2 O'Clock Tasting:
Nine Pin Ciderworks
On Nine Pin Ciderworks' impeccably-designed website, there is a section, "Our Story," which chronicles the company's history. Opening with a part of the Rip Van Winkle myth, the story weaves the tale of the notorious narcoleptic's journey through the Catskill Mountains, searching for thunder and instead finding the sonorous cracking of nine pin bowling (played by the ghosts of Henry Hudson's sailors) into the backstory and inspirations of the cidery's founder, Alejandro del Peral. Throughout the saga, one thing is abundantly clear: Nine Pin is selling a story and a world along with its award-winning ciders. Beyond the myth, Nine Pin showcases their commitment to New York's Capital District (a region upstate that generally refers to the four counties surrounding Albany) in everything they do. All four of their retail ciders, as well as the more than 30 experimental ones only on tap at their tasting room in downtown Albany, are concocted solely with apples from the finest local orchards. Knowing this, what's truly staggering about Nine Pin is the sheer range of flavor and style embodied by their ciders—though all three we tasted looked nearly identical, each delivered wildly different drinking experiences. Here's what we thought.
6.7% ABV Unlike Nine Pin's other ciders, Signature is made of apples sourced solely from Samascott Orchards. Visually, it is the clearest of the three we tasted, with a light greenish tinge and champagne bubbles throughout. The Signature is also the most apple-forward of the ciders, with a powerfully sweet and fruity aroma that contains subtle chardonnay notes. That sweetness in the nose follows through on the tongue, adding a balanced, rosé complexion to its champagne-like qualities, and a slight tang of carbonation can be felt at the back of the mouth just before a clean finish. This is Nine Pin's oldest and most established cider recipe, and it shows—the Signature is a polished delight that perfectly fits one's conception of what "cider" is.
6.7% ABV Do not trust the deceptively mild, hazy yellow appearance of Nine Pin's Ginger Cider: put simply, it is intense. Though it looks very similar to the Signature, a quintessential cider, that is where the similarities end. As the aroma belies faint freshness and holly scents, the ginger waits to come through on the palate. Judging from our tasters' expressions (and rapidly cleared sinuses), none had ever experienced a ginger flavor with this much intensity. It's exhilarating; you must love ginger to love this cider, but if you do, the experience is truly unparalleled. The freshness of the root is clear, and a faint, bitter orange aftertaste balances some of the heat that takes up residence in the back of the throat. Our palates have never felt more cleansed.
6.3% ABV After the sweet-followed by-ginger one-two punch of the aforementioned ciders, the Belgian offered a subtler, more nuanced flavor profile. Unique for its use of yeast favored by Belgian abbeys (one that is not typically used for fermentation in cider), this one expands in the nose past its deceptively simple appearance. Scents of sunflower seeds, cinnamon, rose bark and crushed velvet are in the aroma, yielding a perfumed aromaticity and a drinking experience that can be defined more by sensation than by any standalone flavors. The cider is satiny smooth, carbonation tickles the nose, and though its sweetness is not as pronounced, neither is it drier than the others. Belgian hits the palate quickly and physically, forming a well-rounded, nuanced feeling overall.