A Cider Buzz Mcr manifesto
“I could not live without dry, tannic, bottle conditioned Cider.” – Albert Johnson, Ross on Wye Cider and Perry
We at Cider Buzz Mcr completely agree, that’s the cider and perry that we usually drink. But we also strive for variety in our drinking, for diversity, for a wide range of flavours.
We seek out cider makers prepared to take risks and make something different, we look for modernity and innovation. But there can be no new adventures in Cider without first respecting what has been learnt in the past.
There can be no modernity or innovation without first preserving our traditions, our apple varieties and our orchards.
“To be custodians of orchards and to preserve the varieties carefully propagated and cultivated by orchardists who came and went long before us.
“A seed will not grow into the same variety that produced it. That's why we're beginning our #2040project - our goal is to create a new cider variety indigenous to our farm.” – Albert Johnson
Provenance - “great cider starts in the orchard with great apples.”
An honest cider should reflect the characteristics of the apples, intentionally chosen and the characteristics of the land they were grown on. This is summed up in an orchard cider manifesto by US cider makers ‘Eve’s Cider’:
“In order for a cider to be reflective of the fruit, it should use apples intentionally; both in the varieties used and the way the fruit is grown.
“The intention is to keep working with the fruit and discovering it's potential, including understanding the characteristics of different cider varieties and how they like to be grown and fermented.” - Autumn Stoscheck, 5/4/16
This sentiment is echoed by Herefordshore cider makers Ross on Wye Cider and Perry:
“I believe that when you can get good cider without adding anything or trying to force it to be something other than what it is, there’s just no point in doing it any other way…. we let the cider tell its own story.” – Mike Johnson, November 30, 2017
Urban ciderist, Joe Meek, from Manchester’s Moss Cider, clearly understands this. When we interviewed him about the wide spread of different apples he receives from donors, from city gardens and country trees; he explained that he attempts to blend in the largest possible volume to maximise the consistency of his cider. He further blends in a small proportion of crab apples to add complexity and give expression to and tell the story of ‘northern donor cider’.
‘A regional cider is nothing else than the landscape of that region being fermented in a barrel’ - paraphrasing Spanish writer Josep Pla (writing about food)
The heritage cider apple varieties of the west country, from Herefordshire down to the south west, have taken centuries of careful propagation, cultivation and selection by orchardists. The same is the case with the designated apple varieties of Spain’s Basque and Asturian regions and France’s Normandy and Britany regions.
A different regional selection of cider apples, the different ‘terroir’ in each region and the cider making processes used, all lead to different styles of cider.
The United States Association of Cider (USACM) makers has made a huge contribution to the cider world in producing Cider Style Guidelines to reflect the diversity of cider, and to provide us with a vocabulary to describe them.
In addition to the tannic led ‘Heritage Cider’ styles of the west country, northern France and northern Spain the USACM describes acidic led ‘Modern Ciders’ where other apple varieties are used, such as eating apples or cooking apples. With these apples the Eve’s Cider principles of honesty towards the apple can still be applied.
Following the approach of Eve’s Cider, the cider makers in those areas where ‘heritage cider apples’ are not available or do not flourish, attempt to find an honest expression of the apples available to them and their ‘terroir’ and ‘story’. If you drink a ‘Golden Delicious’ cider, it’s a joy to be able to taste the particular flavours of that apple, because diversity is rewarding.
“I dislike Fruit Cider because it cares not - in most cases, not all - for the apple it is made from. I dream of a world where people are as interested in appreciating the taste, history and differences of a Balls' Bittersweet (perhaps the world's first crowdsourced cider apple!) and one of its parents, Foxwhelp, as they are in the latest 'mango cider'...” – Albert Johnson
Many fruit ciders are over sweetened, with poor use of fruit flavours; on tasting such products you immediately question what are they trying to hide? Poor base cider, use of concentrated juice or fruit pulps? Or just a poorly made oversweet product.
We at Cider Buzz do not often seek out fruit ciders, they are not generally to our taste, but we do continue to drink them
To seek out that small number made by an honest producer; honest to the apple, the added fruit and the way that the cider is made.
Fruit ciders that we have enjoyed include those by producers such as Ascension Cider, West Milton, Apple County and Polgoon. We have also enjoyed hopped ciders by Beard and Sabre and Sandford Orchards. Austrian cider makers Blacstoc have won many accolades for their hopped ciders,
Other cider styles
There is also an exciting growth of adventurous co-fermentations that bring something new to the market while still paying tribute to the apple; and increasing collaborations between cider makers, brewers and wine makers, and crossover flavours from the worlds of cider and perry, beer and wine.
Transparency and Honesty
In addition to the honesty that cider makers display towards the apples they use and the ciders they ferment; as important for the consumer is the transparency of the product labelling and promotion. The single biggest way for cider drinkers to take back control of cider and be empowered to choose the best ciders available to them is for full transparency of the ingredients used and details of the cider making process.
More people now look for ‘Natural Ciders’ that encourage sustainability with accountability, traceability and bio-diversity and responsibility at heart.
The ciders we seek out are those that are natural representations of a diverse range of apple and pear varieties, preserved by orchardists and cider makers and taking on a character from their terroir and the craft persons skill and honesty. Ciders fermented by the wild yeasts from the apple skins, the orchard and the environment of the barn in the orchard based cidery.
For us the key dividing line in determining authentic flavour is whether the juice is 90% fresh pressed. Industrial ciders made from concentrate juice, chaptalised or watered down have a clear taste difference from authentic ciders. That’s why we strongly support the formation of the Small Independent Cidermakers Association (SICA) with their 90% plus fresh pressed juice makers logo and vigorous testing and auditing of their benchmark.
We are strongly committed to promoting a new modern image for cider. A profile which reflects that cider is drunk by as many women as men, where the biggest growth in its sales is amongst under 30’s.
Cider is a drink for today and the future; but is also has a tradition that needs to be resurrected because of the poor unfashionable image that has resulted from the dominance of industrial cider products in the market.
That’s why we support the campaign to #RethinkCider
Lastly we would like to finish our little statement of our cider principles with another quote from Albert Johnson:
“The future, in terms of ROW cider, is sustainability — composting, sustainable methods, solar panels — making sure the farm stays viable for years to come. Sustainability, to me, is one of the most important things. If we can do things in a way that means we’re still going to be able to do them in 20 years time, that’s the way we should do it.”