If you read my article on Fruit Cider a few weeks ago then you knew this was coming. If not, then let me tell you, this article has been even more challenging. Fruit cider divides opinion across the craft cider crowd. Some believe it isn’t cider because it contains more than just apples, but then some folk think all the apples have to be cider varieties too so things can get quite tricky and restrictive.
This list is a culmination of some serious searching to find bold and creative creations that celebrate both the apples and the additional fruit. Something very difficult to do, which makes these drinks all the more special. In a market dominated by high sugar and syrup flavour-filled concoctions, these fruit ciders are a shining beacon of how good it can be if done with purity, transparency and respect.
The reason I haven’t got a top 10? I couldn’t find anymore that fitted the bill and I tried a lot.
So the list then, in no particular order:
Once Upon A Tree - Blackberry
This is a co-ferment meaning the blackberries and apples were fermented together. This adds a whole new dimension to the drink. Pouring a rose colour with an amber hue and gentle fizz, this smells of ripe berries and red apple skins. The taste is well balanced with gentle acidity and some youthful tannins. Apples and strangely redcurrants come through and the finish is slightly dry. Leave it to warm slightly in the glass and those tannins punch through even more. A great demonstration of how well West Country apples can blend with hedgerow fruit. Add a shot of gin and slice of lemon for a cider twist on a classic Bramble cocktail.
Ty Gwyn - Black and Browns
The colour is deep ruby red, the aroma rich with ripe squeezed blackcurrant followed by a hint of apple skin and some woody character. Initial taste is of acidity which flows into moussey foamy astringency. The finish is of juicy sweetness led by tannic apples and followed by ripe currants. The blackcurrant taste is not as strong as the smell, which allows those Browns apples to shine through.
Tempted - Elderflower
So technically probably classed as a “flavoured” cider rather than a fruit cider but too good to miss out. Cloudy straw in the glass the nose is full of green apples and floral notes. The first taste is sharp but gentle acidity leading into light carbonation that rolls across the tongue. The finish is sweetness followed by wonderfully clean elderflower and citrus, but it’s subtle. This is an attempt to pair apple with flower rather than dominate the taste like so many others do, and it succeeds.
Angioletti - Rosé with Blueberry
Something international? This hails from Italy and in the glass this looks like a light Pinot Noir or a rose port with its pale ruby red colour. The smell is also very wine-like with notes of vanilla and blackcurrants. The initial taste is those blackcurrant notes, very delicate fizz comes through in the middle followed by a hint of blueberry and a sweetness that lingers into flavours of red grape... marvellous.
Hawkes - Pineapple Punch
Another co-ferment, this time with pineapples, which pours a cloudy straw colour and the nose has hints of pineapple and tropical fruits followed by green apples. The taste is really juicy, you get a little acidic hit that that parts way into crisp apple cider with notes of pineapple and sweetness lingering in the mouth. Pineapple is a really bold flavour so to create the subtlety here is quite a skill. Feeling adventurous? Add a shot of coconut rum and create a CiderColada.
Another cloudy straw colour (slightly darker than Hawkes) but with frothy carbonation. The smell is full of citrus, vanilla and gooseberry, and the taste is a journey. Firstly tropical fruit and pineapple which then reveals a gentle sharpness and acidity that’s really crisp. The finish tastes like rhubarb and custard crossed with apple crumble. It is sweet but in a sumptuous home-cooked dessert kind of way... yummy. There’s a reason this won The Stable cider of the year 2019.
Pilton- Pomme Pomme
Fancy something very fine and unique? This pours a brilliant crystal clear gold colour with a scent full of exotic fruit; think guava and cantaloupe melon and a hint of apricot. There are light citrus notes and acidity in the initial taste, following which you get that keeved, essence of apple sweetness with subtle hints of caramel. The finish is dry, but in a glide along the sides of your mouth and leave you craving another sip kind of way. So where is all that exotic fruit and acidity coming from? Well, quince of course.
Reverend Nat - Sacrilege Sour Cherry
How about something a bit harder to find? This is ruby red with a gold hue and light slow bubbles. The smell is of red apple skins and sweet cherries with a red grape earthiness (I can’t think how else to describe it). The initial taste full of crisp apple along with rich cherry and plums. This is followed by sharp acidity which then becomes sour with a tingling heat that starts in the middle of the tongue and heads to the back of your throat. The label talks of spiciness which I believe is a hint of chilli. I got mine from Hawkes Taproom and there were still a few left in the fridge...
The Cider Critic's Fruit Cider Final Verdict
Whichever you try, I promise that these could not be further away from the mainstream fruity alco-pops that dominate the supermarket shelves and keg lines at your local. Give your taste buds some real fruit and support the craft cider revolution.