This 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.
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.
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:
A person’s surroundings can make a large impression on any experience. For example, when I first tried the Woodchuck Day Chaser, it was a hot April afternoon. The sun was beaming, the winds were calm, and I was completely knackered after helping a friend move. I was in just the perfect state to appreciate the taste and ethos of the cider. Fast forward to now; it has been grey all week, the winds are slicking the windows with rain, and a cider that makes me want to be outside just feels so out of place.
I’m not sure how, but Woodchuck managed to capture the essence of summer within a beverage. When I drink it, I want nothing more than to sit out on a porch or dock and simply enjoy the day. The flavor isn’t terribly peculiar: semi dry, with a crisp finish. But, there is something about it that is supremely satisfying.
I pictured this as being lighter in color, but as you can see, it is dark and rich, which adds a layer of solidity to the daydreams of adventure it inspires.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10
Growing up, I played the cello in high school orchestra. Despite being the sexiest instrument known to man, every so often the cello section was forced to play the figurative second fiddle to the violins. In one particular song, I recall playing a low D in tied whole notes for no less than 66 consecutive measures. While the song sounded great, and the simple whole notes allowed us to more fully listen to the violin section, playing the same note for that long was less than ideal.
Often, you will find alcohol labels that describe the bottle’s contents as “complex,” using it as no more than a buzzword without going into any detail about what that actually means. The Gumption is one of the most complex ciders in my repertoire, as each sip contains a multitude of flavors. It was apparent that the makers used a blend of crisp and dry apples, and it contained notes of caramel as well as lingering flavors that I couldn’t place, resulting in what can only be described as a very complex cider.
That said, if I were blindfolded and given a glass of the Gumption, despite the complexity, I would be able to tell you immediately that this was a Woodchuck cider. All of their ciders carry a familiar taste that instantly signals their origin, which is not a bad thing. It solidifies their brand and creates a certain level of consistency.
Also, check that guy with the mustache on the label. Hilarious!
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10
Despite my previous intonations on hops, I recently found myself face to face with another of these hopped ciders. Though it seems to be more or less in vogue right now, the flavor of hops seems to be mostly contained in beer and is just now spilling over into cider. You don’t really hear about how hoppy a wine is, and you certainly can’t get a bottle of sparkling hop water (or can you?). As a humble, if biased reviewer, I have no choice but to explore these forays into the world where my beloved ciders and these strange hops are forced to mingle.
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it a thousand times: Woodchuck Cidery knows their stuff. If anyone was going to make a hoppy cider that I’d enjoy, it would be my favorite cidery out of Vermont. I enjoyed Angry Orchard’s Hop’n Mad, but the Woodchuck’s Hopsation makes it look more like a first attempt. The flavor of the Hopsation is far more refined, the blend of the two major ingredients is masterfully created. The hops lend almost no bitterness at all to the cider, but instead enhance the latent sourness of the apple.
Woodchuck is probably the most prolific cidery in terms of the number of varieties produced, and I am continually impressed with the quality. Their reputation is such that, even in the case of flavors that I do not gravitate toward like the Hopsation (and the Pumpkin that I previously reviewed), I am more than willing to try one with the knowledge that it may not be my favorite, but it will be well-crafted and at the very least interesting. My experience with the previous five ciders on my list has led me to view that rodent of theirs as a stamp of approval.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10