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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reviews For The Sweet Tooth Quick Hits: Sonoma Cider, Johnny Appleseed Cider, Ciderboys Cider, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Square Mile Cider

Happy New Year everyone! While I was waiting for a friend doing Christmas shopping in World Market a couple of weeks ago, I noticed they had a special "build your own six pack" deal, with an extra 20% off at the register. So I thought, why not? I picked out Sonoma Cider's "The Anvil" Bourbon Hard Cider, a Pelican Brewing Kiwanda Cream Ale (which I picked up the tap handle for a couple days later!), Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider, Ciderboys "Mad Bark" Cinnamon Hard Cider, and a Scuttlebutt Amber Ale. Okay, that last one I bought because I liked the label and ended up giving it to my dad on Christmas Day. Then my dad presented me with a six pack of Square Mile Hard Cider! The following is a quick summary of what I thought of each one...

Out of the bunch, the Ciderboys was my favorite. Loads of sugar and bursting with flavor, it was very drinkable. On the downside, however, it was just a little bit too sweet. I know that sounds crazy in a "Review for the Sweet Tooth" entry, but it's true, it was darn near like drinking bubbly apple cider. One thing that was extremely appealing was the cinnamon the Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple, I could barely taste it. Here the cinnamon flavor is strong and delicious, and the masterful way it has been blended with the apple flavor is the best part of the drink. The cider was quite good. I recently profiled the Ciderboys tap handle, and I learned about the several different varieties they have. Hopefully some of those varieties will make it out west from Stevens Point in Wisconsin, because I'd love to try them. Final decision: the closest challenger yet to dethroning Angry Orchard as my cider of choice, but the high sweetness actually holds it back a little, but still highly drinkable.

Next up is Johnny Appleseed, and it was easily the worst of the bunch. Made by Anheuser-Busch in an attempt to cash in on a rapidly growing market, it had a funky aftertaste that didn't sit well, it wasn't very sweet, and my overall impression is: like Strongbow, it tastes like a macro brew built for the lowest common denominator, and I wouldn't purchase it again.

Sonoma Cider was the most intriguing of the bunch to me. Produced in Healdsburg, California, there were three varieties to choose from: The Hatchet, a straight apple cider, The Pitchfork, a pear cider, and my choice, The Anvil, a "proprietary barrel-proof bourbon flavored" apple cider. I like bourbon-barrel aged ales, so this seemed like a no-brainer. It does have a unique flavor that I haven't tasted in any other cider. However, unique doesn't always mean better; often it means different, and that's the case here - not quite on par with Angry Orchard or Ciderboys. To be fair, a more apt comparison might be the The Anvil, so I will probably give that one a go in the future. Final decision: good, unique flavor, a welcome diversion to standard cider.

The Dogfish Head Punkin Ale was split between my dad and I while I ate some of the lemon meringue tart he had prepared. We both agreed it was quite good. Described as a full-bodied, spiced brown ale brewed with baked pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar, it is named after the annual Punkin' Chunkin Festival held near Lewes, Delaware the weekend after Halloween. To me, the pumpkin and spices were very, very subtle. Final decision: my first taste of pumpkin beer was definitely a winner!

Pelican's Kiwanda Cream Ale is something I've been meaning to try ever since I briefly stopped by their brewery in Pacific City, Oregon back in October 2012. In general I like Cream Ales, not because they are sweet but because they are smooth. This falls in line with the smoothness characteristic, but was a little bit too peppery, hoppy, and bitter for me. It wasn't awful, but it's not one of the best cream ales I've tasted. Final decision: I'd probably try one of Pelican's other ales out of curiosity before buying this one again.

Last up is the Square Mile Original Hard Cider. Square Mile is close to me in nearby Portland, Oregon, but the cider is actually contract brewed by Blue Mountain Cider Company in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. The Original is a classic American hard cider, made from Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, and Jonagold, picked and pressed by hand, using a lager beer yeast. The six pack allowed me to get three under my belt to form a more complete opinion. And in my opinion, Square Mile falls a bit short of some of the other brands. I think part of the reason is the choice of apple varieties, all mushy, flavorless varieties...and don't get me started about Jonagolds, the bastardization of the delicious Jonathon apple that removed everything good about it. (Sorry, rant over.) Anyway, I found the cider to be less sweet than others, and the lager yeast gives it a definite ale-like character. Final decision: it's good, it's drinkable, but it won't be replacing Angry Orchard as my favorite. And one last thought: the packaging is pretty attractive, but the bottle label bears a stronger resemblance to a wine bottle than it does to a beer bottle. Interesting choice.

So if you're keeping track, here's my updated rankings for the hard ciders I've tasted, from most favorite to least:

Angry Orchard
Portland Cider Sorta Sweet
Sonoma "The Anvil"
Square Mile
Original Sin Pear
Portland Cider Kinda Dry
Johnny Appleseed

And may the new year treat you better than the last!

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