Hoxton Cidersmiths Michelin & Brown’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price: purchased online from Ciderlab at 4.67 EUR.

Joker Cider

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

Picture below is courtesy of @SlavnostCideru.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perry’s Grey Heron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigr z Jabka Polosuchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westons Stowford Press Export

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

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

Package type: 
Recommended type of glass:
pint glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Val de Rance Cru Breton Cidre Doux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marks & Spencer Somerset Traditional Cider (Sheppy’s)

By coincident, during my visit to Wroclaw I have learned that Marks & Spencer stocks a few bottles of cider. Surprisingly, such cider brands as Sheppy’s, Westons or Guillet Freres produce cider for Marks & Spencer. Time to find out how they may taste like!

Company: Sheppy’s
Place of Origin:
Taunton, Somerset, UK
a blend of traditional bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples varieties such as Yarlington Mill, Chisel Jersey, Stoke Red, Tremlett’s Bitter and Coate’s Jersey.
Sweetness as per label: 
Package type:
500ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass:
pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Ingredients: apple juice, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, malic acid, sulphites, yeast.

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no head. Body is light. Carbonation is artificial.

Aroma/Nose: smells of beeswax with notes of leather, ripe red and fermented apples. Very tannic. The scent is dry nice and extremely inviting.

Taste: it starts moderately sweet with light to moderate acidity (you can taste that malic acid was added) and a watery taste. The mid-palate is pleasant with ripe red apples and smoked cheese. The finish is dry with a light bitter taste and a touch of tart apples.

Overall: Beautiful, as a matter of fact hypnotizing, scent of quite funky proper cider notes invites you to take the first sip. But the moment you tried it you regret you didn’t stop there. This cider is a profanity! On the spot you can say that a really decent cider made from cider apples was mixed with articial and completely unnecessary ingredients, which make this cider almost undrinkable. I feel really sorry for the cider maker, who sold his soul to Marks&Spencer as the addition of malic acid just killed this cider. Perhaps I am a cider purist and sensitive to all sorts of ‘improvements’ with synthetic ingredients as my friend who shared the bottle with me gave the Somerset Traditional 4 out of 6. I will not be that generous. Why, the hell, did you have to spoil such a good cider? 2.5/6 

Availability: online and locally from Marks & Spencer

Price: purchased from Marks&Spencer in Wroclaw, Poland at 12 PLN (2.85 EUR)