Happy Winter Wassail Everybody!

“Waes Hail!” Translated from Old English, it means good health. In modern times, its an old pagan festival that celebrates the apple harvest of the year and ensures a good harvest for the next year. The traditions vary from region to region, but in general, the celebrations involve food, singing, a mummer’s play, and the drinking of cider. LOTS of cider!

And wouldn’t you know it? Last year my wife and I chanced upon a place that carries on in this Old English tradition, and it’s within biking distance (which is handy!) It’s called the Sea Cider cidery, and this past weekend, we went back for seconds. And just like last year, we enjoyed ourselves big time! So I thought it was about time I did a review of their cider lineup. That and the fact that we’ve been living within biking distance from them for the last two years!

Kings and Spies: A blended cider, made from both Kings and Northern Spies apples, producing an Italian-style cider that is crisp, slightly sweet, and has an effervescent quality. Quite the dose of bubbly, and good when paired with champagne-friendly foods, like cheese, olives and other lighter fare. I should also note that this cider has a social conscience, with the proceeds going to Lifecycles, a Victoria-based organization that promotes local food security. 4/5

Pippins: The sweetest of their regular lineup, this cider is the result of island-grown Winter Banana and Sunset apples. The result is a dry cider that boasts fresh, fruity notes that are reminiscent of pineapple and citrus. A definite accompaniment to pasta, stir fry or just on its own. 4.5/5

Perry: A very light and very dry pear cider that is in keeping with this venerated style. Not my favorite, but I know for a fact that its a genuine article. Those who dry whites will definitely approve, especially those of us from the island which is known to produce them. And, I should also note that I personally brought this cider to our friend’s 1st annual Wine, Cider and IPA party (It didn’t win, but what can you do?) 3/5

Rumrunner: In addition to home grown apples and champagne yeast, this cider has the added perk of being fermented in real Kentucky Bourbon barrels. The result is a sweet, strong cider that is dark in color and has a distinct note of rum/screech. Beware when consuming this one, its delicious flavor can mask the fact that it is quite powerful! A local favorite definitely, and I believe their best seller. 4/5

Wild English: The name refers to the wild yeast fermentation process, and the use of English bittersweet cider apples (all organic of course!). The result is a dry, crisp, and highly effervescent cider that tingles the nose and sparkles on the tongue. It also follows through with an earthy punch and a long, tart finish. Definitely one for the true cider enthusiast! 4/5

Pommeau: One of my personal favorites, probably because of its strength and challenging nature. Based on traditional Normandy-style cider that dates from the 1600’s, this aperitif cider is crafted from hand-pressed Snow apples. The result is a potent, delicious cider that is reminiscent of apple brandy and icewine. At 18% alc/vol, it is their strongest fare, but still deliciously sweet. A dangerous combination if ever there was one! 5/5!

Pomana: Named after the Roman Goddess of Apples, this cider is the result of freezing, then crushing crab apples, then allowing them to ferment. And the result is nothing short of delicious! Fans of icewine beware, this dessert-style cider will ween you off of grapes for certain! And like your stronger ice wines, it weighs in at a powerful 16% alc/vol. Delicious when served over ice cream, or just on its own, especially when chilled. 5/5!

Cyser: A new addition since last year. Cyser ciders are a combination of pressed, fermented, apples and pure honey. And here in Saanich, we produce some pretty spectacular organic honeys. It’s no surprise then that these folks would choose to combine the two and produce this fine dessert-style cider! Boasting a strong, sweet flavor with notes of honey, citrus and butter… it’s like… all three of those things! 4/5

Some varieties I have (regrettably) yet to try: Flagship, the eponymously named mainstay of their cider fleet. Wassail, a special release for this year’s festival. I will get on them this week or next, come hell, high-water or hangover!

*The link for Sea Cider’s event page:
Winter Wassail at Sea Cider

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