The vast majority of commercial hard ciders are made from the juice of dessert apples. These are the varieties you'll typically find in grocery stores. They're crisp, sweet, tart, and look picture perfect. While they're great for eating, these apples are not the best for making cider because they lack tannins—which provide depth and complexity to cider.
Cider makers often add fruit, spices, hops, or other adjuncts to add layers of flavor when using juice from dessert apples. On the plus side, dessert apple juice is relatively inexpensive and widely available in bulk year-round.
The best apples for making traditional or "proper" cider are bittersweet or bittersharp apples. Bitter is the key word here. These apples are packed with tannins are are mouth puckeringly bitter. While not great for eating, they're ideal for making cider. These apples are grown specifically for the cider market and can be difficult to procure due to limited supply.
Each fall, Abram Goldman-Armstrong and his crew at Cider Riot! purchase bittersweets and bittersharps from Willamette Valley apple growers. They press the fruit and use the juice as the base for Burncider Dry Draught Cider, their limited release 1763, and other single varietal ciders.
I stopped by the brewery a few weeks ago, along with a band of intrepid volunteers, to lend a hand with the apple sorting and pressing process. Take a look at my video below to view the rack & cloth pressing process from start to finish.
The final yield was 1,000 gallons of juice pressed from many varieties including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Harry Master's Jersey, Porter's Perfection, Brown's Apple, Eliss Bitter, Sweet Coppin, Muscadet de Bernay, Muscadet de Dieppe, Muscadet de Lens, Champagne Reinette, Hereford Redstreak, Kingston Black.
It was a lot of work, but the end result is definitely worth it!
Never tasted a proper cider? You'll soon get your chance. On November 18th, Cider Riot! will host Pressing Matters: Proper Cider & Real Ale Festival. For more details, check out the event Facebook page.
|A few of Cider Riot!'s single varietal ciders|