Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The 6th Annual Cider Summit Chicago

This year's 6th annual Chicago Cider Summit at Navy Pier boasted nearly 200 ciders from around the world, with 10 new cider producers, and approximately 70 offerings not previously served. Whether your taste buds crave sweet, dry, fruity, hoppy, bubbly – there was definitely something for everyone. An expansive setting in the AON Grand Ballroom offered plenty of space and few lines to wander around the main floor of cider, snacks and vendors. The balcony level was once again home to the Cider Cocktail Lounge featuring spirits, liqueurs, and mixed cocktails from a variety of vendors.

Cider Trend Observations:
- Rosé ciders were definitely on trend this year, with a range of interpretations on the wine style. Ciders that featured red/pink fleshed apples maintained the most crisp and authentic flavors. 
- We found many US ciders to still be a bit high on ABV, but that is starting to change with the addition of some canned session ciders. 
- "Ciders that drink like beers" (featuring adjunct flavors, spices, fruits, hops) continue to increase in mainstream popularity, while a decrease in funky, unfiltered, euro-inspired ciders seem to be happening on bottle shop shelves.

The Perfect Pairings:
Cypress Grove had a selection of 3 goat's milk cheeses that really rocked our world (especially with some of the funky European ciders). We highly recommend searching out Truffle Tremor, Midnight Moon and Humboldt Fog (Marianos, Whole Foods, Binny's, Pastoral). Smoking Goose Meatery out of Indianapolis also had an amazing plate, featuring 3 house made salames, including their South Cider Salame (goose & pork, persimmons, cider), Salame Cotto (course pork, red wine and fenugreek seeds, and Dodge City Salame (pork, fennel pollen and pink peppercorn). These guys aren't available in Chicago (yet) but you can order from their website. Their sausages worked really well with some of the dry and hopped ciders. 

Below is a recap of our "Best of" selections from the event. All of the ciders listed are available in Chicago, with the exception of Stormalong Cider (Massachusetts). Keep an eye out for Schilling Hard Cider (Seattle) who is new to the Chicago market.

Best Dry Cider
Stormalong Cider (MA)
Lengendary Dry (6.9%)
A unique blend of heirloom and bittersweet apples, traditionally fermented – resulting in an exceptionally crisp, effervecent and layered drinking experience.

Best Sessionable Cider
Vander Mill (MI)
Vandy* (4%)
Semi-sweet, crisp and super crushable for any occasion. 
*NEW!! On draft in select locations, watch for cans this Spring!

Best Semi-Sweet Cider
Angry Orchard (NY)
Rosé Cider (5.5%)
Definitely worth a taste! Fermented from French blush apples, with a hint of hibiscus flower. It is bright, floral and dry - just like your favorite glass of rosé wine.

Best Sparkling Cider
Worley's (UK)
Special Reserve Keeved (5.4%)
Naturally sweet, sparkling and rounded. Apple notes were more dessert like - caramel, spice, citrus, slight barnyard funk. A perfect cider for pairing with rich foods like cheeses and desserts.

Best European/Import Cider
Viuda de Angelon Sidra (Spain)
1947 (6%)
Light and funky/acetic, a perfect pairing with the cheese plate.

Best Barrel-Aged/Oaked Cider
Farmhaus Cider Co. (MI)
Oaked Sweater Weather Chai Cider
Light toasted oak character, earthy spice notes, with a nice balance of sharp and sweet apple flavors. 

Best Fruited Cider
Eris Brewery & Cider House (Chicago)
Van Van Mojo - Blueberry Mosaic Hopped (6.2%)
Bright, tart and balanced, with beautiful purple hues. Hop character was perfect – aromatic and citrusy without overpowering the fruit.

runner up:
Schilling – Passport: Pineapple Passionfruit Cider (6.7%)
This cider is an explosion of fruit flavors - like a vacation cocktail in a can. The combinations of fruit offer a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. 

Best Alternative Fruit – Pluot

Mission Trail Cider Co. (CA)
Hipster Hills Pluot & Malvasia (10%)
A blend of rare and aromatic Malvasia Bianca grapes fermented with tart and fruit forward pluots. Very aromatic layers of honey, flowers, stone fruit, must/tannins with a dry, wine-like finish.

Best Cider Spirit
Journeyman O.C.G. Old Country Goodness, Apple Cider Liqueur (10%)
A glass growler full of "fall in a glass" – delicious hot or cold. Michigan organic apple juice, Michigan organic cider, spices and W.R White Whiskey.

To find these ciders, check out beermenus.com and visit some of our favorite cider selling bottle shops in the city: Bottles & Cans, The Beer Temple, West Lakeview Liquors, and the suburbs: Standard Market, Binny's, Whole Foods.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Beerentine Cards Are Back!

Our original Beerentine (Beer Valentine) cards are back in our Etsy shop! We've got a number of new, pun-filled designs this year. Express your love in a fun and unique way, while supporting local artists. Visit our Etsy shop here to see the full array of designs. Have a custom request? Shoot us a note. We're happy to accommodate.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Best of Chicago Cider Summit 2017

The 5th annual Chicago Cider Summit at Navy Pier was another great success for cider makers and lovers alike. Once again blessed with a sunny, winter day – the view of Lake Michigan from the Grand Ballroom couldn't have been more beautiful for sipping cider.

In addition to 150 cider makers and the second floor cider cocktail lounge, there was a new feature this year – the "Northwest Cider Pavilion," which featured 8 cider makers from Washington and Oregon. Doughnut Vault was in attendance, sampling their Apple Cider Old Fashioned (yum!!), which paired perfectly with a tart cider, to balance the sweetness of the glazed doughnut. Once again this was one of our favorite festivals to attend, with very few lines for cider, food, or restrooms, and ample opportunity to talk with the cider makers themselves.

Below is a recap of our "Best of" selections from the event. All of the ciders listed are available in Chicago, with the exception of Mission Trail Cider Co., who is hoping to enter the market over the next year. Farmhaus has limited distribution to The Wine Goddess (Evanston, IL). Nashi Orchards is currently available at The Northman in bottles.

Best Dry Cider
Wandering Aengus (OR)
Wickson Crab Apple Cider (8.2%)
Dry, very tart, citrus notes.

Best Semi-Sweet Cider
Farmhaus Cider Co. (MI)
Brunch (Limited Release) (6.9%)
Semi-sweet cider with cinnamon and maple syrup, like apple pie in a glass.

Best Farmhouse/Wild Fermented Cider
Shacksbury (VT)
2015 Lost & Found (Limited Release) (6.7%)
A blend of foraged and cultivated apples from the Champlain Valley of Vermont. 
Very dry, unfiltered yeast character, tart green apple finish.

Best European/Import Cider
Craigie's (IRE)
Ballyhook Flyer Irish Cider (5.8%)
Dry and tart with light peat and brine character.

Best Barrel-Aged Cider
Nashi Orchards (WA)
Barrel Fermented Cider (6.9%)
Heirloom apples fermented in French oak barrels. Tart, clean and rounded.

runner up:
Starcut Cider, Erraticus 6 (6.4%)
Oak aged wild cider with Michigan apples and black currants. Dark fruit and rustic, wine-like character with a dry finish.

Best Fruited Cider
Stem Ciders Raspberry Apple Cider (6.7%)
Tart apple and raspberry flavor, with intense aroma and ruby hues.

runner up:
Cider Brothers, Pacific Coast Blueberry Zinfandel (6%)
Blueberries blended with California Zinfandel – tart, bright, dry and beautiful in color.

Best Alternative Fruit – Jerkum
Mission Trail Cider Co. (CA)
Plum Jerkum (6.5%)
A blend of 14 California Plum varietals, fermented with wine yeast.
An English-native beverage, Mission Trail is the only producer in the world currently making it. Tastes like eating a whole plum – incredibly juicy with light tannins and a dry finish. 

Best Perry
Vander Mill (MI)
Bon Chretein (6.8%)
Produced from Michigan Bartlett pears, semi-dry and juicy with a crisp finish.

Best Cider Cocktail
Woodford Reserve Spiced Cider Cocktail
Woodford Reserve Bourbon, apple cider, Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet.

To find these ciders, check out beermenus.com and visit some of our favorite cider selling bottle shops in the city: Bottles & Cans, The Beer Temple, West Lakeview Liquors, and the suburbs: Standard Market, Binnys.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

4th Annual Tailspin Ale Fest Returns to Louisville

Tailspin Ale Fest organizers return once again to present Louisville's best beer fest of the season - Tailspin Ale Fest, February 18, 2017 at Bowman Field in the WWII Era Hangar at Louisville Executive Aviation. Over 70 breweries and a special Kentucky heritage section of Kentucky brews will be available for consumption. View vintage airplanes on display with pin-up girls & fly boys and dine large with some of Louisville's finest food trucks. Magnolia Photo Booth and live music provide ample fun and entertainment.

With over 200 beers available onsite, make sure to sample some great brews from featured breweries: NEW to Kentucky from Athens, Georgia – Terrapin Brewing Company, Rhinegeist, Tin Man Brewing Company, New Belgium, Sweetwater Brewing, Founders Brewing and heading up the Kentucky Heritage section, West Sixth Brewing. 

Event Co-Creator and Organizer, Tisha Gainey states, “We are excited for Tailspin's fourth anniversary at the historic Bowman Field, bringing our craft beer celebration to the forefront of Louisville's social scene once again.  It is rewarding to continue our partnership with Liquor Barn and expand on the fundraising efforts for Dare to Care Food Bank.  We are also excited that our event continues to create new opportunities for furthering our fundraising with community partners like the Middleton Reutlinger, a local law firm that has a division specialized in working with many Kentucky Craft Breweries. Tailspin also provides a platform to introduce the latest and greatest from the world of craft beer to Louisville.  Look for all your favorite highlights and beers at the event - and a few surprises as well - as we strive to make Tailspin better every year.”

For tickets or more information, visit www.tailspinalefest.com
For the latest updates about participating breweries and festival news, like www.facebook.com/tailspinalefest

Check out photos from the previous years event:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hoppy Holidays with Beer-Themed Gifts!

This year we're excited to introduce a few NEW holiday items to our Etsy shop for the beer lovers and homebrewers on your gift list! 

Beer-themed holiday cards, including "Hoppy Holidays", "Christmas Cheer", "Let's Get Merry", "He Sees You When You're Drinking", and Surviving Awkward Holiday Parties. Cards can be purchased individually, or in packs of 6 or 12 cards. Cards are 4.25" x 5.5" and come with an accompanying A2 (4.375" x 5.75") envelope. Check them out here!

- Our unique, hand crafted hop ornaments made from silk flower components and decorated with rustic twine and ribbon. Hops vary slightly in shape, size and shade of green. Dimensions: approximately 3" x 1.5" x 1.5"

- Dried hop cone grapevine wreath ornaments, made from real, professionally dried hop cones from Michigan, 2" x 2" grapevine wreath, and ribbon. The dried hop cones are extremely delicate and must be treated and stored with care, away from direct sunlight to prevent damage.

These ornaments are available for purchase online for a limited time in our Etsy shop

For custom orders please send us a message via our Etsy shop and we'll be happy to accommodate your requests. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hail to the Ale Pop-Up Shop at BeerHoptacular

Chicago’s original craft beer festival, BeerHoptacular, is back and better than ever – with more beer and fun than ever before! BeerHoptacular takes place over two sessions on Saturday, November 5, 2016 at the awe-inspiring Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. Purchase Tickets here!

75 brewers and 150+ craft beers  •  Some of Chicago’s Best Food Trucks    Annual BeerHoptacular Homebrew Competition Sponsored by Bell’s Brewery    DJ spinning an all-vinyl playlist    Featured Artists  •  Bicycle Kegerator    Pappy’s Fridge    Live Insult Booth... and much more!

We're excited to be one of the featured artists pop-up booths, with lots of beer, wine and cider themed art and gifts to purchase, for the beer-lovers in your life. For a preview of the work we'll be bringing, check out our Etsy shop.

Photo credit: Kevin Schmalandt

Friday, October 28, 2016

Upcoming Cider Classes At The Northman

The Northman, Chicago’s first pub and bistro dedicated to cider, is offering its Cider Class Series twice a month. These intimate classes give cider lovers a chance to delve into the long and complex history of cider and are a great way to celebrate autumn in Chicago.

Classes cost between $30-40. Attendees are treated to expert instructions, cider flight, light snacks and an opportunity to taste a rare or specialty cider that ties to that session's lesson. Class space is limited.

November 7
Cider Cocktails: Fall and winter are the perfect seasons for entertaining. In this class we will focus on simple cider cocktails for the holiday season. We will learn the basics of how to make cocktails for different tastes and group sizes.
Tickets available @brownpapertickets.com

November 21
Perry: Perry is a unique cousin of cider made from 100% pears and nothing tastes quite like it. This class will explore all of the wonderful aromas and different flavors found in perry.
Tickets available @brownpapertickets.com

The Northman
4337 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618

Additional food and beverage are available for purchase.