Fall is a cider opportunity waiting to happen, so I jumped on the chance when Spencer Chambers of Honest Abe Cider offered fresh juice from Big Bear Lake to Los Angeles area homebrewers last October.
Spencer had procured fresh juice from an orchard in Big Bear Lake: enough for his cider house and for sharing with homebrewers in Southern California. I was the first to show up with an empty fermentation vessel ready for action. This was also a chance to pick up some of Spencer's cider.
My six gallon allocation of unpasteurized cider on 13 October 2017 included the following apple varieties: Gravenstein, Pippin, Granny Smith, Starkey Delicious, Fuji and Gala. The pH: 3.5.
The original gravity: 13 Brix/1.053.
I placed the juice and starter in a 59F temperature controlled refrigerator. When the juice cooled, I pitched the yeast starter. The following morning, I oxygenated the juice and fermentation proceeded. On 24 October, I cold crashed on a final gravity of 1.009. On 22 November, I did a closed transfer to a keg. On 28 November, I balanced the flavor by back sweetening with apple juice that I had reserved from the batch provided by Spencer, along with apple juice and maple syrup that I picked up from Trader Joe's. From there, I carbonated the cider. The ABV was a sessionable 4.8%. After a long day's work, it was great to come home and enjoy a sparkling glass of cider while cooking up the night's meal. While the cider flavor was dry, the fresh aromas were white peach, melon and magnolia.
In January of this year, I shared the cider with The Society of Barley Engineers (SBE) in Vista, CA. President Derek Springer had asked me to speak and we agreed on a topic of fermentation alternatives to beer. It was great to share the story of the cider while my friend and fellow SBE member Stan Sisson talked about cider making. The other topics included making hot sauce with Brian Frederick and Chris Banker, and making cheese with Curt Wittenberg. I look forward to putting together a cider from the orchards of Julian next year -- I think the SBE group can point me in the right direction for that adventure.
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