Cider Corner: Using Barrels for Innovation

Exploring new flavors is the norm for many craft beverage consumers. Cideries have made sure to adapt to that trend by adding barrel-aged varieties to the lineup.

Ploughman Cider has just begun to work with wood as Ben Wenk and his team enter its third year of the cidery. It was able to acquire its first big haul of barrels through a collaboration with a local distillery which was making a brandy from the farm’s apples.

“It was a great way to further our beverage collaboration to include products distilled from our apples along with ciders aged in the barrels that held our distilled apples,” Wenk said. “[It was] an opportunity to co-brand some great liquid with our collaborators at Republic Restoratives in DC.

The limitations of the production facility to house barrels has slowed the process of doing more as barrels is much less space efficient than Ploughman’s other plastic IBCs.

After the cider ferments in those brandy barrels, Ploughman will likely blend with non-barreled cider before bottling a finished product.

“We’ve discussed the idea of passing those barrels along to some friends and neighbors in the beer industry and have them age or ferment some beer on the cider lees of those barrels and watch the character in the beverage change in the third pass; brandy to cider to sour beer,” Wenk said.

Fenceline Cider‘s barrel program is pretty limited said Sam Perry, but it seems to be working well.

“Cider has very delicate flavors, so even neutral wood can have a big influence on the product,” he said. “I like working with bourbon barrels and high tannin bittersweet apple juice.”

Ronald Sansone of Spoke and Spy Ciderworks said they are lucky to have a local wine supply wholesale store that stocks barrels and delivers to the cidery, usually within a day or two.

“Typically they stock more wine-oriented barrels but sometimes they have spirits barrels,” Sansone said. “Luckily that wine supply store is also where I buy a lot of yeast and other fermentation ingredients, so getting them all on the same order has been a time saver.”

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