Making 520 Hard Cider

This hard cider represents the local area where I live: Southern Arizona. 520 is the area code and my goal with this cider was to reflect the apples that we have here in that area code, which are dessert apples. However, I wanted to also include other local fruits or adjuncts that would be good substitutes for the cider apples I was missing. I wanted something that would add tannins and color. I landed on pomegranates for this adjunct and never looked back. It darkens the hard cider slightly giving it an amber hue while giving it some tannins and astringency. In this case, I also used pears to give it a touch of natural residual sweetness. Originally, I used juices, and I covered that method in my book. Now, I use fresh pressed apples and pears, but I still use organic juice for the pomegranate because I haven’t found a consistent source for the fruit (i.e. my friend’s tree died).

You may live somewhere that has great heirloom or even hard cider apples. However, not all of us live in an area that offers these types of apples in quantity. Does that mean we can’t make great hard cider? Absolutely not! However, it does mean we need to think outside the traditional hard cider recipes and methods used to make them. If you have lots of great apples that you can use for hard cider, wonderful. However, maybe you should consider how your hard cider could better reflect your own “520” area. If you don’t have access to these great cider apples, explore how you can add adjuncts to craft an awesome hard cider with the apples you do have.

I chose Fuji because it’s readily available at most orchards in my 520 area, even our large organic orchard has them. Granny Smith and Bosc pears are the same. These three pome fruits offer good sugar and acid in a blend but miss the balancing tannins. That’s where the pomegranate comes into play. If you live somewhere that has cranberries or blueberries, those could be great adjuncts that would offer the same benefits of color and tannins. I use Mangrove M21 Belgian Wit yeast, which fermented well in my trials. It does take longer to clarify but I enjoyed the ester and phenolic compounds it offered and I normally plan to age this cider for several months before filtering it so the lower flocculation was less concerning.

520 Hard Cider: Cider of Southern Arizona
520 Hard Cider: Cider of Southern Arizona

As you can see from the picture, the color has a slight amber hue. The taste is an off-dry tart apple with some drying astringency. I force-carbonate this to 2.5 volumes of CO2 but that is just my method. Like can bottle condition this hard hard and achieve the same level of carbonation. Remember that fermenting at room temperature of 70F/21C will give you around 0.85 volumes of CO2 and each 0.001 points of specific gravity you add about 0.6 volumes of CO2.

520 Cider By Prickly Apple Cider
520 Cider: A Hard Cider with Pomegranate

Want to make your own 520 Cider? Go check out the hard cider recipe in the recipe section. Just like me, most everyone can find Fuji and Granny Smith apples and Bosc pears. If not, just use juice as it will be made from similar apples and pears. While I also think many people have access to pomegranate juice, replace it with fruit juice that is local and tannin rich. Make it your own area code. If you need more information about how to make or enjoy hard cider? You can always get a copy of my book. Or, leave me a comment and I’ll responded.

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