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

New Beer and Cider!

After several months on sojourn, I came back in May 2011 with this post concerning some new beer and some rather delicious ciders! The latter were largely the result of us attending the Wassail celebration over at the Sea Cidery, which is just a short drive/bikeride away from us. In fact, there are two local cideries in our area, both of which are infinitely reachable. The second is mentioned here and is also a very good purveyor of ciders: the Merridale Cidery. Too bad they’re not within walking distance, that’d be really ideal! But I digress… Here’s the post:

Hello again! Boy, its been awhile since I reviewed any beer, which is surprising considering that I haven’t exactly been slowing down with the sampling lately. In fact, just the other week-end, my darling girl and I went to an IPA/cider/wine sampling party. Our generous hosts arranged the whole thing, with finger foods, multiple selections of each, and we even graded them and gave out prizes to whomever brought the winning selection.

Guess who won the award for best IPA? Do I need to ask? I mean, c’mon, read the title! Beer Snob, that’s who! And my entries were two favorites, Spinnakers IPA and Howe Sound Devil’s Elbow IPA. Both excellent ales in their own right, one lighter and infinitely drinkable, suitable for food pairing and the uninitiated; the other stronger and hoppier, floral in both taste and aroma and best when enjoyed on its own.

But there were other vintages that I think need some honorable mention. For instance, in terms of cider, we were treated to a series of local favorites, many of which came from either Merridale Cidery or Sea Cider. From the former, the Traditional Cider was the entry, and it was a big hit. This dry, smooth cider is a fine example of… well, traditional English cider! Not much more to say. And from the latter cidery, the party guests were treated to a taste of Pippins. This is a more sweet and scrumpy cider, named after the principal type of apple used to make it. I don’t believe this one won Best Cider, but dammit it should have! What didn’t make it in the lineup, but very well could have had my darling and I been able to show some restraint, was Sea Cider’s seasonal cider known eponymously as Perry. Like all perry ciders, its made from pears rather than apples, and the result in this case is a very dry, effervescent drink that’s perfect when paired with snacking foods like sharp cheeses and salty treats.

More to come, but first, I must review the names of some recently sampled Kolsch’s and Bitters. See ya soon!

FYI: I never did get around to reviewing Kolsch and bitters. What’s more, I should definitely dedicate some time to the wonderful Sea Cider plant and its products. That Wassail (an Old English tradition, wæs hæil meaning “good health”) was a good time! Oh well, something to do in the future!