Photo by Colin Bishop Photography/NWCA
Mashing In: Innovative Cider Techniques Borrowed from Beer

As an increasing number of folks join the ranks of the cider-loving community, a growing amount of cidermakers are asking that creative question “what if” when it comes to their craft. Cider fans are the real winners as their favorite makers play with the possibilities of what cider can be.

Frecon Farms Farmhouse Sour Sparkling Cider
Beer MO: Mixed Fermentation
Pennsylvania’s Frecon Farms’ Hank Frecon says this cider starts with “a blend of Hyslop Crab Apples, Winesaps and Stayman Winesaps for sharpness with some tannins, and Winter Banana to pull out a bit of the nose, and then we balance it out with Fuji and Empire.” Aged for over two years, this cider is fermented both with Brettanomyces (a yeast) and Lactobacillus (a bacteria), which Frecon says changes the profile considerably. “The combination balances fruity nose with a smoky horse blanket effect,” he explains of the mixed fermentation’s effects. “The taste is bright upfront but ends with a light viscosity/chewy finish. The fruit carries all the way through.”

Stowe Cider Smugglers’ Reserve Rum Barrel Aged Ginger Hard Cider
Beer MO: Rum Barrel-Aging
Co-owner and cidermaker Mark Ray takes what he loves about cider and pushes it a step further. In that spirit, Vermont’s Stowe Cider took inspiration from the Dark ’n’ Stormy cocktail. Since mixing rum and cider can’t be done in the cidermaking process, Ray says the next best option was to age it in rum barrels, and the result is liquid art. “This cider is equally balanced with rum and ginger,” he says. “The goal was to use the rum barrel to tone down the bite of the ginger and vice versa with the ginger adding a nice sharpness to the cider.”

Bad Seed Cider Co. Belgian Abbey Cider
Beer MO: Belgian Yeast
Crafted with apples from New York’s Hudson Valley, this Belgian Abbey cider blossomed from an idea co-founder Devin Britton had from his homebrewing experience and his leaning to look to craft beer for inspiration. Seeing this idea through led to a cider with Belgian inspiration. “The dominant flavors we got from using a Belgian yeast were surprising,” Britton asserts. “One would expect a beer-flavored cider but it comes across with a great apple nose and really resembles a Spanish sidra with a dry tart finish.”

Slim Pickens Cider & Mead/J. Wakefield Brewing Let’s Kick It! Graf
Beer MO: Kettle Souring and Blending
The collaboration between this Florida brewery and Florida cidery started after Slim Pickens owner Todd Strauss tried Wakefield’s Stush Berliner weisse. When the pair discussed blending a mixed varietal, single-strength cider and kettle-soured Berliner weisse, Let’s Kick It! was in the can. “Let’s Kick It! is like America,” Strauss says. “Sweet and sour, but still delicious.” This one can be considered beer with apple character or cider with a moderate tartness.

Potter’s Craft Cider Mangose
Beer MO: Lactobacillus Bacteria for Souring
This gose-style cider was born when the James River flooded and the barley and hops Tim Edmond and Dan Potter had planted for their brewery died. The two college buddies then focused their “joy of discovery” on being cidermakers in Virginia. The pair integrates ideas from their beer production into ciders, crafting Mangose, a gose-inspired cider with mangoes, coriander and Vietnamese sea salt. “Mangose is less tart than wheat gose… with a melon and mango under an earthy lactobacillus Belgian profile,” Potter says. “Bright but not tart.”

This story originally ran in print Volume 8 of CIDERCRAFT magazine. For the full story and more like it, click here.

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