Wild Cider Review

Wild CiderTasting Notes:

This cider started off as a 1-gallon experiment in which I took a preservative-free farmer’s market apple cider and fermented it with a mixed culture of microbes grown up from a number of different sour beers. The cider went from 1.050 OG to 0.99 leaving behind a whopping 7.84% ABV.

Aroma (6/12)
Initially there is a faint whisper of bruised green apple which is quickly overcome by the by-products of fermentation. There a pleasant barnyardy Brett character that is slightly musty and borders ever-so-closely to the mousey descriptor often used in funky beers with negative connotation. There is just a hint of tannic/earthy apple skin on the nose. There is no hint of the phenolic plastic / adhesive strip aromas that seem to dominate many of the Spanish / Basque funky ciders.

Appearance (2/3)
Straw yellow — almost looks like a white wine. There is a light haze. Bubbles form around the rim and quickly dissipate, much like a sparkling wine.

Flavor (10/20)
Apple character is almost non-apparent and comes off slightly watery. Austerely dry with no apparent alcohol. The is an interesting grain-like nuttiness reminiscent of Cheerios that is somewhat intriguing, but perhaps a touch out of place. The funky Brett character perceived on the nose isn’t quite as intense in the flavor.

Mouthfeel (3/5)
Moderate carbonation that quickly dissipates. The combination of carbonation and acid leaves the cider with a slightly sharp impression.

Overall Impression (6/10)
This was a fun experiment and good foray into the world of funky ciders. In the end, the amount of apple flavor left behind was a bit disappointing. Additionally, the mixed fermentation did not create as much acid as I had hoped. Further back-sweetening to enhance the apple character, as well as a dose of acid would dramatically improve the overall impression of this cider. In future experiments, using a blend of apples selected for their suitability in hard cider production would likely create a better end-result.

Total: 27/50 Good

My Funked-Up Cider

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Making hard cider is stupid-easy. My 1-gallon experiment included pre-pressed cider, a 200ml slurry of my house “bug” culture, and a small addition of nutrients. The up-front investment of time was approximately 30 minutes.

Update 8/2/14: Full Review

Fall in New York. A chill in the air, leaves on the ground, and a butt-ton of apples at the green market. During a recent trip to the Grand Army Plaza market, nearly every purveyor of produce was selling a variety of apples. Along with these apples came the real prize — jugs of apple cider. The trick is finding minimally processed juice unadulterated with Potassium Sorbate. Sorbates create a stable product by inhibiting the yeast’s ability to reproduce. This works great at preventing cider from inadvertently fermenting and becoming alcoholic, but also makes the juice tough, if not impossible, to use for the production of hard cider. After talking to five different stands selling sorbated juice, I found Tree-Licious Orchards out of Warren County, NJ. Their juice was not only sorbate-free, but had already begun to show the tell-tale signs of early fermentation.


This past NHC, Chris Baker gave a talk about cider and suggested that juice should be supplemented with Fermaid-K and DAP to help ensure a healthy and complete fermentation. His suggested rate was 1/2 tsp. Fermaid-K and 1/4 tsp. DAP per five gallons. After measuring and weighing out the nutrients, this works out to 0.54 grams Fermaid-K and 0.31 grams DAP per gallon of juice.

There is a good amount of precedence for making funky ciders. The Spanish have a knack for making tart, dry, complex, Brett-bombs; a naturally occurring event if the native yeast and bacteria residing on apple skins are left to their own devices.

My goal with this experiment is to produce a cider with a healthy dose of bacteria-derived acidity to make up for the fact that the juice I used was likely comprised of primarily culinary apples containing little balancing acid and tannin. With some luck, the acidity will help balance out the cider while preventing the cider from becoming too watery or austere.



One gallon of funked-up cider ready to start fermenting.

1-Gallon Non-Sorbated Cider
My juice had a starting gravity of 1.050. If this ferments out completely, it should leave me with a 6.5% ABV cider.

0.54 grams Fermaid-K, dissolved in water
0.31 grams DAP, dissolved in water

200ml House Bug Culture
My culture started with microbes obtained from commercial beers including Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Russian River Beatification, and Tilquin Gueuze.


  1. Sanitize 1-gallon jug, stopper, and airlock.
  2. Pour in juice, nutrients, and yeast.
  3. Let cider ferment.

Applepalooza at Astor Center Recap

2012 Applepalooza

Christian Drouin Calvados was the highlight of the night.

Cider is an enigma to me. I’ve never really understood its appeal and have typically written it off as something designed for those who enjoy sweeter beverages or those whose tastes are more inclined towards fruity drinks. I know there is more to it than that, but I’ve always tended to gravitate towards beverages I know I’ll enjoy and limit my explorations to the beer and spirit worlds.

With this in mind, I reviewed the events of New York Cider Week and came across Applepalooza, which could be just the thing to push me into the world of fermented apples in its various forms.

Applepalooza featured 13 different makers of either cider or Calvados (a spirit created from distilled hard cider). All of this was held at Astor Center, an events center of sorts above Astor Wines and Spirts, a fine bottle shop in its own right (no beer there, but we can forgive that).

Working my way from table to table, one thing became remarkably clear; I hadn’t given cider the respect it deserves as a complex and varied beverage. Were there big sweet cloying messes? Yes. Were there ciders that tasted like tannic, watered down Motts? Yes. Putting those aside, I found some very nice ciders that fit my tastes. The biggest surprise for me was the number of ciders that featured the unmistakable wild kiss of brettanomyces in their profiles. Some of these ciders were phenomenal, while others unfortunately had a huge plastic / burnt rubber phenolic that made them dumpers. Without further adieu, my top 3 and bottom 3 ciders of Applepalooza.

Top 3 Ciders:

Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider – The perfect touch of brett in a hard cider. It put off a distinct barnyard character that blended well with a nice full fruit flavor, touch of skin tannin, and medium sweetness that rounded out the mouthfeel and was cleaned up by the cider’s effervescence.

West County Cider Redfield – Nice complex apple flavor with a good round mouthfeel. Semi-dry but not watery (like a lot of the dry, low alcohol ciders). Quite tart, which helped cut some of the residual sweetness. Light hint of funk.

Eden Vermont Ice Cider, Heirloom Blend – Yes, I said I don’t like sweet ciders. The sweetness in this ice cider teetered on the edge of cloying. To me, this was quite reminiscent of a Sauternes and exhibited a very nice honey character. I couldn’t drink a ton of this, but it’d make a very nice dessert drink.

Bottom 3 Ciders:

Valveran / Villacubera Ciders – All of these Spanish ciders exhibited an overwhelming smokey, burnt plastic, peaty, phenolic. Not pleasant.

Trabanco / Isategi Ciders – I wanted to like these. They had a great funky barnyard nose that was almost Gueuze-like to me. Unfortunately, after drinking them, they also had a big band-aid note similar to the Valveran ciders.

Eden Ice Cider Orleans Apertif – Way too much basil in this one. Completely clashed with the apple character and was all I could taste.

Let’s Talk Calvados

There were three purveyors of Calvados at the event: Clear Creek Distillery (Oregon, USA), Roger Groult Calvados (France), and Christian Drouin Calvados (France). Of these three, Christian Drouin stood head and shoulders above the other two. Clear Creek and Roger Groult were both quite harsh and solventy (especially Clear Creek’s non-barrel aged spirits).

Christian Drouin was pouring their Selection, 1992 Vintage, and 25 Year Calvados. The Selection–quite young compared to the 1992 and 25 Year–exhibits a really nice fruit character. The oak is subdued, but has a hint of vanilla and butterscotch. It is a steal at less than $23; and I was happy to take one home with me. The 1992 vintage had much more oak, exhibited a big butterscotch nose, and had just a hint of fruit. The 25 Year was beautiful. It had layers of aroma including tobacco, butterscotch, vanilla, toasted bread, and on and on. To me, its only detractor was the lack of any fruit character. I would have loved to bring home either the 1992 Vintage ($134.99) or the 25 Year ($143.99), but the cost is simply a little rich for my blood, especially when I can spend 1/3 of the cost on a good single malt or bourbon of equal complexity.