Thursday 28 June 2012

Crossmans (Medium Sweet) Draught Cider

OK. Final one for this particular festival... well, actually it wasn't the final one but the real final one isn't going to get posted as I don't think it reflects the cider well. Actually, the 'real' final cider was filtered within an inch of its life and tasting of nothing. But I am not sure that is an objective reading (it was my 5th or even 6th cider of the evening!) So we will finish with this Crossman's cider. And this, I think, is a lesson in sweetening cider beyond its capacity for sweetening.

You see, apples are gentle things; some are a little sharp, some are very sharp, some are sweet, some are a little tannic (etc. etc. etc.). This all combined makes your cider. Tom Oliver said (and I won't quote when or where I heard this) that you have to know your apples to make a great cider. For example, the wrong choice of apples will bottle condition but won't be as stunning as the right combination of flavour profiles that will take the extra conditioning. I think the same is true of sweetening. Sure, you can sweeten any cider, but the art is in reading the flavour of a cider to see how much it will bear being sweetened. Too often I find ciders sweetened beyond their flavour capacity so all you get is sweetness - and this drowns out the character of the cider. This means drowning out the tannin, the acid (more easily done than you may think) and, of course, the fruit profiles.

I have reviewed one cider on here (last year) where clearly the producer felt that all ciders should be sweet as that is what customers demand. OK, but at least produce a cider that can take it! In fact, customers don't simply want sweet cider - they want good cider (within their frames of reference). It requires thinking, and simply chucking in sweetener is not the solution. Perry's get this right pretty much all the time - they gently sweeten their ciders and never beyond what its flavour will bear.

OK. That went off a little. But I hope you see my point about treating cider with respect to get the best out of it. For example, This cider was neither medium sweet, nor was it complementary to the ciders profile. That said, I would like to try the dry version to see what it really should have tasted like.

As a note (before I review it), the cider bar manager actually changed the sign in front of it from 'Medium Sweet' to 'Not quite as sweet as the sweet' (they had Crossman's Sweet too). Curiously, it has been muted that instead of buying from a well known wholesaler next year (as has been their practice for the last few years) that I lend a hand to the cider bar manager to come up with a list of ciders for the bar... I must say I am tempted!

Anyway, I will keep the review fairly brief as I think its clear where its going... plus I think I would like to review Ben Crossman's drier ciders as I am sure they are excellent.

The smell of this cider is all sweet. It dominates even the aroma and moving quickly on to tasting it, this is confirmed in the taste. There is some fruit taste in the drink, but the sweetness kills most of any tannic profile and the acid is absent - and I cannot determine if this is due to the fact that there is no acid or whether its the sweetening again.

This was a bit of a struggle to get through. There is a long, lingering and sweet aftertaste that needs a glass of water to kill off (or, as it turns out, a decent glass of dry perry:-)

In conclusion, this is probably an excellent heritage English cider dominated and obliterated by the use of too much sweetening. I have seen lists of quantities of sweetener - and tried those amounts too. Trouble is, while it may work for one cider it will not fit other ciders and you need to taste and see... you cannot simply bung in a load of sweetener (be it sugar, sucralose, aspartame or even apple juice) and expect the cider to survive it.

This cider scored 64/100. Probably due to its potential rather than my enjoyment of it (sorry Ben - I promise I will try others of yours!)

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