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The Half Pint Team

 

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CIDER BLOG

SIDRA MAYADOR: A CIDER JUDGE'S ASSESSMENT

Mark McTavish

Sidra Mayador: A Cider Judge’s Assessment

by Brian Trout

 

Yes. I am professional Beer, Mead, and Cider Judge. No, I don’t simply hang out and drink. Yes, it is a real thing. Yes, I have certifications to do this. Yes, it was not easy. I had to study a lot, take some pretty difficult exams, receive sensory trainings, and do many blind tastings in order to get the certifications. Yes, it is fun work. It is also a continual education that I have to stay up on almost daily in order to keep improving. Judging Competitions, Brewing (Beers, Ciders, and Meads), and Drinking with Judge Friends are three of the favorite ways to never stop learning.

 

Recently, I had the honor of judging all the entries for Ciders of Spain at the largest professional competition, 2016 GLINTCAP (Great Lakes Cider and Perry) with two kindred spirits in cider; Brian Rutzen – Owner and Operator of The Northman Cider Bar in Chicago and Jeremy Van Sice –  Cider and Mead Maker from Bee Well Meadery in Michigan.

 

During (this and other) competitions, judges only know very basic info and have zero knowledge of what cider we are given. This keeps things fair and unbiased. Glasses containing a smidge of cider get plopped down in front of us with a short description like, “Entry 3765. Still Spanish Cider.” Then with noses, eyes, mouths we assessed and wrote for a few minutes. We signaled we have finished by putting our pens down and raising our heads. A short chat ensues to assure that we had a we reached a consensus score. -- This is the part where you can have a small debate if your scores differ by a handful of points. If you find your scores are way off, then this becomes a larger debate. However, there was no debates to be had as the three of us were spot-on in our individual assessments and point scores. 

 

Later it was revealed at the awards ceremony that those ciders were from Mayador and we awarded them a whopping 45 point score! Those of you out there in internet-land who might be BJCP judges will understand what this almost unheard of score means. Those who are not, that point score is described as “Outstanding: World-Class example of the style.” at the bottom of the judging sheet.

 

Mayador has been making Sidra in Asturias since 1939. Their experience and tradition shows in the Sidras that they craft.

 

I’d like to share my “blind” judging assessment from these two “Outstanding” Mayador Sidras as it reveals my unbiased and untainted first try in this highly focused judging environment.

 

 

Sidra Mayador – Mayador Sidra Natural

 

Appearance:

Pale Gold with Orangey Hues, Hazy, Still Carbonation Level.

 

Bouquet/Aroma:

Vanilla, Coconut, Wood Lignins (Oaky), Ripe Apricots, Nectarines, Woody, Chalky, Fruity Olives (not brine), and some Low Basement Funk.

 

Flavor:

Acetic character is Low, Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines, Wet Leather, Sea Salt, Fresh Bailed Hay (Sweet Grass), Fresh Olives.

 

Overall Impression:

Great! Excellent! A well-made cider.

 

45/50

Won Gold Medal for Spanish Cider at GLINTCAP 2016

Won Best in Category for Old World Cider at GLINTCAP 2016

 

 

Sidra Mayador – Mayador Sidra Espumante

 

Appearance:

Golden Sunset Color, Brilliant Clarity, Sparkling - Very High Carbonation.

 

Bouquet/Aroma:

Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Pears, Clover, Geranium, Rose Water. Soft, Round. Voluptuous.

 

Flavor:

Pears, Rounded Mouthfeel, Wildflower Honey, Clover Tips, Honeysuckle Blossoms, Soft Sweetness, Tannins on the Finish are Velvety.

 

Overall Impression:

Velvety Texture and Sweetness. Very well-made. Awesome!

 

45/50

Won Gold Medal for Spanish Cider at GLINTCAP 2016

 

Brian Trout is our San Diego County Cider Educator and Account Manager. He is a BJCP Beer Judge with seven years of experience. Brian is the Founder of SD Craft Cider. He is passionate about crafting and drinking the utmost quality in all that he is does. He even makes award winning ciders and teaches classes & workshops all around San Diego. Always feel free to contact him at Brian@HalfPintCiders.com

CRAFT CIDER REVIEW: Cidrerie Daufresne - Poire

Mark McTavish

CRAFT CIDER REVIEW: Cidrerie Daufresne - Poire

by Brian Trout 

Recently, I sat down with my friend and fellow craft enthusiast, Geoi Bachoua, to share this bottle of Perry. We took some tasting detailed notes.

What the heck is a Perry?

Perry is 100% Pear Fermented. This differs from a lot of Pear Ciders and Pear Flavored Ciders out there. If it is apple cider with pears or vice versa, it is a PIDER (pronounced: Pie-Dur) and not truly a Perry.

Pears have a decent amount of a naturally occurring unfermentable fruit sugar called sorbitol. This element prevents perry from getting extremely dry.

Let's drink some Perry!

Ciderie Daufresne - Poire

(100% Pear)

Normandy, France

Region: Lower Normandy, France with a loamy soil on shale rich enough background for the development of pear.

Variety(s): 

100% of local pears (Plant White, Falsetto, Branch, Big Gontier)
The pears are harvested from September to October.
Alcohol content: 4% vol

Elaboration:
Traditional Method. Controlled Fermentation Vats. Stabilization is achieved by racking. Perry is Bottled in Spring. (So around a 6 month or more fermentation process.)

Appearance:
Very Pale Golden. Sparkling Carbonation (Champagne Range). Brilliant Clarity. Hypnotic trails of tiny bubbles streaming from the bottom of the glass. 

Bouquet/Aroma:
Loaded with sweet soft perfumey notes. Honeysuckle Blossoms, Clover Honey, Peach Green Tea. The pear was present but it almost comes across in a semi-dry mead way.

Flavor:
Lightly Sweet (Semi-Dry) with a rounded beginning and middle. It had Peach, Apricot, Green Tea. Following this was loads of flowers, honeysuckle, jasmine, clover tips, pears, and light mellow honey. The finish was the same floral perfumes combining with some low shale (chalk) minerality and clean crisp aftertaste. It really didn't linger at all. Carbonation lifted it right off your tongue in a French Goodbye. POOF!  

Pairing Suggestions:

Bloomy Soft Ripened Cheeses - Fromager D'affinios, Bries. Delicate Seafood, Scallops, Shellfish, and Chicken Dishes. It could even work with certain lighter salads (Fennel & Goat Chevre)

Sharing is Caring: 

Post your Experiences,Tasting Notes, Photos, Pairings, for this in comments section.

Your Guide to Great Cider in San Diego,
Brian Trout

SD Craft Cider

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sdcraftcider

 

"...And they have cider, for the ladies!"

Mark McTavish

“…And they have cider, for the ladies!”

A gruff, muscle-bound man kicks open the door to a bar. As his eyes adjust to the dim light of the divey watering hole, he sees what he came for: his partner, who happens to be a total knockout blonde bombshell and her kidnappers. There’s a brief pause while the kidnappers size our hero up, and then the fighting starts. Furniture and bones are broken at an equal pace as our hero kicks, punches, and shoots his way across the room. As the dust settles, our hero steps over the broken, lifeless forms of his attackers, and plants the long-awaited smooch on the blonde he came to save. She faints, and he holds her in his right arm, and with the left he motions the terrified bartender over. “Give me your driest cider.” He drinks it in one long gulp, slams the glass on the bar, and leaves, carrying the blonde in his arms. 

    So, after reading the above paragraph, if your first thought was “wow, what a girly drink for a tough guy,” I am writing this directly to you. 

    I was inspired to write to you on this topic after reading a review for a brewpub I go to often. The reviewer was raving about the décor, the service, the beer, and as his final remark said “and they have cider for the ladies too!” It wasn’t a malicious comment by any means; in fact, at the core of it, he was really complimenting this location for having a variety of beverages appealing to people of all walks of life, which is great. 
And he’s not wrong; there are plenty of ladies out there that love cider. One of my favorite ladies, Ronda Rousey, was quoted in Maxim magazine once saying “Buffalo wings and cider is all I need,” although somehow I don’t think a female professional UFC fighter is what he had in mind when he wrote his review. My problem with what he said (aside from the healthy dose of sexism) is that he has dismissed an entire beverage category, and a significant piece of American heritage, because he has likely only had sweet macro-ciders. If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, wouldn’t it irk you if someone tried a Bud Light Razzberita and told you that all beer is for girls?

So, you think cider is too girly for you. The number one reason for this is: you have been successfully marketed to. Good cider takes a lot more time to make than good beer. Cider is essentially a fruit wine, so you have to age it, although not as long as grape wine. Beer is usually good to go in a month. Cider generally falls into the beer world, so most of the macro-ciders are produced by beer companies that want to have a viable product in the shortest amount of time to make the most money. They don’t want you to like proper cider, because it’s so much faster, easier, and cheaper to make a frankencider with apple juice concentrate and sugar, so they present cider as an alternative to beer, because they already make beer, and this allows them to capture more of the market. 

Also, as Americans, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to cider; there aren’t a lot of proper cider apples being grown in the US. This is largely due to everybody’s least favorite time in US history, Prohibition. I’m sure you’ve seen the clips of prohibitionists splitting open barrels of liquor and beer, but did you know they also cut down and burned whole orchards full of cider apples? Cider apples are not good for eating; they taste bitter and acidic (people still refer to some apples as “spitters” because they are so jarring to the palate as a raw fruit), and the only real use for them is making cider. If you had any of these trees, prohibitionists knew you sure weren’t eating them, and they chopped and burned them until very few remained in the whole country. 

When Prohibition was repealed, people wanted to start drinking again, of course. An apple orchard takes about 5 years to reach a really viable production level. I can plant barley and have a crop in a few months. You’ve been forcibly sober for 13 years, are you going to wait another 5 to make proper cider, or are you going to go full steam ahead making some tasty beer? I thought so.  And so a great American tradition was cast into obscurity, at least until the recent and ongoing cider revival.

Speaking of which, did you know that cider is one of the greatest American traditions? I know that a good ol’ Bud might feel like the American choice, despite the fact that it’s owned by a giant, mostly European conglomerate. You’ve been marketed to again.  Cider is the most American thing you can drink; the country was founded on the stuff. 

John Adams literally drank a tankard of cider every day for breakfast. Thomas Jefferson used to brag about his large stock of malt liquor and ciders. Benjamin Franklin, the ultimate American playboy, frequently spoke about his love of cider, quoted once for saying “It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider.” George Washington won his presidency by buying 144 gallons of cider for voters the day before election day. William Henry Harrison won the presidency on a campaign based on “log cabins and hard cider,” the most identifiable American things at the time.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Johnny Appleseed. His real name was John Chapman, and when Americans started heading West, he brought a whole lot of apple seeds with him, and planted small orchards along the way, and it wasn’t because he had a real persistent craving for Red Delicious. John Chapman, American settler and frontiersman, wanted to make sure he could get a cider no matter where he was. 

What I’m trying to say is that if cider were a person, he would put on a pair of Levi jeans, drive to your house on a Harley-Davidson to beat you at baseball, drink a bottle of straight Kentucky bourbon, teach you how to grill the perfect hamburger, bake you the best apple pie you ever had, and pull himself up from his bootstraps to start a successful business all in the same day. Cider is super American. If you’re a proud American, you’re almost obligated to love cider. Cider was certainly more influential in America’s history than beer ever was.

And our Founding Fathers’ cider was certainly not the cider you are likely familiar with. I will bet you the Empire State Building, four helicopters, and several sports cars that their cider had nowhere near the 30 grams or more of sugar you find in a lot of commercial ciders. Their cider was bone-dry, cloudy, and deliciously acidic, much like many craft ciders out there today that you should try.

I know that flavor is really the big issue with many cider-dismissers, and I think if you were drinking the cider of old America, you would absolutely love it. There’s a reason that in the movies cowboys, the quintessential American icon, drink their coffee black and their whiskey warm and straight; it’s tough and manly! We, as American drinkers, want to have to earn our appreciation of our beverages; it shouldn’t be easy to drink. In fact, I’ve known many people to use the phrase “easy-drinking” as a polite way of saying a drink lacks the complexity to seriously consider it a good beverage.

So when you try a “cider” that is essentially sugar water, of course you hate it; there’s nothing there to consider, nothing to challenge yourself with. But if I told you I had a drink for you that tasted like smoke and ham and sea salt and olives, I bet you’re a little more interested. There’s a whole region in Spain (Asturias, to be exact) that makes ciders that taste just like that, and they are, in fact, one of the biggest cider producing and consuming regions in the world. And Asturians would absolutely agree with you that the average American macro-cider that you hate is not good. There’s a lot of contemporary American cidermakers that are making things just as complex and interesting and unique, and you should try them, ESPECIALLY if you don’t like the sugar water masquerading as cider. Chances are, you have good taste in cider and didn’t know it due to lack of exposure.
    
Like I mentioned before, there’s just as many cider styles as there are beer styles. For example, I hate hefeweizens. I just can’t stand how they taste. Does that mean that all hefeweizens are garbage and I’ll never try one again? No! They aren’t for me, that’s for sure, but I’m not telling anyone that hefeweizens are bad or that they’re for the ladies. There’s a ton of beer that I do enjoy, and I just prefer those instead. Cider is no different; you don’t like one style, but there’s probably a bunch out there that you DO like. And I would hate for you to miss out on something you like just because you had one bad cider, or because you lacked the confidence to order something different than your usual beer.

The next time someone offers you a cider you haven’t had before, just try it. I don’t know a single bartender that wouldn’t give you just a taste of one. And I also promise you that ordering a cider at the bar won’t make you less of a man. It will actually make you more of an American! 
    
So now you know; cider isn’t just “for the ladies,” it’s for everybody.

Written by: Peter Clausen, Half Pint Ciders

 

Five ciders for foodies!

Mark McTavish

I am a cider lover, and I am not afraid to admit it.

My name is Mark McTavish, a cider expert and beverage industry professional based in Los Angeles. As a Canadian growing up in apple country near Toronto, cider became my beverage of choice at a young age. Not too young of course, when I was 19 and could legally enjoy such a beverage. Often times I found myself running to the end of the bar to order my pint of cider, so that my mates would make the easy assumption that their was a manly lager in my glass. Funny how we identify with our alcohol, and cider has historically had a less than attractive reputation in this country. Until now!

Cider is the hottest craft beverage on the market, period. Loved by locavores, aggies, foodies, and hiptsers alike. Many view it simply as a gluten free beer, many still think cider is nothing more than apple soda with alcohol. Once heralded as America’s national beverage for more than 200 years, real craft cider is making an enormous comeback. Those who use 100% fresh pressed juice are making the best ciders, those who use proper cider apples (as opposed to those found at the grocery store) are making even better ciders. Think of cider as wine, but made with apples (not juice from concentrate). Imagine fermenting grape soda, sound like fine wine to you? It is time to appreciate real craft cider for what it is, and all that it entails. Consider the 5-7 years required to grow an apple tree, the muscle it takes to press the fruit, the many months required to ferment the cider. Respect the orchardists, the cider makers, the craftsmen and craftswomen who celebrate this brilliant beverage.

Now if all of this sounds too serious for you, then you are like me! I prefer to have fun with my beverages, not a fan of rules and not one to put my cider in a box (literally). To me it is quite simple, cider is fresh pressed juice…..fermented. For those of you who are not in the know, fermentation is the divine gift that allows we humans to create magical smile inducing beverages.

Let’s respect the apple, and then look beyond it. Different from wine and more liken to craft beer, craft cider incorporates a wide variety of ingredients. Tropical fruits, desert plants, hops, spices, etc. Think about your beverages as food, and ask them to deliver an experience in the way that your food would. Elevate your expectations, you only live once right? I encourage you to pair great cider with great food, this is a path less travelled and one that you may share with others. Trust me, your new found knowledge will lead to bewilderment and plenty of excitement at dinner parties!

Here are five cider experiences that will awaken your senses, and will lead you down the path to cider euphoria:

CHARCUTERIE 101

Cider: 101 Cider House SoCal Scrumpy

Description: Quince Cider

Tasting Notes: Sea Salt. Apple. Quince.

Nothing can prepare you for an epic feast quite like a mouthwatering Charcuterie board. The combination of salty cured meat and pickled vegetables really gets the juices flowing, and don’t be afraid to add a little lard! No proper Charcuterie experience would be complete without the appropriate beverage to compliment the multitude of flavors and textures on your plate. The obvious choice is farmhouse style cider, known to be bone dry and loaded with barnyard funk.

I recommend SoCal Scrumpy from 101 Cider House, a raw cider made with legendary Quince! The mouth puckering astringency of this cider pairs beautifully with the textural intrigue of a rabbit terrine or duck liver paté. With a natural sea salt essence and tiny effervescent bubbles, it will dance in step with a fiery Sopressata or sweeter fennel seed Finocchiona. Bring on the fatty stuff, the bright acidity of the SoCal Scrumpy cuts through fats and cleanses the palate between each bite. For a real flavor explosion throw in some pickled vegetables and fruits, I recommend cornichons and a grainy mustard. Beware…..this may be sensory overload and should not be rushed, slow it down for maximum enjoyment.

RAW FISH VS. RAW CIDER

Cider: Millstone Cellars Gingeroot

Description: Ginger Cider w/ Baby Ginger & Blueberry Honey

Tasting Notes: Tart. Ginger. Honey.

Many consumers are now leaning toward a healthy diet that features a plethora of raw food items, none lead you to fill your glass quicker than those that come from the sea. Think Champagne and oysters, beer or Sake and Sushi, or white wine with just about any fish! Been there, done that. It’s time to explore something new in your glass, and cider is a natural choice that delivers an entirely new sensation with your raw seafood dishes. Cut the heat of your wasabi with bone dry effervescence, match briny oysters with bright acidity, add an earthy yet fruity essence to enhance umami.

Look no further than ginger cider, the perfect match for sushi (ginger would be on your plate anyway). Consider Gingeroot from Millstone Cellars, this small craft cider maker from Maryland uses fresh baby ginger to produce a deliciously fruity cider that delivers a gentle heat. Baby ginger is much more delicate and pleasing to the palate, as compared to the typical ginger we have all come to know. Now think raw shellfish, dishes such as clams and oysters are best paired with a beverage that will allow their character to shine through. Gingeroot is only slightly effervescent (naturally conditioned in the bottle with blueberry honey, YUM!), and will not overpower flavors with bubbles. The concentrated mineral qualities of this raw cider will pair incredibly well with just about any salt water snack!

CEVICHE EL NEGRO

Cider: 101 Cider House Black Dog

Description: Black Cider w/ Coconut Charcoal, Lemon, and Fresh Lavender

Tasting Notes: Tart. Charcoal. Lemon Bomb.

Ceviche is Latin America’s answer to sushi, and is of course extremely popular here in California. Fresh fish is the star of the show, accompanied by fresh and simple ingredients like cilantro or spicy chiles. Ceviche is an increasingly popular and healthy dish that offers an array of flavors, colors, and textures. Keep it light and refreshing, serve a sparkling cider that will compliment the citrus and fresh fish flavors. Perfect for an afternoon in the California sunshine with friends!

It may sound odd at first, perhaps even confusing, but the world’s first Black Cider makes an incredible match for any ceviche. The “Black Dog” from 101 Cider House offers a tangy citrus punch that was engineered with Latin cuisine in mind, also pairs well with spicy Guacamole. When considering the traditional beverage of choice for ceviche, everyone thinks of a classic Pisco Sour. This Peruvian cocktail is made with lemon juice for tang, egg white for texture, and simple syrup. Not all that different from the characteristics of Black Dog, which features locally grown lemons and a rich mellow texture that is the result activated charcoal from coconuts! Save your eggs for breakfast, replace that Pisco Sour with one of the worlds most unique ciders!

HOPS & HEAT

Cider: 101 Cider House India Pale Cider

Description: Dry Hopped Cider w/ 100% Citra

Tasting Notes: Citrus. Floral. Hops.

Add some pizzazz to your plate, combine spicy foods with a hopped cider. This will get your tastebuds dancing, both spices and hops will kick you right in the mouth! Hopped ciders have become extremely popular of late, and for good reason. Thai and Indian cuisine have exploded on the food scene across California, featuring sizzling hot curry dishes that will put a smile on your face while tears run down your cheeks. We love to punish ourselves with fire in our mouth, perhaps a response to the sinful sensation we experience when eating these exotic creations. Just like Japanese automobiles, Red Bull, and Yoga…..spicy Asian cuisine has crossed the Pacific to find a permanent home in America, and is finally discovering it’s true destiny as the soulmate to hopped ciders.

Look no further than the India Pale Cider from 101 Cider House, a raw cider that is cold fermented and dry hopped with 100% Citra hops. Cold (dry) hopping this cider adds a refreshing character that is bursting with citrusy floral notes and tropical fruit, and yet it doesn’t incorporate the bitter alpha acids typically associated with an IPA or other hop centric beers. Think of it as a hopped apple wine, that is enjoyed like a naturally sparkling beer. It compliments spicy foods and cleanses the palate, an all in one solution for any hop head who likes to bring the heat!

BARNYARD BLISS

Cider: Troy Cider MMXIV

Description: Sonoma Farmhouse Cider w/Wild Apples & Pineapple Quince

Tasting Notes: Barnyard. Buttery. Earthy.

We have all experienced wine and cheese, it’s big business around the world. What many consumers don’t know is that many cheese mongers prefer cider to pair with their cheese! Raw or “natural” ciders are in fact cheesy, a result of a process called Malolactic Fermentation. The acid found in apples (malic acid) converts naturally to the dairy acid (lactic acid) during a “natural fermentation”, this makes cider the obvious beverage of choice to enjoy with cheese. Selecting the right wine for your cheese is often over-complicated, choosing cider to pair with cheese is far easier as they are natural companions.

To make things easier for you, I recommend Troy Cider MMXIV (their 2014 vintage). This is a true farmhouse cider made in Sonoma, barrel aged and finished still (no bubbles). Imagine a buttery Chardonnay that is blended with hay bales, bonfire smoke, and a sea salt mist coming in from the Pacific Ocean. This raw cider captures the essence of Sonoma in every bottle, and it’s true expression is realized when served at room temperature. Pair with just about any cheese, I recommend buttery local cheeses (think raw aged Cheddar) or a funky washed rind . If you are looking for an old world selection, Manchego is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Turn up the excitement of your cheese plate by adding an assortment of jams, nuts, and local honey. Troy Cider MMXIV is made with wild grown apples and Pineapple Quince, a rare varietal that grows in Sonoma and was created by legendary botanist Luther Burbank. That being said, be sure to include some Membrillo (quince paste) on your plate!

Written by: Mark McTavish, Half Pint Ciders