Wildling Cider

“Before Mance, Varamyr Sixskins had been a lord of sorts. He lived alone in a hall of moss and mud and hewn logs that had once been Haggon’s, attended by his beasts. A dozen villages did him homage in bread and salt and cider, offering him fruit from their orchards and vegetables from their gardens.” -A Dance with Dragons


This is an awesome, no hassle cider. Because it naturally ferments, there’s no need to judge what yeast to use, or watch for blow-offs. There is no lingering yeast taste at the outset, which means it’s great to drink immediately after it’s done fermenting, or at any point during the fermenting process if you’d prefer a lower % alcohol with greater fizz. In fact, many of you have probably enjoyed cider that has gone slightly hard: the giveaway is the puffed up plastic jug, and the pfffft! of air when you take off the cap. 

The fully fermented cider, when first tried, is dry, but with a nice round feel to it. The apple flavor is there, but not the sweetness. Instead, it has a sour apple element that I found quite pleasant, if a tad rough. 

Although the wildlings would probably drink their cider as soon as it was alcoholic, I set a couple bottles aside to see how the flavors changed over time; It’s also a colonial American method of making cider, and I’m curious to see how it ages!

Get the recipe and updates on the brew blog, Game of Brews!

23 thoughts on “Wildling Cider”

  1. sadie says:

    Sounds great, this really is simple enough for me to give it a go right away, especially because I’ve got 1/2 a jug of cider in the fridge right now. Just one question: how do you know it’s done fermenting? Do you just wait for the bubbles to stop forming? Or something else?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Great question! You can go by taste, or as you say, when it’s done bubbling. Mine took about two weeks to finish completely. If you have brewing equipment, you can watch the airlock to be sure it’s no longer bubbling, or use a hydrometer to check how much sugar is left in the cider. Let me know how yours turns out! :)

  2. Ogre says:

    Looks pretty straightforward, I’m going to start a jug friday with the pasteurized cider from wal-mart and see how it turns out

    1. Ken says:

      If the cider has been prroperly pasteurized, you’re probably going to have to add some yeast to it to get things started. You could use bread yeast for an “old-fashioned” feel, you could mix in some unpastuerized cider, or you could get some brewer’s yeast online or at a homebrewing store.

      There are a lot of homebrewer’s yeasts available – which one you pick would depend on how dry you want the eventual cider to end up. A champagne yeast will leave it bone dry; an ale, cider, or mead yeast will leave some sweetness in it.

      1. Rc says:

        How much bread yeast? A pinch? A spoon? To taste? (I have bread yeast, spices and only pasteurized ciders available). Advice before experimentation starts and I blow something up…(which I might do any way).

        1. Dyane says:

          For a gallon, about 1/4 teaspoon will do just fine.

  3. Hannah says:

    Absolutely must try this!

    Question: could the cider be warmed and seasoned with mulling spices? Or would it not mesh with the alcohol flavor?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Great question! I think this version would be great with a few spices thrown in. In fact, one of the best accidental ciders I have had was when we left a pot of mulled cider on the stove for a couple of days, with apple slices floating in it. Amazeballs.

      I also have a spiced cider recipe in the works, but am giving it just a bit of time to see how it begins to age…

  4. harbqll says:

    Hmmmm. Jug of cider + cinnamon + clove + allspice + 1/4 tsp bread yeast + 2 weeks in the cupboard. Should be about ready for thanksgiving if I start it tomorrow. Guess I’ll be hitting the PX after work…

    1. harbqll says:

      I just brewed up two gallons and stuck them in the cupboard. I’ll break one open on Thanksgiving and see how it’s going. The other can sit there next to the Tyrosi pear brandy and age.

  5. Paschendale says:

    Well, I did a gallon of it and just used bread yeast, since that was all I had on hand. Unfortunately I think I used a bit too much yeast. It finished bubbling after about a week and a half and I tried a shot of it after 2 weeks and it is simply DREADFUL! I don’t know if the yeast mattered or if it needs to age a bit. I will try again with an actual wine or mead yeast and hopefully it will be better. Maybe this batch will be ok to cook with or mix with something else because it is undrinkable as it is. Perhaps aging will help?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Actually, the thing with the wildling cider is that it doesn’t need any extra yeast, which might be part of the issue… Still, let a bottle or two age, and see what happens! You might also try stirring in some honey or maple syrup when you’re ready to drink (as opposed to in the bottles, which could wake up the yeasts and potentially cause the bottles to explode).

      In any case, even the best wildling cider will be a bit rough… :)

      1. harbqll says:

        I took a trip up to the local brewer’s supply store, looking for gear and advice on cider brewing. When I mentioned trying a batch with bread yeast, the guy actually laughed out loud. We need to be using wine or (even better) champagne yeast. There’s also a specific cider yeast which gives a slightly lower ethanol content, but won’t be as dry. But adding a little honey before hand will make up for that: more sugar = higher alcohol content.

        I’ll report back in a few months with a progress update.

        1. harbqll says:

          OK – after a couple weeks of primary fermentation, we turned it off the sediment and re-sealed for a month of secondary fermentation. It got turned over again last night. The sample was a bit rough, but overall a good flavor.

          The problem is, a couple weeks ago, the central heat unit went out in the middle of the night – we woke one morning to a 40 degree house – and that includes the room our cider and mead were in. When I first assembled the cider, I calculated based on the specific gravity a final alcohol % of around 5-1/2. What i measured last night was a hair over 3. So I expect the cold killed off my yeast prematurely.

          Friggin’ landlord…shoddy maintenance…grumble grumble….

          So, I reckon I’ll let it mellow for a few months, then try to fortify it with brandy or vodka. At least I know I can get this to work. Version 3.0 will be better – I plan to add spices.

          1. Chelsea M-C says:

            Aw man! My apartment is also crazy freezing, and I think it’s killed off the concord grape wine I’ve been nursing along for months, as well as a gallon of Gose about a month ago. I have the primaries (only 1 gallons, so it’s possible) arranged on or near the stove so I can bake and hopefully help them along. They have really been struggling with the temperature.

            You could try reenergizing the fermentation with a slice of organic ginger, or organic apple, both of which often have good yeasts on them. I like the idea of fortifying with brandy, though, so I charge you to report back with updates later!

  6. Alex says:

    Is there any certain sort of fabric that I should use also, what size should it be? I’m looking to try a few of these out for a season two dvd release party

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Just a piece big enough to cover the mouth of the bottle, so probably about 3×3″ for a 1 gallon carboy.

  7. Sylvia says:

    It shows that there is a 404 error when trying to look at the Wildling Cider, “Sorry, This Page Does not exist.” I even tried going in from the main menu, but it’s just not working either. Thought you should know :)

    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      Aha! Fixed. Thanks for the notice! :)

  8. harbqll says:

    Version 3.0 put into primary fermentation tonight! This one has the addition of cinnamon, clove, allspice, orange peel, nutmeg, and golden raisins – as well as 4 pounds of brown sugar, and 1 pound of white.

    And champagne yeast. If I’ve run the numbers correctly, I shouldn’t have to kill the yeast – the % alcohol should get high enough to do it for me.


    1. Chelsea M-C says:

      Oh man! This actually sounds a lot like the spiced cider I had going. I bottled too early, so every bottle is a gusher, but the flavor is getting better and better as the months go by. :)

      1. harbqll says:

        Version 2.0 has been bottled. It’s alcohol content never got any higher. I plan to let it age a month or two, then begin attempting to fortify it with brandy, as we previously discussed.

        Version 3.0 got flipped tonight to secondary fermentation. The SG when I set it up for primary fermentation was 1.090. Tonight, I measured it at 1.008. Adjusting for ambient temps and humidity, I calculate an alcohol content of 10.9%. Unless I add more sugar, I don’t expect it to get any higher.


        The flavor is…well…rough. But the brew is not quite two weeks old yet. It needs time. The spices seem to have come through quite well, without being overpowering. I may need to back sweeten come bottling time.

  9. Jessica says:

    I’ve tried this a few times now and mine keeps getting moldy. What happened? Why? Where did I go wrong? :(

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