One of the hidden gems of the alcoholic beverage industry is hard cider. The massive increase in regulation following Prohibition, combined with the lager wars of the mid-20th century pushing out almost everything with, well, flavor, resulted in the virtual disappearance of this wonderful beverage from common consumption. This week I will be reviewing a new player in the cider market: Revolution Cider.
Cider is a fascinating beverage, as it bridges a number of traditional categories. Technically speaking, cider is considered a wine because the sugars do not need conversion before they are consumed by the yeast, in the same way that grape juice and honey are used. Beer, on the other hand, is derived from cereal grains, which contain complex carbohydrates. For yeast to be efficiently digested by these feedstocks, they first need to be converted to simple sugars by mixing with water and heating to approximately 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows the amylase enzymes produced in the malting process to convert the sugars. This process is equipment and energy intensive compared to the cider process, which does not require the heating, filtering and chilling that beer does.
While cider is technically a wine, it occupies a distinctly different position in consumption habits. Due to its low alcohol content, low cost and wide availability, it was historically consumed much more like beer. These properties have combined with post-Prohibition regulatory attitudes to make some truly odd regulations. First, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives only considers something cider if it has at least 50 percent apple juice or concentrate, no other fruit juices, tastes like apple and has an alcohol content between 0.5 and 7 percent ABV. Ciders lower than 0.5 percent ABV are actually considered nonalcoholic (for tax purposes, at least), and ciders that are above 7 percent or that blend in other fruits are fruit wines, which may be treated differently legally. A special case is wines made with pears, which are historically called perry and are treated the same way as ciders.
Revolution Cider is the product of Jonathan and Gideon Gradman, two brothers who passionately homebrewed cider in Boston. Jonathan learned everything he could about apples, participating in the local harvest, and went on to attend the Master Brewer’s Program at the University of California at Davis. Gideon honed his business acumen during this time, and in 2009 they opened their cidery in Philadelphia. The brothers are committed to producing traditional ciders, which are rather unlike most others on the market.
The cider poured a cloudy, translucent pale yellow with no head. The aroma was an interesting tangy, musty yeast combination, which struck me as significantly more sour and dry than most other ciders that I have tried. The mouthfeel was fairly thin and the carbonation quite low. The taste was quite tart with some hints of sweetness, but it was rather dry overall before ending in a slightly sweet and sour finish. What really surprised me about this cider was the funky sour character; I completely did not expect it after having had so many sickeningly sweet ciders recently. The taste also had a little bit of yeast character and some nice pear and sour granny smith notes to it.
This cider takes some getting used to, but I actually really like it.
Most ciders currently on the market are way too sweet for my taste, and I love sour beers, so this is right up my alley. It’s definitely worth a try, but be prepared for something a little bit different.