Cider Beer – Your Complete Guide To This Fruit-infused Brew

Oct 2023 | Last modified: November 14, 2023 | 6 min read | By Sean

In this article, we’ll satisfy your thirst for knowledge about cider beer – a beverage that has charmed palates for centuries.

A bottle and a glass filled with refreshing cider beer

We’ll explore what sets cider beers apart from their traditional counterparts and dive into their alcohol content to find out how strong they can be. Additionally, we’ll unveil the ingredients that create its distinct taste and introduce you to some of the finest cider products.

So, let’s raise a glass to the fascinating world of cider beers!

History of Cider Beers

The long history and hard cider traditions trace back to ancient Egypt. Popularized by European countries, it became a prevalent drink in Great Britain and, as time went on, in the United States.

Now, cideries across the country ferment and bottle their ciders proudly using a mix of locally sourced fruits and carefully curated yeast strains.

What is a Cider Beer?

Cider is an alcoholic drink fermented with apple juice or combined with other fruit juices. Regular beer is made with grains, such as malted barley. Sugar is extracted from the malt or grains at the beginning of the brewing process in a step called “mashing.”

Cider is different because the sugars come from fruit, most commonly apples. It is brewed similarly to beer, but the finished product is different. Hard cider is made using yeast, which ferments the fruit sugars and transforms them into alcohol.

Instead of the malty and bready malt taste from a beer, ciders taste like wine, the fruit it was brewed with. For example, pear ciders are made using pears, strawberry ciders using strawberries, and apple cider using apples. Apples are the go-to for the best hard ciders.

What’s the Difference between Cider Beers and Regular Beers?

Beer and cider are highly different. There are many beer styles, while ciders are generally funneled into one type: cider. The difference between cider and regular beer is that cider is fermented using fruit juices instead of barley.

Malted barley gives beer its signature taste, along with hops and the many different yeast strains used. Hard cider is made without hops, whereas all beer is made with hops.

Because ciders are fermented using fruit sugars and not barley or grain, they are naturally gluten-free. Most beer styles are carbonated and, once poured, produce a head of foam. This foam comes from the proteins in the grains. Because cider uses fruit instead of grains, they have little to no foam once poured.

Hard ciders are on a spectrum ranging from super sweet to bone dry. Cider that’s slightly sweet or super sweet uses more sugar. Dry cider uses less sugar. This mostly depends on the fruit and yeast strain used.

Beer and cider can both reach a high ABV. The fruits used in cider produce many fermentable sugars. The more sugars and the better the yeast strain converts them to alcohol, the higher the resulting ABV.

This is the case for both beer and cider. High-attenuating yeast strains convert most or all of the sugars into alcohol during fermentation.

Does Cider have Alcohol?

The fermentation process for cider looks about the same as beer, but does cider have alcohol, and where does it come from? Yes, cider has alcohol.

Toward the end of the cidering process, the liquid undergoes a fermentation process. At this point, the yeast eats the sugars from the juice of the fruits used.

The byproduct of the yeast’s sugar consumption is ethanol or alcohol. The more sugar in the recipe and the better the yeast breaks down, the higher the ABV. All hard ciders contain alcohol unless specified.

How Strong are Cider Beers?

Ciders range in ABV from as low as 4% to 10% and higher. It’s easier to reach a high-ABV cider than a beer because of the sugar surplus from fruit ingredients during brewing and cidering.

Cider-making can be tricky because of the large amount of sugar consumed during brewing. Therefore, cidering requires careful ingredient consideration. Extracting too much of it from fruit and fermenting it with a low-attenuating yeast strain creates an overly sweet hard cider.

Aiming for a strong, high-ABV cider without enough sugar can create a low, unintendedly dry drink. A cider with moderate sugar and a medium-attenuating yeast strain produces a soft, moderate ABV hard cider.

You can tell how strong a cider is by looking at the ABV on the packaging or menu: the higher the ABV number, the more alcohol per serving.

How is a Cider Made?

Cider is produced similarly to most alcoholic drinks through fermentation. Making cider is most similar to making wine.

Hard cider can be made with natural ingredients or recipes like sweet, fruity flavors. It could be from apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The most common is from the classic apples and pear cider beers.

Cider is made by gathering fruit, pressed, or mashed to expose sugars. The pressed or mashed fruits are mixed with a bit of water, and yeast is added. The yeast eats the sugar, converting it to alcohol during fermentation.

Small amounts of carbon dioxide are created as an additional fermentation byproduct. With perfect balance, this naturally carbonates hard cider, lending its slightly bubbly appearance and mouthfeel.

Best Cider Beers

Cider beers come in all shapes and sizes. These versatile drinks take on the flavors of the fruits used to make them. Some drinks are super sweet, and some cocktails are bone-dry. Some offer a finely tuned balance of tart, semi-dry, and sweet flavor to drinkers.

Moreover, cider makers are experimenting with all kinds of adjuncts these days, including cinnamon, vanilla, and pumpkin.

Here are some of the best cider drinks.

Arsenal Fighting Elleck

Sweet-to-dry balance with the full flavor of apples and a medium body. Smooth mouthfeel and finish. Light effervescence.

Angry Orchard Crisp Apple

This drink has a bright flavor of apples with some dryness. Semi-sweet apples with mild acidity from culinary apples. Balanced with refreshing apple crispness.

Downeast Original Blend

Smooth, unfiltered hard cider leaning more toward the sweet side. Juicy. Made to taste like a good old apple cider.

Woodchuck Pearsecco

Made from pear juice. It has a dry, tart, bubbly, and wine-like characteristic. It is effervescent with notes of pear, accompanied by a clean and crisp finish.

1911 Original

Crisp and light with refreshing apple notes on the nose and tongue. Clean body and mouthfeel with a subtle citrus aroma.

Ciderboys First Press

It is made with 100% real apple juice. Sweeter with a crisp finish. It has a slight sweetness of the apple juice but a balanced tartness.

McKenzie’s Pumpkin Jack

Made with pumpkin and spices for an aromatic and flavorful sweetness reminiscent of pumpkin pie.

Final Say

As we wrap up our cider beer journey, we hope you’ve learned much about this fantastic drink. From its exciting history to its ingredients and various types, this style offers a refreshing alternative to regular beer.

So, try cider craft beer next time you want something tasty and different. Cheers to this wonderful beverage!

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