On Saturday, February 27th, I attended Cider Summit Chicago for the second year in a row, and the fest greatly impressed me yet again.
Some notable differences between 2015 and 2016 Cider Summit:
Fest Expansion: 2015’s fest occupied the first floor of the Navy Pier Ballroom with 120 cider makers (and was pretty crowded). This year, the fest grew to 140 makers, and expanded to the upstairs balcony surrounding the main ballroom floor, which not only relieved some of the congestion but also allowed for some cool views of the festival from above.
Cider Cocktails: In addition to all the tasty cider pours, 3oz cider cocktails were also made-to-order by Woodford Reserve, The Northman, and Uncle John’s Cider Mill. These concept cocktails really got me excited for the opening of The Northman, the long-anticipated cider bar that is finally set to open this coming Wednesday, March 8th.
Goodies for Sale: It’s entirely possible I overlooked any merchandise booth last year, but I noticed both individual cider maker booths peddling t-shirts and a popular, general merch table with especially beautiful, cider-centric screen printed hand towels for sale.
As for the main focus of the event, I tasted quite a few standout samples:
Uncle John’s Cider Mill Perry (7% ABV)
This semi-dry perry (cider made with pears) was buttery, creamy and delicate like a champagne. Barely tart citrus acidity balanced out this effervescent beverage.
Ciders of Spain:
Sidra Fanjul Sidre Natural (6% ABV)
Dry, blue cheesy, earthy, and funkalicious, this was easily the most unique cider I tasted all day. From the distributor website: “A traditional unfiltered sidra with licorice and banana aromas, a nutty flavor and the characteristic tannins and acidity of local apples grown and processed in accordance with the certified ecological practices of the European Union.”
Sidra Riestra Guzman (6% ABV)
Dry, earthy, and slightly sweet cider made with Spanish and French apples with a hint of funk. This one was poured using a traditional Spanish technique dubbed “the long pour,” in which the server pours the cider from the bottle held high above the glass, forcefully slamming the cider into the glass and thereby introducing carbonation into an otherwise still cider. Salud!
E.Z. Orchards Hawk Haus (5.75% ABV)
Made with a wild yeast strain, this had a nice earthy farmyard aroma and flavor, balanced with a cinnamon/brown sugar sweetness and slight carbonation. From the website: “Hawk Haus Cider is named for a nest box that overlooks our Jonathan orchard. American Kestrel Hawks have nested her for 16 years.”
Wandering Angus Estate (9.87% ABV)
The high alcohol content was disguised fairly well, manifesting as a warming sensation within a cinnamon apple pie-like beverage that was incredibly smooth.
The range of flavors I experienced was incredibly wide: white grape, blackberries, juniper, blue cheese, saffron, caramel, toffee, lemon, and hops, just to name a small sample.
One week prior to Cider Summit, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the ABV Chicago podcast, along with Kim Leshinski of Hail to the Ale, and the topic of the day was … you guessed it … ciders! Despite the copious amounts of giggling and joking that occurred, we all learned quite a bit about the various cideries that were featured, and it definitely got me excited to attend the summit. Take a listen if you’d like to learn a bit more more about some of the makers featured at the fest.