You wouldn't ask for a wine made from grapes, would you? You would ask for a specific wine from a grape variety/ varieties such as a merlot, a region e.g. a burgundy or a type such as a prosecco. Why should a Cider be any different?
Fancied having a go at making cider? Then step this way...
Without doubt one of the biggest trends in the craft drinks world of recent years has been the rise of the IPA. What started out as being a beer brewed in the U.K. to last the long sea journey to India into a world wide craft beer phenomenon has finally met its match. All of a sudden not only the UK but also the world is seeing hop shortages as people become increasingly interested by the flavour profiles of a fragrant husk. Be it cascade, palisade, chinook, galaxy or citra the variety of flavour profiles really has been at the core of the craft drinks revolution. Consumers as well have become more and more informed as to preferred varieties, with many asking for preferred varieties in their drinks, and many having a preferred variety or varieties ( can you have imagined that five years ago?!)
Which leads us onto the next point. What next? Is it hopped cider? Certainly hopped cider is huge in the USA. At USA Cidercon 2017, we learned of hopped cider festival which took place. It seems cider houses from Portland to New York State and everywhere in between each are producing their own twists and varieties, with so many in existence, and so many ways of bringing in hops into the cider making process that the innovation in the US scene is sure to be reflected in the UK.
Beer (and particularly IPA) is a harmony of (usually) four ingredients to give a flavour profile. Cider can be as simple as one ingredient: Apple juice ( as well as blood, sweat tears, passion experience and of course love) this can mean that an artisan cider maker can choose an apple juice or juices to give a very simple flavour profile, to let the hops flavour really shine. They can also choose apples with stronger and more distinct flavour profiles to give the hops which will be added to the cider a contrast and new dimensions of flavour.
Hopped cider does offer one thing that beer can't.; Viscosity. Being something which is juice based rather than water based (craft cider we are talking about here, not concentrate based mass manufactured ciders) , means that the mouth feel will be very different to that of an IPA.Some people can be very apprehensive when it comes to hopped cider, stating they either don’t like beer or don’t like cider. The interesting thing is that many times it can taste like neither. Flavour profiles can very interesting too, with citrus, lemongrass, elderflower, peach, and gooseberries all being possible and all flavours in between.
So if you are a big fan of beer, not just IPAs not even Craft Beer, but beer in general, why not give hopped cider a try? You may be pleasantly surprised.
Last week saw the good, the bad and the ugly of Cider-vile head to Chicago, USA for the USACM (United States Association of Cider Makers ) annual conference or to give its other name, Cidercon 2017. Its where anyone who is anyone in the US Cider scene gets together to share ideas, experience, lessons learned and best practice to drive the scene forward. Attendees are not just from the USA, with Canada, Spain, France and of course the U.K. all making an appearance. The event was huge with circa 2000 delegates taking over a hotel, and kicked off with a bring your own cider reception. The reception was essentially a giant Cider show and tell, with makers proudly demonstrating their hard work, whilst openly answering questions about production methods, mistakes made with some fantastic innovations and ideas being showcased. Ciders aged in every type of oak barrel imaginable stood beside ciders infused with infused with all sorts of hops. Fruit ciders aplenty, more types of yeasts than a brewery and bakery wholesalers and as for apple varieties let's just say they were well represented, each with their own taste, flavor, strength and other profiles.
The rest of the conference is a bit of a blur, but not for the reasons you might think. It felt like never before had any of the attendees we spoke to been subjected to so much information, openness and energy for achieving a common goal. Making great products which will make the great cider drinking public happy. Be it talks on how to get it right, talks on how you may have got it wrong, foods to match, twists to try, business practices or just simply friendly faces keen to hear your story.
It's safe to say, with so much energy, excitement innovation and collaboration and creativity going on the World of Cider, for those with an interest and a curiosity the future looks very exciting indeed. It doesn't matter if you are a die-hard cider fan or a craft beer fan, a wine lover a foodie, or just a regular person looking for a refreshing drink to go with a Sunday lunch or to end the working week on it's going to be a great year. #cider2017
Thanks to Cidercon and thanks to Chicago. You have both done yourselves proud.
One thing that we are increasingly being asked is what makes a Cider a Craft Cider? The simple fact is that there is not a clear cut definition. So in order to help you to form your own opinions, here a few ideas.
Cider makers by volume
Some sources say that craft cider makers produce less that 7000 litres a year. All well and good, but thats not a lot, and it would need to sell at quite a high price to be able to live from that.
Some would argue that a Craft Cider should contain nothing but 100 % apples. Great, if you just love apple ciders but where does that leave the many who love fruit flavoured ciders? Im not talking about the synthetic flavours or flavour syrups which are added which seem to be common on the high street bars and supermarket shelves, but the wonderful ciders out there. Some are flavoured with wonderful fruits and flavours often found growing right near orchards.
What can be said is that it is NOT made like this:
Concentrated apple juice is mixed with sugars ( to give a high alcohol content). Once fermentation is complete up to 70% water is added, as well as sweeteners and gas to give you, well, an alcoholic drink, comparable to a mass produced beer.
Apples are pressed into a natural apple juice. These then ferment ( with the yeasts naturally occurring in their skins or this process can be controlled with the introduction of wine, cider or champagne yeasts) and let the naturally occurring sugar in the fruit turn to alcohol and gas (Carbon Dioxide). That is then Cider. This can then be aged, sweetened, flavoured or otherwise crafted to give you the ultimate taste experience , akin to a good wine.
It might be worth considering that if the cider you drink makes a lot of noise about the spring water it uses, is a craft cider or not? Cider can quite often be seen as more aligned with wine, because of the processes used to make it. Often a great cider can just be apples, pressed into juice and left to ferment with their own yeasts. Its the climate, the soils, and the apple varieties which can give its flavours. In a bar or a pub, its quite common to ask for a wine by the grapes and/or country from where it come from. Its not different to cider. South African Granny Smith Cider anyone? How about a glass of Somerset Dabinett?
So with all of this in mind, we hope you are now in a position to form your own opinion as to whether the Ciders you are loving right now are craft or not. You are the people who drink it. You set the agenda, you are the influencers, the free thinkers. For us, we are not here to judge, we just hope that whatever you are drinking rocks your world. Its all about authenticity, the real deal, and for you, well, make your own decisions!