The Nitty-Gritty of Graffs

The craft cider industry may have started burgeoning after the craft beer renaissance, but that doesn’t mean it needs to play second fiddle. The kinship is natural—they love their new hop varietals as much as we love our heirloom apples. But until such time as horticulturists figure out how to graft an apple tree with a hop bine, a few producers in the industry have teamed up to create graffs. This not-yet-back-in-favor nomenclature for cider-beer hybrids marries beer’s malty sweetness with cider’s juiciness, as well as hops’ bitterness with bittersharp apple notes. Here are some intriguing collaborations that aren’t 50/50 mixes (generally for legal and taxation reasons) but are refreshing unions of what turn out to be complimentary elixirs.

Snakebite from Cider Riot!, Portland, OR, Gigantic Brewing Co., Portland, OR and Beau’s All Natural, Vankleek Hill, Ontario|| Riffing off the name for a mixed cocktail of cider and lager, Snakebite features roughly two-thirds kölsch (itself sort of a hybrid since it’s a lagered ale) and one-third fermented apple juice. The light, crisp end result, sweetened with a bit of black currant puree, helped usher in Portland’s warmest summer on record this year.

Graff(t) from Seattle Cider Co., Seattle, Two Beers Brewing, Seattle and New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO || Sibling producers Seattle Cider and Two Beers contribute to this India pale lager brewed with pilsner malts, wine-like Nelson Sauvin hops and more tropical Mosaic hops. It then receives 10 percent must from Washington apples. New Belgium’s Lindsay Guerdrum is trained to abhor acetaldehyde, an off flavor in beer that throws green apple notes, but thinks there should be more graffs like this, showing that characteristic in a positive light.

Debauched Cider from MillStone Cellars, Monkton, MD and Stillwater Artisanal, Baltimore, MD || Maryland’s Stillwater had already created a farmhouse ale called Debauched that featured not just juniper berries but whole juniper bushes, as well as a whiff of smoke. Debauched Cider doesn’t feature malt but the collaboration includes apples smoked over juniper and applewood. Both are funky, dry and uniquely reminiscent of walking through an apple orchard with a burn pile in the distance.

Project Serpent from Oliver’s Cider and Perry, Hereford, UK, Brooklyn Brewery, New York, NY and Thornbridge Brewery, Derbyshire, UK || In recreating Thornbridge’s tart, delectable sour brown ale, it partnered with country mate Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Garrett Oliver—no relation—from Brooklyn Brewery across the pond. The forthcoming result is currently aging in bourbon barrels, fermented with natural yeasts and resting on cider lees. Tom Oliver explains the salvaged lees were from a cider largely consisting of classic bittersweets and some sharp and bittersharps from Herefordshire.

Cibeertron from Colorado Cider Co., Denver and Wit’s End Brewing Co., Denver || Tart Gala apples and grainy biscuit malts create the base for this collaboration inoculated with a spicy Belgian yeast strain. The resulting concoction is reminiscent of a crusty apple pie befitting of autumn in the Rockies.

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