Thursday, 28 February 2013

Spreyton Cider Company


Spreyton Cider Company – Tasmania
Okely Dokely, it’s time to get stuck into another tasting/review of a companies cider range. If you remember, I composed a ‘range review’ of all Small Players offerings back in October last year http://www.allaboutcider.com/2012/10/small-players-cider-sweet-cider-and.html. It’s always a great exercise to go through a complete set of ciders from a producer, as you get a good scope of what they are trying to achieve. Most producers are trying to get their single cider tasting right, so to see companies producing up to five differing ciders, it’s always intriguing. So when the folks at Spreyton Cider Company sent me through their product range consisting of five offerings, I instantly wanted to line them up and taste my way through them together. It’s a hard life I know!


Like most of my reviews, I’ll start off with a little background info on Spreyton Cider Co to set the mood. Spreyton Cider Co is based in - you guessed it, Spreyton which is just a short ten minutes from Davenport in the north of Tasmania. Yes I know, another Tassie producer, but hey it’s the apple isle and the ciders being produced are of impressive quality. The company was born from its parent company Spreyton Fresh, which is one of Tasmania’s leading juicing companies. The families involved with these two businesses have been growing apples since 1908, which is pretty impressive in itself. So what does a successful juicing company do when it’s surrounded by an Australian cider boom?…….I think you get the point. Damien Viney (Cider Operations Manager) was called in to begin crafting the Spreyton ciders, and the first batches were only completed as late as October 2012. So this venture is very new, and still a baby (on the cider side of things), but it’s already growing a good fan base which is great. The other cool and somewhat rare thing is they run and operate out of a proper cidery, with a cellar door for tastings. I hear the cellar door also has a little viewing window where you can watch the cider being made and bottled. Now that sounds like my kind of heaven!! The ciders made consist of a Vintage, Classic, Bright, Dark and Perry and all are made to be cloudy, bottle conditioned and completely authentic (no concentrates or other fake muck). The alcohols are all around the seven per cent mark which is high yes, but to be expected with bottle conditioning. So they are not for the faint hearted.
So I am now going to go through them one by one with shorter reviews to give you a basic snap shot of the range.

Classic

The Classic is described by Spreyton Cider Co as a cider with a modern classic taste, as opposed to a traditional tasting cider. Traditional cider obviously use the traditional apples with astringency, where as this cider utilises the eating apples of Pink Lady and Sundowner. Immediately I wanted to see the crisp acidity of the Pink’s, along with the juicy apple characters from the Sundowners to create this modern approach. The cider is also the most likely style you’ll see in draught form for Spreyton. So really this example in my eyes is SCC’s run of the mill, all rounder cider which is not over complicated and super fresh.

The colour pours a nice yellow straw, with the cider being stylistically cloudy. Unfortunately, my bottle was a touch over carbonated (possible refermentation in the bottle), and it foamed out. I am assured by Damien Viney that the sugar levels are being tinkered with and lowered to rectify this little gremlin. But this is all part of the learning curve when it comes to making cider. The carbonation in the glass however was light and restrained, so the initial explosion was quickly dispersed once poured. The nose reminded me of straw, sour sobs, fresh apples, pineapples and stone fruits with hints of sweet confectionery. There were some great primary fresh characters with some oaky, earthy complexity.

The palate offered up a good balance of fresh off dry sweetness (maybe not as sweet due to possible refermentation in bottle). A lovely balance of acidity with tiny hints of tannin was evident, with a pleasing creamy length. Noticeable lingering bitterness also added an element of distinction. There was good juicy apple and green apple characters which lingered well into the back palate. This really did taste authentic and traditional/modern, and the seven per cent alcohol was well balanced.

The Classic is a very solid entry cider and I love the fact it’s not a sugar laden, headache material frankencider. It’s soft and structured and very consumer friendly. This would be perfectly suited to a draught style in bars and pubs also. I saw great acidity and juiciness from the apples used too which was perfect. Nice solid cider indeed.

Rating: 7.5/10

 Bright

What the heck is 'Bright' cider you say? Well I guess to try and summarise it, it’s a cider that is made using Golden Delicious and Jonagold apples (which is a cross of Golden Delicious and Jonathon from the USA), and it’s more commercial in style and more sweet(ish). SCC state that this cider is “closer to commercial cider”, not saying it is commercial as the process used to make it is completely different, but it’s in the same realm. But comparing this cider to a more commercial cider is like comparing apples to oranges….pardon the pun. Golden Delicious is a funny old apple for me when it comes to cider. It gives a cider a sweet, stewed sort of character which can be sickly and unpleasant. You can immediately tell if a cider is predominantly Golden Delicious in the blend due to this funny character. I’ve also never see Jonagold’s used in cider, but its main features consist of being sweet and aromatic - so in theory, perfect for cider.

The colour is much lighter than the classic (possibly why it’s called Bright?), and has more carbonation in the glass with a much larger mousse. The nose was quite reductive, and a little oniony. This did blow off to reveal some green apple characters, along with this really cool apple pie note. The nose showed more yeasty characters, almost bordering on beer. But overall, the nose was quite subdued, and not as pretty and intense as the Classic. The fresh primary characters were over taken by the yeasty, creamy characters along with the stewed character I mentioned earlier (this may be a pasteurisation/cooked character too).

The palate was definitely sweeter than the classic, with lovely juicy apple characters producing a much rounder and fuller mouth feel – this would have to be a Jonagold feature. A nice light and fresh finish, coupled with crisp acidity and foamy carbonation did liven up the experience. However, the length did drop off quite rapidly, with the flavours fading fast with no real tannins or bitterness to compensate on the back palate.

This cider was a smidge on the dull side of life, being overshadowed by the Classic apple. It did struggle to redeem itself after the reductiveness disappeared which was a shame. It’s a very simple cider which may potentially get lost in amongst the other horses in the SCC stable. Only time will tell.

Rating: 6/10

 Vintage 2012

Now this was a cider I wanted to get my hands on. A vintage!! It’s limited, made using more cider friendly apples like Cox’s Orange Pippin, Sturmer Pippin (debatable) and Gravenstein, is dry and more styled towards a traditional cider. The cool thing about this cider is it will continue to evolve over the coming years as SCC plant more traditional cider varieties. I really love this idea, and it’s a great little initiative. Imagine what it’s going to look like in 5 years! Cooooool.

The cider pours a predictable cloudy with a lightish straw appearance. This cider also had larger bubbles with a bigger mousse in the glass, more than the last two options. The nose offered up nice fresh, clean and pure apple aromas. This was beautifully intertwined with some yeasty, creamy characters which added complexity and depth. Other interesting characters consisted of honey, fresh apples and citrus with just a touch of reductiveness in the background. But this was a very impressive nose which was pure and unadulterated.  

An excellent and very refreshing upfront dryness set the scene perfectly for this palate. Although being dry, the mouth feel was still full and would please anyone on a hot summer’s day. It was seriously crisp, clean and impressively fresh. A nice balancing acidity and clean finish polished and sharpened the structure. Awesome and addictive fresh and clean flavours of citrus and apple hit you like a tonne of bricks after each sip. There were no real tannins or bitterness, but this was not an issue. It’s not a big boned, rich and thick cider, but more a soft, delicate and refined option. It was a pleasure to drink and super mouth watering.

This was my pick of the SCC bunch. I really enjoyed it, with its uncomplicated approach and fresh, honest flavours. Oh, and I actually liked a cider with Strumer Pippin in it! It’s a miracle!! Real cool little cider, which will develop over time and continue to grow in personality. An exciting cider, so stay tuned.  

Rating: 8.5/10

 Dark

So we’ve had Bright, but what’s Dark? Dark, hmmmm……Oak aged? Oxidatively handled? Malt extract? Where did this ‘Dark’ come from? Well it turns out this Fuji based cider is infused with a range of Tasmania hops. Waahh?!!! What did you say!? Yes hops. Ok, yes I refuse to review anything which has had any sort of artificial or other fruit based additions but I thought hops are a little different. Adding hops to cider isn’t really reinventing the wheel, but I’m willing to give it a go and see if it’s a yay or nay (in my eyes). SCC state that this cider is suited to beer drinkers, is fuller bodied on the mid palate and very floral from the hops. Sounds interesting, I just hope it works and that the apple is not over dominated.

To my surprise, the cider is by no means dark. It’s not even the darkest of the bunch. So the ‘Dark’ reference is a little strange and trying to find where it fits in is a little confusing. The mousse was of a medium stature, and the bead was quite persistent. Ok all ticks there. Onto the nose…..

WOW, she’s an interesting nose that’s for sure. Where does one start? Lemons, limes, floral, medicinal, strawberries, perfume, mangoes, tropical fruits and roses all burst out at you. I seriously could have written more descriptors, crazy! This was super unique and powerful due to the hops. But apple characters? Unfortunately, it was hard to find them as the hops (presumably ‘dry’ hopped), overpowered the nose. Isn’t it meant to be all about those beautiful Tassie apples?    

The palate to me was super confusing, and in my eyes a little offensive. There was a huge whack of hop bitterness, along with a distinct beer character and nutty finish. In its defence, the Fuji apples did try to poke their aroma heads through the mostly beer dominated characters – but it was fighting an uphill battle. The after taste was not overly nice, and a touch disjointed. I liken it to a mixture of an over hopped craft beer, with a craft cider. Would this appeal to the beer fraternity? Possibly, but I think they would be confused by this too. Consumers I believe would be lost in a sea of mashed up aromas and textures and revert back to the Classic or Vintage.

It may sound like I am being super critical to this, but my immediate thoughts are that maybe this cider is being a little too adventurous? But I take my hat off to SCC as they are trying something different. I must stress it’s not to my taste/liking, so don’t use my review as a solid, set in concrete disapproval. You must try a beverage like this on your own, and let yourself be the judge. Its definitely unique and not your average drink. It’s an acquired taste, that’s for sure. So if you’re game, give it a go and I’d love to here your thoughts on it.

*Due to this cider not being a 100 per cent apple fruit cider, I will not score it.

 Perry

I have already reviewed this perry in a previous post. You can see it here: http://www.allaboutcider.com/2013/01/pear-ciderperry-tasting.html

Well summing up the Spreyton Cider Co ciders, I was generally pretty pleased with what I saw. There were lots of yeasty characters coming from the bottle carbonation along with great purity and authenticity of the Tassie fruit. A few little reductive issues were evident, but by no means offensive. I am really looking forward to seeing the evolution of the Vintage cider over time too. The Bright and Dark styled ciders may possibly succumb to the growing popularity of the Classic and Vintage, but I’ll let the consumers do the talking there. Overall, a great effort from a relatively young cider producer who are tackling differing styles and combinations head on. Watch these guys, as the quality will only continue to grow and grow.

It also should be mentioned that Spreyton Cider Company won a bronze for the Classic and bronze for the 2012 Vintage at the recent Melbourne Fine Food Awards in the bottle fermented class. Congratulations all round!

Producer: Spreyton Cider Company
Country: Australia (Spreyton, Tasmania)
Alcohol: Vintage 7%, Classic 7%, Bright 7%, Dark 7%, Perry 7%
Website: www.spreytonciderco.com.au

Cheers!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

2013 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards - Judging

 

Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – Cider and Perry
So after a 4 am start, a plane flight to Melbourne, an endless tussle with Melbourne traffic, and a cabbie who couldn’t distinguish between a Showground and a Race Course, I made it to the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards – albeit 40 minutes late…oops. So why all the commotion? Well I was lucky enough to be asked to be apart of the judging for the inaugural autumn cider and perry competition for the Melbourne Fine Food Awards. An honour which I am still buzzing about, as cider is a HUGE passion of mine. The whole competition was carefully organised by Ross Karavis (Event Manager for the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria) along with Max Allen (wine writer and cider buff) who meticulously defined the classes and categories for the cider and perry competition. Along with Max Allen and myself (the blogger), the other judges consisted of cider makers, wine makers, wine writers/journalists, and bottle shop beer buyers – so there was a good spread of experience and walks of life. It was pleasing to know that over sixty ciders were entered into the competition, which showed that producers aren’t afraid to contest their products against their rivals in a epic battle of apple and pear supremacy…..ahh too far maybe James?

The program consisted of differing classifications or classes determined by sugar content and method of production. The run down looked like this:
Modern Dry Cider and Perry
Modern Medium Cider and Perry
Modern Sweet Cider and Perry
(Modern being light, artificially carbonated, made from dessert apples, mass produced and commercial)

Traditional Dry Cider
Traditional Medium Cider
Traditional Sweet Cider
(Traditional being likely made from cider apples, more European style, oaked, complex, astringent)  

Cider and Perry Blend
(Blend of both fruits in a single blend)

Bottle Fermented Cider and Perry
(Bottle fermented being made using methode traditionelle, natural carbonation, either dry or sweet with dosage liqueur or keeving).

And NO FLAVOURED CIDERS!! Halleluiah!! Get excited!   

The ciders fell into different categories according to their sweetness or specific gravity (SG). This consisted of: Dry 1005 or below, Medium between 1005 and 1012 and sweet being above 1012.


Max Allen tasting his way through a bracket
The day ran nice and smoothly with judging being efficient and concise, as the layers of tooth enamel progressively got thinner and thinner. I was told to channel my ‘inner eighteen year old girl’ whilst judging the modern sweet cider category as I was really finding it hard to give a positive for some entries – best advice I’ve ever gotten, thanks Mr. Allen! Some ciders presented were lovely and well made, with others making you wish you could go back in time and not put it anywhere near the vicinity of your nose and mouth. But overall, the important thing I got to take away from this exercise was the bigger picture of the state of our Cider Industry in Australia. Things are looking promising and quality is rising as more batches and experiments are being made/produced. With the knowledge of the cider making process, and blending/stylistic component options continually growing, Aussie cider should continue to grow. Faults like reductiveness (or rotten egg), mousiness, cooked characters and volatile acidity (vinegar/nail polish remover) did plague some ciders throughout the judging. This stewed, or ‘cooked’ note was quite common in many classes, and it was debated whether it was a storage issue or a result of pasteurisation. Remember pasteurisation can potentially heat a cider up to 60ÂșC, which is more than enough to have an adverse effect on flavour. The quality of Australian cider is slowly climbing the mountain of cider superiority. The addition of true cider apples, and the experience to utilize them with dessert apples will see quality rise substantially to the peak over time. But until then, the urge to over use and over complicate the humble dessert apple needs to be restrained. Otherwise there will be a whole bunch of confused consumers unsure of what they are consuming – being lolly water or an oxidised mess. The cider making process will also become more understood in Australia over time, with knowledge to what apples and pears respond to best expanding which will be of a huge advantage.

So the awards hailed no gold’s or trophies, with a general consensus amongst the judges that an awarded sliver is currently a gold in Australian Cider right now. I hope to see this change in the not so distant future, with more producers entering the competition (and the Australian Cider Awards) with higher quality styles.

Here's a run down of the winners at the 2013 RMFFA’s:

Bronze:
Napoleone and Co Apple Cider
Three Oaks Cider Dry
Flying Brick Draught Cider
Graci Premium Apple Cider
The Hills Cider Company Apple Cider
Pagan Apple Cider
Tin Shed Apple Cider
Binderee Grove Apple Cider
Baw Baw Sparkling Organic Apple Cider
Spreyton Cider Company Classic, 2012 Vintage
St Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider
Flying Brick Pear Cider
The Hills Cider Company Pear Cider
Napoleone and Co Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider
Red Sails Perry
St Ronan’s Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider

Silver:
Three Oaks Apple Cider Sweet
Henry of Harcourt 2012 Kingston Black
Napoleone and Co Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider
Napoleone and Co Pear Cider
Pipsqueak Pear Cider


Congratulations to all winners!

Finally, a huge thank you goes out to Ross Kavaris and Max Allen for the giving me the opportunity to judge. It was a great experience!

Cheers!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Coldstream Brewery - Crushed Apple Cider


 
Coldstream Brewery – Crushed Apple Cider
So another day, yet another Yarra Valley cider review. It seems like the Yarra Valley is featuring quite a lot on All About Cider at the moment. Simple theory: Make good cider, get noticed. So the Yarra Valley, along with Tasmania are notable high flyer's in the Australian cider world currently. Coldstream Brewery is yet another brewing company who have added cider/cider making to their portfolio. The brewery is famous for producing their pilsners, ales and porters in an old converted wool shed in Coldstream, Yarra Valley. I would like to also add that Coldstream Brewery along with St. Ronan’s Cider, Napoleone Cider, White Rabbit Brewing, Kelly Brothers Cider, Hargreaves Hill Brewing and Giverny Estate are apart of the Yarra Valley Cider and Ale Trail. This is a brilliant initiative which gives consumers/tourist the opportunity to sample the fines Yarra Valley beverages on offer. A beautifully composed map (which can be driven, ridden or group toured) gives you detailed directions and information to all producers on the trail. And the beauty about all this? It is only 50km’s away from Melbourne!! This is definitely on my bucket list for this to do! To find out more, click here:

http://www.coldstreambrewery.com.au/images/Cider_and_Ale_Trail_DIGITAL.pdf



A Typical Rack and Cloth Press
Coldstream Brewery state that their ciders are made using the traditional rack and cloth pressing method. Say what? If you’re a little unfamiliar of cider production then you probably haven’t heard about this pressing method. Many ciders produced in Australia are either pressed out in a basket press or membrane press. Now I did say many, but not all! The rack and cloth press is the most used, and popular amongst the English cider makers. It consists of a heavy duty frame which utilises hydraulic down force to squeeze the apple or pear pomace which has been packed into layers or cheeses. The layers are wrapped up into cloth to aid in filtration and are packed in between racks – either wooden or hard plastic. Funny to note that the traditional cloth was originally made from horse hair! But if this wasn’t available, the cloth was replaced with straw. But what you get after pressing in this fashion is cleaner, high yielding juice. This method is labour intensive, but well worth the hard work. If you ever get the chance to check one out in operation, or even get the chance to pack a press load, then I am sure you’ll be fascinated and intrigued. A brilliant, romantic and traditional method for pressing apples, I love it. Coldstream Brewery, I’d love to see some pictures??!!......

Righty oh, now to the cider in question. The first thing which caught my eye on the label was the ‘cool fermented and cold filtered’. Why you may ask? Well from this I expected to see super fresh aromatics and huge freshness. Cooler temperatures during ferment retain more aromatics and flavour compounds, and this is very important to apple cider. The colour of the cider was very light in straw, almost bordering on colourless. I think I have made my point on very light, colourless ciders in previous reviews – I am not overly keen on it. But I let the actual cider as a whole do the talking and not rely on just one element, so I’ll move on. There was next to no carbonation, mousse or bead in the glass either. I found I had to swoosh the glass quite vigorously to get any action - but I am fond of ciders which have lower levels of fizz, so it was a pleasant surprise.

The nose lived up to my expectations of lively aromatics and freshness. The huge dominating character of this nose was pineapple! Pineapple here, pineapple there! Pineapple, pineapple, pineapple!! A huge punch of tanginess (if tangy can be smelt) along with floral, peach, stone fruit, table grape and summer fruit aromas exploded out the glass. A hint of spiciness was also noted. This was uncannily similar to a bowl of fruit salad; it was like summer in a glass. As a whole, the nose reminded me of a bold Gewurtztraminer wine, being floral, spicy and overly ostentatious. I really digged it, and loved the super fresh, clean and crisp characteristics. Very cool.
The palate offered up a really nice mouth filling, off dry sweetness. For some weird reason I thought this cider was going to be very dry, so to see some sweetness was good. Judging by the super fresh primary characters on the nose, and the residual sweetness on the palate, I am tipping some fresh juice was added back to the final product before filtration. I may be wrong but it definitely seemed that way. The BIG pineapple characters followed through onto the palate, along with some fresh apple notes. The acidity was very crisp and punchy with a funky tangy undertone. The flavour does fade quite fast however on the back palate, leaving you with some lingering bitterness. There was a wee bit of astringency, but you really need to swirl the cider in your mouth to find it. The lower level of carbonation foamed up nicely too, added another dimension to the fuller and rounded mouth feel. The modest 5 per cent alcohol was almost undetectable on the back palate, which was a good sign of balance.

Well this cider is a good little example, and its drinkability is through the roof. It’s almost too easy to drink. The nose was the real hero. It would be perfect on a hot summer’s day and would be perfectly suited to a draught style on tap. It was clean, fresh and simple with no over complicated features, and had honest flavours. This is a commendable cider that is very fruit forward and perfectly suited to the high Aussie summer temperatures. It’s also worthy to note that this cider is the official cider of a certain car race which will be held in Melbourne next month. This cider is found in all the major liquor outlets in Australia. So if you’re keen for an easy drinking cider which you can have standing around a barbie, then this is a good choice.
Producer: Coldstream Brewery Pty Ltd
Country: Australia (Coldstream - Yarra Valley, Victoria)
Alcohol: 5.0%
Website: www.coldstream-brewery.com.au

Rating: 7 out of 10
 
Cheers! 
 
*Picture taken from www.ciderworkshop.com

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Tieton Cider Works

Hi Cider Loving Peeps!

Here's a brilliant video produced by Tieton Cider Works who are situated in Washington State, USA. They consider themselves 'craft' cider, and with the word craft being thrown around lately, i wanted to upload this to give a good definition. Just like Australia, the USA is currently in a new wave cider boom and many new small craft cider makers are emerging. This is fantastic to see and great for consumers, but i just wish they shared their spoils with us Aussies! But check out this great little video, and hopefully you get an understanding of what it's like to be a small, craft cider producer. Fascinating stuff!



For more info visit: www.tietonciderworks.com

Cheers!