Guest Cider Review: Strawman by Angry Orchard

Today I’m very pleased to present you with the first Guest Cider Review here on the Cider Sage blog. Today’s review–of one of Angry Orchard’s recent forays into traditional cider styles–is brought to you by none other than Dick and Diane Dunn of Talisman Farm in Hygiene, CO.

For those of you steeped in the who’s who of cider, you may know Dick for his work on the cider section of the BJCP Style Guidelines, his work training judges for GLINTCAP, or his role as president of the Rocky Mountain Cider Association. If you’re fortunate enough to live near Hygiene, you may know Diane for her exceptional baked goods, preserves, gardening skills, tolerance of and participation in the enormous amount of cider geekery surrounding her, and good-natured hospitality.

So, just how does one of the larger cider producers fare when taking a swing at a farmhouse cider? Read on…

Angry Orchard “Strawman” Farmhouse Hard Cider

Reviewed by Dick and Diane Dunn on 13 February 2014

Numbers:

  • Price $15 for 750 ml bottle
  • ABV (declared) 10%
  • SG 1.001
  • pH 3.45

There is a decent cider lurking in this one, if it could only get out. Unfortunately, the cidermaker seems to have given in to perceptions of American taste and altered it far away from its roots.

It claims to be a farmhouse style cider.  It’s not; it’s excruciatingly over-carbonated and way too strong.  The high carbonation gives a first impression of being very sharp; this subsides as the carbonation gasses off.  Seems rather dry with the carbonation there, but after letting it settle down and stirring out the bubbles, the cider has a tiny touch of sweetness.  This is consistent with abv/SG:  At 10% abv, SG of a dry cider should be more like 0.995.  (There’s something else contributing to the SG but I don’t know what it is.)

And why so strong?  The high 10% alcohol throws the cider out of balance and makes it seem thin, lacking in body.  A farmhouse cider should fall in the 6-7% abv range.  The back label makes reference to English and French countryside tradition.  But in England a cider over 8.5% isn’t even a cider; it’s a “made wine”.  And in France, chaptalization (adding sugar to boost alcohol) isn’t allowed, so a 10% cider (or even rather lower) simply isn’t going to happen.

Why is this cider cloudy?  There’s no reason a competent commercial cidermaker, with all their resources, shouldn’t be able to make a cider as clear as the home cidermaker does simply by letting it fall clear.  I noticed that the cloudiness was uniform; there was no sediment in the bottle.  That doesn’t square.  My personal guess is that it’s marketing artifice–make it a bit cloudy to make it seem rustic.

Fancy bottle, multicolor enameled-type label.  How much am I paying for it?

Now, if you give enough time for the carbonation to escape, this isn’t a bad cider at all.  Good tannic background, structure, some complexity. Mouthfeel/body is short, probably because of the excessive alcohol.  Oh, back to that:  Where’s the alcohol coming from?  Not likely just from the apples!  I sense more than a bit of sugar to help things along.

Nevertheless, this cider shows potential:  Tell them, let the cidermakers do their jobs; don’t try to doctor it for marketing.  That could make a fine cider which justifies the rather high price tag.

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1 Comment on Guest Cider Review: Strawman by Angry Orchard

  1. Perhaps Strawman is more similar to the “cidre fort” tradition of Quebec than the “farmhouse” traditions of England and France? But with a little more tannin? The marketing spin is annoying and difficult to ignore, but I would not expect a mass-market product like Strawman to look or taste anything like the small-scale ciders produced in England and France.

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