Some 700 people attended this first-ever cider festival on the Long Island’s North Fork on Oct. 20 and some 26 producers poured almost 50 different ciders. Also, there were wines from the festival’s host and beers from five brewers, food from Riverhead’s Maple Tree BBQ and well as t-shirt purveyors and, gasp, a cigar seller (those fumes overwhelmed the delicate apple scents of ciders being poured too near).
For me, this event was about cider. Many producers offered fruit and spice flavored cider variations, but purist that I am, I shunned most them.
The choices included a dozen from New York, others from New Hampshire, Vermont, California and Oregon, a handful from England and one from Spain. Alas, none of the wonderful farmhouse ciders of Normandy, France, were to be found.
Still, there were many wonderful ciders to taste. Ciders made from eating apples, ciders from cider-specifc apples (such as crab apples), single varietal ciders and blends. There were ciders almost as full bodied as some beers and, regrettably, some that were little more than flavored water. There were ciders fermented with cider yeast, Champagne yeast, and even ciders produced using Irish Stout and Belgian Trappist ale yeasts. There were apple ciders, pear ciders (called perry in England), ciders made from concentrated apple juice with added water, and some with added malic acid and sugar and other sweeteners. Lord knows why. And, yes, a hopped cider.
My tasting notes (ciders listed alphabetically):
Anthem Hopped Cider. From Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Oregon. Honey Crisp, Gala, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious apples form the base. It’s dry hopped with Cascades. Apple cider meets Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Weird.
Angry Orchard Traditional Dry, Boston Beer Co.’s entry, is golden with intense, complex apple flavors.
Aspall Dry Draft Suffolk Cyder. From England, this off-dry, balanced cider offers up baked apple flavors.
Bellwether Liberty Spy, from the Finger Lakes. A hearty semi-dry cider made from Liberty and Spy apples. Comes off more dry than sweet.
Blackthorn, an English cider. Tastes like a bad chemistry experiment. Why is this a worldwide top seller?
Cliffton Dry Premium Cider. Paler than pale, a Finger Lakes cider with 14 apple varieties, added sugar and malic acid. Light, easy drinking, like Corona beer, but where’s the apple flavor?
Castañón Natural Cider, an extremely dry, tart Spanish offering with notes of funk. Think Cantillon lambic beer.
Crispin Landsdowne. From MillerCoors. Made with molasses, organic honey and Irish Stout yeast, this cloudy cider is for gingersnap fans.
Doc’s Hard Apple Cider, from the Warwick Valley Winery in the Hudson Valley. Sweet without being cloying with just a touch of acidity.
Farnhum Hill Door Yard No.1212, from New Hampshire’s Poverty Hill Orchards in, this kegged cider was still, extremely dry, earthy with a zingy citrus-like finish.
Harvest Moon Rippleton Original. From Cazenovia, NY, this is light-bodied, but deeply flavored, bubbly, extra dry cider made with champagne yeast and a touch of maple syrup for bottle conditioning.
Magner’s Original Irish Cider: Red tinged, bubbly, sweet apple water.
McKenzie’s Original Hard Cider, from the Buffalo area, is flavorful, medium-bodied, crisp dry cider.
McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider. Not my cup of cider, but extremely popular among festival attendees for its apple-pie-in-a-glass character derived from added nutmeg and cinnamon.
Michelle Ultra Light Cider, pale in color and tasting like water kissed by apples. Why bother?
Naked Flock Hard Cider Original, from the Applewood Winery in Warwick, NY, Made with Champagne yeast and local organic honey. The honey is quite evident.
Naked Flock Hard Cider Draft, fermented with Belgian Trappist ale yeast with a hint of organic maple syrup, this cider has a complex flavor profile without the tang you’d sometimes get from the maple.
Peconic Bay Winery True Believer: Bubbly, honeyish. Tart and sweet baked apples with cinnamon. Finishes dry.
Peconic Bay Winery True Companion. Molasses and orange peel added. A deep golden cider, drier that True Believer and with more depth of flavor and balance.
JK Scrumpy’s Farmhouse, from Michigan. Deep, sweet baked-apple flavor.
Steampunk Cider from the Leonard Oakes Estate in the Niagara Region, a blend of 13 apples, including traditional bitter-sweet apples and the more familiar Fuji and Braeburn. Sweetish, but has nice crisp, tart apple notes and a dry finish.
Strongbow: A UK import that’s crisp, bit tinny in the finish. Made from concentrate with sugar, water.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks 2009 Wickson: Single variety crab apple cider from Salem, Ore. Dry as brut Champagne with Riesling-wine like flavors.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Wanderlust: Dry with bold apple flavors. Defintely a favorite.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Bloom. Crisp, juicy, semi-sweet apple, tropical fruit character with Chardonnay like finish. Another winner.
Woodchuck Amber, from Vermont. Apple soda with a moderately long finish. Carmel color added.
Woodchuck Dark. Crisp apple notes. Some tartness and dryness. Added flavor, caramel color.