Monday 30 January 2012

Sheppy's Tremletts Bitter Cider

Aha. I have hunting this cider for a little while now. In my head, the Tremletts cider must be one of the most hardcore and off the wall of ciders; the polar opposite of a Bramley cider! Well, that is perhaps over stating it. A bramley cider would win in the hardcore ciders front as being nigh on undrinkable if found in full juice fashion (though I am happy to be proven wrong:-) I remember trying a Tom Putt cider at the Great British Beer Festival that was hellishly sharp... Bramley must be that times two. So you can get the idea how fascinated by a Tremletts cider I am:-)

Sheppy's describe this cider as having a 'high tannin content' - yeah, I'd say! I use Tremletts Bitter with great respect and to add some tannin to early dessert fruits (the Tremlett is an early bearer so balances out these thin desert apples really well). They do go on to say that this is the mark of quality... I do disagree slightly, tannin + character = quality. Just tannin and no character wouldn't make a vintage cider. Finally, Sheppy's say this cider is rich in flavour. Again, I am pretty sure it must be - as I have said, Tremletts is like a condiment (not my term, but one that is very appropriate!)

Its an inviting drink, although you can smell its west country heritage a mile off. It is rather nice though (if you have the patience to wait for the bubbles to subside a little - it is quite lively).

As for the taste, well, you know, I am getting a Tremletts taste in it which I am surprised to say is not bad at all! Having eaten one or two of these (taken a bite out of them I ought to say) there is a familiarity in this cider. Wow. Not bad at all. I have to say though that I do think it has to have been toned down a bit... well, quite a lot. That said, its a very good job it is.

The tannin really owns this cider, and there is little room for acidity (although there is a hint of it, which is a little hard to explain!). Even in the aftertaste, its tannin, tannin and more tannin. However, there is a distinct character to it which is pleasant to say the least.

Would I drink this again? Yes, most definitely. Will I be making a Tremletts cider next year to test against it... he he he... probably:-)

A score of 87 gives it a very surprising silver apple from me... still not convinced about single varieties though!

Friday 27 January 2012

Burrow Hill Kingston Black Apple Apperitif

Burrow Hill are not exactly your run of the mill cider producer. Visit a number of producers and you will find many make cider (duh, yeah, so!!) but along Burrow Hill is an experience in itself. Whereas others offer a wide variety of ciders, and at some you can even try your hand at blending, Burrow Hill produce a seemingly huge and varied range of stuff from the humble apple.

A good Waitrose will sell either the Somerset Pomona (already reviewed) or this one, the Kingston Black Aperitif. These cider based drinks are both crafted and not exactly cider (again... doh!) If you are hunting around for Burrow Hill you will also come across their alias - The Somerset Distillary, or Somerset Cider Brandy... again, available in larger Waitrose stores, this is the English answer to Calvados.

In an effort to sound reasonably up with things, its worth mentioning that Burrow Hill recently won PGI status for their Cider Brandy. However, this is more for the technicalities of European weird regulations which failed to include the term 'Cider Brandy' as a legal thing... In any case, it has to be hats off to Julian Temperley for two very good reasons: 1. that he pursued this and got the regulations sorted out and 2. that he bothered to do it at all - after all, West Country cider makers have a bit of a reputation for simply sticking their fingers up at rules and carrying on!

Now, to this drink. I must confess to have trying it several times before... if I cannot get hold of the Pomona then this is always next on the list. I didn't so much discover it as was persuaded by Mr Temperley to buy a bottle when I bought some of his Kingston Black Bottle Fermented Cider (not yet reviewed for Cider Pages!). Call it salesmanship or whatever, it offsets the dryness of the Bottle Conditioned Cider so well that I don't mind the tenner or so I paid for the bottle.

So, its a nice addition to cider, but how does it stack up on its own?

Well, this is a blend of Kingston Black juice and Cider Brandy and you get all of that just from the smell once its poured. Clearly its a shot glass drink as its 18% (it is an aperitif innit!). And sipping away at it, all the promise in the smell is there in the mouth. It is quite sweet and syrupy, but the distinct flavour of Kingston Black comes through in spades. This lasts through to the aftertaste, where the brandy warms the back of the throat.

There isn't a stack of tannin in this - it could be that its competing with so much else that is going on. However, there is little acid effect as it really is very sweet. You can taste it in the profile of the Kingston Black juice though, so it must be there.

I take my hat off (well, I would if I had one) to Julian and his team. Not only do they make cracking cider, but they have stretched the boundaries of apple produce in the UK drinks industry to match or even surpass that of the French.

88/100 and a very safe silver apple for Burrow Hill

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Perry's Farm Pressed Dry Cider

I have to say (in my most objective way) that I have been looking forward to this cider. And having spent the day playing with cider its just what I need to settle down to:-)

Pouring it out, its a lovely golden colour and (whats this?) it looks a bit hazy... I am going to have to let it settle a bit as the fizz is a little more persistent than the other ciders. And the smell is deep and lovely - Somerset cider apples leaping out with lots of body. It smells dry - so is it?

One word before I taste this. I am impressed. I generally try not to heap stacks of praise on cider makers themselves (although at the artisan end of the market the product is most definitely a reflection of its maker). However, when a larger producer actually takes the time and care to control the end result like this it is a good sign. I don't mean that they personally bottle it - more that they actually differentiate and control how much filtering goes on; restricts the amount of carbonation etc. It appears to me that Perry's do all these things and its a good thing!

Now. Lets try it. Nicely dry, although not wildly so. They have balanced the acid and tannin pretty well and the flavour persists because of it. The tannins themselves are pretty harsh and drying. The acid is quote sharp too and counters the tannin well. However, the drying in the mouth is still there.

Neither of these things disrupt the background flavour and profile of the cider though - it is far too easy to go in too heavy with a dry cider. And there is something; yes, cider ferments to dry and therefore dry cider is the easiest cider to make. However, its also where the cider is most starkly revealed for what it is - tannin and acid, if done wrong, are easy to spot. And lack of body (mainly with desert apples) is hard to hide. So, in some ways a dry cider is much harder than a sweeter one, or one where carbonation can hide the faults a bit.

The aftertaste lingers well and is mostly drying, although I can still get the apple flavour from it.

This cider is really well done. For all that, I do think it could use a touch more character to it - perhaps a dominant variety. Mind you, that is really picking hairs so really I should just shut up and enjoy it...

90/100 is a well deserved gold apple for Perry's. I like this a lot:-)

Friday 20 January 2012

Hereford Pilgrim British Cider

Another 'Help for Heroes' cider. I am glad they are getting support, but the sceptical me wonders why a cider needs a crutch to lean on... OK. Benefit of the doubt time (maybe I have been exposed to too many marketing people recently and am coming at it from the wrong angle!!)

Browsing their website, it says that "the cider maker and his supporters..." also make Bulmers, Strongbow, Scrumpy Jack and Woodpecker. So is this a Bulmers cider then? Or have Bulmers lost bunch of their makers? I don't know the answer to this so cannot commit either way (its nigh on impossible to Google it out), but I must admit I am intrigued:-) What difference does this make to the cider? None. It will be tried in the same way as anything else. In fact, it was tried last night before I Googled the company; so it got a fair go from me and a score too before writing this (and I don't change scores!).

Well, its super clear and moderately sparkling. A light gold colour too. however, in the first glass it smelled of my dishwasher... so second glass was the one that counted:-) And it is faintly apple juice - not so much cider.

The reason it smells of apple juice is that it mostly tastes of apple juice. It has a very mild tannin - very faint I ought to say, with an equally faint/mild acid going on behind it. I would say its a medium in style - theres plenty of sweetness.

Sadly, there is virtually no aftertaste to the drink either.

Not overly impressed  or disappointed with it myself. It is very safe and to me has more in common with the commodity ciders than anything crafted. Its all a bit processed.

This is (I think) certainy not the sort of thing a pilgrim would have drunk Weren't most pilgrims intensely religious in any case? Therefore, they wouldn't have drunk much cider at all. I suspect I have history all wrong and the original pilgrims were on some massive pub crawl... OK. Too far:-)

It scored 49/100, which puts it right in the middle of the commodity cider rankings. Hereford Pilgrim, if I am wrong about this cider please do correct me!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Aston Manor Malvern Press 81

Cider in a bottle or cider on draught. That's what I review on here. No cans. Anything that is deemed to be suitable for cans is generally of the Strongbow ilk - and I have to draw the line somewhere. Now, Press 81 is a bit of a challenge to that. Its a bottle shaped can... so, in that I try to keep an open mind I will let it pass and give them the benefit of the doubt. Mind you, its even got the 'chill till the thing-a-ma-jig turns blue' so really shouldn't have qualified!

And why is it called Press '81'? Well (and I have to take my hat off to the creativity of this) its the 81st recipe thought up by the cider maker. Now, I am probably recorded as having said that cider doesn't have a recipe, so I cannot hide from that. However, I can only figure that they went through a list of apple varieties, crossing 80 of their attempts out before having that eureka moment.

Being produced by Aston Manor, I am not surprised by the can and the fippery. However, I don't hate their ciders - well, not all of them. So when it pours out nice and golden with a bittersweet aroma (and quite a thick one) I am pleased.

This doesn't last unfortunately. The drink is quite watery to the taste, and the thickness of the bittersweet is not backed up by the drink itself. The aftertaste is equally short on flavour, due to the wateriness of it all. There is little acid, and quite a sweetness that is a bit confuddling to me - they say on the bottle that there are no colours, flavourings or sweeteners. I can believe this, although it has been sweetened somehow - probably by apple juice and pasteurisation (it does have that juicy taste to it).

On the whole, its not a terrible cider - I would say that it is one of Aston Manor's better ciders in fact. However, I think its one of those that I would encourage my cider friend to move on from rather than to.

A score of 61 is fair; for me that is anyway. It has got fruit in it, but it is in a can still - a bottle shaped one:-)

Saturday 14 January 2012

Perry's Somerset Redstreak Cider

Perry's are doing rather well on here at the moment. No, its not favourtism, its just that their cider are really very good. Having said that, the blends are winning against the single varieties... and rightly so (as I have so often said, blends are best when it comes to apples).

So we have another single variety Perry's cider to try this evening. Somerset Redstreak is a mild bittersweet apple. This means it should have gentle (not overbearing) tannin with little acidity and a fruity taste... a bit like it says on the bottle, "light and fruity medium cider"... Forget the medium bit - that has got nothing to do with the Redstreak. Remember and repeat - all ciders ferment to dry naturally unless back sweetened of halted in the process. And if this cider was halted in the process (e.g. by keeving), then I would be paying a lot more for a bottle of this cider and it would come in a champagne bottle! Note to self - stop banging on about sweetness!

Its a lovely golden colour, and does have a particular smell that you don't get with blends. After all, ciders are only a sum of their parts, and the Redstreak must have a distinct flavour and smell about it. The carbonation is low, so there are few bubbles to contend with too. Looking good so far.

And the flavour is delicious. I can tell it is nearly a proper SV cider, although there is far too much acid in here for the Redstreak to be on its own. Whether this is another sharp to help out, or an adjustment of acid I have no idea. And lets not be too heavy on Perry's for this. Its one of the reasons I am not particularly convinced by single variety cider... so many are (or have to be) adjusted.

The taste is fruity and gentle with a good dose of tannin, albeit understated and mild. The Redstreak is a very good cider apple, and this is a good demonstration of single variety cider.

The aftertaste is fruity and nice. And quite long too.

Am I convinced about single varieties yet? No. I think they need playing with to get them right. Its not that playing with cider is necessarily bad, just that its not strictly an SV then is it?

Another bronze apple for Perry's with 78/100.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Scrumpy Dog Apple and Pear Cider

OK, whilst I am waiting for this cider (well, its an apple and pear affair, so not entirely sure where this sits) to settle down from its rather effervescent start, it may be a good time to have a closer look at Scrumpy Dog.

At first, I thought this must be the brewer 'Brew Dog' having a go at cider. I have heard of them from others who know much more about brewing than I do... which isn't much! However, Scrumpy Dog is made by Broadlands Wineries in Norfolk. I have to say, the eastern side of the country hasn't featured very much in my reviews of cider so far and I am pleased to add another one to the list! Incidentally, the tradition of cider making in the east of the UK is as long and distinguished as that of the west. In fact, I have seen some discussion historically that it may be a longer history. But lets not open that box, shall we!

Looking on their website, they choose not to mention their cider. That will be due to the fact that it has its own website. It all looks pretty 'cool' - five mates make the cider in Norfolk - I presume this is somehow via the Winery. One note I would make (not that it has anything really to do with the cider itself) is that the marketing looks much in the same vane as Rattlesnake from Cornwall... super cool and surfy. Well, we all have to pitch ourselves somewhere eh!

Now, to the cider (which shows no sign of letting up on the bubbles). Needless to say, its a high fizz. Its also very pale in colour. The smell, well I have to summarise by saying its a touch of sulphites and boiled sweets. I ought to add that I am no expert on perry either... so that could explain the smell.

Going for a glug, it has stacks of acid and, unlike Rattlesnake, it actually does have a bit of bite:-).Its actually rather tart in fact... perhaps its the Bramley thats in it - I have used Bramley in cider before now, and it has that tangy acid that is unlike most else. The pear is there too though - pear drops which sweetens the cider and reduces the acid kick quite a bit. However, this is not a dry cider. Its much more medium. This in itself is not a bad thing though... dryness and acid is just stacks of acid. I have tasted a Tom Putt SV cider from the Great British Beer Festival that had more acid and it was quite a tough drink.

In all, I am not disappointed with this drink. It has clearly been treated like a wine (which aint really that surprising eh!) but is actually quite refreshing at the same time. Overall then - not exactly totally my cup of tea but I wouldn't say no to another.

It scores 73/100 and gets a bronze apple. Fair, I think.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Gaymers Original Cider

How can I go nearly a year of writing these reviews and not have tried all the main brands on the supermarket shelves? OK, I can hear the purists shouting 'easy' from here! So, I missed Gaymers Original out. I have to say, having quite liked some of their more specialist ciders I am approaching this expecting something a little less distinguished.

I see no reason why we shouldn't just cut to the chase on this one. After all, Gaymers is a well known brand in the UK who produce a lot of cider using 'industrial' methods. And we all know by now that I regard these things as mere commodities... a drink to put profit in the pockets of the shareholders.

Oh. I ought to say something about the apples though, hadnt I?! Well, I have met a few growers this year and had the pleasure of talking to them about their dealings with the large producers (if it comes as a surprise to you that the main producers actually do use UK apples, well it shouldn't. Its what they do with the juice of those apples that wouldn't surprise many!) And I have to come to the conclusion that Magners, Gaymers and Bulmers have access to some absolutely fantastic apples - both in terms of the quality of the fruit as well as the range of really good varieties. I guess my cry would have to be - if they can get such great apples, why can't they produce a great cider? It is surely plausible, if not quite possible under economies of scale etc.

I said I would get on with this though eh. Why dont I!!

Well, it is a pale golden cider, with a whiff of aroma to it (but not an awful lot of it). What I have noted, however, is that I think I can smell a tiny bit of sulphite too. A lot of ciders have this (a lot of cider makers use So2), but I am surprised at this Gaymers having it.

To drink, there is a touch of tannin in it - a lot less than I must admit I had expected. Having been on an orchard that supplied Gaymers in which the apples positively oozed with tannin I would have thought there would be more.

Apart from this, its a safe cider. Admittedly, it is not Magners - nor Bulmers. It does taste different. However, it is toned down for the masses with a good (as in high) fizz and very little depth. The aftertaste dissapates quickly and what there is of it is stable, light and cidery.

Well, I guess it was to be expected. Its another benchmark cider and I am sure that Gaymers would not say its their best. It scores 49/100.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Bristol Ciderworks Sparkling Dry Cider

I have had this cider on my shelf for a few months now - I have no reason at all that it hasn't been consumed yet, other than it didn't. Its a shame, although I am glad to have found it there at this time of year - when most craft cider is done and dusted and cider makers are waiting patiently for the current batch of cider to finish fermenting (though that won't happen until Easter... unless you're Thatchers:-)

The idea that this could be one of the last bottles of a hand crafted cider, from a small producer (I can only find their Facebook page by Googling them, and this doesn't offer that much information)... I am sure that the Bristol Cider Shop guy told me some things about them but I am afraid I have forgotten!

Anyway, this is about the cider, not necessarily the producer (though I ought to do more homework). Having already poured this out I can say a couple of things: Firstly. Wow. It is a very dark cider. It is actually darker than copper but not quite brown (hence the category it went in). In truth, if it had ben any darker I would have considered some kind of contamination... but I am sure its not. Secondly, it has a fine crop of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. A good sign that it is bottle conditioned and not filtered.

Essentially (for those who have opinions on cloudy vs. clear cider), if you have a bottle conditioned cider like this and want cloudy - shake the bottle. If you have a bottle like this and want a clear cider - don't!

Smell wise there is lots of fruit, although its a little odd. Could be some of the varieties that have been used - I am not familiar with them all personally. The carbonation is moussy - which backs up my bottle conditioned theory. It is quite persistant.

Anyway, lets get on to the taste - Again. packing fruit by the ton and with a large and heavy tannin to it. There is also quite a significant sharp in it too... which doesn't offset the tannins as much as go off in its own tangent. Its very complex. The acid wins through the aftertaste although it is a warming cider so the alcohol and fruit linger too.

One other note to add in is 'farmyard'. This has an earthy taste to it, often coming through in full juice crafted ciders that is commonly called 'farmyard'. This has that character too.

In all, it is as it says on the bottle - a unique cider. I am very happy to have tried it and would drink it again. However, it does have a few slight oddities that prevent it from being great (for me). Mind you, with 79/100 its a very healthy bronze apple!

Monday 2 January 2012

Perry's Somerset Dabinett Cider

Working my way through the Perry's cider range, I come to a cider that I think was on my list of favourites from a very early cider stage. I say that its on my list of favourites, it was always a bit of an odd one - it was one of the very few single variety ciders that I actually liked. Now, coming to cider as someone who actually makes some I understand why: the humble Dabinett. It is a superb bittersweet apple - very similar to Harry Masters in look and taste, but blends are all the better for having a good dose of it!

Pouring out, this cider is a low carbonation, with a nice golden colour and the familiar dabinett smell to it. Whilst it is bright, which = filtered in my book, it is appetising.

The taste is all tannic bittersweet - good body with a drying taste to it. Its been sweetened though to give it its medium/sweet monika... I have to say I think this dumbs it down a little and as a result I don't get all the complexity (its all covered in whatever has been used to sweeten it with). If this is to make the drink more accessible then it is a shame, although I do understand; unfortunately the pace of cider is set by those who use rather a lot less actual apples than Perry's do. As a businessman, I understand the need to sell the stuff. As a drinker, I do wish that they would offer a more naturally dry alternative.

Because of this treatment, the aftertaste wanes rather fast and leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. I do think its a real shame that cider makers need to sweeten cider to make it acceptable to the drinkers. I know people are after sweet things these days but it would be nice to think that some things can be left alone for tastes sake. And no, I am not going to start a career as a celebrity chef... I just agree with them about this!

OK, bashing the idea of pandering to the punter aside, this is a good cider. Its definitely one of the better SV's out there! With a score of 79/100 it gets a bronze apple from me. Now you don't get that on 'rate beer'!!!:-)