ParrotDog’s RareBird series produces one-off brews celebrating New Zealand’s unusual avifauna. The latest in the series will be released tomorrow.
Kakī wild fermented cider is a collaboration between ParrotDog and Peckham’s Cider, using apples from Peckham’s orchard and the first ever crop from an orchard established by ParrotDog’s Matt Kristofski.
This one celebrates the extremely rare kakī/black stilt, which is happily evolving itself out of existence, through inter-species jiggy-jiggy with the common-as-muck pied stilt.
Kakī cider is a rare one too, with just four barrels made. Matt says the goal was to produce a cider that could challenge cider drinkers and appeal to sour beer fans too.
“Because the craft cider market is still developing, cidermakers have to be quite conservative about the ciders they make for the market, and those are not necessarily the ciders they’d want to be drinking,” Matt says. “So we really wanted this collaboration to be a cider that created something that might be less conservative, and appeal to the sour market. The idea was to use very little sulphur, which kills off the bacteria and wild yeast strains.
“It’s not just a collaboration with Peckham’s – we’ve got a biological collaboration going on as well, with wild yeasts from my orchard and his orchard coming together in a wild ferment. That’s a bit brave and Alex Peckham was pretty hesitant at first. He said this is either going to be absolutely disgusting or really nice.”
Ten months later, the prognosis is good. “It’s turned out a really nice cider,” Alex reports. “It’s definitely got oak influences in it, and I really love oak. I don’t want too much heavy tannin from the oak, but there’s a little bit of tannin, and a whole lot of micro-oxygenation stuff going on I don’t really understand, that really adds something. We put other ciders on oak, but only a few get fermented in the oak barrels for a full seven months.”
As the first, small, crop from Matt’s orchard, Kakī is made with a blend of cider apples – Kingston Black, Sweet Alford, Chisel Jersey, Brown’s Apple, and some other bittersweets. The resulting cider was then blended with a small amount of Peckham’s single-variety ciders and some cane sugar.
Alex says balancing each variety’s characteristics is an essential cidermaking skill.
“Kingston Black is the famous bitter-sharp. It’s an interesting apple in New Zealand because it takes on some funky flavours that round off beautifully over time. Sweet Alford is a sweet apple that goes really well with Kingston Black because it softens Kingston Black’s phenolics. Chisel Jersey has got relatively little acid but a lot of beautiful soft phenolics and flavours. Brown’s is an aromatic sharp apple and its acid helps to balance the lack of acid in the Sweet Alford and the Jersey.”
Matt has been working on his cider orchard since 2010, before ParrotDog was established. He was a student at the time, and took some botany papers with the specific goal of establishing cider apples on family land in Moutere Valley.
“I love the process of cidermaking because you’ve got this connection every step of the way. You’ve got to understand the soils, the tree, the fruit, everything, right to the end product.”