This is the first time anyone to the best of my knowledge has written up anything about fermenting apple juice/cider with something that isn’t cider/wine yeast.
My LHBS got their apple cider buckets in and I had to make cider. The recipe (I am working from a recipe since I have little cider experience) calls for diluting the cider to 10 gallons and throwing in two yeast packets. The tasting room at the homebrew store had some really good stuff. I am confident in this recipe. However, before we got into the recipe at the homebrew store, I had to do test runs. Test runs are like most other homebrew things where I take cheap glass jars (1 gallon) and put whatever I want in there. In this case, I prefer carlos rossi wines. My wife likes their blush and their sangria, and I like to ferment things in them. 1 gallon is also a good size since 1 gallon will scale to 5 easily. (There are scaling issues with some recipes, but generally unless you’re working with spices it’s mostly immaterial).
I got one gallon of standard issue apple juice, and 1 lbs of brown sugar. I heated the apple juice just enough to get the sugar to dissolve and put that in my carlos rossi jar. The carlos rossi wine jugs accept 6 or 6.5 bungs, I prefer 6.5 because it’s harder to push them into the neck. In one jug of delicious fortified apple juice I put in WLP001 (Cali Common) and in the other jug I put in WLP530 (Abbey Ale). Then I let them sit. The WLP001 sort of poked along (it’s known for this), but the WLP530 went off like a rocket. The WLP530 took a month to stop bubbling, the WLP001 was done in two weeks or so.
But, how does it taste?
The WLP001 is basically a bitch drink, it tastes like sweet cider, which is still very drinkable with no discernible alcohol taste. For something which is firmly session beer (4%), it’s quite drinkable. We also found mixing it with mead gives it really interesting notes. The Abbey Ale yeast managed to get it’s cider up to 8%, but it’s wonderfully dry, sharp stuff without being offensive. The abbey ale yeast managed to be fruity with just a touch of ester, it had a wonderful warm nose and a sharp taste on the tongue. Even for being still, it really came out well, and I would love to carbonate it.
That being said, the 10 gallons from the main batch is going to consume both my kegs if I keg it, but I plan on bottling as much as I can and possibly force carbing the rest. The main batch is fermented with wine yeast, but I almost wish I had done a five gallon batch with the abbey ale yeast and 5lbs brown sugar. Well, there’s always next year…