Here at Sly Clyde, we love apples. In fact, they’re the core of our business (see what we did there). All of our fruit comes from a family-owned orchard in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. We’ve spent a lot of time eating, thinking about, and fermenting apples, but how much do you, dear cider lover, really know about apples?  


Did you know that there are four traditional categories of apples?

Sweets are low in tannin (more on that later) and low in acid. Note that the sweet moniker is not related to sugar content, but has to do with the lack of acidity. A familiar example would be Golden Delicious or Honeycrisp, anything typically used as an eating apple.

Sharps are low in tannin and high in acid. Note that this does not mean that these apples have sharp edges, but that they have a “sharp” acidic taste. The best example in the United States is Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or anything that your grandma uses to make the best, most flavorful pies.

Sweets and Sharps are collectively known as “dessert” apples. They can be eaten, cooked with, or made into cider. These two categories, being the most prevalent categories in American apple growing, will constitute part of Sly Clyde’s ciders.

Bittersweets are traditional cider apples which are high in tannin and low in acid. (Here’s where we can talk about tannin).

Tannin is a complicated subject but, in the simplest terms, it describes a group of compounds in apples and grapes that contribute to body, mouthfeel, color, bitterness (hard tannins), and astringency (soft tannins). The best way to conceptualize what tannin actually does is to think about drinking strong, oversteeped tea. Feel that drying sensation in your mouth? That’s the tannins.

These are rare in America except on traditional cider apple orchards, but form the key foundation, for example, of England’s West Country ciders.

Bittersharps (you guessed it) are HIGH in tannin and HIGH in acid. Referred to by some as the perfect category because it’s capable of being fermented as a single varietal without the need to blend in acid. Similar to Bittersweets, these are rare in America.

Bittersweets and Bittersharps are traditional cider apples in that they are not typically eaten out of hand and grown primarily for fermentation, similar to wine grapes--when is the last time you bought a bag of Pinot Noir grapes at the grocery store?.

American Heirloom fruit doesn’t fit neatly into any of these categories, as they are more complex than a standard sharp apple such as a Granny Smith, which has led some to call them Sharp-Sweets, as they are high in acid but have a small amount of tannin. We love these apples and you’ll see us making ciders with as many of them as we can get our hands on, including Gold Rush and Jonathan.

 Want more information? Check out Chris Lehault’s great series on Serious Eats here, here, and here for more. If you want to read a whole book about it check out the Apple Bible, Tom Buford’s Apples of North America And keep an eye on our blog for more in our TMI series.

We are Getting Social

Can we talk? We started Sly Clyde to make a little Hard Cider right here in Hampton Roads. But, WOW! We had no idea that there would be so much interest. Our followers have been amazing to add us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. 

We are doing our best to respond as quickly as possible to your questions and we agree - this is pretty exciting. There are so many different places to be talking Sly Clyde that we are going to bring more and more information online in the next months. YouTube, we are coming for you and we think there's going to be a contest involved.

Social Media has become our prime outlet for getting updates to our early supporters (that's you!) on our building progress, background on Hard Cider for newbies, and soon some questions about what kind of Cider you want to drink. We really love hearing from you on Facebook. Keep the questions coming!

Questions like:

When are you opening? We are planning for November but the building/renovation gods are cruel.

Is Cider gluten-free? YES! And we have family members for whom this is a significant need so we are just as serious as you about this. 

Will you really use Virginia Apples? Yes. 100%. And we will make our Cider directly from juice, not concentrate. We will post photos of our trees in a few weeks.

Can I host a group at the cidery? Oh, yes. We are working on transforming the Brick House into a tasting room with lots of space and our huge back courtyard will be perfect for hanging out, playing games, and tasting the latest Sly Clyde Cider.

Watch for updates and tell your friends that Sly Clyde is going to start craftily crushing this Fall. They can follow us, too. More on all of that in our next post.

Tim & Doug


Announcing Sly Clyde Ciderworks

It was a huge week for Sly Clyde Ciderworks. The Secretary of Agriculture and Hampton's Mayor joined us for our big announcement - we are opening Hampton Roads' first cidery this Fall in Hampton. We are investing more than $500,000 over the next three years to turn our little bit of Phoebus into a craft cider manufacturing center, tasting room, and courtyard. We have been watching all of the amazing new businesses move into Phoebus and we couldn't help but want to join the excitement!