Cider Review: Two Rivers’ Gravenstein Hard Apple Cider

First up, my apologies for the long hiatus…I’ve been quite busy of late on the work and personal front. But time and cider (or was that time and tide) wait for no man, and so here we are. Again. Once more into the breach.

Two Rivers Gravenstein may be the U.S’s [current] answer to the wild yeast-fermented, English farmhouse ciders that the cider geeks among us know and love. It’s not identical, by any means–Gravenstein is more acidic and less tannic and astringent than many of the bittersweet and bittersharp varieties of the English farmhouse style–if I may even generalize that term into a single style–giving it’s up-front character a somewhat distinctive, U.S. West Coast feel to it. Speaking of the U.S…it was time to try a cider out of a Mason Jar. Credit where credit is due: I got the idea today from a member of the Winemaker’s Academy Facebook group.

Back to business: There is a lot of depth to this cider–the moderate phenol character; the slight sweetness that for me comes across as caramelized sugar or Belgian candi sugar; the surprisingly dark straw color, the bracing acidity, and the hint of sulfur on the nose.

Let’s pick that apart a bit.

  • Phenol: A bandaid-like flavor; likely a function of the activity of wild yeast and possibly a high fermentation temperature. I’m not sure why I like this flavor so much, but I really, really do. See my Bittersweet Funk Review for the mother of phenolic ciders.
  • Sweetness: Reasonably sweet at about 1.010 final gravity. The cider is probably sterile filtered, pasteurized, or has potassium sorbate added, as with this much sugar left, any residual yeast would likely cause the bottles to explode over time. The bottle verbiage states that there is no added sugar, which is a hint that the yeast was temperature-crashed (brought to a very low temp) to stop fermentation, then treated to stop additional fermentation. Or not–that’s my guess at least.
  • Color: Not really sure where the dark color comes from, really. I may have to find some Gravenstein juice to compare with as a baseline.
  • Acidity: At about 3.4 pH on a wine pH strip, I’m surprised at how much the acidity pops for me…that pH isn’t that atypical for apples. But I’d have to start checking total acidity for better results, and right now I have cider to drink at hand…you might have guessed how that’s turning out.
  • Sulfur: Just an vague impression in the nose. It’s a sulfited cider, but it takes a lot of added sulfite to make it noticeable, so the origin isn’t clear to me.

It’s Gravenstein, alright, but there’s a twist of fire and brimstone here that makes you wonder where it’s been…though you have a pretty good idea forming in the back of your head. And you shouldn’t like it, but you do. A lot. Or maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, this is arguably the best West Coast hard ciders that I’ve had to date. I keep drinking them before I’m able to complete a review, forcing my friend from CA to keep bringing me more when he travels here. Sorry, Joe…but please keep bringing them anyway.

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