Wednesday 31 July 2013

UK - The State of Cider – An Unofficial Report

I thought this was quite a neat title. Without wishing to boast the UK is currently the ‘State of Cider’: It consumes more cider than other country in the world. The question is, what state is the ‘State’ in? This is just a perspective from the craft end of the market.

There are annual reports out there that generalise the cider outlook for the UK. The most easily accessed is commissioned by the NACM (National Association of Cider Makers). Other bodies and journals also take a view – though these often just back up or give credibility to a particular point of view. Take the recent headline, ‘Cider is outselling lager’. Quite honestly this is not at all true and simply serves to prove that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. However, let’s have a look at the industry from the perspective of it’s main body:

What conclusion can be drawn? Cider is in a healthy state. And that is a good thing for the industry; both craft and industrial. This also demonstrates that marketeers and soft shoe shufflers have done a damn good job over the last decade or so convincing drinkers that cider is watery, apple ‘flavoured’ and sweet. Less than 1% of the cider sold in the UK is made by using 100% freshly pressed juice. In any case, these figures don’t really take into account the full juice sector - the craft sector is rarely studied, and if it is it’s merely ‘assumed’ to bolster overall figures. So, while this may mean something to Bulmers, I am not sure that the person seeking real cider is any the wiser. However, there is a way that you, as an individual, can get the real picture of cider in the UK and it’s rather simple. Here is an exercise for you:

Go to your local supermarket. Not a garage or pub turned supermarket but a proper one. Look at the cider section and what do you see? (Comments are allowed and I am interested in the results!). 

Here is my local Sainsbury’s:

OK. Lots of multi packs. A few plastic bottles (you can tell these are going out of favour - bottom shelf at the poor cider end). Heading towards the end of the aisle we have what Sainsbury’s think are the premium and more individual ciders: Starting with the various flavours of Koppaberg and Reorderlig and ending with a couple of Orchard Pigs, some Thatchers, Westons and a Henney’s or two. How much of this is full juice do you think? How much of it is sourced locally – or produced locally? 

Now, I happen to live near to the Sainsbury’s that wins (or used to) awards for its alcohol selection – so I am more fortunate than others in range and choice. However, from what I can see I would only reckon that Henney’s is full juice… possibly the Orchard Pig too, though these days I am not convinced. The best of the ‘Heritage’ brands are 70% juice content at tops (if you want the highest, go for their Vintage versions). Taking a step back and including the heritage brands – Thatchers, Sheppy’s, Westons and Aspall - as being better and more individual/traditional than the rest,  how much space is given to proper cider. I would suggest certainly less than 10% of the space for cider and probably around 1% of total alcohol space (there are 4 aisles of alcoholic beverages in this shop). Most significantly, I bet there are no local producers represented either (OK – if you are in Waitrose and have found one then well done, it can happen).

And there you have it; an easy and objective view on the state of cider in the UK. You will have taken part in an objective experiment although wherever you live (even in ‘Ciderland’), what I have described will be the state of your supermarket shelves. Oh, and one more comment if you have the time. Look at what people are putting in their baskets. This is an abject lesson to the fact that people really do swallow the marketing that is thrown at them. So although the latest Magners advert is dishonest by having some old fashioned Irish yokel wandering around young people telling them (and us) that Magners is authentic – and the Somersby advert that mocks Apple store nonsense (and, by the way, says nothing at all about cider) – people do suck it in. Its not about authenticity. These things are about image – and they are masters of that!

So, the UK cider market is buoyant and full of choices – the vast majority of which have very little to do with actual, traditional, apple juice focused real cider.

CAVEAT: Yes, there is a growing number of farm shops, specialist off-licences and outlets for real, full juice ciders. These are the real bastions of alcohol. If you really want my opinion about it, I believe that the key to dealing with 'binge drinkers' is to cease alcohol being a commodity and move it out of the supermarkets to more specialist outlets (such as pubs and off licences). You will get proper oversight and management whilst stopping it from being just something else that gets thrown into the shopping cart without a thought. However, that is another post eh!

The next time someone says that cider is doing really well – consider that they are talking about the shareholder driven cider by and large. The rest of us just ride on the shirt-tails. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on those supermarket shelves. As Billy Connolly once said – if you want to know the weather, look out of the window!

Sunday 28 July 2013

Gregg's Pit Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey and Dabinett 2011

For my 300th cider review, I wanted to try something special. I have a couple of special ciders sat around at the moment and so have a bit of a choice (sorry if that comes across as bragging:-).

James Marsden, also known as Gregg's Pit (after the location where he lives and makes cider and perry) is a habitual award winner. His ciders and perries win, by volume of production, an extraordinary amount of accolades during the space of a year. They also seem to sell out very quickly too. This bottle, which is bottle fermented (considered one of the marks of a skillful cider maker), has been on my shelf waiting for this very moment.

Perhaps it is appropriate to distinguish bottle fermented cider from bottle conditioned, although in principle the practices are similar. And both of these should be distinguished from what a lot of mass market ciders have, forced carbonation. Firstly, forced carbonation - it is a bit like a sodastream version of cider (for those who don't know what sodastream is, it is where you take a still product and inject Co2 into it). It is quicker than the other two methods and works with the industrial processes used to produce commodity cider.

Bottle conditioning is simply allowing the cider to naturally create its own sparkle. Often the cider is primed with a little sugar at the point of bottling. This then ferments slowly in the bottle and creates a natural sparkle. You can spot a bottle conditioned cider by looking at the base of the bottle. If you can see a small amount of sediment then it is likely bottle conditioned. Now, some larger companies who like the idea of 'product profile management' actually put dead yeast back in to a force carbonated produce to make it 'cloudy' - the cider is not conditioned, it is just to make you think that it is naturally produced. I could name them, but I rather suspect it is fairly obvious.

Bottle fermentation takes this one step further. On the bottles, you will see such names as; 'bottle fermented', 'traditional method', 'methode', 'English method' etc. Essentially, the priming of the cider is much larger and the bottle is a punted champagne bottle. These are left to ferment and once finished the yeast is removed (as with champagne wine). This is a very fine style of presenting cider and bottle fermented cider commands higher prices than normal cider.

Gregg's Pit can be found (nearly) opposite Westons cider mill in Herefordshire and presents a contrast in both processes, orcharding and quality of cider/perry. In his small orchard, there are a couple of very old, very large perry trees. I can say, having been there, that if you get the chance to visit Gregg's Pit; perhaps as a part of the Big Apple Blossom time or Harvest time celebrations (I don't know if tours are always on the itinerary - though you can also visit Dragon Orchard/Once Upon a Tree at the same time!)

An feature of Gregg's Pit ciders that has interested me for a while is the use of a couple of varieties within each blend. Generally, I have always worked on the principle that the more the merrier - a more balanced cider. However, balance isn't everything - character is just as important. So I will be curious to explore that in this drink. Better get on with it then.

The cider is foamy, golden and bright in the glass. It has a lovely distinctive smell to it  - fresh and lively with citrus/orange notes. Very classy.

To the taste - there is lots of tannin with some deep (and very nice) acid running right behind it. The acid is lemon tart but compliments the bold tannin and mature cider fruitiness. This is quite complex as a drink, although the balance is definitely in it's boldness. There is a slight warming in the throat, which gives away the strength of this cider.

Brown Snout is an apple I haven't used before, but I can only imagine it is a very sharp variety - working alongside the Chisel Jersey it certainly stands out. The balance of bittersharp vs bittersweet apples is good and the Dabinett, while providing some great flavour doesn't really add much in terms of extra tannin to the heavy Chisel Jersey.

SUBSEQUENT NOTE: Brown Snout is, in fact, a bitter sweet variety - so I am a little puzzled as to where the acid comes from. However, this shouldn't detract from what is a really accomplished cider!

The aftertaste is drying and long. It's all rather refined and the bubbles last throughout the glass.

For my 300th review, I am really glad I reserved this one. It is a very competent cider and serves as a celebration... I guess I had better update the scoring summary then!!

A gold apple for Gregg's Pit with 91/100 points. Lovely!

Thursday 25 July 2013

Bulmers Strongbow

So, I have managed to nearly accomplish 300 cider reviews without including this particular concoction. At first, this was easy - it was only available in cans. But they cottoned on... the put it in bottles. I would have had to have bought a 6 pack though. So again, easy to avoid. Blast you Morrisons. Selling these damn things in singles.

I had thought to make this my 300th cider. But why celebrate with mediocrity. I have a special cider review for that. This shouldn't have it's moment marked... I was rather hoping to avoid it. And so, for my 299th cider review, I give you, Strongbow. It had to happen sooner or later.

On that note, I opted to walk away from this for a day - sometimes it is simply too hard to be objective (and it wouldn't be fair to Strongbow drinkers to simply diss their drink as an act of snobbery or self importance!)

Looking at the label, it says very little - "made with bitter sweet apples for cool, crisp refreshment". Perhaps I misunderstand the word 'crisp', but surely dessert apples produce more 'crisp' refreshment. It also has another mystifying statement, "Dry cider with sugars and sweetener". OK, either it is a dry cider or it contains sugar or sweetener. Why both sugar and sweetener? Or am I missing something?

Anyway, this is Bulmers flagship brand. According to Wikipedia (I know, not exactly the most reliable source) Strongbow controls 10% of the world sales of cider (I note the Wiki source is undated) and 20% of cider sales in the UK (same source - undated). The only other interesting snippet of information that doesn't appear to have been sterilised within the Wiki entry is that the Bulmers Strongbow tank is the largest tank in the world, holding 15 million gallons. Not sure where I would put that then!!

A small word about HP Bulmers though. Not that it matters to those who drink it, but it is, in fact, owned by Heinekin. So brewers have owned cider companies for a while then:-) However, this gives you an idea of the chain of command that goes into producing such a drink.

OK, enough factoids. On with the review.

Strongbow is a pale golden drink, and pours out foamy and bright. Looks a bit like the colour of lager, actually. The smell? Well, its apple sweets I have to say - a faint cidery note or two but mostly a sweet - boiled sweet aroma.

The taste is what I guess people see in lager over something more authentic - again, there is a nod to it's cidery claim but its very watery. There is some acid going on, as well as a tiny amount of tannin. For what there is it is pretty well balanced. I am also getting a bit of fruit out of the glass too, but it is all very faint and I would be pushing the envelope to suggest that this is satisfying. While this drink is rooted in cider, it has about as much in common with what I am more used to as its Carling, Stella and Carlsberg counterparts... a dumbed down drink for those who don't really care about cider (other than it is different from the lager their mates are drinking).

As a full juice cider producer, I must actually admit that I find this cider rather insulting. That Bulmers - a stalwart cider company and cornerstone member of the UK trade body, can peddle something so faintly cider and get away with calling it cider just shows how far the drinks industry has been turned on its head to accept mediocrity and falsity as its basis. Cider is better than this folks...

49/100 is a good score for this drink. It is much like its aftertaste - short and non eventful.

Monday 22 July 2013

Robinson's Vintage Cider

Robinsons. I am very glad to find this cider. On paper (well, on their website) they are a family producer, based in Herefordshire, who have been making cider for over 200 years. However, CAMRA has them on their list of ciders that are not real. I cant seem to find out why though.

Mind you, there could be any number of reasons for it falling foul of CAMRA's rules... currently. Pasteurisation would be the main killer for a lot of ciders... full juice as well as lower juice! I can think of many that pasteurise who aren't on the CAMRA 'not' real lists... though I am buggered if I am going to announce them on here (and there is little CAMRA seem to be able to do to find out. Perhaps its some of their rules that are wrong anyway.

I am not going to spent another blog post whining about APPLE though. Trying to be positive, at least they attempt to draw a line - even if that line is a bit misinformed and unwilling to listen to others who may know a little better.

Robinsons cider pours out deeply golden and with a moderate fizz to it. It is bright too... so I would argue it has been filtered. They claim that this is a dry (although the label shows the age as being 3 years old - 2010. Is that right, or is the label wrong?)

It smells very juicy - I can smell some bitter/tannin in there too. It all smells very clean and not bad at all. However, the first comment I have to make about the taste is somewhat less positive: syruppy. That's not such a good sign. It also, oddly, tastes quite sharp, which is at odds with the smell. It is quite sharp with rather faint tannin too - the tannin provides a little body (background noise?) Its also not very dry - the fruitiness could be coming from juice used to sweeten this a bit...

I have to confess, I wrote "I don't like this cider very much" on my notes. Working my way through the drink though, there is some more tannin than I first thought... but not a whole lot and certainly not as much as I thought from the smell. The aftertaste is long and sharp; the whole feeling warm in the through (so I am getting alcohol).

To sum up. think lemons and wood and you have a large part of the taste of this cider nailed. There is far too much acidic notes going on for me to really enjoy it, although I am still a bit in the dark about CAMRA's not real status. I could argue it is low juice, but I would rather think that the blend is balanced in that particular way... either way, it doesn't score an apple with 57/100 points.

Friday 19 July 2013

Ty Gwyn Medium Dry Cider

The Welsh have done pretty well this year for awards. Not that they are afraid to shout it from the roof-tops! Mind you, why not - just 'cos us English are more restrained - having half my family from Wales I can safely say that the Welsh like to wear their hearts on their sleeves more:-)

Taken from the bottle, Ty Gwyn simply means Whitehouse in Welsh. The cider is made at Whitehouse Farm in Monmouthshire - the county that is probably the heart of Welsh cider land. To be fair, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire must be fairly interchangeable. Seeing as Herefordshire is a mecca for growing cider apples, I suspect that a lot of fruit for Welsh ciders comes from there - and visa versa could well be true. After all, its not where the fruit comes from that matters - it's what you do with it (and as someone who is not particularly patriotic, its the quality that counts - not how you pronounce it!)

This particular cider is actually a single variety. Vilberie is a late bittersweet apple ripening in November, which makes it one of the last varieties to be pressed. I suspect this should make it quite astringent and full bodied. However, it isn't an apple that I have used or come across before - hence chucking the review into Cider101 as well (for future reference:-)

It is a mid golden colour, polished and bright. I hope they haven't stripped out too much flavour for that look. It is also a still cider (with a small 'pfss' on opening). The smell is very fruity - rhubarb and strawberries and maybe even banana. It is quite distinctive. I cannot tell if there is much tannin from the smell, but I would say it's going to be full bodied.

It is actually quite a drying taste - especially as it is meant to be a medium dry. I can taste a bit of sweetness to it though - so for sure Vilberie is big on tannin. I am getting quite a bit of acid too - which is odd for a bitter sweet. It balances the tannin a touch - between the sweet, tannin and acid this makes for a really nice cider... no wonder they don't pitch it as a single variety.

Whether this has been mucked about with is a mute point (I will look out for another Vilberie cider to compare it with). It is really rather moreish. The apple taste is full and rounded, with tannin and acid running underneath it. The aftertaste is medium to long and is very good. I like!

A good silver apple with 86/100. If Vilberie is really this good I will be chasing it down this next season!

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Celtic Marches Beverages, Abrahalls Cider

Another cider with an interesting story. This time, Abrahalls. Who are Abrahalls? Well, it says on the bottle that they are 'Celtic Marches Beverages Ltd'. So, who are they then? Well, I am not sure that they are that big - but they certainly have a range of weird drinks. Mostly liquers (orange, apple and maple... etc.) and then they also do Abrahalls.

They like their hedgehogs too. Apparantly there are 3 in the label alone. I have no idea how many are in the cider:-) They take this very seriously, supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. OK, any joking aside, I recently heard an article on the decline of the British hedgehog, and am sure I used to see a lot more round here... so that should be sufficient excuse to buy a bottle!

Much like the Pershore example I had the other day, this cider is highly carbonated, bright and golden. Thankfully, there the comparison ends and it has a moderately tannic smell (with a touch of So2 thrown in).

It has an interesting taste. There is quite a lot of bittersharp in there as the drink is tannic and sharp together. The tannin is moderate but not too drying. I am finding some citrus notes going on in the cider, which is rather pleasant. I have to be honest, for all the vagueness of it, there is an interesting profile which I haven't experienced for a little while.

My notes say 'nice, but...' Once again, this loses out to a severe case of filtering, and while the aftertaste is moderate in length, it doesn't comprise an awful lot.

I am in two minds about this cider. One the one hand it is a unique crafted cider. Pleasant notes and an interesting (i.e. not dull) flavour. On the other hand the filtering has left it short measured in flavour..

Curiously, my score awards Abrahalls a bronze apple, with 75/100. I must be in a good mood!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Pershore College, Avonbank Dry Cider

Apologies - I drank it before photographing the bottle!
This is a bit of an odd cider to review; not that it really should be. It is made by Pershore College, near Worcester. Now, Pershore are very well known to me as one of the places a cider/perry producer can turn to for contract bottling. They will filter, pasteurise, sweeten and bottle a cider - well, they have the kit to do it. And I imagine it turns a pretty profit too.

I don't know if this has been made by the faculty of cider, the lecturers or the students. I like the idea of students learning the craft, and this cider certainly looks enticing and golden in the bottle. I like the clean look of the label too, although the name 'Avonbank' makes me think more of Bristol than it does of Worcestershire. At 7.4% its all its strength too - if it is the students they are certainly trying to produce the maximum strength cider possible!

This cider has a very high fizz - overdone to be honest as it almost violent when being poured out. Of course it is bright and filtered - what else could it be coming from Pershire!? I suspect it is pasteurised or sterile filtered too. Being quite pale gold in colour, I suspect the latter.

Now, I have said before that bubbles can help push a smell up your nose. Well, this one I cannot get close enough to it for a while as the bubbles attack my nose every time I go near it for a sniff! After they have settled, this cider gives off a low level cidery note - fruit and a little leather (which is a good smell on a cider).

However, the taste doesn't quite live up to that. It isnt a dry cider. That, and most of the tannins have been lost in over filtering. In the middle of the drink I start to get some gentle bittersweet taste that hints at body (and what might have been), but this is all lost to a large degree.

There are those who propose that filtering doesn't really harm a cider. I disagree, and hold this up as a solid gold example of the fact. Pasteurisation may give a little cooked taste, but sterile filtering strips out so much of the flavour it all but changes the profile - dumbing down the cider to a hint of what it might have been.

This cider is definitely sweeter than it should be. Apart from the strong alcoholic taste, it is really lost (sorry!!) It is as if the students have been let lose on the equipment to see what they can make as a test... overdoing everything in the process.

Now, please don't get me wrong It is not a *bad* cider. It is just dumbed down by all it's processing. I have scored it accordingly and it gets 64/100. So no apple I am afraid Pershore.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Lyne Down Roaring Meg

I find this a bit of a sad review to write. Over the last six months or so, I have heard that Lyne Down had ceased making cider and was selling their equipment on. This must have been before Christmas, so what I am reviewing here is probably the last stocks that will be found from this producer... unless they are purchased as a business and continued as Lyne Down.

I am not sure what makes a cider producer cease trading. Poor management, loss of interest or simply the business didn't return what was expected of it. Lyne Down aren't the only ones though - I have heard of at least two others closing the doors in the last six months. Saying that, I have heard of probably a dozen or so newbies to the market - I just hope the skill and quality isn't lost (some new producers do like acidic and acetic ciders!!!)

To a degree, I did consider simply enjoying this cider without reviewing it. After all, it's not as if people are going to be able to go out and find it (unless you look now!) However, call it an act of posterity if you will, I have been reviewing these ciders as much to teach myself about what is available out there as giving entertainment to anyone. So it shall be reviewed.

I have the medium version - simply because I couldn't get a dry version. I have tried the dry version before and it is very good. A note about the name (as I know about it). Roaring Meg is the cannon that is pictured on the front of the label. It was used during the English Civil War (C17th) and can be found at Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire. Well, you have to call your cider something, and I have seen worse examples!!

It pours out bright, moderately carbonated and golden. So it has been through the usual treatment of filtering and carbonation then. It has, however, a rich, deep and fruity smell - think hedgerow fruits and you have it.

To taste, it seems a lot lighter than it's smell, although there is a good balance of fruit going on. When I say balanced, I don't mean 'safe' - this is predominantly tannic fruit, although there is seom acid running through it's veins too. The sweetening has been well done and is understated for a medium. It is just enough to counter the dryness of the tannin.

The aftertaste is quite tangy and is moderate to short in length.

This is a quaffable cider - and at over 5%, I guess that is quite risky! My final note on it was that it is a nice drink. A fitting end to a Herefordshire producer. 78/100 sees a bronze apple going to Lyne Down.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Adventures in Single Variety - Reviewing my own (part 3)

I think this must be the final 'Adventures in my own single variety ciders' to post. Thank goodness, all that self gratification was starting to rub off on me... and heaven's knows there are enough people trumpeting every and any thing out there without me joining in! The bottom line - the REAL bottom line is whether your cider is any good... not how much you can make your voice heard!

As far as blogging/reviewing goes, there are more people taking up the cider gauntlet from around the globe now. This is good, as it means that while I can try ciders from other countries, readers can hear what native cider drinkers think... this is positive as I may not be the best person to recommend something. OK, I do like my cidre... proper French cidre is something to compete against (in terms of quality, flavours and style). However, I am best placed (personally) to talk about British ciders. Not that I wouldn't give a hard cider, sidra etc. a good go:-)

Anyway, in this final comparison I want to look at two of the big hitters. Without doubt these two varieties have been turned into the most single varieties (perhaps with the exception of Dabinet). Whether this is because they are meant to be the most balanced or interesting flavour, or whether it's because there is a lot of them around and producers are more likely to get access to them, I do not know. Yarlington is very widely planted - as is Kingston Black, but no more so than a few others that don't make it into SV's often. Michelin, for example.

Kingston Black

Where to start? Well, I started by looking at Kingston Black. This is a mild bittersharp apple and is reported to have the best balance of any apple for a single variety. I am still not sure I agree... mind you, I think any single apple is better than a blend of apples!

I have been very fortunate with these bottle conditioned SV ciders. They have all dropped clear and sparkling. Nice! See, it can be done naturally without filtering etc. I had noticed that the Kingston was sitting in some heavy lees (dead yeast - once yeast has finished it's work, it dies and drops to the bottom). This one has dropped more in the bottle and, unfortunately, I am not smart enough to pour it gently enough! So it's a bit yeasty.

Asides this, the cider is very deep gold in colour - almost a rusty shade. It has quite a woody smell to it too - although I am getting a little yeast off the smell. There is a hint of some acid, but it is very fruity... almost a faint lime smell.

The taste confirms there is a bit too much yeast in suspension. The acid is quite understated, and doesn't interfere with what is actually a gentle cider. The fruitiness is fuller than I remember from commercially available Kingston Blacks. The tannin is moderate but not too drying. I am actually quite surprised as to how balanced this cider is. The tannin is pleasant and not overpowering, the acid is straight forward - present but not to sharp and the fruit and cider components work really well together. Mostly, Kingston SVs are quite heavy, tannic and acidic with a drying aftertaste.

The cider this was compared against, the one reviewed for Cider101, was Gillow's Kingston Black. I think, in reflection, that perhaps I was a bit harsh on it. This is very much like the Gillow's cider - light and gentle. Perhaps those that are bold and big are the ones that are on the odd side of things?! Nevertheless, looking back on the Gillows review now there are striking similarities to my own... and so I have learned something important from this exercise!

Yarlington Mill

My final own single variety is Yarlington Mill. I love this apple. Not just because it is a generous tree, but the colour of the cider, taste and moderate tannins make this a real gent of an apple. My own version was late to bottle this year, so I am dubious about the conditioning. However, the cider itself should be fully matured.

It pours out (without much fizz at all) a golden ruddy colour. Typically Yarlington. It is nicely clear (as with the others) and is just simply lovely to look at. There isn't a huge smell from it, but what I am getting is a very deep aroma. There is tannin in this thing!

It is a very fruity cider. No acid at all, but plenty of drying tannin. This is what would be described as 'bone dry'. It isn't just a dry cider, it is dry with tannin - doubly drying:) The fruitiness is blackcurrents, elderberries - Autumn essentially. And to finish it off it has a very long drying aftertaste.

I do think my own version could use some work. Perhaps it needed longer in the bottle, but the late spring this year has slowed everything down somewhat.

Anyways, this cider is compared/contrasted to the mighty Olivers Yarlington Mill. That one scored a whopping silver apple back in it's review and I recall I was impressed with it. The only draw back to it (for me) was the rum. However, you can see the comparison between the two - earthy, deep, tannic with no acid and a long aftertaste. The differences - well, I guess you could all it 'terroir' if you like, but my own Yarlies never saw Herefordshire... nowhere near.

On the whole, I think this has been a useful exercise for me. It has taught me to be a little more open minded - and as I approach my 300th cider review that is probably a good lesson to learn. It has also shown that although apples do grow in different conditions around the country, they do deliver similar profile to each other... generally.

And I don't have much more to say other than, at least I have 7-8 bottles of each of these single varieties left:-)

Thursday 4 July 2013

Fosseway Cider Somerset Glory

The second choice of cider at Southampton Arms was Somerset Glory (I only found out afterwards that it was a Fosseway cider). I did have a third cider produced by a maker I respect, but this was in such bad condition that I felt obliged not to include it - something must have happened to it on its way to London as there were bits floating in it!

A few words more on Southampton Arms. I have already espoused the feel of the place. Very nice with a large, studenty clientele. They say they have a great choice of cider on too - which I confess wasn't what I found initially (they did put on a couple more ciders later). There was Burrow Hill on tap though, and space for four or five bag in boxes along the back wall, with little chalk plaques declaring what was on offer.

The pub is quite neat - they offer wholesome snack like scotch eggs, pork pies and pulled pork and apple in a roll. Definitely pitching to a particular type of punter:-) In all though, it is a gem in the forest of corporate and chain pubs that are littered around London.

Lets get on to this cider though. It comes to me bright and golden and still. Again, this is pitched as a dry cider (can you spot a trend?). The smell is quite faint, but what there is is quite rich and clean. I am getting the fruit, cider apples and a bit of earth thrown in - hedgerow fruits too.

The taste is delicious although I cannot help thinking that something is missing. For me this is usually a sign of over filtering. It is clean with a gentle tannin and a tiny bit of acid thrown in as well. It is a touch watery too... drinking on, the acid is definitely there alongside the bitter apples - a well rounded cider... and dry too (this time:-)

Not bad at all. The aftertaste is medium length of the same profile as the cider - not too drying and a little watery at the end.

Somerset Glory scores  76, which is a nice bronze apple for Fosseway.

Monday 1 July 2013

Harry's Cider Company - Harry's Cider

Now for something new. Having been to London far too many times for any country lads liking, I have begun at least to understand a little of the philosophy of cider in London. Real cider is cold. It is often cold and sweet. And normally it is cloudy too. I have to say that my experience so far hasn't yielded the sort of cider that I have experienced in other parts of the country - and I think this may be down to 'what the public wants'.

However, never one to refuse to try something new I headed to a different part of 'town', northwards to the Southampton Arms in Highgate Road. It's a bit of a trek getting there - mind you I opted for the tube and a walk... and it never helps when you leave a tube station and head off in the wrong direction for 5 minutes! Still, my first thought in seeing it was; "It isn't as big as I thought it would be".

I am not one to use the 'quaint' or 'chique'. I am not even sure how to spell chique (and there is a red line under it as I type, so clearly not like that!) What I will say is that it is a cracking pub - old style with chalk signs, large bar and even a guy playing the piano. I think it must be open piano night, as the player changes a couple of times. At the bar, big and old, some other guy is negotiating their way with (I assume) the landlord to give him a 'slot' sometime. There is lots of beer on here too... and it is tempting to buy one of the several summer beers or an IPA - though these are only really second choices for me.

What pulled me here though it the proclaimed choice of ciders (I will write more about that in my next post, else I will run out of things to say!). My first choice was simply called 'Harry's Cider' and it is meant to be dry.

A little bit of research into Harry's Cider and I find that the company is also called Harry's Cider. I guess it must be his/her cider then:-) Well, Harry's is a Somerset cider - as most seem to be here - located just outside Taunton. It is meant to be an 'easy, soft cider' and is matured in oak barrels for several months. I have to say that I am taken with the website as brief as it is - certainly looks the right kind of cider (right kind... is there a right kind??? - no, could the usual suspects not answer that question... it wasn't meant for debate!) I particularly like the 'Great to take to parties' caption...

And so, this cider is golden, hazy and very still when served - it isn't that cold though. Positive! The smell is tannic and fruity; with a wee bit of ascetic going on too. Not sure what it is being served from but mostly cider here is in bag in box, so it could be ready to finish.

There is a strong fruity flavour to this cider - with the ascetic note probably adding to this a bit. It also feels a touch sweeter than dry, and the tannins are not at all drying in the mouth. Thinking about it, I can taste something - perhaps sucralose? It is soft though - a nice cider that is quaffable.

The aftertaste is lingering and fruity. Cider fruit on the bittersweet side. There isn't much acid in this drink to speak of, and it certainly doesn't compete with the tannin at all.

Hey, a cider served in London at the right temperature. Points to Southampton Arms:-)

Now, I have scored this cider down a touch because of it not being in top condition. However, this hasn't come straight from Harry, so it could have picked it up on it's travels. Unfortunately, I can only go by what I find at the time, so if anyone has better experience please shout.

A score of 69/100 sees it just missing an apple - which is a shame (I had subtracted the usual 5, but reduced it to 3... still didn't make enough difference) A good cider nonetheless.