Ross-on-Wye Ashton Brown Jersey

Ashton Brown Jersey is a relatively young cider apple variety grown at the National Fruit and Cider Institute, Long Ashton, Bristol in 1903. It’s a cider apple with hard tannins producing full-bodied medium bittersweet cider. Ashton Brown Jersey is not often found as a single variety, it’s rather used as part of a blend.

Ashton Brown Jersey is my first cider from the multi-award winning cider producer from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, the Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company.Company: Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company
Place of Origin: Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: single varietal, from Ashton Brown Jersey
ABV: 6.2%
Package type: 750ml green glass bottle with plastic screw cup
Recommended type of glass: flute, chalice glass or wine glass

Note: no sulphites, unpasteurised

Appearance: pours a hazy golden with orange hues and a white short-lived head. Medium to high carbonation. Body is low. Some sediment in the bottle.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is acidic and wild with notes of barnyard, beeswax, grapefruit, orange, light sulphur and a hint of red apples and vinegar.

Taste: the first sip is slightly sweet with a low acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate a strong watery note with a touch of smoke, a moderately astringent taste, hint of sulphur and a distant acetic note. It finishes dry, citrusy and crisp with notes of grapefruit, blood orange, a touch of grapefruit flesh-like bitterness and a hint of beeswax. It gets more bitter the more you drink it.

Overall: as mentioned in the introduction part, Ashton Brown Jersey is a cider apple variety that is almost always blended with other cider apples. You don’t see many cider producers launching single varietal cider with Ashton Brown Jersey. After tasting this cider I can see why. It lacks body, the initial taste is fruity but rather unexciting with a strong watery flavour. Also, I didn’t pick up any apple flavour here. But the taste improves with every sip towards pleasant and refreshing notes of citruses including grapefruit and blood orange. So I can imagine it would taste lovely once it gets warm outside again. Overall, the Ashton Brown Jersey is worth trying. Also, if you’re looking for a lighter cider then I think it’s a good option. 3.5/6 

Availability: from their online shop.

Price: Ross-on-Wye’s Ashton Brown Jersey was a donation from Phil of Pulp Craft Cider who I met up with at the Manchester Cider Festival 2018.


Abavas Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple

Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple by Abavas from Latvia is another example of the growing hopped cider trend. Hopped Apple is a blend of Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee and  Serinka, locally grown apple varieties with Citra hops. Each apple variety is fermented separately and subsequently matured in stainless steel vats. After 5-6 months, cider is blended and hops are added. It takes another 2 months until cider is filtered, carbonated and bottled. And, ready to drink.Company: SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”
Place of Origin: 
Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia
Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee, Serinka and Citra hops
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 750ml amber glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute, chalice glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw with green hues and a white short-lived foam. High carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has a citrusy freshness. Also, it smells fruity with notes of lemon, green mango, elderflower, passion fruit, lychee, yellow and green apples, all rounded up by distant herbal hoppy notes.

Taste: the first sip has a touch of sweetness with a low to medium acidity of lemon. The mid-palate bursts with passion fruit, lychee, elderflower, lemon juice, green unripe mango, yellow apples, and a light astringent taste, and brightened by green hoppy notes with delicate grapefruit. It has a dry and clean finish with a gentle lingering astringent taste and notes of green unripe mango, white grapes and light flavour of lemon candy. No bitterness.

Overall: I’m a cider purist and so not a fan of hopped cider. But after sampling the Hopped Apple from Abavas I guess I will have to think it over. Hopped Apple already opens with inviting citrusy and fruity aromas raising one’s curiosity. Fruity, rich, with many delicious notes. And, with your first taste, you hear angels sighing and I’m not exaggerating. A gentle combination of green unripe mango with yellow and green apples makes this cider decidedly moreish. With this cider, Martins from Abavas has shown a real craftsmanship. As it’s a true skill to add just the right amount of hops, not to destroy the cider but complement it. It’s official, the Hopped Apple from Abavas is a cider with the wow effect. Fantastic cider that will please every cider purist, including myself. And, a must try for a cider lover. Pure heaven! 5.5/6 

Availability: in Germany from Foodist and Jörn Weinshop. In Finnland from ALKO, in Sweden from System Bolaget, in Latvia from Spirit & Wines, in the Netherlands from CiderCider, in Belgium from Cideris, in Italy from Compagna dei Caraibi.

Price: Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple was a sample provided to Cider Explorer for testing

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

Redbrook Original Polosuchý

Redbrook Cider comes from the Czech Republic and is produced in Dřínov u Slaného in the Central Bohemian Region. Apples used for Redbrook’s Cider are grown in the orchards owned by Jiří Hubáček. It’s my first time trying anything from this cider maker.Company: Redbrook Cider
Place of Origin: Dřínov, Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic
Apples: a blend of Czech apples from Jiří Hubáček’s orchards
Sweetness as per label: semi-dry
ABV: 5%
Package type: 330ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with light orange hues with a fast reducing white foam. Medium artificial carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: it smells like a regular apple juice from a supermarket. Further notes I pick up are of distant caramel and toffee with a light buttery flavour.

Taste: the first sip is slightly sweet of caramel with low acidity. It tastes a bit watery with notes of red apples, regular apple juice (but not that strong as on the nose), light astringent taste, distant bitterness and red berries. It finishes dry with a note of dried stone fruits, including apricot, distant buttery flavour, and slightly biting due to the feeling of bubbles bursting in the mouth.

Overall: the flavour of Redbrook’s Original more closely resembles that of apple juice than that of cider or an alcoholic beverage made from apples. The Original is drinkable,  made from quality apples, but not exciting. An apple juice with added cider. Also, it has a light buttery note, which I am not a fan of. I guess it will find an audience among those who never had cider before, hence don’t know how cider is supposed to taste like. But a more demanding cider drinker will be disappointed. 3/6

Availability: only in the Czech Republic through Pochutnejsi. Also, available in many bars and restaurants around the Czech Republic.

Price: Original Polosuchý was a sample provided by Redbrook Cider.

Ramborn Hopped Cider Cascade 2016

Hopped Cider is becoming a thing also in Europe now. Started a while ago in the US, now hopped cider is becoming more and more in demand from consumers also in “the Old Continent”. Following this trend, Ramborn created a cider with Cascade hops.

Cascade hops were discovered in the 1960ties in Oregon as USDA 56013 but released only in 1972 when import prices of noble hops from Germany went to the roof due to a hop disease. Cascade is the hop that gave rise to the craft beer movement in the US and is one of the most popular hops among craft brewers.  Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Ingredients: local apples and Cascade hops from Oregon (US)
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.4%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with amber hues and a tiny short-lived white head. Almost no carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is not rich, but quite powerful with notes of elderflower, pear and green notes, hay.

Taste: my first taste is medium dry, medium acidity, smoky note, low to medium astringency, lemon, elderflower, crisp red apple and green apple. it finishes dry with a distant bitter note and a touch of green or unripe apple.

Overall: Ramborn’s Hopped Cascade is a definitely rich cider with depth and structure. But I must agree with Cider Says who reviewed Ramborn’s Hopped Cider a few months back. Indeed, this is a pleasant cider but doesn’t stand out like some of the ciders from the Ramborn’s range such as the Original, Farmhouse of Erbachhofer. The influence of hops is slightly stronger, the flavour of cider is much less noticeable. Perhaps not dominating, but still powerful. Long story short, for me there is not enough apple in this cider. But I think that those who like their cider hopped will be more than satisfied.  4/6

Availability: all over Luxembourg. In Germany from The Hop Shop Trier. In the Netherlands from CiderCider. In Italy from Sidro&CiderIn the UK through Crafty Nectar.

Price: Hopped Cider Cascade 2016 was a sample provided by Adie from Ramborn Cider Co.

Les Vergers de Ducy/Domaine de la Flaguerie Cidre Brut

Domaine de la Flaguerie is a family-run business based in Ducy-Sainte-Marguerite, southeast of Bayeux in Normandy. Apart from cider they also produce Pommeau, Calvados and apple juice. Domaine de la Flaguerie is open to visitors so if you are in the area don’t forget to pay them a visit!Company: Domaine de la Flaguerie
Place of Origin: Ducy-Sainte-Marguerite, Normandy, France
Apples: cider apples
Sweetness as per label: brut
ABV: 5%
Package type: 750ml green glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: white wine or flute

Appearance: pours a cloudy orange with a large foam, which only slowly reduces to a ring. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: overripe apples, bitter-sweet apples with barnyard and vinegar on the nose. The aroma is strong and very pleasant

Taste: the first sip was moderately sweet with low acidity. Followed by a grapefruit-bitterness with notes of overripe apples, mild vinegar, medium to high astringency. It finishes with a light, lingering bitter taste and a flavour of wood.

Overall: the acetic note in a French cidre is a surprise as this note is usually a desirable flavour in Spanish sidras, not in French cidre. Hence, the cidre from Domaine de la Flaguerie is like French cidre meets Spanish sidra. Also, I think that the vinegary note adds a refreshing twist. I enjoyed having it. 4.5/6 

Availability: online from CiderLab. In Germany from Weindepot-Schenck.

Price: purchased online from CiderLab at 6.15 EUR

Gutshof Kraatz Adams Parmäne 2016

Adams Parmäne is another Apfelwein from Uckermark that was provided to Cider Explorer for testing by Kelterei Gutshof Kraatz. Adams Parmäne is a name of an old English apple variety, better known under an English name, Adams Permain, Matchless, Norfolk Pippin or Norfolk Russet, producing a rich and aromatic juice. Company: Gutshof Kraatz
Place of Origin: Nordwestuckermark-Kraatz, Germany
Apples: single varietal with Adams Permain
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 750ml clear glass wine bottle with screw cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass

Appearance: pours a  clear pale golden with no head. No signs of carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is dry and exhibits notes of caramel, red and pink apples, overripe red apples, apple skin, fresh red apple flesh, red berries, with a lightly smoky note and a light vinous note.

Taste: it starts dry with little residual sweetness and low acidity, which quickly makes room for a strong persistent plain bitter taste, which lingers on throughout the whole sip, including aftertaste. On the mid-palate, a smoky note (only in the beginning), red berries, yellow apple, watermelon and a watery note with a taste of booze. The finish is dry with a lingering apple seed-like bitterness, yellow apple, low astringent taste, watermelon and a hint of vanilla. The bitter note gets milder/smoother with time.

Overall: I must admit that my expectations towards Adams Parmäne were very high after the glorious tasting Wilde Kerle 2016, Boskoop 2013, Cydonia 2016 and Apfelglühwein. But I have to break your heart, Florian, the Adam’s Parmäne tasted terrible. It was rich, with plentiful flavours of red berries and crisp red apple, but the high lingering and unpleasant bitterness in combination with a watery watermelon-note and a booze-like taste made this Apfelwein undrinkable. To be fair, the bitter note has improved with time, but the Adams Parmäne’s taste was still far from being good. Especially the mid-palate made me grimace. It’s the first ever Apfelwein/cider I have received for testing that actually tastes unpleasant. I’m truly sorry, Florian, this time I didn’t like your Apfelwein. 2.5/6

Availability: from their online shop, Q Regio. In Frankfurt from Apfelweinkontor and Apfelweinhandlung. In Berlin from Schaufenster Uckermark located in Markthalle Neun. In Poland through Vinoteka in Szczecin.

Price: Florian contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their Apfelwein.

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: Mac Ivors Cider
Place of Origin: Ardress, Portadown, Armagh County, Northern Ireland, 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 Mac Ivors 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 Traditional 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: Mac Ivors Traditional Dry was a sample provided by Greg from MacIvors Cider.