Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cider Decider Part 1 - Craft Ciders (now with added Craft Beer festival)

Given that I am off the beer, I decided to explore cider as an alternative for the month. Previously my only experience with cider, like most people I guess, was a pint bottle of Bulmer's in a pint glass with ice, on a sunny day.

I decided to split my samplings into two sections, "Craft" and "Non Craft". I'm not quite sure what the dictionary definition of "Craft" is for cider but I suspect the ciders above meet it handily.

Note: I tried to be scientific in my tasting; all ciders were drunk at the same temperature (whatever "5" on my beer fridge equates to), from the same kind of glass and without any ice (as per instructions on at least 2 of the bottles).

Longueville House Cider - €4-49, 5% abv (Baggot St Wines)
Dark amber in the glass, this resembles my other favourite tipple, an IPA. Some nice complexity and flavour here, however this is the first of the craft ciders I'm tasting so I'm not sure what to expect. I like this but I don't love it. It's billed as "medium dry", but I'm finding it quite (pleasurably) dry with a long finish.

Tempted Medium Sweet Irish Craft Cider - €4-49, 5.7% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
A pale straw colour. Sweet, but not cloyingly so. Like the Wyld Wood below, it's nicely balanced. I don't think I'd buy this, my taste would be for something drier, but it's perfectly pleasant to drink.

Orpen's Cider - €4-49,  5.5% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
I'd say this is medium, not too sweet or dry with a lager-like colour. This cider has a nice crispness on the palate and a clean fresh flavour.  Note: this cider was only launched in June 2012, so I wish them well.

Stonewell Dry Irish Cider - €3-99,  5.5% abv  (Baggot St Wines)
Starts off well with some nice tart fruit and finishes nicely with some lip smacking dryness. The problem (as I find with some wines) is that there is nothing in the "middle". This, for me,  is not a balanced cider; I think there is something missing in the flavour balance such that this doesn't suit my palate. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Wyld Wood Premium Organic Pear Cider - €2-75, 6% abv (Tesco) [Not Pictured]
Slightly sweet style but still crisp and fruity. 6% abv but it belies its strength and is very moreish. I have recommended this to Granny G as an alternative to the Kopparberg Pear she drinks.

Pro - I really liked 4 out of 5 of these ciders
Con - 4 out of 5 of these ciders are alarmingly expensive. Three of the five were €4-50 for 500ml which is pricey in anyone's book. I am quoting the prices I found in Baggot St Wines, but I suspect (and after a cursory look on teh intertubes), similar prices prevail nationwide.

I don't know if the plan is to entice your regular Bulmer's drinker into changing their regular tipple, if so then that's not going to fly, OR, if the plan is to set up these ciders as a premium/luxury item to be quaffed occasionally, akin to a craft ale, then that may work. At these prices I'm not sure how often  I'll be dipping in, I have to say.


Last night, under duress, I attended the Irish Craft Beer Festival. I had been promised Cider and lo and behold there was cider. I didn't take detailed notes (we came straight from the nearby Leinster game where the closest bar ran out on Bulmer's at half time - you do the math) but here are my recollections:

McIvors Traditional Dry Cider 5.6% abv -  I liked this, reasonably dry with nice apple flavours. Not as dry as I would have liked but with a lovely finish.

Stonewell Medium Dry Irish Cider 5.5% abv - After not liking their Dry cider (above) I figured I should give the Medium Dry a chance, and this proved to be a much nicer and more coherent beast. Pale yellow in the glass, some nice fruit flavours and some gentle sweetness.

Tempted Medium Dry Irish Craft Cider 5.7% abv  - The last cider drunk on the night so recollections are hazy. I pretty sure this was tasty, another well balanced cider from DJ.

Note: I now know the reason I shouldn't drink cider all night, I discovered it at about 5am this morning. Enough said.

Part 2 - Non Craft Ciders 1 is here
Part 3 - Non Craft Ciders 2 is here


  1. Hi Willie, enjoy your blog. Just a few things re your comment on the price of the craft ciders you reviewed. I understand how you might see it as expensive compared to craft beers or mass produced 'cider'. Craft cider is more often than not put in the same category in peoples' minds as craft beers, not sure if you're aware but micro-cider producers cannot avail of the tax relief currently offered to micro-brewers. Also artisan/craft cider, real cider, is made only once a year, from an annual crop so the tanks cannot be reused again, unlike for beer. The big boys make can make cider throughout the year using imported apples and juice concentrate. Hope this helps explain it a bit. Also, Irish craft cider is made from 100% Irish grown apples, which this year will be in short supply...
    I'll stop now ;)

  2. @thewinestoreireland - you make good points on whats involved in producing a craft cider in Ireland, I hadn't appreciated them.

    I think my point still stands though, most people will baulk at paying €4-50 for a bottle of cider (or beer). If the price can't come down for the reasons you outlined above then does craft cider need to be repositioned in the pantheon of alcoholic drinks?

    I think most people would happily take a punt on a bottle of wine (750ml) for €10, but wouldn't be so keen to spend €4-50 on 500ml of craft cider...