Shortly after the publication of my first article “Why You Should Care About Cider” Ed reached out to me to ask if I would write something for Crafty Nectar.
Obviously I said yes.
A few weeks later two boxes arrived filled with delicious cider. Now I know this is not exactly how the subscription service usually works but you can’t really argue with regular shipments of wonderful cider or perry arriving quietly and effortlessly each month. When I first became involved in writing about cider I had some pretty hard rules about what I wanted to achieve. It’s important to me that cider is free of concentrates and artificial flavourings, and is as close to the fruit as it can be. I wanted to support independent, artisanal producers. And I wanted to shout from the rooftops about this great drink that is grown, made and consumed almost entirely in Britain. Crafty Nectar and Ed share that vision and have been doing tremendous work with writers like James Finch to showcase incredible, small producers from all around the country over the last few years.
One of the key problems that small, independent cidermakers face in the UK is their geography. Apples grow in the countryside but the majority of bars and restaurants are in urban areas. Crafty Nectar is helping to bridge that gap and get great ciders directly into the hands of cider drinkers, new and seasoned. With the rotating selection of bottles each month there’s the opportunity to enjoy ciders from the diverse cidermaking regions of the UK. Cider is more than just the West Country. Those counties make exceptional cider and arguably are the spiritual home of cidermaking in the world. But part of rethinking cider is appreciating and shouting about the fantastic ciders that don’t fit into the West Country box. Dessert fruit has for a long time been denigrated as lacking complexity - often used to bulk out “proper” cider fruit - or as unageable cider that needs to be drunk immediately (I implore these people to try Nightingale’s Songbird). But dessert fruit is seeing a resurgence as cider diversifies and it’s blend of fruit, florality, acid and light bodies is drawing new drinkers to cider. Which brings me to our first cider.
Dudda’s Tun - Greenhorn - Medium Sparkling 5.2%
Greenhorn pours a pale, bright gold. The aroma is fresh, green apple flesh - sharp and sweet at the same time. There’s a hint of lactic acid which brings a yoghurty softness and mellows the acid. On the tongue, it’s honestly apple Maoams, and apple Maoams are fantastic so there’s not much more to say. It’s fresh, acidic and sweet. Very refreshing and light in body. There’s a generous sparkle which bursts on the tongue with just the barest hint of tannin from those apple skins.
Worleys - Rocky Road - Medium Sparkling Cider 6.4%
Rocky Road is a very bright, clear, light gold. The aroma is a heady mix of bright, red apples and wild yeast with hints of apple pie filling and a dusting of brown sugar. Despite the sweetness of the aroma, this is much drier than I expected, a classic bittersweet character shines through with rubbery tannins. The effervescence lifts the heavier bittersweet notes and lightens the body, and complements the sweetness.
Ridge & Furrow - Medium Sparkling Cider 5%
The Ridge & Furrow is a much darker cider, bronze with a pronounced haze that always reminds me of Yarlington Mill ciders. This cider is described as using an “arrested fermentation” - think keeving or cold racking - which leaves unfermented apple sugars in the cider. I always think these ciders work best with a blend of apples because it creates complexity in the residual sugars. The aroma is brown sugar and treacle. Sweet, sweet apple pie and deep down in the glass there’s hints of blossoms and wildflowers. It’s very soft and juicy as you might expect with this method of cidermaking. The apple sugars dominate with sweetness, fruitiness and a big, soft body.
Napton Cidery - Recipe No. 3 - Dry Sparkling 6%
Napton’s Recipe No. 3 is a robust, dark gold. The aroma is sharp, green apples with a soft honeyed quality. I expected this to be the driest of the ciders but it’s very soft and fruit-forward which creates a perceived sweetness. There’s sweet, red apples complemented by a juicy, soft body and a gentle sparkle.
Kentish Pip - Dappler - Wild Dry Cider 5.5%
I’ve been excited to try this cider ever since it came out. Pours a bright, gold with a prominent sparkle. This cider is a blend of dessert and traditional cider fruit. A modern cider with fruit, acid, tannin and body. The nose is Granny Smith’s - fresh, green apple flesh and skin - with wild yeast character adding some funk. This cider is extremely well balanced, it’s sweeter than expected but the acid helps to keep it in check. The body is right down the middle, lightened by acid and carbonation but kept weighty with the bittersweet varieties.
Once Upon A Tree - Medium Dry Perry 5%
Until the moment I opened this bottle my unobservant self thought this was a cider. I was excited to find, upon sticking my nose over the glass, it was in fact a perry. For all of cider's many woes, perry is a far more misunderstood and underappreciated drink that is deserving of a place at the highest table. The aroma is intense, heady elderflower with that savoury note that often accompanies perry pears, almost mascarpone-like in its creamy, lactic character. On the tongue it is sweet lemon and lime jelly with a lengthy finish of dessert pear and wild florality. The sparkle is soft, which is to be expected with the additional sugar, and the grippy tannins help to create an off-dry finish.
It’s always fun to try new things and some of these producers were new to me. In my most recent article I talked about creating a new appreciation of cider which leans heavily on wine-like interpretations. Thinking about what varieties are present, where they were grown and the intentions of the cidermaker. Next time you have a cider, have a read of the back of the bottle, have a think about what medium-dry means to you, try and pick out a few aromas or flavours.
Cidermakers put a huge amount of effort in the short space of time that harvest season is, if we as drinkers reciprocate with our respect for their products we can continue to grow cider both for us and new cider drinkers.
Author: Ben Thompson
Title Photo: Bethan Miller
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Thank you so much to Ben for these fab tasting notes.
If you want to learn more about the world of cider please check out brand new podcast Cider Voice. It's co-run with talented cider-maker Albert Johnson of Ross Cider 'giving voice to the best Cidermakers in the UK and beyond'.
Ben is also involved in Burum Collective a virtual networking space and community blog for anyone working in the beer, wine and cider industries. Well worth checking out if you're in the industry.
It will always be the Ross Cider Festival, particularly the "meet the makers" Saturday event which never fails to be fantastic. https://t.co/4hTWOLcesI— Cider Voice (@CiderVoice) August 18, 2020
"The future of cider must include more reflections on wine than on beer if it is to succeed, though cider must still forge its own path and identity"— Burum Collective (@burumcollective) September 6, 2020
Ben Thompson's latest post on the beerification of cider and the importance of style 🍏 https://t.co/7duXeCMdpz pic.twitter.com/AXDNaFHL08