Zeffer’s BGONZA clean sweep

By BeertownNZ Fri, 21 Oct 2016 Cidertown

Zeffer Cider took home two-out-of-two cider trophies at the Brewers Guild of NZ Awards.

This marks the first time any cider maker has won both cider BGONZAs in the same year.

The winning ciders are Cidre Demi-Sec 2015 (Cider or Perry trophy) and Apple Crumble Cider (Fruit or Flavoured Cider or Perry trophy).

Zeffer’s head cider maker Jody Scott says he’s pleased that two very different ciders were recognised. Cidre Demi-Sec is a traditional French cidre made with traditional techniques and heritage fruit. Zeffer developed Apple Crumble this year, and won People’s Choice at Auckland GABS.

Jody says using wild fermentation and heritage fruit meant Cidre Demi-Sec “naturally-keeved”. Keeving refers to cider-making techniques that stop fermentation before all the sugars have been converted to alcohol. This means the final cider does not have to be back-sweetened with unfermented apple juice.

“That’s our traditional French style cidre. You’re quite lucky to get a naturally-keeved cider. You can only do it with traditional heritage cider apple varieties. It stops fermenting with some natural sugar left in, and that’s why you end up with a slightly lower alcohol level, because we haven’t fermented it dry.

“We aged it in some French oak barrels for a bit of extra complexity, so in the end it’s a pure cider with nothing manipulated. It’s very traditional so we were very happy with the way it turned out and it was awesome to win with it.”

Because those heritage varieties are notoriously, frustratingly rare, Zeffer made just 3200 bottles (500mL) of the 2015 Cidre Demi-Sec. It had a spent six months barrel aging before being bottled a year ago for further bottle aging. “It’s tasting really good at the moment”, Jody reports.

The Flavoured Cider category is a tough one for craft cider makers. Check out the shelves in any decent supermarket or bottlestore, and about half the cider shelf space is taken up by flavoured ciders, including many made using commercial juice concentrates and flavours. Customers and retailers want something sweet, fruity and alcoholic, and don’t seem to care how it was assembled in the factory.

That’s why Jody is pleased that Zeffer’s Apple Crumble won the trophy.

“We’d been playing around with mulled cider recipes for the winter. We found some can be too heavy on the clove element, and the spices can start to dominate rather than enhance. I quite liked a couple of recipes we had that were a little bit more restrained and towards the cinnamony sort of flavours.

“One particular batch tasted like an apple crumble, which we thought was a bit fun, and we entered it as out GABS festival cider. Winning the GABS People’s Choice was a nice surprise, and straight after the festival we had requests and enquiries pretty much every day. Ever since then it’s been a matter of keeping up with demand. So getting the industry recognition (through the BGONZAs) was pretty cool, because it seems to be getting recognition at every level.”

Apple Crumble starts as a straight apple cider before being flavoured with a spice blend including cinnamon, vanilla and blackberry leaves.

“I’ve got a base cider that already has a fresh apple flavour to it and then we infuse it with various spices and it’s back-sweetened before bottling. The blackberry leaves came as part of a spice mix we were playing round with for the mulled ciders, and it worked very well. It seems to bring a bit of a fresher flavour and a bit of tannin which seems to balance the cider. It was a bit of a happy accident discovering that.”

Apple Crumble has now joined Zeffer’s core range and is included in its mixed four-pack.

Zeffer also entered the New Zealand Cider Makers Awards which were judged on the same day as the BGONZAs. They will be announced on 11 November.

By BeertownNZ Fri, 21 Oct 2016 Cidertown