Tag Archives: Perry

Fresh Perry, a New Place, & the Passage of Time

For fresh-pressed juice, it’s cloudier than I thought it would be after all this time.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I started the pear cider from local fresh pressed juice. I knew I was going let it sit longer than I have the other cyders, but my original plan was to let it condition six months and bottle in June. Instead it’s eleven months later and September.

Cydering helps one note such passages of time. That can be good, when it helps you slow down and take stock, and bad, when it reminds you how quickly it seems to be passing. And sometimes, like this with the pear cider, it reminds me how busy the last few months have been. But we’ll get to that.

As usual, we got six pints out of the jug. Just in time to taste test and figure out if we’re buying more juice for another batch. Yet again, the house is divided over whether or not this is a keeper. I like it, with its bite and ever-so-slight hint of pear. J. is less convinced of its attributes. Of course, upon the second sip (and third and fourth, and so on) it grew on her.

The name is an homage to the orchard I got the juice from.
9% ABV.

You may have noticed the clutter and new backgrounds. That’s because the Cydery (and us and the rest of our stuff) has a new home. An eighteenth-century one.

117A new place means starting fresh, which translates to having no idea where the Cydery will be. I’ve already promised not to put it in the bathroom. I was hoping the basement, which would be a fitting place to make historically-inspired cyder. However, it needs a bit of work.

I wonder how many cyders will have come and gone by the time I get to cleaning this up?

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The Trader Joe’s Cyser Part III, The Honey Wheat Cyder, and the Perry

It finally worked and the key seems to be time. The third Trader Joe’s cyser, started back in May, didn’t develop a foggy bottom like the last one had. Everything was the same, except I let this batch sit in primary a little longer than usual.


It fermented clear and dry, which is what I wanted, but it also means it won’t carbonate in the bottle like the last batch did.

In October I started two new batches, another honey wheat cyser and a perry with orchard juice. I let them sit in primary for six weeks to see if the honey wheat stopped fermenting and the perry cleared more. Neither happened. The honey wheat was still bubbling ever so slightly and the perry remained hazy. They were racked into secondaries this past Wednesday. The honey wheat will sit until March and the perry until May.


l – Honey Wheat
r – Perry

While racking I took a taste of each of them. The perry has a much better feel and taste than the previous ones, which were not good. The honey wheat had a sweetness and fullness to it that I wasn’t expecting, since the previous one came out like a dry white wine.

Now I’m waiting for the last six gallons of orchard juice to come in. In the meantime, I need to figure out what cyder we want six gallons of.

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Our Two-Year Anniversary & Two New Cyders

It was just two years ago this week that I started my first cyders. It began because the museum I work at holds a Harvest Day event every October and one of the farmers, who had been pressing apples, asked if I wanted any raw juice. I said yes, thinking maybe I would finally try one of the eighteenth-century receipts I had. Who knows, I thought, maybe it’ll be drinkable.

Such are the humble origins of Pommel Cydery.

And so two years and one more Harvest Day later another cyder season begins. This year’s first cyders are encores of previous experiments.

I was beginning to despair of ever finding fresh pear juice and was about to give up on making perry. But then, by chance, I saw IMG_1091that a local orchard was selling locally-grown, fresh-pressed, and unpreserved pear juice. So the experiment is happily renewed.

My previous perries were store-bought juice and pitched yeast. The resulting drink was thin and bland. This time I decided to add a little light brown sugar, enough to raise the potential ABV to almost 9%. Not all of the sugars in pear juice are fermentable, so it’s likely that the final ABV will be less than 9%, even if it ferments out fully. Either way, hopefully this one will be better than its predecessors.

Earlier this year I made a honey and wheat cyder (cyser, really, since it used honey). It was based on an eighteenth-century receipt which didn’t specify how much of each to use. I chose to put in a very small amount of honey and wheat. So small in fact, that they probably had no effect on the final content. That cyser came out similar to a dry white wine and at about 6%, which is generally what unaided apple juice will ferment to. Clearly I didn’t add enough honey.

Using a gallon of raw juice from this  year’s Harvest Day pressing, I added half a pound of wildflower honey and 2 oz. of wheat flower. The hydrometer reading came out to a potential ABV of 6.5%, lower than I wanted. So I added the rest of the honey, bringing it to a possible 8.5%.

l – Pear juice & 1/2 lb. of light brown sugar – potential ABV 9%
r – Apple juice, 1 lb. wildflower honey, & 2 oz. wheat flour – potential ABV 8.5%

Within twelve hours the pear juice was fermenting away with large, airy bubbles. The honey wheat cyser took almost twenty four to get going. Both are covered by cheese-cloth for now to provide enough air for the yeast to multiply and grow. In a day or so the cloth will be replace by vodka-filled air locks.

These are only the first cyders of the season. I plan to make additional varieties, focusing on eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century styles. Among other things, this means fermenting with raw (or as close as possible) juice and natural yeasts. I’m not pitching lab yeast because science is nice and all, but Pommel Cydery’s mission is to experiment with history.

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Pearless Perry and 1723 Cyder Bottled

August was so busy stocking up on other people’s cider and planning my own fall production that I’m just now getting around to the cyders I planned to bottle weeks ago. On Monday I bottled one of the perries started in December 2013 and the Honey Wheat cyder started in February.

September 2014 cider

Perry on the left and the honey wheat on the right.

The honey wheat cyder, which is based on an 1723 receipt, is in the running to be the new household favorite. J tasted it and immediately smiled. This is always a good sign. It finished like a dry wine, though it’s only 6% ABV (if the vinometer is to be believed).

The Knudsen & cider yeast perry has a brown sugar taste, despite having no brown sugar in it, a strong sweetness at the back, and no pear or perry taste. At 4.5% (again, according to the vinometer), it’s thin and bland.

I said above that this is ONE of the perries I made. It’s one of four I made at the same time, three of which didn’t make it to bottling. Due to their being meh in every way, they were banished to the drain. It hurt, but it was best for all concerned.

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Update On Trader Joe’s Cyser Take 3 and Bottling the Ceres Perry

It’s been quiet at the Cydery these last few weeks because I’ve been busier drinking tasting cyder than making it and I’ve been sharing some of the cyders with interested friends. The sharing is new for me for a couple of reasons.

First, up until this spring I’ve only done one-gallon batches, which produces six pint bottles per jug. That doesn’t leave a lot to cellar and share. This spring I made a six gallon batch which amounted to 43 pint bottles – more than enough to keep some AND serve some.

Secondly, and more importantly, this is only my second year of cydering and I still feel a novice (but only because I am). It’s taken a while, but I’m finally comfortable letting other people try what I’ve made. I guess it’s a lot like writing, painting, or performing: you never really want to show anyone your first attempts for fear that your work will be laughable.

Although things have been quiet that doesn’t mean the Cydery has been inactive.

The Trader Joe’s cyser (Part III) has spent four weeks in primary fermentation and lots of lees have fallen out.


Lots of lees.

As mentioned before, I’m making this again to see if I get the thick viscous goo layer that developed during secondary fermentation last time. That cyser came out well enough, but I lost volume to the foggy bottom.

I moved the jug so I could rack it off into secondary and let it alone so the solids could settle to the bottom again. When I came back to it a few hours later it was lightly bubbling again.

IMG_0871The previous TJ cyser seems to have carbonated slightly in the bottle which meant it was still fermenting. So it’s not surprising that this is still going a little. I’m waiting until these bubbles stop before racking it. Maybe that will help prevent or limit the cloudy layer. Or maybe it won’t. These are experiments after all.

IMG_0893After six months of secondary fermentation I bottled the Ceres perry I started back in November. Like the Trader Joe’s cyser, it developed a foggy bottom, but in primary.  Since I tried not to transfer any of the goo I wound up with a lot of headspace in the jug. I didn’t fill it with water to make up the difference because I wanted to see how it came out as it was and because who wants weak perry.

We got four bottles of perfectly drinkable common perry. By drinkable I mean it wasn’t vinegar but it wasn’t the perry I expected it to be. My reaction seems to agree with one cider writer’s response to his own perry attempts:

Thus far… I’ve been underwhelmed by my own experiments with fermenting juice from dessert pears. The resulting “common perry” is drinkable enough, but seems rather thin and innocuous compared to the excellent traditional perries that are made from European bittersharp pears. [1]

Now I’m curious to try the perries I started in December, which I’m bottling next month.

As I look back over everything it appears the unfiltered juices (three of the pear juices during primary and the first TJ cyser in secondary) developed the viscous bottom layer. I wonder if they should be filtered before fermentation. Guess I’ll have to make more and see.


1. Ben Watson, Cider Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, 3rd ed. (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 2013), 129.

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Racking Perry Into Secondary

On Thursday past I racked off the four test batches of perry I started a month ago. They began like this:

They are, l-r:
Knudsen juice & WL cider yeast
Gerber juice & WL cider yeast
Knudsen juice & Nottingham ale yeast
Gerber juice & Nottingham ale yeast

After fermenting for a month they look like this:

They are still, l-r:
Knudsen juice & WL cider yeast
Gerber juice & WL cider yeast
Knudsen juice & Nottingham ale yeast
Gerber juice & Nottingham ale yeast

As usual, there was a quick tasting to see where things were. Never having made perry until now and only ever having real perry once or twice, I don’t have much to go on. Like so many test batches before, I was just hoping they were potable at this stage (after bottling my baseline will be that they don’t suck. I have such high standards).

So, you ask, how are they? Well the answer is dependent on the juice (and the drinker, but that’s not important right now). The unfiltered Knudsen batches were dry with a hint of pear. The filtered Gerber juices fermented thin and bland. It’ll be interesting to see how they change between now and when they’re bottled.

These will now wait for six months to bulk condition before they’re bottled. From the few perry-making sources I’ve found it seems perry tends to be bulk aged a little longer than cider to allow the warmth of the late spring/early summer to help soften the tartness.

With these four racked off everything at the cydery is sitting in secondary fermentation, which means there’s nothing else to be done for a while. Now I can turn my attention to some of the research I’ve been collecting. Or I could start another test batch. There’s no room for another gallon in the kitchen, but the downstairs bathroom is wide open…


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I’m Out Of Patience and Space

If you’ve been reading along, you know that last month I started a test batch of perry. For reasons I still don’t understand, while it was in primary fermentation it separated into a hazy upper layer and a cloudy bottom layer. To avoid transferring the cloudy layer, I only racked the upper two-thirds into secondary fermentation. Now I’m watching it closely because it has a lot of head space, making it vulnerable to oxygen exposure which could turn it to vinegar.

Rather than sit and wait to see what happens (will the perry come out? will I like it?), I jumped right into experimenting with new pear juices and yeasts, because why not?

Besides, they looked so lonely on the shelf.

I put together four test batches, using two kinds of pure pear juice and two kinds of yeast.

They are, l-r:
Knudsen juice & WL cider yeast
Gerber juice & WL cider yeast
Knudsen juice & Nottingham ale yeast
Gerber juice & Nottingham ale yeast

The few true perries I’ve had (that is fermented pear juice, not fermented apple juice with pear flavoring) were made from nothing more than juice and yeast. Pear juice has more sugars, including more unfermentable sugars, than apple juice. When fermented, perry finishes a bit sweeter than cider. Which is why I didn’t feel the need to add sugar to these.

I also didn’t take any hydrometer readings. I planned to. I bought this combination wine thief/tester:

It’s supposed to make taking hydrometer readings less wasteful by allowing you to take a quick sample, measure the juice, and put it back into the jug. Since I’m making small test batches I don’t always take readings because I don’t want to sacrifice any juice. Unfortunately, the juice levels in the gallon jug weren’t high enough to get any hydrometer readings. I’d guess, however, it works great with three gallon carboys or larger.

The cydery is now at capacity, or so J. has told me. Nothing else can be started until all of this is bottled.

“This,” by the way, amounts to about 14 gallons of cider and perry.


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Bigger Batches Means More Cleaning

Like so much in life, I don’t always think about the amount of work that goes into my work. For example, I was so excited to make a larger batch of cider this time around that I never gave a thought to having to clean everything. Naturally, the more you make, the more equipment you need, the more there is to clean. It’s all worth it, but now I understand why larger cider makers make it clear that they need a convenient source of water and floor drains to make the work easier. Having water and drains in the same space as the brewing is certainly better than moving large glass carboys between the second floor bathroom tub and the kitchen. Fortunately, no boys or carboys were harmed in the cleaning of the cider equipment.

Yesterday I racked off the ciders and perry we started last month. That includes six gallons of a sugar and raisins batch as well as three test batches, including:

These are l-r:
– November blend juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Trader Joe’s unfiltered juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Pear juice and WL English cider yeast

The foggy bottom never fell out.

You’ll notice that the perry (on the far right) is pretty low. That’s because it had a foggy bottom. I used Ceres juice, which includes pear puree. I was hoping that the solids would settle out, leaving clear juice above. Instead the juice separated into a clearish top and a thick, cloudy bottom. After three weeks in primary ferment and no change in fogginess, I cold crashed it for a week hoping to reduce the cloudiness. Before I put it in the fridge I marked the top of the cloud with a piece of tape so I could see how much everything settled out. After a week it only went down an inch.

Since I only racked off the clearer juice, I lost a lot to the the puree. I’m hoping once it settles into secondary I can cap it to keep the air out so it doesn’t turn to vinegar. I doubt I’ll use the the Ceres juice again.

Here’s the cydery as it stands at the moment:

There’s room for three more gallons on the top shelf. Just sayin’.


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Cidering Makes the House Smell

All I’ve been thinking about since starting my first cider batches last fall is expanding the cydery. Of course, these thoughts focused on the drinking, not the fermenting. The first few days of primary fermentation produces a lot of CO2 gas. As the juice bubbles away, it releases this gas into the room, as you can see in this video

This gaseous release is about as pleasant as the phrase “gaseous release” sounds. When I started nine gallons going this past Tuesday, I didn’t consider that more fermenting cider produces more gas. Currently, the house smells strongly of apples and yeast. As I keep telling J, it’ll get better. Next week.

The source of these fumes includes:

6 gallons of November blend* raw juice, 3 lbs of white sugar, raisins, and White Labs English cider yeast (all in our new 6.5 gallon carboy).


I also started three test batches. They are l-r:
– November blend juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Trader Joe’s unfiltered juice, 1/2 lb light brown sugar, and WL English cider yeast
– Pear juice and WL English cider yeast

Fermented pear juice  is called perry. It’s a flat, very dry drink. I decided to experiment making a simple perry based on what one might call a whim, figuring what’s the worst that could happen. I found this pear juice at Whole Foods.


Next time I want to try making perry using this



*Solebury Orchard‘s November blend consists of:

25% Honey Crisp
25% Stayman Winesap
25% Gala
5% Sun Crisp
10% Empire
5% Golden Delicious
5% Keepsake, Fuji, Braeburn

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