One of the first ciders I reviewed was the Golden Axe. Now the sequel has been released. Big Hard Woody Cider is the next cider off the line. Like the classic 1991 video game name sake, will the sequel better than the original?

In recent years’ people with dietary requirements like gluten free or vegan diets have been turning away from beer and seeking out real ciders at pubs. I say real ciders because as we all know synthetic ciders can contain traces of wheat milk and egg, but we are here to talk about real ciders. Callum Reeves the cider maker behind Golden Axe found out his brother was diagnosed with a dietary condition that meant drinking fruit juice and the natural sugars contained within, was a bad idea. Callum realized that his brother didn’t need to consume the sugars if yeast had already consumed it for him.

This is where the notion of a cider that lacked the back sweetening came from. Back sweetening is the process of adding a little fresh juice back in after fermentation to sweeten and add freshness to the cider.

Without being back sweetened a cider can be lacking in flavour and have a thin mouth feel. To solve this problem requires two parts. First is the yeast. If the yeast has the important job you might as well make it one that gives a desirable taste. The Big Hard Woody Cider uses a white wine yeast for the primary ferment. This has done it’s job making the bulk of the alcohol and consuming most of the sugar in the first week. The secondary fermentation is a much slower process at temperatures as low as 16ºC (60ºF) and it last as long as 2 months. This is when a different bacteria takes over. Oenococcus, although thriving from the beginning, it’s staying power that gives it time to give a thicker mouth feel. A third bacteria snuck in, a rogue, Acetobacter. Normally fermenters and brewers will do anything to stop this bacteria getting in. The problem is that it turns your potential booze into vinegar. When it is controlled you can make interesting drinks like the Bitter Sweet from last week.

The second half of the plan to regain the mouth feel is the addition of oak. Traditionally oak barrels were the used as fermentation vessels. Today stainless steel is the default option but adding oak chips to the tanks gets the job done.

At the end of the process the remaining yeast and other bacteria is stripped out with a filter to stop fermentation. A technique that has been criticized because the fine filter can strip flavour molecules as well as sterilizing the cider. Now to find out if that filtering was a detriment to the flavour.Big Hard Woody Cider by Golden Axe

The Nose

At first you notice the family resemblance with the original Golden Axe. On closer inspection the wood chips display their oaky tones. Imagine a heavy Chardonnay.  I dare say the white wine yeast might be helping to paint that picture in my mind.

The Taste

Superbly dry, no sugar or residual sweetness to cloud your thoughts all your left to concentrate on is the spiciness of apple. That Acetobacter from the ferment give a touch of sourness. Don’t fear the sourness, it is much more subtle and balanced compared to last weeks Bitter Sweet .  The tail end is where wood comes into it.

Final Thoughts on The Big Hard Woody Cider

Big? 500ml, yep that big enough.  Hard? 5.5%, I should say so.  Woody? Yeah there is enough oak in there to build up the tannin profile. Cider? Made from 100% Victorian Pink Ladies and Granny Smiths from the town of Office, that’ll do it. So Golden Axe’s Cider does what is says on the bottle.  I said last week that a touch of Acetobacter vinagariness will be the new cool in cider. Here it’s shown off with restraint while still being big and bold. The filtering didn’t take away from the flavour. All week I have kept coming back to the Big Hard Woody Cider. I want to keep coming back to it. I like this cider.  And just like the Sega video game the sequel is better than the original.

Product Big Hard Woody Cider
Company Golden Axe
Sweetness Dry
Alc/Vol 5.5%
Price $8 500ml bottle
Website goldenaxe.com.au
Country of Origin Australia
Region Victoria