This week I’m reviewing a very new release. Thanks to Roberto (Chief Cider Maker) from Hawkes I managed to get hold of a sample of it at the launch at the Cider Salon in Bristol just a few weeks ago. This is my first review of a collaboration cider and collaborating with Hawkes on this creation is Oliver’s.
Roberto (left) from Hawkes holding a can of ‘All Made Equal’ at Bristol Cider Salon, me (right)
Hawkes are the self-proclaimed “Saviours of Cider”, who are based in London and have been on their mission to innovate, break away from the traditional mould and inject new life into the cider industry, for five years. They started by taking unloved and donated apples to create their first cider ‘Urban Orchard’ which they still make today and has just started appearing on Waitrose shelves across the country. They now have several ciders on their books including a co-fermented beer and cider hybrid and this collaboration with Oliver’s which I’m sampling today.
Oliver’s is quite the contrast. For a start they’re in Hereford, smack in the middle of cider-making country. Cider making on the farm dates back many generation until a pause under Tom Oliver’s grandfather and Tom had to start from scratch again. Regarded by many as a cider and perry wizard, Tom’s reputation is world renowned. His cider and perry repertoire is extensive, from traditional varieties and methods to fine cider and innovative collaborations, such as with American producer Angry Orchard and Mills Brewing.
So collaboration is not new to either Hawkes or Oliver’s. The label explains how this cider is
“a wonderful blend of traditional and heavy tannins, from the Godfather of craft, Tom Oliver. Combined with a lighter, acidic desert style” from Hawkes.
Tom has put in big hitting cider apple varieties of Dabinett and Yarlington Mill whilst Hawkes has added dessert and eating varieties of Bramley, Gala and Braeburn.
Opening the can I’m greeted by juicy, rich and tannic almost woody scents. Pouring into the glass I start to get notes of sweetness and acidity. It pours light and straw-coloured which lures you into thinking this will be a light and acidic cider. The initial taste has very little fizz and is crisp with a hint of acidity.
However, this then flows into deep tannins with a touch of dryness. The finish is back into acidity with the sweetness of dessert juice. The colour and appearance then is very deceptive, this light coloured cider is hiding some deep tannin-rich depth of flavour. I found myself wishing it was a bigger portion and I really hope it doesn’t stay as a limited edition release.
So how do I summarise?
Well on their website Hawkes say this cider has a deeper meaning behind it; that it “represents the perceived unbalance of the UK cider industry, with craft cider makers struggling to move onto the next stage in their commercial development due to unfair parity of cider duty with industrial cider producers.”
Whilst the struggle is real and it’s important to point a spotlight on it, I think this cider is more than that; it’s a bridge.
For those cider drinkers who are just starting out on their journey or used to lighter acidic ciders, it creates a bridge to new tastes, showcasing the difference between cider varieties and methods, but also the harmony. It is then a cider that appeals to all tastes, but that also provides the drinker with an opportunity to expand their preferences at the same time.
James Finch @thecidercritic