Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider has produced a new cider called “Wooden Hellfire,” which, at 16.6% ABV, may be the strongest hard cider ever produced. It’s also naturally fermented without extra sugar, using only fresh apple juice and yeast and left to age for over a year in Kentucky-sourced used bourbon barrels.
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“The cider was conceived as a response to the fledgling ‘ice cider’ style,” says the founder and head cidermaker, Reverend Nat West. In this cider style, largely produced in Quebec, apples are typically left on the tree until they freeze, thus cryo-concentrating the natural juice until it achieves a very high starting sugar level. These high natural sugars allow the production of a naturally sweet and high alcohol cider that has no other ingredients added to increase the ABV such as fruit juice concentrates, sugar or distilled spirits.
“But I never much liked the perfume-y and syrupy profile of ice ciders very much,” continues West. “So I wondered what would happen if I boiled the hell out of juice rather than freezing it.” In July of 2015, West worked with a local Portland brewery (“They’re a big brewery and don’t want to go on-record with this project”) to boil fresh apple juice for 18 hours, reducing the overall volume by two thirds. This “pyro-concentrated” apple juice was, “thick and viscous, about 29 brix, full of caramelized burnt sugars with tons of cooked apple and molasses flavors. It was right then that I realized I was making more of a barleywine kindred than a riff on ice cider.”
West brought the juice back to his cidery and fermented it with a Belgian saison strain, “going for some Belgian quad aromas to play with what remained of the apples,” he said. Fermentation completed in about 60 days at which time the cider was racked into freshly-dumped Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels where it rested for over a year before being bottled exclusively for the Tent Show Bottle Club, Reverend Nat’s rare-cider membership group. 38 cases will be released on Sunday December 18th, 2016, at the group’s monthly cider release. Any remaining bottles will go on sale on Tuesday December 20th in Reverend Nat’s Public Taproom. An extremely small number of flavored variants were made as well including cherry-chipotle, raspberry-tobacco and coffee-cacao.
More information about Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider:
Reverend Nat is a single-minded cider evangelist and craft beer revolutionary who searches the world for superior ingredients to handcraft the most unusual ciders that no one else will make. Founder Nat West started making cider at home in 2004 and opened Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider in September of 2011. With unique products like the multiple-fermented Revival, dry-hopped Hallelujah Hopricot and quinine-bittered Deliverance Ginger Tonic, we are making cider in the creative spirit of beer geeks. To learn more, check out the website at reverendnatshardcider.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter @revnatscider.