Ash & Elm Cider Co.

Rooted in Tradition. Crafted for Today.

Filtering by Tag: Hopped Cider

The Flow of Culture

We have a guest blogger today - our fantastic Assistant Cidermaker, Joseph Kilbourn. Take it away, Joseph!


As a citizen of our fine modern city and the world, I regularly think about what defines culture. Culture is often a mix of blending current trends with unique ideas. Beyond society at large, a good share of personal culture is explained through stories and myths. I accepted the job of Assistant Cidermaker at Ash & Elm because of how the company has blended both sides of culture within its business plan and its story. It's summed up in the slogan, "Rooted in Tradition, Crafted for Today" and it shows in our first two limited edition releases, the Oaked Imperial Headlong and Del Camino tepache.

Microbrewers Festival lineup.

Microbrewers Festival lineup.

The Oaked Imperial Headlong debuts during the VIP hour at the 21st Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival as an homage to the craft beer scene. I would've never pursued cider making without the influence and culture of craft beer -- where you can always try something new, and you can even try your own hand at homebrewing with loads of support from a community of artisans. And now craft cider has a chance to take off in Indy because of road paved by microbrewers. With nods to some of our brewing heros, like the intensely Citra-hopped 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and fond memories of enjoying a Tequila Barrel-Aged Fistful of Hops from Sun King, we oak-aged and tripled the Citra hops in our dry-hopped house cider, Headlong.

To stand up to the quantity of hops and smooth vanilla notes of french oak, we bumped up the ABV by blending it with an Ice Cider made with fresh cider from Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield, IN. The Ice Cider style was invented in Quebec and uses cryoconcentration to remove some of the water from the apple juice before fermentation. After our careful blending, we arrived at a subtle yet powerful ABV of 9.2% for the Oaked Imperial Headlong, which we offer as a sincere 'thank you' to everyone who has created a culture of craft in Indiana.

At the other end of the cultural spectrum, we created Del Camino based on a drink of culture that my wife, Jennifer Delgadillo and I had while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico last year. Jennifer and I had just visited a traditional family textile business in the smaller village of Teotitlan del Valle where they loom fabrics from scratch on their goat farm. As we traveled back to Santa Lucia Del Camino, we saw a vendor selling a drink from a barrel by the side of the road and pulled over to try some. It was a homemade traditional tepache with pineapple rinds floating in it and bees swarming around it. My wife's cousin who lived there said that you know it's good when the bees want it. The vendor garnished the rim of our cups with a chili powder, salt and lime mixture and skimmed a few bees out for us. While we rode in the back seat of the car, we enjoyed the tangy fermented pineapple tepache. It was bursting with the flavors of piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar with notes of molasses), tamarind (a tart and sweet plant used in many Mexican candies that are coated with chilli powder and salt), and some hints of other spices.

Authentic Mexican tepache from Oaxaca.

Authentic Mexican tepache from Oaxaca.

Aaron and I recreated this experience as closely as any Hoosier could with a wild-fermented pineapple cider sweetened with piloncillo and Mexican spices. It came out just as tangy and sweet as the original (bees not included) with an ABV of 3.2% that makes it refreshing to drink on a hot summer's day. Ours also comes with the option to garnish it with a dash of adobo/cayenne chili powder, dried tamarind, lime and salt for an extra kick. I can't wait to see how Jennifer thinks Del Camino compares to the tepache we had from the street when it debuts as a refreshing treat for the patrons of the Microbrewers Festival.

Things get a little crazy around here sometimes...

Things get a little crazy around here sometimes...

So as Ash and Elm endeavors to become ingrained in the cultural landscape of Indianapolis, we will continue to convert our own cultural experiences into drinkable form so you can taste the ancient, growing, and fresh culture that flows through us.

Stay tuned for information about a special release of both the Del Camino and Oaked Imperial Headlong in our tasting room in the coming weeks.

The Many Styles of Cider

Think of some of your favorite beverages: Wine. Beer. Juice. Soda.

One thing that all of these beverages have in common is that they are general categories. You can drill down into each of them and come up with wildly different styles: Merlot versus Chardonnay; a hoppy IPA versus a rich Stout. Coke versus Ginger Ale. Strawberry Kiwi or fresh-squeezed orange juice. I could go on and on, but I trust you get the point.

Cider is no different. It represents a general category – a beverage made with fermented apple juice, in the most traditional sense. Right now, as we experience the rebirth of the cider tradition in the States, we’ve just scratched the surface of the cider styles that exist. Generally speaking, the majority of cider consumption in the States comes from one style of cider – the very sweet, carbonated, controlled-yeast type. The exciting thing about the growing craft cider movement is that there are just as many styles of cider as there are of wine and beer, and we have much to discover! Here’s a little tutorial on some of the more common cider styles found around the world:

Scrumpy (English Style) – English-style ciders are usually fermented to quite dry and have a bit of funk to them (sometimes called ‘farmy’ because it can smell like hay or horses.) They tend to be carbonated, and if you’ve done much traveling in England, this is the cider you would have tried.

French Style – French ciders also have some farmy notes, but they’re more champagne-like than Scrumpy ciders, meaning they have a lot of tiny bubbles. The French don’t force-carbonate their ciders, and instead bottle condition them to achieve the champagne-like quality and a natural sweetness. These ciders are traditionally served with savory buckwheat crepes, often for breakfast!

Spanish Style – These ciders are super-tart and acidic. If you’ve never tried one, you may think it’s a bit off, but give it a chance! They’re like sour beers – a little funky, a little tart, and an acquired taste.

New England Style – New England style ciders are usually fermented to dryness and have a higher alcohol content than most other ciders because of the amount of sugar in the apples used.

Wild (Spontaneous) – Ciders that are ‘wild’ or ‘spontaneous’ mean that no yeast is added to the juice. Instead, the juice is pressed and left to ferment based on whatever wild yeast strains happen to be in the juice. These ciders take longer to ferment and can be a bit unpredictable – either the yeast offers a complex flavor that really works, or it doesn’t, in which case…cider vinegar!

Ice Cider – Similar to ice wines, ice ciders are made from freezing the juice and removing the water, leaving a highly concentrated, very sweet dessert cider. They’re labor intensive, and very much worth the effort!

These ciders are all made with few additional ingredients outside of apples, yeast, and sometimes a bit extra sugar. The variety comes from the way the blend of apples used from the start and the way the cider is fermented, stored, and aged. Variety also comes from the vintage of the apples as well, just like wine - some years are great growing years, others aren't, and the soil and ecological conditions where apples and grapes are grown affect the flavor of the cider or wine from year to year.

Ash & Elm cider lineup for a recent event. 

Ash & Elm cider lineup for a recent event. 

Then, there’s a whole new world of cider styles coming from the craft beer movement. These styles are nearly limitless, but a few categories are starting to settle into their own:

Hopped Ciders – Like hoppy beers? Try a dry-hopped cider if you get a chance! The aroma is hoppy and there’s a bit of that bitter aftertaste, but the sweetness of the cider mixed with the hops gives a totally different flavor than a standard IPA.

Barrel Aged Ciders – Cider aged in bourbon barrels have that same vanilla and alcohol-y finish that a bourbon barrel aged beer has. A variety of different barrels can be used with ciders: white wine, bourbon, rum, and more!

Fruity and Herbal Ciders – Ever had a jalapeno or bell pepper cider? They exist and they’re good! Ginger Cider, Blackberry Cider, Lemongrass and Basil Cider, Pumpkin Cider, the list can go on and on.

We’re excited to bring some of these styles of cider to Indy when we open. We have our standard semi-sweet and dry ciders that will be available all the time, but we’ll also have a rotating selection of seasonal and limited release ciders. Sure to be in the mix are hopped ciders, herbal ciders, barrel-aged ciders, and plenty more. We’d love to know what cider styles sound good to you, so feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment!

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