaves the drinker with the feeling of asking for something else to drink. The cider had an aroma of sweetness that absolutely did not carry through in the flavor, which had a lingering finish that tasted like a mixture of apple peels and regret.

I will also say that this is the first “light” cider I’ve had, or even seen. I didn’t think that regular hard cider was terribly heavy to begin with, but I really hope that light cider doesn’t catch on like light beer has. This cider had the same hollowness that I’ve encountered in other products labeled with “lite” or “diet,” and end up tasting like poor imitations of the real thing.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 2/10

Number 90: Crispin 15 Men

As a student of film, I find going to the theater an enjoyable, and often memorable experience. I say memorable because I can specifically recall seeing the original Pirates of the Caribbean no less than four times in the theater. Maybe it was because I was 13 and pirates were cool. Maybe it was because, despite the overabundance of sequels to come later, I found the plot intriguing. Maybe it was because it so perfectly captured the essence of olden-days pirate life. There was just something irresistible about that movie to me at that age.

The limited release Crispin’s 15 Men made for a hell of a ride. I knowcrispin-15-men that calling a cider complex is a bit of a crutch, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t. Between the apple flavor, the floral texture of the syrup, the fortification of the rum, this cider takes the palate to all corners of the earth. In keeping with my format, I should share my thoughts about rum at this point. However, in all honesty, I haven’t experienced rum in an impactful enough way as to form a hard opinion on it.

What I do know about rum is that it is a very smooth drink, and this smoothness carries over strongly in the 15 Men. At 6.9% alcohol, this cider is strong enough to pack a punch, but not so strong as to lay one out for the sea birds. Overall, Crispin has delivered yet again in one of the most finely crafted ciders I’ve had the pleasure of drinking in some time. If I ever find myself sitting on a dead man’s chest, I hope it’s yo ho ho and a bottle of this.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 9.5/10

Number 89: Ace Berry

I have a very good friend who is a botanist. Whenever we travel for an extended period of time, we will challenge one another mentally with games involving naming a certain number of items within a category. It is in this way that I learned that a strawberry is not a berry: the category was berry, I named strawberry, and he just shook his head and muttered “not a berry.” And who was I to argue with a botanist?

I’ll be honest: part of me was hoping thatace-berry this one would be blue, or at the very least purplish. That was probably just the ambiguous berry on the label trying to deceive me. The Ace Berry delivered quite the shock, as it was much more tart than the ciders I’ve been drinking lately. At first, it was almost too tart, but as I became more accustomed to it, I came to realize that it was accompanied by a softening sweetness that really rounded out the flavor.

One of the flavor categories in my Cider Journal is “berry” and I can tell you with confidence that it received full marks here. Though I couldn’t quite identify which berries (be they traditional berries or aggregate accessory berries like the strawberry) made up the mysterious berry flavor, it was rather tasty. Ace has yet to let me down.

The Ciderman’s Rating: 7/10