Well, it is that time once again. Another year out of the way and a whole bunch of cider tried. I hope readers have found this site helpful over the last 12 months - my intention is that it promotes good cider as much as comment on cidery things as a whole. I confess I do enjoy writing these; though having committed to a pattern of releasing reviews is a bit of a bind sometimes.
What is in store for 2014? Well, we will have the perennial budgetary discussions... no doubt some debate about the juice content or provenance of ciders. For me? Well, I am waiting to see how the new cider blends turn out and will continue the hunt for the best ciders in the UK... and France (if I can get more time out there) and anywhere else I can get to. Having won several awards in the time I have been making reasonable amounts of cider, I also hope to secure one (or more) for the award wall too.
To start the year off, I have decided to have a go at some perry. I have 6 to try currently, but of course this will grow as I am able to get more... I won't be rejecting 'pear cider' either - after all, as I have said a few times, if one cider drinker can move from a mass produced cider to something more expressive and individual (and truly 'premium') then my job is done!
Last year, I listed out my top 10 ciders of the year. This year, I figured I would copy Pete Brown... ho in turn copied someone else... though I believe it is a 'tradition' for many beer writers. Having said all that I now rip off the headings from Pete (sorry mate - I did at least acknowledge you:-) I have adjusted them for my own purposes - though even saying that I will not pretend I can complete them all... anyone would have thought they weren't written for cider.
Best UK Draught Cider
You know what, I am going to have to agree with CAMRA for once - certainly by my own scoring, this goes to Springfield's Wobblymunk Cider. Very nice.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Cider
Going by my own scoring, this goes to Gregg's Pit; Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey and Dabinet. It's not just the blend that makes this cider great, but the traditional method that it is matured by.
Best Overseas Draught Cider
I feel a little cheekiness coming upon me... of course, as the title is 'overseas' I guess it should be done properly. If it had been 'international' then, under the Welsh Cider rules I guess all Welsh ciders ought be restricted to this category. But nah, I am not that silly:-)
Sadly, I didn't try any draught cider from overseas this year, so its an n/a.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Cider
Browsing my scores 2013 wasn't as high scoring as other years. There are a number of French cidre (like Domaine de Lieu Gosset) that are excellent. However, the highest scoring cider was Heritage Valderance du Cidre, Cidre de Bretagne with a Bronze Apple score of 76/100.
Best Cider For quiet contemplation
Hmmm. I am going to say Olivers Gold Rush for this. Not that I have/had endless supplies, but there are very few ciders in 2013 that made me stop and think as much as this. It was joint third highest scoring cider for me this year... shame they only made a certain amount of it:-)
Best Cider for gabbling with mates and seizing the day
I am going to go with Henney's Vintage - or Aspalls Imperial. Easy to get hold of and very good. Well, we don't all live within spitting distance of a cider farm! Actually, I could have been lazy and said 'my own' but that would be cheating, I am sure! OK, none of these are from this year... I guess if I had to include something it would be Perry's Somerset Tremlett Cider (a Silver Apple with 86). Yum
Cider I haven't drunk enough of in 2013
It has to be the top cider of 2012 - and still a favourite: Ross on Wye Cider and Perry, Headless Man. A spirit cask cider that is done to perfection. Worth hunting down!
Looking over my records, it still is the highest scoring cider on Cider Pages!
Best Cider for crying into
Hmmm. Again, I cannot simply say 'my own', so I have to pick something from this year... OK, I am going to settle with a range - the Rich's 'Golden Years' range. All scored very well and are very interesting ciders. Perfect for distracting me (not that cider men really cry:-)
Best Branding, pump clip or Label
This is going to Dunkerton's. I really do like their range of labels - the Court Royal was splendid!
Best UK Cidermaker
Oh, cummon. That is a tough one. However, while I ought to do some clever Excel formula or maths I am going to take a punt (as it is the first time I have done this). Jointly awarded to Olivers Cider and Perry and Burrow Hill Cider and Perry/Somerset Brandy Company. Probably among the best in the world.
Best Overseas Cidermaker
As with above, I am going to take a punt and award this to Le Brun... a fantastic range of cidre and appley based spirits.
Best New Cidery Opening 2013
Sorry, nothing to say about this... I don't keep up with them.
Pub/Bar of the Year
I am going to award this to the Southampton Arms in London this year. Not for the broadest selection but for the atmosphere/experience and the commitment to delivering a good pint of cider. They also have Burrow Hill pretty much on permanently.
Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
Again, I don't keep up with this so nothing really to say.
Beer Festival of the Year
I think this has to go to the 2013 CAMRA Great British Beer Festival, as the cider was very good. OK, some felt it should have been a better representation of the UK (and said so at the time) but I still think that is just nonsense - good cider is good cider (and the 2013 range was better than the previous year!)
Supermarket of the Year
I am going to have to give this to Waitrose... although the others are catching up
Independent Retailer of the Year
As this is my first shot at doing this, I find I have a clean sheet of options. I ought to go for a shop locally to me, but will opt for the Bristol Cider Shop as having a great range and attitude to cider.
Online Retailer of the Year
Not used one. Therefore, not exactly qualified to nominate!
Best Cider Book or Magazine
Hmmm.The cider maker in me awards this to Claude Joliceur and his excellent book 'The New Cider Makers Handbook'. Probably a little technical for many but a good reference work for a cider maker.
I also have to give a big shout out for Pete Brown/Bill Bradshaw's 'Worlds Best Cider' too... no idea where they could have got the idea from:-) (only kidding fella's!!) I got it for Christmas though have yet to have enough 'own time' to give it a good read.
Best Cider Blog or Website
This may sound a touch cheesy, but I would say the blog I have read the most this year is Pete Browns beer blog... and I am not really that into real ale:-)
Best Cider App
You are having a joke eh?!
Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
As this is Pete Browns awards list, I have no place in changing this. As per Pete - it should go to Simon Johnson.
Best Cider Website/Social media
Again, its a clean sheet and I have to give this, obviously, to the Cider Workshop. with over 1200 cider makers discussing cidery stuff its a
hard one to beat.
Music and Cider Pairing of the Year
I am going to go for Iron Maiden 'Phantom of the Opera'... soundtrack to this years pressing.. and a bottle of my own traditional method cider. Oh... has to be something else - OK - Kestor Gold (Little Weeke Cider Company). Silver Apple but a bit expensive.
Food and Cider Pairing of the Year
It has to be any eastern style cider and pork... the acid cuts through and enhances the meat. Works well with a salad too (for the same acidic reason).
Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for following these reviews over the year!!