With the end of summer and first signs of autumn, celebrate the change of season with apple cider! Yes, Orchard Thieves 2L kegs have finally arrived for you to load up The SUB! Orchard Thieves have been producing cider using the traditional skills for over 125 years. Now you can draught delicious apple cider from your home beer tap!
But what is apple cider?
It is an alcoholic drink that is produced by fermenting the fructose in apples. Cider is frequently likened to beer, because as a general rule you drink it from a similar glass but realistically it is more similar to a wine made from apples. Given the wide variety of apples (sweet, sour and sweet-bitter), different combinations can lead to the creation of different flavours and colours with varying profiles and depths. That’s what makes this drink the perfect choice for any occasion and any person! Although any apple can be used, apples used in cider production are usually smaller than table apples and have a higher concentration of tannins. For this very reason, they are aptly named cider apples. Ciders can be categorised by two main styles, standard and specialty. The latter being modern and heritage ciders. The main differentiator here is the type of apple used. Traditionally of course, cider was made from any strain they could resource so “style” did not play a huge role although it was usually Crab apples. Crab apple is often used, mixed with others like Cox and Russett.
Cider was around during Greeks and Roman times, but the most "modern" version dates back to the Middle Ages. Today, the production is mainly concentrated in Europe, thanks to its agricultural, climatic and historical conditions. The countries with the highest production volumes are The United Kingdom, Spain and France. Interestingly, The United Kingdom has the world's highest consumptions per capita. It has definitely evolved in other continents such as the United States, where it has now become quite popular. Here, “hard cider” is used to distinguish alcoholic cider from “sweet cider” counterpart, which are also made from apples but is non-alcoholic. In Italy its expansion was slowed down by historical factors. Cider has been produced since the Fascist period of the early 1900s, but to facilitate the production of wine, taxes were introduced on the production of craft beer and cider.
Cider and beer
As mentioned, often cider is identified with beer or, or at least, as part of the same category. Sure, they have things in common, but these are two completely different drinks. Apple cider can be associated more with wine than beer, due to the sugary fruit that they both have as a starting point.
The first substantial difference between cider and beer is its starting point: apples are fermented, while for the beer the malt is fermented. For beer you can also use wheat, corn and rice, but fruit is never used. Both, however, get their own alcohol by fermentation. Making cider is actually a relatively simple process. Unlike beer, with Cider there is no brewing process. Instead the juice from the apples is put in barrels or where it can ferment easily. Fermentation usually starts from the wild yeast on the apples, but sometimes white wine yeast or alternatives are added to accelerate the process.
After the fermentation has stopped, you can tell this when there are no more bubbles of gas, it needs to mature for about 2-3 months before it is drunk. The percentage alcohol apple cider contains can vary considerably, but usually Ciders have an ABV between 4% and 8.5%. There are always exceptions, brands from the USA have been known to create Ciders with 12%!
How to drink cider?
Cider can be dry or sparkling, sweet or sweet, young or aged, light or dark. It is very diverse, it goes well with so many different dishes, from the savoury to the sweet. It is sweeter than beer, contains less alcohol than wine and is also much more natural than many cocktails. Moreover, it is perfect for every occasion, for example when you are on vacation, an evening with friends and relatives or simply watching a movie on the sofa while you relax.