Помме Роял (Pomme Royal) Dry

If you thought that Belarusians drink only vodka, you were entirely wrong. Belarusians also drink and even make cider. In August 2011, the first Belarusian cider Помме Роял (Pomme Royal) made from local apple varieties such as Antonovka, Alesya, Imant, Pospekh Darunak, Slava, Bogatyr hit the shelves in Belarus. Pomme Royal’s production is based on English cider making methods. To date, the brand is available not only in Belarus but also in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Today, I’m sampling their Dry made from late Autumn apple varieties including Antonovka.Company: Pomme Royal
Place of Origin: Shumilino, Vitebsk Region, Belarus
Ingredients: natural apple wine (incl. Antonovka), water, sulphites
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 4.7%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a white and quickly dissipating head. Medium artificial carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: quite weak on the nose with notes of green and yellow apples and distant anise.

Taste: it begins dry with high acidity of lemon. Followed by a watery taste, a lightly vinous taste and notes of lemon, fresh green and yellow apples with a distant hint of sulphur.

Overall: Pomme Royal Dry tasted very pleasant on this hot day in Berlin as it was very refreshing and natural with lovely apple notes typical for Antonovka. It has a character but it’s not complex and finishes too quickly leaving a pleasant taste of lemon and fresh apples. Also, it’s very watery. I can imagine that the cider maker added water to reduce the acidity, which is still quite high. But unfortunately, this measure had an impact on the overall taste as well. Although Pomme Royal tastes dry, almost bone-dry, I can’t say that it is anyhow disturbing. So even sweet cider drinkers should appreciate this cider. I enjoyed having this drop and wouldn’t mind having it again but since it lacks complexity both on the nose and the palate, I can’t give more than 3 points out of 6. 3/6

Availability: widely available in Belarus, but also in a few cities in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Online available from Balashikha Duty Free and Wine Style.

Price: Anton from the Russian Dada Cider passed me a bottle when we met up in Berlin

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Kupela Pétillant Dry

By creating the cider brand Kupela, Xalbat and Bastien wanted to popularise cider drinking in the French Basque Country. Therefore, apart from creating a traditional Sagardoa, traditional Basque cider they developed the Pétillant, a light cider made from traditional Basque apples but with a modern twist. This is the cider I’m going to review today. Company: Kupela
Place of Origin:
Anglet, French Basque Country, France
Apples:
traditional Basque apples such as Manttoni, Patzuola, Urtebi Ttiki and Urtebi Handi
Sweetness as per label: 
dry
ABV: 
4%
Package type: 
330ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: 
white wine glass, snifter or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no foam. Lightly sparkling. Likely artificial carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has a sweet aroma of dessert apples and yellow apples. Also, a hint of red apples, a lightly vinous note, some fruitiness. And, a hint of burnt sugar.

Taste: the first sip is moderately sweet with low acidity. On the mid-palate a hint of orange, a bit watery taste with yellow apples, some fruitiness and smokiness. In the aftertaste light astringency with a touch of lemon candy.

Overall: Kupela’s cider has a clear nose and taste. Also, it tastes quite light, natural and fruity. Actually, it more resembles sweet wine that cider. The flavours are not intense both on the nose and on the palate. Pétillant could use more body as it tastes like a bit more complex version of a fizzy drink. It has a structure and some depth but it didn’t win my heart. To my palate, it had a too high level of sweetness and lacked acidity. However, I can imagine that exactly these features can be attractive to potential consumers. Anyway, I think it can be appreciated if it is well chilled by those who like sweet cider. 3/6

Availability: online in France from their online shop and Maison Arosteguy.

Price: Kupela’s Pétillant Dry was a sample provided by Estitxu from Kupela.

Big Smile from Austria Hard Apple Cider

I can’t help but smile when I see the brand name of cider that I am about to review today, Big Smile from Austria. Uplifting! This cider company was established by Martin and Doris who successfully raised the necessary funding using a crowdfunding platform in March 2015. For their cider, they use locally sourced apples. Mainly Jonagold with the addition of old apple varieties such as Gravensteiner or Kronprinz Rudolph that are used in the blend.Company: Big Smile Handel e. U. 
Place of Origin: Vienna, Austria
Ingredients: apple wine, apple juice, sulphites, carbon dioxide
ABV: 4.8%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or wine glass

Appearance: pours a slightly cloudy pale gold with a white foam that quickly dissipates. Low artificial carbonation. Low body.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is sweetish with notes of banana, yeasty aromas, yellow apples, honey and a hint of sulphur. And, it’s not very strong.

Taste: it starts semi-sweet with a low acidity of lemon. Honey, banana, lemon candy, light astringency, a slightly watery taste on the mid-palate. The aftertaste is dry with a hint of sulphur, thyme and canned pineapple.

Overall: Hard Apple Cider from Big Smile from Austria is a well-made cider with an interesting set of flavours. It’s drinkable and tastes quite alright but the taste could be a bit more lingering and the nose more intense. The sulphuric note is just there in the background but rather complements this cider than does any negative to it. Personally, I would prefer a bit less sweetness but I think it will be very well received by every cider drinker. A pleasant drop with an interesting palate made from quality apples. Will pair well with goat cheese. 4/6 

Availability: online in Germany from Ciderei.

Price: Big Smile from Austria Hard Apple Cider was a sample provided by Ciderei.

Hogan’s Vintage Perry 2014

For this perry, Hogan’s used perry pears grown in the Three Counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. In 2016, the editors of the Independent selected top ten perries and Hogan’s Vintage Perry 2014 was named one of the top ten.Company: Hogan’s Cider
Place of Origin: Alcester, Warwickshire, UK
Ingredients: English perry pear juice, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, malic acid, preservative: potassium metabisulphite (sulphites)
ABV: 5.4%
Package type: 500ml amber glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a small, immediately dissipating white fizz. Medium and artificial carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has dominating notes of caramel and toffee with yellow apples, but no pears.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet and light buttery with a light sourness of malic acid. On the mid-palate some smokiness with low astringency and a watery taste. The aftertaste has hints of caramelised sugar, a bitter note and a hint of banana. 

Overall: briefly,  it tastes like a liquid caramel candy with some butterscotch and some sour taste to it. Although sometimes the increase of acidity admittedly may contribute to perry’s taste, the addition of malic acid to this particular perry doesn’t help much. You can actually taste that this acidity simply doesn’t belong here. Also, it finishes relatively quick. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a taste of pears, only yellow apples. Nevertheless, I think that Hogan’s Perry can be appreciated by a wider audience. It’s not overly sweet, but also not too dry. So if you’re expecting a pleasant no-brainer, then this perry will meet your expectations. I think it can be likeable but it’s just not my style. 3/6 

Availability: from their online shop. In Germany exclusively from Cider Kultur.

Price: Hogan’s Vintage Perry 2014 was a sample provided by Cider Kultur, a recently opened webshop run by two cider aficionados offering a selection of great cider.

Downeast Cider House: visit recap

After my business trip was over, I extended my stay in Boston to visit Downeast Cider House located in East Boston. My extra day was Tuesday, exactly the day when their taproom is closed. So I sent an email to the Downeast Cider team and explained the situation. Luckily, Max replied that he would be happy to meet me at the taproom and sample a few ciders with me.

img_0116As for some background information, the first time I came to Boston two years ago, cider from the Downeast Cider House was the first Boston cider I have ever tried. And, frankly speaking, I instantly fell in love with. Furthermore, I was so fascinated with their cider that I even considered applying for the position of cider maker, which was open at the time. Downeast Cider House was established in 2011 by two college students Ross and Tyler who instead of taking the exams and graduating, prefered to make hard cider. Over the years the company has grown and expanded and the production site had to move from the first location in Back Bay to East Boston. As for the visit, Max let me try their regular ciders and special releases. Afterwards, Max gave me a tour of their premises and explained all production steps.
img_0135For their cider, the Downeast Cider team uses culinary and table apples such as McIntosh, Red Delicious, Cortland or Gala, which come from Massachusetts and surrounding states. The juice is pressed at the orchards and delivered to the facility in East Boston where it is fermented with a pale ale yeast. img_0132Once the sugar concentration drops to the desired level, cider is pasteurised at high temperature for 30 seconds. Subsequently, cider is either canned or eventually matured in barrels (special releases).

Their current canning line is capable of producing 90 cans per minute so during a 10-hour shift they can get lots of cider into cans! Also, Downeast Cider wants to upgrade their canning line with the beginning of the new year to a more effective canning line capable of producing 200 cans per minute.img_0137

img_0117In their taproom, I’ve tried their Original Blend (their flagship cider), which is the first cider they ever released, Double Blend, Drier Side, Aloha Friday (with pineapple juice), Drier Side Hopped Grapefruit, Celebracion (special release blended with lime and aged in tequila barrels), and Hard Arnold (special release blended with Earl Grey tea). I don’t have any detailed tasting notes for you as most of the time I was speaking to Max and asking all the details related to their cider production. But, you could tell that the Original Blend is used as the base for all of the ciders from their range. All ciders were unfiltered, with a similar level of sweetness, except for Drier Side, as well as the tartness. They were all dangerously easily drinkable and very tasty, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they were very complex or full-bodied. But they tasted good anyway. Only, I was the least fond of the Drier Side, which was very watery and thin. But as for my favourite, I couldn’t really decide between Double Blend, Drier Side Hopped Grapefruit, Celebracion and Hard Arnold. In the end, I thought that the Double Blend was my personal favourite.

I wish to thank Max from the Downeast Cider House for letting me try their ciders in the tap room, explaining all production steps and showing me around. Also, for being patient and answering my countless questions.  Should I ever return to Boston, I’ll try to visit the taproom during opening hours.

For more information about the cider scene in Boston and tasting notes of the Original Blend and X Cunard No 44 from Downeast Cider, read my latest blog post.

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Cider scene in Boston, MA + tasting notes

Imagine my excitement when my company asked me to travel overseas to Boston. Although I have already been to Boston two years ago and tried a few local ciders, I didn’t really focus on the cider scene that much at the time. So once my business meetings were over, I went on a cider exploration.img_0149Unfortunately, Boston doesn’t have a cider bar dedicated only to cider. But from my observation, cider is offered in almost every bar/pub or restaurant in Boston. Most cider brands that you can find include local cider makers from Massachusetts, New England or at least from the East Coast. Only Irish pubs seemed to traditionally stick to Magners. In addition, you may also visit one of the taprooms run by local cider makers, Bantam or Downeast Cider and try their flagship ciders or special releases.

As for retailers, most supermarkets or liquor stores carry cider in 4-packs, which for someone like me who wants to sample more, without drinking more is a problem as none of the vendors agreed to break up a 4-pack for me and sell a single can. This forced me to sample cider in restaurants and bars.

Here is what I’ve tried during my visit to Boston:

Prospect Ciderworks Paradise (ABV 6%; 9 USD per 473.18 mL can in Babbo Pizzeria)img_0053

Prospect Ciderworks is based in the South of Boston. Paradise is a cider made with orange peel and grains of paradise and fermented with a Belgian ale yeast. It’s a tribute to Belgian Witbier. Appearance: very cloudy, yellow, lightly sparkling, no foam. Medium body. Aroma: orange, cloves, yeasty, bubble gum, a bit of coriander-like note. Taste: medium dry with low to medium acidity, Campari taste, orange, a touch of bitterness. Overall: Interesting, smells like a witbier but tastes like a Campari based cocktail. The taste finishes quickly and doesn’t linger on. No apple flavour at all. But I wouldn’t mind having it again. 3.5/6

Citizen Cider The Dirty Mayor (ABV 5.2%; 7 USD per 473.18 mL can in Back Bay Social Club)img_0076

Citizen Cider was established in 2010 and comes from Vermont. Their Dirty Mayor is a ginger-infused cider. Appearance: clear, pale straw, no carbonation, no foam. Low to medium body. There are signs of carbonation when I pour it into a glass. Aroma: ginger beer, fresh yellow apples with a hint of green apples. Very nice and clean nose. A hint of honey. Taste: medium dry with low acidity, light spiciness, freshly picked green and yellow apples, light watery, no astringency. Overall: It tastes like a ginger beer mixed with some apples. Pleasantly spicy, but not overly spicy hot. Good length. Could be less sweet to my palate. Paired well with oysters. I could have it again. 4/6

Citizen Cider Unified Press (ABV 5.2%; 7 USD per pint in Vito’s Tavern)img_0107

Another cider from Citizen Cider. Unified Press is their flagship cider made from locally sourced apples. Appearance: clear, pale golden, lightly sparkling, no foam. Low body. Aroma: fresh green apples. Nothing more I can get. Taste: medium dry with low to medium acidity, lightly vinous, fresh green apples, Granny Smith apples, low apple-seed bitterness. Overall: After tasting the Dirty Mayor from their range, I had similarly high expectations but their Unified Press disappointed me. It tastes ok but doesn’t stand out in any way. I wouldn’t buy it again. 2.5/6

Angry Orchard Strawman (ABV 10%; 14.99 USD per 750 mL bottle from Star)
img_0097Angry Orchard doesn’t need any introduction. Their Strawman comes from their Ciderhouse collection. It is a blend of culinary and bittersweet apples from Italy and France (likely concentrate?) that was aged on oak. Appearance: cloudy, dark amber, high carbonation with large foam that only slowly dissipates. Low to medium body. Aroma: sweet apple juice, apple mousse, baked apples, apple pie. Taste: dry with high acidity, medium astringency, lemon, fresh green and red apples. Alcohol note, light bitterness, light bitterness, apple skins, vanilla and brandy notes. The taste lingers on. Overall: it’s a farmhouse style cider so it’s clearly not for every palate. It is different to any European cider I’ve tried so far. I can imagine it would pair well with food. Very enjoyable. I could have it again. 4/6

Downeast Cider Original Blend (ABV 5.1%; 7 USD per pint can in Shay’s Pub and Wine)img_0173

Downeast Cider is based in East Boston. Original blend is their flagship cider made with culinary apple varieties such as Gala, McIntosh, etc and fermented with a pale ale yeast. Appearance: cloudy, pale orange, low carbonation, little fizz. Low to medium body. Aroma: red and yellow apples, orange.Not strong. Taste: medium dry with low acidity, red and yellow apples, orange, no astringency. Taste of alcohol. Overall: The Original Blend is extremely refreshing and dangerously drinkable although it’s structure is rather one-dimensional. Anyway, a cider that can please every palate. The amount of sweetness is just right. I would and actually did buy it again later. 3.5/6

Downeast Cider X Cunard No 44 (ABV 7%; 9 USD per pint in Cunard Tavern)img_0142

This particular cider was created exclusively for Cunard Tavern from East Boston. After fermentation, No 44 was aged in rye barrels. Appearance: cloudy, pale orange, low carbonation, little fizz. Low to medium body. Aroma: fresh juicy apple, red and yellow apples, orange, vanilla. Taste: medium dry with low acidity, fresh apples, pineapple, whisky and barrel notes, vanilla, light taste of alcohol, orange, light astringency. Overall: It is pretty obvious that it must be their Original Blend that was aged in rye whisky barrels. Similarly to the Original Blend, it’s extremely refreshing but with more depth thanks to the barrel-ageing. I loved it. 4/6

Urban Farm Fermentory Super Dry Cidah (ABV 7%; 7 USD per 354.88 mL can in Grafton Street Pub & Grill)img_0155

To be honest, I haven’t heard of them before. Urban Farm Fermentory is based in Portland, Maine and for their ciders, they use only wild yeast. Appearance: cloudy, pale straw with green hues, no carbonation, no foam. Low body. Aroma: fresh yellow and green apples, a hint of sulphur, vinegar, hints of funk. Taste: off-dry with medium to high acidity of lemon, watery, low bitterness, a hint of grapefruit, lightly vinous, yellow and green apples. Quick finish. Overall: Super Dry Cidah reminded me of ciders from the Polish cider maker Smykan, which are also natural, off-dry with hints of funk. However, in contrast to ciders from Smykan, the Super Dry Cidah finishes quickly and tastes too watery. Well, I enjoyed it anyway. It would pair great with food. 4/6

Anxo Cidre Blanc (ABV 6.9%; 9 USD per 473.18 mL can in Grafton Street Pub & Grill)img_0166

Anxo is a cider maker from Washington, DC. Their Cidre Blanc is made from Gold Rush apples and fermented with a Sauvignon Blanc yeast. Appearance: almost clear, pale straw with a light greenish hue, low carbonation. Low body. There are signs of carbonation when I pour it into a glass. Aroma: not much. Sulphur is the dominating aroma on the nose, a hint of yellow apples. Taste: dry with low acidity, watery, a hint of yellow apples, watery, a champagne note. Overall: I heard so much about Anxo but now that I’ve tried their Cidre Blanc I felt disappointed. Unpleasant off notes, watery with a quick finish. With this cider, I don’t think you can conquer European hearts. 2.5/6

Bantam Rojo (ABV 5.4%; 6.5 USD per 473.18 mL can in John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House)
img_0171Although Bantam is based in Boston, I couldn’t find many bars stocking their cider, at least in Back Bay in Boston. Rojo is made from locally sourced apples, fermented with an ale yeast and aged with sour cherries and black peppercorns. Appearance: clear, orange with reddish hues, low carbonation, no foam. Low body. Aroma: not so much on the nose. Sour cherry, crackers, bread. Taste: medium dry with low to medium acidity of sour cherry, watery, lingering sour cherry. Overall: Rojo is quite tasty but lacks structure and intensity in both aroma and taste. Cherry flavour is indeed subtle but so is the apple flavour. I couldn’t get any black peppercorn note. Just an average drop. 3/6

In summary, perhaps I’ve sampled only local mainstream ciders, but overall, my impressions are almost exactly the same as those I had after tasting ciders in Toronto. I’ve tried many ciders from a few cider makers from the East Coast of the U.S. Many ciders were made with unique spices or fruits and fermented with various yeasts. Only rarely you can see such amazing creativity in Europe. Nevertheless, most ciders lacked structure, depth and intensity of taste and aroma. All were drinkable but lacked quality. Only the Strawman from Angry Orchard stood out a little. For an average cider drinker, it is perhaps the overall taste impression that counts but if the current trend will continue, cider in the U.S. will never become a world-class quality beverage just like it was in the case of wine from the Napa Valley or even American craft beer. Wake up! Make cider that is not one-dimensional but has an array of flavours, intensive nose and lively and long palate. Unless cider making is just a business venture for you.

Kernhaus Cider Birne

‘Kernhaus’ is what a German botanist would call the fruit core of an apple. But Kernhaus is also the name of a cider brand from Hamburg established by Maren and Martin. As many Germans, Maren and Martin discovered cider on one of their many trips around the world. In addition, a longer stay in England has also helped them to maintain their love for cider. So after producing many more or less drinkable batches of cider, they found a cider maker in Germany who could press the juice for them and take care of the cider production.

Their Birne was awarded Silver at the International Cider Challenge in 2018.

Company: Kernhaus Cider
Place of Origin: Hamburg, Germany
Ingredients: apple cider, pear juice (11%), sulphites
ABV: 4%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or flute

Appearance: after opening the bottle, 1/3 bottle content immediately escaped leaving a lot of mess. Pours a clear golden with a white fizz that is gone after a few seconds. Low artificial carbonation. Medium body.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is sweet of pear juice with notes of wood, yellow apples. The nose is strong, clear and aromatic.

Taste: my first taste is sweet with only a touch of acidity of lemon. Pear juice, some wood, light apple stems, faint yellow apple flavour and a touch of astringency to it. In the aftertaste a light lemon candy flavour.

Overall: Kernhaus’ Cider Birne is not my cup of tea. As for me, it’s overly sweet with a too dominating flavour of pear juice. But in terms of quality, it is a well-made drop. The aroma is clear, quite strong, pleasant and gives an idea about the taste. Taste wise the length could be longer. Also, a richer flavour on the palate would round up the taste. Summarizing, fans of sweet cider should be delighted. 3.5/6 

Availability: online in Germany from Ciderei, Getränke Paradies Wolf or Solvino.

Price: Kernhaus Birne was a sample provided by Ciderei.