Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cider Madness!

March has to be one of the best months for sports on the calendar.  The Belgian one day classic bike races are going full bore, optimism abounds with Major League Baseball's Spring Training and, perhaps best of all, the NCAA Basketball tournament brings Madness to the forefront for three thrilling weeks!

I got into the March Madness spirit with my own version of the Final Four: Cider Madness.  Washington Cider vs. Oregon Cider in a thrilling new take on brackets and bracket busters.

The Lucha Vino Cider Madness Final Four featured cider from Alter Ego, Swift and Hard Row to Hoe.

Alter Ego and Hard Row to Hoe ciders are made by two excellent Northwest Winemakers, Anne Hubatch of Helioterra and Judy Phelps of, well, Hard Row to Hoe!

This final four turned into quite the knock down, drag out, no holds barred battle royale...

Tale of the Tape

Alter Ego - The Brute and The Ruby

Both ciders start with the same 8 varieties of apples.  Red raspberries are added to create The Ruby.  These small batch, craft ciders, are made as a partnership between Anne Hubatch and Nate and Kris Wall and are available on tap throughout the Portland area. 

Swift Cider - Wholesome Apple, Boysenberry and Dank Hop

Each of these three fresh ciders offered up unique character and style.  The Dank Hop showed the boldest character, thus earning the right to move on to the final four.  Like the name implies, Dank Hop incorporates hops into the cider mix along with pineapple.

Hard Row to Hoe -  The Other Cider

Super popular, this cider is currently sold out at the winery.  If you are lucky, you can still find it in bottles at some local shops.  It is made from locally grown Braeburn apples.

Following the Final Four format our battle begins with the following semi-final matches:

Swift Dank Hop v. Alter Ego The Brute

The Swift Dank Hop fires things up with a nose of musty notes of fresh mowed meadow, white flowers and tropical Jack fruit.  The palate follows through with a serious punch that repeats the characteristics found on the nose along with some nutty flavors on the finish.

The Brute from Alter Ego lives up to its name with an attacking style featuring a nose that is reminiscent of German Riesling - there is plenty of petrol followed by notes of pineapple and pear.  The palate is similar with the pear flavors coming more toward the front on the finish.  This cider is well balanced and moderately carbonated. 

The Brute wasted little time, moving in quickly and subduing the Dank Hop with a surprisingly effective arm twist.  The Alter Ego Luchador has earned the right to move on to the final round.

Hard Row to Hoe - The Other Cider v. Alter Ego The Ruby

Feeling cocky, The Ruby saunters into the ring showing off with a nose that begins with apples and moves on to tart, herbal rhubarb aromas.  The palate is driven by the raspberries and finishes dry.

Up steps The Other Cider and down goes The Ruby!  The Other Cider features a nose that mirrors some of the character you find in Champagne.  There is plenty of complexity in this Cider Luchador with notes of pear, yeasty bread dough and light tropical fruit.  The palate is dry and dominated by apple and pear bursting forward on a wave of tight bubbles.

The complex attack of the Hard Roe Other Cider overwhelms the Ruby and propels the Lake Chelan Cider into the final round.

Hard Row to Hoe v. Alter Ego The Brute

The Other Cider blasts off the top rope with tight bubbles and light, complex character.  The Brute is big, robust and unfortunately, a bit slow.  The Other Cider clips The Brute with a nasty flying elbow drop and the match is over!

Wrap Up and Overall Observations

The Cider Revolution is alive in the Pacific Northwest.  The offerings from the two cideries in Portland and the Hard Row to Hoe winery in Lake Chelan were all excellent examples of what you can find in the craft cider movement happening right here in our own backyard.

I would recommend finding any one of these ciders for your quaffing enjoyment on an upcoming sunny day!

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