Friday, 14 February 2014

Cider Pages - 3 years and counting...

This blog post was meant to be a review of a Weston's cider bought at the Euston Cider Tap. I felt it was a fitting way to mark three years of reviews. Sorry - you will have to wait until the next post to see that review... I started it and then got into pontificating over the last three years. Once again, sorry!

When I first started writing these reviews, there was a bit of a cider shaped hole in the blogging world. Sure, Nick Edwards had just started his excellent 'The Cider Blog' and was writing up just about every festival and event that he could get his hands on (love the blog, Nick!) However, where you could find plenty of beer and even more wine commentary there was not much to go for cider.

Some of the ciders and perries on the Cider Pages 'Cider Shelf' for 2014
And so I figured the best way to serve the industry would be to start writing up my notes on ciders, coupled with something of a rough scoring system (the apple awards were simply a flourish I had seen used for wine and whisky with good effect).

Because of other projects - not least of all being my growing cider business - I had to do this anonymously. To be fair, it isn't exactly that anonymous... I wanted to be as objective as possible about the reviews and that meant saying it as I see it. I didn't want to offend friends and industry colleagues, but I wanted to serve the drinker. My ultimate goal was to reach out to the millions of people drinking commodity cider - low juice and industrially made stuff. I figured that I could not only increase their view of real, quality cider products, but if it could lead just one or two people to develop their palate for quality cider then it is all worth it.

I am very happy to say that this blog has already achieved this with many more people than I expected - if comments and direct messages have been any indication. I am very proud about that (although let's face it, its the producers themselves who make the quality products that really should feel proud - I have just enjoyed the result of their endeavours!).

I have also had the chance to air a few views on the various processes that go in to making cider - and that go in to making commodity cider. These are much more personal to me and, although I have never taken a poll on whether others agree with me, it has been good to hear from other producers who share the same values - and interesting to hear from those who don't. Much of the problem that the cider industry faces is an identity crisis - what IS cider?. This is, in part, due to people not knowing how cider can be 'manufactured'. Many people just assume that all cider is made from apples and all pear cider is made from pears. I hope I have served to increase the visibility of some of that and even debunked some of the myths about brands and practices.

And so, I move on to exercise my bragging rights. With over 170,000 views of the reviews, and 24 people who follow the blog, Cider Pages has achieved far more than I could ever have expected. Over on Twitter, Cider Pages has over 1000 followers... not bad considering that I saw Twitter as just some device used by most for self promotion. OK, I still see it a bit like that (but you don't have to read everything that is written!!) All very respectable:-)

During the three years, there have been 365 cider and perry reviews. Of these, 16 have got 'Golden Apples' from me with a further 62 Silver Apples being doled out in the name of excellent cider. I reckon I could organise a pretty good cider festival with these!! However, it goes to demonstrate how many decent ciders are available!

Before I cease this bragging for another 3 years, here are a few interesting facts, taken from the stats and tags:

  • The highest scoring cider so far is still Ross on Wye's Headless Man (96). This is followed by Chateau du Briel Calvados (95) and joint Dunkerton's Premium Organic and Cider by Rosie (93)
  • The most viewed blog post is, oddly, Waitrose Heston's Mulled Cider. Second place goes to Carling British Cider (see, it is worth looking at all forms of 'cider') and third is Thatchers Gold.
  • Obviously, Cider Pages has most visitors from the UK. Second place (also fairly obviously) is the USA. However, there are also a fair number of visitors from Russia, China and even Argentina.
  • In terms of searches - some like this kind of thing - 'Green Goblin Cider' is the most searched term. However, much more fun than that are the queries; 'Do Badgers like Cider?', 'Is Oakleys cider any good' (hope they found my response to that!) and, most recently, 'Does Henry Westons pear cider contain any pears?'

And so, I wonder what the next 3 years holds in store for Cider Pages? I wonder if I will be able to find another 365 ciders/perries to review? I suspect I could. What will the industry look like in 3 years time?

It is pointless to speculate that far ahead, although I can tell you that 2014 is looking like a good cider year... the quality of apples during last season were better than the previous year and things haven't been so cold and miserable - well, cold anyway. I can also say that I may well be running a tutored tasting event or two during the year - at a festival in the next couple of months (possibly) and at a larger event too (possibly). I haven't yet decided how or whether I will advertise these on here, though it would be nice to in some way.

For now, I do have one favour to ask. On the edge of this page there is a poll question... it is related to an up coming 'Cider101' and I would be very grateful if you could take the small amount of time required to answer it. I know it isn't too detailed - it's not meant to be. However, it may ultimately be of much interest and use to another new project I am working on.

Thanks to everyone who has visited these pages, commented on stuff, written to me personally. Here's to the next few years!

Yer Tis!

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