I’ve been getting into cider lately. Is it beer burnout? I’m not ashamed to admit that I feel that on occasion. Or maybe it’s because a whole new breed of ciders are becoming more common on store shelves these days. In something similar to the craft beer movement, the bland, overly-sweet juice drinks that people in this country have come to know as “cider” are beginning to see competition from more adventurous drinks.
In the Twin Cities it started with Crispin. While the blue label stuff that came first is not so interesting, at the time it was still better than most of the ciders that were available. The yeast experiments and barrel-aged ciders of the big-bottle, Artisanal Series pushed things to another level. Think what you will about Crispin, I still enjoy those. And the big-bottle, pear ciders from Crispin affiliate Fox Barrel are fantastic.
But others have begun to hit the market now. The newest kid on the block is Angry Orchard, a subsidiary of Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams. Like Crispin, Angry Orchard has big-bottle and small-bottle offerings. The small-bottle ciders – Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, and Apple Ginger – are good enough; better than most and quite drinkable. Again like Crispin, the big-bottle offerings – Iceman and Strawman – take cider to another level.
Last night I finally got around to tasting the first of two bottles that have been sitting in my fridge for some time now. According to the maker, Iceman is inspired by the traditional ice ciders of Quebec. The juice from a blend of bittersweet and culinary apples is frozen during the process. Not sure what that does, unless they are concentrating the juice using something like the freeze-distillation process that is used to make ice beers. I’m going to have to look into that. The juice is fermented with wine yeast and then barrel aged.
Here’s my notes:
Angry Orchard Cider Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
Style: Ice Cider
Serving Style: 12 oz bottle
Aroma: The lead off is gooey toffee, sweet honey, and concentrated apple juice. Red apple skin is in there too. Spirituous alcoholic vapors swirl around, cutting the apple and caramel-candy sweetness, making it vaguely cognac-like rather than “cidery”. Faint hints of cinnamon, earth and flowers fill in the empty places.
Appearance: Light amber/orange color. Crystal clear. No bubbles.
Flavor: A mingling of cooked and fresh apples enveloped in honey, toffee, butter, and vanilla. Light acidity balances the sweetness. It grabs your cheeks and makes you pucker, but then there’s that sweetness again. Rum and raisins. Cinnamon makes an appearance. Alcohol enhances the whole. Earthy notes form a subtle background. The finish lingers on toffee; caramelicious goodness.
Mouthfeel: Still. Medium-full body. Warming.
Overall Impression: This is a delightful sipper. Read a book, sit by the fireplace, contemplate lofty ideas, and take it in slow and easy. Let the deep flavors sink in on their own time. Enjoy this with crème caramel or some other caramel desert. A grilled pork chop would suit this cider just fine, stay light on the seasoning though. Kale! Porketta! Maple bacon.