Colonel Ricketts Beautiful Blend

The eponymous Colonel Ricketts was an artillery officer in the American Civil War, playing a notable role in the defense against a Confederate attack on Cemetery Hill on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Ricketts was apparently somewhat diminutive, but as he was in command of artillery, there’s a (probably apocryphal) quote by a confederate veteran, “And did this little cuss command Battery Hell!” After the war, Ricketts (along with some extended family) bought up a bunch of land in Northeast Pennsylvania. Upon his death, the heirs sold the land back to the state, and thus the Ricketts Glen State Park was born.

This is all relevant because one of Kaedrin’s regular R&R escapes is to the Pocono mountains near Ricketts Glen (for reasons I will not get into, my family has a connection with Lake Jean that has driven a few trips). On one weekend last fall, my brother and I spied this little Colonel Ricketts location on a trip into Benton for supplies. It’s basically located in an old barn-like structure, very rustic (a thousand pardons, I didn’t take any pictures). We did a quickie tasting of a bunch of their offerings, all apple ciders (more like apple wine, actually) and thought it was good stuff. I liked this one the best, so I bought a bottle.

As previously established, I’ve never really caught the cider bug, but it is something that a lot of beer nerds seem to gravitate towards at one time or another. Will this change the tide? Not really, though it’s a nice change of pace and a welcome diversion now that I’m in my annual semi-slowdown from beer.

Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider Beautiful Blend

Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider Beautiful Blend – As the name of this cider implies, this is actually a blend of two other Colonel Ricketts offerings: 1. Apple Sip, a semi-sweet cider with strong apple flavor aged in barrels and 2. The Original, a semi-dry cider with more of a barrel finish. The result has a very distinctive, earthy, almost nutty character that impressed me. More boring tasting notes: Pours an extremely clear, very pale yellow color, perfectly still. Smell has some of that sweet apple, but also something almost nutty lurking in the background that keeps me sniffing the glass like an idiot. Taste has that same sweet apple character, not really nutty but with a slight earthiness that’s pleasant. Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, no carbonation, only a hint of underlying booze. Overall, I enjoy this… It’s no replacement for beer or anything, but it’s a nice change of pace.

Cider Nerd Statistics: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml replaceable cork). Drank out of a flute glass on 3/22/20. Vintage: 2019

Beer Nerd Musings: These ciders were aged in barrels, and while there’s something to that, it definitely doesn’t provide the bold, intense flavors that barrel ageing brings to most beers. In talking with the guy who ran the place, he said they used a variety of barrels, including Jack Daniels, wine, and so on. I got the impression they reused the barrels though, which could perhaps lessen the impact over time. Would these second use cider barrels make for a good third use with beer? Maybe? It wouldn’t be as big an impact as Apple Brandy barrels (which tend to be a mildly popular and distinctive choice for beer barrel aging), that’s for sure, but maybe for sours it could be a good vessel.

And that about wraps up the cider portion of this year’s beer slowdown. Stay tuned, we’ve got some bourbon coming up later. Then: a triumphant return to beer (both in terms of reviews and, like, actually drinking beer).

Frecon Farms Hogshead Dry Cider

Every now and again, you’ll run across a certain type of beer nerd who will suddenly proclaim that beer is, like, totally played out and they’re just going to focus on cider from now on. Some of these people are just playing weird status games, others are genuinely fed up with certain less-than-desirable aspects of beer nerdery. Fair enough, but I don’t think you’ll see me blazing that particular path anytime soon.

However, since I’m currently embroiled in my annual quasi-hiatus from beer, there’s no reason not to dip my toes into the cider world. A friend of mind got me this bottle for Christmas and I must thank him for attempting to broaden my horizons. Plus, I’ve never had anything but mass-produced ciders from the big guys, so trying something at a lower level would probably do me good.

I don’t know squat about cider, but this is a New England style sparkling cider, a blend of traditional crab apples, Stayman Winsap, and other unnamed apples (imagine the potential for varietal nerdery with apples *shudder* Maybe Stayman Winsap is the Cascade of apples?), fortified with brown sugar and matured on French and American oak. I don’t know what a lot of that means, but it sounds pretty good. I mean, brown sugar? Oak? My kinda cider! Let’s take a closer look:

Hogshead Dry Cider

Frecon Farms Hogshead Dry Cider – Pours a very pale, clear light yellow color with some white fizz around the edge of the glass and lots of rising bubbles (may be the glassware at work here). Smells quite nice, actually, apples certainly show up, but it’s got a nice almost musty funk to it that isn’t strong, but works. Taste starts off sweet, certainly apples showing up here, and as the taste proceeds, it dries out a bit, light oak and tannins appearing to take over. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light bodied, and dry. Most ciders I’ve had are cloyingly sweet, and this is the complete opposite. On the other hand, it’s a pretty subtle drink, not a lot of pop to it. Fine for what it is and better than any cider I’ve ever had, for sure, but I’m still not entirely sold on ciders just yet. That being said, this does make the prospect of trying more palatable. B

Cider Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a libbey cider glass on 2/12/16.

Beer Nerd Musings: I’m guessing cider is more a study in subtlety than beer, with differences between styles being harder to pick up on than with beer, and so on. This seemed well made, but lacked the intensity of an 8.5% beer. Not that it has to have that sort of intensity to be worthwhile or anything, and I certainly don’t care for the more intense (i.e. cloying) varieties of cider that I’ve had. I haven’t had many ciders, but I have had a couple of cider/beer hybrids. Tired Hands did a couple a while back, one a hoppy blend, the other a Berliner blend, both were pretty darned good, but perhaps that was novelty speaking (and to be sure, they’re sorta hard to categorize). Perennial has something called Jack Rose that’s made with apple juice, but I haven’t tried that yet.

So there’s my first cider review. I liked it well enough, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for more!