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!”
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
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.
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
Anyone who has ever played a game of Whack-A-Mole, or has at least seen an adorable cat play it on the internet, knows how frustrating it can be. You might have the fastest hands in the west, but unfortunately, you only have one hammer, and those moles are numerous. So, what do you do? Do you stop playing Whack-A-Mole because you’ve become so wracked with self-doubt at being unable to hit all of the moles? No! You stop playing Whack-A-Mole because it’s 2016 and there are much better ways to spend your time.
With the consumption of Angry Orchard’s Stone Dry, my 73rd cider, I am officially caught up on Angry Orchard as a cidery. I have tried every single one of their ciders, including the seasonal releases, and the special “Cider House” collection. And this will be true until, eventually, they release another variety and put me behind once again. Until then, I will revel in this temporary completion.
As readers of this blog know, there is no love lost between me and dry beverages, so my immediate thought about a cider called “Stone Dry” was definitely not a positive one. However, I did not hate it. In crafting a traditional English cider, Angry Orchard has created a dry cider that is actually somewhat palatable. The bouquet is full, containing notes of the bittersweet apples, and the color is a beautiful amber. While the flavor does leave my mouth with a familiar feeling of dry desolation, it excites the taste buds enough that my desire to continue is kept aflame.
Whether this was “as dry as a stone” as the label suggests, I have no idea. I’m not in the business of licking rocks like some kind of lizard.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 7.5/10
The funny thing about hops is that they possess a very distinctive flavor, yet they are not something that is used to flavor anything other than alcoholic beverages. You can’t go out to a restaurant and order a steak garnished with rosemary and hops. Yet, hops are an integral part of the beer-brewing process. In my own experience, it is this carefully-crafted flavor that has turned me off to more than a few beers: most notably, to IPAs. As I have done in the past with tequila and scotch, I thought I might share with you my feelings on IPAs.
I do not like IPAs.
They taste like tree-bark that someone has tried to disguise as a pleasurable drink.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t approach Angry Orchard’s Hop’n Mad cider with some amount of trepidation. As my soapbox on IPAs may have indicated, I do not have the most pleasant history with hops. I’ve been lied to in the past: deceived into thinking “maybe this one will be different,” only to be met with dismay. Contrary to what some breweries may think (and despite the visual similarities between the words), bitter does not always mean better. I have always been baffled by IPA connoisseurs, as I don’t understand how someone can take such pleasure in a flavor consisting of all the bitterness of a grapefruit coupled with the sensation of getting hit in the mouth with a brick.
Grandstanding aside, I found the Hop’n Mad to be surprisingly palatable. The hop flavor doesn’t arrive immediately, and when it does, it certainly doesn’t deliver the kickback I’ve come to associate with hops. Instead, it’s a subtler flavor, accenting the apple very well by hitting a different region of the tongue. Granted, the flavor is still there, but combined with the sweetness of the apple (a much sweeter baseline than beer) it comes off as palatable as possible. The two flavors combine to make something that borders on sour, but holds back at the last minute. The finish contains only a slight dryness: a far cry from both IPAs and dry ciders alike. The color is nothing special, and the aroma betrays nothing of the hop flavor within.
Overall, I found the Hop’n Mad rather enjoyable. It was definitely more enjoyable that I was expecting. This is to say that I was expecting to have to suffer through my six pack, but after the first one, I was more than a little pleased that I had five more to go.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10
It is the end of July, putting us in the thick of summer. The sun beats down on us relentlessly, and the humidity often makes even the most mundane tasks almost unbearable. When the days are hot and the hours are long, there’s nothing I like more than relaxing with a cider that literally has summer in its name.
I expected something that was called “Summer Honey” to be unreasonably sweet, reminiscent of their special release The Muse. This, however, was not my finding at all. For a cider with such a basic premise as summer honey, I found the flavor to be surprisingly complex. Rather than taking center stage, the honey accents the crisp apple taste, resulting in a very palatable cider. It almost reminds me of their Elderflower seasonal from a few years back, but with the floral notes toned back and the apple flavor at the forefront.
It always pleases me when a big name distributor like Angry Orchard shows that they can produce more than just run-of-the-mill ciders that are often too sweet or just completely devoid of any sort of craft. I have to say that I’m impressed that they continue to blaze the trail in popularizing ciders, as well as brazenly experimenting with new varieties several times a year (and those experiments have a fantastic success rate, in this Ciderman’s opinion). The Summer Honey is the kind of seasonal that I enjoyed well enough that I wish it were available year-round.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10
Spoiler alert: while I was purchasing the Summer Honey for this review, I noticed an Angry Orchard with a purple label and couldn’t help but think Ooh, what’s the purple one? Find out next time, on the Ciderman’s Log!
Presentation is important, and in the food and beverage industry, this is almost doubly true. This is why I always take a moment to appreciate the overall look of a cider and factor that into my ratings. Angry Orchard’s The Muse is a beautiful, beautiful cider. The pour is a dark, golden amber color with slight carbonation. The bottle is a tall, 750ml wine-style bottle with raised lettering and design. On presentation alone, The Muse gets a solid A.
The Muse is the third in the Cincinnati cidery’s Cider House Collection, Angry Orchard’s upper echelon of special-edition ciders. I had very high hopes for this one, as the Strawman and Iceman which came before it were most impressive. Unfortunately, as far as this Ciderman is concerned, The Muse did not live up to the expectation.
The cider carried an aroma of honey and vanilla, which was pleasant on the inhale. The flavor, however, was not up to par. The Muse was sweet, almost cloyingly so, and many of the subtle notes may have been present were covered up by this overly saccharine element. I had come to expect a more subtle taste from the Cider House Collection, but this quality was not present in The Muse.
While the cider accompanied the meal quite well, it was by no means the highlight. In future editions to the Cider House Collection, I hope that Angry Orchard takes note from the Iceman’s subtle and complex flavor.
The Ciderman’s rating: 5.5/10