One of the most recent brewing experiments taking place in the labs revolves around the current fad-but-not-really-fad drink: the radler.
A radler is traditionally lager that is split with a citrus soda, and is (in my opinion), incredibly delicious on hot day. It’s fantastic for quenching thirst after a long bike ride (hence the radler name), and is easy to put down. For some people who dislike beer, I’ve found railers are an easy way to ease someone into drinking what amounts to an ultralight lager in a form that appreciated and approachable. Most people in the UK or US will recognize the radler by it’s other name: the shandy. It’s the same thing, but doesn’t necessarily use german lager for the beer base.
A twist on the citrus cider and lager is what is referred to (by some) as a graf. It’s named after something from the Stephen King book series The Dark Tower, but that really is neither here nor there for my purposes. I’m searching for a way to marry the best parts of hard cider, with the best parts of the house lager at Tivoli Brewing Company. It might seem easy (just shove in juice and ferment), but there’s much more to it than simply “adding juice.” There are a number of factors that I’m trying to account for, and when adding in the incredibly clean fermentable of apples, there needs to be considerable accounting for parameters that don’t exist in beer typically.
- Apple juice is dominated by fructose, which is easily fermented by S. cerevisiae or pastorianus. Our house strain is a fairly aggressive lager yeast, and initial experiments have shown that it can, and will, ferment it clear. What remains will be the more delicate esters and acids that impart a lot of aroma and flavor.
- Cider typically can (and as matter of personal taste, should) be fermented to near 0 °P. This results in a very crisp and dry beverage, and marrying that to a sweeter lager appropriately, without losing either flavor profiles, takes time to research.
- The variety of the apples used will heavily influence the aroma and flavor of the resulting cider – given the house lager is a traditional Munich helles, screwing up the aroma and flavor profile of the cider will show far more than if the cider was being mated to more riotous Belgian.
For now, I’m trying to stick to single sourced juice, and I’m ignoring things such as fining agents to clarify the resulting brew (pectin is a hassle) in the name of finding the right flavor balance. I plan on branching into some specific varietals of apples (including crabapples), but it’s clear that low acid commercial drinking juice is not the way to do this.