Cathy Rascoe, creator of Live It Big, the charity incubator, as well as Houston & Dallas Beer Weeks puts on tastings for 60 people every quarter called Camp Beer. Its an afternoon of beer tasting, and this time cider. It’s usually done in a theme and beer lovers get together to help raise money for great charities like Friday Harbour. The theme for the June 2012 installment of CB was ciders & tart beers- 12 ciders and 4 beers, to be exact.
Crispin Cho-Tokkyu: We started our venture into ciders with a rather traditional style cider, but with a funky twist- they used Sake yeast instead of a traditional English cider yeast. There was no mistaking the apple flavor and our host, Wes Mickel of Argus Cidery out of Austin, Texas, called it “lightning bolt apple” flavor. It was clean and crisp but too sweet for my tastes.
Crispin Honey Crisp: While the name would make you think they used Honey Crisp Apples, they do not; instead, they use a blend of 3 to 5 apples and add organic honey. This was less sweet than the Cho-Tokkyu, and a bit drier. I felt like it was missing the “bite” you get from apple cider, probably because of the added honey.
Crispin The Saint: This was less sweet still, but since they primed the cider for bottling with maple syrup, there was a different kind of sweetness when combined with the Belgian Trappist beer yeast they used. The Saint was a bit funkier because of the yeast and definitely more my style.
Fox Barrel Pacific Pear: This cider’s aroma was unmistakably pear with a hint of booze and funk. The taste wasn’t overly sweet or tart, but had a great dry finish. Maybe I liked this one so much because it was a break from apple and I’ve never had a pear cider.
Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie: The aroma on this one was great, slightly tart and funky, like it wants to be a sour when it grows up. There was plenty of pectin sediment, as this cider is unfiltered.
Isastegi Sagardo Naturala: The aroma of this Basque cider was funky, almost like cheese. It was tart, very dry and had an off-putting, slightly medicinal taste. It also seemed to be lacking carbonation. This was definitely one of the more unique ciders, being a Basque cider the funky taste and aroma are the rule, not the exception.
Tieton Cider Works Harmony Reserve: This cider is a special blend from both Yarlington Mill and Golden Russet apples. The taste was a bit watery to me, with a slightly funky and tart finish. It is dry and not sweet at all.
New Glarus Apple Ale: Finally a beer!! And a great one, at that. The aroma is like apple and pear candy, but thankfully the beer isn’t too sweet, but has a great apple taste. It’s light, has nice carbonation and is a little dry. This beer isn’t brewed regularly and certainly isn’t available in our market, so it was a special treat for the already-hot-as-hell June we are having.
Leprechaun Pomegranate Seasonal: I have had this cider before, one of the few of the day that were repeats for me, as they are our hometown cider makers, recently coming into the market. The pomegranate seasonal is fruity, a little tart, and a little sweetness that isn’t cloying. It’s also a beautiful red color, which Wes told us happens when you add fruit juice after the primary fermentation.
New Glarus Raspberry Tart: As my friend Nena said about this beer, “share it or mix it!”. This beer is very sweet, I like raspberries and all but it was too sweet for me. It wasn’t an artificial sweetness or anything, but like raspberries on steroids. Nena prefers to mix her Raspberry Tart with Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti, which I’ve yet to try, but sounds delicious- like eating dark raspberry chocolate. Forgot to snap a picture of this one, but I’ll give you a hint- it’s red.
New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red: I am familiar with this beer, and like the Raspberry tart, it is too sweet for me. This one has an interesting Christmas-y spice in the aroma and taste, sort of like gingerbread, but not overpowering. The mouthfeel is very creamy and the cherry is definitely the star of the show.
Tieton Cider Works Cherry: This cherry cider was definitely a change from the sweet beers, it was dry, a bit watery and not tart or sweet. Besides cherry, there was definitely a nice apple presence. May have also forgot to take a picture of this one….
Julian Hard Cider Cherry Bomb: This cider is the Cathy’s favorite cider, she apparently buys it by the case! It isn’t sweet and has a nice, tart cherry taste. It’s very crisp and refreshing to have the cherry flavor present without it being too sweet, and it has a nice dry finish. Julian Hard Cider uses Montmorency cherries blended with their hard cider to make their Cherry Bomb.
Westcott Bay Traditional Very Dry Cider: This cider was my lest favorite of the day, besides being watery it was just sort of there. No tart, no sweet, not even “very dry” as the name would suggest. Apparently, I was too disgusted to take a picture of this one.
Argus Cidery Bandera Brut: After a recommendation from Gun and Taco Connoisseur, Jay Rascoe, I really can’t get enough of this cider. The price point is a bit high ($20/bottle) but it is very worth it! It is tart, dry, and a little funky from the wild yeast they use. It has great carbonation, almost edging out champagne as a celebratory-toast-drink. Definitely great for special occasions. It is a blend of four apples that have been aged on American and French oak.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Blackberry Special: Rasul and Ryan, owner and brewer, respectively, at Buffalo Bayou made this beer just for Camp Beer. They took a base blonde at 6% ABV, pitched lactobacillus and blackberries from John’s bramble! I sacrificed at least 3 cobblers for this beer! ;) The blackberry flavor was there, but very subtle. It almost had a wit beer profile, with some banana notes going on. It was light and refreshing and the lacto definitely gave it some nice funk.
This Camp Beer was definitely one of the more unique tastings that Cathy has put together, and it was fun that the majority of the cider selection was new to me. The next Camp Beer will be Stoutapalooza III, guaranteed to be a good time. And Cathy is planning something special for December where the beer lists should include Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen, surely not to be missed! Special thanks to Wes Mickel of Argus for hosting and teaching us all about the Cider world. He said his tasting room (nearby the Jester King Brewery) should open in October.