Sunday Sour Sunday

Maker: Odd Brothers, Homer, Michigan, USA

Style: Apple cider with Concord grape juice.

ABV: 6.5%

Purchased for: I don’t remember at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market.

Appearance: Dark burgundy with light carbonation.

Nose: Concord grape juice.

Palate: Medium-bodied. Tangy and grapey.

Finish: Foxy, sour.

Parting words: One Saturday morning a few months ago there was a booth at the Royal Oak Farmer’s market sellin Odd Brothers cider. I had never heard of the place before, so I walked up to the young man there and asked him to tell me about the ciders he was selling. He told me to look at the sign and that would tell me what they all were. I then asked him where the cidery was located. He gave me a vague description of where it was. So I found one on the wall, bought a four pack and left.

What Odd Brothers lacks in sales patter, they make up for in creativity. They don’t really have a classic dry or semi-dry cider, what they do have is a wide variety of (naturally) flavored ciders. They use everything from the more traditional fruit juices and cinnamon to marshmallow fluff, green tea, and spruce.

Sunday, Sour, Sunday is one of their least odd combos, but it’s tasty and proof that they can play it more or less straight when they want to. This cider lives up to its name delivering a lot of mouth-puckering tartness on par with a sour ale. While it isn’t exactly sessionable, it’s a nice change of pace from the dry or funky ciders I usually seek out. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I don’t recall thinking “it better be life-changing at this price,” so it couldn’t be too bad. Sunday, Sour Sunday is recommended.

Engle’s Ransom Michigan Hard Cider

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Engle Ridge Farm, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, USA

Apples: Various European heritage varieties.

ABV: 7.8%

Price: $8/500 ml (LFC website)

Appearance: Gold with steady bubbles.

Nose: Strawberry, caramel, cut apple.

Palate: Tingly, medium light bodied, and dry. Granny smith.

Finish: Clean, apple butter.

Parting words: Left Foot Charley is best known for making some of the best single vineyard wines in Northern Michigan, but they also make some of the best single orchard ciders in Northern Michigan!

This is a great example. Engle’s Ransom isn’t a brash, funky Iberian or Norman cider. It’s a crisp, clean expression of the apples that went into it and the stony vineyard they came from. There’s a little sweetness and bitterness that keep it from turning into Pellegrino, but it’s still dry and refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.

At $8 for half a liter, this is an easy buy. Engle’s Ransom is recommended.

Mayador Natural Cider

Maker:  Amandi, Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain.

Style: Natural, still, Asturian sidra.

Vinatage: 2014

ABV: 6%

Purchased for $9/750 ml (Vine & Table)

Appearance: Cloudy, pale gold with floaties and slight effervescence.

Nose: Lemon meringue, honeyed dessert apples, good cider vinegar.

Palate: Light bodied. Tangy and a little chewy. Apple wood, lemon peel, Lemonheads.

Finish: Tangy, and cheek-filling, with a little burn in the throat.

Parting words: Mayador is produced by the large, family-owned Manuel Busto Amandi cidery in the Spanish autonomous region of Asturias in northwestern Spain, east of the more famous region of Galicia. The region has a long history, going back to the seventh century when an exiled Visigothic aristocrat named Pelagius rebelled against his Umayyad rulers and founded the Kingdom of Asturias , which would become the first independent Christian kingdom in Iberia after the Muslim conquest. Going even further back, the region is also home to many caves containing paleolithic art. At any rate, the Amandi family has been producing cider since 1939. They make a large line of natural and sparkling ciders, as well as vinegar and juice.

My experience with Spanish ciders is not extensive, but I have tasted a few from the Basque regions and this is in a different style from those. Mayador has the same dryness the Basque ciders have but lacks their tannin and funk. Acid is what drives this cider, and it runs the gamut from lemon juice to apple cider vinegar. As a result, it’s a little more accessible than its Basque neighbors but still a far cry from Woodchuck. It’s also more food-friendly than those, at least to my palate. Pair it as you would a dry Riesling or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

$9 is a great price for a cider of this quality and this much interest. Mayador Natural Cider is recommended.

Earnest Dry Cider

Maker: Tandem Ciders, Suttons Bay, Michigan, USA

Apples: Brown Snout, Dabinette, Crimson Crisp, Russet Beauty, Kilcherman Select Penny Blend, Crimson Gold, Swayzee Russet, Harrison, Riene de Pomme, Fameuset, Fameuse, Honey Crisp (according to website).

Place of origin: Leelanau, Old Mission Peninsulas, Michigan, USA.

Style: Dry blend.

ABV: 6.9%

Purchased for $13 (Westborn Market)

Appearance: Dark gold and lightly effervescent.

Nose: Intense. Cut apple wood, sourdough, apple juice.

Palate: Dry and tannic, but juicy. Bitter apple core, freshly pressed apple.

Finish: Dry and clean, with a little astringency.

Parting words: My laptop passed away right before Thanksgiving, so I haven’t been able to post for a few weeks. I appreciate your patience, dear readers!

Anyway, Tandem is one of Michigan’s best cider producers and this is one of their best ciders. It has everything a dry craft cider should have: Fruit, tannin, and yeasty funk. Of those, Tannin is in the lead. It’s never chewy, though, but crisp and a bit woody, although it didn’t spend in time in a barrel as far as I know. It doesn’t clash with food, but it’s better as a sipper than a table cider.

$13 is a good price for a quality dry cider like this. Earnest is recommended.

Resort Pike House Cider

Maker: Resort Pike, Petoskey, Michigan, USA (Mackinaw Trail Winery)

Apples: Undisclosed

Style: Semi-dry farmhouse cider

ABV: 6.5%

Purchased for $7 (I think)/16 oz can

Appearance: Light in color with big initial fizz and then steady bubbles.

Nose: Clean, with cut apple and a little caramel.

Palate: Light and semi-dry. Green apple and sage, with some tannin and a little acid as it warms.

Finish: Sweetness and chewiness with a hint of funk.

Parting words: The last time Liz and I were Up North visiting friends-of-the-blog’s cottage on beautiful Walloon Lake near Boyne City, Michigan, we took an aftenoon side trip to Walloon Lake Winery. It was much too busy for our liking, so we drove to the new-ish cidery and winery Resort Pike, owned by the same folks who own Mackinaw Trail winery.

The front door and porch of the Resort Pike tasting toom

It was much less crowded but the indoor seating was already maxed out after ordering, so we sat outside at a picnic table in the pleasant courtyard outside the tasting room, near a pen with a couple well-behaved goats. We got a flight of ciders and they were all interesting but my favorite was this one, the House. It’s semi-dry with a touch of acid and tannin to hold it all together. The next time you’re in Petoskey, stop in and get some. Say hi to the goats for me, too.

Resort Pike House cider is recommended.

JK’s Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold

Maker: Almar Orchards, Flushing, Michigan, USAwp-1577637955256.jpg

Apples: Propietary blend of unspecified organic apples.

Place of origin: Koan Family Orchards, Flushing, Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-dry Farmhouse cider

ABV: 6%

Purchased for $13/4 pint cans

Appearance: Dark gold, slightly hazy. Lightly bubbly.

Nose: Apple juice, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch.

Palate: Tart apple, sweetened apple sauce, touch of tannin.

Finish: Tart and a little sweet.

Parting words: This is the flagship cider of JK’s Scrumpy and the easiest one to find. It’s got big apple flavors, is semi-dry to semi-sweet (depending on who you ask) with no additives, food friendly and accessible to newbies. There’s nothing not to like here unless you’re a dry cider diehard. I would appreciate a little more tannic grip on the back end of the palate and in the finish, but that’s a minor complaint. An excellent example of a middle of the road organic cider, JK’s Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold is recommended.

Look for more JK’s reviews to come!

 

 

Domaine du Verger Brut

Maker: Val de Race Cooperative, Pleudihen sur Rance, Brittany, France20191122_102518.jpg

Place of origin: 90% Brittany, 10% Normandy

Apples: 90% bittersweet, 10% bitter

Style: Semi-dry apple cider

ABV: 5%

Purchased for $9/750 ml (Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana)

Appearance: Light amber

Nose: Apple juice, leather, cut tart apple.

Palate: Effervescent and lightly sweet. Medium tannins, very little acid, no funk.

Finish: More tannin and a little sweetness.

Parting words: I picked this French cider up on one of my trips to Indianapolis. It’s solid, easy drinking and accessible. It has more depth than cheaper French ciders but isn’t going to knock you over with funk and tannin either. It works best as a table cider or an afternoon sipper. The price is pretty good for what it is, but I’d like it even better for a dollar or two less. Domaine du Verger Brut is recommended.

 

 

Michigan Honey

Maker: Virtue, Fennville, Michigan, USA.20190825_201936.jpg

Apples: Variety of Michigan-grown apples.

Style: Partially barrel-finished apple cider with Michigan honey added (Not a cyser or mead).

ABV: 5%

Price: $13/12 12 oz can variety pack (Binny’s)

Appearance: Pale gold, like a lager.

Nose: Honey, sliced golden apples.

Palate: Lightly fizzy, medium bodied. Semi-dry. More balanced than the nose. Honeyed golden apple slices, lemon meringue pie.

Finish: Honey, dry apple slices, tannin.

Parting words: This is another Virtue cider out of the variety pack I bought for my June party. It’s my least favorite of the four included in the pack, but it’s still good. The honey is too strong in the nose but it and the barrel notes add depth and grip to what would otherwise be a pretty mild cider on the palate and in the finish. Good price for a quality cider. Virtue’s Michigan Honey is recommended.

 

Virtue Cider Michigan Apple

Maker: Virtue Farms, Fennville, Michigan, USA20190802_165759.jpg

Apples: Unnamed heirloom varieties.

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-dry cider.

ABV: 5.5%

Price: $13/12 can case (variety pack including three other Virtue ciders at Binny’s)

Appearance: Light gold like a lager.

Nose: Apple wood sawdust, applesauce, gravel.

Palate: Effervescent and semi-dry. Chewy tannin, some sweetness and fruit.

Finish: Dry with a tart tang in the front.

Parting words: I’ve reviewed Virtue ciders before on this blog, but this is the first canned cider of theirs I’ve done. I bought a variety pack of Virtue cider for my annual party in early June (you’re all invited next year). A few were left over, so I’m planning on working my way through the survivors in a series of reviews.

I was very impressed with Virtue’s Michigan Apple. It has a tannic grip that a lot of other American ciders in its category and price range don’t have. There’s no yeasty funk, but this is Michigan Apple, not Pomme de Normandie. This is a very enjoyable cider and I highly recommend it.