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How the Craft Brew Alliance's Joe Casey Is Hopping Up Cider

However, right now we just have the Original version and the Spur & Vine. The hopped version seems to resonate a little bit more with consumers, so production tends to skew in that direction. In the future, I think there are some more things we can do with hop ciders, spices, fruits and that type of thing.

Hop cider is a far more common find in the West than it is in the rest of the country, but Spur & Vine differs even from the varieties found there. The hops work more as an accent to both the aroma and the flavor than as an overpowering ingredient. How much did you have to toy around with the recipe and how does it strike the balance between its hop and fruit flavors?

Casey: We played around with it a fair bit on the front end. We actually used a beer yeast to make it instead of a cider or wine yeast. It's a lager yeast and we tried a couple of ale yeasts at first, but the fermentation was kind of on the cool side and the ale yeast didn't perform very well at that cold of a temperature. The lager yeast performed excellent.

As far as the hopping goes, we tried a handful of varieties there as well. We were looking at kind of a different spectrum of hops all the way from the spicy to the floral, to the crafty, to the very citrusy. The ones that resonated with us most were the citrusy hops, so at that point we focused on a hop variety from Australia called Galaxy that we've been using in our beers for the last year or so. It's a really interesting hop that has a nice citrus, fruity flavor. We thought that would complement the apples well, and it turned out pretty good.

The first thing that comes to mind is sour apple, like a less-syrupy Jolly Rancher with just enough bitterness at the end to give it a nip like lemonade. What's the reaction been to it on both the beer and cider sides of the spectrum?

Casey: It's still pretty new on the market and I haven't had the chance to go out and represent it myself, but the feedback I'm getting is that the hopped variety seems to perform much better.

Even in our pub, just amongst the employees, what we're seeing is that some people are actually mixing the cider with beer -- which has been pretty interesting to see and taste. You'll get concoctions that are mostly cider with a little bit of imperial IPA mixed in or half cider, half beer.

Was that something you'd had in mind while coming up with Spur & Vine?

Casey: I wouldn't say that we dreamed that it would be used as a blender. It's become more popular to serve cider over ice, so we anticipated that and worked that into our formula, knowing that when the ice melts the cider will dilute a little bit.
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