Hoxton Cidersmiths Michelin & Brown’s

It is not uncommon that a new business starts because someone is not satisfied with products currently on the market. This is how Hoxton Cidersmiths was founded. Will Austin and Phillip Warren are two school friends, who complained a lot about the taste of cider they had in various London pubs (I can totally relate to this) and after a longer while decided to make an ‘interesting cider’, as they call it, themselves.

Company: Hoxton Cidersmiths 
Place of Origin:
London, UK
Apples:
a blend of Michelin and Brown’s and other apple varieties
ABV:
 4.5%
Package type:
500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass:
pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden/ pale amber with no head. The fizz is short-lived and I think it’s artificial. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: smells of red apple skins, sweet and tart red apple flesh with notes of caramel and still fermenting apples. Also, distant funky notes with barnyard and beeswax.

Taste: It starts with low to moderate sweetness and watery taste with moderate acidity. The mid-palate is tart with light smoky note of ham with fruity flavors of red berries, especially strawberries. Additionally, I can taste notes of red apples and distant funky notes. The finish is dry with lingering flavor of tart apples and slightly sour berries. No bitter notes.

Overall: The Michelin and Brown’s is a refreshing and easy drinking cider, but still complex and nicely balanced. Interestingly, I didn’t find the watery flavor disturbing in this cider. On the contrary, I quite enjoyed it. Moreover, refreshing flavors of red fruits and other berries make it a great thirst quencher. Guys, you made it. Your cider is indeed ‘interesting’. I enjoyed the Michelin & Brown’s and I’m looking forward to have it again on a hot summer day. 4.5/6 

Availability: Most UK retailers, who had Hoxton Cidersmiths’ cider on offer, are out of stock. At the moment, the only cider shop, known to me, stocking Hoxton Cidersmith’s cider is Ciderlab.

Price: purchased online from Ciderlab at 4.67 EUR.

Joker Cider

If you follow my blog you might have read my last post about Slavnost Cideru 2017. I promised there to review the best cider of this cider festival next. The winner of the online voting for the best cider of Slavnost cideru 2017 is Joker Cider from Czech Republic. Not only it won the festival, Joker Cider has received majority of votes, leaving craft cider makers far behind. Not sure how to comment on this, as Joker cider is made from apple and pear juice concentrate. Inspired by modern cider in the UK,  but made from Czech apples and pears fermented with a selected white wine yeast strain with no funk typical for French cidre. This is what you can find on their website. Scroll down for my tasting notes and overall impression.

Picture below is courtesy of @SlavnostCideru.

Company: Joker Cider
Place of Origin: Kostelec nah Orlicí, Czech Republic
Apples & pears: Czech apple varieties from concentrate
Sweetness as per label: semi-sweet
ABV: 5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with no head. Lightly carbonated.

Aroma/Nose: smells of regular apple and pear juice with a hint typical for apple juice concentrate. This is all I am getting here.

Taste: Although they claim it’s semi-sweet, it starts very sweet, with a flavor typical for apple juice concentrate. The level of acidity is very low, which makes this cider tasting overly sweet. Most probably old apple varieties were used as there is a gentle astringency in the aftertaste along with apple and pear juice concentrate flavor. That’s it.

Overall: For my palate Joker Cider tastes absolutely horrible. It’s a sickly sweet tasting industrial cider with flavors of apple & pear juice and terrible notes typical for apple and pear juice from concentrate. I’ve been really giving it some thought, why the majority of visitors of Slavnost Cideru 2017 could have found the Joker Cider most appealing. I see two possible explanations here. First explanation is that the Joker Cider fits in a trend created by mass-market brands such as Somersby or Rekorderlig as the Joker Cider tastes sweet and appley with no funky flavors. Perhaps consumers look for products resembling  what they already tried before. Furthermore, Joker Cider is made locally in Czech Republic and doesn’t taste as watery, so could be considered as local alternative to the Scandinavian mass-market brands. Second explanation is that online voting systems are often not reliable as they can be artificially manipulated. Those extremely large voting counts look slightly suspicious. Don’t you think? Anyway, if you are looking for real cider, you will not find it in a bottle of Joker Cider. 1/6 

Availability: many bars and restaurants in Prague, Brno, Liberec and other large cities in Czech Republic.

Price: sampled at Slavnost Cideru 2017, 0.2L (25CZK =1 EUR)

Slavnost Cideru 2017: a visit summary

Beautiful architecture, great food or breathtaking views are not only reasons to visit Prague. Since 2016 there is one more reason called Slavnost Cideru, which means Cider Festival or Cider Feast in Czech. Cider festivals are still rare in Central and Eastern Europe so when I saw Prague on a list of cider festivals compiled by Cider Guide-Eric West, I knew I had to take part in it. This years’ event took place on June 16-18 2017.

LOCATION

Slavnost Cideru is situated in the heart of Prague at Smíchovská Náplavka, on the bank of the Vltava’s river. The location was absolutely perfect as you could sit on a wooden bench, enjoy the view and sip your cider in the sunshine. img_6958

TICKETS

To enter the festival you had to purchase a ticket at 50 CZK (1.90 EUR), if bought at the entrance. The ticket was valid for the all three festival days. In addition, there was a 2-for-1 offer at selected cider spots in Prague and online through Cool Ticket app, if festival tickets were bought in advance. Unfortunately, the app seems to work only in Czech Republic as I downloaded the app but couldn’t purchase the tickets. However, I liked the idea of discounted ticket prices when bought in advance as it made you visit a shop or a bar selling cider, and take advantage of this visit by purchasing cider. I bought my 2-for-1 tickets in the InCider Bar, a cider bar in Prague one day before Slavnost Cideru.

I really liked the idea that at the entrance everyone has received a brochure with a short introduction about participating cider makers.

50 CZK (1.90 EUR) is not much. But, I must make a comment here that at exactly the same time, but on the other side of the Vltava’s river, a craft beer festival was running and there was no entrance fee as such. However, if I’m not wrong you had to purchase a festival glass in order to buy beer there at all.

CIDER MAKERS

This year’s event hosted more cider makers than last year so you can see that the Czech cider scene is really blooming. Visitors were able to try a range of different ciders, mainly from Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hundreds of cider lovers could sample ciders from Opre’ Cider, Cider Magnetic Apple, Tatuv Sad, Sigelsberg, Carboy Cidre, A.K. Cider, Cider Bohemia, Cidre 99, Vinarstvi Mühlberger, Royal Dog Cider, Redbrook, Joker Cider, Divoké jablko, Kastler, Sigr z Jabka or Martin’s Cider. Additionally, you could purchase bottled F.H. Prager (perry) and BB Cidre or F.H. Prager (cider) and Rychnovsky on draught at Opily Jabko’s booth, an online cider shop, whereas InCider Bar had Pan Jablicko and Johannes Cyder on draught and bottled Cidre Kliment. I basically felt like in the largest Prague’s cider bar.


For those, who wanted to try cider from other countries than Czech Republic and Slovakia, English cider, French cider or Spanish sidra from, respectively Aspall, Dunkertons, Louis Raison, Val de Rance, El Gaitero and The Good Cider were available.


To my surprise, also commercial brands such as Strongbow, Somersby, Rekorderlig or local Kingswood were present. I get it, every festival needs a sponsor.

Drinkers could sip also other beverages than cider such as Czech beer, whisky from Tullamore Dew matured in cider casks. There was also a bar serving other alcoholic beverages. 

You could even get to try a freshly pressed apple juice at InCider Bar’s stand.

BEST FESTIVAL’S CIDER

Cider drinkers could vote online for the best cider of the festival. To my surprise, it was Joker Cider that was voted the best cider of Slavnost Cideru 2017. I will try to explain, why I find this result surprising in my next blog post. So stay tuned.

Picture below is courtesy of Slavnost Cideru.

Here are my personal favorite ciders from Slavnost Cideru 2017:

A.K.Cider: Sweet Strong followed by Jadrnicka. Both naturally tasting and really delicious. In addition, their Medium-Sweet was my favorite cider at Slavnost Cideru 2016.   

Divoke Jablko: Demi-Sec followed by Brut. Brut had a light watery taste, whereas Demi-Sec tasted slightly sweeter, which rounded up the taste. I haven’t tried their Barrel Aged cider yet.

Sigr z Jabka: Polosuchy. I have reviewed this cider here. It’s strange that they disappeared on Sunday, which was the last day of the festival.

In general, most of the ciders that I tried tasted rather average, some of them even terrible. Since there were more cider makers than last year I expected also proportionally more decent cider. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Perhaps next year’s event will be better in terms of quality and taste of cider.

FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT

Every festival includes musical entertainment and food for purchase. Kaiser Franz, Mikro Farma, Angelato and many others served up burgers, cider steaks, hot dogs, ice cream and other goodies.

In terms of music, there was a DJ playing some club/house music. On the other side of the river, where the craft beer festival simultaneously was running, I saw that they build a stage and bands were performing. I’d prefer a live band performance to a DJ playing. I just think that listening to a band is more fun than listening to club music. In addition, bands create better cider drinking atmosphere.

Besides the cider drinking you could get creative by painting your own brown glass cider bottle. It also kept the kids busy. Also, you could take a picture in a sort of wooden frame and tag yourself on social media. I found this idea really cool!

Overall, I think the organizers took good care of the food and entertainment part. There were no very long queues to get the food. Also, everyone could find something that would satisfy hers/his taste buds.



FINAL REMARKS

Usually when I attend a festival there are talks done about cider making, introduction to cider processes for beginners or current trends in the cider scene. This part was missing here. Even though I don’t speak Czech I think it could be interesting for other participants to learn how cider is made and what a challenge it is to make cider in this part of Europe. Big applause for InCider Bar as they at least presented how to press apple juice using apple press.

Furthermore, you could only drink cider from disposable plastic glasses. Don’t know how about you, but drinking anything from a plastic glass is a no-go for me. Especially, cider. Not to mention how it impacts the environment. I asked Vašek from InCider Bar about the reason for pouring cider into a plastic glass. Apparently according to Czech Regulations your booth has to be equipped with water supply for cleaning of glasses, if you want to use glasses made of glass. Since it was not feasible to arrange for water supply, only disposable plastic glasses were allowed. Somehow the craft beer festival on the other side of the Vltava’s river has solved this problem. If there are financial reasons behind it, then perhaps it would be an idea for the next year to get an extra funding from the Government to reduce the plastic caps litter and use glass instead? Environmental friendly festival is also a way of promoting the event and getting sponsors on board.

What I found surprising, comparing to other festivals I attended, is that the vast majority of cider makers, with an exception of Tatuv Sad and Redbrook, didn’t sell any T-shirts, glasses or other stuff. Tatuv Sad/Redbrook were the only cider makers offering such merchandise products. Why do I think it’s important? Firstly, it promotes cider culture and makes your brand recognisable. Secondly, it is an extra money for the company that can be used to invest in the production process, marketing, etc. T-Shirts or cider glasses don’t have an expiry date! If you don’t sell everything at this event there will be another picnic, brunch or food festival, hence, another occasion to sell it. I strongly encourage to consider this. As for now only Tatuv Sad/Redbrook understand the importance of brand promotion.

As for Tatuv Sad’s cider glass, I found the design really nice! The only reason why I didn’t buy it is that the glass didn’t have a volume marking. Meaning, I wouldn’t be able to bring it to another event as nobody would know how much cider to pour in.

img_6966SUMMARY

Summarizing, Slavnost Cideru 2017 was an unforgettable experience and a great cider festival. I’ve sampled a number of delicious ciders in a very friendly atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. I have learned a lot about Czech cider as well. Also, Slavnost Cideru gave me an opportunity to meet cider makers and discuss about cider with other cider aficionados like me. I’m looking forward to next year’s edition!

Perry’s Grey Heron

The Perry family has been making cider since 1920, when William Churchill acquired the farm in Somerset. The cider-making business was later taken over by his nephews Henry and Bert Perry, who gave the cidery their name and started experimenting with cider. Judging by the number of awards that the Perry family and their ciders won only in 2016 you can tell that they know what they are doing. It’s my first time sampling Perry’s cider. I have decided to start with the Grey Heron, which won silver in the Taste of the West Awards 2017.


Company: Perry’s Cider
Place of Origin: The Cider Mills, Dowlish Wake, Somerset, UK
Apples: a blend of Redtreak and Dabinett apples grown at our Knowles St Giles Orchard
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 500ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a hazy pale orange with a white head, which only slowly dissipates. Lightly sparkling.

Aroma/Nose: notes of barnyard, beeswax, leather on the nose with a hint of both red and fermented apples and a delicate honey note.

Taste: the palate begins with medium sweetness and low to moderate acidity with a touch of lemon. The mid-palate has funky notes with red apple skins and seeds and a hint of smoke. The tannin has a lot of grip to it as it makes your lips stick to your teeth. The finish is dry and astringent with a delicate touch of grapefruit-like bitterness.

Overall: Grey Horn has just become one of my favorite ciders. Extremely rich in terms of flavors and beautifully balanced. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the relatively high sweetness in the Grey Horn. Moreover, the aroma and the palate reminded me slightly of French cidre. I think, however, that the abundant tannin and the mouth drying affect might not appeal to everyone. I found the Grey Horn extremely drinkable and tasty and I could imagine having it over and over again. Delicious! 5.5/6 

Availability: from their online shop, Orchard BoxBristol Cider Shop, Love to BrewFetch the Drinks, Brewers Droop, Beers by Post. In Denmark online from Klosterbryggeriet and in Germany from Ciderhof,

Price: came with my cider subscription delivered monthly by Orchard Box.

Sigr z Jabka Polosuchy

Sigr z Jabka Polosuchy is one of the ciders that I sampled during Slavnost Cideru 2017, a Cider Festival held in Prague. I must say that Sigr was one of a few ciders I really enjoyed at this event. I wanted to have their cider again on Sunday (the last day of the festival), but they have already left leaving me with plenty of questions about them and their cider. Therefore, all I was able to find about them is that Sigr was founded only in 2016 in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic.


Company: Sigr z jabka
Place of Origin: Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic
Apples: unknown
Sweetness as per label: semi-dry
ABV: 6%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no head. Lightly carbonated.

Aroma/Nose: on the nose gentle vinegary flavor with funky notes of barnyard, leather and beeswax. Also, some red apples and fermented apples.

Taste: it starts slightly sweet with low to medium acetic-acidity and a solvent-like taste. On the mid-palate fermented apples with both green and red apples. Also, notes of barnyard, beeswax and leather perceivable. The finish is dry with gentle astringent and slightly bitter notes.

Overall: Sigr z Jabka polosuchy is a very drinkable and decent cider. It’s complex, only slightly sweet and despite funky and solvent-like flavors very smooth. Hence, it should appeal to almost everyone. As mentioned earlier, one of my favorites at the festival. My friend, who I shared Sigr with, was also delighted. Definitely worth a purchase! On a side note, I hope that I don’t have to wait another year for the next edition of Slavnost Cideru to drink Sigr again. 4.5/6 

Availability: online from Opily jabko. Every now and then available at InCider Bar in Prague. Also in La Kavarna and Q Burger in Jablonec nad Nisou.

Price: had it at Slavnost Cideru 2017, a cider festival in Prague (0.2L at 25 CZK – 1 EUR)

Westons Stowford Press Export

Stowford Press Export from Westons is one of the most widely available cider on draught in Germany and I think around Europe as well. It was blended first over 30 years ago and initially was given a name ‘Vat 53’. However, I don’t think that today’s Stowford Press has a lot in common with the ‘Vat 53’ made back then.

Company: Westons Cider
Place of Origin:
Much Marcle, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: 
100% local home-pressed apples
Sweetness as per label: dry

ABV:
 4.5%
Package type: 
draught
Recommended type of glass:
pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a little foamy head. Almost still. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: not so much on the nose apart from the smell of fermented apples, green apple and some funk

Taste: it starts watery and dry with moderate to high citric acid-acidity (it doesn’t taste like lemon though). Also, I can taste a light smoky flavor and a refreshing green apple flesh note. No bitterness or tartness. Where did all the tannins go?

Overall:  I think that Stowford Press Export is quite drinkable and refreshing, but not worth the money. You can actually taste that malic or citric acid was added. Also, there is no sign of tannins on the palate. I wonder whether they used cider apples at all. Overall, Stowford Press Export was ok and most probably will appeal to the mass consumer, but I don’t think I would buy it again. However, it still tasted better than Magners or Bulmers. 2/6

Availability: very broad. Almost every Irish Pub in Germany and probably also in other European countries has it on tap.

Price: paid 4.70 EUR at The Corkonian Irish Pub in Cologne, Germany.

Val de Rance Cru Breton Cidre Doux

Val de Rance is a scenic area in Brittany, France famous for the best cider – there are around 450 cidre producers and large apple orchards. Val de Rance is, also, a name of a cidery located in Pleudihen-sur-Rance (which is also known as Capitale du Cidre, the capitol of cidre) producing cidre, which I am going to review today. Their Cru Breton Cidre Doux has been awarded Medaille d’Or from the ‘Concours General Agricole’ in Paris in 2014.

Company: Val de Rance
Place of Origin: Pleudihen-sur-Rance, Brittany, France
Apples: cider apples
ABV: 2%
Package type: 750ml green glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: flute

Appearance: pours a clear deep orange with a huge white head, which diminishes after only a few minutes.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is dominated by fresh wood notes with red and green apple skins and flesh to a lesser extent. Also, some sweetness and light sourness with a touch of pear.

Taste: It’s way too sweet with low acidity and refreshing flavor of red apple skins and flesh. The mid-palate is, again, dominated by wood notes, followed by moderate astringency on the tongue. The finish has medium to high astringency, again with a touch of bitterness.

Overall: I usually prefer Brut over Doux as I am not a fan of sweetness. But I hosted a friend, who has a sweet tooth, so I decided to purchase Doux for this evening. Interestingly, the Val de Rance Doux was too sweet even to my friend :-). I think the level of acidity is just too low to balance out the sweetness. Moreover, the taste of wood overpowers other flavors and tanins leave you with a feeling of dry mouth. The taste reminded me slightly of other mainstream cidre I reviewed previously, Loïc Raison Cidre Bouché Breton Brut, but the Val de Rance cidre tasted slightly richer. I think that Val de Rance Brut should be better for my liking. 3.5/6 

Availability: widely available. Masecori-Shop, Opily Jabko, Emadeinfrance, InCider Bar or Chai de l’amour.

Price: purchased locally from Karstadt-Charlottenburg in Berlin at 2.99 EUR.