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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The Beer of Lent Part 2: An American Dopplebock

This is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can find part 1 here.

As we get towards the end the Lenten season, I’ve finally tried the second of my three Dopplebocks. This one is Grand Teton Double Vision Dopplebock. It is an American brewery’s take on a traditional German recipe. According to their website, Grand Teton wanted to highlight their local water and ingredients. It of course uses local 2-row and other local specialty grains. instead of continental Malt. Although, they do use German Munich. Even their hops are American versions of traditional German hops.

If you took a Hallertau Mittelfruh and tried to grow it in Idaho, it would not taste like one grown in Germany. Like grapes, hops have terrier, so their aroma and flavor comes both from the variety of hop used and the  it is grown. The liberty hops are a descendant of Hallertau mixed with another hop variety. This hop, when grown in the US, produces an aroma and flavor similar to a Hallertau grown in Germany.

The mouthfeel is slightly smaller than the Asam. There is medium carbonation. It has a dark brown-black color with an off white head. Very drinkable despite the high alcohol content.

It smelled like malt and leather. The taste follows the aroma with malt and leather. It is not as sweet as the Asam, and lacks any of the dark fruit flavors. There is also a bit of bitterness. As it warms you definitely get good alcohol warming.

Sommeliers will tell you that one of the flavors of a good Shiraz will be leather (earthy, tobacco, and wood are some others). Shiraz being my favorite wine style, I’ve had a few in my day. I’ve never got as good of a leather flavor as in this. You get upfront leather, but not in a bad way. This is my favorite Dopplebock.

Contamination in the Lines

The other day I was eating at one of those chain English-Style pub restaurants. It has decent English style food and decent beer. It’s actually more than descent in the form of Fuller’s ESB and London Pride. I’ve had Fulller’s beers on several occasions, but I have never had a Fuller’s London Pride on draft, so I figured it was time. I get the beer, waft in the aroma, and take a sip. Wait a minute! There seems to be something horribly wrong here. I take another sip. It tastes off. It certainly doesn’t taste like any of the London Prides I’ve had before. I know the draft should be a bit different from the bottle, but not this different. In fact, no beer should have this flavor. It seems kind of spoiled, maybe moldy, and just plain off. Sadness.

My first suspicion is a contaminated draft line. This has happened in the past and I never did anything about it. This time I figured it wouldn’t hurt to email the brewery, or at least the US representative Paulaner HP. They responded to say that their Chicago sales person would look into. Hope it changes something at the restaurant. All it really takes is cleaning the lines at a minimum of once every two weeks, and preferably weekly. If somebody had this beer for the first time and found this foul taste, there is a good chance they would think it was Fuller’s fault and never get that beer again. A damn shame. Before I started studying draught systems for the Cicerone Beer Servers exam, I never really understood how prevalent dirty lines are, and how most people (including myself) would never attribute it to the dirty lines.

It is important to understand what the differences are between flavors from  contamination and from poor recipes.  A professional brewery didn’t become a professional brewery by having poor quality control and off flavors in the beer. If you find a beer that has offensive flavor, that is probably a contamination due to poor handling or dirty lines. If you drink a beer with an offensive flavor, especially if it is from the draft, I’d try the beer from somewhere else before giving up on the beer altogether. If everything is alright there, it was probably the restaurant or bar’s fault. Sometimes things happen beyond a bar’s  control, but if you properly clean your lines and equipment on a regular basis, you shouldn’t be getting these problems.

The Monkey’s On Twitter

Helper Monkey Brews has finally entered the social networking world of twitter. Follow the monkey @HMBrews. It will mainly be random bite sized beer thoughts, that don’t really have enough filling to make a whole new post.  This is my first real foray into the world of twitter. I’ve had a personal twitter before, but rarely used it and almost never tweeted anything.  So hold on to your pants.

There are other exciting projects in the works. I’m not exactly at liberty to say, but it will be a feast for the eyes and ears.