Sunday, June 14, 2015

AB Cider Varieiteis (at least, how I think of them)

 Most people simply drink cider in the situations they assume appropriate. Being comfortable with something is good thing, and one should ultimately enjoy cider and wine by personalizing it to situations, but I think we tend to get stuck in routines which prevent us from discovering certain qualities and the drink's full potential.  I'm anxious to hear when and where you find the ciders most appropriate, but for now here are my thoughts...

-Ginger Cider is, to me, a summer drink best chilled and drank during the day. It's bubbly and gingery and our nearest thing to not dry. It is a "walking around" cider.  
-Appinette is a Champagne drinkers cider. It too can be a walking around cider but it's very, very good with foods, especially beginning courses. Switch to Elderberry for the latter dinner.
-Elderberry cider is like a light-bodied red-wine but deep in heavy characteristics: woody and berry notes. It's the ultimate table/ food drink. 
-Homestead Perry is a "study it" experience. Blind fold yourself and drink it slow. Go where it goes.
-Homestead Apple (all of them) is the same way. It goes great with foods, especially buttery rich foods, but it's a real interesting drink to evaluate on it's own.
-Homestead Crabapple is what we would all drink if it could be mass-produced. I seriously doubt that there is a drink in existence that can compete with the vitality or complexity, while still remaining drool-over drinkable. Sorry, no way to shark-tank this drink (and keep the authenticity.)

If you want a party/ "having-company" cider: Ginger and Appinette
Pure dinner cider: Appinette, Elderberry cider, and Homestead apple or crabapple
Cider for cider's sake: all of the Homestead ciders and perry.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

“How does a person make great cider?”

You’re asking the wrong question.  Embedded in the question are assumptions that suggest a deep and fundamental misunderstanding about what cider is. That question leads directly away from the very answer you seek.

Look at the sentence again and notice the subject in the middle of this question: the person. By trying to figure out how “a person” makes great cider we are assuming we are important when really, the two important species- yeasts and apple trees- can pretty much make cider on their own. So the question is not how “we” make great cider; it should be, “How do we discover it?”
I hate the term “think outside the box,” but it applies here. Cider, or rather, our ability to know great cider, is especially challenging for us because of the way our lives have evolved over the past 200 years. We are now more than ever removed from nature and we tend to look at things from a scientific perspective rather than a sympathetic one. This is our ego talking. We see ourselves apart from the situation. But one needs to be "in" the process, not above it like a puppet-master, if we are to "know cider".

Here comes the rant... Cider is a holistic venture or it is nothing at all, a sham, a two-dimensional cutout of type-casts arranged by ad-men to appear like culture on a Hollywood set. To them cider is a "(fill-in-the-blank) person's drink." They have the power to manipulate us in mass because we have become vulnerable. We are incomplete in our specialized lives so we grasp on to the illusion of another identity. Cider is an identity. But it's one we can't relate to unless we break from our specialized lives. I will be first to admit that it’s hard to sympathize with 'All', but cider is somehow connected. It's an ambassador to that world. We have to follow it, not direct it back this way.

Natural Yeast Rant

  A ‘natural yeast’ fermentation (or ‘wild yeast’) is about letting the existing yeasts from the fruit or the atmosphere populate the sugars in wine or cider. Naturally, (pun intended) you would not add chemicals to a natural/ wild yeast fermentation because you want the continuation of bacteria between fruit and juice (no juice sterilization.)

  The opposite of a natural yeast fermentation is a cultivated yeast fermentation (although cultivated yeasts are quite natural too.) This is when you select yeast strains to dominate the fermentation. Levels of chemical sterilization may range, but the difference boils down to who’s selecting the yeasts. Wild is the opposite of cultivated, and ‘natural selection’ is the opposite of manipulated selection (notice “man” in that word.) So, a natural/ wild yeast fermentation is about man NOT selecting the yeast stain (which is a fact of choice these days in the modern world.)  It’s important to remember that.

   In Cider 101 they touch on this subject: ‘cultivated yeasts’ –vs- ‘wild yeasts’. Your teachers will mention that in France, England and Spain there are cider-makers still using wild yeasts to ferment, but here in America almost everyone uses cultivated yeast strains because we know that’s the surest way to achieve a safe and tasty fermentation. What your Cider 101 teacher unwittingly infers (before moving on and never again mentioning natural fermentation again) is that ‘natural cider’ is the result of ‘natural yeast fermentation.’ This misinformation, it turns out, is the greatest blind spot in cider today. Because this partial truth is so widely accepted, this little bit of misinformation allows cider companies to exploit ‘natural fermentation’ to make it seem that they have a ‘natural cider’ when they most definitely do not.  

    Natural cider is infinitely more complex than a natural fermentation.  Natural cider starts before the juice, before the apples are picked, before the spring blossom, before the “growing years”, and even before the trees take root in the ground.  Natural cider has it’s roots (yes, pun intended) in (1) the soil, and (2) the seed. This is where it all begins, and it is absolutely imperative the natural cider drinker be aware of these origins. But because we are so focused on the end product (a great drink!) we tend to work backwards. Working backwards, we are bound to get hung-up somewhere. Currently, the conversation (and marketing) over “natural wine or cider” is hung-up at the fermentation stage. 

Working-backwards you are going to run into this hypocrisy…

Natural Cider is the result of what happens naturally. We are not trying to ‘achieve’ natural cider, we are trying to discover it. It’s about allowing the drink to happen. If you control the gene selection by way of choosing select cultivars (like pinot noir or golden delicious), and you chose where the apples were grown and how they are grown, then nature isn’t really a dominant factor anymore. It's man's domination. So why trumpet the fact you use ‘wild yeasts’ to ferment the juice when the fruit you use is (A) selected (and cloned,) and (B) cultivated in a manipulated agricultural settings?  Everything that lead up to the fruit was cultivated so why start now? Do you get what I’m saying? You don’t start with hygiene and then let a little nature happen. At the VERY minimum, at least use organic fruit!