British cider strongbow

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markw90
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British cider strongbow

Post by markw90 » Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:02 pm

I just wonder every cider , well most of them are really sweet, but one I have tried in UK called strongbow. was sour as hell, but tasty , really nice. I just wonder how its made. I have tried to made my homemade cider ( found the recipe on the internet ) but its sweet like juice. Does anyone know how to make it more sour than sweet?
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Dave
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Dave » Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:34 pm

You're speaking of hard (fermented) ciders here?

From what I understand, it's probably a combination of two things: the nature of the apples that you press for juice, and the fermentation (specifically, what species of microbes do it).

The apple juice you start from is going to have a sweet/sour balance which depends on the amount of sugar in the juice, and the amount of acids (e.g. malic) naturally produced by the tree. Different apple varieties vary in their sugar content, and vary a lot in their acids - some are quite sweet, the others are quite tart. Starting with a sour-apple juice would be one way to increase the sourness of the final fermented cider. Commercial store apples are often of the sweeter varieties (that's what people like to eat) but you might get a result more to your liking by selecting tart "pie apples" such as Granny Smith.

The other part is the fermentation. The ferment will naturally "eat up" much of the sugar, as the yeast and/or bacteria metabolize it, so the cider will become less sweet. Some yeast and bacteria metabolize the sugars into sour substances - for example, many species of bacteria convert the sugars to acetic acid, creating vinegar. Other species don't do this.

One recipe for cider-making I looked at starts out by adding a Campden tablet to the juice (sodium metabisulphite) to kill off the vinegar-creating bacteria, and then uses commercial champagne yeast to do the ferment. This should be a nice, predictable recipe but it wouldn't be particularly sour.

From what I can see, "sour cider" is often wild-fermented - the yeasts and bacteria found naturally on the apples are allowed to do the fermentation. Brettanomyces yeast grows naturally on fruit skins, and it produces some acetic acid as well as some distinctive flavors when it ferments. In fact "Brett" is hated by some brewers for this (a Brett "infection" can throw off the taste of a batch of beer) but it's also essential in brewing "lambic" beers which have a distinctive sour flavor. Like sour cider, lambics are usually "wild fermented" - the brewers don't add yeast, but depend on the presence of natural Brettanomyces floating around in their facility to get into the wort and start the fermentation. Lambics brewed in a particular facility or cellar can be impossible to replicate elsewhere, because the brewing facility has a unique blend of yeast and bacteria strains floating around in the air and remaining in equipment surfaces.

I suspect that the same might be true for sour ciders.

So, the best approach I can suggest, if you want to make one to your taste, is to start with good fresh apples of a more tart variety, wash but don't sterilize, press, and then alllow to ferment naturally - don't add a commercial wine yeast. You might want to see if you can find a bottle of a good lambic beer (or local sour cider) whose taste you like and which hasn't been pasteurized, and add a small amount of it to the apple juice at the start - you might get lucky and pick up a "good strain" of Brett or a similar acid-forming yeast.

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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Sat Aug 08, 2020 7:14 pm

You have to remember that the sugars in the juice will be converted to alcohol and CO2- therefore if you start with sweet apples, you will have a cider devoid of flavor.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Dave » Sun Aug 09, 2020 8:31 pm

Wikipedia wrote:In the United Kingdom, Strongbow is a blend of bitter-sweet cider and culinary apples, with 50 different varieties of apple used. The apples are grown in England and France. It is mass-produced using modern methods and contains apple concentrate and sugar. It is fermented with a controlled yeast strain, and at least some varieties are flavoured with artificial sweeteners. The Bulmers Strongbow vat is the largest alcoholic container in the world, with a capacity of 1.5 million gallons (6.8 million litres).
I guess any or all of the above could account for the flavor that you like... the choice and mixture of apples, and the specific yeast used are probably important factors.

Apparently they make a whole range of flavors and varieties in Europe and the U.S.

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AnotherFairportfan
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by AnotherFairportfan » Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:00 pm

There are both sweet and dry ciders; when i was at Cropredy in '92 i formed an attachment for the dry variety.

One of the other Americans on the tour didn't believe us when we warned him dry cider was deceptively mild-tasting ... at midnight he did walk to the tour coach under his own power ... but we had to keep an eye on him and make sure he was pointed in the right direction, all the way up the field.

Hmmm - that's interesting - Strongbow is apparently owned by Heineken these days...
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by TazManiac » Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:50 am

Appropo of one one singular thing, I had a Heineken just last night.

It's been awhile since I had one, I found it kind of tangy. (I've been doing Double Hopped IPAs lately)

I haven't been buying Ciders from the store, but I used to pre-Covid, on the off chance.

Like the hunt for a Good/Perfect Red, finding a decent Cider is a Quest unto itself...

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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Atomic » Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:38 am

One thing to remember is American Cider is basically an apple juice. British (European) Cider is a fermented product on par with beer, including the Alcohol. Beware and be wary! It WILL knock you on your ass in short order it you let it!
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AnotherFairportfan
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by AnotherFairportfan » Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:32 pm

Atomic wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:38 am
One thing to remember is American Cider is basically an apple juice. British (European) Cider is a fermented product on par with beer, including the Alcohol. Beware and be wary! It WILL knock you on your ass in short order it you let it!
Oh, there's Strongbow, Woodpecker, Woodchuck, Angry Orchard ... All of them available at either Kroger or Publix. I THINK they may be a bit less potent in the US, and dry ciders are a touch less common, but...

======

Actually, thinking back to Cropredy, i believe some of the dry ciders can be stronger than many beers.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Thu Aug 13, 2020 11:30 pm

AnotherFairportfan wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 10:32 pm
Atomic wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:38 am
One thing to remember is American Cider is basically an apple juice. British (European) Cider is a fermented product on par with beer, including the Alcohol. Beware and be wary! It WILL knock you on your ass in short order it you let it!
Oh, there's Strongbow, Woodpecker, Woodchuck, Angry Orchard ... All of them available at either Kroger or Publix. I THINK they may be a bit less potent in the US, and dry ciders are a touch less common, but...

======

Actually, thinking back to Cropredy, i believe some of the dry ciders can be stronger than many beers.
They should be- they are essentially a sparkling wine
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Atomic » Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:05 am

Good point, Sarge! I wonder what the dividing line is between hard cider and apple wine?
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Dave » Fri Aug 14, 2020 12:45 pm

Atomic wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:05 am
Good point, Sarge! I wonder what the dividing line is between hard cider and apple wine?
A fuzzy one - more linguistic and marketing than technical, i suspect.

I'd personally tend to call it a "hard cider" if it's wild-fermented, using only whatever yeasts happen to be on the apple skins. Most home-crafted dry/hard ciders are probably of this type.

If the apples are washed and sanitized before being pressed, and then the ferment is started with a commercial wine yeast strain, and it's bottled and corked and racked in a way similar to that used for grape wine, then I'd call it an apple wine.

In the end, the decision is probably in the taste-buds of the imbiber.

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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Typeminer » Fri Aug 14, 2020 1:21 pm

I think Dave is generally right. It's a matter of process. And apple brandy (applejack here; calvados in Europe) can be very good.

The U.S. had a great tradition of cider up till Prohibition. Cider orchards grew mixes of apples that were not particularly good for baking or eating out of hand. (You wouldn't eat vinifera as table grapes, either.) Johnny Appleseed didn't care a damn about pies. :mrgreen:

It could come back, but all the commercial stuff I've tried is way too sweet. Good dry cider can be good, though I do prefer pale ale, myself.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:05 am

Atomic wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:05 am
Good point, Sarge! I wonder what the dividing line is between hard cider and apple wine?
Technically, any "Hard Cider" is alcoholic- traditional Christmas "Mulled Ciders" can be either non-alcoholic or a mix of apple juice and "Jack" leavings (2-5% ETOH). Traditionally, it will clock in anywhere from 8% to 13% ETOH. Apple Jack is much stronger- you freeze the stuff and scrape off the slurry- alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature. You can get up to 120 proof, 90 being the most common. Much safer than distillation, it is a drink of the Northern climbs or higher elevations where Winter is the real thing. In Northern France it is the drink of choice and is called 'Calvados' traditionally kept in slip-cast "bottles" that are glazed dark brown ("Little Brown Jug" is said to be inspired by this, as the British were very fond of the stuff).

Because it is fermented fruit, technically all hard ciders are wine and must be aged in a manner similar to the vintner's art. Good beer is ready in a month- Cider takes at least a year. If you are freezing Jack, it can be (Marginally) drinkable in three months- age in charred oak.

Interesting side note- freezing cider to make Jack is called "Jacking off"
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:09 am

Bare in mind- there are very few forms of alcohol I have not made. Some of my creations are still talked about in certain circles, particularly my family recipe for corn. Sadly, as a recovering alcoholic I no longer make the stuff- but I can tell you a few tricks about it. Been sober since December 29, 2002.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Typeminer » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:32 am

Concentrating cider by freezing is traditional, but I've heard that it's risky because it also concentrates the congeners that are discarded with the heads and tails in distillation.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by TazManiac » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:30 pm

Up 200 miles from where I usually am is a whole orchard of Pears just going fallow every year.

I've often schemed building a copper still to work on Brandies and such....

Good on Sarge for maintaining the path, I myself hardly drink for effect any more- it's become a taste thing now...

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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Wed Aug 19, 2020 6:06 pm

TazManiac wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:30 pm

Good on Sarge for maintaining the path, I myself hardly drink for effect any more- it's become a taste thing now...
I drink to get drunk- and then there's a chance I will get angry. I was trained Army Special Forces- bad combination, it had to stop.
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Sgt. Howard » Wed Aug 19, 2020 6:09 pm

Typeminer wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:32 am
Concentrating cider by freezing is traditional, but I've heard that it's risky because it also concentrates the congeners that are discarded with the heads and tails in distillation.
Generally speaking, Congeners in apple Cider are not near as concentrated as in red wine or rum- and they significantly add to the flavor (even though they tend to be mildly toxic).
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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by Dave » Wed Aug 19, 2020 6:39 pm

Sgt. Howard wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 6:09 pm
Typeminer wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:32 am
Concentrating cider by freezing is traditional, but I've heard that it's risky because it also concentrates the congeners that are discarded with the heads and tails in distillation.
Generally speaking, Congeners in apple Cider are not near as concentrated as in red wine or rum- and they significantly add to the flavor (even though they tend to be mildly toxic).
According to some commentary I read, in the Colonial and pre-Prohibition days applejack had a reputation for causing particularly bad hangovers, and possibly even "apple palsy" (sometimes leading to blindness).

Some indicate that the biggest risk factor is from methanol... which is produced during fermentation by yeast's action on pectin. Apples contain a great deal of pectin. I'd think that would be the biggest advantage of heat-distillation over freeze-concentration; during distillation the lower-boiling-point methanol comes out with the heads, and can be discarded (or used for bio-fuel I suppose).

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Re: British cider strongbow

Post by TazManiac » Wed Aug 19, 2020 9:05 pm

Now that's an interesting idea; using the otherwise unwanted Methanol to heat the Still.

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