Reverend Nat’s Releases Highest ABV Cider: the 16.6% Wooden Hellfire

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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.

More from the release:

“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.”

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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.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

Discussion

  • Catherine St-Georgse
    Catherine St-Georgse
    Fri Dec 16, 2016 7:06 PM

    Hello!
    We have been doing it for years in Québec. Typically the apple juice is heated in maple evaporator to concentrate sugar… We call it “Cidre de feu” – Fire cider.

    • Samurai Artist
      Samurai Artist
      Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:21 AM

      no ones claiming to have made the first strong cider, they said they think they have made the strongest. I looked up Cidre de feu and reports are 12%, still far below Rev. Nat’s 16.6%

    • Mark
      Mark
      Fri Nov 3, 2017 2:57 PM

      I live in Steeple Bumpstead which is a village in southern England. The locals here produce cider from their dessert apple trees to a traditional recipe which is incredibly strong yet sweet! It’s been known for years that the youngsters shouldn’t drink too much of it and us adults have to be sensible when drinking it. This year I decided to use my hydrometer to actually find out how strong this lovely concoction is and calculated that it is in fact 17.25%! Ridiculous but absolutely true. No wonder the villagers don’t get much done during the autumn months 🙂

      Anyway, perhaps this is the new strongest cider?