Our final event at the 2017 NYC Cider Week is deserving of its own write up. Heritage Radio Network hosted the event, which was a celebration of the Newtown Pippin apple. (Heritage Radio posted some of the audio for the evening here.)
Gidon Coll, founder and owner of Original Sin Cider, started the evening with a presentation about the history of the Newtown Pippin apple. The Newtown Pippin is arguably the most American of all apple varieties. It originated in Queens, New York in 1740, and that first tree in Queens survived until 1805 when it died from the over-cutting of scion wood.
Following Gidon's presentation there was a brief discussion about the apples that were on hand for tasting. There were apples from New York, Virginia, California, and Oregon which had been organized with each state on its own table. At this point we all got up and went back into the main room to sample slices of the apples. Just looking at the apples it was striking how different they all looked, and these were all Newtown Pippins!
Latitude seemed to play a role in how the Newtown Pippin grows and develops. One example of this is that in Virginia the Newtown Pippin is referred to as the Albamarle Pippin. It was long believed to be a different apple altogether, until DNA testing in 2009 showed them to be the exact same variety.
As I made my way around the room sampling the variety of apples I started noticing similarities between the New York apples and the Oregon apples and between the apples from Virginia and those from California. Another difference that stood out was that some of the apples were oxidizing and turning brown much more quickly than others. The rate of oxidation points to sugar content and, more importantly, the acidity of the apple.
Finally, there were distinct differences between apples from within the same state. The soil in which the tree grows and the amount of water those trees see changed the character of the apple greatly. Two of the California apples came from orchards that are across the street from one another. One orchard is dry farmed and the other is irrigated. There was a very noticeable difference between.
There are more than 7,500 known varieties of apples grown throughout the world, and 2,500 different varieties grown in the United States alone. Considering we were tasting the differences between apples of the same varietal from two orchards, divided by a road, with such different flavors, it really hit home just how much potential there is for breadth in the varieties of hard cider that can be produced.
The apples in the collage above are just a sample of what was available for tasting. The top row is all California apples and the bottom row is all Oregon apples. Left-center shows apples from New York and in the right-center are apples from Virginia.
The group reconvened to discuss our experiences tasting the apples themselves. Dan Pucci (@danpucci), Ryan Burk, head cidermaker at Angry Orchard, and Darlene Hayes (@allintocider) then led us through a tasting of 18 different Newtown Pippin ciders. My notes from the tasting are shown below with the photos of the bottles.
A few things that stood out to me:
- All of the ciders were very unique and individual, and yet they also all had a certain similarity that I believe came from the core DNA of the apples.
- The acidity of the ciders seemed to vary in direct relation to the latitude at which the apples had been grown.
- 80 minutes is not enough time to taste 18 different ciders and take notes on each cider. Further, the farther we got into the 18 the more my palate just gave up and I started having a hard time tasting the subtleties between the ciders.
Note: There were four ciders that we sampled, but were unable to get photos of the bottles. Those ciders were:
- Pioneer Pippin
- Kite & String Cider
- Interlaken, NY
- 5 Mile Orchard
- Tilted Shed Ciderworks
- Windsor, CA
- Vulture Hill Orchard
- Tilted Shed Ciderworks
- Windsor, CA
- Dragon's Head Cider
- Vashon, WA
Newtown Pippin 2015
Zeffer Cider Co
Fernhill, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
2015 Newtown Pippin from Zeffer Cider Co was available to pour at the check-in table. I really wasn't expecting a "starter" cider while mingling and waiting for the event to start, but it was a nice surprise. This cider wasn't officially part of the formal cider tasting, but it was a great cider with which to set the tone for the evening.
Newtown Pippin SVC 2015
Angry Orchard Hard Cider
This cider was bottled in 2015 and released late-summer 2017. It is a wild fermented, bottle conditioned cider, with zero residual fermentable sugar. The cider was lightly acidic and light on body. There was a rich aroma of fresh fruit and apple skins.
Newtown Pippin SVC 2016
Angry Orchard Hard Cider
This cider was bottled in 2016 and will likely be released late-summer 2018. It is a wild fermented, bottle conditioned cider, with zero residual fermentable sugar. We were tasting this cider before it had reached full maturity, so it had a sharpness to it. The aromas and tastes were very similar to the 2015 before it.
Kite & String Cider
This cider had been sweetened lightly with fresh juice and honey and was force carbonated. I found it to be semi-sweet.
Scrumpy Ewe Cider
This was a still cider, with a very balanced and smooth mouthfeel. There was a distinct bitterness and woodiness to it, which I attributed to its barrel aging.
Castle Hill Cider
This was our first cider of the evening from outside New York and really kicked off our journey through North America. For me, this was a semi-sweet cider with strong caramel notes. It was an arrested fermentation that had not been back-sweetened in any way. Most notably, I found this cider to be much less acidic than the New York ciders.
North Garden, VA
Another cider from Virginia and again less acidic than the New York ciders. I found it to be dry and somewhat sulphury.
Foggy Ridge Cider
This was our final cider of the evening from Virginia. For many of us, it brought to mind the aroma of fresh bread dough. There was a distinct yeast flavor present.
2016 Newtown Pippin Apples
Scar of the Sea
With this cider we crossed North America and started our way north up the west coast. This was the first cider of the evening that was hazy, the rest had been crystal clear up to this point. Similar to the Virginia ciders I found this to be less acidic than the New York ciders. There was a very pleasant oakiness to it. I found it to be more tannic than the ciders that had come before it.
Rider Ranch Ciderworks
Pajaro Valley, CA
The apples for this cider had all come from 100 year old Newtown Pippin trees. It was very effervescent. The aroma and taste hinted at green olives and olive brine.
This was one of my favorites from the evening. It cloudy with a golden color with moderate astringency. The taste was dry with just a little bit of funkiness.
Pippin Dry Cider
Woodbox Cider Co
This was another cider from 100 year old Newtown Pippin trees. There was a distinct shift of increasing acidity from the California ciders to the Oregon ciders, making them more similar to the New York ciders.
Newtown Pippin Single Varietal
I have been a huge fan of everything that I have tried from Liberty, so I was a little disappointed to learn that this cider had been provided for the event with a note that it was far from maturity and might not be a great example of Newtown Pippin ciders. Its youth definitely showed, with a light hazy appearance, and a lime-like flavor. One constant that did come through in this cider was its acidity.
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse
Saanichton, BC, Canada
This was a very sweet cider, so much so that the sweetness overwhelmed the character of the apples and cider itself. This was cider number 18 of the night, so my palate was definitely affected at this point. I do have a bottle of this on hand for an upcoming review, so hopefully with a fresh palate I'll be able to offer a little more insight.
This cider was made from all Colorado grown apples. It was dry with a sort of a sulphury green apple taste. I'm hoping to get a bottle of this in the next few weeks for a more thorough review.