Once again, on the fourth Saturday in April, the chant of “Cider Summit! Cider Summit! Cider Summit!” could be heard ringing through the Barker-Shaw abode. I had been excitedly awaiting the arrival of Cider Summit SF for several weeks, looking forward to trying a number of different ciders and enjoying a sunny afternoon at the Presidio.
With 55 tables and an average of 3-4 ciders on sample at each of them, I spent a fair amount of time making an action plan this year. As you may recall, while in line last year to purchase take-home bottles, Steve and I bonded with two women over their serious cider selection discussions and my list, printed from the Cider Summit SF web site, on which Steve and I had made notes throughout the day. This year, I took a bit of extra time with my preparations and created a spreadsheet listing each cider available at the summit, and seeking out a description of the beverage from the brewers’ web site or from a review tool. I then went through the list to mark those I was particularly interested in trying as well as those I thought I’d rather skip.
Not only did my list make our progress through the tables go more smoothly, but it also paid dividends as we again stood in line to make our take-home purchases. “Where did you get that list?” was asked by several people also in line, who were trying to remember what they had liked based upon the haphazard photos of the bottles they’d taken with their phones. Proper levels of respectful awe were displayed when they were informed that I had made it in advance.
Next year I may need to try my hand at creating an app for people to use as they taste throughout the day. Definitely worth considering, especially since there seemed to be a bit less of the uninformed hipster vibe that had appeared later in the afternoon last year. Rather than seeing the summit as a place to get drunk and seem cool, more of those present seemed to be interested in the cider itself.
We had a particularly great time this year as we were accompanied by a friend who is always keen to share cider with us. Marie-Noelle stepped up as the raccoon foster care team leader last year, and we have frequently shared a pint, a laugh, and our frustrations throughout the year. Not only did she make use of my cider list as well, but having a third person with whom to share the event also meant that we could all sample many more cider options than we otherwise could have if we were limited to our own drink tickets.
Knowing how crowded the tables get as the afternoon wears on, all three of us also took advantage of the new VIP ticket option which afforded us entry a full hour before the riff raff was admitted. The extra time was definitely worthwhile as we were still debating our last two tastings each as the cries of “last call” began to ring through the air close to 5:00.
All told, I felt I could “claim” 18 new ciders on the Untappd app during the day, but I was able to take a sip of several more with a little help from my friends, quickly discerning those which might be worth the use of a drink ticket from those which were not to my liking. I didn’t think I had drunk enough of these additional samples to claim them on the app, but those I did were more than enough to “earn” me the “Take It Easy” badge, or as I’ve been calling it the “Bulk Drinking” badge, for drinking 12 beers in a day (or in this case before we paused for a meal in the middle of the afternoon).
As with last year, I’ll list the ciders I tried below, particularly calling out those that were delightful enough for us to purchase (or attempt to purchase as some were sold out) at the end of the day.
We all had a wonderful day at Cider Summit SF 2016 and I am already looking forward to the 2017 summit!
• Apricot Toasted Coconut (Apple Outlaw Cider) – I couldn’t taste much apricot or coconut over the slightly bitter cider, but Marie swore she could.
• The Dude’s Rug (B. Nektar Meadery) – Apple cider and Chai tea. Very interesting. Although I had a full sample glass, I think I need to try it again to get a better sense of what’s going on with it.
• Necromangocon (B. Nektar Meadery) – Mango and black pepper. I was highly skeptical, but Steve and Marie wanted to try it. I took a sip and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t claim this one on Untappd, but we bought a bottle for later consumption, so I’ll do it then.
• Hard Apricot Cider (Atlas Cider Company) – Both of the Atlas ciders smelled highly of their fruit blends, but neither tasted that strongly of them, so I wasn’t too thrilled by them.
• Hard Blackberry Cider (Atlas Cider Company)
• William Tell Mango Muscat (Cider Brothers) – Super sweet and yummy. Good mango flavor and blended with a bit of Muscat wine. We bought a couple of these as well.
• Perry (Dragon’s Head Cider) – I only had a sip of this one, so didn’t claim it on Untappd. As I said slyly at the time, “This one is tarter than your average pear.” 😉
• BlackBerry Sangria (Common Cider Company) – Tart, not overly sweet.
• Orleans Herbal (Eden Ice Cider Company) – The “herbal” in this is a blend of basil and anise. Surprisingly good, but I don’t think I’d drink a full pint at a sitting. Maybe more of an Old Fashioned glass. I only had a quick sip of this one, but we bought a bottle for later.
• Heirloom Blend (Calville Blend) (Eden Ice Cider Company) – A very nice ice wine, but the Orelans Herbal was a pretty expensive bottle, so we declined to buy this one as well since it was about the same price.
• Cherry Bomb (Golden State Cider) – As Marie said, “not much cherry to this bomb.”
• Honey Meadow (Finnriver Cidery) – The three of us joked that it was like walking through a spring meadow holding hands with a bear, but it was really super nice, almost grassy. We bought a couple bottles of this one for later tasting and claiming.
• Heritage (Gowans Orchards) – Super rich and yummy. It’s a new cider and wasn’t for sale yet, but all three of us complimented it highly to the company reps and indicated a desire to buy it, so maybe it will be available sometime.
• 1876 Heirloom (Gowans Orchards) – A lighter version of the Heritage. Since we couldn’t bring the Heritage home, we decided to get a bottle of this instead.
• Hemly Cider – A lovely perry. I only took a quick sip of Marie’s, but liked its strong pear flavor and complexity, so we bought a bottle for later enjoyment.
• Strawberry (Humboldt Cider Company) – Harsh and not particularly strawberry-tasting.
• Apricot (Indigeny Reserve) – Apple cider mixed with apricot puree. Very smooth and sweet. Maybe not one I’d drink a pint at a time of, but another that would be wonderfully refreshing in an Old Fashioned glass. I do admit that the cider flavor gets a little lost behind the apricot, but it was tasty.
• Blackberry Hard Apple Cider (Indigeny Reserve) – Absolutely lovey and brimming with blackberry flavor. We really wanted to buy a bottle of this one, but it was sold out when we were doing our purchasing.
• Strawperry (Mission Trail Cider Co.) – I had so liked their plum cider, tasted a few months ago on a trip to Upcider, but wasn’t too excited by this one. It was tart like a strawberry, but lacked a good strawberry flavor. It was their entry to the Fruit Cider Challenge, though, in which cideries pilot new brews specifically for the event, so it’s possible they just need more time to refine it.
• Cactus Red (101 Cider House) – Strongly flavored of Thai basil, a bit dry and bitter. This wasn’t a favorite.
• Dewbees (Reef Points) – All of the Reef Points offerings were way too dry and bitter for me, but the folks at the booth were so nice about offering a sampling flight of their three ciders on offer, that we went ahead and used a drink ticket to get a glass of this one. The others we sipped were Kid Neptune and Soundings. Just not my style.
• Spice Route Cider (Tieton Cider Works) – I wanted to like this one, but I found it a bit souring to the stomach.
• LumberJack (Schilling Cider) – A rhubarb perry, I found it light, tart, and refreshing. I liked it quite well.
• Apple Pie Mead (The San Francisco Mead Company) – Sweet and strong, perhaps too harsh for this late in the afternoon.
• Peach (Red Branch Cider Company) – A relatively local cidery with a tasting room, we’re planning another trip down there in the near future. So, although I got a full tasting of this one, I’m waiting to claim it on Untappd. It was one of the last ciders I had in a long day, so I didn’t feel I could judge it particularly well in this instance.