Downeast Cider House
Inspired by craft beer and cider’s popularity elsewhere in the world, aspiring vintners all over the United States began making hard cider a few years ago. If brewing is a science, cider making is an art. Many vintners stuck to the traditional high-alcohol and dry finish fermentation techniques passed down from the United Kingdom. Others decided to let wild yeast naturally ferment the juice leading to the acidic and musty flavored cider like those in Spain’s Basque region. Some have even dared to emulate the strictly enforced French techniques by producing a sweeter lower alcohol “cidre.” The founders of Downeast Cider House took a different route.
At Downeast Cider House the cider starts with a blend of apples — McIntosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and others — and each apple brings different characteristics to the cider.
Balancing the sweetness and acidity is critical to the final product of fermented cider. Unlike a dry grain, the apple doesn’t need to be processed for enjoyment. On the surface, the process of making cider is remarkably simple: press the apples into juice and the juice will eventually start fermenting. However, the variables of fermentation — such as temperature, yeast quality, yeast quantity, and tannin level — must be controlled, and many different cider houses choose to do this in different ways.
The inspiration for Downeast Cider was drawn from two sources: a love of fruit and the idea that cider could be made differently — and better — than in the past. As college students the founders were often exposed to the many varieties of apples in Maine and the many products made from apples. One of their favorites was freshly pressed apple juice, which led them to craft a hard cider with the flavor of fresh juice. In addition to using freshly pressed local apples, Downeast Cider’s Original Blend achieves its flavor profile by fermenting with ale yeast instead of the white wine or champagne yeast used in traditional ciders. The ale yeast results in a cider that finishes clean instead of dry. Finally the cider is left unfiltered to avoid stripping any of the natural flavors provided by the apple.
Cider can be enjoyed alone, or used to create a cocktail or alcohol-free mocktail.
First published December 2014