Q & A with David Sipes, Cider Maker for Angry Orchard!!

Based on the number of football game commercials we’ve seen, it seems like hard cider is the new popular drink around town. We’re not sure what to credit with cider’s resurgence, but we recently had a chance to link up with David Sipes, the cider maker for Angry Orchard. We wanted to know a little bit more about the cider making process in general, so we asked him some questions. Here they are!

Angry Orchard Cider2

  1. Have you always made cider – if not, what made you make the jump from your previous post?
    • I studied Fermentation Studies at UC Davis and have experience brewing beer as well as making cider and wine. When I joined The Boston Beer Company almost 15 years ago, I began working on cider recipes. So, for over a decade, we’ve been traveling the world looking for the best apples to ferment cider, experimenting with different cider recipes and learning how to make the best cider we could.

 

  1. What are you looking for in a cider apple that might be different than an eating apple?
    • When we’re working on a particular cider style, we look for the best apples for that particular cider, and we’ve travelled the world looking for those apples. Currently we use apples from Italy, France and the Pacific Northwest in our ciders, depending on the flavor profile we’re looking for.

 

  • For example, our Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Apple Ginger, Traditional Dry and Cider House Collection (Strawman, Iceman, The Muse) hard ciders are made with a unique blend of Italian culinary apples and French bittersweet apples. In Normandy and Bretagne, France, farmers have been growing bittersweet apple varieties unique to cider making for hundreds of years. Unlike ordinary apples, these bittersweet apples impart tart and tannic characteristics and tend to look gnarly and unattractive. In the southern foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy, we found culinary apples that, much like grapes, have a taste that is unique to the terroir of the region. Blending the French bittersweet apples with the Italian culinary apples creates the balance of tannin, acidity, and sugar unique to our Angry Orchard hard ciders.

 

  • For our fall seasonal cider Cinnful Apple and Green Apple, we sourced domestic culinary apples from the Pacific Northwest where the climate affects the sugars, acidity, and flavor of the apple. Certain regions within the United States, such as the Pacific Northwest and foothills of the Northeast, share characteristics with the apple growing regions of France and Italy in their rich soil and ample sunshine.

 

  1. What is different in the cider process from, say, the beer making process?
    • Making cider is actually more like making wine than brewing beer. Hard cider is the result of apple juice that goes through a fermentation process. For Angry Orchard, we use a select blend of apples to create a balance of tannins, acidity and sugar in our hard ciders. Instead of using a yeast that imparts a flavorful character, we use a white wine yeast during the fermentation process that allows the apples to express their fruit-forward flavor. We age some of our ciders on oak, including Crisp Apple and Traditional Dry and our Cider House Collection, to give the liquid an additional layer of complexity.

 

  1. Is Cider Gluten-Free? What part of the process would make a drink typically not gluten-free?
    • Angry Orchard uses naturally gluten free ingredients—apples and yeast—for all of our ciders, making our ciders a flavorful and unique beverage choice for those who cannot consume gluten. Hard cider in generally is typically gluten-free, where as beer generally is not due to various ingredients like malted barley or even wheat.

 

  1. What’s the difference between the thick, alcohol-free cider kids drink and hard cider? Is it just fermenting or is there a different process altogether?
    • Fermentation. You can ferment pretty much any apple juice, and you’ll end up with a hard cider. Of course, the taste will vary a lot based on what you start with!

 

  1. What’s your favorite part of the cider making process?
    • My favorite part of the cider making process is when I get to experiment and taste new recipes we’re constantly working on. We spend a lot of time working on new recipes, which includes unique ingredients, wood aging and experimentation with our fermentation processes.

 

  1. Are there any facts about cider that you want to share that people might not know?
    • Cider has a rich history in Europe as well as in the US. In colonial times, hard cider was a staple and by far the most popular alcoholic beverage because of the prevalence of its main ingredient – the apple. Cider has recently come back in a big way here in the US and continues to grow in popularity. Hard cider in the US grew 102% in 2013, and we continue to see strong numbers this year, up 91% year to date. It’s important to note that cider in the U.S. is relatively unknown and is still small. In the U.S. cider is only 0.8% of the beer market, whereas in England it’s closer to 20%. So, we have a long way to go until American drinkers recognize cider and are as knowledgeable about it as they are about beer.

 

So there you have it folks. All about cider from the man in charge of the apples. If you can think of any better questions to ask him, head over to their Facebook page or Twitter feed and ask away!

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