Mac Ivors Traditional Dry

Greg MacNeice is a Northern Irish specialist in Armagh Bramley apples, which were grown on the farm in County Armagh since 1855. In 2012, Greg has launched Mac Ivors Cider making a step from an apple grower to a cider maker. Today Mac Ivors Ciders is a successful family-owned and operated business, with a range of four ciders, featuring Traditional Dry, Medium, Plum & Ginger and Vintage Reserve.

I’m trying their Traditional Dry today, launched in 2012 and made from ten apple varieties, including Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey.

Greg’s Traditional Dry has picked up a number of awards, including the International Brewing & Cider Awards 2017 (Gold), Great Taste 2016 (Gold Star), National Trust Fine Farm Food Award 2017, Blas na h’Eireann Awards 2016, Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards 2015 (Silver) and National Trust Fine Farm Food Award 2017. Quite impressive!

Company: MacIvors Cider

Place of Origin: Ardress, Portadown, Armagh County, North Ireland, the UK
Apples: a blend of ten apple varieties incl. Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 5.8%
Package type: 500ml brown glass with crown cap

Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a tiny short-lived foam. Medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is fruity and exhibits notes of yellow apple, red apple, red berries. with wild hints and a distant note of sulphur.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet (rather medium dry than dry) with low to medium lemon-like acidity. Subsequently, notes of honey, yellow and red apple, moderate grapefruit-bitterness, light red berries and moderately astringent taste appear on the mid-palate. Also, I can pick up a light vinous and smoky note (only in the beginning). A lingering grapefruit skin-like bitterness with a slightly sharp taste and biting carbonation with a distant sulphur note in the aftertaste.

Overall: Dry from MacIvors is a very pleasant and refreshing everyday cider. It has a wide palate, full of fruity notes of apples and red berries. Also, red berries and lemon-like acidity with the crisp apple taste add freshness making the Dry a perfect Summer pour. On top of that, it’s a good entry cider as it’s tasty but not too dry or too sharp but still has depth. I wish their Dry was available in every Irish pub instead of the industrial Magners. Overall, a very nice Irish tipple. I could have it again. 4/6

Availability: widely available within the UK and Ireland, e.g. from Wines & Spirits or Emersons. In Germany from Bierkontor in Nuremberg, Bierothek LeipzigGetränkefeinkostDr. Hops, Uptown Coffee Bar and Olea in Leipzig, Getränkehandel Köthen  and The Shamrock – Irish Pub in Köthen, Fliese, Die Bierkanzlei and Rosis’s in Halle, Hopfenspeicher in Chemnitz, Der Shop am Hassel and Flowerpower in Magdeburg, Schankwirtschaft “Zur schwarzen Kunst” in Görlitz, Altes Handelshaus in Plauen, Landgasthof Dehnitz in Wurzen-Dehnitz, Getränkehandel Mierisch in Freital, Quedlinburger Wein- und Tabakhaus Trense in Quedlinburg. In Italy from Sidro & Cider. In France through Craft Cider Selection.

Price: MacIvors Dry was a sample provided by Greg from MacIvors Cider.

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Beard & Sabre Yardarm

Sailors favourite time of the day on the ship was just around 11am when the Sun passed the yardarm (the spar and mast to which the sails are set), and the first-morning drink was allowed. Hence, the Yardarm, a medium cider crafted by guys from a British cider maker Beard & Sabre is supposed to help you relax and enjoy the moment.

Yardarm is fermented for 6 months at room temperature with champagne yeast, subsequently undergoing malolactic fermentation.

Company: Beard and Sabre Cider Company 
Place of Origin: Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
Apples: a blend of cider apples
Level of Sweetness: medium
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a lightly cloudy amber with light orange hues and no head. No carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits notes of crisp and fresh red apple, fermented apple, caramel, vanilla, hints of funk and a very distant note of nail polish.

Taste: it begins with a medium sweetness and a note of a sweetener, followed by low to medium acidity (like biting into a crisp tart red apple). On the mid-palate notes of red apples, apple skin, a strong note of smoked cheese, oak, caramel and hints of lemon and funk. It finishes dry with a moderate astringent taste, red apple note and a sweetener-like taste with a very distant bitter note.

Overall: guys from Beard & Sabre have been producing consistently good cider at least based on my experience. Also, their Yardam is a very drinkable cider with a good level of tannins, lovely apple forward taste, nice sweetness and level of acidity (slightly higher than usually found in an English cider). All these flavours produce a refreshing and easy going cider suitable for everyone. Briefly, it tastes like a refreshing lemon iced tea, but with the buzz. Only the sweetener taste is a bit of a turn-off to me, but overall it is a really decent drop. I think I wouldn’t say no to another pint of the Yardam. 4/6  

Availability: Beard & Sabre attend many food festivals in the UK. Otherwise, check Eebria or Fetch the Drinks, I wasn’t able to find any other store outside the UK selling their cider.

Price: came with my Orchard Box subscription.

Cider Bohemia Barrique

When I posted the review of the Cannabis Cider from Cider Bohemia some were saying that I have to try their Barrique. I got intrigued and when the opportunity occurred I’ve purchased a bottle through a Czech online shop Opily Jabko. The Barrique is made from apples grown in the Pilsen area. After the apple juice is pressed out, it is fermented and after three months moved to new Slovenian oak barrels. Don’t know how about you but I can’t wait to try the Barrique!Company: Cider Bohemia
Place of Origin: Pilsen, Czech Republic
Apples: Czech apples from Pilsen area
Sweetness as per label: semi-sweet
ABV: 4.8%
Package type: 330 ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass of flute

Appearance: pours a lightly hazy straw yellow with a short-lived white head. Slightly sparkling. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rich and exhibits notes of ripe yellow apple and red apple, apple juice, apricot jam, peppermint with hints of vanilla, oak cask and lightly medicinal notes.

Taste: the initial taste is moderately sweet, with very low acidity. On the mid-palate crisp yellow and red apple, apple juice, elderflower, pear, vanilla, oak, a taste of oak cask and distant vinegar. It finishes dry with a distant peppermint, and a light medicinal and herbal taste to it.

Overall: indeed, the Barrique is one of the better tasting and most intriguing Czech ciders I have tried until now. It has many interesting and rare notes, has an apple-forward taste with unique and strong lingering oak cask notes in the aftertaste. However, I found the Barrique a bit too sweet to my palate, but if you prefer sweet ciders then I’m sure you’d be satisfied with this Czech cider. Summarizing, a nice cider with an extraordinary palate from Cider Bohemia. Definitely worth trying. 4/6 

Availability: at many food and farmers markets across The Czech Republic. Online from their online shop or Opily Jabko (they ship abroad!).

Price: purchased through Opily Jabko at 45 CZK (1.80 EUR)

7 Ciders for Valentine’s Day

February is here, which simply means that Valentine’s Day is getting nearer. I’ll solve your cider dilemma for this evening by picking seven versatile ciders packed in an elegant bottle. All ciders I’ve selected for this occasion are either sparkling or still and have a clear sophisticated taste suitable for every palate. Each of them has the right balance of sweetness/dryness, acidity, gentle tannins and lack of any notes that could be considered by some as unpleasant such as wild/barnyard, nail polish or vinegar. More importantly, all pair well with food that can be served at a romantic dinner. And, all are to die for.

Each cider is listed first by cidermaker, then by label name & year if applicable, region & country, and apple variety if known. 

img_7030Ramborn Cider, Avalon 2015, Luxembourg – a blend of 82 apple varieties

You can’t go wrong with any cider crafted by Caroline from Ramborn. But with the exquisite Avalon I assure you that the person to drink the Avalon will experience pure heaven with each sip. The Avalon is very well-balanced on the palate, with a long, and pleasant lingering finish. The level of both sweetness and acidity is just right. Moreover, the Avalon comes in an extremely inviting packaging, which makes it an elegant gift for this occasion. My personal recommendation. For the full review click here.

img_9192SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”, Premium Brut, Turkuma, Latvia – a blend of three Latvian apple varieties

Refreshing and balanced lemon-like acidity with a broad palate make the Premium Brut from Abavas indeed a perfect bubbly for a romantic candlelight dinner. Not to mention the beautiful bottle. Premium Brut tastes like a quality sparkling white wine made from white grapes with pleasant and refreshing notes of fresh apples. Since the Premium Brut is not too dry it can be appreciated by a wider audience. A very pleasant pour that will help to create a romantic atmosphere. For the full review click here

img_8527-1Gutshof Kraatz, Wilde Kerle 2016 – Uckermark, Germany – a cuvée of apples growing in the wild

Fruity, apple forward, with soft tannins, fruity apple forward palate along with exceptionally long and lingering aftertaste make this Apfelwin from Gutshof Kraatz an elegant evening companion. The Wilde Kerle is simply perfect if you want to impress your better half by serving an excellent tasting Apfelwein. Fantastic for slowly sipping will pair well with any kind of food. For the full review click here.

 

img_7574-2West Milton, Lancombe Rising – Dorset, UK – a cuvée of Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey

One of the few UK’s producers of keeved cider, West Milton created Lancombe Rising, a cider with an extraordinary and extremely rich palate of dried fruits, red apple and light citrus flavours with the right level of sweetness. Suitable for all palates. For the full review click here.

 

 

img_8231De Vergeten AppelMoesj 2016, North Brabant, the Netherlands – a cuvée of apples coming from MDe Bilt, Schijndel and Susteren

Due to high carbonation and a clear, vinous and fruity taste of the Moesj 2016 with notes of crisp apples and citruses I can easily name this Dutch cider crafted by the passionate cider-maker, Johan Holleman from De vergeten Appel, a prosecco among ciders. Moesj 2016 has the right level of acidity with a nice breadth of flavours that can be appreciated by everyone who decides to drink this beauty. Highly recommended! For the full review click here.

 

img_6238Doz de Dauzanges, Cidre Rosé, Normandy, France – a cuvée of apples and pears

With only 2% of ABV Cidre Rosé from Doz de Dauzanges is a pleasant and refreshing offering as it’s not too sweet due to the elegant red berries-like acidity balancing out the sweetness. Also, Cidre Rosé is suitable for those, who are looking for clear cider without notes of funk or strong tannins, are just looking for a change or want to finish the evening with a light bubbly. For the full review click here.

 

img_6525-1Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob Lebel, Schöner von Herrenhut and Kaiser Wilhelm

Both the palate and the nose of this Apfelschaumwein are intensely rich, with good structure and depth. Taste wise somewhere between French cidre, German Apfelwein and dry Champagne with a strong but balanced acidity. One of my picks for an enjoyable romantic dinner. For the full review click here.

 

Abavas Premium Brut

Premium Brut from Latvian Abavas is produced from three Latvian apple varieties. After pressing, the juice is fermented at low temperatures for eight months. I guess their efforts paid off since Premium Brut from Abavas has picked up the Pomme d’Or from the prestigious Apfelwein International 2017 in Frankfurt.

Company: SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”
Place of Origin: 
Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia
Apples: 
a blend of three Latvian apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: brut
ABV: 8.5%
Package type: 750ml wine bottle with natural cork
Recommended type of glass: flute or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw with a short-lived white head. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is fruity and vinous with notes of yellow apple, crisp green apple, and oak. In the background light green notes.

Taste: the initial taste is dry with a moderate lemon-like acidity. On the mid-palate lightly watery and vinous with notes of green apple, apple stems, a lightly smoky note with a subtle astringent taste. The finish is dry and a bit chalky with a lingering touch of lemon, crisp green apple with ripe yellow apple and distant bitterness.

Overall: a refreshing balanced acidity with a broad palate make the Premium Brut indeed to a premium product. Not to mention the beautiful bottle. Similarly to the previously reviewed Abolu Vins Sausais it tastes more like a quality sparkling white wine made from white grapes with pleasant and refreshing notes of fresh apples. Since the Premium Brut is not too dry it can be appreciated by a wider audience. A very pleasant pour to celebrate. 4.5/6 

Availability: in Finland from ALKO, in Sweden from all System Bolaget shops, In Belgium from Cideris, in the Netherlands from CiderCider, and in Latvia from Spirit & Wines.

Price: Premium Brut was a sample sent by Abavas.

Note: Abavas will attend the craft cider concept exhibition – “same but different” at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March 2018.

Orchard Pig Explorer

Orchard Pig, a cider maker from Somerset, seems to grow really fast as they already introduced three ranges of cider. The Explorer, The Navelgazer, and The Ginger & Chilli are available only on draught, whereas the Charmer and Truffler (see my review on the Truffler here) seem to be available only in bottles. The Reveller and the Hogfather, on the other hand, can be found both in kegs and bottles. There used to be the Philosopher once as I remember I tried it once, but it looks it was taken off the market. The Reveller is the only cider available in cans. What do you think of canned cider?

Today’s review is on the Explorer.Company: Orchard Pig
Place of Origin: Glastonbury, Somerset, UK
Apples: a blend of Somerset cider apples
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass 

Appearance: pours a clear golden body with a white long-lasting head. Lightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is sweet with notes of ripe yellow apples and more distant green notes. This is all I’m getting.

Taste: it starts very sweet with very low acidity. On the mid-palate apple juice, crisp yellow apple, pear, light bitterness with a slightly astringent taste. It get’s a bit chalky towards the finish with a light apple-seed bitterness and a note of sweet apple juice.

Overall: first of all, I want to stress that there was no acetic note simply because the Explorer was kegged. Secondly, I would classify this cider as sweet, not medium as it tastes like a sugar-loaded apple juice mixed with pear juice. The Explorer lacks any depth, so there is nothing to explore here. I honestly can’t explain where did the name come from as the Explorer is very boring. I guess it can be likeable if you enjoy sweet cider but if you are more dry cider oriented like I am, a pint of Explorer will be too much to drink. After a few sips, I gave the rest to my friend who prefers sweet cider. She thought the Explorer was ok, but nothing special either. 2.5/6

Availability: on draught in pubs around the UK. In bag-in-box from Fetch the Drinks, Weymouth Cider Company, Cider Supermarket or Matthew Clark.

Price: paid 5 GBP (5.67 EUR) in The Head of Steam in Liverpool.

5th Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018: visit recap

When I learned about the 5th Manchester Beer & Cider Festival taking place in January 2018 from Eric West’s list of international cider festivals and events I realised that I’ve never been neither to Manchester nor to a cider festival in the UK before. So I thought that I might as well kill two birds with one stone. The decision was made, I’m going to Manchester to get a taste of English cider from the North.

For the record, Manchester Beer & Cider Festival is the biggest festival in the northern part of the United Kingdom gathering once a year brewers and cider makers, not to mention beer and cider lovers from the UK and abroad. In 2018, the festival took place on 25-27 January.

LOCATION

The venue is located within a 10-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly in Manchester Central Convention Complex, which is the former Manchester Central railway station built in 1880. It is a beautiful, giant exhibition. In my opinion, Manchester Central is a perfect place for an event like this. The organisers have picked up a really beautiful location.

There were three beer bars in the back and a few more in the centre and international beer bars to the right from the entrance. The cider & perry bar was located to the left from the entrance. Food vendors had their stall just opposite the cider & perry bar on the left side. All around the exhibition hall, there were countless banquet tables and chairs around them creating a large sitting area for visitors. Only, it was actually quite chilly inside the hall. 

TICKETS

There were two ways to purchase your entry ticket to the festival. Either at the door or online. Knowing that tickets can sell out quickly at similar events in the UK, I’ve decided to purchase my ticket online for Thursday, 25th January at 7.63 GBP as I wanted to avoid the crowds. Tickets for 26th and 27th were slightly more expensive to my knowledge. Also, CAMRA members would get a ticket at a discounted price.

I thought it was an excellent idea that a festival glass was already included in the ticket price. In addition, you could get to choose between either a regular pint glass or a tasting glass lined at the third or half pint measures if you wanted to sample more. Also, glass washing devices were available if you needed to clean your glass. I loved it that you could even swap a glass at any time for a clean one at the glass stand. To be honest, it’s the first time I experienced festival glasses being washed in a dishwasher at the spot. Brilliant! At the end of the festival, you could either return the glass to the glass stall and collect 3 GBP or take your glass home as a souvenir.

img_9171img_9170

Festival programme was not included in the ticket price and was available for purchase at 1 GBP. I had the impression that the festival programme was dedicated almost entirely to beer. Each beer would get a short description, whereas cider and perry were just mentioned by name of the cider makers and cider name. In the end, out of 66 pages, only 6 were dedicated to cider. Don’t cider & perry deserve a proper description?img_9177CIDER MAKERS

Overall, 77 ciders and 25 different and perrys coming from 63 different English producers were available over the three days. Meaning, some of the ciders and perrys that I was eager to taste on Thursday were simply not available. So if you thought you’d be able to try selected ciders and perrys on one day you’d be disappointed as it was in my case. There was no list of cider and perry available that day at the bar so literally, no one was able to prepare a list of ciders to try. Not sure what sense does it make, as in the end of the day you don’t want to stay with all these full or half-empty bag-in-boxes. Usually, vendors want to leave with as little products as possible. I’m afraid I couldn’t get the logic behind not making all ciders available at the same time. Also, as you can see I was a bit frustrated because my list of ciders to try that I prepared before the event had to undergo massive changes.img_9178

Since taste description for cider and perry was not provided in the festival programme, you could rely only on a taste guide with the level of sweetness (see the picture) or ask staff behind the bar for a recommendation or a sample.

Interestingly, cider at the bar was poured only from bag-in-boxes, different to what I’ve seen at other festivals in Europe. Where did the tradition of serving cider from bag-in-boxes actually come from? Also, both cider & perry were still and served at room temperature. I wonder whether the surrounding temperature and bag-in-box might have led to the observed changes in the flavour profile of cider and perry sampled at the festival.

As I just mentioned in the beginning of this section, I was really looking forward to getting a taste of cider and perry from the North of England. Sadly, only cider & perry from 15 various producers from North and West Yorkshire, Cheshire Lancashire or Greater Manchester were on sale at the Cider & Perry bar. To be honest, I expected cider makers from the North to make up most of the cider & perry selection, not less than half! But Phil of Pulp Craft Cider, who I met up with at the festival explained to me that in the North the climate is not good enough for growing cider apples, thus there are not so many cider makers around here. Judging by the number of present producers from the North I guess it must be true then. For the full list of cider & perry available at the festival click the link.

FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT
Since the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival is advertised as the largest festival in the img_9069North I expected many visitors. Indeed, there were lots of beer and cider drinkers around already on Thursday, the first day of the festival. But to my surprise, the number of food vendors was rather limited compared to the number of visitors as there were perhaps only 5 stalls offering the choice of Polish pierogi, burgers, Mexican food, cheese toasts and Caribbean cuisine. Despite the relatively high number of visitors, the lines to each food vendors were not very long so you could get a set of pierogi in relatively low time. I found it very interesting, as in Berlin you have to wait sometimes in very long line for your burger from a food truck. Once I had to wait over an hour! But here I got my burger in less than 5 minutes. I guess people in the UK don’t eat and drink at the same time.

Moreover, I was hoping to listen to any kind of music, but at least on Thursday, there was no such entertainment. The whole afternoon and evening were filled with voices of visitors and vendors, sounds of poured beer and cider but sadly no music. I think that music creates a great drinking atmosphere. So music is something that was simply missing that day in my opinion. Did anyone attend the festival on Friday or Saturday and can tell me if there was any music?

However, I’ve learned that there are quite interesting English pub games. I must say I found some of them quite amusing and spent some time watching folks playing various games that I can’t even name.img_9167CIDER & PERRY COMPETITION 2018  

The festival was not only about sampling real cider and perry but also about a  competition. Cider and perry were entered to be judged by the festival’s jury. Interestingly, festival attendees could also vote their favourite cider and perry during the festival with a voting card.

And here are the results of the Cider & Perry Competition 2018 judged at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival on 26th January 2018. La Cantina’s Yesterday’s Dreams was the winner, whereas the Waterloo Sunset from Udders Orchard was the Runner-Up in the perry category. As for cider, Hedgehoggers’ Old Aged Pig was the winner, and the Traditional Still from Ampleforth Abbey was the Runner-Up.

Festival attendees had a slightly different opinion about their favourite cider and perry as Cleeve Orchard Dry was voted the best cider and Hecks Perry won in the perry category.

Sadly, I’ve managed to sample only the Traditional Still from Ampleforth Abbey. It was actually quite ok. For my detailed tasting notes scroll down.

TASTING NOTES

Ampleforth Abbey Traditional (ABV 6.5%)

Appearance: slightly cloudy, golden, still, low body. Aroma: weak, red and yellow apples, acetic, hints of funk. Taste: low sweetness, low lemon-like acidity, crisp yellow apple, yellow apple flesh, a hint of alcohol, lightly watery, very light astringent taste. Overall: it tasted quite alright. Nice an easy drinking pour. 4/6

Blackmore Vale Sweet (ABV unknown)

Appearance: clear, golden with orange hues, still, low body. Aroma: polyfloral honey, burnt caramel, acetic. Taste: moderately sweetness with low lemon-like acidity, yellow apple, polyfloral honey, burnt caramel, fresh apple, light bitterness, light astringent taste, beeswax, lightly watery. Overall: a beautiful apple forward taste with notes of beeswax and honey. 4.5/6

Grumpy Johns Dry (ABV 6%)

Appearance: clear, golden, still, low body. Aroma: beeswax, caramel, fermented apples, vinegar. Taste: low sweetness with low to medium lemon-like acidity, beeswax, leather, funk, lightly watery, light bitterness, but not disturbing. Overall: tasted pretty average, but drinkable. 3.5/6

Hartland Perry (ABV unknown)

Appearance: cloudy, golden, still, low body. Aroma: nail polish and vinegar. Taste: low to medium sweetness with low vinegar and lemon-like acidity, blood orange, pear, light bitterness, a sweetener-like aftertaste. Overall: quite dry for a perry. Rich with a nice palate and pleasant tannins to it. 4/6

Madhatters Farting Dog (ABV 6.5%)

Appearance: almost clear, golden, still, low body. Aroma: nail polish and vinegar, pear, sweetener. Taste: low sweetness with low to medium vinegar-like acidity, citrusy, yellow apples, sweetener, medium to high astringent taste. Overall: Tastes quite ok. Rich, but not overwhelming. 3.5/6

Newtons Thorn Perry (ABV 6%)

Appearance: clear, dark golden, still, low body. Aroma: pear, ripe pear, vinegar. Taste: low sweetness with low to medium vinegar and lemon-like acidity, citrusy, green and yellow pear, unripe pear, lightly watery, low to medium astringent taste. Overall: a decent nearly dry perry. One of the best I had recently. 4.5/6

Oliver’s Medium Dry (ABV 6%)

Appearance: cloudy, pale amber, still, low body. Aroma: leather, red apples, beeswax,  vinegar. Taste: moderate sweetness with low vinegar-like acidity, citrusy, sweetener, grapefruit, red apples, light apple-seed bitterness, blood orange, medium astringent taste, lingering acidity. Overall: very rich palate, with good levels of tannins. I guess you can’t go wrong with Oliver’s cider. Can you? 4.5/6

Thornborough Dry (ABV 6%)

Appearance: cloudy, golden, still, low body. Aroma: yellow apples, lemon, vinegar. Taste: bone dry with light to medium lemon and vinegar-like acidity, yellow apples, barnyard, low to medium astringent taste, light bitterness, beeswax. Overall: beautifully dry with lovely tannins and a pleasant finish. For those who like their cider dry. 4.5/6

Ventons Medium (ABV unknown)

Appearance: cloudy, golden, still, low body. Aroma: vinegar, beeswax, honey, barnyard. Taste: moderately sweet, with medium lemon and vinegar-like acidity, barnyard, fermented apples, red apples, medium astringent taste. Overall: Lovely drop. I enjoyed it. Goes down easily. 4.5/6

Yorkshire Scrumpy Still cider (ABV 6.5%)

Appearance: clear, golden, still, low body. Aroma: red and yellow apples, tannic, a hint of an apple juice from concentrate. Taste: slightly sweet, with low medium lemon-like acidity, yellow apples, light astringent taste. Overall: It lacks depth and I didn’t enjoy having it. I suspect it might be made from concentrate. 2/6

FINAL REMARKS

If you made it through my tasting notes you might have noticed that almost every cider or perry I’ve sampled had at least a light acetic note. It wouldn’t be suspicious if only a few tasted of vinegar, but all of them, including Oliver’s, which I used as a benchmark here? Since some of the tasted ciders had a very strong acetic note I basically felt like at a Spanish sidra festival, not an English Cider Festival. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the vinegary note and I do enjoy Spanish sidra natural. Also, I had bottled English ciders  that had a vinegary note before. Also, I agree that the acetic note can make the palate richer but I was completely perplexed with ALL English ciders and perrys I sampled that day to taste like this.

I was trying to understand why would each cider develop this note. The only culprit I can think of is the bag-in-box itself. Bag-in-box is basically a plastic bag in a carton box. Since the bag is made of plastic it lets some air through, thus leading to oxidation of ethanol to vinegar. If bag-in-box is the reason for the development of the vinegary taste I really don’t understand why would English cider-makers rely on a bag-in-box for cider. My understanding is that a bottle can preserve the actual cider flavour just like the cider maker intended it to taste like at blending because it doesn’t let much air come in. But cider poured from bag-in-box would already have a different palate, other than at the moment of blending by the cider maker.

This leads to a further question, why would a cider festival prefer bag-in-boxes instead of kegs? Are kegs not suitable for cider? Does any of you have a similar experience with the acetic note accompanying cider served from in bag-in-boxes? Perhaps there is something I’m missing.

Another observation I made was that beer was internationally represented at the festival, including Irish, Belgian, German or Spanish brewers or beers, while cider & perry were available only from English cider-makers coming from all around the UK. Like there were no international ciders to try. If you need an introduction to cidre/sidra/sidro/siider/siideri/cydr/Apfelwein I can help you with that.

Furthermore, I think I got spoiled by cider and craft beer festivals in Germany and Czech Republic as usually, the producer would be present at the festival promoting its own product. But not here, at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018 only the product, cider & perry were available. As I found later when talking to Phil of Pulp Cider, cider makers in the UK usually don’t attend cider festivals. They arrange for the shipment of their cider to the festival and that would be it. Given the fact, that there is a cider festival every day in the UK (on the next day I visited Liverpool and discovered a Winter Ale Festival in the beautiful St George’s Hall) it is difficult to expect them visiting every festival. But still, I was a bit disappointed.

SUMMARY

Summarizing, my expectations towards the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018, my first cider festival in the UK, were high. I was really excited at first. But I must admit that I feel now slightly disappointed. No music, no cider makers to meet and chat with (thank you, Phil, that you were there to talk to!), decent and pleasant ciders and perrys but all with a vinegary note, all in a beautiful environment. I must stress that I enjoyed Slavnost Cideru 2017 (read my visit recap here) in Prague much better in that sense. This is why I’ve decided to attend the cider festival in Prague also this year.