Many craft breweries, cideries, and the like know the principle that drives media standards like product placement and, more broadly, the entirety of television: a good story sells stuff. Applewood Winery, the makers of Naked Flock Cider, are located on one of the oldest farms west of the Hudson River, and have proven themselves similarly savvy. For Naked Flock, they have weaved (or perhaps simply co-opted) a delightfully hilarious backstory. It has nothing to do with the cider, but that doesn't really matter - it hooks you nonetheless.
What's that? You want to hear the story? Well, alright (but then it's straight to bed). In the town of Warwick, there was a pastor who happened to be rather good friends with Herman Melville. When Melville came back from one of his trips to east Asia, he brought his pastor friend some poppy seeds, which the pastor planted. The seeds grew into beautiful, "potent" poppies that attracted a flock of geese. The geese ate the flowers, passed out from their "potency," and, thought dead, were plucked of their feathers. A few hours later, they woke up and began to stumble around stark naked. For some reason, the pastor saved his new, Naked Flock from slaughter and lo, this folk tale was born. Like we said, it has nothing to do with the cider. Let's get to that:
The name says it all - this cider could be listed in the dictionary next to a definition of "cider." It fulfilled every image we had in our heads about what a standard cider is/should be. It boasted a pale yellow, nigh-green hue, looking a little like white wine, but mostly just like cider. It had a ring of bubbles around the rim, with many in its depths, as well. It sparkled in the glass.Little complicated the nose beyond the bare bones scents of various apples. There was unmistakable fructose sweetness, but also a hint of Granny-Smith tartness that suggested layers to the apple flavors within. Luckily, the taste delivered on all the promises of the aroma, coming through sweet and carbonated, with a delicate tartness and a wine-esque sensation at the back of the palate. It wasn't complicated, but there was enough going on in the Original to bring us back for a second glass.
For the Draft cider, Applewood changes the formula only slightly, but the results are huge. Instead of the champagne yeast of the others, the Draft uses Belgian Trappist Ale yeast. Instead of honey as a sweetener, the Draft uses organic, locally-sourced maple syrup. The changes are minor, but immediately, the cider was perceptibly different, pouring much yellower than its Original cousin, looking closer to hay while retaining its clarity. While the Original proudly touted its apple roots in every way, the Draft forces them to take a back seat so that other, subtler tones can emerge. Each scent was as fleeting as the next, but our tasters smelled everything from a faint bleu cheese, to an understandable maple syrup, along with a light minerality. That last detail came through on the palate in a big way, the hard mineral tang effectively rounding the still-present sweetness. In general, we found the Draft to be incredibly balanced and refreshing, the hard mouthfeel complimenting the soft flavors and aromas.
Like the Draft, the Citra makes two small adjustments to the Original's formula, and create an entirely new and nuanced cider in the process. The Citra throws out the honey and ushers in fresh Citra hops, trading basic sweetness for tropical, floral complexity. It also completes the visual progression established by the other two ciders, with the yellowest, bubbliest pour yet and, surprisingly, an actual head! It quickly disappeared into the golden depths, but was still worthy of mention.The hops ruled the aroma, the Citra earning its keep with notes of tangerine, kiwi, melon, and other tropical fruits that combined pleasingly with the apple at the core (wordplay very much intended). On the tongue, the flavors butted heads more vibrantly than in the nose, with flavors of apples and oranges defying comparison, as usual. It's a battle in a glass, with similarities to white sangria and true tropical ciders.