Falling into Fall…

Two things really remind me of Autumn – rich golden-amber ales and apple cider. In recent years I have been cultivating a personal orchard, planting, pruning, grafting and clearing a fair number of trees, some varieties known for their juice and cider potential, some wild, variety unknown. The last two years I have pressed my own apples on a grinder/press I bought quite a while back. I have made as much as seven gallons of my own cider, which I then fermented, of course, to make cyder (note the change in spelling).

This Spring, my apple trees looked great – with the early advent of warm temperatures, I had acres of white-blossom-covered trees and I was beginning to think about buying an additional fermenter or two. Then we got a late frost. All of the trees dropped their blossoms in the course of a couple days. On the roughly 45 trees I was counting on, I don’t think I ended up with 100 apples, total.

Well, I can’t bear the thought of a cider-less winter, so I did acquire some commercially-pressed fresh cider, which I have begun to ferment, with the addition of some maple syrup and a good English cider yeast. But it won’t be the same, the juice is not a nice blend of bitter and tart and sweet, just… well, apple juice. But I had to do something!

In the regions of the world where barley and fruit co-exist, there are many traditions of beer with fruit added. The most common are, of course, the sweet-sour Lambics of Belgium. The most common fruits used in these traditional brews are cherries, peaches, raspberries and occasionally currants. There are others used elsewhere, like gooseberries in Scotland and strawberries in England, and of course every micro- and craft brewer in North America has tried his or her hand at some kind of blueberry or apricot or mango-flavored wheat beer. One over-looked fruit combination, of which I have found only two commercial examples, is an apple beer. I once had an apple lambic (“Pomme”), brewed by an innovative Belgian brewery; and Unibroue, in Chambly, Quebec, makes a seasonal apple-flavored beer called “Ephémère”. It’s a gorgeous taste combination, one which I decided to add to my fall mix this year.

Vermont Golden Apple Ale
3 gallons, all grain with fruit juice


  • 4 lbs. Munton’s Lager malt
  • 1 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 oz. Perle hop pellets (@8.3% aa)
  • 7g. Cooper’s dry ale yeast
  • 1/2 gallon fresh pasteurized apple cider
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 9 quarts water to 161°F. Mash in grains, hold 60 minutes at 150°F. Heat 7 more quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collect 14 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add 1/4 oz. Perle, boil 45 minutes. Add 1/4 oz. Perle, boil 15 more minutes (60 total). Remove from heat, add apple cider while still hot. Chill to 80°F,  take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60 – 65°F for six to eight days. rack to secondary, age two weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition for two weeks. Serve chilled.

OG: 1050
IBU’s: 40 (estimated – utilization factors are different for volumes less than 5 gallons)

Note on cider: if you use fresh cider in a beer like this, you have a couple of choices. You can press your own, in which case it would behoove you to give it a couple days with some Campden tablets to kill off any wild yeast present on the apple skins – but be sure to let it aerate, you don’t want the Campden tablets in the beer, inhibiting the brewing yeast!
If you buy pre-pressed cider, make sure it  a) is 100% apple juice (no sweeteners); b) is pasteurized, but c) contains no preservatives (sulfites or the like, they are the thing as the Campden tablets).