Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Carling British Cider
This new entry to the cider market is one that I must confess to wanting to avoid for a while. Having recently tried the Carlsberg effort, the idea of another lager manufacturer having a go at 'enhancing' the UK cider industry (which I guess is PR speak for making a few bob) is not my idea of fun.
Prejudice to one side though - there are people who will try this cider as something familiar and easy to access. The hope must surely be that they then find their way to more traditional, complex tastes in the same way as people develop tastes in wine or ale. Perhaps that is just me trying to be optimistic... that can't be so bad though can it?
Carling didn't exactly get themselves off to a gracious start with this cider. I kept an eye on the news of its launch, with great soundbites such as it would be a “modern premium cider” (I could write for hours on that phrase alone).
There are a few snippets I would like to put up here - mainly because it is against this that I shall be judging this cider (well, if you spout PR bull, and make it available for people like me to spot, then you have to live by it):
The Drinks Business (14th January)
In a statement the company said that after a year of “refining and perfecting the cider”, consumer tests carried out by MCBC Consumer Research put the new cider ahead of the current market-leading brands on “taste, refreshment and likelihood to buy”.
Marketing Magazine (14th January 2013)
Jeremy Gibson, brand director for Carling at Molson Coors UK, said: "Our aim was to make a product that beats the competition on taste and refreshment, and Carling British Cider has done just that
However, most recently the Grocer has reported that the 'British' apples making up the cider could be as little as 10% of the total of the juice content - the rest of the total juice content being made up of imported apple juice concentrate:
Carling defends 'British Cider' branding despite low levels of UK apples
Now, although this is worrying for Carling (that the total juice content could actually be very low) it rather begs the question as to other 'commodity' cider producers, doesn't it? The main concern (which is raised in the article) is how can they call it 'British' with any sense of honesty. Me? I would go further. How can they call it 'cider' with any sense of pride or transparency (is it even a cider)?
Anyway. Lets judge this cider based on its appearance and taste rather than its PR in the press (though I will be watching out for that taste, refreshment and likelihood to buy:-)
My first comments about this (before opening it) are in relation to the label. Vague is probably the words best used to describe it. Beyond this, it took me several minutes of scouring the small print to find the alcohol strength (4.5%). Mr Molson Coors - surely you have sufficient experience in the beverage industry to know that you should display the strength clearly on the label (my own TSO suggests 14pt as a minimum size for the text). This is far too small! Naturally, there are no ingredients listed.
On pouring, its a pale golden colour with a foamy fizz. About standard for this kind of cider - a moderate fizz. It is also (obviously) very bright and filtered. Lets face it, this is the product of commercial processes rather than a traditional full juice operation... I think it is more honest just to accept that (especially given the press above!)
It has an aroma (which puts it ahead of WKD etc:-) It also has a little tannin to the smell, amongst the clean (chemically) components. It is all rather faint, but more than I was expecting.
And so we come to the taste. My first thinking is 'boiled sweets'. It is sweet, foamy and bland. It isn't watery, but it is not complex or in any way challenging. On the plus side, it is at least trying for a little tannin and even some fruit. It succeeds a touch at the tannin but, sadly, the fruit is just a whisper.
The aftertaste is just more sweetness. This basically means that the sweetness lasts but the rest of the flavour doesn't.
With a score of 46/100, I would say this cider has a long way to go before it becomes 'leading' in sense other than in the marketeers head and probably fee. Whether it is ahead of the other market leading brands (for taste, refreshingness an my wanting to buy). Well, I don't think any of those have earned an apple on here.
Welcome abroad the bandwagon Carling. One more reason why the industry needs to distinguish between proper cider and imitations led by PR and 'image management'.