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07/24/11 10:36 PM  
Basque Cider
Any of you ever made this? With apple harvest approaching, I've been looking at something different to do with my apples, and I'm thinking this must be it.
tom sawyer
07/25/11 11:08 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
You're talking about making a still, hard cider? I just made my first hard cider from apples and it turned out well. I did yeast fermentation and then MLF. I added honey for priming sugar and bottled so it'll be more of a French style cider. It was fun to make, but I was surprised at how little volume you get from apples. I think its around 15lb/gal. I just started my second batch using the yeast cake from batch one, I'm fermenting frozen apple juice this time.
07/25/11 02:16 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
MLF = malolactic fermentation?

I just started reading up on it, but it's basically a tart, barrel aged cider that is served still.

tom sawyer
07/25/11 05:31 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
Yes malolactic fermentation, it converts malic (a major acid in apples) to the less tart lactic acid. A lot of times MLF proceeds spontaneously from bacteria harbored on the fruit.

Sounds like Basque cider isn't much different than other hard ciders, other than not being carbonated its pretty much made using standard procedures.

What varieties of apples do you grow? Some lend to better hard cider than others.

07/25/11 05:53 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I don't actually have any apple trees that are big enough yet to produce the amount of fruit I would need, though my father does. No clue what variety they are though. I've always just used cider that I bought. Would the MLF occur in store bought cider or would I need to add bugs?
tom sawyer
07/25/11 08:35 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
Storebought cider is generally pasteurized so you would need to add bugs. The cheapest is Bacchus and even that is usually around $10. I don't know that you'd need to do MLF, I just did it because I had some leftover MLB from last fall's winemaking efforts. Plus I was wanting to make a dry, not too tart cider for the wife. I had used a blend of Braeburn, Jonagold, Fuji and a few Granny Smiths. I thought it was going to be extra tart but after MLF it was really mild so I don't know that it would have needed it.

By all means, give hard cider making a try. It has a great history in this country and the cider is a very nice beverage.

Brian S
07/25/11 10:30 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
My cider from last year underwent MLF in the bottle this spring. It was interesting, I wasn't expecting that it would happen. I opened a bottle up in early June having not had any in a few months and was quite surprised. I think it improved the cider overall.

I'm curious about how the Basque style differs from a traditional English cider?

tom sawyer
07/26/11 07:55 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
I know with wine you don't want to MLF in the bottle as it can produce off flavors and carbonated wine, of course carbonation doesn't hurt cider.

As far as differences in English and Basque ciders, it seems that the Basques don't add sugar or flavorings. Theres most likely going to be differences in the varieties of apples used as well, and its served still.

07/26/11 10:59 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
The Basque cider that I have had was imported and sold from a shop in Boise, Idaho. The most noticeable trait was a brettanomyces-like funky barnyard aroma and flavor. After talking to a friend with Basque roots, he mentioned that the cider is typically drunk very young, and that the bottled examples in the U.S. are not very good examples of fresh Basque cider.
tom sawyer
07/26/11 11:45 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
The descriptions I read did mention a certain yeastiness when it was young, and that the cider changed some through the course of the winter. Sounds kind of like the farmhouse ale of ciders.
07/26/11 02:22 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
With all the cider making I've done I'm surprised I've never heard of Basque Cider. They certainly do seem to like pouring it from great distances! From what I've read in a short perusal, it sounds like Basque cider is just what they call cider made in Spain? Is that the case? Seems like if you wanted to recreate it that variety would be the most critical single factor. Nothing I've read makes it sound like there is anything particularly unusual about the stuff.
07/26/11 10:29 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
When I first read about it, I envisioned a lambic cider of sorts. Guess that isn't the case, but I'd still like to add some bugs to a cider to see what happens.
07/27/11 04:35 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I have found that it isn't as bug friendly as beer, I've made a couple batches fermented with brett.

In general I think when you are talking an old, traditionally produced libation - particularly one produced in a country side setting - you are talking something that has some similarity to lambic. Even with today's sanitation practices it can be tough to keep a cider clean unless you sulfite it. I actually prefer not to sulfite, but to just be REALLY careful along the way and I'm seldom disappointed. But I guarantee you that ages ago, cider made along the Spanish countryside was far from clean. How could it have been? Keep in mind, in the olden days sometimes even lambic turned out to be a brewing abomination - hence the creation of Faro. Cider is a lot thinner in character making it a lot less forgiving than beer - the effect of surprise infection can work in beer, its more likely to destroy a cider. I think the key to Basque cider is that hundreds of years ago poor Spanish farm workers would have drank it anyway.

But I hope that doesn't discourage anyone, there are some really interesting production directions you can go with cider. At Franklin County Cider Days (MA) one guy on the main panel every year brings along a cider made in a whiskey barrel. IMHO its a great drink. Various spicing scenarios can produce some fascinating beverages, and my personal area of focus is variations on the ice cider concept.

Mike H
08/01/11 11:36 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
Here in NYC we get 2 different Basque ciders, both in bottles. One had a decent Brett funk to it. The other was very sour, but mostly an acetic sourness so I wasn't a huge fan of that one. If these two bottles were any indication of Basque ciders in general, then there is a huge difference between Basque and non-Basque ciders. The flavors and aromas definitely reminded me more of lambics than British or French ciders. Here is a link that I found a while back with a little more background


The link claims that the cider is spontaneously fermented, so that would definitely fit with the strong Brett and sour character in the couple that I tried.

tom sawyer
08/01/11 06:47 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
Something tells me that all Basque ciders aren't funky and its more likely to be prominent in an imported product. That said, I like the idea and may blend in some sour lambic in my next cider.
08/23/11 05:00 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I tried a really tasty cider at a recent homebrew club picnic. It was fermented with Lacto and Brett (no idea which varieties). I'm thinking about doing one sometime soon too.
09/16/11 05:35 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I recently fermented out four gallons of pasteurized unfiltered apple juice with some montrachet yeast and bottle dregs from a couple bottles of basque ciders (isastegi and sarasola). after a month I had a nice pellicle and some very lambic-like aromas and sourness that was similar to what was found in the ciders (in fact, the cider appeared to be "sick" when I racked it to a keg for long term storage). a pic of the pellicle is at this link: http://www.overcarbed.com/?p=1683
09/20/11 11:36 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
Mike H,

>>The flavors and aromas definitely reminded me more of lambics than British or French ciders.<<

what English and French ciders have you had? Anything beyond the regular imports?

09/28/11 12:30 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
Have about 300 pounds or so of apples I picked yesterday that I'm going to ferment with a westmalle yeast cake (can't remember the number) and then dump the dregs from some brett b beers in. Any pointers I should know other than making sure I have enough nutrients? Do I need to do anything to kill whatever is in the cider after I press it?
09/29/11 02:06 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
Wow, 300 pounds?? You've been busy!

There is a level of risk when you use unpasteurized juice. Personally, when I make a straight hard cider I prefer natural fermentation over sulfiting and pitching. I almost never loose a batch. But if you want to be safe, try pressing a few and making a small starter out of a little juice. That will give you an indication if there is something on the skins that will ruin your day. But odds are it will be OK.

09/29/11 02:14 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I think I'm just going to roll with it. What do you think about the 3787 and then brett b plan?
09/29/11 06:28 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I've done something similar. And not totally on purpose.


I brewed a cider with Chimay yeast. Which is different than Westmalle, but both still give off some fruity esters. The Chimay yeast fermented in the low 70s and gave me a big banana fruit flavor. It was pretty interesting and it has remained in the beer. I tasted one recently and the banana really adds some nice complexity.

As for the Brett, I did not mean to add it, but the stopper was knocked off and it sit in my brewing closet with a bunch of other sour beers. I did not get a big effect from the Brett , I got a bit of a coconut flavor but zero funk. I've even had a bottle recently and still no funk. I think that it just was not a good environment for the Brett (very little sugar and high pH) or I had a weak strain.

In summary, I say yes to the Belgian yeast and I don't know about the Brett B. If you really want some Brett flavor you might want to build up a good starter and pitch at the same time as the Sacc yeast.

Good Luck and let us know how it goes.

09/30/11 02:47 PM  
Re: Basque Cider
I'm the wrong guy to ask, I believe in naturally fermenting cider. Some like the introduction of funk, for me that is a beer thing, I don't prefer them in wine and cider.
10/05/11 12:36 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
Ended up with 10 gallons all together after setting some aside for the kids to drink. Dosed 5 gallons with my house bug culture and the other half with the Westmalle cake. We shall see...
10/08/11 10:24 AM  
Re: Basque Cider
Wow! The fermentation freezer smells amazing!
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