I have to start by admitting to some initial ignorance when researching for this piece for vegan cider. I was aware that the alcohol industry has had difficulties catering to the vegan market, particularly the beer and wine sectors where various products of animal origin are used in the process, such as fish-based clarifiers. I had assumed wrongly that the cider industry as a whole didn’t use such products.
Why would they?
After all, cider achieves a fairly natural clarification as part of the process, so with simple filtering, you can achieve a very clear product.
Well, you know what assumptions make…turns out many mainstream and industrially-produced ciders can contain animal derivatives either as an ingredient, for instance cochineal for colouration, or in other parts of the process such as gelatine as a fining agent…would you believe…to clarify.
To make it just that little bit trickier, many mainstream ciders don’t list ingredients, so it’s a bit of a challenge trying to find out which are vegan unless they are explicit. It’s that issue of transparency again…
But…craft cider to the rescue!
Despite the difficulties of some of the industrially-produced and mainstream ciders, there is a growing number of producers, particularly smaller scale and craft cider who are not only vegan-friendly but also happy to shout about it on their labels… making it a lot easier for consumers to identify them.
If you’re a vegan drinker then now is a better time than ever to explore the current cider market and look out for those producers which are shining examples and to start you off, I’ve highlighted six great vegan ciders below.
Westons – Stowford Press (0.5%)
Ok, so perhaps more industrial scale than craft, but Westons have stayed true to their roots and created some very good ciders. If you’re interested in something low alcohol then consider this. It’s not a complex cider, but no concentrate in sight and it’s light, crisp and refreshing with plenty of apple bite.
If you want something a little more alcoholic to try their Wylde Wood or Caple Rd, both vegan as I think is most of their range. They put it on the label if it is.
Available from most supermarkets, or www.westons-cider.co.uk
Fancy something with a fruity twist? Then Crafty Nectar have collaborated with Celtic Marches to create this rhubarb cider; based on feedback from their subscribers this is the worlds first ‘crowd-sourced’ fruit cider.
The taste is full of sharp tingling acidity and gentle fizz. The finish is buttery and almost vanilla like, it reminds me of a rhubarb crumble with custard, but not like the traditional sweet; more like a shortcake topped homemade crumble with stewed rhubarb. This is finally followed by a rich cider apple finish which has sweetness and then astringency.
Sxollie – Cripps Pink (4.5%)
Next stop South Africa and Sxollie are making quite a solid reputation for themselves as a great craft cider producer. Their Golden Delicious has been shortlisted for The Stable ‘Cider of the Year’ award.
I’ve gone with their Cripps Pink which is exclusively available at selected Waitrose stores and there’s nothing but 3.3 Cripps apples in each bottle. So it’s a single variety cider but made from eating apples. There’s a nice level of acidity and a gentle fizz to this one and the juicy rich apple skin finish is sumptuous.
Available exclusively from Waitrose
Hawkes – Urban Orchard (4.5%)
How about a blend of urban and country apples? This is the self-proclaimed ‘saviours of cider’ prodigy; the cider that started their mission to redefine the cider market, starting with using unloved apples donated by Londoners.
It’s intensely apple with woody notes on the nose and full of complexity on the palate. Acidity meets some tannins with the perfect balance of carbonation.
Available from: Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, www.wearehawkes.com
Dunkertons – Black Fox (7%)
Something a little stronger perhaps? And how about organic? Well, look no further than Dunkertons who just celebrated 30 years organic certification from the Soil Association.
Pours a pale straw colour with lots of fizz. Smells of dried apple, oak, intense funk and old stables barnyard. The taste is firstly dominated by that carbonation and acidity, but that’s followed by the smokiness and dried apple flavours. The finish is very astringent and dries the sides of your tongue but leaves a subtle sweetness.
Available from selected Waitrose stores & www.dunkertonscider.co.uk
Little Pomona – Unicorn 2016 (7.5%)
How about some Fine Cider? Something unique and pretty rare…and very complex.
The smell is woody and smoky with backgrounds scents of tobacco and leather. There is lots of fizz and it pours a superb cloudy amber colour. The taste is phenomenal, initially its light acidity then straight into a full blown tannic rich hit. The fizz then kicks in, along with a rich apple skin taste. The finish is dry with a wonderful level of astringency which leads into sweetness and a lingering smokiness. The mouthfeel is velvety smooth, you can wrap it round your tongue.
For stockists visit www.littlepomona.com
Are you interested in vegan-friendly cider? Should there be more transparency on cider ingredients? Let us know in the comments below.
Article By James Finch | Follow @TheCiderCritic