This is the good stuff. A pale colour and one of those flavours that just keep on developing, like a good white wine. Sweet, flowery, sharp and beautifully balanced: doesn’t strip your teeth with acid, doesn’t dry your tongue with apple-peel bitterness, and doesn’t particularly taste of apples.
Not quite that good – not that complex – but very nice indeed. With that kind of strength the alcohol is almost bound to be something you can taste in its own right; in this one there’s a sort of alcoholic tartness that seems to float above the other elements of the flavour.
Still, pale green, fruity, flowery, 7.5%, dangerously drinkable. Not quite up there with the 6% Biddenden’s, but definitely in the same league. Really very nice indeed.
Presumably Butford’s dry cider specifically. Very, very sour. I have actually drunk vinegar in my time, and this reminded me of it. 6.7% a.b.v., but I couldn’t see myself getting through a pint anyway.
Cheddar Valley cider
Red. This one is actually red, and opaque with it, like Früli. A full, appley flavour; not very complex or interesting, but quite drinkable (and 6%). Red.
Deep yellow, intense apple flavour with apple-peel bitterness coming up behind (and masking the 7% alcohol). Not one of the greats, but good stuff.
Double Vision cider
Still, clear and slightly sweet; one of the more flowery, delicate ciders. Very drinkable, although it’s 7.4%.
Gwatkin’s Norman cider
It didn’t occur to me while I was drinking this – I just thought it was named after someone called Norman, like the Teenage Fanclub song – but perhaps this is Gwatkin’s stab at a cidre normande. If so they’re way out, but I wouldn’t hold that against it. There’s a real spoonful-of-vinegar sharpness on the first mouthful, but after that the flavour just builds and builds; for a cider it’s a deep, rich brown, and the density of the flavour matches the colour. It’s 7.5% – but, like most good ciders, doesn’t taste of alcohol – so take it slowly.
Gwynt y Ddraig
There are ciders, like the Biddenden’s, that you could happily take home to meet your partner, even if she doesn’t like cider: See? See? They don’t all taste like something Eddie Grundy’s brewed in an old oil drum! Then there are ciders for confirmed cider drinkers. This one tastes exactly like something Eddie Grundy’s brewed in an old oil drum, although not in a bad way; in other words, it tastes like apple juice that’s been allowed to ferment. And very nice it is too – if you like cider.
This, on the other hand, is medium-sweet, apple-flavoured and thoroughly user-friendly, apart from the a.b.v.; at 7.2% this sits squarely in the ‘dangerously drinkable’ bracket. Highly more-ish; the sweetness stops it being really thirst-quenching, but at the same time keeps you going back for more. You’ll drink it, you’ll like it, you’ll fall over. Update On my second encounter, this struck me as a crossover between the light-and-flowery Biddenden’s style of cider and the less refined fermented-apples style – a difficult trick to pull off, & one which I felt they did very successfully. My notes say “FDFD”, which I think is short for “fandabbydozy”.
Heck’s Medium cider
At first sight this seemed to be a deep pinkish red colour, like Früli. Holding it up to daylight showed that it’s actually a deep, reddish brown. The flavour matches: it’s big and fruity, with a slab of mixed apple-peel and alcohol bitterness bringing up the rear. One of those flavours that seem to develop and expand as you get further down the glass.
Hunt’s medium cider
In many ways this was reminiscent of a particularly full-flavoured bitter, particularly in the way it bounces round your mouth setting off flavour alarms – sour! sour! dear God that’s sour! fruity! bitter! sour again! I didn’t need that tooth enamel, did I? and some more bitterness and… actually that’s quite nice… The effects are more extreme, though, and the alcohol content’s about double. Cider – it’s beer with atttitude.
Medium cider (6%)
Perhaps my judgment on the Biddenden’s – or rather, on anything that’s not Biddenden’s – was a bit hasty. Perhaps there are two really great styles of cider. Like cheese: you start out with Cheddar and work your way out to Wensleydale and Stilton and Camembert, none of which ring the same cheese bell as Cheddar. Subtlety and distinctiveness are great, but sometimes a good Cheddar is what you want – something that rings the cheese bell good and hard. Newton’s medium is the mature Cheddar to Biddenden’s Camembert: it tastes of apples, it’s got the acid to strip your teeth and the apple-peel bitterness to dry your tongue, and it doesn’t hide the 6% alcohol content. And it’s great.
Medium cider (7%)
Most of the same comments apply, but with an emphasis on the sour. This one had that extreme, is this actually cider or just vinegar? acidity that mars some ciders and perries, but it somehow made it work.
Encountered at the Stockport Beer (and Cider) Festival 2008. A bit like Newton’s – certainly at the Newton’s end of things rather than the Biddenden’s. Great big bold appley flavour; quite sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Generally well-balanced – which is more than it’ll leave you, ho ho (it’s 8.2%). Very nice indeed.
Ross on Wye Cider
Rather unremarkable. At 6% this is practically a session cider – that is, you could reasonably drink more than one pint – and the flavour is similarly reined-in. Nothing much more to say about it than that it tastes of fermented apples. (Which is what you want, after all.)
Sandford Orchards Scrumpy
Brown and cloudy, with a definite ‘scrumpy’ character – a real full-on taste, sweet and sour and apple-peel bitterness all at the same time. Surprisingly well balanced, though – the different flavours are all distinct but they do work together. Very nice.
Weston’s organic cider
I’ve had some very ordinary stuff from Weston’s – back when they were more or less the only real cider makers who exported to the rest of the country – so I ordered this with some misgivings. They were rapidly dispelled. This is one of the best ciders I’ve ever tasted; I felt quite privileged to be drinking it. It’s got the bold, definite flavour of the Newton’s but without the rough edges; it somehow comes across as subtle and complex, while tasting of nothing other than cider. 7.3%, but almost worth ordering a pint anyway.
Winkleigh Sam’s Cider
Another 6%er. Perfectly likeable – sweetness at the start, a big mouth-filling sharpness and that bitter apple-peel finish – but not terribly special. Sorry, Sam.
The first time I had this it was very, very dry. 8% alcohol, hidden in a barrel of vinegar. The second time it was more of a straight heavy apple flavour with a bitter edge to it. Didn’t taste 8% either time, which is an achievement of sorts. Not great.