Saider: Let the Great Experiment Begin!



You: What’s a Saaiiideer?

Us: Saider (SAI-DER) is a saison brewed using apple cider instead of water. When that finished fermenting it was a little acetic so we balanced it with a black currant and pinot noir pyment.

You: That sounds weird.

Us: It is. Want to try it?


We think that will be how most exchanges will go when people first come up to try Saider (remember it’s pronounced SAI-DER). The idea to brew a beer but use apple cider instead of water was unique enough but when the resulting brew turned out more acetic then some of us would like balancing it out with a pyment seemed like a good idea. So now we have a beverage that literally is comprised of three different drinks. This is the definition of experimentation. Let the Great Experiment BEGIN!

The idea to make a cider based beer (then balance it with a mead) came from our good friend and co-brewer, Andrew Luberto. Mr. Luberto (as the kids like to call him) is the brewing guru for Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts. Andrew not only makes excellent beer he also teaches others about it through club offered, Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) sanctioned classes. Yes were lucky enough to have our own Mr. Wizard, a true fountain of knowedge, agree to brew with us.


The start of this story of course goes back beyond our actual brew day (and many months from you taking a sip of Saider). Brewing this crazy, weird and bold…thing came out of our own idea to brew a beer and ferment it with apple cider. We went to Mr. Luberto for some advice on our brewing process and ingredients. While he was intrigued with our idea (which would eventually become Amalgam in the Middle) he thought that a beer not fermented with apple cider but brewed with it was something unique. It piqued his interest enough that he offered to set aside some time to brew with yours truly, Alicia & Kevin of Beer Loves Company.

When plotting out the idea for Amalgam in the Middle (AitM) we wanted to make something which had never been done before. Our idea was to make two gallons of porter, a style we both enjoy, and add three gallons of cider to get to the five we’d need for a corny keg. We’d love to say, “Yeah this was in a creative, anything goes spirit!” but the truth is we only had the capacity to make about two gallons of beer at the time. So taking into account we only had the capacity to brew two gallons of beer it was a necessity for us to blend it with apple cider at fermentation. Plus we were hoping that our unique beer would win the “Briess Special Roast Challenge” at the coming Brewer’s East End Revival OktoBEERfest. It did not but we liked the beer enough to contact Mr.Luberto and see what a beer crafted with cider instead of water would be like. We assumed cray-cray and we were right.


All of the mucky-muck that was AitM lead us to Saider. Around Thanksgiving this year we had some time where our schedules lined up with Mr. Luberto’s. Through the wonders of email it was decided that we’d meet up the Saturday after Turkey Day. Ingredient responsibilities were spilt up between us, as is usual when brewing with a pal and we couldn’t be happier to be bringing such a weird idea into reality. Eagerly we arrived at Mr. Luberto’s on time (for once right Alicia?) and dove in.


The brew day began with double checking our recipe. Having that all set we went ahead and measured our grains. Saider is a saison at heart and is comprised of pilsner malt, flaked oats, wheat malt and Munich malt. With apple cider, from Richter’s Orchard, as an essential part of the recipe the grain bill was not overly complex. It was created to be a solid compliment to the cider which would take be taking the place of water.

As with AitM we decided to brew cider using the Boil in a Bag (BiaB) method. This process simplifies a brew day allowing one vessel to act as both mash tun (where the grains get cooked) and boil kettle (where the wort gets boiled). We use this method ourselves at BLC headquarters for each and every beer we brew.


Having the cider heated to temperature and our bag ready to go it was time to add the grains. This is done in stages over a short period of time. This allows all of the grain that is being introduced into the hot liquor a chance to soak up some moisture. Adding your grains in this fashion will give the maximum chance at extraction and conversion while also helping to reduce the formation of dough balls (clumps of grain) in you mash.

With the our mash going we took the time to make sure our hop additions were ready and also took a chance to step inside (it was really cold that day). Once the hop sacks we filled and tied we had the chance to sample some of Mr. Luberto’s meads. He makes many different varieties of mead and mead blends, one of which we will come back to later. These meads are produced, when possible, with local honey and the cooperation of his brother Tom Luberto. Excellent stuff the brothers Luberto are producing. Keep an eye out for an article on their mead and process soon (with a recipe!). For now back to Saider.


After trying a few meads and talking about beer styles we headed back out into the cold to check on our mash. The mash had a little surprise in store for us when we arrived. Our mash temperature was a few degrees off from our target. That is what happens when you try to warm up while making a beer. This was no big issue however because we quickly corrected the problem. What did become an issue was the propane gas, it was running very low and we would need to run out and get some more. It seems having the mash temperature fluctuate a bit turned out to be a blessing in disguise. With the mash coming to an end Kevin and Mr. Luberto lifted the bag of grain out of the kettle and allowed whatever liquid it had absorbed to drain down. The grain becomes quite heavy after the mash so we took the mash paddle and secured it horizontally across the top of the tun (which btw is a converted BMC keg). This allowed us to tie the grain bag around it and fasten this with a clip. This makeshift lift allowed the bag to easily drain the majority of the wort back in the keggle (keg + kettle). Draining complete we brought the bag over to Mr. Luberto’s compost pile to which we added the bags contents. Now it was time for the boil.


The heat was turned up on the mash tun, now boil kettle. The aim to bring the wort to a boil so we could add our hop additions. Once a rolling boil was established Kevin and Mr. Luberto grabbed an empty propane tank and left for the store. Alicia was left in the dust babysitting the boiling brew. After returning with a full tank of propane and the boil still rolling along nicely it was time to add the hops. These bittering, flavoring and preservative adding agents are placed into sacks which are tied then dropped into the boiling wort. Hops are added at different times of the boil for certain effects. Early hops are for bittering, hops added toward the middle or end of the boil are for flavor and hops added at the end of the boil, flame out or even during a whirlpool will add lots of aromatics. The hops were added to our wort in stages but not in large quantities since they were a supporting character and not the star of this little oddity we were all creating.


When the boil reached it’s conclusion it was time to chill and transfer the beer-ish Saider to a fermentor. This meant grabbing the hose attached to the hose and running it through the immersion chiller we placed in the beer. This is where we ran into another small problem. Remember how we mentioned it was cold outside while we were brewing? The water inside the house thought the same thing and decided to freeze. To fix this we switched the hoses around (one was not frozen) and ran the water through the hot water into the frozen hose. After a short time of letting the water run and cracking some of the ice pockets inside the hose by hand we were in business. Once the immersion chiller (coiled copper tubing fit with and in and out port) was up and running we had the beer chilled down in no time. The now cool(er) beer was poured from the valve on the bottom of the kettle through a funnel and into a glass “carboy” fermentor.


When Saider reached it’s pitching temperature (for us 64 degrees) Mr. Luberto added the yeast. Mr. L decided that a blend in a 2:1 ratio of French to Belgian saison yeast would be best. The yeast that was used came to us via Wyeast. This company ships their product in liquid form. A starter was made from the yeast blend about a week before we would need to add it to our brew. Thi is done to establish yeast health, cell count and vitality.

We knew we had big beer-type thing when we took our gravity reading but all of us were a bit shocked when after four days Saider was fully fermented. That’s right no stops, no stalls at all. The 2:1 yeast blend just ripped right through the beer/cider hybrid taking it all the way done to 1.000. Mr. Luberto had the following comment on Saider’s fermentation.

“I was amazed at how fast it fermented out, it was something like 4 days. I guess the malt provided enough nutrients and the cider enough simple sugar to set the yeast off like gang busters. I’m glad I had it fermenting at 64 degrees initially or else this might have been a fusel bomb.”


We were both glad as well because as we would find out we did have post fermentation issues to deal with. When it came time to try the rapidly fermented beverage Mr. Luberto noticed that it was a touch acetic. This means it had a sharp, tart flavor. Aside from that the liquid was very cloudy and had a milky appearence. How to clear up these problems? Mr. Luberto had a few ideas.

The first idea was the most obvious, cold crashing the beer. Cold crashing is placing the beer in a cold environment so the yeast goes dormant and falls out of suspension. In this case Saider was put into a 36 degree refrigerator and held there for three weeks. Unfortunately this didn’t do the trick so next it was onto the fining agents. Pectic enzyme, sparkalloid, and then finally Super Kleer were all tried and Saider was, “Still cloudy as hell” as Mr. Luberto put it. He considered asking Phil Ebel of Great South Bay Brewery for some Polyclar Plus but it is not approved by the FDA for ingestion so Mr. L decided to skip it since he doesn’t have a filtration system. So as it is now, in the clearest state we can get it, Saider is still a haze filled drink.

The next issue to tackle was the acetic nature of the brew. Mr. Luberto had a good suggestion of how to balance this out, why not blend it with a sweet pyment he had brewed sometime earlier? To us it sounded like a great idea. Take a cider/saison hybrid and throw some mead into the mix, perfect. We al gathered at Mr. L’s house and did a tasting of the Saider to pyment blend in varying ratios going from 3:1 all the way to 10:1. This allowed us to see how well the two beverages would blend together and to hopefully find a mix which would allow all of their aspects to shine. The pyment was made with pinot noir and black currants using wildflower honey. Adding this 1.070 final gravity (FG) pyment into the acetic and sharp 1.000 Saider was just what it needed. In the end we decided that a 5:1 best expressed the characteristics of all parties involved. Here Mr. Luberto offers his tasting notes.

“The final product is well balanced sweetness to acidity wise although I find the prominence of the pyment flavors and aromas tend to overwhelm the more delicate yeast characteristics which I thought were quite nice originally. The yeast characteristics were a bit more subtler more akin to say something like DuPont Saison. However, the cider character is still front and center and blends nicely with the pinot grape and black currant notes.”


Sounds pretty interesting right? We are looking forward to trying the final product ourselves. Saider will be served from a cask for the first (and possibly) only time at the 4th Annual Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Fest being held Saturday January, 25th, 2014. It is a union of silly ideas and creative execution and as such will be poured as a joint venture between LIBME & BEER. What better umbrella for two local homebrewing clubs to come together under then one which encompasses almost every aspect of homebrewing? We say none.

Saider does not really fit into any style. The closest we can come to putting it in a category would be BJCP Style 16E Belgian Specialty and that is a stretch. It defies style and maybe that is the point of this experiment and mash up between Beer Loves Company, Andrew Luberto, LIBME and BEER. Brew something you will enjoy and brew something that excites you. For us we could not think of something coming out of a cask then a 13% abv saision brewed with cider instead of water which was balanced out with a pinot noir and black currant pyment.

To put a bow on this experiment we turn to Mr. Luberto. Here is a quote from an email exchange we had discussing the brewing of Saider.

“Looking back its about as funky of a beer (if you can call it that) as you can get. I’ve never heard of cider, mead, and beer being brewed together in one recipe before. I like to think of it a metaphor for the possibilities of all of humanity and hope that one day we can all put aside our differences and raise a glass to the undiscovered country–the future.”

We could not have said it better ourselves. We will be pouring Saider at the Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Festival & Farmer’s Market Saturday January, 25th, 2014. Come and taste the future.


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