To get Downeast, we had to go Upwest. Let us explain...
Interesting ciders are hard to come by here in Western Pennsylvania. We get the big national brands, a few crafty regionals (Blake's out of Michigan, Original Sin out of New York), and a handful of in-state and local options (Jack's, Threadbare, Wyndridge, Arsenal, Knockin Noggin). That's about it. As cider enthusiasts who are always looking for something new to try, it's a pretty grim picture.
Luckily, state borders are a short drive away, giving us access to a much wider range of ciders. Awhile back Mike trekked to craft beer mecca, Vintage Estates, in Boardman, Ohio, where hundreds of beers and countless wines share shelves with a solid offering of ciders from all of the United States (and even a few from Europe). He brought back no fewer than two dozen ciders to taste.
This Downeast Cranberry Blend has been sitting in the basement waiting its turn, and as winter is winding down, now seemed like a good time to crack open a cider that feels right when there is still some snow on the ground.
Downeast ciders are unfiltered, with a prompt to SHAKE HARD before opening. This, presumably, distributes the sediment (spent yeast, mainly) back in to the mix. The resulting pour is hazy and thick, resembling pink grapefruit juice more than the clear, crisp ciders most of us are used to drinking.
No doubt this is apple cider from the start, with baked apple on the nose and straightforward apple flavor upfront. The cranberry follows quickly with a tart, tannic punch balanced by just enough sweetness to put this somewhere between semi-sweet and semi-dry. Like a glass of cranberry juice cocktail, this cider sticks around on the sides of your tongue for awhile, tart and lingering.
Despite Mike's vigorous shaking, quite a bit of sediment remained, a somewhat unattractive (though utterly harmless) finish.
Downeast Cranberry Blend is certainly worth a try, not only for the theatrics of shaking and pouring, but also as a good example of a fruited cider that doesn't try to hide the apple.