Hopped Cider

So many years ago I read online about hopped cider. It sounded interesting and the article mentioned the cider used cascade hops. I had some leftover and thought, “sure.” So I made it…and tried it…and it was awesome.

As a gluten free homebrewer, hopped cider is about the cheapest and easiest “beer” alternative. Of course it is NOT beer. But if you let the cider go especially dry, it can taste a bit like a light beer. And the hop flavor confuses the mind.

However, I prefer to not make imitation beer. When I brew a gluten free beer, I want it to taste like beer. And when I make a cider, I want it to taste like a cider. And when I hop it well…I want it to taste like some sort of delicious bastard. Which hopped cider does.

I was looking through the freezer and saw I had 1oz of chinook and 1 1/2 oz of centennial from my grapefruit IPA. I don’t like leaving hops in the freezer too long (don’t know why) so I decided to do something about it. I give you, Magnificent Bastard Cider (MBC).

  • 5 Gallons of Apple Juice (I use Kroger because it is close to me and in all these years it has never let me down. Now, for the record, if I had the money I once had, I’d buy cider from an orchard. But I don’t.)
  • 2lbs Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 oz Chinook (dry hopped)
  • S-05 Yeast

Let this go a week and then rack it into a secondary. At that time add:

  • 1lb Honey

Three days before bottling I’ll add

  • 1 1/2 oz Centennial Hops

At bottling time (as always) I’ll add a can of apple juice concentrate.

There ya have it. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Maple Blueberry Cider

Well, I realize it has been a while since I posted anything but much has happened in my life. Time has become my commodity of choice and so I try to use it wisely and, when leisure time comes my way, there are a few things that rank higher than my blog. Like brewing. I’m still brewing. Not as often nor as voluminous as I used to but I am happy to report that I am still brewing.

I’m a big fan of Woodchuck’s summer cider. I like it because it has a hint of blueberry. I wanted to brew some sort of summer cider that would be easily drinkable and have that hint of blueberry. But after my disastrous attempt at Blueberry Pancake Mead, I decided to approach this one differently.

First off, I used maple flavoring instead of actual maple syrup. Yes, I know–that isn’t very cool. But it did work. I like brewing with maple syrup, but I’ve also come to learn while it is a good ingredient for fermentation and adds an interesting flavor, the maple flavor disappears. With the maple extract, it remained. The second thing I did was rack the cider off of real blueberries and then added a large amount of pure blueberry juice to the secondary. This really helped the blueberry flavor remain.

Maple Blueberry Cider (3 gallon batch)

  • 3 gallons of apple juice
  • 2 pints of blueberries cooked in 1 cup of white sugar.
  • 1lb of sugar (minus 1 cup).
  • 1 teaspoon of maple extract
  • S-04 Yeast

After 1 1/2 weeks in the primary, I racked this off of the blueberries and into the secondary. Then I added 32oz of blueberry juice.

After another 1 1/2 weeks I bottled it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this will make it to the summer. 3 gallon batches instead of 5 (which is what I’m brewing now) don’t last as long. They especially don’t last as long since I now give so much of what I make away. I’m not complaining.

For your viewing pleasure:

maple cider

God loves an orchard: “Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls. ” (Deuteronomy 20.20 NASB) 

The White Whale

I have a white whale and that whale has a name: Woodchuck Belgian White Cider. Approximately two years ago I learned of this cider and I have been searching for it ever since. I was intrigued by the concept: Belgian yeast, coriander and orange peels in a cider? Yes, please.  I have searched in three states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. But it always eluded me. Sometimes employees seemed to have heard of it or maybe seen it but it was never stocked when I was in their establishment.

This all changed recently. My brother-in-law called me to let me know he’d tracked it down and did I want a 6 pack? Yes!



Well, this disappointment was for the record books. Belgian? Well, I guess so far as it is cloudy it is “Belgian” but really, this cider was just one big meh. This may be due to the fact that I have been searching so hard for this cider for so long that in my mind I’d built it up in my mind to be something amazing…but whatever the case it is still a meh. I didn’t notice any coriander and I definitely didn’t pick up any notes of orange peel. The yeast is Belgian and that might be why there is a slightly “banana” flavor to it…I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy Woodchuck cider. It is probably my favorite commercial cider. But this is one I’ll pass on if I ever happen to see it in the grocery store.

Gluten free in Pittsburgh

Yesterday Mrs. Wine and I celebrated our 5th Anniversary. Hard to believe it has been five years of marriage! Let me tell you something, marriage is the best thing a guy and gal can do (provided they love each other and are willing to make take the commitment seriously). Anyway, to celebrate we went out for some food and drinks.

For dinner we went to  Gus’s Cafe. I’d read about this place a while back and I have since read many good reviews of the restaurant. The restaurant started out being 100% gluten free but quickly revised their menu and is probably 80% gluten free. I don’t mind that, I imagine a 100% gluten free restaurant is not a sustainable model.

Anyway, we got there early because we wanted to be home in time to put our kids to bed. The place was pretty empty and looked like a….dive bar. That wasn’t what I was expecting. Mrs. Wine, always the positive one, made some remark about how we never go to dive bars anymore anyway so this was still fun. A few other unexpected surprises: they’ve changed their menu and it was primarily burgers and hot dogs. That isn’t their fault, I just hadn’t looked at the menu in a while. Finally, it is a cash only establishment. Whoops! So we only had water to drink and made it just under the bill with the cash we had on hand.

But the good news is the food was very good. We ordered fried pickles (GF) which I thought were excellent and I think Mrs. Wine enjoyed them as well.

gf pickles

(This picture is from Gus’s website)

I had the N@ Burger and my wife had one of the specials, a putrid fungus (mushroom) and swiss burger. We were both happy with our food and I’d recommend this place to someone who is gluten free or gluten oppressed.

From there we headed down the road to Arsenal Cider House. Now this place was awesome! I’ve never been to a cider house (and technically also a meadery) before but I’ve been wanting to check this place out since I learned of it. It is decorated and the ciders are brewed with the theme that it is the Civil War. The ciders seem to be named after Civil War generals and it just had a great atmosphere. I didn’t know it was a bit like visiting a vineyard and so when we walked inside the first thing we learned is that you could sample the ciders before ordering. Well, Mrs. Wine lit up like the sun and enjoyed herself.

After some sampling, Mrs. Wine had the Fighting Elleck which is their flagship (maybe?) semi-sweet cider and I ordered Zu-Zu Oaked, which is a bone-dry blueberry cider. We both liked the Fighting Elleck. The oak flavor for the blueberry was definitely the strongest flavor. In fact, I couldn’t taste the blueberry which leads me to believe that perhaps brewing with blueberry just isn’t a good idea. I have a blueberry mead in the basement that just, frankly, doesn’t taste good. I thought it was me but now I’m thinking it might be a bad fruit to brew with. But either way, we had a good time there and if we weren’t on a strict budget would have definitely purchased a growler of the Fighting Elleck.

Pittsburgh is a great city with a lot of neat neighborhoods with a lot going on. I wish we could get down there more often and explore it. But, I’m grateful for the fun time we had last night and the best part?

Five years of marriage to a great woman. I love you Mrs. Wine!

Summer Recipes!

Well, it was a long time coming but Spring appears to finally be here. I have a French Saison that I hope to brew in the next week or two (depending upon when the ingredients arrive and I actually have the time) but I thought I’d share three of my favorite recipes for the summer.

The first is technically not a beer. But it isn’t a cider either. It is kind of hard to classify because it is hard lemonade. It is somewhat similar to Skeeter Pee but Skeeter Pee (A) involves a white wine yeast cake and (B) is a terrible name. No, mine is the stuff of the gods. A number of years back, Mrs. Wine and I went down to Louisiana to attend the wedding of our friends. One day, while walking in the French Quarter I purchased a glass “Louisiana Lemonade.” This was essentially Lemonade with rum. It was very refreshing and so last Spring I thought I’d try my own take on it.

Now, somewhat amusingly, I didn’t really care for the final product. So I gave it away (Mrs. Wine was pregnant at the time). It was such a hit that I actually made another batch just to give away to more people. And already I have been asked if I would be making more of it this year. Maybe. But, here is the recipe for those who are interested.

Louisiana Lemonade (Hard Lemonade)

3 Gallon Batch

  • 3 gallons of organic lemonade
  • The peels of 3 lemons
  • 4 cups of white table sugar
  • Yeast (S-04/05 I never use wine yeast except for my meads)

I let this ferment for about 3 weeks and then right before bottling I added:

  • 1 cup of simple syrup
  • 1 375ml bottle of Bacardi Limon

So there ya go! If you are gluten free and miss Mike’s Hard Lemonade, you can make this for the summer.


The next recipe I’d like to share with you is a single hop IPA. I’m from Columbus, Ohio and as everyone knows, we have the best football team in the country (Go Buckeyes!). But in the day under coach John Cooper, the defense was called the “Silver Bullets.” So I decided to make an all Columbus hop (get it?) IPA for football season.

Silver Bullet IPA

5 Gallon Batch


  • 3lbs Sorghum Extract
  • 1lb 6oz rice syrup
  • 2 1/2 lbs Honey


All hops are Columbus

  • 1 oz @ 60
  • .5 oz @ 15
  • .5 oz @ 5
  • .5 oz @ 0 minutes


  • 1lb lactose

I used S-o4 for the yeast and then dry hopped 1oz of Columbus hops for 7 days in the primary before racking to the secondary for another 7 days.

This turned out fantastic. It was so bitter I couldn’t touch it for at least a month after bottling but eventually, the bitterness subsided and the lactose added just enough sweetness to really balance everything out. I really recommend this for a summer brew. It was so good the batch didn’t make it to football season!


Last but not least a very important recipe. This beer I brewed fairly early in my GF homebrewing experiment and it taught me that I could do this and that I could do it really well. The recipe was designed by Homebrewtalk user Igliashon (who has taught me much). He has taken a job as brewer at Ghostfish Brewing Company and on their blog provided the recipe and instructions for the Grapefruit IPA. I will most definitely be brewing this again very soon for the summer months.

A few minor changes that I made when I brewed this:

Grapefruit IPA

5 Gallon Batch


  • 3lbs Sorghum extract
  • 1lb 6oz Brown Rice Syrup
  • 2lbs D-45 Candi Syrup
  • 80z honey


  • 1oz Columbus @60 minutes
  • 1oz Cascade @15 minutes
  • 1oz Centennial @10 minutes
  • 1oz Cascade @ 5 minutes
  • 1oz Cascade @1 minute


  • S-05 Yeast
  • 8oz of Maltodextrine
  • Zest of half a grapefruit at 5 minutes

Finally, dry hop 2oz of Centennial hops for the first 7 days. I would also recommend adding some large pieces of grapefruit peel for that time period as well. If you only make one beer, make this one. You won’t regret it!

Acts 2.42-47: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (ESV)

Dry-Hopped Cider Update

Last night I tried one of my dry-hopped ciders from the disastrous batch using Aldi brand cider. It appears that perhaps I wrote off the Aldi cider too early. The temperature for October and November was crazy, I had the brewing buckets in the basement but maybe the temperature still fluctuated too much, or even was too cold, for the yeast. (this is one of those times I wished I was more precise and used a hydrometer). All that to say perhaps the yeast wasn’t done and the residual sweetness was simply sugar the yeast hadn’t eaten as opposed to sugar the yeast couldn’t eat. Definitely some more maturation and fermentation taking place in the bottle and to my surprise, the cider wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good, but give it another month and it just might be drinkable.

The most important take away from me is I will definitely try Hallertau hops again with cider. In fact, I’ll do that this month.

On cider brands and hops

Just a few updates for you.

1) Never, ever, never, ever use Aldi’s cider as your cider for home cider.  I’m not sure if there was some yeast stabilizer in the ingredients I missed or not but it only fermented about half-way. The sugars I added fermented but the natural sugars in the cider remained so that it is too sweet for my taste. Now I have 7 gallons of hard cider I don’t like. What to do?

2) In line with the above, the Hallertau hops I used in my dry-hopped cider MAY have worked well, if it wasn’t so sweet.

Dry-Hopped Cider

Currently, there seems to be a bit of a rage when it comes to adding hops to your cider. The way the hops are added is a technique known as “dry-hopping.” Dry-hopping is when you add the hops to your brew post-boil.  I first made a dry-hopped cider about a year ago and loved it. Since then, it has become a regular in my line-up of brews. The first batch I made was a 3 gallon batch. For whatever reason, I keep making 3 gallon batches of this instead of upping it to 5 gallons. I guess I am a creature of habit. Here is my 3 gallon recipe for dry-hopped cider.

  • 3 gallons of apple juice or cider poured into the fermenting bucket.
  • 2lbs of sugar (I usually use dark sugar).
  • Yeast (S-04, S-05 or Nottingham). I ALWAYS use ale yeast for my cider.
  • 1oz hops

After it ferments for 2 weeks I add 1oz of hops. Yes, 1 oz of hops. I initially started out with .5oz but kept increasing it and I have found 1oz for 3 gallons is just perfect. Every time I have made this I use cascade hops. Let that go another week, then remove the hops, transfer to bottling bucket and bottle. I don’t add any priming sugar. This makes it slightly carbonated, dry with a strong apple-grass flavor that is wonderful.

I just made a batch of this and will be trying out Hallertau hops as an experiment to see how it tastes and what difference it impacts from my normal use of cascade hops.