Cider is a beautifully diverse beverage but we need a vocabulary to allow us to talk about that diversity and range when we discuss cider.
Styles of Cider and Perry
Cider lacks the vocabulary that exists in the beer world where descriptions such as IPA, DIPA, West Coast IPA etc etc, describe even fine nuances in style. In America the main cider makers body has made a start by producing Cider Style guidelines; but we need a British version. This is a short version that Cider Buzz Mcr has produced for Central Manchester CAMRA, sourced from the excellent book 'Ciderology' by Gabe Cook.
West country style – tannic cider apples from the West of England and Monmouthshire. These are the traditional cider making varieties that have rich tannins but also bring some acidity and fruitiness, creating softness and balance. These ciders have a balance of acidity, bitterness, astringency, sweetness and fruitiness. They leave a broad, layered and complex mouthfeel with a long aftertaste.
Eastern counties style – ciders made from eating, cooking and heirloom apples. Urban ciders are now also being made from domestic gardens. The predominant characteristic of this style is crisp or sour acidity, but with appropriate sweetness to balance and potentially some light tannin. These ciders range from light and vibrant to soft and textured on the palate, but normally with a short to mid aftertaste.
Traditional Perry – made using traditional perry pear varieties typical of the ‘Three Counties’ (Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire) and Monmouthshire. They are different from dessert pears by the presence of tannins, providing greater boldness and astringency. Lighter in weight than cider, florality and fruitiness dominate and the added presence of citric acid allows for a range of fruity flavours. Perry pears also contain sorbital, an unfermentable sugar, ensuring that perry retains a natural sweetness.
Local ciders – there are now a range of ciders available from within a 50mile distance of Manchester. These are generally ‘Eastern Counties Style’ ciders. Some northern orchards are now growing traditional cider apple varieties for extra tannins, but the ciders made using these west country varieties retain a distinctive northern character.
Other styles include distinctive French (Normandy and Britanny), Spanish, Ice Ciders (modern sweet ciders of higher alcohol level which originated in Quebec) and flavoured ciders (whether by the addition of fruits and flowers, herbs and spices, hops, or barrel influenced).