Sunday, November 18, 2012

Drinking, again. Jupiter's Legacy and the search for Virginia scrumpy.

Beer reviews

I should entitle this post: Now that I've been to the Dorset scrumpy cask, how am I going to get back? Or ... oh , how I want to like American, made-from-locally-grown apples, cider.
WHEREAS, cider was a colonial beverage enjoyed by not only our forefathers such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington but the common farmer, lawyer, butcher, and soldier; 
and WHEREAS, orchards were planted by early settlers and colonials to provide apples to ferment for the production of cider; 
and WHEREAS, Virginia is currently the 6th largest apple producing state by acreage in the United States and cider is a value-added product of apples, supporting an existing industry in the state; 
and WHEREAS, agriculture in the Commonwealth is the state’s largest industry, with an economic impact of $55 billion annually; 
and WHEREAS, agritourism is a growing component of Virginia’s tourism industry; 
and WHEREAS, the cider industry in Virginia has experienced significant growth, with six cideries started since 2006 and three prospective cideries currently being planned; 
and WHEREAS, the sales of cider nationwide have increased over 20% in the last year; 
and WHEREAS, the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate passed House Joint Resolution 105 in 2012 to designate the full week before Thanksgiving as Virginia Cider Week in Virginia; 
and NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby [declare] November 11-17,2012 as VIRGINIA CIDER WEEK in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Virginia Cider Week 2012

Events for Virginia Cider Week were organized by Diane Flynt, proprietor of Foggy Ridge Cider. Her cidery is in southwest Virginia, but the celebration (extended to include nine days: 10-18 November) was state-wide: special tastings at shops and restaurants, as well as at cideries, of which there are eight in Virginia, or at least eight which participated in the event.

To join in the fun, I went to a northern Virginia pub and ordered a pint of draft Bold Rock Cider (from Nelson County, Virginia, itself, home to several breweries). It was okay. Interesting. Sweet-tart. But I just didn't get complexity. As I drank it, I was looking with increasing envy at the draft Bells Best Brown that the gentleman next to me was drinking. That could have been just me. He was eyeing the Bold Rock, and, in fact, ordered that next.

On rare occasions in the past, I've been fortunate enough to drink U.K. cask scrumpy here in the States: cloudy, un-carbonated, yeasty cider imported from the West Country area. Strong in alcohol (often in excess of 6.5%), dark orange or russet in color, and rich, chewy, tart, phenolic, and full-bodied. You don't know what cider can be (at least, I didn't) until you try this. Since it's present-use and perishable, it's usually not bottled. That's why we rarely get it here. Calling such a complex beverage scrumpy? Leave it to the British!

This week, there wasn't any scrumpy to be found. This was Virginia Cider Week, after all. So, to finish off the week, I opened a bottle of Jupiter's Legacy, from Albemarle CiderWorks. The back story, on the back label:
Two boys were born at Shadwell in 1743. Thomas Jefferson and Jupiter Evans, a slave and Jefferson's most trusted servant for years. When Jupiter died in 1800, Jefferson wrote "... he leaves a void in my domestic arrangements which cannot be filled." Among Jupiter's duties was the exacting task of bottling Monticello's cider. "Malt liquors and cyder are my table drink," Jefferson noted.

Jupiter's Legacy Cider Flute & Bottle (01)

According to an article in Serious Eats:
The unifying thread of Virginia cider lies in [these] two native apples. The Virginia Winesap apple is crucial for adding body, complexity, and tannins to Virginia ciders while the Albemarle Pippin is the key to the structure, tartness, and distinct green apple skin flavor found in most Virginia ciders. Both apples also make for good eats on their own and, combined, a damn fine apple pie.

The author of the piece, Chris Lehaut, goes on to describe Jupiter's Legacy as pressed principally from Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apples but mixed with
a variety of over 30 heirloom apple varietals. The end product is layered with flavors of citrus peel, apple skin, and a bit of barnyard. It is a distinctly American cider and, perhaps, the quintessential Virginia cider.

Well, that seemed like a challenge that I had to accept.

Jupiter's Legacy is no scrumpy, but, boy, oh boy, is it a tasty cider. My notes. Strong: alcohol-by-volume of 9.3%. Light to medium bodied. Pale straw in color with nice carbonation, but scant champagne-like mousse, even when poured aggressively into a flute. Aromas of green apples, wet clay, and background suggestions of oranges and ripe bananas. The tastes follow through identical to the aromas, but with a hint of circus peanut candies: banana-flavored marshmallows.

Be forewarned: this is a very dry cider. I doubt that there is any residual sugar left in it after fermentation. Even tannic Cabernet Sauvingon red wines have some R.S., as un-fermented sugars are referred to in the wine-making trade. What's not in the finish of Jupiter's Legacy is a puckering, chewing-on-an-aspirin tannic bite. In fact, for such a dry cider, it's surprisingly smooth at and after the last sip.

This would be a wonderful food wine. That's right, wine, which is, after all, fermented fruit juice. Jupiter's Legacy at the Thanksgiving table anyone?

Is Virginia cider available in cask-conditioned form? Is there Virginia scrumpy? Will I become an acolyte of American apple cider? I don't know yet. I'll keep tasting.

  • Just to be clear, the ciders I'm talking about here has very little to do with many imported English ciders (not all) and many American ciders (not all). Those are flavored alcoholic beverages. Check the ingredients list on the label.
  • Drinking , Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits ... and cider). No scores; only descriptions.
  • Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.
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