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.
The short of it: Welcome in spring with a pineapple coconut cider. The essential flavor ingredients: Trader Joe's organic dried pineapple and coconut chips.
For the cider base, I pointed the cart to Trader Joe's refrigerated section and purchased flash-frozen, unfiltered apple juice. Tip: Go for preservative-free apple juice -- no sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. Your best scenario: orchard-pressed cider, but that's not available right now, and this is my way of getting ready for Spring Break!
I placed one gallon of apple juice in my fermenting bucket (after a thorough cleaning and sanitizing), oxygenated the juice, then pitched WLP028 Edinburgh Ale yeast, along with yeast nutrient.
The person serving me at the homebrew shop five minutes from my house was amused that I was buying the yeast for myself and not a phantom bearded man waiting at home. Next time I will go to my usual place, The Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, about 40 minutes from home (during off-traffic hours).
I placed the pineapple and coconut flavor ingredients in a bag and placed the bag into the bucket.
Time to add the lid, complete with thermowell and airlock.
This little baby went into a temp controlled fermentation chamber/AKA refrigerator, discretely located in my Los Angeles apartment closet.
Special thanks to Chris Banker of The Society of Barley Engineers, my homebrew club in Vista, CA, for the yeast suggestion. And I will always be thankful to Thomas Peters at Belching Beaver in Vista for fermentation vessel management tips (computer fan and Eva-Dry). How will the cider turn out? We'll know in about two weeks or so, about one week into spring.
HomeBrewTalk has published "Tasting Beer: A Primer to Share with Your Wine-Loving Friends." The accompanying article provides an inside look at being a member of the vibrant and generous homebrew community. See the story.
Small batch brewing provides the opportunity to use your vial or smack pack of yeast to create more than one beverage -- in this case, an ale and a cider. Why not use the small batch opportunity to go with a theme (or craze, if you're especially ardent): Belgian Tripel or Octoberfest or . . . the possibilities are endless. Below is a glimpse of the Glow-Throated Belgian Tripel ale that I made on day one and the Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" hard cider that I made on day three. The ale and cider share Wyeast Trappist High Gravity 3787 yeast, along with table sugar, on the list of ingredients. For the cider, I used Trader Joe's flash pasteurized, unfiltered apple juice (find it in the refrigerated section). For those who asked about my cider ingredients: I plan to add a tincture of hand-picked pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cinnamon in secondary fermentation to evoke the aroma and flavor of a Belgian Tripel. The ale will rely solely on the yeast for its spicy, fruity character. It makes me purr to think about doing a side-by-side tasting once I get these babies bottled.
Big ciders beguile you to slow down and reflect upon what's good in your life. When sipping an apple wine such as this one will be, I think of my mother and how much she enjoys her brandy at the end of a harrowing day in the entrepreneurial life she shares with my dad. When I made a Belgian Tripel ale a few days ago, I thought it would be fun to concoct a hard cider with a similar vibe. Thus, Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" was born. I placed this baby in the fermentation chamber and active fermentation kicked in within an hour. Hang onto your hat, Peter -- this is a live one!
We started our Minnesota craft beer field trip at Red Cow Restaurant & Bar on 50th Street in Minneapolis as we found ourselves parched and in need of a snack after a three-hour flight. Two early winners rose to the top of our tasting: Bauhaus Brew Labs and Fulton. Dinner was at Corner Table, where I kicked back a pint of Bauhaus Hairbanger Belgo-style American pale ale -- the best beer of the day -- check out this video to get a feel for Bauhaus and the Hairbanger. Will we be paying a visit to Bauhaus? Oh hell yes.
Our tasting lineup, all Minnesota offerings: Fulton Sweet Child of Vine English style IPA, Lift Bridge Citra Kellerbier, Indeed Daytripper hoppy pale ale, Loon Juice hard cider from Four Daughters Winery, Fulton Lonely Blonde ale, Bauhaus Wonderstuff Bohemian style pilsner, Surly Hell Munich Helles style light lager, and Surly Furious ESB. We snuck in an Alpine Duet -- just because we could.
Grade B maple syrup (the best kind) is the star of this acer cider, which is now in fermentation. The maple syrup will dry out the cider in a most satisfying way and kick in some smoky notes. I enjoyed some Reverend Nat's Revival Hard Apple Cider while making The Acer. Can't wait to taste the outcome in a few weeks.
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