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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cider Saturday: Ciders to Sample at the Summit

Portland Cider Summit, June 20-21
Friday 2pm - 8pm, Saturday, noon - 6pm
Fields Neighborhood Park at NW 10th/Overton
Full details here

Next weekend (actually Friday and Saturday), ciders from 42 cideries will be pouring at the (4th?) annual Cider Summit.  There's a new location, so aim toward the Pearl, not the South Waterfront this year.  (Brewvana is doing their cool shuttle again, too.)  I didn't count the number of ciders, but safe to say you're not going to be able to try them all--or even one from each cidery.  Although I haven't tried them all, either, there are a few I think you should try.  At the very least, they will help you get a sense of the breadth of American cider-making.

The French Connection
Oregon has a minor specialty in French-style ciders, anchored by the extraordinary Cidre made by Kevin Zielinski at EZ Orchards in Salem.  If you want to get a sense of the tradition, go try the Cidre Bouché by the Norman maker Dupont.   Cidre bouché means "cider under cork," implying a champagne-like effervescence.  You'll find funky blue-cheese notes, rich tannins, and a silky, sweet finish.  Then try EZ Orchards Cidre, made in the same way with French cider apples.  You'll see the family resemblance, buy you'll also taste the difference brought by Oregon terroir.  I get it mainly in the yeast--Kevin's ciders are less funky.  Pete Brown, the English author of World's Best Ciders, said it often surpasses ciders in Normandy.

Also have a look at a new maker I only discovered a couple months ago: Baird and Dewar.  Located in Dayton, in wine country, Zeb Dewar and Trevor Baird are fruit growers and wine and (home) cider makers.  They naturally ferment Baird and Dewar Farmhouse Cider and bring it to sparkling effervescence.  It doesn't have quite the complexity of EZ Orchards, but is tilted more toward acid than bitterness and so offers a nice counterpoint.  Naturally-fermented ciders are very rare birds in the US, and I think it's not entirely coincidental that they come from Oregon.

Taste the Tannins
You will have ample opportunity to try wild and wonderful experiments with fruit and spice infusions, but cider made from tannic cider apples is pretty hard to find.  The US just doesn't have a lot of acreage.  The Cider Summit is a great place to find ciders made from these complex apples and see how sophisticated ciders can be.  A few I highly recommend:
  • Bull Run Powerhouse Dry.  This is a great cider to start with.  It has nice tannins, but they're balanced with acid and a touch of earthy funk.  
  • Cider Riot 1763.  I haven't tried Abram Goldman-Armstrong's first commercial run of this cider, but I did get to try a similar small-batch homemade version.  Lip smacking.
  • Finnegan's Dry.  Josh Johnson makes a kind of modernist cider using a winemaker's approach, and he has fantastic apples.  They express themselves best in Dry, which is wonderfully woody and earthy.  No funky yeast notes, just apple.
  • Wandering Aengus
 I haven't yet tried the lauded Alpenfire ciders (Organic Pirate's Plank Dry and Spark! Semisweet)  Traditions (2 Towns) Amity Rose, Dragon's Head Traditional from Vashon, Island.  Although they're not sending Northland Traditional, I'm also interested in trying the probably-not-tannic ciders of Olympia's Whitewood Cider.

Tart Ciders
Not everyone likes lip-smacking bitterness--they like lip-smacking acidity.  The United States has more acid fruit, and so acidic, vinous ciders are more common.  This is actually the American tradition going back to colonial days, when the most well-regarded ciders were made with local crab apple hybrids like Hewes Crab.
  • Farnum Hill Dooryard.  Steve Wood is the godfather of American cider making, and Dooryard could be called his "special blends" line.  He takes a pinch here and a splash there until he finds a palate he loves.  Some are still, some are sparkling.  Farnum Hill inclines toward acid, though, so expect a bright, vivid cider.
  • Sarasola.  If you've never had a Basque or Asturian cider, sidle over to the international table and blow your mind with Sarasola.  Almost pickle-juice tart, with an earthy underlayment of funk, it's like nothing else.
  • Wandering Aengus.  Like Farnum Hill, James Kohn and Nick Gunn at Wandering Aengus like acid.  If you want to really blow your mind, try the Wickson, named after the tart apple that is also a staple in Farnum Hill ciders.  But any of the Wandering Aengus ciders will get you to the tart lands.

Pommeaus and Ice Ciders
You also have an opportunity to sample some of the more obscure species of family ciderus, and you should avail yourself of them.  Ice ciders are amazing, intense ciders made from fermenting juice concentrated by the winter freeze.  They are made mainly in Quebec, but a notable American ice cidery is located 8 miles south in Vermont: Eden.  They will be pouring their flagship, Eden Heirloom (Calville) Blend.  You must try it.

Pommeau is a different beast, but sort of similar.  They are made by blending Calvados (apple brandy aged on oak) with fresh apple juice.  Originally, farmers in Normandy made them to preserve fresh juice--at 18%, the liquor killed the juice's active yeast.  Pommeau, along with Calvados, now have a protected AOC in France, but Americans are making some brandy-juice blends (which they probably shouldn't call pommeau, but that's another post).  I haven't had any of the American versions, but I will probably give a few a try: 2 Towns / Traditions Pommeau, Finnriver Spirited Apple Wine, and Tieton Wind Cider.

I'd like to recommend some of the flavored American ciders--they are an indigenous expression and have already begun to change the way people think about cider--but we're running long here, and I know you'll focus on those, anyway.  But don't completely ignore the more traditional ciders.  Even if you return to your peach pippin, I think your understanding of fermented apple juice will deepen if you try some of these suggestions. 

Further reading.  If you want a deep dive on some of these ciders, I've been writing about them for the past year: ice ciders, the climate of ciderFarnum Hill Ciders, Finnegan Cider, American cider, EZ Orchards, Wandering Aengus, French cider, English cider, Basque cider.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the suggestions Jeff. I'm going to the Cider Summit this afternoon, and these will come in handy.