A quick perusal of the label reveals that this is a hard cider with ‘a splash of raspberry to awaken your taste buds’. That sounded good to me…then when I opened it, it poured a deep purple, almost black, and delivered a powerful raspberry punch with tart acidity from both apple and raspberry.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you–I’m a bit of a sucker for raspberry and blackberry in beer (New Belgium Frambozen, anyone? Me too.) and mead. This cider worked very well for me on a very cold Colorado night, though its sweetness and intense raspberry flavor was a bit excessive despite the sharp acidity. It’s very sweet, at 1.040 gravity…this is only about 20% less sugar than the approximately 1.050 that pressed apple juice often–though this can vary a lot–starts out at before any fermentation occurs.
The fairly narrowly-focused intensity of the raspberry flavor also makes me wonder about whether they are using concentrates, but I don’t have any real evidence of this. The alcohol is barely noticeable in this mix at 6.25%.
Overall, I liked it. But what about the hard apple cider character? Well, that was also barely noticeable. It appears that the base in this is similar to their others–primarily dessert fruit–which doesn’t pack much body or character by itself (though it is pleasant and refreshing). In a sea of raspberry, it doesn’t come through much at all. I suspect it might a bit more if it was a drier beverage.
So, there’s a lesson in here somewhere, and I think, especially for home brewers / home cider makers with aspirations to make additions to cider in much the same way as is easy with beer: use caution. While a big malt bill in a beer will stand up even to the nastiest of cloying additions–e.g., pumpkin–and may even obscure some of its faults, cider will not do that easily, if at all. Any over-intensity or off flavor your addition brings will likely be transmitted full force to the drinker. Maybe that’s ok, if you’re careful with the quantities of additions or you’re adding things that tend to complement apple without overpowering it, but before you add pounds of pumpkin to your apple must, you might want to think about how much of that will come through.
I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here, as I’m in the midst of fermenting a cider fortified with a lot of brown sugar, honey, and raisins in an attempt at the old New England hard cider style…but to be fair, it’s sitting alongside a couple more or less single-variety ciders that have no additions…so perhaps I could justify it as a series of experiments in establishing flavors along a spectrum. That’s right…do it for science!
You’ll see the New England style cider topic surface again when I complete the long-overdue fermentation follow-up to the grinding/pressing portion of my hard cider tutorial.
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