Back when I thought I didn't like beer (it turns out I just don't like really hoppy beer), ciders were one of the few alcoholic beverages that I drank regularly. I didn't like them all equally, but I did like most of them better than the hoppy beer alternatives.
As such, when I started brewing, ciders were an obvious place to start and are likely to remain a standard part of my brewing (hence the prominence of the apple in the logo). So, I went looking for recipes and approaches.
I was intrigued when I found a recipe called "graff". It's a name pulled from a Stephen King series where the characters regularly drink an "apple beer" given that name. It's a cider with caramel barley malt as a flavor addition and a bit of hops for balance.
That was interesting to me because it strikes a balance that I had a hard time finding in commercial ciders. Woodchuck is too sweet (though their 802 Dark and Dry is less so than their normal "Amber"), Crispin is very champagne-like, Strongbow and Aspall, etc. are really dry, etc. I wanted something with some depth to it, a hint of residual sweetness, some apple flavor, etc. and this sounded like it fit the bill.
So, back at the beginning of September, I whipped up a batch of this stuff and it's been sitting ever since. Every few weeks, I try some and it really was pretty green and the strong alcohol flavor made it taste like rocket fuel. So, I let it sit for a while longer.
Then, last week, I went to a homebrew club meeting and decided to give it another taste, with those guys and see if it had gotten better. I took along a bottle of Crispin's Landsdowne cider for comparison. I'm happy to say that everyone (including me) liked my graff better than the commercial cider. That may just be because the molasses flavor is so pronounced in that particular commercial cider, but regardless, several of the members of the club are going to try this recipe soon and I'm going to be brewing it again. It's highly likely that I'm going to try to always have some of this on hand. It's that tasty.
- .5 lbs of Crystal 60L malt
- 1 oz of torrified wheat
- 4 Gallons of apple juice.
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 lb light dry malt extract
- 1 lb amber dry malt extract
- 0.5 oz of Summit hops or your favorite (go light though)
- Nottingham dry yeast or Wyeast 1098 British Ale Yeast (I used dry the first time)
Let's start with the apple juice. While I'm sure this turns out even better with fresh pressed juice, I actually made my first batch of it using store-bought juice from either Target or Cub (didn't record which). As long as it's pasteurized and has no sulfate preservatives (vitamin C/ascorbic acid is OK), it should work. I can testify that the bottom shelf stuff from my grocery store worked great.
On the hops, I misread or miswrote or something and used Summit when I made it, despite the original recipe not calling for that. Since it turned out good, I'm writing up the recipe as I made it, but I will probably go with something like Cascade next time.
The Crystal 60L is there to balance the tart of the apple juice with sweet, caramel flavors. For store cider, it was recommended to go to 120L or more 60L to compensate. I didn't and am quite happy with how it turned out, but I might experiment with that next time.
- Put 1 gallon of water in brew kettle and heat to 155F.
- Put grains in grain bag and steep for 30 minutes in heated water.
- Add dry malt extract and bring to a boil.
- Add hops and boil for 30 minutes.
- Cool down wort (optional).
- In your fermenter, add apple juice.
- Pour wort into apple juice.
- Pitch yeast.
- Ferment for 2 weeks
- Keg or bottle.
- Age for at least 6 weeks. It gets better with age.