Summer is fast approaching which means its the perfect excuse to laze about in beer gardens with a refreshing pint to hand. However, if lager and ale is not really your thing then thankfully we have cider, and here in the UK, we do cider very well. So put the sickly Strongbow to one side as this post will hopefully help you find your next favourite proper cider.
But What Is Proper Cider?
In order to make cider, apples have to be pressed and the juice is then fermented from anywhere between three months all the way through to three years. Proper cider apples are also specifically grown and are typically unpalatable when eaten just as they are, however they are perfect when used in cider because of their naturally high sugar content and it's this sugar which during the fermentation process is what gives the apple juice its alcohol content.
Cider Apple Variations
Here is where things will start to differ. If you are located in the East of England, traditional cider making uses mainly dessert and cooking apples. The result in this means that the liquid left behind will tend to be a lot clearer and much better suited to drinkers of lagers or wines of the milder kind. Whereas on the opposite side of the country on the Western side, they tend to favour "proper" cider apples. These apples are much sharper in flavour and will have a lot more body to them. In Devon, you'll find cider made from sweeter varieties which typified the orchards within that region, whereas Somerset's ciders are a lot stronger and far more tannic. Gloucestershire's apples, on the other hand, will tend to be very bitter and sharp.
The finished taste of a cider can vary widely not only from one country to another but also from cider maker to cider maker depending on their own unique method growing, pressing and fermenting.
Methods of cider production range widely, from what types of apples are being used and also how long they are left to ferment. There is also the question of yeast: some makers will add it in while others rely on the naturally occurring yeast in the air, while carbonation may be left to develop naturally in the bottle or with the help of added sugar. Keeved cider is champagne of the cider world where it uses a more artisan method of making a naturally sweetened cider. Scrumpy, on the other hand, is often made in a shed somewhere and more than likely in a plastic bucket and usually from any old apple, however, how small, misshapen, sweet or tart, bought or stolen it really doesn't matter which ends up giving it a harsher flavour. Scrumpy is also the DIY approach of cider making as it's the method that got many of today's craft cider makers into doing what they do now.
The Diversity Of Cider Is Something To Be Celebrated
For what is involved in a such a simple process, cider's diversity is rather striking and it seems that the memo never got passed on to most of the mass-market producers whose cider tends to taste the exact same across the board. But still, we here in the UK can be very proud of our cider heritage, if not a little scrupulous and discerning with what we drink. So, let the French have their champagne, as we have our cider.
Now we know what real cider actually is and how it's made, you will be pleased to know that here at RedH we have a vast selection of different ciders which will hopefully take your fancy. Whether you're after a more strong and dry flavour or a sweeter refreshing taste we have your backs. Here is a list of just some of what we have to offer all you cider lovers out there.
Dry Cider is probably the most common and most preferred form of cider for an avid cider drinker. It tends to not be a starter cider though as people will gradually progress to the drier types the older and more experienced they get. Here are just a few of our ciders we house here at RedH which any dry cider lover needs to try out.
Aspall - Draught Cyder, Aspall Draught cider is made in Suffolk and is a crisp, off-dry cider. With it mid-straw like colour and more of a floral and apple aroma, it also poses a delicate flavour of freshly pressed apples.
Gospel Green - The Original Cyder, Gospel Greens contains aromatics of Elderflower, Green Apples and also Brioche. It's very crisp and has a light acidity to it with the slightest earthiness coming through onto the palate. It's a great addition to any dry cider lovers collection.
Meon Valley - Chalk Stream, This is Meon's mainstream cider. It's golden amber in colour and is very refreshing to drink. With its well-balanced flavour comprising their own locally sourced Hampshire and Sussex dessert apples.
Orchard Pig - Truffler, This dry and sparkling cider is a classic Somerset dry cider, complete with aromatic tannins and finishes off with a long and balanced bittersweet finish.
In order to make sweet cider, the only thing you have to change is to just add in a lot more sugar. These types of ciders will also tend to be the more fruity flavours we have seen pop up all over the place in recent years rather than just the standard apple or pear. We stock a couple of the best fruity and sweet ciders in which anyone with a sweeter tooth will just adore.
Sandford Orchards, Berry Lane - This cider is satisfyingly sweet yet still refreshingly tart too, with perfectly ripe raspberries added into the mix they are the perfect addition to help master this already carefully crafted Devon cider.
Aspall, Peronelle's Blush - Another sweet one and very different from Aspalls original dry cider, Personelle's blush has a mix of both apple and blackberry in order to help satisfy a sweeter palate. It has a good amount of acidity balance which compliments the softer fruit finish.
As you can probably guess, the medium cider will lay somewhere in between a sweet and dry cider. This variety is often a classic favourite for most occasional cider drinkers as it's not too sweet like drinking fruit juice nor is it too dry and rather punchy like the more advanced cider drinker would prefer. A few of the medium ciders we have on offer include:
Kentish Pip, Skylark - Skylark is the very next generation when it comes to sparkling cider, with it's popping notes of fresh dessert apples followed up by a flourish of complex cider tannins. Slow fermentation of this rather special blend of dessert and cider varieties creates a deeply refreshing medium cider for everyone to enjoy.
Orchard Pig, Reveller - Orchard Pig is a real taste of Somerset. It's a medium and lightly sparkling cider that has a hint of lime amongst the apple flavour. Orchard Pig also has Charmer in their collection which is another medium gently carbonated cider, this one, however, has a richer aroma of deep tannins, a mellow apple sweetness all with a crisp and refreshing finish.
Sandfords, Devon Red - The Devon Red is a perfectly balanced and refreshing medium cider and is named after the rich red soil which gives their orchard apples their very distinctive quality and taste.
Both Perry and Pear ciders are made from well you guessed it, pears. However the similarities between these two end pretty much there. Pear cider can be made with imported pear juice or concentrate and can something even include apple juice in them too.
Perry, on the other hand, is only made from proper perry pears. Perry pears are packed with dry, bitter tannins and rapier-sharp acidity levels but yet still remain to be sweet at the same time. It's this delicate balance of flavours which lie behind the complexity of the drink.
At the moment we currently only stock one perry cider but trust us it's a good'n. We're talking about Hallets real Perry Cider. This delightful perry is from Wales and they use pears picked from just one single orchard in order to create this beautifully crafted product.
So there you have it, a brief rundown of the different types of cider out there and also picking out a few of our favourites along the way. So if cider is to be your tipple of choice we hope this has covered all the basics for you.