Back in time, before I’d ever tasted Belgian beers or ordered an IPA at the pub, I was a cider drinker. In fact, I liked cider so much that I went on a trip around cider festivals in Herefordshire, and visited the Westons cidery in Much Marcle. It blew my mind.
It was around 2007, and I’d never been to a brewery, never seen how my favourite alcoholic drinks were made — I’d never even given it a thought, if I was honest. Yet here I was being shown orchards full of apples, massive barns full of huge barrels and later, glasses full of cider ready for tasting.
It’s fair to say that cider has a special place in my heart. I love it. And lately being a cider lover has served me well, as the rise of “real” and “natural” cider brings more and more excellent, special, wonderful ciders to our bars and glasses.
Tom learning about cider at a Manchester Cider Club talk at Runaway Brewery, May 2019
What is “real” or “natural” cider and perry?
In his beautiful book “Fine Cider”, Felix Nash has a really easy way of describing what cider is.
“The juice of apples, some of the fruit sugars of which have been fermented to alcohol by yeasts. The reality of what can legally be called “cider” is a slightly different thing…”
What Felix means by this, without putting words into his mouth, is that there are ciders that are made from apple juice and apple juice alone, and there are ciders made with additional sugars, preservatives and other ingredients.
Ciders made with concentrated and reconstituted juice, sweeteners, added sugars and flavourings (and sometimes colourings too — I’ve had a bright blue cider before but straw yellow is one of the most common) are not considered to be “real” or “natural”. These types have often been the most commonly served and stocked ciders in shops and pubs, which is why it’s often what we think of when we think of “cider”.
But in the cider world, “real” whole-apple cider and whole-pear perry, which has continued to be made by old school cider makers for hundreds of years, is making waves.
Susanna Forbes holding one of her Little Pomona ciders at a Manchester Cider Club meeting
Cider’s “New Wave”
Over the past few years, “real” and “natural” cider has been gaining in popularity and becoming easier to find in our favourite bars, pubs and shops. Called the “new wave”, these ciders made only with apple juice, yeast, time and expertise are being championed by cider lovers as a perfect crossover between heritage, history and modern eco-conscious ideas.
Us “real cider” drinkers love being able to taste the individual characteristics of the fruit used too. Like wine, cider and perry is made from fruit juice, but also like wine, the fruit used naturally takes on the characteristics of its surroundings — the weather, the environment, the soil, the air, the location, the temperature, the natural yeasts on the fruit itself. All of these attributes help to create the full picture of a unique drink, created, blended and aged by cider and perry makers who are artisans in their craft.
There are ciders and perries of all types, and we can’t wait to share some of our favourites with you when we open! Whether you enjoy dry or sweet, wood-aged or fresh and zingy, we’re looking forward to helping you find ciders and perries that suit your palate or excite and surprise you.
And even if you think you don’t like cider or perry, we’re hoping we have something on offer that’ll potentially change your mind. Did somebody say calvados?