winter-crisp-heroTriumph Dining had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Sipes, a cider maker at Angry Orchard. We love learning more about cider making and about Angry Orchard!

How does making cider differ from brewing beer?

Making cider is actually more like making wine than brewing beer. Hard cider is the result of apple juice that goes through a fermentation process. For Angry Orchard, we use a select blend of apples to create a balance of tannins, acidity and sugar in our hard ciders. Instead of using a yeast that imparts a flavorful character, we use a neutral wine yeast during the fermentation process that allows the apples to express themselves for a fruit-forward cider. We age some of our ciders on oak, including Crisp Apple and Traditional Dry and our Cider House Collection, to give the cider an additional layer of complexity. 

Why did Sam Adams decide to expand their product offering into the cider space?

The cider makers have actually been tinkering with cider recipes for about 15 years under The Boston Beer Company. In 2011, in response to the growing interest in the cider category, Angry Orchard Cider Company was created and the hard ciders that had been developed over the years were finally released for drinkers to enjoy. The cider makers at Angry Orchard have the same commitment to quality, and a craft approach, to making cider as the brewers at Samuel Adams do when brewing beer.

Did you have background in making cider before creating Angry Orchard?

I studied Fermentation Science at UC Davis and have experience brewing beer as well as wine-making. When I joined The Boston Beer Company almost 13 years ago, I began working on cider recipes. So, for over a decade, we’ve been traveling the world looking for the best apples to ferment cider, experimenting with different cider recipes and learning how to make the best cider we could.

What is the 1 thing you would like your customers to know about Angry Orchard?

The craftsmanship behind Angry Orchard hard ciders, from apple selection to what you enjoy in the finished bottle (or on draft), sets Angry Orchard apart. Quality is important to us and I think that shows.  We’re continuously looking for the best apples and have used select apples from Italy, France and the Pacific Northwest to contribute unique flavor profiles to our Angry Orchard hard ciders.  We’ve spent years tinkering with recipes and apple blends to understand how they’d interact with different yeasts, wood aging, and fermentation processes.  When we were ready to share the final recipe, we introduced Angry Orchard to our drinkers.

What is the best food to pair with your ciders?

Angry Orchard hard ciders pair exceptionally well with a variety of foods due to their flavor profiles and slight carbonation. Because of the characteristics of our apples and fermentation methods, our ciders show wine-like characteristics. For example, our Angry Orchard Crisp Apple is aligned with fruit-forward styles like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Vouvray while our Traditional Dry style shows characteristics of New World Sauvignon Blancs with its fruity, slightly herbaceous and dry character.

When looking to pair cider and food, look to contrast flavors to create a balance, match strengths or find commonalities between the pairings. A classic combination is Angry Orchard with cheese.  The acidity and slight carbonation of cider cuts through creamy cheeses, cleanses the palate, and readies it for the next bite. Angry Orchard Crisp Apple cider’s ripe apple flavor and subtle dryness pairs well with sharp blue cheeses like Stilton and hard cheeses like Cheddar. The natural sweetness of Crisp Apple also stands up to and complements food like Roasted Pork or BBQ while cutting spicy flavors in cuisines like Thai. Half the fun of pairing Angry Orchard with food, however, is experimenting until you find your favorite.

Any upcoming product ideas you will share with us?

We’re continuously experimenting with apple blends, different yeasts and fermentation and aging methods. Just recently, we released our first cider made with American apples, Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple. Cinnful Apple is our second seasonal release. With its sweet, juicy flavor, balanced with a slightly tart apple flavor and cinnamon spice, with a warming finish, we feel like it’s a great cider t to enjoy during the colder weather months. We first released Elderflower in April for the warmer months.

Do you see Sam Adams coming out with a GF beer in the future?

In addition to yeast, water, and hops, One of the four key ingredients in our Samuel Adams craft beers is malt. We have no plans to brew a gluten-free beer in the immediate future.