The weather has finally turned and it looks like spring may actually be here. The warming weather is also a sign that it is time to start to seeing what all of our work over the fall/winter has produced. The ciders that were started last fall have finished fermenting and are ready for some tasting! Although there has been lots of sampling throughout the winter now the cider is mostly done and ready for a more serious taste test. It was also an excuse to the enjoy the sun and sip some cider.
Most apples don’t make a great cider by themselves. The most interesting and complex ciders are usually made from the juice of multiple different apple cultivars. When we can, we still like to ferment each juice separately and mix them afterwards. Once we can taste which each cider tastes like, we have a better idea of what we want to blend together.
What do they taste like?
Much like wine doesn’t just taste and smell like grapes, cider doesn’t necessarily only taste like apples. We spent a day tasting, smelling and making notes on each cider. Some of the crabapple batches were noticeable different and unique but sometimes the differences between different ciders can be quite subtle. Don’t worry about being super specific, just think about what comes to your mind when you taste. Is it tart? fruity? Watery? The more you do it, you might even start to notice some specific flavours and aromas, maybe it reminds you a bit of strawberry and pineapple, or cloves and leather.
It can also be good to have a few people try the ciders. Sometimes somebody else will notice things that one person will miss. And sometimes maybe you can’t really think of anything to say about a batch. That’s okay! Don’t overthink it and try to have fun.
Next step – blending
After we have notes on all the different ciders, it becomes like a puzzle. What is the best way to combine these flavours together? Which of these will mix well with the other fruit and ingredients we wan’t to play with? Sometimes the best way to figure this out it is to just mix some things together and see how it tastes, but at least with some notes on how each of them taste by themselves we can start our blending with some educated guesses. For example, if the aroma of a cider reminds me a bit of tropical fruit, maybe it would be a good base to add hops that will enhance this characteristic. Or, if a cider doesn’t really have much flavour it could be used to help balance out a batch that is really strong, or it could be a good base to add in some other fruit flavours. It’s up to you, and you can craft your cider to your specific tastes.