Halfpenny​ Green Crown Cidre Bouché

It’s time for English cider! Tony of the Halfpenny Green Cider Co, based in Bobbington, West Midlands, UK is a truly unique cider maker. His background in engineering allowed him to develop a new cidermaking method combining the best bits of English and French cidre making techniques with the sparkling wine production method. Tony briefly explained to me what his process is about and trust me, it sounds very interesting and does seem to be a bit complicated. I told Tony that he should share his method with others. So perhaps there will be a cider making-course to attend soon? The Halfpenny​ GreenCrown Cidre Bouche is a medium bottle conditioned cider.Company: Halfpenny Green Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Farthingdales, Crab Lane, Bobbington, West Midlands, UK
Apples: cider apples from local orchards
Sweetness as per label: medium sweet
ABV: 8%
Package type: 750 ml clear glass champagne corked and wired bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute or wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with a very large very slowly dissipating white head. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is very strong. Literally pours out of the bottle. Bittersweet cider apples, smokiness, tannic, smoked apricots and hints of funk. Also, red apple skins or red ripe apples.

Taste: my first impression is lightly sweet with only low acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate a note of caramel, a touch of alcohol, low bitterness of burnt caramel and smokiness, Very light astringency. Finishes with a lingering note of burnt caramel and bitterness of apple seeds mixed with caramel, distant lemon and gentle smokiness.

Overall: the scent literally pours out of the bottle. It’s that powerful and really beautiful. Taste-wise, not very rich but once the absolutely phenomenal caramel bitterness appears, which is extremely longlasting you feel the heaven is near. Fortunately, the caramel note goes on and on. It never really stops making each sip an extraordinary experience. Again, I shared this bottle with a friend and she had a similar opinion to mine: the taste could be richer but the caramel note is absolutely mindblowing! Nevertheless, it is the whole impression that counts the most. So the Crown is getting 5 out of 6 from me. Well done, Tony! Looking forward to your future developments. I could definitely have this cider more often. 5/6

Availability: directly through Halfpenny Green Cider Co.

Price: a sample was provided by Tony from the Halfpenny Green Cider Co. 

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Cidrerie du Château de Lézergué Rosé

Some of you may think that rosé cider is synonymous with summer. I prefer to think that every season is good for cider. The only difference is that in winter you have to learn to appreciate it indoors. Today’s Rosé cidre was crafted by Cidrerie du Château de Lézergué from Brittany.Company: Cidrerie du Chateau de Lezergue
Place of Origin: Ergué-Gabéric, Cornouaille, Brittany, France
Apples: 
locally grown cidre apples
ABV:
 3%
Package type: 
750ml clear glass champagne corked and wired bottle
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass, chalice glass, flute or bollée

Appearance: pours a clear orange with reddish hues and a white head that very quickly dissipates. Medium carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong and very sweet with notes pink apples, strawberries and wild strawberries.

Taste: my first taste is very sweet of strawberry with low to medium acidity of strawberry. Red apples and strawberries on the mid-palate. Finishes with a flavour of strawberry.

Overall: in a way, the Cidrerie du Château de Lézergué Rosé is very one-dimensional. All I could get, both on the nose and on the palate was a fantastic and hypnotizing flavour of strawberry. Actually, I don’t recall having such a fruity and powerful Rosé dominated by strawberry before. What I also enjoyed was the fruitiness, which rounded up this cidre and created balance and harmony in this cidre. But to me, this Rosé was still too sweet and as the temperature started to rise, I could barely finish it due to high sweetness. So you can’t drink much of it. Probably a smaller bottle would be a better idea for such a sweet offering. I shared this bottle with a friend and it took us a while to finish it. Taken together, it’s a good cider with a mindblowing strawberry note so if you are looking for a tasty and sweet strawberry in a bottle, this should be your pick. 4.5/6 

Availability: mainly in Brittany, France.

Price: a sample of this cidre was provided by Lucian from Cidrerie du Château de Lézergué.

Ramborn Vintage Luxembourg Perry 2017 Harvest

Ramborn Cider from Luxembourg has just released six different limited edition ciders and one perry. I’m one of the lucky ones who received samples of these exquisite products. I’ll kick off with the Ramborn Vintage Luxembourg Perry 2017 harvest. As a refresher, Luxembourgish perry pears are famous for their high tannin content. Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Pears: traditional pear varieties including Nelchesbirne and Mostbirne
ABV: 6.1%
Package type: 750ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with an orange hue and a large short-lived white foam. Medium artificial carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the scent is strong and aromatic with notes of ripe pear, green apples, vinegar, bubblegum and herbal notes.

Taste: it begins lightly sweet with a strong tannic kick and very low acidity. Notes of ripe pears, low vinegary notes, a bit watery, strong astringency on the mid-palate. Finishes dry and quite fast with persistent astringency, a light note of caramel and a touch of fresh cucumber.

Overall: the astringency of Luxembourgish perry pears will never stop amazing me. The Ramborn perry starts with a strong tannic kick, which stays as the tannin is detectable throughout the whole sip. Sadly, the taste is short and finishes quickly. Only the mouth-puckering astringency stays almost forever. In addition, the perry tastes slightly watery. It’s not a bad offering but I have the impression that ageing didn’t do well to this perry.   Ramborn’s perry from their regular lineup is much more appealing. In summary, worth trying as the astringency is very special but the overall taste impression is unfortunately average. 3/6

Availability: in Luxembourg from Ramborn’s farm.

Price: Perry was sent to me by Ramborn Cider Co for testing.

Antidoot Na de Val Cider 2017/2018

I’m not easy to surprise. But seeing a bottle of Belgian cider that I haven’t heard of before in my favourite cider spot in Berlin, the Muted Horn was a huge and pleasant surprise. Antidoot is made up by two brothers based in Kortenaken, Flemish Brabant, Belgium who brew beer, make cider and experiment with anything that can be fermented. I’m reviewing their Na de Val, cider made with Belgian and Normandy apples (50/50) and aged in Bordeaux barrels. Two ingredients were used for this cider, apple juice and sugar to create natural bubbles in the bottle. Company: Antidoot
Place of Origin: Kortenaken, Flemish Brabant, Belgium
Apples: 
a 50/50 blend of Belgian and Normandy apples
ABV:
 7.2%
Package type: 
750ml green glass champagne corked and wired bottle
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy pale orange with a little white head that quickly dissipates. Medium carbonation. Body is low. Some sediment in the bottle.

Aroma/Nose: weak scent. grapefruit, pomelo, medicinal. lightly sweet. Notes of funk. yeasty.

Taste: it starts dry with a touch of sweetness, high astringency and moderate acidity of lemon and grapefruit. Followed by fresh yellow tart apples, smokiness, notes of coconut and pineapple. Finishes with light astringency, notes of bitterness, coconut and fresh apple.

Overall: this is the oddest cider I have had so far. I’m fascinated actually. Na de Val doesn’t taste like any cider I’m familiar with. And, it’s not so easy these days to surprise me. Na de Val is like a blend of lambic with French cidre and a small amount of the Stonewall Nohoval Apple Oak Wine I had recently. There are many interesting notes that change over time. It’s like excavating an archaeological object and learning more about it with every sip. Admittedly, the taste could last longer and the nose could be stronger but the drinking experience is so intriguing that the length and the scent don’t seem to be relevant. Definitely worth trying. I’d love to have it again. 5/6

Availability: in Brussels from Fermenthings, in Amsterdam from Bierkoning. In Berlin in the Muted Horn.

Price: I had a 0.75L bottle at 19.50 EUR in the Muted Horn.

Highlights and The Top 10 Ciders of 2018

Another year comes to an end. Although I’ve never expected this, Cider Explorer has experienced fast growth this year and continued to spread the word about cider in Europe. 2018 was full of interesting activities and amazing learning experiences. Cider Explorer had the chance to attend the 5th Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, CiderWorld 2018 in Frankfurt and Slavnost Cideru 2018 in Prague. Also, I have visited cider makers such as Downeast Cider in Boston, Cydr Ignaców in Ignaców and a few cider makers based in Normandy.

In terms of achievements, Cider Explorer has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 40 Cider Blogs on the web making it to the 18th place. Also, award-winning writer and author at Imbibe, Susanna Forbes mentioned Cider Explorer in her book, The Cider Insider in the section on Germany, Italy & Elsewhere in Europe and in the Acknowledgments.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of this year and the greatest achievement was being selected as a jury member for the CiderWorld Awards 2018. It was an incredible honour and privilege that I have been asked to join the judging panel and I really never thought it could happen. Besides, at CiderWorld 2018 I had the chance to meet cider makers e.g. Tom Oliver and exchange thoughts on cider, cidermaking and the cider market. Actually,  Albert from Ross On Wye Cider & Perry Co. also invited me to be a guest judge at their Cider Competition in June 2018. Unfortunately, due to other obligations, I was unable to attend. Next year, perhaps?

Finally, I made a trip to Normandy, which helped me to understand how much work still has to be done in terms of cider education, a popularization of cider and changing the mindset of many cider makers. As cidermaking is not about lumping a number of apple varieties all in together. It’s about blending, taking what’s best about each fruit and creating a masterpiece in a bottle. As this is exactly how wine is made.

Last but not least, I am still overwhelmed by the positive feedback and many encouraging words that Cider Explorer received in 2018.

Thank you to those who made 2018 a successful year!

As for the best cider of 2018. In 2018, I’ve reviewed exactly 146 ciders from such European countries as Italy, Hungary, Poland, Russia or Switzerland. Not to mention the obvious cider countries such as the UK, France, Spain or Germany.  But I also got to try cider from Canada, the U.S., Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand. If we include around 30 ciders tried during the CiderWorld Awards 2018, at various cider events and during cider visits, I trust the number of sampled ciders would exceed 300. Hence, putting together a list of the top ten best ciders of 2018 is very challenging. I’ve selected ciders that either stood out, impressed me most or which I found extremely quaffable. The ciders are in alphabetical order by cider maker. Cheers and a happy cider year 2018!

  • Abavas Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple, Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia, a blend of Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee, Serinka and Citra hops

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Opening the bottle of Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple releases citrusy and fruity aromas raising one’s curiosity. And, with your first taste, you hear angels sighing and I’m not exaggerating. A smooth combination of green unripe mango with yellow and green apples makes this cider decidedly moreish. With Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple, you won’t keep asking yourself, whether you’re drinking cider or beer. Brilliantly balanced cider that will please every cider purist, including myself. And, a must try for a cider lover. A masterpiece! For the full review click here

 

  • BlakStoc, Buddha’s Hand, Vienna, Austria, made with zest and albedo of kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon, Buddha’s Hand citron, orchard apple juice, Hopsteiner’s experimental Lemon Drop hops

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Buddha’s Hand is another hopped cider that managed to the top 10 of 2018. It’s a phenomenal citrusy blend, which is extremely refreshing, and acidic but without the sourness. I enjoyed every single sip full of richness while it lasted. Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider has a structure, great taste and power. It’s a hopped cider with the wow effect. For the full review click here. 

 

 

 

  • Cidrerie Daufresne, Cidre Brut, Ouilly-Le-Vicomte, Normandy, France, a blend of 80% bittersweet apple varieties (Bisquet, Noêl des Champs and Domaine) and 20% sharp apples (Rambault)

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Cidre Brut from Cidrerie Daufresne is like combining all your all-time favourite desserts in one treat. Luscious notes of dark bitter chocolate with vanilla, baked apples and oranges are simply mind-blowing. It’s extremely drinkable with many layers of delicious flavours that you uncover with each sip. Clear notes and rich palate make it a delicious cidre suitable for everyone. For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Cydr Ignaców, Sicero 2016, Ignaców, Masovia, Poland, a blend of Kaiser Wilhelm, Bohnapfel, Ribston Pippin, Landsberger Reinette and other old apple varieties

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I have never had such a strong craving for other Polish cider than for the Cydr Ignacow Sicero 2016. If served at the right temperature (lightly chilled) and right glassware (e.g. in a pint glass), Sicero is one hell of a cider. Lovely caramel notes, burnt caramel-like bitterness and smokiness make you feel like you are drinking very drinkable English cider of great quality but with a character of Polish apples. A lovely drop that I can’t stop thinking about. For the full review click here

 

 

  • Domaine Lesuffleur, Pyrrus 2016, La Folletière-Abenon, Normandy, France, a blend of three secret apple varieties

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Actually, the whole cider lineup of Domaine Lesuffleur deserves to be included in the Top Ten of 2018. But if I had to limit myself to only one offering, it would be the Pyrrhus 2016. Pyrrhus is a wonderful, smooth and elegant cidre with a nicely balanced sweetness, light acidity and lovely notes of apples and bitter caramel. True champagne among cidre. Once you try it, it is difficult to go back to other cidre from Normandy.

  • Dunkertons, Breakwells Seedling, Pembridge, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK, made with Breakwells Seedling

img_9231Although the Dunkerton Breakwells Seedling Cider is a single-varietal cider, it has a lovely complexity. Strong tannins, wild notes and flavours of fruity, crisp yet sweet and juicy red apples with citrus notes are simply amazing and make this cider extremely drinkable. It’s a cider to sip at a slow pace rather and than drinking without stopping. For the full review click here.

 

 

 

  • Floribunda, Apfel-Cider, Salorno, South Tyrol, Italy, a blend of Pilot, Gold Rush and Topaz

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The more you drink the Floribunda Apfel-Cider the more the taste comes through and more unique aromas and flavours you get to discover. The flavours might be not strong, but they are clearly there and transform all the time into completely new flavours that weren’t there just a minute ago. Set of flavours on both, the nose and the palate are really special.  The Floribunda Apfel-Cider is a light and aromatic cider for connaisseurs, for those who take time and deeply explore what they drink. I loved it and can’t forget it. For the full review click here

 

  • Highbank Orchards, Medieval Cider, Farmley, Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny, Ireland, a blend of Irish apples and honey

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The Highbank Orchards Medieval Cider is an ultra-tasty sweet (but not overly sweet) that starts with a gentle lick of sweetness, followed by a strong lingering tannic kick with a touch of red apples. The addition of honey gives extra flavours to an already tasty cider made from cider apples.  It will go well on a summer afternoon but also in the winter due to the cinnamon flavour. Excellent cider. For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Oliver’s Fine Cider, Gold Rush #5, Ocle Pochard, Herefordshire, UK, a blend of vintage bittersweet and sharp cider apples

img_9756Tom Oliver and Ryan Burk at their best. Their Gold Rush #5 is a rather light cider with a beautiful and rich array of aromas and proper cider components such as tannins, notes of funk, a very long and extremely pleasant aftertaste with refreshing grapefruit notes.  It’s like a great play, filled with twists and turns. Its magnificent flavour is strong, lingers on and on and you don’t want it to stop. However, I can imagine it won’t be a cider for everyone due to notes of funk and strong tannins. For me, it was a pure joy in a glass. For the full review click here.

 

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The Pirn’sche Kälterei ApfelGold Apfel 2016 has a beautiful, strong and complex aroma so every time you take a sniff you discover a new delicious flavour. The palate is similarly complex with great depth and beautiful array of flavours like rum or sour cherries that last very long. Just like with the aroma, you discover a new flavour with every taken sip. The Pirn’sche Kälterei ApfelGold Apfel 2016 is a liquid gold made with Saxonian apples. For the full review click here.

 

Cidrerie du Léguer Premium

Cedric Le Bloas from Cidrerie du Léguer located in Lannion, Brittany, France is one of the friendliest and adorable cider makers I had the pleasure to speak with. Once I planned for my trip to Normandy, Cedric offered to bring me a box of cider so I could share it with my friends as he was visiting a friend in Domfront, Normandy at the same time. The meeting and passing the box never happened as my agenda was just too busy but I can’t help but like Cedric. His orchards are organic and untreated. In addition, Cedric makes his cidre just like his ancestors did. What’s not to like?Company: Cidrerie du Léguer
Place of Origin: Lannion, Brittany, France
Apples: 
organic apples grown in Brittany
ABV:
 5%
Package type: 
750ml amber glass champagne corked and wired bottle
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear vivid pale orange with a little white head that quickly dissipates. Medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: moderately strong scent. On the nose fresh apples, skins of red apples, apricots, caramel, nutmeg flesh, dried fruits, a bit floral with orange and distant wood.

Taste: my first taste is slightly sweet with low acidity and spicy of fresh nutmeg flesh. Followed by smokiness, red apples, apple stems, low to medium astringency and caramel. Finishes with a note of caramel and caramel bitter with hints of green notes.

Overall: the first bottle of Premium sent to me by Cedric, had barely any carbonation and tasted sweet. Cider somehow didn’t ferment in the bottle. It happens sometimes so I didn’t want to post the review at the time as it wasn’t how this cidre is supposed to taste like. Fortunately, the second bottle provided by Cedric had bubbles and tastes how it should. It had an intense and longlasting taste, yet overall it was light. I thought it was still sweet but not sweet enough to call it too sweet. Just enough. The Premium had interesting lightly spicy notes of nutmeg flesh, smooth tannins and a unique touch of caramel bitterness, which I was especially fond of. Also, I thought it was very food friendly. The Premium is a cider I could have more often. 5/6

Availability: in the Netherlands from Pomme d’Or.

Price: a sample of this cidre was provided by Cedric from Cidrerie du Léguer

OBC Cidre Classic

When you are in Berlin, sooner or later you will have to try the range of OBC Cidre featuring Classic, Strong, Rosé and Bio manufactured by Original Berliner Cidre as they are available in almost every shop, bar or restaurant in Berlin. Most probably due to the fact that it is the first cider manufactured in Berlin. After their Strong, Rosé and Bio the time has come to sample the last one, Classic.Company: OBC-Cidre GmbH
Place of Origin: BerlinGermany
Ingredients: fermented apple juice carbon dioxide, sulphites
ABV: 3%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a white quickly dissipating fizz. Low artificial carbonation. Low body.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is weak with notes of ripe pear, apple juice from yellow and red apples and a hint typical for cider made from concentrate.

Taste: it begins slightly sweet with moderate acidity of green apples such as Granny Smith. On the mid-palate a smoky note, green and yellow apples. The finish is dry and short leaving a note of citric acid.

Overall: I almost can’t believe that this cider contains only fermented apple juice, carbon dioxide and sulphites. For cider with ABV of barely 3%, it is not really sweet. Also, I can get a hint typical for cider made from concentrate. And, it finishes quickly leaving a note of citric acid. All this made me quite suspicious. Leaving these features behind, OBC is drinkable but drinking it is not pleasurable. It’s almost like drinking a non-alcoholic bubbly for kids. It’s ok but I wouldn’t buy it again. People of Berlin deserve much better cider than this! 2.5/6 

Availability: you can find OBC products in every Späti in Berlin (‘Späti’ is a term used in Berlin for a small corner shop/kiosk open 24/7 selling beer, milk, candies, etc). In addition, you can find OBC in Ambrosetti or KaDeWe. Online from Getränke Hoffman, Durst Express and Weinquelle Hornig.

Price: OBC Cidre Bio was a sample provided by Ciderei.