As sales of mainstream ciders fall, more London cider drinkers are choosing vintage craft ciders as a tasty alternative.
Craft ciders, also known as “traditional” or “vintage” ciders, are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to mainstream ciders. Traditionally, ciders are made with juice pressed from fresh apples, which is fermented until the juice is alcoholic and often bubbly, as with beer or sparkling wine. While sales of all ciders represent a £1 billion market in the UK, last year “vintage” ciders grew ahead of the market by 19 percent.
On the bright side, this means there are many styles of craft ciders available for cider lovers to sample, including unfiltered, or “cloudy,” ciders, flavored ciders, organic ciders made with organic apples and other organic ingredients, and ciders sold in cans. Ciders can be either “sparkling” or “still,” “sweet” like dessert wine, or “dry,” like Belgian Tripel or a good champagne.
Cloudy Craft Ciders
Unfiltered, or “cloudy” ciders, are some of the most unique, complex, and flavorful ciders on the market. Cloudy ciders aren’t filtered or pasteurized; instead, these ciders are made with natural yeasts and no preservatives, then largely left to their own devices. For fans of cloudy cider, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) publishes the Good Cider Guide, which guides interested drinkers to London pubs that serve the kinds of cloudy ciders they refer to as “real ciders.”
Highlighting a less well-known cloudy cider, Crafty Nectar’s monthly cider subscription box includes Perry Barn Owl, a lightly sparkling cloudy cider fermented with wild yeast using small- batch techniques.
Flavored Craft Ciders
Many of the most popular craft cider makers produce one or two flavored ciders as part of their product range.
Apple ciders can be infused with a dash of flavor by adding juices, spice, or flavorings to the fermented apples before bottling. Ciders can be made with almost any flavor, and common ciders flavors include pineapple, strawberry, and lime. More unusual flavorings range from elderflower to blackcurrant to pear.
One flavored cider available in Crafty Nectar’s subscription box is Firespice Ginger Cider, a warming winter cider infused with a ginger spice blend.
Craft Ciders in Cans
The canned cider trend of recent years means that ciders sold in cans are more popular than ever. More casual than ciders sold in standard clear glass beer bottles or the tall green bottles that can make some ciders look like good champagne, canned ciders are great for a sunny weekend with friends, an outdoor music festival, or a weekend trip away from the city.
Frugal cider drinkers can pick up cans of craft cider at convenience stores, grocery stores, wine shops, and off-license shops — or order them and subscribe to them online.
Strongbow’s canned “Classic Apple Cider,” with an abv of 5.5%, is a simple, classic, crisp cider, packaged in a 350ml can.
Crispin, an American cider maker with headquarters in Northern California, offers a canned cider called Crispin Browns Lane. At 5.8% abv, this “Imported Classic English Dry Cider” is made with bittersweet cider apples sourced from Malvern Hills of Worcestershire. According to Crispin’s website, this cider offers “soft, subtle natural apple sweetness” and a “slightly woody” finish.
Organic Craft Ciders
Organic ciders, made with organic apples and other organic ingredients, have only been growing in popularity. Unlike conventional ciders, organic ciders are made from apples grown without pesticides, and they appeal to cider drinkers concerned about where and how their ciders are grown.
Made with crushed organic Dabinett apples, Dorset Dabinett cider is an organic cider available in Crafty Nectar’s subscription box. Like wine made with apples instead of grapes, still ciders aren’t carbonated or sparkling at all, and Dorset Dabinett is one of these — a medium dry organic still cider with an abv of 5.8%.
Presented as “chewy and earthy with a rustic quality,” Aspall’s organic cider (7% abv) is made with a tantalizing mix of apples — bittersweet, culinary, and dessert.
Another interesting organic cider is domaine des Cinq Autels. an organic sparkling cider made in France. Of note, domaine des Cinq Autels has been producing organic apples as part of a family tradition since 1967.
From the bottle:
Located in Normandy, west of France, our orchards sit on limestone soil where different types of apples are grown: bitter, bitter-sweet, and acideous.
Cider drinkers in search of organic cider choices in California might look to craft cider maker Sonoma Cider. Called simply “The Hatchet,” Sonoma Cider’s organic cider comes in at 6% abv, promising a flavor that is “tart, crisp, dry, tangy, smooth, and refreshing.”
With so many craft ciders available for us to taste and try — cloudy ciders, real ciders, flavored ciders, organic ciders, sparkling ciders, bottled ciders, and ciders in cans — craft ciders are surely a growing alternative, one that will offer cider lovers many surprises and rewards.