The Top 10 Ciders of 2017

As we wrap up another year, it’s time to look back at some of the most memorable ciders reviewed in 2017. It so happens that also my first year of blogging comes to a close. So I thought I’ll share with you my thoughts on 2017 from a perspective of a Berlin-based cider blogger.

First of all, I’ve met many inspiring people who taught me many things about cider, opened my eyes to the challenges and issues related to cider making and distribution and sales of the finished product in Europe. Thank you for sharing so many interesting stories and your experience with me!

My second observation is that real/craft cider is always made by passionate people, who not always are skilled and talented as Tom Oliver or Eric Bordelet, but they all share true love to cider and cider making. Some cider makers have a great potential for development but their cider still requires some improvement. Sometimes their cider just needs more time…

In addition, it was fascinating to see how the taste of cider might change with every batch. For example, Polish cider Japko (see the review here) I have tried in 2016 tasted much better than this year’s batch.

Last but not least, I’m proud that I have managed to bring together cider lovers from many European countries. Countries not always having a deep-rooted history of cider making. But as it turns out, cider brings people together! This is why the information about closing InCider Bar in Prague at the end of 2017 hit me really hard. InCider Bar was a unique place in Europe and will be sorely missed. But life goes on and cider drinkers can still meet at cider-themed events such as Slavnost Cideru in Prague, where you can talk to other cider lovers sharing their passion for cider just like you do. Btw, next year you can meet me on January 26th at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018.

But let’s get to the point. In 2017 I’ve reviewed around 200 different ciders mainly from Europe, but also from Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. Some of them were exceptional and I couldn’t get enough of them, some of them went down the sink drain. And trust me, it was a real challenge to select only 10 out of over 200 ciders I have sampled (incl. cider tastings, cider festivals and ciders tried in Canada). So after long discussions (with myself) I have put together the top ten best ciders I’ve tried in 2017. I’ve selected ciders that are still available so you can purchase them and make your own opinion about them. The ciders are in alphabetical order by cider maker. Cheers and a happy cider year 2018!

  • A.K. Cider, Limonka, Vizovice, the Czech Republic, made from Jadernicka moravska (Pépin de Moravie)

img_8929

 

I’ve tried a number of Czech ciders this year, mainly at Slavnost Cideru 2017, but Limonka crafted by Martin from A.K. Cider was one of the best. Limonka has a complex structure and each note is nicely balanced not dominating over another. Not entirely dry, but also not too acidic Limonka is just perfect for a larger audience. I loved it! For the full review click here.

 

  • Chyliczki, Cydr Lodowy 2015, Masovia Poland

17410099_10154996658845915_458951715_nMy first acquaintance with ice cider made by Polish Cydr Chyliczki Was at the cider tasting organised by Przemek Iwanek from Piwo i Cydr in Warsaw. I was instantly blown away by Chyliczki’s ice cider. The only cider so far that got 6 out of 6. High acidity beautifully balancing out the sweetness makes this cider drinkable for everyone. Plus the flavour of baked apples and spices. Fantastic! For the full review click here.

  • Divoke Jablko, Cidre Brut, Klatovy District in the Plzeň Region, Czech Republic

img_7098-1

 

The most frequently consumed cider at Slavnost Cideru 2017, at least by me. Lovely citrusy notes of blood orange, lemon and grapefruit with a hint of funk add complexity and make this cider very quaffable. A cider for everyone. For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Dorset Nectar, Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, UK,  blend of Brown, Dabinett, Coate Jersey, Michelin, Tremletts Bitter, Taylor, Chesil Jersey, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master’s Jersey, Yarlington Mill and Porter’ Perfection

img_8924

 

Old Harry Rocks is like a jazz jam session, where each flavour would play it’s own music at the same time creating a wonderful, balanced, and unique piece. Lovely refreshing due to citrusy flavours and rustic to light funky notes. A masterpiece! For the full review click here.

 

 

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

img_6525-1

 

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 favourites. For the full review click here.

 

 

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

img_8527-1

 

Soft tannins, fruity apple forward palate along with exceptionally long and lingering aftertaste make this Apfelwin a clear finalist and one of my favourite ciders. Perfect for slowly sipping will pair well with any kind of food. For the full review click here.

 

 

img_8926

This is the only Irish cider that made it to the top ten. But Longueville House Cider tastes really sophisticated and exceptional at the same time. It’s beautifully balanced with lots of depth and rich flavours complementing each other. This cider will simply appeal to everyone. Not too sweet, not too dry, not too sour and not too funky. Pure heaven! For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Perry’s Cider, Grey Heron, Somerset, UK, a blend of Redstreak and Dabinett

img_8927

 

I guess that any cider produced at Perry’s would taste glorious. It was already difficult for me to choose between the Grey Heron and The Barn Owl, which I’ve sampled in 2017. In the end, I’ve chosen the Grey Heron cause I will never forget the first sip of this cider. Lovely complex, with intensive taste, strong tannins and multiple flavours. Sweet but yet very drinkable. Unforgettable. For the full review click here.

 

  • Ramborn Cider, Farmhouse, Luxembourg – a blend of Erbachhofer, Holzapfel and Wiesenapfel

img_8925

 

Perhaps there is only one cidery in Luxembourg but a cidery producing outstanding ciders from locally available apple varieties. Farmhouse made it to the top ten although their Avalon Vintage 2015 tasted also spectacular, yet is not as widely available as the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse is a perfect marriage of oaky whisky notes with a crisp red apple. With every taken sip I could hear the angels singing. For the full review click here.

 

img_8928

 

There are many producers of sidra in Asturias but only 1947 Sidra Natural from Viuda de Angelon tasted good enough to be mentioned here. Nicely balanced sidra with a spectacular palate. Dangerously drinkable, will make you empty the bottle in no time. For the full review click here.

Advertisements

Fortuna Cydr Miłosławski Półwytrawny

If you read on the label that a brewery is responsible for cider that you’re about to drink, you may take it for granted that this cider will not taste remarkable. Having an average tasting cider is maybe the best-case scenario for such cider. Today I’m challenging Cydr Miłosławski Półwytrawny (semi-dry) manufactured by Browar Fortuna, which is a brewery from Miłosław, Greater Poland, Poland.Company: Browar Fortuna
Region of Origin: Miłosław, Greater Poland, Poland
Apples: Polish apples
Sweetness as per label: semi-dry
ABV: 4.5%
Package type:
500ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: 
pint glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw with a huge white fizz that slowly dissipates. High artificial carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is weak and has notes of yellow and tart apples with a bit of wood and funk. Also, it smells slightly sweet of sugar.

Taste: it starts watery and medium sweet with low acidity. The medium palate is fruity with a yellow apple note with light bitterness and tartness. It leaves a light buttery and fruity aftertaste.

Overall: I can’t say that Cydr Miłosławski Półwytrawny is not drinkable. Neither it tastes artificial. However, the Miłosławski has no depth and no lingering flavours. It basically tastes like a fizzy alcoholic apple beverage. Nothing special, but can be refreshing if you’re desperately looking for a drinkable cider-like beverage. 2.5/6

Availability: almost every supermarket in Poland carries it.

Price: purchased at a convenience store Zabka in Wroclaw at 3.5 PLN (0.85 EUR).

Aspall Draught Cyder

Aspall’s Draught is one of the most commonly available cider or cyder in Germany and probably other European countries as well. Besides the UK, perhaps. Anyway, Aspall’s Draught Cyder is certainly most spread in Berlin. Aspall Draught Cyder received Gold from the British Bottlers’ Institute 2011 and Silver at the International Cider Challenge 2014.Company: Aspall 
Place of Origin: Debenham, Suffolk, UK
Apples: made from bittersweet, culinary and dessert apples
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, flute or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale yellow straw. Lightly carbonated. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has notes of tart and crisp green apples and unripe apples with pear and matches-like sulphur. The scent is rather weak.

Taste: it starts dry and very watery with low acidity and an overwhelming and lingering matches-like sulphur flavour. On the mid-palate overripe apples and a gentle smoky flavour with a touch of bitterness. No astringency.

Overall: I didn’t enjoy having it. It tasted watery with the persistent matches-like sulphur flavour making it drinkable only in gulps, but not in sips. I don’t think that anyone can experience pleasure from drinking this cyder. Hence, I can’t help but wonder why is this cyder so common in Berlin when it tastes worse than average. To all Berlin bars stocking cider, if you want my money give me better cider than this. 1.5/6 

Availability: from their online shop, In Germany from Cider and More. On draught at HOME Bar, Beakers, in bottles at BadFish Bar Berlin in Berlin. In terms of shops locally in Berlin from Hopfen und Malz, Galeria Kaufhof or Bierlinie.

Price: paid 3.5 EUR for a half-pint at Beakers in Berlin.

Tátův Cider Polosuchý

One day Jan Abt and his family decided to leave Prague to live a simple and peaceful life,  away from the busy city. The family bought a farm with apple orchards, and settled in a small village Líšnice, 30 km south-west of Prague. In 2014 they launched Tátův Sad (Czech for Dad’s Orchard), which is a family business, where each family member is assigned to a different task. Dad takes care of the orchards and cider making, Mum covers the sales part, whereas Uncle is in charge of graphic design. Their current line-up features a dry, semi-dry and hopped version. Since they recently have planted new apple trees of English and French varieties, we can expect more ciders from Dad’s Orchard coming soon.
Company: 
Tátův Sad
Place of Origin: Líšnice, Středočeský Kraj, Czech Republic
Apples: apples from their own and neighbouring orchards
Sweetness as per label: semi-dry
ABV: 4.9%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a large froth, which only slowly reduces. Lightly carbonated. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rather weak and has only crisp yellow apples. That’s all I can get here.

Taste: it starts slightly watery and slightly sweet with moderate lemon-like acidity. Followed by a smoky touch, a flavour of apple juice, delicate astringency and a light bitter taste towards the end.

Overall: I could swear there is King of the Pippins in the mix, as this apple variety gives a quite characteristic bitter flavour. Anyway, Polosuchy is based on an English dry style of cider. It’s an easy drinking pretty complex drop, which will appeal to a larger audience. There could be more aroma on the nose, but it tasted quite ok. I wouldn’t mind having it again. 3.5/6 

Availability: in many bars and restaurants in the Czech Republic. From Kralupská pivotéka U Chameleona in Kralupy nad Vltavou. Online available from Dobry Cider, Opily Jabko. Delikatesy online, Beershop.cz, Cauvino or in the Netherlands from CiderLab.

Price: had it at InCider Bar at 55 CZK (2.1 EUR) a pint. InCider Bar will sadly close at the end of the year.

8 Sparkling Ciders for New Year‘s Eve

Last year I chose to celebrate New Year’s Eve with cider instead of champagne or sparkling white wine. It turned out to be a splendid idea as I didn’t have to force myself to drink a super dry champagne though I still had the pop. If champagne is not your drink of choice, as it is in my case, I am encouraging you to raise a glass of cider instead on New Year’s Eve. To help you with it I have selected the most amazing and delicious sparkling ciders out of those reviewed over the entire 2017.

I have tried many ciders suitable for this occasion, but I have compiled only 8 of picks that you pop open a bottle. It’s New Year’s Eve after all. You’d be surprised that not all of them are French.

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

Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob img_6525-1Lebel, 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 favourites. For the full review click here.

 

 

Dupont, Organic Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie 2011 – Normandy, ‘France – a cuvée of 13 varietiesCidre Bouche Organic Dupont

Out of the better-known French cidre names, Dupont will provide complex richness with beautiful appley taste accompanied by citrus and funky notes. The most complex and extraordinary French cidre I have ever tried. Bouche is an elegant, light and smooth cidre for those having a sweet tooth.  For the full review click here.

 

 

West Milton, Lancombe Rising – Dorset, UK – a cuvée of Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jerseyimg_7574-2

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.

 

 

Guzman Riestra, Sidra Brut Nature – Asturias, Spain

img_8513

Made using the Champagne Method, Sidra Brut Nature from Guzman Riestra has an exceptionally sophisticated and balanced palate full of refreshing citrus fruits and ripe apples. Every sip reveals a new taste and is like an in-depth exploration of many layers of flavours. Dry with some residual sweetness will appeal to larger audiences. For the full review click here.

 

 

Eric Bordelet, Sidre Brut Tendre 2014 – Normandy, France

img_8429Eric Bordelet’s Brut is a classic among cider lovers. Wonderfully expressing cidre with an exceptional and extremely long finish full of baking spices that linger on and on. This cidre is not too sweet but still, it tastes almost like an ice cider or dessert wine. It has a nice level of acidity to it balancing the sweetness. One of a kind. For the full review click here.

 

 

 

Mayador, Produccion Limitada Cosecha 2014 – Asturias, Spain

img_6670This bright and apple-forward sidra is a delicious example of a sidra that can be enjoyed not only by local Asturians but also by cider lovers from other regions of the world. You’ll find aromas of citruses and herbal notes, crisp acetic-acidity, and tannins on the palate. Every bottle has its own number so you know that you are drinking something special. For the full review click here.

 

 

Kliment, Demi Sec 2014 – Central Bohemia, Czech Republic

cidrerie-kliment-demi-sec

A remarkable sparkling cider from the Czech Republic. Rich, mouth-filling and relatively high in residual sugar, with notes of baked apples, this cider is perfect for those who prefer their ciders on the sweet side. For the full review click here.

 

 

 

Kerné, Cidre Le Kerné – Brittany, France

img_8309

I like this cidre for its elegance and rustic character without intense funk, in contrast to many French ciders that are quite sweet, and because it has complex notes of dried fruits, baked apples with nice appley flavour. For the full review click here.

 

 

 

 

Guzman Riestra Sidra Brut Nature

I love reading stories like this. The history of Guzman Riestra stretches back to 1906 when Robustiano Riestra made a cider press from, most likely, a eucalyptus tree. Robustiano’s goal was to make sidra and sell it in a store he owned in Gijón. Over the years, the cidery has seen many transformations. It expanded, the facilities were modernized and new sidras were introduced. When Guzman Riestra took over the management in 1985 ‘Guzman’ was added to the name of the cidery. Sons of Guzman,  Raúl and Ruben, have been in charge of the company since 1985 experimenting and setting new trends in the Spanish cider world.

Today’s review is on their Brut Nature, introduced in 2012, made using Methode Champenoise, a rather unusual technique for Spanish sidra.Company: Guzman Riestra
Place of Origin: Barrio de Perea, Sariego, Asturias, Spain
Apples: apples coming from local orchards
ABV: 8%
Package type: 750ml green glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass:  flute, chalice glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a white frothy head that quickly dissipates. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rich and sweetish with notes of oak, vinegar, juicy apple, red apple and candy. In the background notes of funk and leather.

Taste: it starts dry with low residual sweetness and moderately acidic with a flavour of crisp apple, lemon juice and only distant vinegar. The mid-palate has red ripe juicy apples, a medium astringent taste and a smoky note with blood orange and grapefruit peel. In the aftertaste, a delicate grapefruit-like bitterness appears leaving a lingering chalky taste.

Overall: Sidra Brut Nature from Guzman Riestra has an exceptionally sophisticated and balanced palate full of refreshing citrus fruits and ripe apples. Every sip reveals a new taste and is like an in-depth exploration of many layers of flavours. It’s like French Champagne meets Spanish sidra. Dry and citrusy refreshing with some residual sweetness will appeal to larger audiences. Perfect for any kind of celebration. I would buy more. 4.5/6

Availability: through Sidra.Shop, Sidra y Sidras, Disbealsan. In the Netherlands from Cider Cider.

Price: purchased online from Ciderwinkel. It was one of the sidras in the Spanish discovery box.

 

Ex-Press Cider Gun Dog Millionaire

It happens extremely rare, but all I could find about Ex-Press Cider is that the company was launched in 2016 and comes from Porlock, Exmoor, Somerset, UK.  As for the Gun Dog Millionaire, it is a Silver medal winner from 2017 SWECA Annual Cider Competition in the category medium cider. Company: ExPress Cider
Place of Origin:
Exmoor, Somerset, UK
Apples:
Somerset cider apples
Sweetness as per label:
medium
ABV: 6.9%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with orange hues and no head. Low carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: it smells fruity and sweet at the same time of freshly pressed apple juice, red apples, sweet caramel. Notes of oak and barnyard in the background. 

Taste: it starts slightly watery with caramel-like sweetness and low, barely detectable acidity. Subsequently, you get a powerful astringent kick with a light smokiness, accompanied by notes of red apple, fresh apple juice and oak. Towards the end apple seeds with a hint of caramel bitterness and watermelon.

Overall: this is one of the rare cases when a slightly higher level of sweetness would improve the palate and most probably make the watery taste disappear. Gun Dog Millionaire is advertised as medium, but I would classify the level of sweetness as more on the drier side of medium, medium dry. It’s light, interesting with a nice breadth of flavours and can’t be likeable. Well, I liked it. But the faint watery taste was quite disappointing. I could have it again, but I could live without. 4/6

Availability: mostly in the North Exmoor area. Also available through Bottles & Books in Bristol.

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