Hopped Cider: Understanding the Role of Hops in Cider Making

Hopped cider is a unique and refreshing beverage that combines the crispness of apple cider with the flavors and aromas of hops. This drink has grown in popularity recently, providing a delicious alternative to traditional ciders and offering an interesting twist on familiar flavors.

When crafting a hopped cider, you’ll find a variety of hops to choose from, each bringing distinct notes to the finished product. Some popular hop varieties include Cascade, known for its citrus flavors and floral aromas, and Citra, prized for its tropical fruit character. The yeast selection also plays a crucial role, with ale variety yeast, such as Nottingham, frequently chosen for its clean and balanced fermentation profile.

Many commercial hopped ciders are now available on the market, showcasing a variety of hop profiles and fermentation techniques, making it a perfect time for you to try this drink.

Understanding Hopped Cider

What is Hopped Cider?

Hopped cider is a type of hard cider that incorporates the type of hops, typically used in the different types of IPA beers. This infusion of hops in the cider creates a unique flavor profile and mouthfeel that is reminiscent of certain beers. The most common hops used in hopped ciders are Galaxy, Cascade, and Centennial. Despite the hoppy nature, even individuals who are not fans of hoppy beers may find that they enjoy these ciders due to the balance of hop bitterness and sweet apple character.

History of Hopped Cider

The idea of dry hopping cider originated with Salem, Oregon’s Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. It began when a Washington brewery combined its cider with an IPA, introducing beer drinkers to the notion that hops blend well with the sweet apple taste of cider. This unique marriage of flavors quickly gained popularity, leading to the rise of various hopped ciders in the market. Today, hopped ciders continue to gain attention and appreciation from both beer and cider enthusiasts alike.

Hopped Cider Production Process


In hopped cider production, fermentation is when yeast consumes sugar in the apple juice, converting it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. To start fermentation, gather the necessary equipment, including a 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket with an airlock, a hydrometer kit, and an auto siphon.

Begin by mixing apple juice with a suitable yeast strain in the fermenting bucket. Measure the original gravity of your mixture using a hydrometer before adding any yeast, aiming for a reading of around 1.046 SG. Incorporate yeast nutrients or yeast nutrient substitutes to help the fermentation process by increasing the dissolved nitrogen in the juice.

Seal the fermenter with an airlock, allowing carbon dioxide to escape while keeping oxygen and contaminants out. Aim for a target final gravity reading of around 1.002 SG, which should give an expected ABV of about 5.75%.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping adds hop flavors and aroma to the cider after fermentation. To do this, choose hop varieties that best complement your cider. Once your cider has completed fermentation and reached your desired final gravity, it’s time to add the hops.

Transfer the cider to a secondary fermenter, leaving the sediment behind. Introduce the hops to the cider in a sanitized hop bag or mesh container. When it comes to how long to dry hop it is really a personal choice however most people will recommend allowing the hops to steep in the cider for 5-7 days.  The recommended temperature range to dry hop is between 60-70°F, monitoring for potential off-flavors.

When the desired hop profile is achieved, carefully remove the hops and prepare your hopped cider for bottling or kegging.

Ingredients in Hopped Cider

Juice Selection

When making hopped cider, selecting the right apple juice is essential. Most hopped ciders use a blend of dessert and culinary apples, which provide balance and complexity. It’s crucial that the apple juice has no preservatives, as this can inhibit fermentation. Some cider makers also use apple juice concentrate to increase the sugar content and potency of the final product.

Hop Selection

Hop selection plays a vital role in your hopped cider’s flavor and aroma profile. Choose hops that complement the apple flavors and don’t overpower them. Some popular hop varieties for hopped cider include:

– Cascade: Known for its floral, citrus, and grapefruit notes.
– Citra: Offers strong citrus flavors, particularly grapefruit, lime, and tropical fruit.
– Amarillo: Delivers orange, grapefruit, and tropical fruit flavors.
– Galaxy: Contributes bright passionfruit, pineapple, and citrus flavors.
– Centennial: Adds floral and citrus notes, with an emphasis on lemon.
– Mosaic: Imparts blueberry, tangerine, and tropical fruit flavors.

Typically, hopped ciders are dry hopped, which means adding the hops after the primary fermentation has completed. This helps to preserve the delicate hop aromas and flavors while avoiding excessive bitterness.

Yeast Selection

Choosing the correct yeast strain is crucial for creating a successful hopped cider. Some common cider, wine, and beer yeast varieties that work well for hopped cider include:

– Red Star Montrachet
– White Labs English Cider Yeast (WLP775)
– Lalvin EC-1118

When fermenting your hopped cider, consider adding yeast nutrient such as DAP (diammonium phosphate) to ensure a healthy fermentation. Remember that the type of yeast you use will affect your finished cider’s overall flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel.

Styles and Flavor Profiles

This section will explore a variety of hopped ciders and their distinct taste profiles. Hopped ciders combine the classic apple flavors with the unique characteristics of various hops to create a refreshing beverage.

Citrus Hopped Ciders

Citrus-hopped ciders are known for their bright, fruity, and tangy flavors, often reminiscent of traditional IPAs. To create these ciders, cidermakers use hops that are high in citrusy aromas, such as Citra, Cascade, or Galaxy.  The result is a drink that balances the sweetness from the apple juice with the zesty flavors and floral aroma of the hops.

When sampling a citrus-hopped cider, you might notice:

– A delicate balance between sweet and tart
– Undertones of orange, grapefruit, or lemon
– A dry finish with a lingering aroma

A popular citrus-hopped cider is Incline Cider’s Hopped, which has won multiple CLINTCAP Silver Medals.

Pineapple Hopped Ciders

Pineapple-hopped ciders offer a tropical twist on traditional hopped ciders. These ciders are brewed with hops that have a pineapple-like aroma and flavor, such as Amarillo or Mosaic hops. The careful hop selection, coupled with the tart apple juice base, makes for a refreshing and fruity cider.

Key characteristics of pineapple-hopped ciders are:

– Juicy and tropical flavors
– Hints of other fruits like mango or papaya
– A bright and clean finish

Spicy Hopped Ciders

Spicy hopped ciders bring a unique twist to the cider world with their bold and complex flavors. Cidermakers typically use hops with spicy characteristics, such as Columbus, Nugget, or Willamette hops. These ciders offer a blend of apple sweetness and warm, earthy, and robust spice notes.

Key features of spicy hopped ciders include:

– Complex and balanced flavor profile
– Herbal or peppery undertones
– A dry finish with lingering warmth

The spicy hopped ciders provide a unique experience for those seeking something different from traditional cider flavors.

ABV and Original Gravity

When making hopped cider, it’s important to understand the relationship between Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and Original Gravity (OG). ABV measures the alcohol content in your cider, while OG refers to the specific gravity of the cider before fermentation begins.

To calculate ABV, you’ll need to take two measurements – Original Gravity (OG) and Final Gravity (FG). OG is the initial measurement of the sugar content in your cider before fermentation, and FG is the measurement after fermentation is complete. Here’s a simple formula you can use:

ABV = (OG – FG) * 131.25

For example, if your OG is 1.050 and your FG is 0.990, the ABV would be approximately 7.9%. Keep in mind that this is just an estimate, and various factors can affect the final ABV.

Original Gravity plays a key role in determining the potential alcohol content and the overall character of your hopped cider. Most ciders naturally have an OG around 1.050, which may result in a final ABV between 6 to 9%. Cider should have a minimum OG of 1.045 to ensure shelf life and a satisfactory alcohol level.

When creating your hopped cider recipe, pay close attention to your Original Gravity and monitor the fermentation process to achieve the desired Alcohol by Volume.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process of dry hopping a cider?

Dry hopping a cider involves adding hops to the cider during or after fermentation, without boiling them first. This allows the hops to impart their flavors and aromas without contributing bitterness. To dry hop a cider, you’ll need hops, a sanitized fermenter or secondary container, and a mesh bag or hop infuser. Add your desired amount of hops to the mesh bag or hop infuser, then submerge it into the cider. Allow the hops to steep in the cider for a few days to a week, depending on the intensity of flavor desired. After steeping, remove the hops and proceed to package your hopped cider for consumption.

Which hop varieties are suitable for hopped cider?

There are many hop varieties that can be used to create a hopped cider, each with their own unique flavor profiles. Some popular hop varieties for hopped cider include Cascade, Citra, Amarillo, and Mosaic. Cascade hops provide floral and citrus notes, while Citra hops are known for their tropical fruit and grapefruit aromas. Amarillo hops have a distinct tangerine and citrus character, and Mosaic hops offer a mix of tropical fruit, citrus, and herbal flavors. It’s important to experiment with different hop varieties to determine which ones best complement your cider’s natural flavors.

How does hopped pear cider differ from traditional hopped cider?

Hopped pear cider, also known as perry, is made from fermented pear juice instead of apple juice, as used in traditional hopped cider. The primary difference between the two lies in the fruit base, which affects the overall flavor profile. Pear cider typically has a more delicate and subtle sweetness compared to apple cider and may exhibit unique pear-specific flavors like melon and stone fruit. When it comes to hopping pear cider, the hop varieties you choose will interact differently with the pear base, so you may need to adjust your hop choices to best complement the perry’s flavor profile.

How can I make a sweet hopped hard cider?

To achieve a sweet hopped hard cider, you can try one of several methods. One option is to backsweeten the cider after fermentation is complete. To do this, first, stabilize the cider by adding potassium sorbate to prevent further fermentation. Then, add a sweetener of your choice, such as apple juice concentrate, sugar, or honey, to taste. For a more natural sweetness, consider using a yeast strain with lower attenuation to leave residual sugar in the cider. Alternatively, blending the hopped cider with a sweeter, non-hopped cider can help balance the hop bitterness and maintain its sweetness.

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