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Best guide to flavor is your own taste test.

Byline: Jim Boyd The Register-Guard

PERSONALLY, I've always enjoyed going out at this time of year to buy the sweet, cloudy brown cider that orchardists make from their windfalls and blemished apples. I'd never tried hard cider, though, except when the fresh cider got a spritziness after sitting in the refrigerator too long.

So I asked Robin Chitwood of Eugene, the co-president of the Cascade Brewers Society, to join me in tasting all the hard ciders I could find. He's a home cider maker who serves as a beer judge at the Lane County Fair.

Chitwood said at the end of the tasting that his favorites were French cider maker Eric Bordelet's Sydre Argelette and the Roger's Semi-Dry Cider that Roger Mansfield produces at Culver in Central Oregon.

Then, when a bottle of the Ford Farms Cyderworks 2002 vintage cider arrived from Portland a week later, Chitwood tasted it and decided it was his third choice among the ciders we had sampled.

During the tasting, Chitwood described Bordelet's Syder Argelette as being full-flavored and very fruity, with a bit of caramel character and a faint hint of oak. He characterized the cider as being moderately dry, nicely balanced with some sweetness, and having a faintly astringent finish.

"Good stuff!" he said as he finished his taste.

Then he tried Roger's Semi-Dry Cider.

"It's very interesting, very pleasant," were the first words out of his mouth.

"Along with the apple fruit flavor, there's some other distinctive flavor to this - biscuity, almost," he said, describing the extra flavor as something like toasted bread.

Macbeth's Three Witches Cider, the sweeter of Mansfield's two labels, also has an apple-biscuit note to its aroma, but not as much so in its flavor, Chitwood decided.

"It's fruitier, much fruitier, and it has the biscuity aroma, but it doesn't have the biscuity flavor," he said.

The tartness of the cider from Ford Farms Cyderworks appealed to Chitwood.

"The other day we had several that were dry ciders, but they were certainly not as tart and dry as this one," he said. "This is maybe more my kind of cider as compared to the others. I like it drier and more tart."

Chitwood said he wouldn't rule out drinking any of the nine ciders we tried, although their taste and complexity varied quite a bit.

He found Alan Foster's White Oak Traditional Cider to be winelike with an oak nose to it and having a little bit of a nutty character and a slightly astringent, pleasant, clean finish.

"The carbonation disappears right as you pour it," Chitwood said, "but you still get enough carbonation in it that it gives it a bit of a bite, which is nice."

He described K brand cider - produced in England by Matthew Clark Brands of Bristol - as fruity and a little bit floral, with a bit of a caramel flavor. He said it was fuller bodied, less carbonated and sweeter than the White Oak Traditional Cider.

The Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.'s Wildwood hard cider (which will be available until the existing stock is sold) is pretty fizzy with a fruity nose and a kind of caramelized apple character, Chitwood said.

However, he found it not as complex a cider as either Foster's or the English K brand.

Likewise, Wolaver's Certified Organic Hard Cider exhibited a winelike aroma but not as complex a flavor as some of the other ciders, Chitwood said.

Wolaver's cider is fermented from a blend of commercial apple varieties by the Sonoma Cider Mill in Healdsburg, Calif.

"Wolaver's is made with a blend of fresh Jonathan apples, a fresh juice of golden delicious apples and a juice concentrate of late harvest Rome beauty, golden delicious, Rhode Island green, Jonathan and red delicious apples," the company says.

Wyder's Dry Apple Cider - a Canadian brand described on its label as being made with cider stock, carbonated water, apple concentrate, citric acid and natural and artificial flavors - was described by Chitwood as having a huge aroma, fruity and floral, but also with a slight Crayola character.

"It's very distinctive, especially if you happen to like the taste of Crayolas," Chitwood said.

Look for hard ciders in stores that carry beers and wines. Certainly, the best way for you to make a judgment about these and other ciders is to conduct your own taste tests.

One sniff and one sip will tell you more than words can convey.
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Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 2, 2002
Words:736
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