First Taste of Last Years Cider

Cider in the snow
A great pint for a cool February day.

Last year I brewed up two batches of cider – a traditional dry cider, and a cyser (mead-cider hybrid). The cyser is still clearing in secondary, but the dry cider itself is now on tap. This cider was, for me, somewhat experimental – I did not use pectinase to clear the cider, I used a different yeast than normal, and my post-fermentation plan was not my usual “stabilise and back-sweeten“. The changes to this years recipe and approach were motivated by a Brew Files episode where Denny discussed his preferred approach to making cider. I’ll briefly outline the differences below, and then move on to the usual formal tasting notes.

Changes to My Approach

I made a few changes to my usual approach:

  1. I used WLP002 instead of Nottingham…I was actually intending to use Denny’s Favourite (Wyeast 1450), but due to a mis-labeled tube in my yeast bank I ended up with WLP002. I have no complaints; the ester character of WLP002 very nicely complements the apple character in the cider.
  2. I did not pre-treat with pectinase (pectic enzyme) to clear the cider, nor did I treat with metabisulfite to knock back the yeast. The lack of pectinase is obvious in the picture to the right – my cider is very cloudy. With more time this would clear, but I’m thirsty now, and my next batch will re-include pectinase. In contrast, there is no noticeable wild-yeast character, so I will forgo metabisulfite in the future.
  3. I did not stabilise and backsweeten. Instead, I adjusted the balance by adding 4 tsp of acid blend (by accident; I had planned on adding 2) and 1.5 tsp of wine tannin (based on the recommendation of this book). The effects of this were very positive, and I will likely do this instead of back-sweetening in the future.

Cider Tasting Notes

Appearance: Hazy pale yellow colour, pours with a high effervescence and a short-lived white head.The haze is not yeast or chill haze, and is likely a pectin haze – which is why I’ll use  pectinase in future batches.

Aroma: Intense apple aroma; probably the most apple-forward aroma I’ve had in a cider. The strong apple aroma has undertones of yeast and acidity that add additional complexity.

Flavour: Upfront is an intense apple flavour alongside a strong acidity. The acidity is higher than I’d prefer – a direct result of accidentally adding double the acid blend I had intended. Although high, the acidity has the intended effect – it “brightens” the flavour, brings out more of the fruit character, and creates a crisper mouth-feel. The ester profile of the yeast (apple/pear) is complementary and subtle. Aftertaste is a lingering apple juice character.

Mouthfeel: Wine tannin for the win! My ciders have always been a little thin in the mouthfeel department, and the wine tannin corrected that flaw. In place of thin & watery, I instead have a modest body that gives the cider a better “presence”. The cider is highly carbonated, which along with over-acidity, is strongly felt on the palate.

Overall: Even with the mistakes I made, this is one of the best ciders I’ve brewed. The acid blend and tannin were the key to this years success, providing a better balance of flavour and mouthfeel than I’ve been able to achieve with back-sweetening. The cider is more acidic than I would prefer, but even so, acidic in a fashion which brings out its  better characteristics. The approach used for this batch is definitely one I will use in the future – though-be-it, with pectinase to provide some clarity.

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