|James Kohn (L) and Nick Gunn|
But mass market ciders are actually a different thing altogether. They're made with water and sugar, sometimes apple concentrate, get their acidity from malic acid, and their apple flavor from a back-sweetening of apple juice after fermentation (and before pasteurization), and some even use apple essence to aromatize things. They're reverse-engineered drinks made to simulate the natural flavor of apples.
Wandering Aengus, like most of the new Northwest cideries, makes orchard-based cider. The ingredients are apples, yeast, and touch of sulfite* (a naturally-occuring compound that retards oxidation). In a Wandering Aengus, you get about three apples in liquid form, fermented. What distinguishes the products are the apple varieties and attenuation.
There's still just not a ton of traditional cider fruit out there, so Wandering Aengus ciders tend toward the tart and acidic. In one interesting experiment, Gunn and Kohn have used oak-aging in one dry cider to pull tannins from something other than the fruit. Like breweries, cideries have a house character that comes from the preferences of the makers. What you get in Wandering Aengus are strong, assertive, and very dry, tart ciders. They're a really nice counterpoint to the sweet ciders made with dessert fruit that are more common.
|Head cider-maker Adam |
Cocker (a former brewer)
If you're wondering whether the cider thing is really a thing (there's even a game!), consider Wandering Aengus. This year they did about 650 barrels of the Wandering Aengus line, and 5,000 of Anthem. Next year they expect to double their volume. Eleven thousand barrels? That's definitely a thing.
*We can tackle the sulfite debate another time.