Kahle’s Corner: Cider Season



Written by Breakthru Master Cicerone® Dave Kahle


Some folks are saying it’s cider season. The truth is its always cider season.


Cider is often associated with the fall due to the harvesting of apples through September and October. Since it can be difficult to get fresh fruit when it isn’t in season, much of the U.S. turns to apples and pears for the colder months. Given that, it’s easy to see the logic in calling it cider season.


To clarify, through the article “cider” means hard cider.


Much of the general public, including cider drinkers, don’t realize there are multiple styles of cider. On-premise menus regularly feature only one cider since mistakenly all ciders often get lumped into the same category.


Unlike wine, specific fruit varietals aren’t typically the defining point with identifying cider styles—process and Ingredients are more important. There are a few organizations that have written cider style guidelines, mainly for judging competitions. They generally all follow the same principles.


The most common ciders from craft cideries in the U.S. would be called Modern Ciders, which use culinary apples. These are the apple varietals you’d find at the grocery and tend to be sweet, with some acidity, but low in tannin. Modern Ciders are semi-sweet or dry, pale, refreshing, moderate in CO2 and 5-8% ABV. They can be fermented with brewer’s yeast, wine, or Champagne yeast, typically with clean fermentation flavors. Some are backsweetened with apple juice or sugar to dial in the desired level of sweetness. The best examples use fresh pressed apples, not concentrates.


Other Cider styles you’ll see are Hopped Cider, which uses hops to give aromas to the cider without adding any bitterness. It’s interesting to see the difference in aromas from hops when they are used in cider versus beer. Fruit ciders are made by augmenting the apples with additional fruits, such as berries, cherries, citrus, or even Guava.


Pear ciders have their own category. A pear cider is made with both apples and pears, while a perry is made with pears only. There are also herbed or spiced ciders, utilizing anything from basil, or mint, to chili peppers, chocolate or gin botanicals.


Some cideries make barrel aged ciders, resting the cider in new oak or previously used wine or spirits barrels. The vanilla and coconut notes you expect from barrel aging are a perfect complement to apples.


Traditional or Heritage Ciders encompass the English, French and Spanish Ciders, which use apples reserved for cider as they are too sour, bitter, or tannic to be eaten straight. The English Ciders are a touch higher in ABV (6-9%), dry, and often a little funky with phenolics that come from malolactic fermentation, French Ciders tend to be slightly lower in ABV (3-6%), and sweeter, with a Champagne-like carbonation, while Spanish Ciders (4.5-6.5% ABV) are served with almost no CO2 and have an acetic (vinegar) edge.


Considering all of this variety in cider, it makes sense for drink lists to have a range of cider styles, as one cider doesn’t fit all.


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