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turn them all into cider http://allintocider.com Thu, 25 Feb 2016 17:40:37 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 How Sweet It Is http://allintocider.com/general-musings/how-sweet-it-is/ http://allintocider.com/general-musings/how-sweet-it-is/#comments Thu, 25 Feb 2016 17:40:37 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=448 [Read more...]]]> Every new business wants to differentiate itself, to stand out from the crowd. It is a bit of a mystery, then, why so many websites for smaller cider companies proudly state that they are different because they don’t make sweet cider, unlike the big bad Big Players (you know who they are). So many cideries make this claim that it no longer seems to be much of a distinction. More to the point it does an incredible disservice to sweeter ciders, seeming to say that if it’s sweet it’s therefore bad, and implying that if it’s dry it is therefore good. As with most simplistic statements, this ain’t necessarily so.

First, when we talk about sweetness in cider, just what is it we’re talking about.

Sugar is the obvious answer, and how much of it is either left in the cider from the original juice or added back at some point post-fermentation either in the form of un-fermented juice or plain old table sugar. The amount of sugar in a finished cider can be reported in any of a number of ways – in grams of sugar per liter (which can also be expressed as a percentage), specific gravity, or degrees brix (often used in the wine world). There are any number of calculators and tables available that can convert these measurements from one to the other, so for the purposes of this discussion we’ll stick to grams per liter (g/L).

The good folks at the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) have tried to bring some order to the world of cider evaluation by setting some general boundaries for various categories of cider-based on sugar content.







0 – 4

4 – 9

9 – 20

20 – 40



0 – 0.4

0.4 – 0.9

0.9 – 2.0

2.0 – 4.0



1.000 – 1.002

1.002 – 1.004

1.004 – 1.009

1.009 – 1.019


               (*aka semi-dry or off-dry)

To put this in perspective, regular Coca Cola® has a sugar content of 108 g/L, and freshly pressed apple juice will typically come in at 117 – 260 g/L.

Left to their own devices yeasts will most of the time keep eating up any sugar they find until there is nothing left, resulting in dry cider. But not always. The traditional production method for French ciders, for example, starves the yeasts of other essential nutrients so that they more or less give up before all the sugar has been consumed. The result is a naturally sweet often quite complex and wonderful cider. A similar process can be used in the making of ice cider, which starts with highly concentrated (by freezing and thawing) juice and results in a very sweet dessert cider (upwards of 165 g/L) that more often than not avoids being cloying by wrapping all that sugar around a sturdy backbone of bright acid.

Sugar content isn’t quite the last word on sweetness, though. Our brains can sometimes be fooled into thinking something is sweeter than the actual available sugars would suggest. The amount of acidity in a given cider will, for example, influence how sweet it tastes. A high acid cider that has a sugar content that would put it into the medium cider category may taste less sweet than a low acid cider having a sugar level in the medium-dry range, which is also why to many palates fresh apple juice will taste less sweet than a Coke®. Furthermore, because taste and smell are so closely intertwined a fruity aroma will also encourage us to taste a cider as sweeter than it is, while conversely an earthy aroma will make a cider be perceived as less sweet. (Genetics can play a role in sweetness perception, too.) 

So why take issue with sweetness? For one thing, it’s an easy target. The most common complaint of people that don’t like cider is that it is too sweet. Generally this kind of statement suggests that the speaker hasn’t had the opportunity to try many ciders, and certainly the ciders offered by the Big Players are on the sweet end of the spectrum. What’s more, the Big Players muddy the waters by labeling some of their offerings as “dry” when on an objective basis they are anything but.

Take a couple of examples produced by some of the nationally distributed large brands. One “dry” cider has, according to the label, 7 grams of sugar in a 355 ml serving, which works out to 19.7 g/L of sugar, on the high side of medium. Another labeled as “dry pear” has a whopping 17 grams of sugar per 355 ml serving, coming in at an astonishing 48 g/L, so far from dry that it can’t even see it in it’s rear view mirror.

Stone Dry LabelWyder's Pear Label

Why, one might ask, don’t the Big Players make actual dry ciders if, as one assumes from the marketing pitches of their smaller competitors, there is in fact a market for them? The easy answer is that while there are those that do prefer drier beverages, Americans as a whole seem to prefer their drinks sweet, particularly in an emerging category or market.

More to the point, it’s actually more challenging to make a decent tasting dry cider than a sweet one. With a truly dry cider there is nowhere to hide. It requires more attention to apple varieties and blends, and to production dynamics, in order to create something that isn’t just a complete thin and watery acid bomb. In addition, when you are starting with juice concentrates, which once a company is making cider at a certain scale is an absolute must, it is simply impossible to add back all of the subtle complexities inherent in fresh juice that get stripped out during the concentration process. Sugar can make this diminished character less obvious, although at some point all you can taste is the sugar itself rather than the harmonious flavor you’d get from actual juice.

Dry shouldn’t be the considered the ultimate goal. There are certainly as many uninteresting dry ciders on the market today as there are sweet ones, and more than a few that could be rescued by just a little more attention to balance. Complexity, proportion, nuance – those are the watchwords of a great cider regardless of where it sits on the sweetness scale.

There are a handful of cider companies (such as Seattle Cider Company and Redbyrd Orchard Cider) that have taken it upon themselves to add some sort of scale information on their label in an attempt to help consumers find their way through the fog. This sort of information along with the writings of thoughtful reviewers, those that work hard to describe a full range of a cider’s characteristics not just whether or not they liked it, can help to bring some clarity to an otherwise murky area.

Redbyrd Label3 Pepper Cider Label

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that the next time a new cider company’s marketing team sits down to describe what sets the company apart he/she/they work a little harder to find something a little more original to say.

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American Cider Zeitgeist http://allintocider.com/general-musings/american-cider-zeitgeist/ http://allintocider.com/general-musings/american-cider-zeitgeist/#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2016 18:54:36 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=445 [Read more...]]]> There’s been talk lately about an “identity crisis” happening in the cider industry. Having recently spent the better part of a week with some thousand enthusiastic cider makers and drinkers, it isn’t really clear just what the fuss is about, but perhaps the perception of anxiety is related to American cider’s multiple personality complex. Is cider a sessionable pub drink or an elegant beverage destined to accompany a fancy dinner? Put another way, is cider more like beer or more like wine? Can it be both?

Zeitgeist photo

Having lost whatever historic traditions cider had pre-Prohibition to the triploid pressures of increased immigration from non cider-drinking locales, movement from rural to urban communities, and the 18th Amendment, this country’s new cider makers are not constrained in the way that their comrades in Europe might be. European cider traditions stretching back many hundreds of years have left an indelible print on the drinks-consuming public in the UK, France, and Spain. Everybody “knows” what cider is, so that any attempt at innovation – whether it be the co-fermentation of apples with other things or the use of yeast strains more often associated with beer or cider made in another traditional style – can be met with skepticism and huffing that it isn’t “real” cider. (That being said, UK cider drinkers do have other issues to contend with.)

Not so in the US. Here cider is in many senses an unknown, free to be created in whatever image a particular cider maker has. Some see apple juice as just one of many possible constituents the way that a brewer would consider wort. It provides fermentable sugars and some acidity, but the variety of apple involved isn’t particularly important. It’s mostly just a canvas on which a cider maker can paint a flavor picture using other ingredients if need be. Then there is the element that seeks to elevate cider to fine dining status where it can sit along side wine. For this cider maker the apple is the whole point, and coaxing the truest flavor out of one or more varieties and embracing the complexities of vintage is the cider maker’s highest calling.

Some tension exists between these two camps, although politeness still reigns, in part because there are any number of cider makers with feet placed pretty firmly in both. The former sub-category of cider has been dominant so far, in part because the largest players are mega-breweries that are looking for products that can compliment their existing portfolios in a market where beer sales overall have been somewhat flat. These Big Players have been a key force in driving the explosive growth of cider as they’ve used their existing marketing muscle and distribution channels to ramp up cider’s place in the American drinker’s consciousness, not to mention on store shelves.

These Big Players have such an outsized influence on the numbers (% sales growth, for example) that it well may be that they skew an evaluation of American cider as a whole. More than half of the cider producers in the US in 2015 (65% to be exact) don’t have distribution outside their local area (yet) which is not to say that their businesses aren’t robust and growing. So when one hears that cider sales growth in 2015 was only 10 – 12%, instead of the remarkable 60 – 70% of the previous two years, does it mean that cider overall is slowing down (and 10% is still plenty respectable) or that sales for the Big Players are? Bear in mind that these sorts of sales figures come from sales to supermarkets and like, not to restaurants and bars where consumer preferences might be quite different. In a consumer trends survey conducted by Penn State Extension in the final quarter of 2015, researchers found that a significant number of respondents tried cider for the first time because they either make a point of trying locally made products or enjoy wine and thought that cider might be similar. So why insist that the cider only be compared to beer as published statistics so often do?

There is also some talk that American cider makers ought to be focusing on developing an indigenous cider culture rather than seeking to imitate the ciders of other regions. This seems a worthy goal, but frankly experimenting with European cider styles seems like it might be part of a cider maker’s maturation process, rather like an art student playing with the techniques of her predecessors as a means of preparing herself to take off in her own direction having through thoughtful imitation found her own voice.

Then there is the question of apples and the calls in some circles for US growers to plant more specialized varieties used for cider elsewhere. The apple-juice-as-canvas approach suggests that the need for apples having a lot of post-fermentation character in and of themselves may be overblown if not unnecessary. Certainly in skilled hands even a humble dessert apple can shine (think West County Cider’s Macintosh/Golden Delicious or Tilted Shed’s Inclinato). Besides, cider has been growing quite nicely based on the apple varieties already widely available.

This is, perhaps, a might short-sighted for it may be that a true American cider is one that embraces a melting-pot, multicultural approach, whether that be in fruit selection or production method, much in the model of America itself. Using apple varieties that originated on the other side of the pond won’t in and of itself make for a derivative cider, for certainly a wine made in France of pinot noir grapes grown there and one grown and made in northern California will be distinctly their own as the effects of soil and climate and all the other nuances of terroir exert their effects. Then, too, there are any number of cider makers/orchardists who are working to discover a whole new array of uniquely American cider varietals, tramping through the woods in search of character-filled wild seedling apples, people like Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr and Eric Schatt of Redbyrd Orchard. Many of the wildings are as richly flavored and mouth-pukeringly tannic as any apple hailing from Somerset and are as well suited to their environment as any of their wild native neighbors. Mayhaps these will be the apples of America’s true cider future.

Throughout the ages cider has fueled the celebrations of fierce warriors, graced the tables of ambassadors, and made up part of a day’s wages for itinerant farm workers. In the end there is really no need to create some strangling definition of what cider is and isn’t. Let cider just be cider. Because, after all, as one British cider maker quipped recently, cider making isn’t open heart surgery on small children. It’s making a quality drink that brings people pleasure and sparks good times be it poured by the pint in the corner pub or in crystal stemware to accompany foie gras en croute. And if the cider category seems a bit chaotic at the moment perhaps it is best to just embrace it, for it is out of chaos that new worlds are born.
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Rudy’s Holiday Cheer http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/rudys-holiday-cheer/ http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/rudys-holiday-cheer/#respond Thu, 26 Nov 2015 00:34:10 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=439 [Read more...]]]> The season of holidays is upon us with dining and drinking and general merriment. I’m always looking for something new and a little festive that I can serve to my rotating crowd of guests, and this year I’m getting some help from Abe Goldman-Armstrong at Portland’s Cider Riot®. Abe is a fascinating combination of serious apple-driven cider guy (in high school he worked for Alan Foster at his much missed White Oak Cidery) and serious craft beer guy. It’s his playful innovative side that has generated this season’s go to beverage – Rudy’s Cranberry Hibiscus Cider.

A spritely combination of cold-pressed cranberry juice, North West apple juice, and organic hibiscus flowers, Rudy’s is bright and lively with a clean fruitiness that just calls out to be put into a holiday cocktail. I pumped up the fruitiness by combining it with sloe gin (I used Spirit Works’) and added a little orange Curaçao, ginger bitters and lime as a nod to the cranberry sauce that graces my Thanksgiving table. The result is a little fizzy and a little boozy, but still restrained enough in the alcohol department that you won’t risk having your guests do a face plant in the mashed potatoes.

Rudy's Jubilee

Rudy’s Holiday Cheer

  • 1 ½ ounce sloe gin
  • ½ ounce orange Curaçao
  • 5 dashes ginger bitters
  • 6 ounces Rudy’s Cranberry Hibiscus Cider
  • 1 wedge of fresh lime

Mix the sloe gin, Curaçao, ginger bitters, and cider in a low ball glass. Squeeze in the lime juice, then add a few ice cubes. Celebrate!
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America’s First Cocktail http://allintocider.com/recipes/americas-first-cocktail/ http://allintocider.com/recipes/americas-first-cocktail/#respond Fri, 13 Nov 2015 19:36:31 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=432 [Read more...]]]> For someone whose years of formal schooling focused on things like the Krebs cycle and the shape of electron shells, little attention was paid to history. A plunge into the fascinating world of cider and orchards, however, has reveled just how closely intertwined the history of America and the history of American cider truly are. A case in point is the incredibly flexible, wonderfully delicious cocktail, the Stone Fence.

Great Britain’s American colonies had been producing cider practically from the moment the first ships landed in the New World. Cider was tasty, easy to make, and safe to drink, and a well laid out orchard was comforting evidence of man’s ability to create order in a new and sometimes hostile wilderness. Over time, the men and women that had taken a chance on carving out a life so far from their origins began to chafe under the rule of a far away government that so often seemed to impose onerous taxes while giving little back in return. By April of 1775 discontent had come to a head and the first shots of revolution fired in the small Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord (enterprising local Elias Brown sold mugs of cider to soldiers on both sides as well a spectators that had come to find out just what all the fuss was about.) The war for independence had begun.

Several years earlier, King George III had provoked a land dispute when he gave the colonial governor of New York the right to sell land grants to the west of New Hampshire (territory that would later become Vermont), the same land that the governor of New Hampshire was already selling. Those with grants from New Hampshire were understandably incensed that someone else was set to claim lands that they thought of as rightfully theirs. After unsuccessfully trying to resolve the issue in the New York courts, the New Hampshire grant holders turned to the only option open to them, a local militia whose mandate was to keep the New Yorkers out! Thus was born the Green Mountain Boys under the leadership of the brash and argumentative Ethan Allen. Allen and his Boys were pretty successful, eventually ending up with a price on their heads, but in the wake of Lexington and Concord, it became obvious that there were bigger issues at stake.

In early May of 1775 the revolutionary shadow government of nearby Connecticut got word to Allen that they were planning on capturing Fort Ticonderoga, located on Lake Champlain, and asking if he and his Boys would join them. A strategically important fort that had only been lightly garrisoned since the end of the French and Indian Wars, Fort Ticonderoga still had a fine collection of cannon and other armaments that were were sorely needed by the new revolutionary forces and so would be a useful prize. Allen was always up for a good scrap, so he began assembling a force in the small town of Castleton, about 50 miles from the fort. What he didn’t know was that Benedict Arnold, a newly commissioned colonel, was heading north on the same mission. They met in Castleton, probably at the town’s one tavern, the Catamount owned by one Zadock Remington.

Most colonial towns had few if any civic buildings, making taverns de facto sites for every sort of meeting. In this case, meeting at a tavern undoubtably had its benefits, for although Arnold had an official commission and orders to lead the mission most of the assembled company was unwilling to follow anyone but Allen. As the story goes, all sat down for cups of the local tipple – cider mixed with rum, that other New England staple – a compromise was reached, and the fort was easily captured the next day. The confiscated canons were used six months later to drive the British troops from Boston effectively ending major military activity in New England.

At what point the mix of rum and cider became known as a Stone Fence isn’t clear. Over time, though, taverns across the land would serve cider mixed with whatever spirit was made locally – rum in New England, rye in Pennsylvania, bourbon in Kentucky, or applejack in New Jersey. By the time anyone got around to writing the first bar manual, the Stone Fence had been enfeebled by exchanging cider for sweet apple juice. This version of the Stone Fence isn’t awful, but it lacks a certain thrill. A better approach is to follow the lead of Ethan and his Boys. Take a bottle of your favorite local cider and mix it 1:1 with something from your favorite local distillery, preferably something barrel-aged.

The following version was inspired by a recent trip to Washington, home to some very happening distilleries and some amazing ciders. Alpenfire’s Ember, a certified organic cider made by husband and wife team Steve (Bear) and Nancy Bishop in Port Townsend, WA, is a complex semi-dry blend of French and English bittersweets whose pronounced tannins give the cider an appealing astringency that rounds out its rich fruit flavors. Combine it with Peated, a gold medal winning smoky single malt from Seattle’s Westland Distillery, and you’ll have a cocktail that will light any party on fire.

Ember Stone Fence 1

Stone Fence

      • 1 1/2 ounces Peated Westland Whisky
      • 1 1/2 ounce Alpenfire Ember cider
      • a twist of lemon peel as a garnish

Pour the whisky into a low ball glass, add the cider, and some ice (use a big cube if you want to keep the drink cold but not watered down), and a twist of lemon peel.
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Blackbeard’s Julep http://allintocider.com/recipes/blackbeards-julep/ http://allintocider.com/recipes/blackbeards-julep/#comments Sat, 12 Sep 2015 17:08:25 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=408 [Read more...]]]> A Cocktails come in all shapes and sizes and fit for any sort of occasion. Some days you really want the full on booziness of a double martini, while others call for a drink that you can have several of without ending up dancing on the table with a lampshade on your head. Blackbeard’s Julep is one of the latter. With the multilayered fruit flavors of citrus from Schilling’s Grapefruit Cider and Finnriver’s Black Currant Brandy Wine,the bright zing of mint and lime, and the savory hit of the salt rim, this cocktail will see you through a long Indian Summer evening in style.


Blackbeard’s Julep

  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 ounce Finnriver Black Currant Brandy Wine
  • 6 ounces Schilling Grapefruit Cider
  • Lime wedge, about 1/8th
  • salt

Run the lime around the rim of your glass, then dip it in the salt. Muddle the mint in the bottom of a shaker, add the Black Currant Brandy Wine and ice, then shake well. Strain into the glass, add the cider, then squeeze in the lime. Garnish with a bit of mint.
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A Little Bit About Cider and the Law http://allintocider.com/general-musings/398/ http://allintocider.com/general-musings/398/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2015 17:08:22 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=398 [Read more...]]]> A new election season seems to be upon us, bringing to this writer’s mind thoughts of laws and legislatures and just how they effect the growing cider industry. Alcohol has been a part of the American story from the very beginning, and an excise tax on it’s domestic production was the first ever imposed by the brand new American government in an effort to pay down debts from the Revolutionary War. Confined to distilled spirits and short lived, this whisky tax was spectacularly unpopular, though from the point of view of the Treasury it still got the job done. By the early 20th century, excise taxes had been put in place for all alcoholic beverages and had become a significant source of the monies needed to keep government running. For example, alcohol-related taxes accounted for almost 75% of New York State’s revenue in the early part of the century. Then came the grand failed experiment that was Prohibition resulting in a huge budgetary hole that, contrary to the hopes of it’s proponents, went unfilled by increased tax income from what was supposed to be a big bump in the sales of other goods. Historian Michael Lerner estimates that the Federal government forewent some 11 billion dollars in liquor taxes and licensing fees during Prohibition, surely one of the driving forces behind its demise.

After Prohibition the Feds seem to have forgotten about the once ubiquitous cider, or maybe there just weren’t many companies interested in producing it, so when they went to write new tax laws cider was just lumped in with wine, not getting a tax category of its own until 1997. You see, cider is a little like a platypus. You remember the platypus, right? An Australian mammal that looks like it was assembled from spare parts with bits of a duck (funny bill, lays eggs) and bits of a beaver (furry coat, nurses it’s young)? Cider has a some of the same problem. Like wine it is fermented from the natural sugars found in the juice of a fruit and can be either still or carbonated, but it’s typical alcohol content is more along the lines of beer, and much of it is sold as a direct competitor to beer. This seems to have confused law makers, to the extent they thought about it at all.


Cider and Taxes

Why should this make a difference? It’s all in the money. The Federal excise tax rate for cider is currently about 23 cents/gal. as long as the ABV stays below 7%. Any higher and the tax rate jumps up to that of wine, which is $1.07/gal. Beer, on the other hand, is taxed at 58 cents/gal. regardless of ABV. Small producers do get discounts on some of their production, although for wine makers/cider makers it’s on their first 100,000 gals, and brewers on their first 1.86 million gals. And then there’s carbonation. If the CO2 in cider exceeds 3.92 grams/liter (don’t worry about what the units mean), about half the amount of your average beer, the tax rate jumps to $3.40/gal. ($2.40 for a small producer), the same rate as champagne.

Carbonation can be easily controlled, unless the cider is meant to finish its fermentation in the bottle and be naturally sparkling, but alcohol content is another matter. The amount of sugar in any fruit, including apples, will vary from year to year, based on how hot the summer was, for example, and sometimes by a lot. And, of course, the sugar in the resulting juice is what ends up as alcohol. The only way to control the finished alcohol content in a high sugar year is to either start with concentrate instead of fresh apples or dilute your fresh juice, which also dilutes the flavor. If a cider maker is committed to using whole fruit instead of concentrate he/she is at the mercy of nature as to whether or not their cider gets taxed at one level or another, particularly if they are orchard-based (as some of the finest ciders in the country are). And this can have a profound effect on the bottom line, not to mention the ramifications regarding labels, which are absurdly convoluted and beyond what you’ll want to read about here.

The Quirks of State Laws and Cider

One of the other notable features of the end of Prohibition is that in a nod to the federalists (and more likely the die hard teetotalers) states were allowed to define their own laws regarding alcoholic beverages any way they saw fit. When crafting their liquor laws most states included cider under the definition of wine as a fermented fruit juice, but a handful of others treated cider as some sort of beer, at least under certain circumstances. The wine/beer duality can lead to some vexing situations if you are a cider maker trying to get your fledgling business off the ground.

Take Pennsylvania, 4th largest producer of apples in the U.S. Pennsylvania law defines cider as a “malted beverage” as long as it has 5.5% ABV or less. Ciders with more alcohol are defined as wines. Malted beverages can be sold in all manner of ways including self distribution and through wholesale distributors to various retail outlets, like bars and restaurants. Wines, however, can only be sold directly from the winery or through a state-controlled liquor store. (It’s interesting to note that in Pennsylvania beer can have any amount of alcohol in it and still just be beer.) This regulatory approach forces cider makers to make some hard choices: jump through hoops to keep the sugar content of their juice low enough, resign themselves to highly restrictive sales channels, or to create two companies operating under two different licenses for essentially the same drink so that they can sell some cider as “beer” and some as “wine”.

Individual states, like the feds, also impose their own excise taxes on alcohol production. In almost all states the tax rate per gallon of beer is lower than the tax rate for wine, often dramatically so, again under the theory that beer has a lower alcohol content. That being said, in the state of Washington, for example, a state that is very much pro-cider, beer that’s less than 10% ABV is taxed at $0.26/gallon whereas cider of any strength, since it is defined as wine, is taxed at $0.87/gallon.

States of Change

As the cider market has grown in the last 5 or so years and the number of new cider companies with it, many states have finally realized that by adjusting their laws a bit they can support and encourage these new businesses, creating jobs, and in apple growing states, new markets for local apple growers, Virginia, one of the top 10 apple producing states, changed its definition of cider in 2011 to included a more favorable tax rate up to 10% ABV as long as cider is made solely from non-chaptalized juice (no pre-ferementation sugar added). Washington, while still not adjusting it’s tax rates, as of as of 2014 allows cider makers to fill growlers for customers the way breweries have done for years, and as of July 2015 no longer requires cider producers to pay dues to the state’s wine commission, which historically has promoted the state’s wines and ignored cider completely.

One of the most ambitious new state laws affecting cider was passed in New York in October 2013. This forward thinking legislation created a separate definition for cider (fermented un-chaptalized juice from pome fruit (i.e. apples, pears, etc.) between 3.2 and 8.5% ABV) and created a new Farm Cidery producer license for smaller producers (less than 250,000 gals/year) and requires using only fruit grown in the state. The new license category not only has a lower licensing fee but brings with it all sorts of tools to help grow a business including exemption from sales tax, the ability to have a tap room for retail sales for on and off premise consumption, and to sell at sanctioned farmer’s markets and fairs, as well as a certain amount of latitude in participating in many other direct sales opportunities. And in a radical departure from any other state in the nation, New York set excise taxes for cider at a mere 3.79 cents/gal, the only state where a tax on cider is less than tax on beer (14 cents/gal. + 12 cents/gal. in NYC.) As of August 2015, New York has issued 16 Farm Cidery licenses, including the first to hot urban cidery Nine Pine Cider in Albany, NY.

The Nine Pin Tap Room

The Nine Pin Tap Room

Getting the Feds Into the Act

New York has also been at the forefront of proposed changes to Federal Law that would support the emerging cider industry. In legislation first introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in 2013 the Cider Investment and Development through Excise Tax Reduction Act (aka the CIDER Act) would redefine cider as a beverage fermented from the juice of apples or pears between 0.5% and 8.5% ABV and up to double the amount of carbonation currently allowed before the big tax bump-up. The House has it’s own version, HR 600, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY).

The bills appear to enjoy bipartisan support in both houses, but the wheels of government turn slowly, so even a bill with little or no opposition can move at what seems like a glacial pace, in part because of what appears to be the curious way that bills can be endlessly tweaked. There are, at the end of the 2015 summer recess, no fewer that 3 bills pending before the U.S. Senate that contain the original language of Sen. Schumer’s bill essentially unchanged. One is S1459, reintroduced by Sen. Schumer in May 2015. A second is S906, passed out of the Senate Finance Committee in February 2015 and sponsored by Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), which is Schumer’s original bill but with a section added that would make a small change related to Medicare providers. The third is S1562, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, introduced in June 2015 by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or), a sort of omnibus act that would make changes to laws relating to alcoholic beverages across the board, including legalizing home distilling. We can only hope that at least one of these bills, or something with the cider provisions intact, will make it to the President’s desk before too long, making it just a little easier to bring cider back to it’s historic place on American tables. You can follow the CIDER Act’s progress by checking in with the U.S. Association of Cider Makers website.
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An End of Summer Cocktail http://allintocider.com/recipes/an-end-of-summer-cocktail/ http://allintocider.com/recipes/an-end-of-summer-cocktail/#respond Fri, 28 Aug 2015 22:26:53 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=390 [Read more...]]]> The dog days of summer are winding down and Labor Day is just around the corner. Still, the heat persists pushing, the tomatoes and peppers into luscious ripening but wilting the dedicated gardener making planting beds ready for the fall. Days like these call for something fresh and easy but with enough character to rally our slightly feverish brains and save them from late afternoon torpor. Bright citrus with a bit of a bitter edge and Wandering Aengus Bloom cider with its slightly floral wildness do just the trick.


Bloom Cocktail

The Wandering Orange

  • 1 ounce Cointreau®
  • 5 – 6 ounces Wandering Aengus Bloom Cider
  • 3 dashes citrus bitters (I like the one from Brooklyn Bitters)
  • 2 orange slices

Mix the Cointreau®, cider, and bitters and pour over a generous amount of ice in which the 2 orange slices are nestled. Enjoy in a shady spot on the porch with a little garden dirt still stuck under your nails and the satisfied feeling of a job well done.

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Raspberry Cider Ice Cream Cake http://allintocider.com/recipes/raspberry-cider-ice-cream-cake/ http://allintocider.com/recipes/raspberry-cider-ice-cream-cake/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 20:48:50 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=380 [Read more...]]]> raspberry cider ice cream cake

When you need a special desert nothing fills the bill better than an ice cream cake. They don’t come together in a snap, but this one can be made in stages and can be kept in waiting for the big moment for several days, as long as you have the freezer space. In this version I combined the classic flavor pairing of raspberries and chocolate.

Using raspberry cider, like the one made by Sheppy’s or 2 Town’s Throne of Thorns, in the ice cream gives it a deeper level of flavor – sweet and tangy and luscious. Other options are the blackberry ciders from Ace or Sea Cider’s Bramble Bubbly. The ice cream is great on it’s own, of course, so if you want a desert that takes a little less effort, try just making the ice cream and the ganache, which can be used as a fabulous chocolaty topping.

Raspberry Cider Ice Cream

  • 1 pint raspberries, fresh or frozen (plus a few extra for decorating later if you like)
  • 1 cup raspberry cider
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 cup cream

Combine the berries and the cider in a pan and cook over med low heat for 15 minutes or so until the berries are quite soft. Let the mixture cool several minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds, pressing all the fruit pulp through. And the sugar and stir until it is dissolved, then stir in the corn syrup and the cream. Chill thoroughly, then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

While the ice cream is chilling, cut a piece of parchment paper and fit it into the bottom of a spring form pan, then put the pan in the freezer to chill. When the ice cream is ready to come out of your ice cream maker, scoop it out into the prepared spring form pan, smoothing it into all the corners and making the top nice and level. Cover the pan with some plastic wrap, then place it into the freezer over night so that the ice cream disc is nice and firm.

Chocolate Génoise Cake

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup (10 oz, 280 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (5 oz, 140 grams) white cake flour
  • ½ cup (1.6 oz, 40 grams) dark cocoa powder

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (200 C, gas mark 6). Cut 2 rounds of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a nine inch cake pan. Butter 2 pans, place the parchment paper in the bottoms, butter the bottoms again, then dust with flour. Set the pans aside until the batter is made.

Place the eggs and the sugar in a mixing bowl over a simmering water bath, then beat vigorously with a whisk or electric hand mixer until the mixture becomes thick enough to form a ribbon as it drips from your lifted mixer back into the bowl. Remove the bowl from the water bath and continue to beat vigorously until the mixture triples in volume. I will look rather like a bowl of light yellow whipped cream. Stir the flour and cocoa powder together. Fold the flour mixture gently into the eggs 1/3 at a time, the divide equally between the two prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on racks, then wrap and freeze until ready to assemble the cake, at least 1 hour.

Assembly Phase 1

Take one of the cakes and place it upside down on the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan or removable bottom of a tart pan. Next, take the ice cream round and place it on top of the cake, then put the second cake on top of the ice cream and press the 3 together firmly. Trim the edges of the cakes if you need to so that they exactly match the size of the ice cream. Wrap the half-assembled cake in plastic wrap and foil, then put it back in the freezer for at least 1 hour before continuing. You can even wait until the next day to go on with the assembly.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz cream
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp framboise or other berry liqueur
  • 12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate cut into small pieces

Put the cream, corn syrup, and framboise in the top of a double boiler over simmering water and heat until the cream begins to simmer. Remove the cream mixture from the heat, then add the chocolate pieces. Let everything sit for a minute or 2 until the chocolate becomes quite soft, then whisk together until smooth. Let the ganache sit for another 10 minutes or so before finishing assembling the cake.

Assembly Phase II

Put the cake on to a rack set in a rimmed pan. Ladle the ganache slowly over the top of the cake, letting it drip down over the sides. When the cake is thoroughly covered, pop it back in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Scrape the ganache that has collected on the bottom of the rimmed pan back into the double boiler as you will use it again.

Take the cake from the freezer and pour more ganache over the top and sides, this time smoothing with a spatula so that it is nice and even. Put the cake back in the freezer until you are ready to serve it (at least 1 hour) at which time you can decorate it with the reserved raspberries.

To serve the cake, heat a knife in hot water, then dry it for each slice.

Serves 8 to 12

Note: If you have left over ganache, and you probably will, it can be saved in a container in the refrigerator for a week or 2 and used to frost something else, or top your favorite ice cream. Just heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it is either spreadable or pourable.
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Sheppy’s Cider’s Deep-Rooted History http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/sheppys-ciders-deep-rooted-history/ http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/sheppys-ciders-deep-rooted-history/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 00:27:51 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=370 [Read more...]]]> shop sign

Holidays by the sea have been a staple of British life since George III made Weymouth his summer holiday residence in 1789. Some two hundred years later scores of vacationers would load the kids in the car and head south to the beaches of Devonshire on the A38, so many that eventually traffic would slow to a crawl. Imagine overtaxed parents’ relief when just south of Taunton in Somerset they’d spy signs for Bradford-on-Tone, home of Sheppy’s Cider.

The Sheppy family has deep roots in the soil of Somerset going back at least 200 years. As farmers they made cider for their own use as well as for part their workers’ wages, a common practice through most of the 19th century. The modern Sheppy’s story starts in 1917 when Stanley Sheppy bought the 370 acre Three Bridges Farm just off the road that would in a few years’ time become the A38. It was then, as now, a mixed use farm with a sizable orchard of mature cider apple trees. Stanley took his cider seriously, and by the 1930s had developed several commercial blends, including two sparkling champagne-style ciders, won a gold medal at the International Brewing Awards, and established a fine small cider business. Stanley’s son, Richard, took over the farm after his father’s death in 1948, but was more interested in farming than in cider. He let that part of the enterprise fade away for some years until asked to judge at the famed Bath and West competition, an experience which rekindled his enthusiasm for this classic Somerset drink. It may have helped that by now he could see those carloads of tourists streaming by the farm, just looking for a place to stop on the long journey south.

An old orchard of standard trees

An old orchard of standard trees

Richard and his wife, Mary, started with a shed at the side of the road, selling cider to folks on the way out for their holiday, and on their way back home again, eventually helped out by their young son David. Next came a museum housing Richard’s collection of old farm implements and cider-making equipment – old wooden cider presses, apple mills, ploughs, harrows, and seed drills – a compilation of the tools necessary to a rural farm life. Later on they also built a tea room and a farm shop, selling not only cider but a range of other Somerset-produced products as well. By the time the streamlined M5 motorway appeared in the 1970s, a stop at Sheppy’s had become an essential part of the holiday excursion.

The farm shop full of the bounty of Somerset

The farm shop full of the bounty of Somerset

The Sheppy’s of today is still tied to the farm, but owner and cider maker David and his wife Louisa seem to have set their sights beyond the world of the Somerset tourist trade. In recent years they have set about expanding and modernizing their operations and adding to their orchards, now at 70 acres with 30 varieties of apple. Their new mill and press can process 6,000 kgs of apples per hour and the production capacity has gone from about 265,000 liters in 1999 to 2,000,000+ liters in 2015. The new bottling line runs at 2000 – 3000/hour and can be fitted to fill three different bottles sizes, while the fully automated kegger can put out 40 full kegs/hour. All this has been set up in a new production building, freeing up the old space to relocate and expand the tea room and farm shop.

The begging line

New processing equipment

While this all sounds very industrial, the farm and farming is still clearly central to the Sheppy gestalt. Farm tours are a part of the Sheppy’s experience where people can visit with a handful of horses and Scrumpy the donkey and gaze upon the herd of traditional English Longhorn cattle maintained on the farm (their meat is available in the farm shop from time to time). Two hundred and fifty acres is still used to grow arable crops such as wheat, oats, barley, and field beans, some of which is sold but much of which goes to maintain the cattle during the winter months. The cattle are also fed the spent pomace after the fall apples are pressed. And with a mindfulness of both the farm’s bottom line and the integrity of the local environment, the Sheppy’s built a wetland ecosystem to purify and absorb the waste water used in the cider production that is now home to a myriad of creatures – frogs and birds and buzzing insects.

One of the farm horses with English Longhorns in the background

One of the farm horses with English Longhorns in the background

But what of the ciders? Ever attuned to changing tastes and markets, a modern sensibility, and a willingness to innovate, David Sheppy now produces 16 different fermented beverages from the 1,800 tons of apples they press annually (half of which are grown on neighboring farms). With a few exceptions, all are made with blends of traditional British cider apples that thrive in Somerset such as Dabinette, Tremlett’s Bitter, Harry Masters Jersey, and Yarlington Mill. There are also several single varietal ciders. Falstaff, the only cider made with dessert fruit, is sparkling, light and crisp and devoid of tannin, meant for quaffing on a hot summer’s day. The single varietals of Kingston Black and Dabinette, on the other hand, are both sparkling and rich with tannins. The former is tart and dry, while the latter is more of a semi-dry cider, full of fruit with a hint of apricot. On the sweeter end of the spectrum is Cider with Raspberry, a light cider apple blend augmented with raspberry juice, a nod, perhaps, to a similar drink of the 17th century meant for ladies.

The newest orchard

The newest orchard

All of this production has got to go somewhere, and the Sheppy’s have quite reasonably looked to expand outside the traditional UK market. They sell to a few countries on the European continent, and have made some initial shipments to China, but the market that many cider makers are eyeing is, of course, the United States. Fortunately, the Sheppys have found a kindred spirit in Bruce Knight, owner of Orchard Gate Imports. Through his long friendship and association with JK Scrumpy of Michigan Bruce has developed a deep appreciation for farm-driven ciders, and, believing that Sheppy’s shares this mind-set, began importing two of the ciders into the US in 2014.

One of the many visitors to the farm

One of the many visitors to the farm

Nearly a hundred years on Sheppy’s cider has come a long way from the farmstead ciders of Stanley Sheppy. He has been described as quite a traditional man, and one wonders what he would make of the global cider market of today and the company his grandson has built. Farmers tend to be pragmatic people, though, so undoubtedly he would approve, for certainly David Sheppy has made his enterprise thrive suggesting that the Sheppy farming tradition will continue for generations to come, sinking their roots even deeper into the rich soil of Somerset.
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Fine Ciders from a Foggy Ridge http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/fine-ciders-from-a-foggy-ridge/ http://allintocider.com/cider-makers/fine-ciders-from-a-foggy-ridge/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 01:25:57 +0000 http://allintocider.com/?p=363 [Read more...]]]> The big breweries of the world have jumped on the cider bandwagon in an effort to bolster their bottom lines as sales of their flagship products flatten. With their mighty ad dollars and distribution muscle they’ve been a significant force in driving the cider category’s astonishing growth and created myriad opportunities for hundreds of small, craft cideries. But cider taking a piece out of American beer sales is only one part of the story. Within the niche that is the cider market is a corner occupied by a dedicated and passionate group of cider makers who’s goal is to produce the cider equivalent of fine wine, cider crafted to express the unique character of the unadorned apple. One such cider maker is Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider.

Heritage trees in the mother orchard

Heritage trees in the mother orchard

Diane grew up in the Piedmont area of northern Georgia, granddaughter of farmer and daughter of an engineer with a naturalist’s heart. Some of her earliest memories are of plants and gardens and bird song, so while she enjoyed a first career as a successful professional, she aspired to return to a rural life and get her hands back in the dirt, to produce something tangible after spending years in a world of ideas. She and husband Chuck found a perfect piece of land in the southern Appalachians near the small Virginia town of Dugspur. Too high at 3000 ft for grapes, they set their sights instead on apples, and by 1998 had built a house and put in their first orchard to see what would thrive, a mix of 35 varieties of heritage American and English cider apple,. Diane continued working as a business consultant for the next 5 years, allowing for extended periods of time away from an office that she could use to tend the trees and study the cider maker’s art – cider making courses in the U.K., enology classes at Virginia Tech, stints as a volunteer worker at several of the like-minded cideries that could be found at the turn of the 21st century America. They bought more land and planted more trees, and sold their debut vintage in 2005 as the first cidery south of Massachusetts since Prohibition.

It was clear from the start that Diane’s intention was not to fill kegs for the corner pub but to make ciders that would be welcome on the wine list of any discerning restaurant. Compatibility with good food was, and is, key, and the ciders have been embraced by chefs throughout Virginia. Farther afield Foggy Ridge ciders have appeared in many national food magazines including Bon Appétit, Saveur, Food and Wine, Gourmet (in their last issue), and Martha Stewart Living. Diane herself was nominated for a James Beard award in 2015.

The Foggy Ridge production facility and tasting room

The Foggy Ridge production facility and tasting room

In the Foggy Ridge approach the apples are clearly the stars of the show. Each variety is harvested when fully ripe rather than picking to a particular schedule. Some, such as the Newtown Pippin, are pressed as soon as they’re picked while others, benefit from 2 – 3 weeks in storage to reach their ultimate potential. The musts are slowly fermented, separately, in stainless steel tanks using yeast strains chosen to bring out the best of the fruit without adding their own quirky flavors, then aged and blended to achieve a signature taste. Temperature control and exacting cleanliness are crucial, reducing the need for bacteria-controlling sulfites and minimizing filtration, which they believe can strip out some of the more delicate flavors. The mindset is that of a fine wine maker, and indeed noted wine consultant Jocelyn Kuzelka joined Foggy Ridge as cider maker in 2011. With masters degrees in both enology and microbiology, she brings modern scientific rigor to this most traditional of beverages.

The tasting room serves multiple functions

The tasting room serves multiple functions

The ciders speak for themselves, reflecting their mountain terroir of bitterly cold winters and hot, humid summers. Serious Cider, the favorite of a New York Times tasting panel chaired by wine expert Eric Asimov in 2013, is a blend of classic English cider apples, Tremlett’s Bitter, Dabinette and Ashmead’s Kernel, with Roxbury Russet, the first named variety originating in North America. It is crisp and dry with understated carbonation and the subtle flavors of plums and pears. Its bright but balanced acidity is the perfect foil for a rich buttery sauce or creamy cheese. At the other end of the sweetness spectrum is Sweet Stayman, primarily made from Stayman apples, a descendant of the Winesap discovered in Kansas in the mid-19th century, with a handful of others such as Grimes Golden (another 19th century apple and parent to the Golden Delicious), Cox’s Orange Pippin (reputedly one of England’s most flavorful apples), and some Ashmead’s Kernel for a bit of acidity. Off-dry despite it’s name (1.6% residual sugar) it is reminiscent of a dry Riesling, full of rich fruit with a foundation of acidity to keep it from flabbiness, just the sort of thing you’d want with a smoky barbecued brisket or a spicy thai stir-fry.

Sweet corn ravioli in a leek and morel butter sauce paired with Serious Cider

Sweet corn ravioli in a leek and morel butter sauce paired with Serious Cider

A lovely, warm, and gracious woman, Diane has more than a bit of steel in her spine when it comes to her beliefs about cider. It would be unthinkable for her to consider adding hops or other fruits, although she understands why some cider makers do. In part it comes from the mindset of many cider makers with brewing backgrounds – expressing the unique flavor of a strain of barley is seldom the goal. And in the rush to join a high growth market many don’t, or can’t, take years to study the intricacies of fine cider making. But the bigger issue is perhaps simply the paucity of interesting fruit. The most widely available apples may be fine for fresh eating and applesauce (although even this may be debatable), but lack much in the way of character once fermented making for thin, undistinguished ciders on their own. This problem is unlikely to be solved until the large growers, the ones in a position to put in 20,000 trees, are convinced that the market for their apples will be there once the trees begin to bear.

In the meantime, Diane does what she can to promote her vision. She sits on the Virginia Wine Board and has worked with legislators to create laws that support the growing cider industry there. Each year she provides scion wood to orchardists around the country wanting to plant cider apples, and in 2008 founded ApplesCorps to teach home growers about old apple varieties and tools to preserve them. And for each of the last 3 years Foggy Ridge has welcomed a paid intern to learn the craft first hand. It’s a way to give back to the industry, and seed a new generation with a passion for the remarkable apple.
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