Monday, November 5, 2012

Brew Day - Fuldauer Burnt Honey Winter Apple Cyser

Back when I first was diagnosed with DH I was kind of at a loss as what to drink when I was hanging out with friends on a patio in the summer.  We used to hang out at the local bar on the patio, have a couple rounds of Alexander Keith’s IPA or a Guinness and just enjoy the sun and some good conversation. After being diagnosed, it was hard to find that same balance you find in a beer where you can enjoy a pint over a period of time without going overboard.  With a well drink I found they were gone to quickly, the tropical cocktails and coolers were too sweet and for me a glass of wine is more for an evening affair.  The answer I found was Cider, specifically Strongbow.  This was a revelation to me, I could sit and have a pint with my friends, drinking at the same pace as everyone else and enjoy the summer. 
A year later when my wife and I moved to California, I found a larger selection of ciders (Magners, Woodchuck, Hornsby, etc) and really came to enjoy them but since moving to Germany in January, there has been a lack of cider in my life.  They have here in Hessen (the province where Frankfurt is located) what they call Apfelwein or Apple Wine.  This is somewhat similar to cider, but is fermented more like white wine.  As I understand it, apple wine is usually fermented to about 12% alcohol but is often cut to be between 4-8%.  I find that this removes the depth and character that you find in a good cider.

So recently when a neighbour gave me a bucket full of winter apples I decided to try my hand at a simple cider and since I struggle with simple, it has be come what is actually called a cyser.  A Cyser is a fermented blend of Apples and Honey, sounds yummy to me. J  Now I’m sure Andrew Lea would be appalled at what I’m doing here but I’m hoping he would understand that this is the first thing I’ve really brewed anything discounting that wine we made in high school biology class, that I really don’t remember.  Following  is the recipe and a recap of the brew day.  Racking, bottling and finally tasting will follow in later posts.
Fuldauer Burnt Honey Winter Apple Cyser
What I’m going for with this cider is a nice sparkling dry cider with a hint of the caramelized honey and some deep apple flavour.  I’m not sure if the honey is going to leave any non-fermentable sugar behind but if it does, a touch of sweetness will be welcome.
3L Fresh Apple Juice
450g Caramelized Wild Flower Honey (How To Below)
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
1g Yeast Nutrient
SafAle English Ale (DCL/Fermentis #S-04)

OG:        1.063
Est FG:   1.004

1)      Juice the apples!  I’m not sure how many apples I actually had, I just juiced them all and wound up with about 3L of juice.  I probably could have had more but I couldn’t think of a good way to squeeze the pulp and this was a first attempt anyway.  And props to Mrs. Thirsty for all the help with the juicing, though I’m much of it stemmed from her fear of me breaking her juicer
2)      I put the nutmeg and cinnamon in the juice and put it on medium heat, holding it between 60 and 70°C for 30 minutes to pasteurize the juice since I didn’t have any campden tablets.  I love both nutmeg and cinnamon and at this point I really have to stop myself from putting it in everything (subtle flavours in barbeque rub anyone?) but for once I think this is a good place for them to be added

3)      After adding the honey and yeast nutrient and stirring well I put the whole pot in the sink with some cold water to cool it.  Once cooled to about 22°C, withdrew a sample to get the Original Gravity (OG).  I added the yeast nutrient with the sole purpose of avoiding any sulphur stink (aka Rhino Farts) which comes when your yeast is stressed.  As I understand it both apples and honey are a deficient in Free Amino Nitrogen that the yeast need to stay healthy, and unstressed, so a little nutrient to hopefully avoid the stink is well worth the effort.  I don’t want Mrs. Thirsty to be unhappy and since the lease was in German, I really don’t know if I’m allowed to brew in my apartment.  I want to have something to appease him with before my landlord finds out.
4)      Finding the OG a little high I added a litre of boiled water to the mix, totalling out to 4 litres of must that I transferred to the glass carboy I prepped.  I’m not making an Apple Wine or mead, so I’m trying to keep the alcohol around 6%.

5)      After mixing the yeast with the hydrometer sample and a little hot water I pitched the yeast, capped it, cleaned up and went to bed.   And yes, dreams of apple cider danced in my head.  Personally, not a fan of sugared plums.

6)      When I woke up in the morning, it was burbling in the fermenter happily and the ambient of the room was about 24°C.  The current plan is to let it go for about a month as is.  I’ll probably move it to the basement, which is a little cooler and will only get cooler as the winter wears on, so fermentation will probably be slow.  I may add another gram of nutrient in about 2 days and check the gravity about every day to keep track.  Otherwise I’ll plan on bottling before I go on winter break.

I made the Caramelized Honey with 500g of Wildflower honey, 2 tablespoons of water and ½ teaspoon of lemon juice.  Mix everything together and place over medium low heat stirring constantly until honey starts to simmer/foam.  Once foam starts, stop stirring and reduce heat, managing foam by switching heat on and off until the desired caramelization is reached.  In this case, foam was held for 20 minutes, then honey was moved to separate container.  Next time I’m bored I may do up a batch and just let it go and see how dark I can get it before it becomes bitter.

I’m really looking forward to this and it’s going to be hard to wait out the fermenting process properly so I’ll have to keep myself busy till then.  Hmm, maybe a beer next?