Day one of Chicago Cider Week began with a cider class featuring Ryan Burk from Angry Orchard. Most of us are aware of Angry Orchard, as the cider has a significant share of the US cider markets and their 6-packs can be found on many a supermarket shelf. But, what many consumers don’t know is that in addition to what Angry Orchard deems their “core” ciders, which are typically made with sweeter apples, the company is also producing ciders using heirloom/heritage apples and a modern twist on traditional cider making. During a Cider School session at The Northman, we had the opportunity to sample several of Angry Orchard’s creative offerings.
The Newtown Pippin apple is native to what is now the borough of Queens. Unlike some heritage apples used in cider, Newtown Pippin can be eaten without resulting in an extreme sour lemon face. As such, this apple’s characteristics help produce a well-balanced single-varietal cider.
Angry Orchard wild yeast ferments the pressed juice, which is a traditional style of fermenting using yeast already present on the skins of the apples. While the Newtown Pippin is not as sweet as a Granny Smith apple, its mouthfeel is similar and that fleshy flavor is imparted into the cider. The acidity is well balanced and the tannins are low, with a lingering mild green apple aftertaste. The cider’s light (body) features make it a nice pre-dinner drink.
Edu is a Spanish style cider (i.e., sidra) produced with Yarlington Mill and Dabinett – bittersweet apples which produce a rich, low acid, and mildly tannic juice. Sidra is often a sour shock to most pallets, but Edu is an exception. The use of the bittersweet apples rounds out some of the bitting notes found in sidras and the resulting cider has rich apple flavors with low acid and mild tannins that impart a drying finish which dissipates quickly.
Understood in Motion (03)
Understood in Motion is a collaboration series between Angry Orchard and other well-known cidemakers. For Understood in Motion (03), Angry Orchard collaborated with Tom Oliver. This partnership cider started with base ciders – the Angry Orchard base contained Dabinette & Northern Spy and the Oliver base contained Dabinette & Foxwhelp (a bittersharp apple with high levels of tannin and malic acid.) The base ciders were fermented separately and then combined and blended with additional, fermented juice (over 15 were sampled) producing a cider which has strong tannins (like sucking on a tea bag) as well as citrus and apricot and underripe peach notes.
This high ABV (>10%) cider is a blend of maple syrup from Crown Maple and Angry Orchard’s bourbon barrel-aged (12 months) Wooden Sleeper (a blend of bittersweet & bittersharp apples) cider. To me, this cider is reminiscent of an old-fashion cocktail. There is a hint of bubbles intermingled with the bourbon apple flavors and the sweetness from the maple syrup plays off the apple adding a bit of depth and richness to the cider. This would great as an after-dinner drink in place of a brandy or port.