It’s hard to believe that here in the northeastern United States, we’re only two or three weeks away from the peak of spring migration. We had snow and freezing rain yet again around Albany yesterday, and visits to my local birding patches in the last few days have turned up the same mix of migrants I was seeing at the end of last week. It seems like everything is in a holding pattern for now.
Even though it feels like the season has stalled, signs of spring are slowly appearing, making this a good time to feature a lovely cider made even better as an homage to nesting birds: Hawk Haus is a cider by the well-regarded E.Z. Orchards of Salem, Oregon, and is named for a pair of “Kestrel Hawks” that nest on their grounds. I assume these are American Kestrels, which are colloquially known as “sparrow hawks”. But for birders, the incongruous “kestrel hawk” doesn’t quite compute.
Be that as it may, the name is such a well-meaning gesture it seems unfair to quibble over its nomenclatural faults. I’m sure the folks at E.Z. Orchards would be as surprised as many of us were to learn that falcons are more closely related to parrots than they are to the superficially similar raptors of the family Accipitridae. Still, I don’t know what to make of the “Haus” designation – perhaps the kestrels understand German? “American Kestrel Nestbox” might be a more accurate description of raptor nesting activity at the orchard, but it doesn’t make for a very good cider name, lacking both the brevity and alliterative qualities of “Hawk Haus”. I will say that the cidery deserves credit for avoiding the temptation to style this semi-Teutonic name with a dash of metal umlauts, as I and others undoubtedly would have. I suspect that if these kestrels were nesting outside a brewery rather than a cidery, I’d instead be reviewing a double IPA or perhaps a sour ale named Häwk Häüs, replete with some garish heavy metal-inspired bottle artwork. While many breweries occasionally go out of their way to remind us they’re not wineries with names and labels that appear to have been concocted by twelve-year-old boys, cidermakers don’t appear to be burdened by that chip on their shoulders, and generally opt for more something more tasteful.
As evidence of this, you’ll find Hawk Haus and other products by E.Z. Orchards packaged in elegant Champagne-style bottles fit for any table. But it’s too bad there are no depictions of kestrels on the rather unadorned label, as they missed out on an opportunity to portray one of the sharpest-looking birds of North America. I suspect the orchardists at E.Z. Orchards are pleased with the pest control services provided by their resident falcons (and this isn’t the only example of falcons setting shop on premises related to the production of alcoholic beverages), so perhaps someday they’ll repay the favor by featuring these handsome raptors on their bottles.
Now that I’ve mildly scolded the cidery on taxonomic and labeling decisions that only birders would notice, I will state that this is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable cider. Hawk Haus isn’t in the daunting bittersweet cider style, nor is it teeming with funky, wild yeast flavors. On the other hand, it isn’t a cloying supermarket-style cider made from sugary eating apples, either. Produced from a mix of heirloom Jonathan and Yarlington Mill apples grown on the estate, Hawk Haus is made according to traditional techniques in the French style, yielding a good balance of sweetness, astringency, and tartness that display the full range of flavors that can be coaxed from the humble apple.
The nose offers sweet but slightly earthy aromas of coriander and honey, along with loads of bright green apple. Upfront apple flavors continue on the palate, abetted by a bright lemony acidity, caramelly sweetness, and a moderate dose of herbaceous tannins. The finish is slightly prickly and dry, with a distinct sour apple candy note. Unlike beer, I find that cider reveals little of its character in its appearance – I can never guess what a particular example will taste like just by looking at it. But rest assured that Hawk Haus is both delicious and attractive, pouring a beautifully clear, sparkling goldenrod with a crisp, refreshing effervescence.
I could easily enjoy Hawk Haus in any season, but things are finally looking up weather-wise in the coming days, so let’s be hopeful and call it a great springtime cider, shall we?
Good birding and happy drinking!
E.Z. Orchards: Hawk Haus Cider
Four out of five feathers (Excellent)