(ANXO Cider, Washington, DC)
New world ciders; what are they and why should you care? Well…..., writing is not my strong point and never has been. Spelling is a complete no no, and thank God for auto correct...most of the time! What has my inability to spell got to do with New World ciders? I hear you ask, as you’ve dragged yourself through this tedious and seamlessly pointless first few sentences. Well nothing to be honest, this is my first EVER blog post and I had to start somewhere!
Firstly let's break this down, by NEW WORLD I mean all the countries around the world that are making modern ciders. These countries, like many, may well have a long and cherished history with cider making in their heritage, but it is not so tightly woven into their national or regional cultures quite as deeply as countries like the UK, France and Spain.
Here in the UK with our centuries of cider making traditions, rich cider culture, skills, history and oh of course connotations both good and bad, (I’ll get on to that last one later), cider is so very woven into the fabric of what makes us British.
In other countries, cider has taken a back seat since being introduced, mainly in colonial times, but is now having it’s time, a revolution is taking place.
New world includes places like the Americas, both North and South, Australia, New Zealand, India, and more. For me, a lifelong cider fan and occasional beer drinker, it is the ciders made in the USA that have rocked my world and changed my life forever.
This might sound a little over exaggerated, but it's true. A fine selection of cider makers from over the pond have not only shown me totally different approaches to this amazing nectar, but they have inspired me to delve further into it and discover cider as I never knew it before. And, most importantly they have inspired me to be open, free, innovative and to create the ciders I want to make. So what's so good about these ciders, or ‘Hard Ciders’ as they are often called in America.
When it comes to ciders in the USA you could fundamentally split them in the three categories; Draft, sessionable, quaffable, good time ciders; Rich, complex, heritage, bottled ciders; and last but not least, insanely delectable, feet warming, Ice Cider - a strong, condensed, apple liqueur, dessert wine style drink made in the very coldest parts of the country. However, it's the session ciders being made over the pond that took my eyes further West than our shores. I like my ciders dry, and if I have a choice, with more acidity than tannin; maybe that's just an East Country thing or just what I was brought up drinking.
The majority of these ciders are all of these things - dry dry dry, acidic and strong, often around 6.9% Abv. A little strong for a session you might say, and yes perhaps, but there is a very good reason for that - they're not diluted, they’re not altered, and they are not sweetened.
(Brooklyn Cider House Wild Rosé)
Cider, like wine, is made, not brewed like beer. It starts with fruit juice and yeast. In short the yeast eats the sugars present in the juice, resulting in alcohol, then once all the sugar is all gone the yeast starves and dies. No sugar left means dry, and strong, and the amount of sugar present during fermentation will result in the amount of alcohol created etc. The sweeter the juice, the stronger the cider in theory.
Now, just taking my breath to go back just a step, this feels like a good time to explain what I mean about the connotations about ciders in the Old World, like the UK that has such a tightly woven tie with the drink. In the UK over the past century or so, cider has been widely seen and stereotyped into four main styles. These are often described to me as; on holiday in the West Country style cider brought in 4 pint jugs that gave you the hangover from hell all those years ago; cheap strong white ciders often consumed out of plastic 2.5 litre bottles in the park in teenage years; fruity, sweet fizzy ciders which are nothing more than alcopops that leave your teeth feeling heavily coated in sugar and the fairly generic fizzy draught found on the one cider tap in a pub.
You might think that I'm against any of these styles but I'm not, they all have a place, but I do believe cider shouldn’t be defined by them or any connotations that go with them. There are too many good ciders out there and so many styles, that in my opinion, at least one would suit anyone. With these perceptions in mind, cider is often overlooked. Us poor old cider drinkers have to deal with a fairly mundane medium sweet session style ciders when visiting our local.
Well not in the US! There is no expectation for what cider is or should be or has been particularly. There's freedom to present and promote it in many of its glorious forms and styles. In the case of session ciders, bridging the gap between ciders and craft beers, giving an alternative and a different option to drinkers is commonplace. Ciders infused with hops, or with hibiscus. Fermented with all sorts of yeasts wild and cultivated. Innovative, experimental, exciting and accepted.
The freedom in the New World to think outside the box of the norm, and be brave in making these great drinks. And what’s more, people are willing to try, sample, explore. Sounds pretty good right…? Can you imagine that in the UK?
This freedom of expression, innovation, experimentation and broader consumer thinking, has led to a boom. Comparatively, Craft Cider has had bigger year on year growth in recent years than craft beer, more options, more styles, more dry, more people loving cider.
And like the craft beer boom that we all know has happened here and in the US, I believe there really could be a craft cider boom this side too. So, to recap. What have these New World ciders, cider makers and innovators done for me? Well, they’ve opened my eyes, they have given me the confidence to innovate and educate. It’s given me the option I was looking for, the dry fizzy session cider, and inspired me to make my own, Obsession and Hope Rosé which were released in the Cider Tap only as a trial in 2019, and out of 22 taps became our second and third best
sellers….. Behind our medium sweet entry level fairly standard session cider… well Rome wasn't built in a day they say, but that's a bloody good start.
(Rebel Root- Hope (V2) Rosé)