It seems a bit early, but the other day a good friend of mine and I were talking about Thanksgiving. It’s got to be the best holiday. Great food, great drinks, football, no holiday shopping; you just can’t beat it.
I think we all know the basics of what food will be served, but what about the beer? Many first thoughts are pumpkin beers, but truth be told I can’t stand them. Never found one I liked. Stouts and porters might be a bit heavy for the type of eating that is going to go down. How about a hard cider? Fall flavors are what Thanksgiving is all about, and what is more fall than apples?
I know, I know. Hard cider isn’t a beer. But this is Adventures of a Beginning Home Brewer. Beer isn’t even in the title… ok, so maybe it is implied since this blog is part of Beerploma, but bear with me just for one post.
It became apparent that it’s time to make a tasty hard cider. But of course, I am a beginner and have no clue how to make a hard cider. Ahhhh… Isn’t the internet great? I did some research and found out some basics.
The first tip I found is that there is no boil for hard cider as there is in beer. If you boil apple juice it can take on a bit of an astringent flavor. But no boil = potential contamination of the cider. I found two ways to combat this.
The first way is to purchase unpasteurized juice (or buy apples and juice them) and heat the juice, but not boil it. This can make things sterile, but you must be careful. Over do it and you have an off taste in your cider. Under do it and you may get some contaminated cider. Nether sound good to me!
The second way is the way chosen for this experiment. Purchase pasteurized apple juice. This makes it free from contaminants while keeping the juice in its same tasty condition. Be sure to purchase a good pasteurized cider that contains no chemical preservatives like potassium sulfate or sodium benzoate. These things prevent bacteria and mold growth, but also prevent yeast growth. In other words, your yeast won’t work with juice containing chemical preservatives. And if the yeast doesn’t work, you don’t have hard cider.
For the yeast, most will work. The guy at Northern Brewer suggested champagne yeast. It will eat a ton of sugar and carbonates well in the end. And it won’t deliver an overly yeasty flavor that may be tasty in some beers, but probably wouldn’t be too great in a hard cider.
After figuring that stuff out making hard cider, at least to the primary stage, is a piece of cake! Pour pasteurized apple juice into a fermenter, add yeast, and seal! The part that took the longest was sanitizing. But since I was also firing up a raspberry rhubarb wheat and bottling an EPA, it really took no extra time to sanitize a bucket, top, and airlock.
As of this morning it was bubbling away in the primary, so that’s a good sign things are headed in the right direction. I will follow up on this cider later down the road as developments come about. Have you brewed a hard cider, and if so how did it go? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.