CiderWorld 2018: visit recap

img_9619CiderWorld 2018 began for me already in January 2018 when Michael Stöckl, Apfelwein sommelier and organiser of CiderWorld, offered me the opportunity to join the judging panel of the CiderWorld Awards 2018, an international cider fair in Frankfurt, Germany launched in 2008 as Apfelwein International. The thought of meeting cider makers in person, trying multiple ciders from all over the globe and spending a great time with so many cider lovers in one place was already fantastic, but being in the judging panel among such cider experts as Claude Jolicoeur from Canada and Peter Mitchell from the UK was never in my wildest dreams. Ever since I have been waiting with excitement for CiderWorld to begin!s

CiderWeek

Finally, April arrived, and with it CiderWeek and CiderWorld. In order to extend the celebration of cider before the announcement of CiderWorld Awards, various events were organised in many locations such as restaurants, bars and speciality shops all over Frankfurt. Since I’m based in Berlin I couldn’t participate in all events, but I’ll name a few to give you a better picture. Since Ireland was the Guest of Honour this year, there was an Irish Cider Night with Irish music and Irish cider. Also, Jörg Stier, an Apfelwein maker from Hesse served his various Apfelweins in combination with a 5-course set menu served by Gerbermühle. In addition, Michael Stöckl along with Naïv organised an interesting event ‘Craft Cider meets Craft Beer’, which offered an opportunity for food pairing and tasting cider and beer. Another event covered tasting of 5 sparkling ciders from Bretagne and Hesse selected by Mark Gleonec of Breton Cellar and Michael Rühl of Apfelweinkontor, respectively. Sidra y Tapas featured sidra from Asturia, sagardoa from Basque Country along with tapas and Spanish music. As you can see, CiderWeek gave the opportunity of exploring many cider styles paired with food. I must admit that I regret I have missed it. Next year I have to plan some more time in Frankfurt.

Friday. Judging Day.

img_9494Friday the 13th was a gloomy and rainy day in Frankfurt, perfect for indoor activities in  Lorsbacher Thal such as blind tasting of 160 international ciders submitted for the CiderAward in categories still sparkling, flavoured, blended with other fruits or fruit wine. Due to this astonishing number of submitted ciders and fruit wines, there were approx. 30 judges divided into 6 groups featuring 5 experts from the area of cider and wine, including myself, sampling between 25-30 ciders. Michael Stöckl began the blind tasting with a short introduction, explained how ciders have to be assessed and points assigned. Each cider could get a maximum number of 120 points split for components such as colour, clarity/aroma, palate incl. flavour, mouthfeel, length and regional taste profile. And, of course, an overall impression. A score of 109 – 120 equated to Gold, 97 – 108 points equated Silver and for ciders that scored between 80 – 96 points there was an Honour Award. As mentioned above, the judges evaluated the regional taste profile as well, so before the actual blind tasting started experts in the area of Spanish cider (Eduardo Vázquez Coto of Guerilla Imports), French cidre (Mark Gleonec of Breton Cellar), English cider (Peter Mitchell of Cider & Perry Academy) and German Apfelwein (Michael Stöckl) gave a brief introduction to typical features for each cider style.

img_9497And so it began, my judging group featuring Peter Mitchell, Frank Winkler (owner of Lorsbacher Thal), Michael Koch (responsible for wine purchase for Selgros Cash & Carry) and Evert Kornmayer (publisher at Kornmayer Verlag) evaluated 26 blinded samples from Japan, Latvia, Ireland and the U.S. It took us around 4 hours to try and assign points to each cider. I don’t think I have ever tried that much cider in such short time so I was really glad to make a new experience and still stay sober. As for sampled ciders and assigned points, as usual, some ciders tasted pleasant and stood out from the crowd, some tasted average or even in rare cases terrible. Interestingly, points assigned by the judges in my group didn’t deviate too much from each other so it was good to see that we had a similar palate and were on the same page with regard to ciders that picked up awards. I don’t have to tell you that I was very eager to try the remaining submitted ciders! But it had to wait until the next day.img_9499CiderWorld Preview & Awards

img_9572Saturday began with lots of sunshine and the lovely perspective of trying even more cider. So I headed to the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten, where the Preview and the announcement of the CiderAwards were supposed to take place. The venue was absolutely brilliant with a garden view creating a nice connection between the naturally produced products and nature itself. This part of CiderWorld was available only for retailers, sommeliers, restaurateurs and trade press. So once I got myself a tasting glass with a beautiful CiderWorld logo on it I started my cider exploration. I didn’t get to try many ciders before the CiderAwards were officially announced as I was chatting to cider folk that I was in touch with earlier but never actually met in person or those who I admire a lot such as Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry.

But then, the Cider Awards including Gold, Silver and Honour Awards in all categories were announced. On top of that, there were awards for ciders that scored the most points in each category. After the announcement was made and almost every participating cider maker went to the stage I had a feeling that there was an ‘everyone is a winner’ situation, which I personally think is not really rewarding if there are 21 Gold medals in 5 categories, meaning approx. 4 Golds per category. It feels like a consolation prize for everyone. I’ve decided to bring this up after sampling a bunch of awarded ciders afterwards that were only average or even weak. I’m sorry to say that but in my judgement, the number of the CiderWorld Awards devalues the meaning of the CiderAward.

What do you usually expect from a Gold winner? Cause I expect a nicely balanced product with a remarkable aroma and palate. Speaking for myself, one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze in each category would be a truthful award. A real and meaningful achievement for a cider maker and a clear message to the world ‘this is an outstanding product in its category’. I have to stress again that there were way too many awards in my opinion.

The full list of awarded products is available here.img_9505

CiderWorld Party

img_9517After the tasting of ciders taking part in the competition, the cider folk changed the venue to a more cosy one, ‘Kleiner Mann mit dem Blitz’ in Sachsenhausen, a vibrant neighbourhood of Frankfurt. There was time for more networking, getting together, eating local specialities and drinking traditional Hausschoppen from Frank Winkler’s Lorsbacher Thal. I’ve made many new friends and discussed cider, cider and cider. img_9520But, the highlight of the evening was the visit to the cellar of Frank’s restaurant Lorsbacher Thal just nearby. Frank took over the restaurant in 2014, but the building is much older than that. The cellar is over 200 years old and has a piece of history behind. Back then each restaurant in Hesse would produce its own Schoppen (traditional Hesse apple wine) and mature it in massive oak barrels kept in the cellar. Each barrel in Frank’s cellar could fit up to 60.000 L. Could. Unfortunately, the cellar was flooded in 1960’s and when Frank took over the restaurant the barrels could no longer be used for the production of Schoppen. Anyway, they still look gorgeous and increase the heart rate of every cider lover. Apart from the barrels, I was amazed by Frank’s extensive cider stash. Frank’s impressive cider collection counts over 200 ciders mainly from various German cider makers, but also from other countries such as Spain, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Netherlands or the U.S. This place was so magical and mystical I didn’t really want to leave it. But I had to get ready for the next CiderWorld day.

img_9539
Each barrel could fit up to 60.000 l Schoppen
img_9531
Frank Winkler, owner of Lorsbacher Thal
Frank Winkler and his extensive cider collection of international ciders
img_9541
Schoppen quality control
img_9571
Leftovers from blind tastings

Sunday. Frankfurt Cider Fair. 

img_9588As you know, cider is best appreciated in nice surroundings, with great people and tasty food. And, it is exactly what was provided by the organizers. Anyone who has been to the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten in Frankfurt has to admit the building and the gardens are beautiful. 95 exhibitors coming from 17 countries brought their products and poured cider and fruit wines to glasses of visitors who decided to spend the Sunday celebrating various fermented beverages made from apples and other fruits. Invited food vendors offered meals such as local BBQ specialities, pretzels or an extensive selection of cheese that paired well with offered beverages.

But let’s go back to the beginning, the opening ceremony was initiated by the Irish dancing incl. step dancing as Ireland was the Guest of Honour of this year’s edition of CiderWorld and followed by the speech of Michael Stöckl who officially opened the fair. On the ground floor, one could find booths serving products from Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, the UK, Japan and Spain. On the top floor cider from Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, the Netherlands, the US, Latvia, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Visitors sampling ciders from 17 countries
img_9600
Edda and Florian of Gutshof Kraatz from Uckermark with their elegant wines
img_9580
Sebastian and Tim from CiderKultur, a recently launched German craft cider webshop
img_9578
Olan of Dan Kelly’s and Davy of Tempted Cider, both in a great mood
img_9576
Rubert of Longueville Cider House proudly presenting one of my favourite ciders

Best CiderWorld’s 2018 Cider

CiderWorld Award was a competition for cider makers but CiderWorld was a challenge for me as I wanted to try every single cider. I failed. So instead of choosing the best cider, I will share with you my most exciting cider discoveries.

  • Domaine Lesuffleur – Benoit Lesuffleur brought three ciders from Normandie. All outstanding, balanced with a great aroma and palate, but my personal favourite was his Missùs 2016. A true rising star!
  • Prosequ from Austria entered the CiderWorldAward with their Quittensecco (sparkling wine from quince) and picked up Silver. Strong and lovely fruity aroma and a good taste.
  • BlakStoc from Austria with the Buddha’s Hand, made with kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon and Buddha’s hand citron with fresh pressed wild orchard apple juice. What an aroma and delicious taste! Shame, it’s only seasonal.
  • Obsthof Krieger from Germany with their single varietal Trierer Weinapfel. Refreshing acidity, great palate. I could have more of this one.
  • Gutshof Kraatz with their lovely sparkling wine made from Mostbirnen (perry pears)
  • Cold Hand Winery from Denmark with their nicely balanced ice cider
  • Paladeus from Italy with their Sidro Frizzante di Mela that sat 8 months on its lees. The nose is a bit too yeasty but on the palate a lovely, fruity offering for a hot summer day.
  • Criagies Cider from Ireland. I thought it was a quite pleasant everyday cider.
  • Tempted Cider with their Elderflower. Its beautiful aroma literally pours out of a glass.
  • Finnbarra with Rós, a nice and light rhubarb cider

In addition, I wish here to acknowledge ciders that I have sampled previously. All of them were present at CiderWorld 2018 and are cracking good!

img_9610
Benoit Lesuffluer’s Missùs 2016 won my heart this year

Closing remarks

I guess CiderWorld showed me the meaning of the phrase ‘time flies’. It was a spectacular and truly international event dedicated to cider, perry and other fruit products that continued for me for three days although it felt like an hour, tops. CiderWorld 2018 was special to me as a cider blogger and cider drinker. I made new friends and met old ones. I have encountered a very warm welcome from the organiser’s of CiderWorld 2018, Michael Stöckl and Christine Isensee-Kiesau. Also, I have finally met my idol, Tom Oliver who is not only a great cider maker but an absolutely fabulous and warm-hearted person.

Although I might not agree with the number of the winners of the CiderAwards, I’m glad that I could be a part of CiderWorld 2018 as a CiderWorld Award judge and guest. Seeing so many visitors on Sunday at CiderWorld lit a new cider fire in me. Now, it’s time to educate others that cider is the best drink in the world! See you next year in Frankfurt!

Advertisements

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.

Kentish Pip – tasting notes from the 2.Britisches Bier- & Cider Festival at Loch Ness (Berlin)

Although the 2. Britisches Bier- & Cider Festival (2nd British Beer & Cider Festival) that took place from 29 September – 1 October 2017 in Loch Ness Scottish Pub & Whisky Bar in Berlin may give you an impression of a huge event, it is different from the other festivals that occur in the city and that you have previously attended. What makes it unique is the fact that it’s the only festival organised in a pub (not a stadium or anything like that). In addition, there were no 700 ciders to try. Only a selection of 5 real bag-in-box ciders, all from a UK cider maker, Kentish Pip. If you include bottled cider from Annings, Brothers, Bulmers, Crabbie’s, Thistly Cross and Westons, the number will increase to 26.

Your 10 EUR (15 EUR on Saturday as it included live music) entry fee got you admittance to the Festival which included, a festival guide, 2 tokens for 1/2 pint beer or bag-in-box cider and a card for stamp collecting (1/2pint gets you a stamp, after collection of 12 stamps you get the 13 half/pint for free). Because of this festival, I got the opportunity to taste a selection of cider from Kentish Pip. Here are my tasting notes.

Company: Kentish Pip Cider
Place of Origin: Woolen Farm, Bekesbourne Canterbury, Kent, UK
Kentish Pip Craftsman (5-6%, medium dry)

Appearance: pours a slightly cloudy pale amber with no carbonation. Body is low. Aroma/Nose: the aroma is tannic and sweet with notes of caramel, red crisp and juicy apples. Taste: it begins slightly sweet with a very low, barely detectable level of acidity. Subsequently, you get a strong tannic kick that makes your mouth dry followed by a watery taste with notes of red apples, apple juice and apple seeds. It finishes dry with a taste of juicy red apple and cinnamon with a hint of the apple seeds-like bitterness. Overall: it has a straight cider apple taste with strong tannins and nice structure. It could taste less watery though. 4/6
Kentish Pip Pear & Russet (6.5%, cider perry made with Russet and conference pears)

Appearance: pours a slightly cloudy pale golden with no carbonation. Body is low. Aroma/Nose: the aroma is funky and fruity with notes of barnyard, pear, elderflower with floral notes. Taste: it begins watery and moderately sweet with a very distant acetic acidity. On the mid-palate notes of pear, candies, cinnamon, paint remover and light funk. The finish is dry with a lingering cinnamon flavour and gentle astringency. Overall: a quite pleasant cider perry that perhaps will not appeal to everyone (I found it too sweet), but will definitely find an audience that can appreciate it. Again, it tasted too watery. 3.5/6Kentish Pip Wild Summer (4%, elderflower cider)

Appearance: pours a slightly cloudy pale yellow straw with no carbonation. Body is low. Aroma/Nose: the aroma is sweet, fruity and floral with notes of elderflower, pear and something green. Taste: it starts quite spicy with no detectable acidity and moderate sweetness. Elderflower, crisp yellow and red apples with green notes, candies and gently astringent tannins on the mid-palate. The aftertaste is dry with a spicy and herbal flavour. Overall: I guess I’m not a fan of elderflower after all as the Wild Summer was not exactly to my liking. It tastes very unique and natural and is not overly sweet as some elderflower cider tend to be, so I think, it may appeal to many. But it’s just not my cup of tea. 3/6

Kentish Pip Forager Hedgerow Berry Cider (4%, cider with hedgerow berries) – my phone died by then so I couldn’t take a picture.

Appearance: pours a clear ruby with no carbonation. Body is low. Aroma/Nose: the nose is funky, tannic and fruity with notes of barnyard,  berries and burnt caramel. Taste: it begins watery with moderate sweetness and low acidity. Raspberries, blackberries, black currant, red currant, red apple, caramel and light funk on the mid-palate. The aftertaste is dry with a lingering black currant flavour and light astringency. Overall: One of the best berry cider I had in a while. If not the watery taste I would rate it higher. 4/6

There was one more cider left to try from Kentish Pip, the Firespice Ginger, but the Festival was closing at 10pm, so I didn’t manage to give it a try. Another time perhaps.

Summarizing, each cider from Kentish Pip tasted pleasant and natural with a nice variety of flavours. I found the Craftsman to be the most to my liking as it gives one the strong tannic kick that I like yet tasted quite refreshing. I hope there will be more real cider to try next year at the 3rd edition of the Festival at Loch Ness in Berlin. Cheers! 

Slavnost Cideru 2017: visit recap

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_6958TICKETS

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 the 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 the 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 favourite 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? An environmental friendly festival is also a way of promoting the event and getting sponsors on board.

What I found surprising, compared 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 cider with other cider aficionados like me. I’m looking forward to next year’s edition!

Cider tasting of Cydr Chyliczki ciders in Warsaw

During my visit to Warsaw last weekend I attended a cider tasting combined with the launch of a new cider from Cydr Chyliczki at Jabeerwocky Junior. The cider tasting featured six ciders, one ice cider and one ice perry, all from Cydr Chyliczki, a craft cider producer located in Chyliczki near Warsaw. Interestingly, only a few of the sampled ciders were commercially available, which made this cider tasting really special.

What made this event really unique is also the fact that the cider maker and owner of Cydr Chyliczki, Dariusz Koros was present at the cider tasting and talked about ciders produced at Cydr Chyliczki and cider manufacturing in general. The cider tasting was led by Przemek Iwanek, from Piwo i Cydr, who also made a short introduction into craft cider.

17409715_10154995941440915_262815616_n.jpg

17409653_10154995941510915_2067534625_n.jpg

STARY SAD 2014 (ABV: 7% )

17410268_10154996419255915_381890437_n

This is their basic cider, which is made from old apple varieties such as Ananas Reinette, Bancroft, Bohnapfel, Boskoop, Starking and Transparente de Croncels. Stary Sad was matured two years in a bottle. Appearance: cloudy, light straw yellow. Very light carbonation, almost still. The body is also light. Aroma: unfiltered cider notes, citruses, pineapple, ripe tart apples, Brettanomyces, a distant hint of mint. Taste: dry, no residual sugar, moderate citrus-like acidity, ripe apples, some champagne flavour with sulphuric notes (perceivable only in the beginning). Green apple with light bitter notes in the aftertaste. Very refreshing and pleasant. I enjoyed having it. 4/6

KRONSELKA 2015 (ABV: 7%)

Kronselka

This is a single variety cider made from Transparente de Croncels. Appearance: cloudy light golden with a huge quickly disappearing white head.  Medium carbonation. Aroma: dry white wine notes, green apple with other unspecified green notes. There is also some sweet flavour in the aroma. Taste: dry, moderately acidic, slightly astringent. Light and short bitterness coming from the tannins. Relatively short aftertaste. Refreshing but quite average. 3.5/6

 

 

ZLOTA & SZARA RENETA 2015 (ABV: 8.5%)

17410347_10154996438030915_1261561113_n

This cider is a blend of two old apple varieties known for their high sugar content, King of the Pippins and Grey Reinette. Interestingly, the sugar content of the pressed apple juice of King of the Pippins was at extremely high 19.5 Blg! This cider was also matured 6 months in a bottle. Appearance: cloudy straw yellow. No visible carbonation. Aroma: apples and pears on the nose. Some citrus hints as well. Very refreshing. Taste: some residual sugar perceivable with nicely balanced medium tartness. Green notes with apple and pear hints. Slight astringency. Very pleasant gentle grapefruit-like bitterness in the aftertaste. This cider will be released soon and I am sure I will purchase a few bottles of this one. I enjoyed it. 4.5/6

(No Name) 2016

17439448_10154996507280915_483755420_n

This cider is not commercially available yet. As per Dariusz Koros, the owner, this cider is still too young and requires a few more months of maturation. Similarly to the Stary Sad this one is a blend of Ananas Reinette, Bancroft, Bohnapfel and Starking. Appearance: cloudy light golden with medium carbonation. Aroma: apple and citrus flavours with a pear hint and some sweetness on the nose. Taste: the drier side of medium dry, pleasant flavour of camembert rind with dry champagne notes. Moderately acidic and slightly astringent with no bitter notes. Alcohol is not well hidden yet but I enjoyed it anyway. But overall I think it is almost ready to be released soon! 4.5/6

DELBARD 2016 (ABV: 7%)

17392244_10154996527810915_2055702327_n

Another not commercially available cider from a single apple variety Delbard. Delbard is a very young cider, which was produced in 2016 and racked off only earlier this morning. Appearance: no visible carbonation. Hazy light straw yellow. Aroma: extremely wild and funky notes. Barnyard and unpleasant feces note indicating indole presence. Hay and dryness with sulphuric notes. Some green hint and dry white wine notes perceivable as well. Very rich, but not exactly pleasant aroma due to indole. Taste: Some sweetness, lime-like but rather low acidity. White wine notes with apple and citrus flavors. Slightly astringent. Delbard is a very young cider indeed and needs more structure. So, I hope in a few months it’s taste will improve as it has a big potential, I think. For now only 3/6.

BALLERINA 2016 (ABV: 7%)

17439882_10154996586800915_1010610281_n

Not available commercially, a cider made from an apple called Ballerina giving red coloured apple juice and blended with pear juice. Appearance: hazy light amber colour with orange hues. No visible carbonation. Aroma: floral notes, some booze-like smell, and pears. Taste: fruity, quite high acidity, perceivable alcohol, some bitterness, and astringency. Green apples and raspberry hints but no pear flavour. Interesting but this one is the worst cider so far. I hope that the taste of Ballerina will improve as well. 2.5/6

 

CYDR LODOWY 2015 (ICE CIDER) (ABV: 12%)

17410099_10154996658845915_458951715_n

This ice cider is a blend of a few apple varieties, including Rubinette. The fermentation process took about 8-9 months. Appearance: clear golden colour. Thick body. Still. Aroma: baked and ripe apple. Some sweetness to it and acidic notes. Taste: baked apple, apple sorbet, some nice spiciness, cinnamon but also some green notes. Moderate acidity beautifully balancing out the sweetness. Astringent, some very distant raisin notes. I was really amazed and instantly fell in love! I could swear I can still taste it in my mouth! What a great ice cider! Absolutely fantastic! Do I need to say that on the way back home to Berlin I’ve purchased a few extra bottles? I was really in heaven! 6/6!!!

GRUSZECZNIK LODOWY 2016 (ICE PERRY) (ABV:12%)

17440422_10154996689850915_514055847_n

Ice perry is in general extremely rare. I haven’t heard so far about ice perry before, not to mention a cidery producing one. Hence, to me, this was the highlight of the evening. More to that, it is not commercially available yet. Soon, perhaps. Appearance: clear golden, thick and still. Aroma: some sweetness from ripe pears with notes of cinnamon and cloves. Taste: ripe and juicy pears with hints of honey and some pleasant spiciness with cinnamon and clove flavours. Some minor acetic acidity reminded me of clove-pickled pears. Very delicious but it can’t beat the ice cider. 5/6

Overall, the ice cider was unbeatable and unforgettable. This is the first cider ever that scored 6 out of 6! If you love cider as I do and if you ever get a chance to visit Poland, tasting the ice cider from Cydr Chyliczki should be part of your tour. Well done, Cydr Chyliczki!