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!

 

 

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.

Left Foot Charley Perry

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20190504_122122.jpg

Variety: 100% Bartlett perry

Style: Dry American perry.

ABV: 6%

Price: $8 (winery IIRC)

Appearance: Very pale straw.

Nose: Pear, cedar, yeast.

Palate: Light & dry with a few bubbles. Hint of pear, apple core, yeast.

Finish: Dry. A little tannin and funk.

Parting words: At this point in my cider-tasting career I’ve had a good number of perries and all but a couple of them have been very sweet. When I saw that this perry was 100% Bartlett, I assumed that I was in for another sweet, one-dimensional perry. I was wrong. LFC’s perry is pleasantly dry with a little yeast and even what tastes like tannin! It was a very pleasant surprise. The winery that makes some of my favorite Michigan wines now also makes my favorite Michigan perry. LFC’s Perry is highly recommended.

Santa Rosa Hard Cider

Maker: Blake’s Hard Cider, Armada, Michigan, USA20181121_114225.jpg

Apples: “Late season varieties”

Style: Sparkling apple cider fermented with plum skins.

ABV: 5%

Purchased for $10/500 ml (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Little head, but persistent bubbles.

Nose: Apple juice, citrus blossom.

Palate: Effervescent and semi-sweet. Semi-tart table apples, pinch of tannin, pinch of yeast.

Finish: More acid and tannin with lingering sweetness.

20181121_114524.jpg
The exact location of the plums at Blake’s!

Parting words: Blake’s Foraged series includes ciders made with fruit “foraged” from Blake farms. There’s Nova, made with Nova raspberries, and then there’s this cider made with the skins of Santa Rosa plums also grown on the estate (see map). Santa Rosa is a 112 y/o variety created by Luther Burbank, inventor of the russet potato. Santa Rosa was very popular through most of the twentieth century but it doesn’t ship well so it’s not often found in grocery stores. It’s soft and sweet and has tart, slightly tannic skin.

The specific varieties that go into this cider are not disclosed on the label but we are told that they are late-season varieties. Whatever they are, they work perfectly with the plum skins, adding tartness and tannins to produce an elegant, balanced cider with a beautiful pinkish color. There is no plum flavor at all here, there’s just added depth and structure.

Santa Rosa pairs very well with food and I even served it at Thanksgiving this last year. $10 is a great price too. I love this cider. Blake’s Santa Rosa is highly recommended.

 

 

The Cunning Ham

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20180121_122605.jpg

Style: Dry farmhouse cider using Saison yeast.

Note: Fermented in French oak. Rested on lees. Unfiltered.

ABV: 7%

Purchased for $8/500 ml (winery)

Appearance: Light gold, slightly cloudy.

Nose: Pressed apple juice, a little funk and tannin.

Palate: Off dry, chewy dried apricot, oak.

Finish: Tart, then tart and tannic. Meyer lemon.

Parting words: Ciders have become trendy in Michigan wine and beer circles, with a number of producers branching out into cider with mixed sucess. Just because one knows how to ferment grapes or grains, doesn’t mean one knows how to make a good cider.

That said, Left Foot Charley knows how to make a good cider. Cunning Ham is a part of a line of ciders that also includes Henry’s Pippin (made with heirloom apples but not necessarily traditional cider apples),  Antrim County (single origin) and crowd favorite Cinnamon Girl (cinnamon flavored). I reviewed Cinnamon Girl here and here five years later (oops).

For a dry farmhouse cider, The Cunning Ham is very drinkable and food friendly, especially with spicy fare. I expected a little more funk and tannin but there’s nothing not to like in this bottle. $8 for 500 ml is a very fair price for a quality craft cider. I have no idea where the name came from, but The Cunning Ham is recommended.

 

Grizzly Pear

Maker: Blake’s Hard Cider, Armada, Michigan, USA20171112_165117.jpg

Style: Apple cider flavored with apple juice, prickly pear extract, pear juice concentrate and elderflower.

ABV: 5%

Price: $10/6 12 oz cans

Appearance: Light gold with tiny bubbles.

Nose: Barlett Pear, elderflower, nutmeg.

Palate: Medium dry. Effervescence, elderflower liquer, drop of canned pear syrup.

Finish: Clean & juicy. Slightly tart.

Parting words: As far as I can tell, this is the closest thing to a perry that Blake’s makes , which is a shame. Craft perry makers have an even harder time than craft cider-makers at finding heritage varieties traditionally used for their product. As a result, most perry is made from Bartlett or other table varieties. As a result of that, most American perries taste like watered down, slightly boozy versions of the syrup one finds canned pears swimming in. This leads creative producers like Blake’s to get, uh, creative. While technically apple cider, Grizzly Pear tastes like a quality perry. The elderflower infusion is a nice, floral counterpoint to the strong pear flavor and results in a more balanced product than standard, one dimensional perry. The prickly pear extract is undetectable, at least by me.Grizzly Pear pairs well with pork and spicy chicken dishes, but is best for casual weekend sipping. The price is reasonable.

My only complaint (a big one, actually) is that the packaging is deceptive, perhaps intentionally so. A pear is featured front and center and no mention of this product being flavored apple cider appears outside the ingredient list. The label describes it as “hard cider” but since perry is often lumped together with apple cider, a reasonable person could still assume that this is a perry after reading that description.

I have no problem with funky, Franken-ciders like this but Blake’s should be up front about what this is instead of “stealing valor” from the poor neglected pears of the world. I want to give this a recommendation, but I’m going to have to ding it for deceptive packaging. Grizzly Pear is mildly recommended. Fix this, Blake’s.