Cider is an amazingly refreshing drink and I think that it can appeal to people that like wine, and also people that enjoy sour beer. Wine and sour beer are typically dry, acidic, fruity. These are all similar characteristics that apply to cider.
Last year I did a French Style cidre that was brewed with a French yeast and then back sweetened to give it additional apple aroma, flavor, and also sweetness. Through the summer drinking my French Cider I found myself mixing it half an half with a Brett IPA I had on tap. This "Graff" was fantastic and I decided that I preferred a cider that was dry, but also more complex then the cider's I've tried in the past. With my desire for more complexity, of course, I decided that making a dry funky complex cider was the direction my 2012 cider project would go.
Nordeast Brewers Alliance I came across a funky style of cider that is produced in the Basque region of Spain. The most commonly found Basque cider in the US is Isastegi. Basque cider is naturally fermented and there are definite similarities between Basque style cider and sour beer as Basque cider has a pronounced Brettanomyces component to it when allowed to age. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Basque region of Spain, it is on the northern coast of Spain right near where Spain borders France. There is an amazing town right in this region called San Sebastian that is an absolute must visit if you ever go to this region. I've spent some time in San Sebastian and they have a great surf break, a beautiful beach for laying around, and also enough little pubs to satisfy your thirst for days.
Here is going to be my process with my Ciders this year. All 10 gallons are currently fermenting away using the native yeast that was present in the unpasteurized apple cider. This is Native Fermentation and it is definitely already producing something very nice and clean. The Native fermentation is in somewhat of a revival in the wine industry and is suppose to reflect the terroir as well as produce a rounder more full finished product. My apple juice started out at OG of 1.050 on Sunday and in three days it had dropped to1.035. I also took a PH reading and it started at 3.6 PH. I heard from the organizer of the cider buy that last year his portion that was naturally fermented came down to 1.004. In a week or so I plan to add some Brettanomyces to 5 gallons of the cider and plan on leaving the other portion normal with only the natural yeast. I'm considering trying to use that yeast cake to ferment some wort, but I'll probably try it with a starter before pitching a full 5 gallons with this local apple yeast. My guess is that it will have trouble with the complex sugars in malt. We shall see. At some point I will look at adding a small amount of french oak cubes to this.
***Graff is not an official term for beer/cider mixture. It's actually a fictional beverage created by Stephen King for The Dark Tower series (one of my favorite series of books). There is actually not a lot of actual information on the style although it makes for a very tasty beverage. I particularily found that apple cider enhances many different types of sour beer! Mixing my Kriek with Cider was a beautiful marriage of flavors!