Monday 4 June 2012

Hallets Real Cider

Like all the best things, whilst there are a few mass market products that seem to ubiquitously stretch from coast to coast in the UK there are many more smaller producers who want to produce individual and unique products that need to be hunted down. I think Hallets is one of these - I have heard about them for some time although never actually got to try any. And so, thanks to the dealings of the Bristol Cider Shop I now have a bottle in front of me.

The first thing to say about Hallets is that they are Welsh. Somewhere near to Newport/Caerphilly judging by their address... so they are Southern Welsh. Better be nice to them then;-) I like the bottle, its a professional look and I am particularly fond of the 'Beautifully Simple' strapline at the bottom. It sums up the art of cidermaking really. Why go through all the processes when an astounding product can be made from few ingredients and a lot of expertise/knowhow?

The ingredients are all I expect from this kind of cider too - apples and a bit of sulphites. Whilst ingredients labelling is not a necessity for alcoholic drinks currently (I say currently in a hopeful way, although until the wine producers of the EU choose to play ball there is little hope) it is nice to see it on a bottle. It also says it may contain natural yeast too, which does build up my expectation for a slightly hazy, gently produced cider inside. One comment - I am fairly ambivilant about the 'selected apples' terminology... what, every apple? Hmmm... I think I am being a bit daft on this, but it always makes my smile fade a little.

Now, on pouring this is a darkly golden cider with a hell of a fizz. This dies down to a moderate sparkle which glints in the super bright cider. It does look extremely polished and clean, but its a bit like asking for a crunchy apple... I want an apple that has flavour - crunch does not = quality. It is actually the same with cider. Sparkling bright cider simply means filtered to me - and that is only very rarely going to improve the taste... if its an extremely tannic cider for example. So, this has been through some commercial processes then. Lets see what it has done to the cider.

The smell is deep and fruity - a western tannic smell that is really lovely. I have noted 'rich' so that indicates how deep this smell is. Very nice. The taste is where it all lies though - and it is bittersweet. Not a lot of acid, but plenty of fruit and again it is rich. I reckon its got a moderate to fairly high tannin and its well balanced and blended. I do note that its been sweetened. I know this is a little 'reckoned' though - there is nothing on the bottle about sweetness - but I would put this cider as a medium - medium/dry with the emphasis on medium. This is probably what is killing any acid in the cider, as it is there but right in the background.

The aftertaste is quite short. It is full of tannin and fruit again though. I like this cider... though I have answered my own questions about the effects of the commercial processing its been through. Its been heavily filtered and sweetened - I cannot comment on whether it is pasteurisedas that is near enough impossible to detect and would probably depend on whether they sweeten with sugar. I expect this is to appeal to the mass market and I cannot blame them. However, it has hit the cider back a bit from being great.

With a decent score of 77/100, Hallets earn a bronze from me. Knowing that they do have their fans, I would like to add that this is my own opinion! Still, it is a lesson in processes (he says, noticing what he wrote at the start!!)


  1. Your speculation about filtering & sweetening is unjustified. Hallet's clearly state that their cider is keeved - actually their bottled cider is a blend of naturally fermented cider & keeved cider. Keeving is a process that allows the production of a naturally sweet, clear cider; if you are not familiar with the technique, you can find a description at the following link, out Google "keeving cider".
    If you can handle some constructive criticism, I'd suggest you contact the producer and ask them, if you are uncertain about their production methods. Most of the smaller artisan or craft producers will be happy to help.
    Apart from that, I admire your efforts; keep up the good work.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Tantantara,

      Interesting comments - thanks. And yes, always open to criticism. However, although I would hate to upset the Welsh who I know to be very passionate about cider, I would offer to challenge this on 4 counts.

      I am familiar both with Dr Lea's website and with keeving, so apologies if this response gets a little technical:

      1. The cider was very bright and sparkling with no yeast or sediment. This is not possible by bottle conditioning alone - you need to disgorge the yeast... or filter it out.
      2. Keeved cider attracts a much higher price and I don't know anyone who blends it back into a main cider. However, there is another reason for not doing this:
      3. Keeving is not a stable process. It fails. The idea is that you are denying the yeast anything to work with and the cider 'sticks' at a sweeter level. These ciders are always bottled in heavy punted 'champagne' bottles as a result of the tendancy to slowly continue fermenting. I have *never* seen a keeved cider in a normal bottle - the risks of it exploding would be too great.
      4. Blending a keeved cider into a main blend cider is guaranteeing the keeve to fail as the main blend cider will provide additional nutrients for the yeast in the keeved cider to work on. Unless the yeast were either filtered out or pasteurised to kill it.

      Sorry if this comes across as a little direct - I want you to understand that I do consider these things (although to go into all that in a blog post would be boring!). This doesn't and shouldn't be seen as a slight on Hallets cider - it simply isn't.

      On asking producers what they think; it would be both impractical and potentially allow for bias to creep in. These reviews are my 'thoughts' - hence the name - I don't pretend to know everything and (as with this post) I clearly state that my thinking was 'reckoned' in this case.

      Overall, I liked this cider - although I am very happy to be challenged on anything I have said.


  3. Hi.
    Thanks for your comments. The cider is indeed back sweetened with keeved cider that we keep in bulk in our cold-store until we need it. This is blended with year old normally fermented Dabinett and balanced with this years harvest cider. After blending it is filtered to 2 microns to remove the bulk of dead yeast cell debris and to clean up the appearance. It is contract packed within a day or two so fermentation does not continue. It is pasteurised in bottle to stabilise and we are very strict that fermentation temperature is not elevated to alter the flavour. I have a fairly good palate (comes with the job) and can not detect the difference pre and post pasteurisation when done correctly.

  4. Sweetened with keeved cider??? Surely you would make more from selling said keeved cider??