Cider Corner: Lactose Alternatives Need Not Involve Corn

Corn-based maltodextrin is an often-used lactose alternative for craft brewers who are looking to avoid dairy products but add body to Stouts and Milkshake IPAs, but it’s not the only tool in the bag that’s available to brewers and cider makers.

Stem Ciders recently called on tapioca maltodextrin to make its Tangerine Whip cider, giving it a creamy quality reminiscent of a Creamsicle or sherbet push pop. Patrick Combs, the cidery’s head of liquids, said he tapped into his prior experience as a craft brewer to land on the plant-based carbohydrate.

Stem’s audience and the retail outlets that carry its products were considerations the cidery made when deciding on the tangerine cider’s ingredients.

“The issue with using corn-based maltodextrin is that it’s almost all made from GMO corn which we didn’t feel would resonate with our consumers, and would even disqualify the product from places like Whole Foods,” Combs said. “We found a high-quality organic tapioca maltodextrin with a similar dextrose equivalent, or level of perceived sweetness it lends, to both lactose and corn-based maltodextrin.”

Considerations also had to be made with working from tangerines — the main ingredient in the cider. More than 2,400 pounds of tangerine puree were used per batch.

“There is definitely a level of diminishing returns when adding ingredients like tangerine, and if you overdo it you end up with a very astringent character from the ascorbic acid,” Combs said. “After sampling more than 10 different tangerine purees from a handful of different vendors, we landed on one from Oregon Fruit. The consistency of the puree was the biggest concern to ensure it didn’t stratify in package and cause a less than enjoyable experience.”

The cider was first made last year and released draft-only at retail locations. Combs said it was a huge hit and the next priority became releasing it in 12-oz packaging.

“The flavor profile is super refreshing without being too overbearing,” he noted. “I’m really excited to get it out to our distribution footprint and see how it does.”

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