For years now I've wanted to get myself some cider to ferment and turn into hard cider. I'd always heard that getting pasteurized cider just doesn't do the trick. See the pasteurization process requires you bring the cider to a temp above 170 degrees which also alters the flavor slightly. In MN and most of the US it's illegal to sell unpasteurized Cider do to health concerns. Unpastuerized cider contains bacteria, yeast, and potentially mold.
I decided that I was going to try and get my hands on some unpastuerized cider this year and so I called up Pepin Heights and they told me that I could drop off a bucket and they'd fill it up the next time they press apples. That just wasn't gonna happen as Pepin is too far away and I'm just not that dedicated to doing this. Then the next week I got an email from a member of the MN homebrew Club, Jonathan Beckel, who was doing a group buy from a local orchard. When all was said and done I believe he picked up some 150-200 gallons of cider of which I took home 5 gallons!
Distribution was set to be at Barley John's this Saturday during the national "Teach a Friend to Brew day"! It was a great event. I brought my boy down there (Leo) and we hung out for a while.
I believe Al Boyce was brewing one of the batch's, a Russian Imperial Stout. I'd never met him so it was interesting to talk to him a bit, look at his recipe and ask him a few questions about barrel aging. He informed me about the "two thumbs" rule when doing a barrel aging project. When multiple people contribute beer, everyone samples it and gives either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Two thumbs down and you're contribution didn't make the cut for the barrel!
I also ran into Don Osborn whom I've corresponded over e-mail a couple times but had never met. His video "Easy All-Grain Brewing - Batch Sparge Method" was what inspired me to take the jump from extract to all-grain brewing some 2+ Years ago! I sampled his Fresh Hop IPA (with his Homegrown hops) as well as a cider (2010). Both were fantastic! He gave me some good advice on my cider that I took. I had planned on using 4 lbs of brown sugar, and he said that would be pretty extreme as his was 9% and he used 2 lbs of brown sugar. He also back sweetened his with 3 cans of frozen Apple Juice concentrate. Being that his was about exactly how I'd want mine to taste, I'll probably try and replicate what Don O done did!
For making cider you have so many options with yeast as well as process. Here are some of the what I was considering.
What yeast should I use?
- Leave it alone and let the natural yeast that is already in the cider go wild? Jonathan Beckel did this to 5 gallons last year and said that it fermented beautifully and that it had the most body and natural apple flavor out of all of his batch's. I think he had something like 35 gallons last year!
- Ferment with a clean wine yeast. Cuvee? Not sure, but any LHBS will usually recommend the same wine yeast strain. This will produce a very clean cider that ferments almost completely and is tolerant to fermenting in a wide range of temps. (you can't go wrong)
- Ferment with a beer yeast. I know Crispin uses a bunch of different varieties of beer yeast for various products.
- Ferment with some Funk (Brett C. would probably be really tasty!)
- Yes, this would be the safest route, but you have to let it sit for 24 hours before pitching yeast then and what if the camden tablets aren't 100% effective?
- No, brewers yeast is so strong that it will out compete any other yeast and the alcohol will kill all of the other yeast and bacteria first...so no worries.
- 5 gallons of freshly pressed unpastuerized Apple Cider -(update on types of apples and orchard to come)
- 1 lb. of dark brown sugar
- 1 lb. of brown sugar
- Pitched it with Wyeast 3711 French Saison (I thought that this may complement the Apple because it's fruity and spicy)
- Wild yeast and bacteria should be out worked by the yeast I pitched but I didn't use a camden tablet to hopefully retain some of the rusticness of it!
- ABV - Should be somewhere in the 9% range although I didn't take any readings
- I'll age this for at least 6 months until spring and most likely keep it on tap for my wife and friends that can't handle fantastically flavorful malty, bitter or funky beers!