Gibbet Oak/Nightingale Cider Company Tenterden Cider

This is another cider from Gibbet Oak, which came with my cider subscription offered by Orchard Box. Tenterden is the name of a cider I am reviewing today and a city in Kent, UK. The name Tenterden apparently comes from ‘Tenet Waraden’, which in the Old English means a clearing in the forest, belonging to the men of Thanet.

Gibbet Oak rebranded recently so their new name is Nightingale Cider.
Gibbet Oak
Place of Origin: Tenterden, Kent, UK
Pears: apples grown on the farm
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.7%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass, pint glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a slightly hazy straw yellow with no head. Still. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has a light funk with notes of fresh red apples, green notes with a distant light sulphur.

Taste: the first sip is a bit watery with a moderate level of sweetness and low lemon-like acidity. Then comes the lingering smokiness with a flavour of red and yellow apples and a touch of alcohol. Very light tannins, green notes with elderflower and a touch of lemon peel to the end.

Overall: I thought the Tenterden was unspectacular. It’s drinkable but easy to forget. I think that the amount of eating apples used is just too high, thus making this cider taste pretty average. Moreover, the Tenterden could be slightly less sweet. Also, the booze note in the aftertaste is disturbing. In summary, Gibbet’s Oak Tenterden can be eventually regarded as an alternative to commercial ciders but that’s all. Personally, I wouldn’t buy it again. 2.5/6 

Availability: seems to be available locally in Kent from Gibbet Oak Farm Shop and online from eebria.

Price: arrived with my cider subscription from Orchard Box.


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.


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. 


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

Trabanco Lagar de Camin

The Trabanco family has been making sidra on a commercial scale in Gijón, in the beautiful Spanish region of Asturias since 1925. As almost every family in this region, the Trabancos have been making sidra long before that but only for their own use. Sidra Trabanco has quickly emerged from a small family business to the large and well prospering Trabanco Group.  Today I have the pleasure of sampling their Lagar de Camin from their sparkling sidra range.
Sidra Trabanco
Place of Origin: Gijón, Asturias, Spain
Apples: a blend of bitter, acidic and sweet apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: brut
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: 750ml green glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a huge quickly reducing white head. High carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is dry and sweet at the same time, with notes of vinegar, tart apples, funk, barnyard, leather, fermented yellow apples, oak. Underlying slightly floral notes with a green apple round up the aroma.

Taste: it begins with high sweetness and low vinegary and citrusy acidity with grapefruit notes. On the mid-palate fermented apples and yellow apples with a lingering flavour of smoked cheese and a hint of green apple. It finishes dry with a grapefruit peel bitterness to the end.

Overall: Trabanco’s Lagar de Camin is a decent Spanish sidra that can be likeable. It has typical features of this cider style, acetic acidity and grapefruit flavours. Also, it has a nice structure and good breadth of flavours that are not boring. In my view, the taste of vinegar is not abundant, so it’s gentle on your stomach. It is advertised as sidra that pairs well with desserts, and I think I can agree with this recommendation. Moreover, Asian dishes could also pair well with it in my opinion. Personally, I found the Lagar de Camin too sweet to my palate but I didn’t get an impression that I am drinking a sugar-loaded acetic lemonade. Not at all! I enjoyed it. 4/6

Availability: through Enobohemia, Sabor de Siempre, La Tienda de la Sidra and many others.   

Price: purchased earlier last year at Chmielołak in Warsaw at 32 PLN (7.55 EUR). Unfortunately, I don’t think they carry it anymore.


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.
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,, 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.


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
Somerset cider apples
Sweetness as per label:
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.


Zeffer Cider Company Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble is a classic UK dessert made with apples and other fruits and a crispy crumb topping. Agreed, the name sounds delicious for a pie, but for a cider? Apple Crumble is a limited edition cider from the New Zealand-based Zeffer Cider Company.Company: Zeffer Cider Co.  
Place of Origin: Auckland, New Zealand
Ingredients: unknown apple varieties, cinnamon, vanilla, blackberry leaves
Sweetness as per label: unknown
ABV: 5.4%
Package type: 330ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: chalice glass, pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear copper with a short-lived white foam, which reduces to a long lasting ring. Low carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the scent is dominated by the aroma of cinnamon. Further notes belong to blackcurrant and distant vanilla. But no apple.

Taste: the first taste has a light sweetness in there with notes of cinnamon and both lemon and vinegary medium acidity. The mid-palate has a flavour of baked apples, red apples and a distant hint of vanilla. The aftertaste has a touch of bitterness and a hint of blackcurrant.

Overall: I am pleasantly surprised with this one. The Apple Crumble is drinkable and complex with the right level of sweetness. If it tasted less sweet it would be just boring, I think. The note of cinnamon is perhaps too dominating both on the nose and the palate covering apple notes, but the palate is rich and flavours move smoothly from one to another. I think that Zeffer’s Apple Crumble is a refreshing alternative to traditional ciders. Even the cider purist in me had to admit it. 4/6

Availability: to my knowledge currently only in Lager Lager in Berlin-Neukölln.

Price: 24 RM (4.80 EUR) at Ales & Lagers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



Royal Dog Cider

All I could find about the company behind the Royal Dog Cider it that is produced by Pivovar Zubr in Přerov, The Czech Republic in cooperation with Ovexim, a company producing apple juices, fruit concentrates, wines and other products made from fruits.Company: Pivovar Zubr
Place of Origin: Přerov, Olomouc Region, The Czech Republic
Apples: specially cultivated Moravian apple varieties
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a white head, which slowly dissipates. Lightly sparkling.

Aroma/Nose: smells of apple juice from a carton with a note typical for white wine, also something chemical on the nose.

Taste: starts extremely sweet with no acidity to break the overly sweet taste. The sweetness is followed by a flavour of cheap apple juice from a carton and a chemical note to it. Can’t taste anything else. No tannins, but also no taste of alcohol.

Overall: You shouldn’t judge a book, by its cover, but even before I purchased the Royal Dog Cider I had a feeling it would turn out to a typical alco-pop. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wrong. The Royal Dog Cider tastes like an apple juice that you drink for breakfast in a budget hotel. It tastes overly sweet and chemical. It has nothing to do with real cider. I couldn’t finish it. I don’t believe that anyone could find it drinkable. 0.5/6 

Availability: seems to be available in a number of restaurants and bars across The Czech Republic.

Price: had 0.2L at Slavnost Cideru 2017 at 20 CZK (1 EUR)