Chatting Cider with Angry Orchard's David Sipes
Editor's Note: You might have seen this new brand of hard cider on your local store shelves recently and not realized that Angry Orchard Hard Cider comes from the folks behind the Boston Beer Co., which makes Samuel Adams beers. We recently chatted with Angry Orchard cider maker David Sipes about the brand.
Can you tell us a bit about how Angry Orchard came to be?
Angry Orchard was developed over a span of 15 years, as we explored apples and techniques that would produce a cider of highest quality. Our search for ingredients ultimately led to Europe, where we discovered that the pairing of culinary apples from Italy's Alpine foothills and French bittersweet apples from Normandy. These apples provide the ideal combination of sweetness and tartness for our three styles [of cider.] We learned the value of patience during fermentation, and developed a process that is markedly long, including time for wood aging.
How did you get interested in making cider and how did you learn?
I studied at University of California, Davis, and received a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science. When I graduated, I had no idea my degree would take me but it's been an exciting journey. I began working on cider recipes 12 years ago when I joined The Boston Beer Company. So, for over a decade, I've traveled the world looking for the best apples to ferment for cider and experimented with too many recipes to count.
What's your relationship with Boston Beer Co.?
Angry Orchard is a subsidiary of The Boston Beer Company, but a critical decision was made early on for Angry Orchard to have its own identity in every aspect from recipe development through packaging. Angry Orchard takes the same craft approach to cider as Boston Beer does to beer.
What makes the Angry Orchard ciders different?
The variety of apples we blend together to create each of these ciders and the years of experimenting until we perfected our process. Angry Orchard Traditional Dry is reminiscent of English draft ciders, with a mouth-puckering dry body that tastes bittersweet with slightly spicy flavors and a bright apple aroma. Our Crisp Apple, on the other hand, balances natural sweetness with a subtle dryness for a crisp and refreshing taste.
Where do you source your apples, and what kind are being used?
The apples in Angry Orchard are not the apples you would buy in a grocery store. Our cider apples are unique to cider making, just like wine grapes are to wine making. Angry Orchard is a blend of Italian culinary apples from the Alpine foothills with French bittersweet apples from Normandy. Unlike ordinary apples, bittersweet apples are described as "angry" because of the tart and tannic characteristics they impart. Culinary apples produce a fruit with a juicy, ripe apple character that, when combined with the bittersweet apples, results in an exceptional blend that contributes to the complex flavor profile of each cider.
How do the apples get from Italy and Normandy to your cidery?
When we set out on this journey we started by [looking for] the best apples for cider making. We kept being led back to Europe's cider apple orchards, where apples have been bred expressly for cider for centuries. Then we considered the best way to capture the juice at its peak to protect the flavor consistently from batch to batch. To do this, we create a juice concentrate by removing the water, creating a stable, remarkably flavorful and fragrant juice that can be used over time.
Do you see Angry Orchard as joining a cider trend that's on the rise?
I don't know if I can answer for the cider category, but judging by Angry Orchard as a barometer, drinkers seem to be excited to explore cider. I think people are looking for a refreshing change, and have developed more sophisticated palates.
Where do you see the cider industry going in the next few years?
In Europe, cider is a large part of the culture and we look forward to the day that it becomes very much a part of American culture as well. As for what's next, it's a little too early to tell but we are experimenting with a variety of yeasts and aging techniques as we look to develop new cider recipes.