Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Pilton Cider - 2011

It was around two years ago I happened to stumbled across the Pilton Cider's website. I was randomly searching for new Cider Makers I had never heard of before, and by the end Pilton was the producer which really stood out. It was made in the small parish of Pilton in Somerset by Martin Berkeley, and was naturally keeved and made from over 88 different apple varieties sourced from four heritage orchards. The cider really struck a chord, not only because of its major artisan/boutique appeal, but because the packaging as a whole was so god damn sexy. Talk about majorly judging a book by its cover. It was hard not to be impressed. So over the next year or so, I continually checked in on the website for photos, news, etc. and became even more interested and more desperate to try it. So the dilemma I faced was simple - how the heck do I get some?! When I set my mind to something, I can sometimes be over passionate and tenacious. So I begun trying to devise a cheeky plan to get this cider to Australia. Luckily enough, the Bristol Cider Shop came to my aid and before I knew it, I was the proud owner of a bottle of Pilton Cider (bottle 3311 of 6000). 

Keeving is a process which completely blows my mind. It's a natural process which I am desperate to jump on a plane and head to France and England to witness first hand in action. For a refresher (in very basic terms), keeving is a process where the pectin of apple juice is released from suspension due to oxidation and maceration by enzymes. The pectin forms a gel called chapeau brun and floats to the top of the juice, taking with it yeasts and nutrients. The juice below is essentially ripped of its nutrients, which in turn inhibits yeast activity. This creates a rich tasting juice which will not fully ferment, leaving a naturally sweet, clear and sparkling cider in the bottle with lower alcohols. Sounds easy enough, but a very tricky phenomenon to master and amazing when/if done right.

Now with that science lesson out of the way, lets review the cider! 

The colour gleamed a hazy golden orange, with hints of a greyish sediment on the bottom of the clear bottle. It poured beautifully into the glass, erupting into a nice foamy head which persisted for quite some time.

The nose in my eyes was very 'French' in character - possibly due to the many keeved French cidres I've tried? Initially a huge waft of aldehyde overpowered the nose, but this blew off after a few decent swirls of the glass. Underneath there was lovely floral and sweet aromas with tonnes of candied apple, rich ripe fruit and honey. Some secondary wild ferment funk and spice added depth. I really enjoyed the crisp and fresh features this nose offered. It possessed nice purity but also complexity.

On tasting, the preconception that this cider was going to be very sweet was thrown out the window. A nice burst of fresh apple sweetness was over thrown by a mountain of apple bitterness, tannins and dryness. The bittersweet tannins were powdery and quite drying, but were balanced well with mouth watering acidity. I am wondering if there had been some re-fermentation in the bottle, with it being so dry from the mid to back palate? The structure was also very good, with all the elements balanced perfectly. A nice fine natural bubble was soft and elegant and foamed up across the tongue, and only enhanced the soft apple and honey flavours. A little soapiness was also evident and some warmth from the alcohol rounded off the back palate well.

Was this cider worth all the hassle? Most definitely - no questions asked. The focus was impressive, and you could tell it had been skilfully made. The cider had a 'special' feel about it from the word go. This cider would also be fantastic with a platter of cheese - talk about heaven! Just watch that nose, as it fools you into being super sweet, but bombards you with mouth sapping dryness. Overall, a very pleasurable cider to drink. Happy days!      

Producer: Pilton Cider
Region: England (Pilton, Somerset)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Website: www.piltoncider.com


Monday, 16 December 2013

2014 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards - Cider and Perry Competition

To all Australian cider producers! It's that time again where the RASV look for entrants to participate in their 2014 cider and perry competition. The 2013 competition was a very well run and managed competition, with a high expectation of accurate but fair judging. I urge producers to get involved as it helps to create a stronger and united industry. You never know, your cider could be champion of the show! Please see the media release below:     
Entries for Victorian cider and perry competition closing soon
Australian cider and perry producers have less than a month to enter their fantastic locally made beverages into the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards Cider and Perry competition.
You can enter your products into competition classes for:
  • Modern and Traditional style cider
  • Modern and Traditional style perry
  • Bottle fermented cider and perry
Entries for the competition will close Friday, 24 January 2014, with judging to be held in February 2014. The judging panel will be made up of industry experts with a strong knowledge and understanding of Australian cider and perry.
Cost of Entry: $75 per entry
To access the entry booklet and to submit an online entry go to: www.rasv.com.au/finefoods and click on Entries on the left hand side of the website
For further information contact Ross Karavis on 03 9281 7435 or at ross.karavis@rasv.com.au

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Julien Fremont - Cidre du Fort Manel: Terroir ciders.

When it comes to the French wine term terroir, I’ve witnessed it being called such expletives like “bullshit” and “fictional”. The word which commonly gets mispronounced “terrier” by my lovely wife, is supposed to encapsulate all the elements of a wine such as environment, climate, soils and topography. When you taste a wine, essentially you’re drinking terroir – not to mention a little French man’s foot fungus from when he foot stomps his grapes. Most commonly used in French wine, terroir is a sacred and special term which gives a wine an identity and sense of place. Appellation d’origine Controlee or AOC of French wine is moulded around terroir, where a better quality growing site equals a better quality wine. A little vineyard higher up a slope may produce much better quality fruit as opposed to a vineyard on the flats. This quality difference being due to more favourable climatic conditions, better soil structures etc. Obviously this is a fairly simplistic description of the term, but why am I babbling on about terroir in the first place? Well a little Cidermaker from Saint-Gerorges-en-Auge in Normandy named Julien Fremont is producing a line of ‘terroir’ cidres out of Fort Manel. Terroir in cider?? I bet you have never heard of that before.

Julien Fremont works off his 40 hectare farm, with 15 hectares consisting of apple orchards. Crazily enough, his distant ancestors bought this patch of land back in 1759 and set off making calvados, cider and raising cows. His orchards are farmed organically and biodynamically and are tended to by his cows that look after the lawns and cover crops. Julien’s ciders somewhat break the mould of the Pays de Auge, which commonly under AOC law must be sweeter (demi sec) in style. He tends to make his ciders dryer, less protected and different from other Pays de Auge Cidermakers who follow a more oenologist approach. One difference in Julien’s approach is he blends particular apple varieties before fermentation, and not after which is the more traditional method. Having such an intimate knowledge of his differing varieties characteristics, Julien confidently combines differing apple varieties before they are pressed out into old large wooden vats for co-fermentation. A selection of the best years apples are also stored in the attic of the farms ancient building to dry out and concentrate in sugars to produce special vintage bottlings.
The terroir line of Cidre du Fort Manel consists of Silex and Argile which translates to quartz and clay. The Silex cider is made using apples grown on trees in high quartz soils higher up on the slopes of the farm. The soils are littered with cailloux and in theory should give the resultant cider nice structure and mouth watering minerality. The Argile cider is made using apples grown on trees planted in fertile clay soils. This orchard lies on the flatter areas of the Fort Manel farm, and the ciders made show higher levels of minerality and acidity with riper flavours. The orchard also has better water retention with a deeper and healthier root system. What we need to remember is the idea of terroir is not limited to large distance. Two different soil structures can be spotted just a very short distance from each other – and in turn produce totally different ciders/wines.

Tasting these two ciders side by side was quite exciting, as it was a rare opportunity to see differing soils types at play – if at all. Unfortunately, I was/am none the wiser as to what varieties are used in the ciders and the vintage (although I have a suspicion that its 2011), but I do know they are all acidic and late ripening.
The colour poured a beautiful golden yellow with a slight haze. The carbonation bloomed into a large head of foam with a persistent bead and light stream of bubbles.

A rustic farmhouse funk offered up sour/lactic characters with just a hint of hydrogen sulfide and volatile acidity. Lovely floral notes blended in well with sweet honey, apricot marmalade and old woody tones. Despite the wild ferment funk, the nose was still very fresh, fragrant and quite inviting.
A soft and light mouth feel greeted the front palate, with a gush of light foam and moreish medium sweetness gliding across the tongue. The mid palate suffered some fadeout, being overwhelmed by a bitter and astringent back palate. Although quite lighter in body, nice simple flavours of fresh apple, honey, orange blossom and rose water were evident. A lingering note of oakiness rounded out the flavour. The palate structure was perhaps a touch flabby, with a lack of acidity lacking the ‘excitement’ factor. However, there was some minerality evident on the back palate in amongst the astringency - this could be possibly be an orchard trait but not enough to warrant a definite yes.

The Silex is fresh, inviting and very, very easy to drink. The bottle didn’t last long and at only 4.5%, it’s very sessionable. Easy drinking, lighter weight cider which is generous and delicious. Farmhouse characters may be a little daunting for newbies to this style.

The colour of the Argile was slightly darker than the Silex, being more of a golden orange and cloudier. The carbonation was light, with a fast fading mousse and light bead.

The nose was quite soapy, with some sweet floral aromas and sour notes. Green apple skin, horse hair and old barn yard made the nose quite dirty and musty. There was also a distinct pong, most likely from being reductive. The nose lacked the focus and freshness of the Silex, being simpler in structure. Although rustic, this nose was very dirty and a touch clumsy. But this could be down to shear bottle variation and/or vintage variation. This is the beauty of traditionally made cider – you never know what you’re going to get!
For a Cidermaker who claims they don’t like to make sweet AOC Pays de Auge Cidre, this palate was lusciously sweet with tonnes of juicy candy apple flavours. The odd thing was the sweetness withered away to a drying finish. Some attractive earthiness along with powdery tannins and good acidity added structural presence. The tannins were in much better balance in this as opposed to the Silex. Juicy ripe apples, orange and honey characters added length and the 3.5% alcohol did not affect the palate weight in any way. A touch of bitterness and steely minerality on the back palate finished off this cider well. This was quite a simple and straight forward palate. In saying this, the Silex was still the better example, offering more lushness and attractiveness.

The Argile was a clumsy cider in a sense. The nose was a little disjointed, and the big juicy flavours on the palate were at times a bit too moreish. This could possibly be a clay trait, with higher ripening levels? Quite a simple cider which to me looked like the ugly duckling of the two offerings. It just lacked the essential freshness and focus.
To me, the Silex was the much better offering. It was more attractive and just a little cleaner and focused. The Julien Fremont ciders definitely show a softer side, being lighter in weight but high in generosity of flavour. They definitely seemed more rustic and unrefined which is the way Fremont makes his cider. I felt they were a little more Breton is stature. So what was the verdict on terroir? They both definitely had their differences in structural make up, aromas and flavours. But could we just put that down to Cidermaker influence? I definitely think the ciders have distinct differences, but was it terroir? I’m going to say a little from column A, and a little from column B. Its hard to say unless you are there, living and working on the land and experiencing the fruit day in, day out as Julien Fremont does. But its definitely worth trying these two side by side.

Producer: Cidre du Fort Manel – Julien Fremont
Country: Saint-Geroges-En-Auge (Normandy, France)
Alcohol: Silex – 4.5% Argile – 3.5%
Website: http://julien.fremont.pagesperso-orange.fr


Monday, 25 November 2013

Patience is a virtue

Hi Folks,

Due to some unforseen issues with my computer, All About Cider will be a little quiet for this week. Technology can sometimes be a little funny!

I have a couple very cool reviews coming up which I can't wait to post. Julien Fremont's Silex and Argile terroir cidres, and Lobos Norman to be exact. So stay tuned, and lets hope the computer is fixed and back running soon!

Sorry again! But on a more positive note, to all Aussies the latest Beer and Brewer magazine is soon to be released. It will feature Part 2 of my 2013 Apple and Pear Harvest. Keep an eye out for it at your local newsagent!

Remember you can follow me on Twitter: @allaboutcider or email me james@allaboutcider.com to have a cider chat or read up on some of my recent Twitter rants on cider integrity and recognition. I can get a little over passionate about Australian cider sometimes. Is that a bad thing?? 

Be right back!!


Monday, 11 November 2013

McCrindles Cider - 2010 Vintage

I am just going to come out right away and say it – I bloody love this cider! The 2010 McCrindle's Vintage is made using traditional methods in the Forest of Dean, Blakeney in Gloucestershire by James McCrindle. It’s only produced in very small batches from the best cider of a single vintage, and I must say I am damn lucky I have been able to try it. Oh my giddy aunt this cider is the real deal, the real McCoy and the absolute ducks guts.

So why am I so in love with this cider??
The colour was outstanding. A beautiful deep and rich tawny, almost burnt toffee hue caught my eye immediately. I know a couple cider reviewers from the UK have questioned why the cider is filtered to brilliant, but I kind of like this. It really enhanced the stunning colour. The carbonation was very low, with just a light spritz in the glass.

The nose was a sea of delight with big, bold and luscious pure apple aromas bursting out of the glass. It reminded me a lot of a Pommeau de Normandie of all things. Vibrant spice and rich ripe fruit where complimented by nutty, old smokey wood notes with just a hint of a medicinal character. Other deeper secondary characters of honey and hold dusty barn where also noted. Some sublime farmhouse ‘funk’ rounded out the nose beautifully. This was an absolute stunner of a nose, and I found I couldn’t stop smelling it. I almost forgot to drink it! It was intense, complex and insanely layered, yet held an impressive amount of freshness. Wow!  
The palate was just as impressive, with a luscious medium sweetness that was rich and jam packed full of flavour. I can’t recall a cider which had so much presence on the palate like the 2010 McCrindle's Vintage. A nice level of drying tannin added texture, with a balanced level of tangy acidity. Flavours of fairy floss, ripe apple and toffee lingered for eternity into a back palate of smokey oak. In saying this, the palate was very mellowed out with hints of bittersharp/Kingston Black fruit. Perfectly balanced bitterness also made its way into this skilfully presented palate. A light spritz of carbonation helped lift the palate and lift the flavour profile. It definitely left me drooling for more! 
I would definitely rate this cider in my top 3 of the best ciders I have ever had the privilege to consume. It was everything I like/love/yearn to see in a traditionally made cider produced with cider apples. It just had the ‘wow’ factor from the get go! Big and bold aromas and flavours. A glorious cider and I am very humbled to be able to say I have tasted this. It’s the type of cider which inspires you (I know that sounds silly buts it’s true). Wow…… 
Producer: McCrindle’s Cider
Country: England (Blakeney, Gloucestershire)
Alcohol: 6.2%
Website: www.mccrindlescider.co.uk


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Tieton Cider Works - Cidermaker's Reserve

We all know cider in Australia is as popular as ever – you don’t need to be an expert to know that. The industry is growing rapidly, with a trendy yet professional culture evolving amongst producers and consumers. But today is not about Australia’s boom, it’s about our friends in the country of the stars and stripes. The United States is fast falling in love with cider again, with alcoholic cider known to the locals as ‘Hard Cider’. I use the word ‘again’, as hard cider has significant and dignified history in the US, dating back to when the country was first colonised. To keep a story shot, issues like prohibition, conversion to eating apples over cider apples, and the production of beer severely impacted the production of cider many years ago. Hard cider became almost non existent in the US over a long period of time falling out of favour. But today after tireless effort and fortitude, hard cider is once again popular and well accepted. States of Oregon and Washington in the Pacific North West, New York, New England and Vermont in the East Coast and Michigan of the Great Lakes are all proud cider making regions. Differing styles are being represented and produced, with the use of both cider apples and dessert apples. We are starting to see a tiny trickling of US made cider in Australia, but I am predicting we will see more over the coming year hit our specialty retail bottle shops. Fingers crossed.
All About Cider is currently getting some large traffic numbers from the US, and I believe it is due to this cider boom. But with this exposure, I found myself itching to try their creations and see if there were any comparisons with Australian made cider. Then just out of coincidence, I received an email which would change all this. It was from a PR company who represent Tieton Cider Works of Washington State. After a couple email exchanges, a Tieton Cider Makers Reserve was going to be packaged up and sent over to me in Australia.

Founded in 2008, Tieton Cider Works (pronounced tie-eh-tun) run by Craig and Sharon Campbell, is situated in the Yakima Valley in Washington State. The orchards have been in the family for almost 100 years with cider apples, heirloom apples and crab apples all grown in abundance in the fertile soils. The orchard is currently one of the largest plantings of cider apples in Washington State too. The Tieton ciders produced are an eclectic bunch consisting of a cherry cider, apricot cider, dry hopped cider, bourbon barrel aged cider, perry, frost cider and reserve cider for example. The cider I was lucky enough to have sent to me was the Tieton Cidermaker's Reserve which is an aged two years in bourbon barrels, 60 per cent bittersharp/40 per cent dessert, and 8 per cent alcohol blend. A special cider indeed with only 700 cases made. So what did I think of it? Was it still similar to the ciders we make in Australia? Let’s find out.
For a barrel aged cider which has a large per cent of cider apples present in the blend, I expected the colour to be dark and rich. The Tieton was opposite of this, being a light golden straw with just a hint of a haze. The carbonation offered up a nice mousse on pouring, and a nice medium bead to follow. The nose was quite shy and some what introverted to what I was expecting too. It was very clean and fresh and showed delicate green apple aromas, with citrus and floral notes and plum. There were hints of old nutty oak along with a creaminess, musk and vanilla – elements of the bourbon oak. I loved the purity as a whole. This nose was very similar to ciders made in Australia, with the essence of strong fresh characters and unsurpassed purity.

Straight up, a subtle medium sweetness hit the front palate with a balanced level of structural acidity. Some delicate phenolics added a soft texture, and coated the sides of the mouth well. Nice cider apple flavours, citrus and apple skin graced flavour profile. From these features it’s obvious this cider is a make up of cider/dessert apples. The mouth feel felt nice and full, with a well balanced 8 per cent alcohol. The back palate faded a touch in its fruit flavours as it was overtaken by a slight bitter character, but a lovely foamy carbonation rounded out the palate. A very simple palate in its make up, but overall a well made and solid example. Just watch the alcohol.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience of US cider. It was clean, crisp, inoffensive and very drinkable. It was also a good example of a ‘hybrid’ cider, and I think we will see more of this in Australia too. This US cider experience has only fuelled my desires to try even more. I’ve had tonnes of Pays de Auge, I’ve had a score of Somerset and Herefordshire and I’ve had my fair share of Asturias. Next on my list is to track down more artisan/boutique US cider, and I can’t wait to somehow get my hands on some.

I must thank Kirsten Graham from Kirsten Graham PR and Paula from Tieton Cider Works for making this all happen.   

Producer: Tieton Cider Works
Country: USA (Yakima Valley, Washington)
Alcohol: 8.0%
Website: www.tietonciderworks.com

Rating: 16 out of 20

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

John Hollows Superior Alcoholic Ginger Beer

After a very relaxing holiday, All About Cider is back and more sun tanned than ever! I thought a cheeky little ginger beer review would kick off proceedings nicely. The ginger beer in question is a UK produced example out of the Fentimans stable, which produce botanically brewed soft drinks. It turns out John Hollows was the son in law of Thomas Fentimans who was the company founder back in 1905. There is definitely some great history behind the name. What I love about this GB straight up is the catch cry “Beware of imitations”, as there are quite a number of ‘fake’ examples out in the market.
The ginger beer poured a cloudy pale straw with a medium level of carbonation. The nose offered up a beautifully sweet ginger whack, along with hints of botanical spice. Lovely fresh aromas of honey, nutmeg and brown sugar added complexity and interest. A very distinct pear aroma also added some floral notes. It was almost like a honey biscuit had freakishly made its way into the bottle. Very addictive.   

On the palate, flavours of vanilla, ginger, brown sugar and lemon combined well with a medium level of sweetness. The mouth feel seemed nice and rounded, with just a small ginger kick and some alcoholic heat. The flavours do fall off slightly, with a watery consistency but its easy drinking and definitely authentic. The pleasing thing was the sugar was by no means sickly, or over the top. Nice rustic and traditional flavours.   
This is a really commendable example of an alcoholic ginger beer. A nice balance of sweetness and ginger spice made it easy to drink - almost too easy. Although quite tame in personality, it’s very very drinkable. A quality ginger beer indeed, with just enough ginger heat!

Producer: John Hollows, Fentimans Ltd
Region: Northumberland (UK)
Alcohol: 4%
Website:  www.drinkhollows.com


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Back Soon

Back Soon.......
Firstly, apologies for the lack of reviews and cider articles the past few weeks. I've been a busy little beaver! Judging at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show, writing two pretty lengthy magazine articles and dedicating my time to 'other' cider related activates has kept me busy.
I am off on a well deserved holiday for the next two weeks, but will be back invigorated and ready to get back to reviewing. A few special cider reviews to look out for first back will be of Tietons Reserve (USA), Lobo Norman (SA), McCrindles 2011 Vintage (UK) and John Hollows Ginger Beer (UK). 

PS Good luck to all who entered into the Australian Cider Awards! Best of luck!!  

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Goose Apple Cider (2012)

I must admit, The Goose which is made by vintner Gilbert by Simon Gilbert in Mudgee (NSW), has been on my bucket list of ciders to try for some time now. Firstly, the classy and contemporary label had me hooked from the word go. The idea of the ‘Goose’ was to represent a playful and naughty natured cider made to a traditional dry style. Secondly and most importantly, I got hooked because the cider was made using real organically grown cider apples from Orange. Fundamentally, the cider is a hybrid blend of cider and dessert apples. The varieties consist of the bittersharps - Kingston Black and Foxwhelp and desserts of Pink Lady and Granny Smith. The actual precents of the blend are a mystery but one thing stands out - the cider is made using malic acid dominated Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Foxwhelp AND is DRY! I’m sensing a tooth destroying, enamel rotting, acid bomb here. Another point to note is both Kingston Black and Foxwhelp are high in tannins, and this would be a great addition to the cider structurally.  
The cider poured a very pale straw with just a small amount of soft carbonation in the glass. Very crisp, sharp and under ripe notes of Granny Smith and crab apple flesh dominated the nose. Fresh lemons, grassiness and a touch of soapiness was also evident. I would label this nose the Semillon of cider (a young Semillon that is). Although very simple, it was super tight, fresh and zingy. Was there any evidence of cider fruit? Unfortunately not. This was a very dessert apple dominated nose.
On first mouthful, the cider offered up a very refreshing dryness which led into a mouth puckering invasion of malic acidity. Wowzers! This baby as predicted, was a super tart number with a strong acid back bone. Textbook Pink Lady and Granny Smith at play here, and unfortunately was a little out of balance. With dominate lemon/citrus flavours being so lean and green, the acidity was over amplified and confused. The consequence of this was that the palate weight suffered, leaning towards the thinner spectrum. Another disappointing feature was the distinct lack of bittersharp tannins - none to be seen! However towards the back palate, a woody character and also what seemed to be creamy note did add some much needed interest. There was also a hint of apple seed bitterness which I did enjoy and the alcohol was in good balance. 
This cider was made to be simple and clean and I think the brief was nailed here. One thing I do question is the lack of cider apple fruit presence. Kingston Black and Foxwhelp are famous for their high tannins and rich fruit. Unfortunately these traits were no where to be seen. It was very dessert apple dominated with its lean acidity and simple flavours. You may be left wanting a little more, but to its credit, it was very drinkable and would satisfy any mean thirst.
Producer: Gilbert by Simon Gilbert
Country: Australia (Mudgee, New South Wales)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Website: www.thegilbertsarecoming.com.au
Rating: 12 out of 20


Friday, 6 September 2013

2013 Australian Cider Awards

It's that time of year again where entries open for the Australian Cider Awards. The awards will be held in Orange, on the 9th of October. For the second year running, I couldn't make it along to help out! Argh!! Maybe lying on a beach in hot, sunny Cairns drinking cocktails isn't so appealing after all?? I wish everyone involved a great time judging. But I urge all Australian producers to enter this completion. It heaps to unite and strengthen our Australian Industry, and shows it mean business.

Please go to: www.cideraustralia.org.au or www.cideroz.com.au for entry forms and the Awards details. ENTRIES CLOSE - SEPTEMBER 24!!!! Don't miss out.

If having cider expert (my cider hero) Andrew Lea involved with the awards last year wasn't enough, the years international flavour comes from the US. Gary Awdey is a cider expert who is president of the US Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association. This guy has some serious cider clout, and will be a perfect addition to the judging panel.  


2013 Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show

Yippee! It's time to say my final goodbyes to my already ailing tooth enamel, and prepare for the all out attack and barrage of malic acid. All About Cider is off to Sydney to judge at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show on the 19th of September. I am super looking forward to judging again, and excited to taste and examine the many ciders available across Australia.

Again, like the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards in February, I will blog my experiences and perceptions of how the current state of cider is looking (in my eyes). I have a feeling it will be quite positive with some encouraging style evolution.

Wish me luck!!



Monday, 2 September 2013

Pagan Cider - Apple Cider

Pagan Cider is a relatively new brand in Australia, and like many commendable ciders, this apple cider comes from Tasmania. The apples, pears and cherries which are used in the Pagan line up all come from the Huon Valley. We all know the reputation this apple growing region has in producing fine, world class cider. Pagan came about when two men named Mick Dubois and Harry Moses started to make pretty solid batches of home brew. At the same time by sheer coincidence, Winemaking Tasmania (who most notably contract process wine), were investing heavily in cider making equipment. It was from here Pagan Cider was born as a commercial cider as the two forces banded together. The cider is now produced wholly at the Cambridge facility, along with Franks Cider.
The Pagan apple cider is considered ‘super premium’, and only made in smaller volumes with whole fruit free of concentrates, flavourings and sugars. Our Pagan ‘Oath and Law’ is the Pagan Promise. The dessert apples are sourced from fourth generation grower Andrew Griggs of the Lucaston Park Orchards. Pagan Cider has also been nicknamed the ‘Champagne of Ciders’, by who I don’t know, but to me it seems overly presumptuous. Big call, but the proof is in the pudding they say. So let’s have a look at this cider, and see if it deserves the prestigious hype.
The cider poured a very (and I mean very) light straw, and was filtered to clear. The apple had initial over carbonation issues in its first release. But it was great to see a new lowered explosion of bubbles, fading to a fine bead in this batch – perfect. The nose was a sexy little number. Seductive/feminine upfront citrus, fresh red apples, musk, peach and perfume added beautiful varietal purity. The exceptional cleanliness was fresh, crisp and very inviting. This was a simple nose but with impressively tight, elegant and inviting features. What it highlighted well was the power of the Huon Valley fruit. It did show the finesse fine champagne displays, so this must be commended.  
A balanced level of medium sweetness added great weight to the mouth feel. This sweetness was perfectly balanced with a tangy acid backbone and some phenolic grip. Flavours of pure musk, rich apple and sweet apricot offered nice, smart varietal characters. The cider felt soft and fluffy as it glided past the tongue with ease. The back palate did fall a touch short with the apple characters diminishing away into what seemed to be a sherbet character. The lower alcohol did not affect palate weight, and no watered down characters were evident. Again, this was a simple but effective cider. The palate was soft, well balanced with just a little fading out towards the end. However, it was a pleasure to be enchanted by its clarity and style.
I like what Pagan are trying to achieve with this cider. I felt as every mouth full went down, I was drinking a little bit of Tassie too. The cider is soft, flirtatious and seductive – it will win you over (and this is coming from a self confessed cider purist). I can see this being quite a popular offering, and I love how it highlights that a simple, dessert apple cider can be so charming. It actually reminds me a lot of the Napoleone Ciders from the Yarra Valley. I recommend you give this cider a try. Is it the ‘Champagne of Cider’ though? I’ll let you decide!!! Ha!
Producer: Pagan Cider
Country: Australia (Cambridge, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 4.5%
Website: www.pagancider.com.au
Rating: 14.5 out of 20

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gwatkin - Dry Farmhouse Kingston Black

There are things in life which can really get you excited. It gets the juices flowing, and consistently ‘boils your potato’. But to get overwhelmed, humbled and giggling like a school kid can often be rare. So when the opportunity to taste and review cider from Herefordshire producer Gwatkin arose, I definitely experienced one of ‘those’ moments. The thought of tasting the traditional farmhouse ciders of Gwatkin made me nervous. I couldn’t help thinking, what happens if I am disappointed? Would I get down on my knees, with my arms raised and fists clenched yelling “WHY!!!!!” towards the heavens? But at the risk of sounding like a true cider dork, I see the Gwatkin as real, custodian cider producers. 
My interest in Gwatkin begun some years ago, when I sat down and watched Oz Clarke and James May’s Big Wine Adventure. In one episode (which can be viewed on the Gwatkin website), the two men travelled to the Moorhampton Park farm in Abbey Dore. Denis Gwatkin kindly showed them around the farm, and discussed the art of cider making. After watching this, my infatuation for this cider brand prospered. As what I saw was cider making at its rawest and purist form – which is my philosophy in cider making. So to finally be able to hold a cider in my hand here in South Australia from this respected producer, really was a cider dream come true.   

If you’re unaware, Kingston Black is a very traditional cider apple variety, originating in Somerset many centuries ago. This variety is king - pure and simple. It falls in the bittersharp classification, and is perfectly suited to produce single varietal, vintage ciders. This classic variety is beginning to pop up in drips and drabs across Australia too, with a small number of producers using it in their ciders. But Kingston black is notorious for being a slow barer, so if you want to grow them, you better get the trees in pronto!
Now for the exciting bit, the review! I want to first begin by making special mention of the presentation of the cider. The label is beautifully configured, with a large picture of a very traditional horse drawn apple stone mill crushing up apples. It really gives you a sense of how cider making was carried out all those years ago – so primitive but so effective. Spectacular art!

The cider was filtered clear and shone a pleasant golden brown. On opening, the carbonation did foam out the bottle, but settled down fairly quickly without any real loss - thank god! But on pouring, the cider foamed up nicely, to a soft mousse. The nose offered up a beautiful mix of fresh apple aromas, and wild ferment funk characters. Very rich, sweet, toffee apples burst out of the glass with impressive clarity. Some layered farmyard notes, combined with old cellar/wooden barn dustiness and leather added stunning complexity. There was also less evident notes of volatile acidity, and yeastiness which lurked in the background. This nose was busy, with the Kingston Blacks really showing off their varietal power with gusto.
The palate was a beast, with many layers and added dimensions giving the mouth a sensory overload. The bittersharp fruit offered up a great balance of focused up-front dryness and acidity, combined with mouth puckering tannins. This led the cider to have a medium weighted palate and balanced structure, which was shrouded with rich apple flavours. The fruit definition was impressive, handling the seven per cent alcohol very well. Some beautiful farmhouse/wild fermented characters of earthiness and dustiness added life and interest. A beery/malty aftertaste was evident, along with a distinct metallic note on the back of the tongue. The Kingston Black’s definitely flexed their muscles on the palate, offering up beautifully balanced tannins and rich addictive fruit flavours.    

This Gwatkin Kingston Black really highlights why I love wild fermented ciders. The added depth you can achieve is so impressive and it eliminates the production of standardised and sterilised ciders with simple characters. Yes it can be a little funky, weird and confronting but that’s why it offers up so much. I liken it to a weird mate who’s just a little off centre, but that’s why you love them. The Kingston Black does handle this traditional method perfectly, hence the esteemed reputation as king of cider.
So was I disappointed? Oh heck no! It was everything I was hoping it would be. The great thing is I have the Gwatkin Medium Yarlington Mill still to try too! But I was really humbled to drink this cider, as it felt like I was drinking history. Something we lack a little in Australia. Overall, this Kingston Black was beautiful and stunning, and definitely a highlight of my cider tasting experience.   

Producer: Gwatkin Cider Company Ltd
Country: England (Abbey Dore, Herefordshire)
Alcohol: 7.0%
Website: www.gwatkincider.co.uk


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Captain Blighs - Tasmanian Brut Cider

Ahoy, me hearties it’s time to put on our wooden legs, eye patches and raise the Jolly Roger! Another cider from the apple isle of Tasmania is in full view from the crows net. All hands ahoy buccaneers, as we prepare ourselves to review the mighty Captain Bligh’s cider. This cider aint no landlubber either. Now off with ye and go clean the poop deck!!
Captain Bligh cider, as mentioned in my overly imaginative intro, is produced in the apple isle of Tasmania by Matt, Nick and Mitch Osborne – A father/sons team. The cider is produced yearly in small batches at the old George Adams brewery in the heart of Hobart. The main apple varieties used in the blend consist of Sturmer Pippin, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Jonathon. The Sturmer and Cox’s are fast becoming synonymous with Tasmanian cider, with producers like Small Players, Two Meter Tall and Spreyton all successfully using them in their blends. I know I’ve been a little critical of Sturmer Pippin in the past, but I am starting to see its positive side – just.  The differing varieties are all fermented separately and aged for six months before bottling. This helps increase the depth of flavour in the cider and mellows out the palate. Captain Bligh’s is fundamentally made to the style of a dry, cloudy and bottle conditioned cider, with delicate tannins and natural flavours. So lets now review!  

The colour shone a lovely pale straw, underneath a distinct cloudy complexion. The cider was not disgorged, therefore just a tiny mass of dead yeast were evident in the bottle. The natural carbonation offered up a lovely large mousse on pouring, with vibrant and attractive bubbles.
Lovely and lean fresh red apple skin along with old woody notes leaped out of the glass with impressive vibrancy. Other primary notes of freshly cut grass, sour sobs and confectionary banana were also apparent. Secondary fermentation derived characters of yeastiness, beeriness and aldehyde complimented,and rounded out the primary notes well. These characters all beautifully combined to produce a tight and lean offering of great balance and poise. Very fresh and expressive.  

The palate was super dry, and to be completely honest, I found that to be so refreshing. Refreshing as a beverage, but also as a stylistic trait. In a sea of sugared up lolly water, it was so invigorating to go back to a nice dry cider. Subtle phenolics coated the mouth well, along with a touch of bitterness and focused acidity. I found all these critical parameters to be in perfect balance. Fresh apple flavours offered up attractive length, and a creamy/biscuity sensation added pleasing complexity. The draw back to this style of cider is the palate weight, more often than not, is always a touch thinner and perhaps not as intense. But the linear and focused back bone, definitely made up for this. The palate was impressively clean, crisp and super refreshing. Just watch that alcohol of 6.9 per cent, or you’ll be three sheets to the wind in no time!  
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum! (or cider). This little cider was a real treat. I really enjoy going back to this style of cider, as they always offer such purity and character. You also know the cider hasn’t gone through any major industrial processes either – winning! The Captain Bligh’s really reminded me of the Napoleone and St Ronan's Methode Traditionelle ciders from the Yarra Valley in Victoria. But if you real want to splice the mainbrace, then give this cider a go! Beautifully Tasmanian…..again!

Producer: Captain Blighs
Country: Australia (Hobart, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 6.9%
Website: www.blighs.com.au

Rating: 14.5 out of 20


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

DIY guide to becoming a back yard Cider Master - Part 2

Home 'real' cider making
So from Part 1 of my home cider guide, you should now have the skills and knowledge to successfully process and ferment your own cider. If you followed my guide, your cider and/or perry should be completely finished in terms of fermentation, and now in need of bubbles. It is this next point of proceedings where I get asked the most questions. It can be a little confusing and overwhelming, and it definitely took me some time to perfect my methods (and a lot of internet forum searching). But what I will discuss in Part 2 of the DIY guide is the final steps of the process including bulk priming, bottling, secondary carbonation and ageing.

Firstly to determine your final alcohol level, you need to do a few simple calculations. What you need handy is your original gravity (OG), and your final gravity (FG), which are taking with the hydrometer.
NOTE: Original Gravity is taken when you first being ferment. Final Gravity is taken when fermentation has ceased.
CRITICAL CALCULATION: I will be using two fictional gravity readings to illustrate how to calculate the final alcohol. Just follow the formula with your own specific readings:

OG: 1.060 and FG: 1.005
1.060 - 1.005 = 0.055 (this number needs to be multiplied by 105)
0.055 x 105 = 5.78% a.b.w (alcohol by weight)
To convert a.b.w to a.b.v (alcohol by volume) multiply by 1.25
5.78 x 1.25 = 7.21% a.b.v (alcohol by volume)

Therefore the final alcohol is 7.21%


A consideration you need to think about is if you want bubbles in your cider. In cider lingo, a 'still' cider means strictly no bubbles. The cider is practically flat, and can sometimes come across as a little boring. Through my experiences, most people like a little carbonation in their cider, but not to the point of a fizzy soft drink. A slightly carbonated cider adds life and vibrancy to the palate, and offers another dimension of interest. If you want a still, you would bottle at this point and let it age. If you want to define your style with some fizz, then follow my next set of steps.
NOTE: The ciders I produce through my methods are semi clear post secondary fermentation, but do have some harmless yeast deposits in the bottle. These can be easily decanted on pouring to a glass.  

Filled bottles
I want to first state that carbonation drops are poor and should not be used if you want a consistent product. I dislike them, as they have a real amateur feel about them. If you have them, ditch them. I want to introduce you to a new process called 'bulk priming'. What bulk priming essentially means is a sugar solution is added to the whole batch of cider, not to individual bottles. This helps to evenly prime the cider ready for secondary. You will get a far better, and consistent bead and bubble every time using this method. The residual yeasts left from the ferment more often than not spring back into life and referment the added sugar, and hence create the bubbles. If you're concerned that your initial yeasts may not be viable, then by all means add more. My method works every time without having to reyeast, but this step is completely up to you. So take off the lid to your fermenter and prepare to add your sugary mix. 
CRITICAL ADDITIONS: To bulk prime to a nice soft carbonation level, add 10g/L white sugar dissolved in water to your batch and mix well. For example in 50L's, 50L's x 10g/L = 500g's of sugar. For yeast, if you can find EC1118 then add this at 400ppm to your sugared up cider in the fermenter. If you can't find this yeast, any substitute will do. Again, 50L's x 400ppm / 1000 = 20g's.Remember, this method of cider making will produce a dry, higher alcohol and semi clear cider. There are alternatives to sweeten which I will explain later. Also, DO NOT add anymore sugar than what I have stated - double check your volumes and calculations. If so, you run the risk of exploding bottles which is a extreme hazard if glass is involved. 

Now that the cider is sweetened up and the optional yeast has been added, it's time to bottle. What ever you choose to bottle in - plastic, 330mL, 500mL or 750mL glass, just remember that the larger sparkling wine bottles take a 29mm crown seal. This larger crown seal also means you need to purchase the corresponding bell for correct application. The 330mL and 500mL's take a smaller and more easily available 26mm crown seal. 

Bottling is simple and can be a bit of fun. I always find it a special time, as you are bottling something 'you' made. The method for bottling varies, and is completely unique to your set up. But fill your bottles to a respectable level, leaving some head space and then cap. There should not be much yeast lees on the bottom of the fermenter as you have racked at least three times. If there is some, just discard it down the drain. 

Priming and Ageing

So the cider is in bottle and ready for secondary fermentation. You're almost at the point where you can enjoy your spoils! Unfortunately, patience is required with this next step. It's understandable that you would want to devour your freshly made cider, but it needs time. It needs time to develop flavour, develop complexity and develop a fine carbonation. The absolute minimum is around the two to three weeks from bottle to consumption. But I have cider from roughly two years ago, and it's only getting better - contrary to popular believe that cider doesn't age. Let your bottles age and ferment in a cool place, away from any extreme heat and temperature fluctuations. This ensures a nice, steady secondary with no off flavour development. Malo lactic fermentation or MLF, is a process where malic acid (a harsh tasting acid found in apples) is converted to lactic acid (a much softer acid) by lactic acid bacteria. During your bottle priming, you may get some spontaneous MLF happening, which softens the palate and makes the cider more microbial stable. Any SO2 additions post ferment will kill off these bacteria, and MLF will not initiate.
NOTE: Bulk priming in glass is just one method of carbonating home brew cider. Force priming with CO2 in 19L cornelius kegs, and dispensing from a tap is definitely an option - but costly. A counter pressure filler is also an option which let's you bottle forced carbonated cider from keg to bottle, but again harsh on the wallet. My method is easy, cheap and effective, with no fuss.  

Cider ageing in old oak
Advanced techniques of pasteurisation, filtration, hand disgorging, lees contact and oak age are all processes which can aid in a ciders complexity. Once experience is built over time, these techniques are definitely worth a try to help develop your style. But for now, let's keep it simple. Now for the sweet conundrum: For the lover's of sweeter cider. Besides filtration, you're not going to be able to produce a sweet cider naturally, sorry! But things you can possibly do is add some fresh apple juice to your cider when drinking. This is quick and easy. Another method is to add an unfermentable sugar, in this case - lactose. I have used it personally and you need a whole heap to even make it semi sweet. I find it impacts on mouth feel too, which really is not desirable. Also anyone who is lactose intolerant can not drink it. But I believe you have made a natural cider, so I say keep it that way with no additives.           

Congratulations!! After a short wait, you will be drinking your very own handcrafted and 'real' cider. No muck, no concentrates, no added sugars. Pure and better for you. If you are considering making cider at home, I hope my guide gives you the inspiration and confidence to give it a go. Trust me, you'll have a lot of fun and learn heaps whilst you do it. Also, I would love to hear of your experiences - be it bad or good. Good luck!!

Wassail! Finished product

Happy cider making, Cider Masters!

Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow,
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats-full! Caps-full!
Bushel, bushel sacks-full!
And my pockets full, too! Hurra!


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Eric Borderlet - 2008 Brut Tendre (Food Mentalist)

I was lucky enough to be asked to compose a review and be a guest blogger on the Food Mentalist. The Food Mentalist features cider reviews through the popular Cider Sunday segment. For my guest review, I wanted to write up a special cider and I couldn't go past an Eric Borderlet!

Click on the link and check out my review of the 2008 Eric Borderlet - Brut Tendre.



Saturday, 20 July 2013

DIY guide to becoming a back yard Cider Master - Part 1

I commonly get emails asking me how to make home brew cider. It seems many amateur home brewers or general cider lovers want to get their hands dirty and make their own. This inspired me to write an article describing the process from fruit to bottle......

So you are aspiring to be a back yard Cider Master? You’ve got the equipment, bought some apples and you’ve found a tiny bit of free space in the garage. But it’s at this stage where you go “crap, now what?” Well I am here to give you a very basic run down on how to make your own special brew with added hints, tips, procedures and technical mumbo jumbo. It’s actually very easy and if done right, you’ll be boasting to your buddies with a beautifully home made cider. What I will discuss is my methods, and these may vary to others you have seen. But with a 100 per cent strike rate of making killer back yard cider, I think I am pretty qualified!! All pictures shown are from my own experiences of home brew cider making over the past five years.

Besides actual fruit, the first thing you need to do is acquire some equipment. Buy it yourself or borrow off a mate, up to you. This stuff is easily available from hardware stores or home brew shops. Here’s a little check list:
My electrified mill and hydropress 
- Fermenter x 2 with airlock, tap and thermometer strip
- A Mill: Kitchen processor, juicer, DIY apple scratter, electric mill
- Press
- Hydrometer
- Scales
- Clear plastic hose (around 1.5 to 2 meters)
- Yeast
- Yeast Nutrient
- Potassium Metabisulphite: powder or tablet
- Bottles
- Crown seals and capper (champagne crown seals are 28mm,   therefore need a larger bell)

A mini sample press
When you bring the fruit home to process, it’s paramount you are organised and have all your equipment laid out ready to go. It would no make sense to mill your fruit and forget the press! Also, it’s essential all the equipment is clean and food grade. My first ever batch of home brew cider was made by chopping up 50kg’s of apples using a kitchen processor!! But as long as you can scratter the apples efficiently ready for pressing, then you’re on your way.

This is the important one. A few decisions/considerations you need to make are: What varieties you would like to use? Single varietal or blend? Availability? Apple, pear or apple/pear? 

Apples ready to go
Remember, blending will give you options to shape and refine your final cider. Have a think about what you want to see in your cider? For the more readily available commercial apples, a rule of thumb for me is: Pink Lady adds crisp acidity and attractive apple characters, Granny Smith adds sharp residual acidity, Sundowner adds richness, Fuji adds sugar with no acidity, Jonathon’s add up front apple sweetness and Pears add lovely earthiness with some residual sugar. I personally style my ciders to have fifteen per cent pear in the blend, to add an extra element of flavour, delicacy and sweetness.
NOTE: Many different apples ripen at different stages; therefore it’s prudent to do your research. For example, Jonathon ripens much earlier than Pink Lady, therefore the two varieties may not be commercially available at the same time. Apple growers do cold store their apples, so you may be lucky to be able to pick and choose from many varieties.   

But with fruit, sometimes it’s a case of what ever you can get your hands on. This is the beauty of cider making, you never know what hidden gems you will come across. I remember my first batch being a blend of Jonathon, Red Delicious, Rome Beatuy and Granny Smith. From this exercise, I concluded for my own tastes, Red Delicious and Rome Beauty were very poor varieties for cider. As you get more experienced, you start to develop an understanding of what varieties perform well and others which don’t.

NOTE: Eating apples are the easiest source of fruit. Unfortunately there is little to no cider apples available in small quantities for home brewers – unless you grow your own tress. 


The fruit is ready, the equipment is plugged in and you’ve roped in a couple mates to help. It’s time to get busy!

Firstly, it’s a wise move to wash the fruit in water to remove any dirt, stickers or residual chemicals off the surface. Once complete, what ever you have found to crush up your apple’s, fire it up and start slicing and dicing. The milled apple (and/or pear) which is produced is a thick, paste like mush called ‘pulp’. This is to be pressed in the next step and contains the juice, tannins and chopped up seeds.
Pulp ready to be pressed
NOTE:  You will notice that the pulp will go brown very quickly! This is caused by oxidation carried out by the enzyme Polyphenoloxidase. Don’t worry; I have had juice go almost black. Trust me; it’s completely safe and fine.
Depending on how much fruit you have got (usually 50kg’s is more than enough), it will take time to crush them up. Hence, get your mates involved, cook them a barbie and share a few beers. It will make the whole experience more exciting and fun.

Spent pomace
Depending on the size of your press, you may have to press in batches. Mill the fruit, then press, mill the fruit then press and so on. When pressing, make sure you get a good ‘squash’ happening. The more pressure exerted on the pulp, the more juice and tannins you will yield. Once the juice is extracted, what you are left with is a dry, solid marc called ‘pomace’. The pomace can been thrown into the bin, or fed to the chooks.

NOTE: Through my experience, apples yield around 50 to 55% extraction. Meaning: for 50kg’s of apples, you will yield around 25L’s of pure juice. Perfect for a small home brew fermenter.

The juice which comes out of the press is beautifully rich, dark and sweet. Don’t drink too much of it, or you will be running to the toilet!!  Acidity levels should be sufficient at this stage, if using higher acid varieties. Blending different varieties at this stage can help regulate acidity levels. Also note, you will lose a little in volume in the next step of racking.

Ok, so you have processed all your fruit, it’s all pressed out and sitting pretty in your fermenter. At this stage I thoroughly recommend adding a preservative to your juice. This ensures all the nasties, bacteria etc. is destroyed and won’t make anyone sick. Campden tablets are very common in home brew. These contain the active ingredient Potassium Metabisulphite (PMS), which is a preservative. This preservative is very commonly added to wine and cider to minimise oxidation and act as a preservative to maintain freshness.

My makeshift lab
CRITICAL ADDITIONS: At this stage, I recommend either adding 2 campden tablets, or adding 100ppm PMS in powder form. 100ppm = 100mg/L. This addition rate is very high but this ensures that again all bugs and bacteria are destroyed. SO2 additions are dependent on the pH of the juice, therefore a larger addition of sulphur is needed for effectiveness as the pH of apple juice is much higher than wine. So to add 100ppm to your juice, you first need to know your volume. Once you know how much juice you have, plug it into this 50L example.

50L’s x 100ppm x 2 / 1000 = 10g’s PMS. All you need to do is change the 50L figure , for your volume!

I would also recommend adding a fining agent like pectinolytic enzymes to help settle and clear your juice. You can either add a store bought commercial pack of ‘finings’, or if you can get your hands on some, industrial enzymes. Just add these at the specific rates, for example 3g/100kg’s.

So we are now at that point where your juice has been mixed thoroughly with the sulphur and settling enzyme additions. Here’s the disappointing part – your job is done for the day. Let this sit over night to let the enzymes to do their thing, and settle all the solids to the bottom. Don’t disturb it!

Taking a gravity reading
NOTE: At this point, take an original gravity (OG) reading with your hydrometer. For ripe apples, an OG can be anywhere from 1.060 to 1.070. This determines initial sugar levels and potential alcohol. 

I bet you’re thinking “What about yeast?” Don’t add this until the morning!

Typical racking set up
Morning sunshine - Time to go out to the shed and see how the juice is travelling. What you should have is nice clearer juice on the top, with thick solids on the bottom. If not, leave it for another six to twelve hours. But if there is good separation, what needs to be done now is a process called racking. Get your juice up to higher ground than your second fermenter – be careful not to disturb the juice fractions. You need to gravity feed (with your clear hose), the clear juice off the solids. The solids go down the drain! Once complete, you are ready for pitching the yeast.
Wyeast 4766
CRITICAL ADDITION: If this is your first batch, use commercially available cultured yeast. Only try wild fermentation when you are a little more experienced.  I recommend Wyeast Cider 4766 as it’s a liquid, is rich in nutrients and doesn’t need rehydration. It produces a very consistent ferment with no off flavours. You can use other commercial yeasts such as EC1118 which is Champagne yeast. For addition rates, follow the producers instructions. Try to pitch yeast in the range of 15 to 20 degrees for best results.  

Yay! You have inoculated apple or pear juice! With 100ppm SO2, your ferment will take a little time to begin, as the yeast are in shock. Don’t worry; it will begin in a day or so.  Any longer than this and there is the slight chance of spoilage from acetobacter or white mould, which is not good!
TIPS FOR FERMENTATION: You want a nice slow and coolish ferment for cider - that is the aim of the game. Too hot, and you will lose the delicate apple aromas. Optimum fermentation temperature is between 12 to 15 degrees, but anywhere up to 20 is fine. Over that, and your ferment will finish super fast and will taste very unpleasant!! Take gravities every few days and track the progress of your ferment. At this cooler and slower rate, expect the fermentation to go for at least two to three weeks. This is perfectly normal! DO NOT let any air into the fermenter!

During mid fermentation, if a very unpleasant smell of rotten eggs overwhelms the confines of your house, then you know this is a sign of your yeast not loving life. I have had my wife ring me once before saying the house stinks like a fart! This is hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is more commonly known as rotten egg gas. It is the direct result of the yeast running low on a nitrogen source, so they begin metabolising other compounds. I personally find many of my ferments not succumbing to the lower levels of nitrogen, and hence not reeking out the garage. I put this down to the apples themselves having sufficient nitrogen sources stemming from the fertile orchards from which they came. But a yeast food like diammonium phosphate (DAP) is a perfect addition to replenish the nitrogen stores. This must be used with caution, as if it’s added too late and all is not consumed, you will run into issues of spoilage down the track.

CRITICAL ADDITION:  Many homebrew shops sell yeast nutrient which is prefect to keep the yeast healthy and happy. Add around 200ppm of the sachet to your ferment and all should be fine. For example with 50L’s: 50L’s x 200ppm x 2 / 1000 = 20g’s. The smell will dissipate, especially with a little splash of the ferment. Don’t add too much of it, as the yeast will start fermenting like wild fire and the ferment will finish too fast.

Once your ferment gets around to the 1.020 mark, I would rack again to the empty fermenter. This helps clear up the cider, and slows down the ferment. I would even give it another rack at the 1.010 stage. Don’t worry, due to the carbon dioxide which is produced during the ferment, your cider won’t oxidise and go off. This is due to carbon dioxide (CO2) being an inert gas. But to rack at least two more times during ferment will ensure you have a much clearer end product, free of solids.

A common home brew fermenter
To determine if your ferment is finished, you need to observe a gravity reading which is the same for two days straight. This could be anywhere from 1.005 to under 1.000. It will produce a dry cider, so no sweetness what so ever. To make a sweet cider, you need to be a little more experienced and I am not going to describe my pasteurisation technique – way too long and technical. This is why adding pear is an option, as pears contain unfermentable sugars like sorbitol.  

Hurray! You have successfully, milled, pressed and fermented a clean and 'real' cider. Watch this space for Part 2, where I will discuss bulk priming, malo lactic fermentation, bottling and carbonation.