Kertelreiter Highway to Hüll 2019

Barry’s adventure with fermenting has begun in 2006 when he started experimenting with different hop varieties in his beers. Once Barry discovered cider, as a former beer brewer, he took advantage of his brewing experience and tried dry-hopping ciders with popular US hops that are frequently used by craft beer brewers. But due to citric flavors that would come with these hope varieties he wasn’t exactly happy with his experiments. So Barry turned to less known hop varieties that give more vinous flavors such as Hüll Melon. Hüll Melon is a German hop variety that is supposed to give fruity notes of honey melon, strawberry, apricot along with some sweetness.

The Kertelereiter Highway to Hüll is a small batch cider dry hopped with Hüll Melon. Previously, I sampled Barry’s perry, the Levitation 2019, cider, the An Craobh Airgid 2019 and quince wine, the Kertelreiter Quince 2019.

Company: Kertelreiter Cider
Place of Origin: Schefflenz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Ingredients : a blend of local apple varieties along with a hop variety Hüll Melon
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 6,6%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass or tumbler

Appearance: pours an almost clear pale golden yellow. The carbonation is moderate and natural. There is a foam that reduces slowly to a ring. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is moderately strong and complex – it’s not easy to identify any particular notes. But I got a note of honey melon, elderflower and of salty olive brine.

Taste: my first taste is dry with a low acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, spiciness, notes of yellow apples, mineral notes, low but long-lasting bitterness and a touch of honey lemon. Finishes dry with a mineral note and a very low bitterness along with a note of salty olive brine.

Overall: Not sure how about you but when I see a hoped cider I have a sort of an idea how it may taste like. This is mostly due to the use of specific hop varieties for dry hopping of cider. Well, this is indeed not the case with the Highway to Hüll made by Barry. While having the Highway to Hüll, I never had a feeling that I was drinking a hopped cider. Neither a cider. Due to mineral notes I had the impression I was drinking a pleasant white wine from the Rhine area. It is complex, nicely build so for me it was actually a challenge to identify notes both on the nose and on the palate. I didn’t get any notes of strawberries or apricots but there was indeed something fruity in there. It doesn’t mean that there are no flavors but rather that they come at the same time -due to this fact the taste is perhaps not really short but not exactly long-lasting. I thought that the Highway to Hüll was a unique and interesting offering but it didn’t steal my heart. Anyways, definitely worth trying. 4/6

Availability: from their online shop– they also ship to other EU countries!

Price: Barry provided me with a sample.

Distelberger Holunderblüte

In order to keep up with the newest trends in cider/perry, Toni Distelberger of Distelberger Genuss-Bauernhof from Mostviertel, released also a hopped Birnenmost blended with elderflower syrup. Furthermore, it comes in a 33cl bottle and has an ABV of only 4.5%.Company: Distelberger Genuss-Bauernhof
Place of Origin:
Amstetten, Lower Austria, Austria
Birnenmost, water, elderflower syrup, hops
Sweetness as per label: 
Package type:
 330 ml amber glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: 
white wine glass, chalice glass or flute

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw yellow with a huge white head that immediately dissipates. Medium carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong with notes of elderflower, lemon, ripe and unripe mango.

Taste: my first taste is moderately sweet with low acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, notes of elderflower, unripe and ripe mango and lime. Finishes with a lingering note of unripe mango and distant ripe pineapple.

Overall: I’m taking the fifth sip and still don’t know what to tell you about this beverage. But I’ll try. I think that the Distelberger Holunderblüte is a quite well done hopped perry. In a blind tasting, I would never tell it was diluted with water nor that it was hopped. The taste of elderflower is obviously there and difficult to ignore but further notes that obviously come from hops are in a nice balance with elderflower and go well together. I really liked the gentle acidity as it made this Birnenmost taste like sauvignon blanc. All the flavours seem natural, move smoothly from one to another and are in a good balance. As I expected, there is no flavour of perry/Birnenmost at all. But I enjoyed it anyway. 4.5/6

Availability: directly from their shop or through Mostbarone.

Price: Distelberger Holunderblüte was a sample provided by Toni from Mostbarone.

Mūrbūdu Pussauss Apinots Saison Sidrs

I know that this again will be a review of a flavoured/mixed/hopped cider but I can’t help it. This seems to be the trend now among European cider producers. This hopped cider is made by Mūrbūdu from Latvia. Their Apinots is a semi-dry cider flavoured with two American hop varieties Mosaic and Citra. 
Mūrbūdu Sidra Darītava
Place of Origin: Ērģemes pagasts, Valkas novads, “Klētnieki”, Latvia
Ingredients: a blend of apple varieties from old apple orchards with hops Mosaic and Citra
Sweetness as per label: pussauss (semi-dry)
ABV: 5%
Package type: 
330 ml amber glass with crown cork 
Recommended type of glass: 
wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a cloudy golden with a little white head that quickly dissipates. Low and artificial carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the scent is moderately strong with notes of fresh, ripe mango but also unripe mango with lychee and a hint of pine.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet with a low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, yellow apples, a watery note, unripe and ripe mango with lychee. Finishes dry with a note of pine and lemon.

Overall: Some may think that hops are to cider what milk is to coffee. Milk will make even bad coffee taste good. But unfortunately, hops will not do the same to bad cider. American hops might have indeed added pleasant aromas and richness to the Mūrbūdu Pussauss Apinots. But the hops didn’t help to hide the fact that cider with a watery taste,  lacking body was used to make this cider. I’m not trying to say that Mūrbūdu Pussauss Apinots is undrinkable as its taste is quite ok. But once the initial notes of hops are gone,  a longlasting watery note appears revealing a rather weak cider base. It’s quite disappointing. Also, hops are too dominating and I can’t get any apple flavour at all. Summarising, drinkable but not amazing. 3/6

Availability: in around 60 bars and restaurants in Riga incl. Spirits and Wine, Folkklubs Ala, Trompete Taproom, Kanepes Kulturas Centrs, Radisson Hotel and Laska Bar.

Price: Mūrbūdu Pussauss Apinots Saison Sidrs was a sample provided by Mūrbūdu.

Blakstoc Lazy Day Cucumber

Karl of Blakstoc is a genius in terms of creating wonderful compositions from various fruits and hops based on cider. Recently, he even dared to blend cider with lacto fermented cucumber juice, elderflowers and hops! The newest addition to Karl’s range is called Lazy Cucumber Day. Company: BlakStoc Cider GmbH
Place of Origin: Vienna, Austria
Ingredients: apple cider, apple juice, lacto fermented cucumber juice, elderflowers, hops, sulphites.
ABV: 3.5%
Package type: 330ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy pale golden with a fizzy short-lived white foam that reduces to a ring. Medium carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the scent is moderately strong and slightly sweet with notes of cucumbers that were pickled in brine with herbs, and herbs used for pickled cucumbers in vinegar, fresh cucumber and honeydew melon.

Taste: it starts moderately sweet with low acidity of lemon and pickle brine. On the mid-palate notes of fresh cucumber, pickled cucumber and brine, elderflower, herbs used for pickled vinegar in vinegar but without the vinegar. Finishes with a note of honeydew melon and low astringency.

Overall: it requires a lot of guts to create a cider with so weird ingredients and release it. But let’s focus on the taste. Surprisingly, all the flavours go well together creating a very interesting yet strange tipple. It’s like drinking pickled cucumber juice’/brine that is quite sweet and refreshing. Also, the taste could last a bit longer. I shared it with a friend who likes sweet cider. And, she was actually a bit traumatised after having the Lazy Cucumber Days. So it’s clearly not for everyone. Anyway, in my opinion, it’s extremely difficult to create a cider like this. Admittedly, the Blakstoc Lazy Cucumber Days is a very intriguing offering and well worth trying. But I don’t think I would buy it again. Only because it is a bit too sweet for my palate. If you dare, try it. 4/6

Availability: in Summer 2018 widely available in Austria (Der Grissemann or Beer Lovers) and Italy (e.g. Hops Beer Shop, or Tutti Fritti in Milan; Birreria della Torre in Trezzo sull’Adda). Also available in the UK (Newcomer Wines in London) and in the Czech Republic.

Price: Karl from BlakStoc passed me a bottle at CiderWorld 2019 in Frankfurt.

Oliver’s At The Hop #7

Inspired by American cider makers who add hops to almost every cider they make, Tom Oliver created his own hopped cider, At The Hop. Tom infused cider with UK grown Cascade hops and Czech grown Kazbek hops, which supposedly add citrusy and floral notes to otherwise bland and dull cider.

In 2014, At The Hop picked up the first place at Royal Three Counties Agricultural Society show.

Company: Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Place of Origin: Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, UK
Ingredients: US Cascade and Czech Kazbek hops
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 500ml clear amber bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with a light orange hue and a tiny white head that quickly dissipates. Medium natural carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong and actually pours out of the glass. The scent is rather sweet with notes of ripe honeydew, apricots, grapefruit flesh, orange and grapefruit peel. In the background apple flavour with hints of funk, leather and distant cucumber.

Taste: it starts with a low sweetness and a medium citrusy acidity. Light watery with some smokiness, medium astringency, notes of grapefruit flesh, orange and lemon, low apple flavour and hints of funk on the mid-palate. The finish is dry with a lingering grapefruit peel – like bitterness with a touch of lemon.

Overall: I’ve tried already a number of hopped ciders and none of them tasted any similar to what Tom Oliver has crafted. I can imagine that this is partly due to Czech Kazbek hops that were used in the blend. Both the scent and the palate are very unique and rich with lots of intensive flavours that linger on and on. Also, I thought it was very refreshing due to the lovely citrus flavours. But it’s not going to be my favourite cider of Tom. Personally, I found the apple flavour too far in the background. Also, the bitter note was a bit too strong for my liking. Hence, in my humble opinion, Tom’s At the Hop could be considered a good introductory cider for those who drink beer but want to try something new as the taste of the At The Hop is somewhere between beer and cider. As a cider drinker, I think I’ll stick to Tom’s cider made only with apples. 4.5/6

Availability: from Oliver’s online shop or Beer Revolution. Locally in London from the Cider House and Bristol from the Bristol Cider Shop or  The Salutation Inn in Ham, and many others. In Austria from Beer Lovers. In Copenhagen from Holm Cider. In Germany exclusively from CiderKultur.

Price: Oliver’s At The Hop #7 was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

Hogan’s Hip Hop

Hogan’s is another cider maker trying to provide additional flavours by using Cascade and Chinook hops. Hogan’s efforts have been recognised by the jury panel of the International Cider Awards 2018 this year as the Hip Hop picked up Bronze in the category ‘flavoured cider’.Company: Hogan’s Cider
Place of Origin: Alcester, Warwickshire, UK
Ingredients: English cider apple juice, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, malic acid, preservative: potassium metabisulphite (sulphites), Cascade and Chinook hops
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 4%
Package type: 500ml amber glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale orange with a large quickly dissipating white head. Medium carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is dry and smells of grapefruit, zinc oxide-eugenol cement used in dentistry, lemon, yellow apples, orange, a hint of tangerine.

Taste: it begins dry with no detectable sweetness and low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate notes of grapefruit, a slight astringent taste, a watery note and a smoky note, with something that numbs the tongue like eugenol. Also, a hint of tangerine, orange and a hint of elderflower. Finishes dry with a grapefruit note, some smokiness and light astringency.

Overall: interestingly, Hogan’s Hip Hop doesn’t really taste like a hopped cider. Let me explain why. Most flavours that you can get such as grapefruit or orange usually can be found also in a cider that was made from proper cider apples and/or barrel-aged. I couldn’t get much of the dry hop character such as hop bitterness or herbal aromas that often associate hopped ciders. Perhaps a hint of elderflower that often comes with hops. The aroma is pleasant and clear, the palate has an interesting array of flavours and a pleasant structure and length. The Hip Hop is citrusy and refreshing. I’d wish perhaps more apple flavour here but I can’t say I’m not enjoying this drop. Smooth and drinkable cider to celebrate the end of the day. 4/6 

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

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

Blakstoc Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider

Austrian BlakStoc is made by four friends from Vienna of three nationalities, Austrian, Italian and U.S-American, who found a market niche and decided to fill it with their hopped cider. Hopped cider is indeed somewhere between beer and cider. BlakStoc’s lineup features currently hopped cider with additions of many fruits and spices such as ginger or quince.

Tonight I’m giving their Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider a try. Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider is made with zest and albedo of kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon, Buddha’s Hand citron, orchard apple juice, Hopsteiner’s experimental Lemon Drop hops.Company: BlakStoc Cider GmbH
Place of Origin: Vienna, Austria
Ingredients: zest and albedo of kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon, Buddha’s Hand citron, orchard apple juice, Hopsteiner’s experimental Lemon Drop hops
ABV: 4%
Package type: 330ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy golden with a light orange hue and a fizzy short-lived white foam. Medium carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aromas pour out of the glass. The nose is very fruity, aromatic and citrusy with notes of bergamot, baked lemon, kaffir, lemon, with a hint of peppermint and yellow apples.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet, with low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, bergamot, kaffir, light to medium astringent taste, orange, baked lemon, yellow apples. Finishes with a light citrusy note of orange and lingering baked lemon. Leaves a lingering taste of bergamot and orange with a gentle touch of bitterness.

Overall: the cider purist in me has to admit that guys from Blakstoc did a phenomenal job with their citrusy blend the Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider. It’s extremely refreshing, and citrusy but without the sourness. I enjoyed every single sip full of richness while it lasted. I shared this tiny bottle with a friend who claimed that she hasn’t drunk anything that refreshing and drinkable before. Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider has a structure, great taste and power. And, I’m craving for more. 5.5/6

Availability: in Summer 2018 widely available in Austria (Der Grissemann or Beer Lovers) and Italy (e.g. Hops Beer Shop, or Tutti Fritti in Milan; Birreria della Torre in Trezzo sull’Adda). Also available in the UK (Newcomer Wines in London) and in the Czech Republic. In Germany from Beyond Beer, and in Berlin from the Muted Horn.

Price: Karl from BlakStoc passed me a bottle at CiderWorld 2018 in Frankfurt.

Abavas Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple

Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple by Abavas from Latvia is another example of the growing hopped cider trend. Hopped Apple is a blend of Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee and  Serinka, locally grown apple varieties with Citra hops. Each apple variety is fermented separately and subsequently matured in stainless steel vats. After 5-6 months, cider is blended and hops are added. It takes another 2 months until cider is filtered, carbonated and bottled. And, ready to drink.Company: SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”
Place of Origin: 
Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia
Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee, Serinka and Citra hops
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 750ml amber glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute, chalice glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw with green hues and white short-lived foam. High carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has a citrusy freshness. Also, it smells fruity with notes of lemon, green mango, elderflower, passion fruit, lychee, yellow and green apples, all rounded up by distant herbal hoppy notes.

Taste: the first sip has a touch of sweetness with a low to medium acidity of lemon. The mid-palate bursts with passion fruit, lychee, elderflower, lemon juice, green unripe mango, yellow apples, and a light astringent taste, and brightened by green hoppy notes with delicate grapefruit. It has a dry and clean finish with a gentle lingering astringent taste and notes of green unripe mango, white grapes and light flavour of lemon candy. No bitterness.

Overall: I’m a cider purist and so not a fan of hopped cider. But after sampling the Hopped Apple from Abavas I guess I will have to think it over. Hopped Apple already opens with inviting citrusy and fruity aromas raising one’s curiosity. Fruity, rich, with many delicious notes. And, with your first taste, you hear angels sighing and I’m not exaggerating. A gentle combination of green unripe mango with yellow and green apples makes this cider decidedly moreish. With this cider, Martins from Abavas has shown real craftsmanship. As it’s a true skill to add just the right amount of hops, not to destroy the cider but complement it. It’s official, the Hopped Apple from Abavas is a cider with the wow effect. Fantastic cider that will please every cider purist, including myself. And, a must try for a cider lover. Pure heaven! 5.5/6 

Availability: in Germany from Foodist and Jörn Weinshop. In Finnland from ALKO, in Sweden from System Bolaget, in Latvia from Spirit & Wines, in the Netherlands from CiderCider, in Belgium from Cideris, in Italy from Compagna dei Caraibi.

Price: Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple was a sample provided to Cider Explorer for testing

Note: Abavas will attend the craft cider concept exhibition – “same but different” at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March 2018.

Ramborn Hopped Cider Cascade 2016

Hopped Cider is becoming a thing also in Europe now. Started a while ago in the US, now hopped cider is becoming more and more in demand from consumers also in “the Old Continent”. Following this trend, Ramborn created a cider with Cascade hops.

Cascade hops were discovered in the 1960ties in Oregon as USDA 56013 but released only in 1972 when import prices of noble hops from Germany went to the roof due to a hop disease. Cascade is the hop that gave rise to the craft beer movement in the US and is one of the most popular hops among craft brewers.  Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Ingredients: local apples and Cascade hops from Oregon (US)
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.4%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with amber hues and a tiny short-lived white head. Almost no carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is not rich, but quite powerful with notes of elderflower, pear and green notes and hay.

Taste: my first taste is medium dry, medium acidity, smoky note, low to medium astringency, lemon, elderflower, crisp red apple and green apple. it finishes dry with a distant bitter note and a touch of green or unripe apple.

Overall: Ramborn’s Hopped Cascade is a definitely rich cider with depth and structure. But I must agree with Cider Says who reviewed Ramborn’s Hopped Cider a few months back. Indeed, this is a pleasant cider but doesn’t stand out like some of the ciders from the Ramborn’s range such as the Original, Farmhouse of Erbachhofer. The influence of hops is slightly stronger, the flavour of cider is much less noticeable. Perhaps not dominating, but still powerful. Long story short, for me there is not enough apple in this cider. But I think that those who like their cider hopped will be more than satisfied.  4/6

Availability: all over Luxembourg. In Germany from The Hop Shop Trier. In the Netherlands from CiderCider. In Italy from Sidro&Cider. In the UK through Crafty Nectar.

Price: Hopped Cider Cascade 2016 was a sample provided by Adie from Ramborn Cider Co.

Bear Cider Dry Hopped

I could easily take Bear Cider for a cider coming from Berlin (for those who are not aware, the bear is the symbol of Berlin). But no, the name Bear Cider actually originates from a small Dutch town of Beerze, which means ‘bear’ in English. Initially, the Bear cider was called ‘Beer Cider’ as the word ‘beer” in Dutch means ‘a bear’. However, as you can imagine, it created confusion among English-speaking consumers, so the decision was made to change to name to ‘Bear Cider’. Their cider portfolio features currently two ciders, one is made only from apples, the other one is additionally infused with mosaic hops. I’m sampling the latter today.Company: Bear Cider
Place of Origin: ‘s-Garveland, the Netherlands
Ingredients: made from tart and bittersweet apples along with mosaic hops
ABV: 5%
Package type: 330ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a light hazy yellow with subtle orange hues. White foam dissipates fast leaving a thin ring around the glass. Slightly sparkling.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma has tropical fruits, especially mango is well recognizable with a hint of white wine. I can get some citrus-like acidity and a slightly watery hint. No apples on the nose though.

Taste: my first impression is moderate acidity, followed by light grapefruit bitter notes. There is a distant note of tropical fruits and hay or grass to it. The finish is dry and medium-lengthy with a light, slightly astringent taste.

Overall: The taste of Dry-Hopped is quite unique as it doesn’t taste like beer or cider. I can’t taste any apples here as well, only tropical fruits coming from hops. It’s easily drinkable and enjoyable. On a hot summer day, I think it would be a great evening companion.  4/6

Availability: I remember that I saw their cider at Slavnost cideru in Prague at the InCiderBar stand last year. Perhaps this year the Bear Cider will be available as well? Other shops offering the Dry-Hopped include Ciderlab, Marqt and InCiderBar in Prague.

Price: bought from a supermarket in Amsterdam called Marqt at 2.45 EUR.