Beer, You’ve Met Your Match: An Interview with the homebrewers at Angry Orchard Ciders

Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider

Based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, Angry Orchard is succeeding at a new American passion: hard cider. We talked to David Sipes, cider maker at Angry Orchard, to talk about cider making, history of cider and some tips/tricks on how to home brew.

Q: Can you give us a quick introduction to Angry Orchard’s background, as well as yours? What got you interested in cider brewing and how did the company get started?

DS: I studied Fermentation Studies at UC Davis and have experience brewing beer as well as winemaking. Cider making has always been of interest to me so when I joined The Boston Beer Company more than15 years ago, I began working on cider recipes right off the bat. Over the years, I’ve travelled the world meeting with cider experts, looking for the best cider apples, and have experimented with far too many cider recipes to count.

The other cider makers at Angry Orchard and I have been experimenting with hard cider and perfecting recipes for nearly twenty years. Throughout this time, we’ve travelled the world looking for the best apples to use in our ciders, and have been experimenting with different ingredients, for example, using spices and botanicals, and processes like trying different yeasts and fermentation methods and experimenting with wood aging.

In 2011, we decided to share our passion for cider with drinkers in the U.S. to help reinvigorate the country’s love of hard cider with the launch of Angry Orchard hard ciders. The past few years have seen an influx of drinkers embracing hard cider, and we’re thrilled to share our passion for cider with more and more folks.

Q: What type of ciders do you brew? Any unique/unusual flavor you can share with the readers?

DS: Here at Angry Orchard, we make a variety of cider styles to appeal to every palate, cider enthusiasts and newcomers alike. Our current lineup includes Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry, Apple Ginger, Green Apple and seasonal ciders like Cinnful Apple

We also have a collection of innovative specialty ciders called the Angry Orchard Cider House Collection, which includes Strawman, Iceman and The Muse. The Angry Orchard Cider House Collection is made with a blend of Italian culinary apples and French bittersweet apples.

Q: So many homebrewers focus on beer and ignore other options, including cider. Why do you think that is? What makes the two different?

DS: I think it all boils down to awareness. While cider is enjoying a huge renaissance in the US, it is still largely unknown to drinkers.  When taking a side-by-side look at our market versus somewhere like the UK, cider is a very small segment of the US beverage industry. So from my perspective, I believe it’s less about homebrewers (and drinkers) ignoring options other than beer, and more about overall awareness, and we see that awareness growing every day.

Q: Do you feel cider is finding its way into brewers’ homes more and more? Is this something that is happening more and more in the last few years?

DS: Craft beer in the US is definitely more mature than hard cider (thirty years to be exact!) Drinkers have been experimenting with a wide range of beer styles and ingredients in bars and stores, and homebrewers are enjoying the freedom to experiment on their own terms.

Cider is still new to a lot of people, drinkers and homebrewers alike. But awareness of cider has skyrocketed – in fact, since 2010 cider sales have nearly tripled, and don’t show any signs of slowing down.As this awareness of craft hard cider continues to grow in bars and in aisles at local stores, we may see more homebrewers looking to experiment with brewing cider in the comfort of their own homes as well.

Q: Can you explain what are hard ciders and what makes them different to the typical ciders most people know?

DS: As compared to the apple cider that’s often available in grocery stores alongside other juices, the category of “hard” cider indicates that there’s an alcoholic component to the beverage. Hard ciders, like Angry Orchard, use yeast to turn the sugars available in the juice from our carefully selected apples into alcoholduring the fermentation process, just like a wine fermentation.

In other parts of the world, “cider” (Cider (UK), Sidra (Spain), Cidre (France) is synonymous with “hard cider,” but federal government definitions here in the U.S. are in place to differentiate the two. (In fact, the federal government actually categorizes cider as a “wine.”)

As for what the future holds, Sipes believes that cider is just now beginning to find its way into American homes – and that means there’s a world of possibilities to come. “As quality ingredients become more widely available, and with the growing popularity of cider, I’d expect to see more and more people start making cider at home,” Sipes says. “There’s so much room for growth with cider across the board, and we’re really excited about the potential. “


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Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website

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