Dean McGuinness reviews Hogan’s Hip Hop Cider and Hogan’s Killer Sharp
Normally, I would say that cider is more like wine than beer. However, when innovative cidermakers use techniques that have been popularised in craft brewing, the lines get a little blurred.
Today, we are tasting two ciders that are using cidermaking techniques that would normally be described as brewing techniques. Hogan’s Hip Hop Cider is cider that is dry hopped with Cascade and Chinook hops. Hogan’s Killer Sharp is a cider that is made using a Brettanomyces fermentation.
Craft Brewing Techniques –
Fundamentally, the second half of brewing is very much comparable to cidermaking. In the second half of brewing, a sugary solution (wort) is fermented by yeast to produce beer. In the second half of cidermaking, a sugary (fruit juice) solution (apple juice) is fermented by yeast to produce cider.
The first half of the process is quite different for these two drinks. For beer, the sugar in wort has to be generated in the mashing process. After this, the wort is boiled and hops are added. Next the wort is cooled and oxygenated to prepare it for fermentation. In the first half of cidermaking, the process of generating sugar starts in the apple tree. The apples are picked, cleaned and pressed to get apple juice. The fruit juice is then fermented.
Brewers have added or adapted steps in the basic process of brewing to brew different beer styles. Two of these craft brewing techniques are the subject of our tasting today, as they have been adopted by Irishman Allen Hogan in his cidermaking endeavours.
Dry Hopping –
Dry hopping involves adding cops to the cooled wort in brewing at some stage after fermentation starts. Hops can be added during fermentation or after fermentation, depending on the brewers’ preference. Hops contain different substances that can contribute to flavour in beer. While the alpha acids in hops are fundamental to achieving bitterness during the boil in the brewing process, these alpha acids are of little relevance in dry hopping because the heat from the boil is required to convert (isomerize) these alpha acids into the different structure that causes these iso-alpha- acids to be both soluble and bitter-tasting. Essential oils are relevant to the later part of the boil – added too early, and the boil causes these essential oils to boil off, but added late in the boil and they survive into the final beer – and these essential oils are also relevant to dry hopping.
Aroma hops are hops that deliver desirable essential oils into beer. By adding aroma hops (or dual purpose hops – hops that can be used for both bittering and for their aroma qualities) into the fermenting or fermented beer, it is possible to infuse the beer with these hop flavours. This process – called dry hopping – and it is particularly popular in the brewing of hop-laden IPA’s.
The specific flavours that are imparted to a beer depend on the hops used. American hops can deliver an array of flavours, but are particularly noted for citrus, tropical fruit and/or piney flavours. English hops can sometimes deliver more earthy flavours. Hops from Continental Europe – particularly noble hops – can be particularly complex in the flavours that they impart due to their landrace heritage (these hops often have complex parentage, and combine an array of flavours from their hop ancestors).
To make things a little more complex, hops can be transplanted from their country of origin to other countries – sometimes English hops are planted in the States or Continental Europe, and vice versa. There is a ‘nature versus nurture’ consideration here – while the genetic parentage of the hops has a considerable impact on the qualities that these hops impart, the environment, soil and growing conditions where the hops grow are also factors in the final qualities that these hops impart on the beers in which they use.
Just because dry hopping is most associated with brewing doesn’t mean that it has remained exclusively the prevue of brewers. Innovative cidermakers such as Allen Hogan (maker of today’s two ciders) have used this technique to infuse hop qualities into their ciders.
Fermenting with Brettanomyces –
Sour beers are not only incredibly popular among discerning craft beer drinkers, they are also possibly the most authentic “original” beers. Beer is normally fermented using beer yeasts – ale yeast or lager yeast, depending on the style of the beer. In more traditional brewing – such as, for example, in lambic brewing – wild yeasts have been used in brewing. These wild yeasts are more natural yeasts – often the yeasts that are present in the atmosphere. The resulting fermentation with these wild fermentations are less controlled, and can result in an array of unusual flavours in the beer.
In more recent times, brewers have tended to brew more often with cultured yeasts – yeasts that are grown under controlled conditions so that the brewer knows exactly what is in the culture that he is using. With most styles of beers that are drunk nowadays, these cultured yeasts are used.
Cultured yeasts can be used in cidermaking as well. Cider yeast, or even sometimes beer ale yeasts, wine yeasts or even champagne yeasts, are all used in cidermaking. However, like brewing, sometimes cidermakers have used wild yeasts to ferment their juice. In fact, it is a common technique to use yeasts that are present on the skins of apples to make ciders, and in some cideries, the cloths that are used in apple pressing, which are rich in these yeasts from multiple pressings of the apples, are used to infuse the apples with yeast to trigger fermentation.
In brewing sour beers or ciders, two approaches are used. One approach (the one used in lambic brewing, for example) involves fermenting with wild yeasts. Yeasts from the atmosphere are allowed to settle into the wort (or juice), and fermentation happens over a relatively long period of time. An alternative approach is to use cultured wild yeasts – yeast from a previous wild fermentation is cropped and retained for future fermentations.
Brettanomyces is one organism that is associated with sour fermentations. Brettanomyces (or “Brett” according to our American cousins) can result in sour flavours and often complex flavours in the liquids in which they cause fermentation. Our sharp cider today is fermented using a Brett culture.
Hogan’s Hip Hop Cider –
Cider Style - Dry Hopped Apple Cider
Alcohol by Volume - 4.0% a.b.v.
Made by - Hogan’s Cidery
Made in - Warwickshire, England
Hogan’s Hip Hop cider is made with 100% fresh pressed cider apples. The base cider is medium dry with a notable structure delivered by apple tannins. By itself, the cider is deliciously apply. With the dry hopping of this cider using English grown Cascade and Chinook hops, an interesting, complex and tasty new dimension is added to this complex cider.
Cascade hops are one of the better known American hops. Responsible for around 3% of the hops used in the U.S., West Coast U.S. Cascade hops are known to impart citrusy (grapefruit, lemon/lime) flavours and often some piney character to beers. Chinook hops deliver a similar character when used in beers. Using these hops in this cider results in a citrusy flavour balancing the apple fruit flavour of the cider. Drying tannins are complemented by subtle pine from the hops, and the acidity of the hop citrus character provides balance against the residual sugars from the medium-dry cider.
Overall, this cider is fresh and zingy. There is no mistaking the cider base for the drink, but the dry hopping adds a dimension of complexity that provides depth and character to this delicious drink.
Hogan’s Killer Sharp –
Cider Style - Brett Fermented Apple Cider
Alcohol by Volume - 5.8% a.b.v.
Made by - Hogan’s Cidery
Made in - Warwickshire, England
Notably darker in colour, Hogan’s Killer Sharp is a delicious cider for anybody who loves sour beers, and is looking for an alternative interpretation of this style. Interestingly, when I recently tasted Timmerman’s Faro Lambic, I noticed a distinct apply flavour in this sweetened lambic that combined with the sour acidity of the lambic. In the case of Hogan’s Killer Sharp, the apple flavour is already present courtesy of the base juice, but the Brettanomyces fermentation delivers no less complex a sour character to this cider.
The balance in this cider is interesting. A little more residual sugar is present, but this sweetness is balanced by the sour Brett character. Sourness on the sides of the tongues (lemon juice flavour from the fermentation) lifts the luscious sweet mouthfeel from residual sugars in the cider. Earthy complexity develops in the aftertaste, and a complexity of different taste sensations – sweet, sour together with zingy carbonation – all play on the tongue and provide different experiences in different parts of the mouth and throughout the finish of this cider.
Hogan’s Killer Sharp is truly delicious. Sometimes sours can be surprising to people who have not tasted them before. Sour tastes (think traditional lemonade) can be incredibly refreshing, and these flavours typically trigger mouthwatering in the drinker. Very clever use of residual sugars in this cider to act as a counterpoint to the sour character, but rather than cancelling eachother out, they serve to complement and balance eachother.
Describing this cider does not do it adequate justice – it is a cider that needs to be tasted to understand how truly refreshing and delicious it is.