There is Something in Cider

What is this you ask, Helper Monkey Ciders? I thought this site was supposed to be about the brewskies, the cold ones, the beer?  What?  You don’t like cider? Have you ever had cider? Was it Wood Chuck? It was Wood Chuck wasn’t it? You can admit it. I’ve had Wood Chuck too, but it’s time to try something better. There are plenty of great commercial examples, but it is so easy to make compared to beer, why don’t you just make some yourself.

To make apple cider, take some apple juice and introduce it to yeast. It is as simple as that.

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Wait one minute Mr Helper Monkey,  that bottle already says Apple Cider.  Aren’t you cheating?

Cider is basically fermented Apple Juice, but the interesting thing about the word Cider is that in the US it is synonymous with Apple Cider. I suspect that it is because the US has had a love-hate relationship with alcohol. I would bet that it became synonymous during alcohol prohibition. Google would probably tell you, but I will leave that to you, my loyal reader. So, what I have here is non-alcoholic, non-fermented Apple Juice.

Don’t let Flanders fool you, there is no standard difference between what manufacturers call Cider and Juice in the US no matter what Apple Juice
Manufacturer websites claim. I have also seen websites claim that one is filtered and one is not filtered. Hard cider always designates the alcoholic version. Except for Canada, the rest of the world calls Alcoholic Apple Juice Cider, and non-alcoholic apple juice, apple juice.

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The flavors and aromas of beer are almost completely determined by the processing of the ingredients after picking.  This is not true with cider.  Like wine, cider is made in the fields, and the end flavor is predominately determined by the apples you use. There are books and books out there about how to choose apples to make the cider you want, but it really comes down to experimentation. Every region has different varieties of apples and the same variety of apples grown in different conditions are going to taste different. Your best bet is to go to your local Apple Orchard and try out different blends of apples. Or do what I did, and just try the house blend.

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It is very important to get Apple Juice that has no chemical preservatives, because that will just kill your yeast dead. If you have managed to get your hands on a non-pasteurized Apple Juice, you could just let it sit and it will ferment by itself, but you never quit know what you will get. If you want some insurance or you have pasteurized Apple Juice, Wyeast does make a specific cider yeast, but Wine Yeasts are also commonly used and they are significantly cheaper. Cote Des Blancs by Red Star (yes the same people that make your bread yeast) is one that is commonly recommended for cider. It was also praised by the employee at my Local Homebrew Shop.

Don’t just take your yeast and toss it into the must (fancy name for Apple Juice). Take your yeast and bloom it in some warm water. This means, pour it in water that is about 100 deg F. You don’t even need a thermometer. Your body is 98.6 on average. So use water that is a bit warm to the touch. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and it should bubble a bit and become creamy.

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Put your Apple Juice in a clean and sanitized container (or leave it in the bottle if you want), and pitch the yeast slurry. If you want to assure a drier cider, throw in some yeast nutrient. Then put it in a cold place, around 35-45 deg. F. Wait a couple of months and you got Cider. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Red Eye Coffee Porter

The nuptials are over, and do you know what means? Time for beer! A special beer from Two Brothers, part of their Retro Series. As part of two Brother’s 15th Anniversary in 2012 they re-released 15 of their earlier beers. The Red Eye Coffee Porter was first brewed in the Spring of 2009 and due to popular acclaim was temporarily brought back in the fall of 2009. Now it is back as part of this special offering. It is a great example of American Beer recipe ingenuity. Take some rye, which is popular in German Brews, take a Porter from England, Americanize it, and throw in some coffee beans, not technically traditional in Porter, but we don’t take kindly to tradition in these parts.

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The days of summer are ending and that means no more ice cream shops, but fear not, take a sniff of this beer and you will be taken right back there. Take a sip. Yes I know. You still think that you are in the ice cream shop. I had to bring you back to reality, but you aren’t. Your probably sitting at home, but you are drinking Red Eye Coffee Porter and that is good.

You would kind of expect more bitterness from so dark a beer, but it is a big beer and the hops are downplayed, but as the beer warms up, the bitterness along with the spiciness from the rye really comes forward and rounds it out nicely.

The carbonation is very low, which is immediately noticeable as soon as you start pouring. The off-white head is small and does not last long. The lacing does not last on the glass. On the other hand, the body is big, real big. All of this contributes to the milk-shake like consistency of the beer. The color is of very dark brown, virtually black, and no light can make it through. This beer is thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m wishing that the beer wasn’t a limited release.

What should you pair this with you might ask? I paired it with the Great Gatsby movie, but your morning Wheaties (assuming you don’t have anywhere else to go after a 9.2% ABV beer)  would be an equally appropriate for this Coffee Porter.