Compass Cider House, a new cidery and restaurant in Fort Collins, CO, recently held a soft opening which I attended with my wife, Amy. It was an excellent experience on both the cider and food fronts, featuring oaked ciders from both the Compass and Blossomwood cider lines, various dishes well-selected for pairing with cider, and a Perry that stole the show.
Compass is on North College Avenue in Fort Collins, right across the street from Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar–which you should also visit while you’re in the neighborhood–and next door to Pateros Creek Brewing (which is ok, but I’d recommend Equinox if you’re in the beer mood). The cider house is open and airy, with exposed brick walls, stained concrete floors, plenty of windows, and a circular bar above which is suspended an impressive compass rose sculpture.
The circular bar makes for a space in which it’s easier to see and talk to more people than with the typical, linear bar setup. There were also long tables made from reclaimed wood which a number of folks were taking advantage of when we were there.
The drink menu consists of several Compass ciders, a Blossomwood cider, a Blossomwood Perry, a guest cider–Malice–from Stem Ciders, and both a wine and a hopped Perry offering from Infinite Monkey Theorum.
See my Stem Ciders post for specifics about Malice; below are the ciders we tried while at Compass.
Meridian is a dry, tart cider made from Colorado Western Slope table apples. As advertised, it has a pleasant floral aroma and golden color. It’s also fermented in oak–which is unusual in this region (aging in oak is common, fermenting in it isn’t)–specifically, bourbon barrels, which adds some depth and a little spice to the mix. It’s a bit like what I imagine Glider Cider would be like if barrel-fermented.
This is a medium-dry cider with some table fruit and some cider fruit. Also aged in bourbon barrels, the slight sweetness plus the tannin from the cider apples brings out the bourbon characteristics quite well, particularly the vanilla notes. This strikes a very interesting balance between sharp, crisp table apple ciders and the more robust cider fruit and oak elements.
La Mesa (Compass):
No apples here. Rather, it’s a pineapple cider. It’s intensely floral with a very interesting pineapple flavor–it’s a sweet cider, but it’s a much drier experience than you’ll get when eating pineapple in any fashion. It’s a similar experience to a medium dry mead–with much of the sweetness out of the way, you get to experience the aromatic and subtle flavor qualities of the base ingredient in a whole new way.
Atropa is a Semi-Sweet French style cider that I’ve previously reviewed here. In Colorado it is quite unique, with natural apple sweetness derived through the notoriously difficult keeving process and with exceptional end results. If you enjoy French ciders like Kerisac, you’ll love Atropa.
Nu Course (Blossomwood):
This one was the show-stealer for me–rich, well-balanced, and with just a hint of oak. I was surprised to learn that its made from Colorado pears, as there’s a lot of body and richness to this Perry that I don’t get from most Perry made in this region. I’ll chalk this up to process and barrel aging, the former being a challenge when working with pears.
Good Perry is challenging to make–it has different acidity, nitrogen, and pectin characteristics than apples as well as some complexity around the sugars. In particular, the high sorbitol content of pear juice can cause issues. Unlike most of my apple fermentation experiences–see my cidermaking tutorial, for instance–I tend not to talk much about my Perrymaking attempts, as they haven’t all that well. Shawn Carney of Blossomwood, though, has done exceptionally well with this Perry, and I look forward to more of his creations.
The menu at Compass is very well thought-out and is clearly designed around pairing with ciders. We tried the Rajas–roasted poblanos with redskin potatoes, sweet onion, masa, and queso–and Dukkah–an Egyptian dipping dish consisting of bread, which is dipped in oil and then into a spiced mix of seeds and nuts.
The Rajas were well-prepared, with a rich mix of flavors. They paired well with the 11-Stiches, the body of the French cider apples blending well with the rich poblano.
There were about 10 more items on the menu that we didn’t try, so there are at least that many reasons to return.
Overall our Compass trip was well worth it, with satisfying options on the cider and menu fronts which are quite different from those of most cideries in Colorado. Keep an eye on their facebook page for announcements and events including the upcoming grand opening.
It’s also worth noting that each of the cideries I’ve visited so far fills a different creative niche and provides a different atmosphere, the end result of which is that it’s well worth your time to visit each of them.
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