Saturday 20 October 2012

Old Grove Bramley Cider

Moving from one apple that would be regarded as a bold choice for a single variety cider, I now move to a variety that (I believe) makes a crazy choice for a cider.

If there is one thing that I have had to say of late, it's that Bramley should only be used in the smallest amounts - if it has to be used at all. I have also dismayed at the number of new cider makers who don't bother to find this out prior to releasing ciders onto the market... but that is more about people learning the craft before trying to make a quick buck.

So, a cider made entirely from Bramley?! Two thoughts: it has to have been played with, and/or its going to be... well, lets just say challenging. However, lets keep an open mind and actually do the work of tasting it.

It pours out brightly clear and straw colour - well, it actually looks a little like apple juice. I am not surprised its heavily filtered - it's what I would do to lower the acid a bit. However, it smells very sweet and quite a lot like apple juice. This fits with the description on the back.

At first taste, my initial reaction is "oh, no". It IS very sugary, and very light and thin. It also has a biting sharpness to it, although its not sour (perhaps its this that the filtering dealt with). And that is all you get - the aftertaste is sickly sweet and sharp... It just doesn't work for me at all.

Bramley. Its a tricky apple. It has far, far more acid than pretty much any other apple and that is all it brings to a cider. So, if you have a cider that has no sharp in it, you could add up to around 10% in order to balance it out. However, at 10% you can tell that it's Bramley. To be quite honest, if you have a cider with no acid, you are better off using dessert fruit which itself has a surprising amount of acid. And I say that as someone who is not anti Bramley.

The apple itself was born in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in the early 19th century and named after a guy called Bramley (note the careful nature of this - without upsetting the Wikipedia police, who state he didn't actually plant the thing...) And from there it became the ubiquitous English apple. A big, bland apple that seems to populate gardens all over the country. As a cooker, there are more interesting flavours available - in fact, many nations don't bother with cooking apples as dessert fruit has more character. As a tree, it is known as a 'triploid', which means it cannot self pollinate (so if you have a Bramley that never fruits, try planting a 'pollination partner' with it).

OK, I am damning the apple a bit. I personally find it useless for cider. It can make a good apple juice, although only the ripest fruit should be used (contains the most sugar to pitch against that sour acid!).

The temptation to use this apple is obvious - it is so abundant and cheap. That is why it's found in ciders all over the place - especially from many of the newer producers. I get the temptation to use it. But, as this cider has proven - even when its filtered and adjusted it just doesn't work.

A score of 47/100 is just about right for me.


  1. A mate of mine visited there Saturday just gone and they said they were really struggling for apples (is'nt everybody this year?) and have lost some retail contracts......

    Laurie -

  2. The struggle for apples seems to be a bit of a regional thing (as in, in some places its worse than other places... where its also pretty bad).

    Most people I know who grow Bramley have had a terrible year!