Wednesday 8 May 2013

Carling British Cider

This new entry to the cider market is one that I must confess to wanting to avoid for a while. Having recently tried the Carlsberg effort, the idea of another lager manufacturer having a go at 'enhancing' the UK cider industry (which I guess is PR speak for making a few bob) is not my idea of fun.

Prejudice to one side though - there are people who will try this cider as something familiar and easy to access. The hope must surely be that they then find their way to more traditional, complex tastes in the same way as people develop tastes in wine or ale. Perhaps that is just me trying to be optimistic... that can't be so bad though can it?

Carling didn't exactly get themselves off to a gracious start with this cider. I kept an eye on the news of its launch, with great soundbites such as it would be a “modern premium cider” (I could write for hours on that phrase alone).

There are a few snippets I would like to put up here - mainly because it is against this that I shall be judging this cider (well, if you spout PR bull, and make it available for people like me to spot, then you have to live by it):

The Drinks Business (14th January)
In a statement the company said that after a year of “refining and perfecting the cider”, consumer tests carried out by MCBC Consumer Research put the new cider ahead of the current market-leading brands on “taste, refreshment and likelihood to buy”.

Marketing Magazine (14th January 2013)
Jeremy Gibson, brand director for Carling at Molson Coors UK, said: "Our aim was to make a product that beats the competition on taste and refreshment, and Carling British Cider has done just that

However, most recently the Grocer has reported that the 'British' apples making up the cider could be as little as 10% of the total of the juice content - the rest of the total juice content being made up of imported apple juice concentrate:

Carling defends 'British Cider' branding despite low levels of UK apples

Now, although this is worrying for Carling (that the total juice content could actually be very low) it rather begs the question as to other 'commodity' cider producers, doesn't it? The main concern (which is raised in the article) is how can they call it 'British' with any sense of honesty. Me? I would go further. How can they call it 'cider' with any sense of pride or transparency (is it even a cider)?

Anyway. Lets judge this cider based on its appearance and taste rather than its PR in the press (though I will be watching out for that taste, refreshment and likelihood to buy:-)

My first comments about this (before opening it) are in relation to the label. Vague is probably the words best used to describe it. Beyond this, it took me several minutes of scouring the small print to find the alcohol strength (4.5%). Mr Molson Coors - surely you have sufficient experience in the beverage industry to know that you should display the strength clearly on the label (my own TSO suggests 14pt as a minimum size for the text). This is far too small! Naturally, there are no ingredients listed.

On pouring, its a pale golden colour with a foamy fizz. About standard for this kind of cider - a moderate fizz. It is also (obviously) very bright and filtered. Lets face it, this is the product of commercial processes rather than a traditional full juice operation... I think it is more honest just to accept that (especially given the press above!)

It has an aroma (which puts it ahead of WKD etc:-) It also has a little tannin to the smell, amongst the clean (chemically) components. It is all rather faint, but more than I was expecting.

And so we come to the taste. My first thinking is 'boiled sweets'. It is sweet, foamy and bland. It isn't watery, but it is not complex or in any way challenging. On the plus side, it is at least trying for a little tannin and even some fruit. It succeeds a touch at the tannin but, sadly, the fruit is just a whisper.

The aftertaste is just more sweetness. This basically means that the sweetness lasts but the rest of the flavour doesn't.

With a score of 46/100, I would say this cider has a long way to go before it becomes 'leading' in sense other than in the marketeers head and probably fee. Whether it is ahead of the other market leading brands (for taste, refreshingness an my wanting to buy). Well, I don't think any of those have earned an apple on here.

Welcome abroad the bandwagon Carling. One more reason why the industry needs to distinguish between proper cider and imitations led by PR and 'image management'.


  1. I would totally disagree. I thought it was refreshing and for once in this modern category a cider that actually tasted of apples.

  2. Ummmmm... do you work for Carling and have you tasted this cider?

  3. Apologies - that was a little unkind. For a cider that has barely seen an apple though, I find i no more refreshing than Magners or Bulmers - both of which have vastly more experience at making the stuff.

    Also, since when is cider a 'modern category'. Come to think of it, knowing how to use that kind of language in a normal conversation must put you at Carlings PR department or contracted 'image management'. Such is the way of leaving anonymous comments.


  4. I think it is a 'modern category'. It's the first 'British' cider I've come across, similar I would imagine to the thoroughly discredited British Wine category which any English or Welsh wine maker wouldn't touch with a barge-pole.

  5. Hi Anon,

    What does 'modern category' mean exactly? Do you mean;

    Cider is a 'modern category'? Or making 'cider' from concentrate is a 'modern category'? Or maybe not using full juice is a 'modern category' - I mean, that's a pretty 'modern' thing to do right?

    Over all, I have to agree that the terminology, 'modern category' is awfully suspicious and sounds very much like a 'PR' buzz word.

    If that's not the case and you are some die-hard Carling Cider fan...I'd love to hear about it.


  6. I wander if the first anonymous ever tasted a cider really made from apples ...

  7. To be honest, I find it flattering. Had a similar thing with Friels too:-)

    In all honesty I felt it was a fair appraisal of the cider. They have to ask themselves what a fundamentalist would have made of it!!

    To quote a good friend of mine, "the target marketplace is 18-25 year olds who have not developed a taste for the more intense flavours of real drinks"

  8. I would love a job in PR yet I'm just studying it!! Modern category is what most people drink... Magners, bulmers etc.

  9. Good to read your thoughts. The launch of this, Carlsberg's Somersby and Stella Cidre are as much about market share, product portfolios and margins as anything else. We've been thinking about whether this is good or bad for drinkers. The jury's still out but it's no surprise that the reviews aren't that positive.

  10. Thanks for the comment - I know what it means but it is a very PR phrase (hence the suspicion about the comment!)


  11. The comments are getting a little confused now:-) Thanks for the comments citysuppers. Yes, it would seem to be all about taking market share as much as anything else. It is a shame it isn't about the cider though, although as with many things, this is a dumbed down, easy access cider that appeals to those who like bland products that make a 'lifestyle' statement... if you see what I mean.


  12. It says made in Herefordshire on the label and it tastes just like Bulmers Original. Hmm... *strokes imaginary beard* I won't be buying it again. Somersby (made by Westons I think) is ok at the current 4 cans for £3 offer but I wouldn't pay any more for it.

  13. Somersby is actually made by UK Beverage - a subsiduary of Bevisol... which I am afraid aint a good old fashioned cider maker! I have also reviewed it here back in April.

    Both are pandering to the mass market and while I do think that Somersby is better than Carling that is not to say that I think Somersby is a good example of cider.


  14. love it. i aint a big cidre fan but love carling premier so i thought i would try there cidre n its nice not too sour. folk are mocking this shame. loved carling chrome shame thats vanished hope cider dont go same way

  15. I like most ciders and was skeptical at first with another beer company trying to make cider but I enjoyed it quite a lot, although I bought one of the larger bottles and it tasted completely different, it tasted like it was a snakebite and I didnt enjoy it.

  16. It isn't that a brewer is making cider - its this particular brewer (and I say that knowing that many would argue that Carling are not a brewer but a chemist/soft drinks manufacturer). It conforms to all that is wrong about industrial cider making... like offering you a chicken that only had 17.5% chicken in it...

    I have to ask, though, what cider you would normally drink, as perception of this kind of cider is dependent on where people are coming from. If I may suggest - why not try one of the Aspall range (Organic or Imperial are both very good) or a Thatchers/Westons Vintage... these bear much more close resemblance of real cider flavour... from there, both companies offer ciders that are more and less intense.

    Cheers for the comment though - it is great to get many perspectives!

  17. I bought a box of this because it was on offer in Sainsburys. It is foul - sweeter than Coke! I didn't expect a "proper" cider but I thought it would at least be drinkable, like Bulmers/Magners or Friels.

    I drank two last night and will struggle to get through the other six to be honest. At least as awful as Carling's lager.

  18. I think I saw this advertised under the slogan " The most refreshing cider" (or similar). As a die hard real cider drinker, liking visits to small cider farms, I brought this purely to put the PR spin to the test. Like you I was surprised that it had (slightly) more aroma and flavour than expected, but was disappointed at the lack of aftertaste and the usual commercial cider over sweetness. My father knows I am a cider fan and was oh so thoughtful in buying me another which still sits in the drinks cupboard waiting for the better half to drink(she doesn't know better)

  19. Ha ha. If it is any consolation I hosted a tasting session earlier this year and bought a couple of bottles of Stella Cidre in order to draw a comparison to traditional, full juice cider.

    Having been encourage not to do this, I now find myself with 2 bottles of Stella that I am not going to drink but have yet to find anyone else who will drink it!

    Oh well:-)

  20. Excuse the pun but aren't you comparing apples & pears here. It's not pretending to be a "real" cider most people don't like real cider after all, they drink the no 1,selling cider in th world Strongbow ,Somerset etc those are the "ciders" you should be judging it against.

    1. Well, it calls itself cider... 'premium' in fact. So why not judge it against all other ciders? Oh - and yes, it does pretend to be a real cider... look at its marketing and PR! You might notice that most others are reviewed on equal footing, and I think it paints a fairly accurate picture.

      But to a degree the people get what the people want... or is it that the people want what the people get??

  21. I bought a bottle of this in B&M as a joke and now the joke's on me as I liked it and I'm a real cider/ale fan.