Crispin Hard Cider
I don’t know if tonight really counts as craft beer blogging, but what I had tonight was alcoholic and craftily brewed, so I’m counting it. I have been really fortunate to be introduced to a fabulous group out here in Arizona called AZ Girls Pint Out, a branch from the original Girls Pint Out based out of Indiana. It is a social group consisting solely of women who enjoy craft brews and love to share their joy of quality beers with other women. It is a wonderful organization that I can’t wait to become more involved in and I’m really looking forward to all of the new breweries and beer-focused events I now have more access to via the power of social networking.
Speaking of events, tonight I was asked to attend an invite-only hard cider tasting of Crispin Cider and Fox Barrel – which has been recently acquired by Crispin – at Sleepy Dog Brewery with 5 other women. I had no idea what to expect, as I have never had hard cider before. Sure I’ve had regular hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, it was pretty much a winter staple in Wisconsin, but never anything that remotely resembled cold hard cider. The funny thing is that I was planning on trying both of these a little closer to Christmas, as they’ve been piquing my interest since I started frequenting Whole Foods 5 months ago. I was more than happy to sit down and learn about the different ciders offered by these two companies and try them for myself. I didn’t take any very detailed notes, as there were a lot of different kinds (seven!), but I came home with an extra of most of them so I can try them again at my leisure.
From left to right: Crispin Light, Crispin Brut, Crispin The Saint, Crispin The Jacket (extremely limited release), Crispin Honey Crisp, Fox Barrel Hard Cider, Fox Barrel Mulled Cider, Fox Barrel Black Currant Cider, Fox Barrel Pear Cider (Not Pictured: Crispin Original)
The Crispin Original, Light, and Brut are part of their “Classic Blue Line,” (pictured below) which are described on their website as being “inspired by the classical, refined flavor styles of continental European cider making…clean on the palate, with a crisp, not sweet, taste profile.” While these three presented some similarities, they each had their own redeeming qualities that shone through. The Original was a light golden delicious apple yellow color, very sweet and somewhat champagney/winy, with a crisp sour green apple ending. The Light held most of the same qualities as the Original, but was much more mellow in both flavor and mouthfeel and held a much more golden delicious flavor as well as color – rather than green apple. The Brut was my favorite of the three, being extra dry, definitively spicier and effervescent, and ended with more of a bright lingering sweetness than the other two. I wouldn’t say it tasted any more sour than the Original, but it did smell more sour. Each of these Classic Blue Line ciders are very light in texture and carbonation, leaving my mouth extremely refreshed with no bitterness and only a hollow sweetness dancing on my tongue.
The Crispin Honey Crisp and The Saint are two from their Artisanal Reserves, which are prided on using only pure, unfiltered apple wine from freshly pressed apples and are known for their cloudy opaqueness as well as a sediment on the bottom of each bottle that requires a “‘Bottoms-Up!’ tilt and swirl” to evenly distribute the flavors. The Honey Crisp was my favorite, glowing a pale cloudy yellow, it offered quite a bit of dry bite while remaining silky smooth and mellow. It was light without being watery and thick without being heavy, leaving my mouth with a subtle coating of organic honey at the end. The Saint was remarkably different from all of the other ciders of the evening, being brewed with a Belgian Trappist beer yeast. It was just as cloudy, if not more-so, than the Honey Crisp, and held a much more funky yeast and caramel nose. Upon tasting, there was a light kiss of maple syrup that aided in keeping the cider sweet without being overbearing and a sour spiciness was hinted at each time I swallowed. It was the most interesting of the Crispin ciders, to say the least, but I found it to be a little flatter, even a little heavier due to the yeast.
The best part of all of the Crispin ciders was the uniformity of the dryness, lightness, and crisp flavors. Not one was cloyingly sweet or overbearing in taste and mouthfeel and they all were uniquely held to the same luxurious standards without being pretentious or fake. Brilliant delivery, if you ask me.
Of the Fox Barrel ciders, I enjoyed the pear the most, followed by the black currant and apple. The Pear was ridiculously reminiscent of biting into a ripe, juicy pear fresh from the tree, dripping with sweetness. I especially liked that they conveniently left the familiar pear graininess out of the cider version, instead creating a smooth, creamy finish. The Black Currant was a light cranberry pink color and held a tart nose that lightly carried into the taste along with a subtle sweetness. It was not as spicy or carbonated as I expected it to be, but retained the dry nature of the other ciders perfectly. And finally, the Hard Cider was quite similar to the Crispin Original, with one obvious difference that actually finely separates all of the Crispins from all of the Fox Barrels. Where the Crispins are light and almost airy in flavor and feel, making them perfect for the spring or early summer, the Fox Barrels were more “farm style” and hearty, making them more suitable for the end of summer and autumn.
Both brands were a great introduction to hard ciders for me, being all natural, using some organic products, and ignoring all artificial flavors and sweeteners. They were the perfect way to officially welcome me to the fall in Arizona, because the temperatures and obvious lack of snow sure aren’t. Many thanks to Maureen of AZ Girls Pint Out for inviting me to this tasting, I really appreciate it and can’t wait for the next event to make acquaintances with more new delicious brews!