B. Nektar The Dude’s Rug

B. Nektar is a cidery, meadery and brewery based in Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.A consisting of Brad, Kerri and their friend Paul – three passionate home brewers. An idea to make a living out of creating beers, meads and ciders began to grow after Brad and Kerri’s wedding when the guests gave very positive reviews about their homemade mead.  When Kerri lost her job in 2006, the trio decided to turn brewing into a full-time business. Today B. Nektar is one of the largest meaders in the U.S. and their products are distributed also in several European cities like Berlin.Company: B. Nektar
Place of Origin: Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.A.
Ingredients: apple cider, chai tea (black tea with cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla)
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear deep, dark amber with no head. Slightly sparkling. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is moderately strong with notes of caramel, coca-cola, tea and hints of cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and cardamom.

Taste: my first taste is medium sweet, light watery with the low sourness of a lemon. Further notes are of tea, lemon, vanilla, cloves with low astringent taste. It gently numbs the tongue – due to eugenol present in cloves. The finish is lightly citrusy with chai spices and a hint of astringency.

Overall: Jenia from the Muted Horn told me that The Dude’s Rug tastes like Christmas according to her. I would rather compare The Dude’s Rug’s to coca-cola yet made from natural ingredients, with a much deeper taste and better length. Despite many delicious notes of spices, I thought it was refreshing and tasted pleasant on this hot day in Berlin. But to my palate, it was too sweet. The longer I drank it, the less I wanted to take another sip. So this is definitely a thing for those who prefer their cider on the sweeter side. Sadly, I couldn’t pick up any apple notes. Summarizing, an interesting and nicely balanced…Christmas cider or natural coke. 4/6

Availability: B.Nektar ciders seem to be widely available in many European craft beer bars. In Belgium from Bieres Gourmet

Price: purchased 0.4l from the Muted Horn in Berlin at 5.20 EUR.

Starcut Ciders Immortal Jelly

This is really weird. You can barely find any real cider in Berlin, and when you wander the city looking for real European cider made from apples you stumble upon a cider made from various berries coming from a craft cidery Starcut Ciders, based in the Northern Michigan in the US. Berlin will never stop amazing me.Company: Short’s Brewing Company
Place of Origin: Elk Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.
Ingredients: water, hard cider, carbon dioxide, blackberry puree, blueberry puree, raspberry puree, strawberry puree
Sweetness as per label: semi-dry
ABV: 5.2%
Package type: 355ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear raspberry red with no head. Slightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: it smells slightly sweet and very fruity of kompot with notes of various berries such as strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. There is also a light watery note to it.

Taste: it starts, surprisingly, with a low level of sweetness and medium to high refreshing acidity. Similarly to the nose, the palate tastes fruity of various berries, mainly blueberries and blackberries with a touch of astringency and bitterness. The aftertaste is dry and sour with notes of berries and a hint of astringency.

Overall: Wow. I actually enjoyed the Immortal Jelly as it’s refreshingly sour and fruity, but still rich with multi berry-flavours and very nicely balanced. I couldn’t taste the apple though. I liked it but in my opinion, this is not going to be a cider for everyone. If you prefer your cider on the sweeter side and don’t tolerate a quite high level of sourness then I don’t think this cider is for you. As for me, I think will keep coming back to Muted Horn, where I bought it to have a glass of the Immortal Jelly. Cheers! 4/6

Availability: I guess you have one more reason to come to Berlin as the Immortal Jelly is only available at Muted Horn, a craft beer bar in Berlin-Neukölln.

Price: purchased from Muted Horn at 5.90 EUR.

 

Why cider from overseas is easier​ to get in Berlin than European cider?

Last weekend I was wandering around Berlin looking for bars and shops stocking real cider. Most bars offered the usual commercially available ciders from Aspall or Strongbow, which I refuse to drink. But then, in Neukölln, an upcoming multicultural district of Berlin, I discovered a craft beer bar called Muted Horn and made there a very interesting observation. I was standing at the bar and looking at the list of ciders available in bottles when I discovered that apart from Welsh cider, Gwynt y Ddraig they stock cider from the US company Starcut Ciders, which is based in Northern Michigan.  I was very much surprised as the distance between Berlin and Michigan is around 7000 km.

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I spoke to the bartender in the Muted Horn and asked him if they offer cider on draught sometimes. I learned that in the past they had another cider from Michigan, the Death Unicorn from B. Nektar Meadery, and also one Canadian cider on draught from Cidrerie Milton, which is located in Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Quebec. Wow, another cider from overseas I thought. The distance between Quebec and Berlin is approx. 5.500 km.

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It didn’t stop there. Since I was already in the area of Neukölln, I’ve decided to check out a craft beer store, Lager Lager, which was just a 15-minute walk away from Muted Horn. After having a pleasant chat with the sales guy in Lager Lager, I’ve learned that they would love to stock UK cider, but the import of cider from the UK is just too costly. However, this week they are expecting an overseas container from New Zealand loaded with imported goods, including cider from Zeffer Cider Company. I calculated the distance between Berlin and New Zeland and it is roughly 18.200km! This gave me food for thought…

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I was amazed and couldn’t help but wonder, how is this possible that cider coming from overseas, outside of Europe, shipped from really really far away, is easier to get in Berlin than real cider from e.g. Somerset, UK, which is only 1300km away! Or traditional cidre from Normandy, France, which is even closer at 1100km away from Berlin? How come is Berlin a good enough market for cider companies coming from overseas, but not interesting enough for European cider makers from Bretagne or Asturias? How come a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 20.000km is easier to get in Berlin than a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 1000km, which is only 5% of this route? Shouldn’t the shipping cost be proportionally lower for a cider from Somerset?

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I gave my observation some thought and I see a number of possible explanations for it. Firstly, the vast majority of cider makers operate locally focusing on farmers markets, local cider/beer festivals or supply of local restaurants or pubs. Only occasionally selling products to the US, but ignoring the rest of Europe. Depending on how you look at this matter, you may call it a focus on the regional market or a misfunctioning/limited sales strategy. Secondly, it might be a real-life example of the global village, where you can buy products manufactured 20.000km away without spending 20 hours on a plane. Thirdly,  the overseas cider has just reached the status that wines from Napa Valley once had to fight for. The first explanation is probably the closest to the truth.

Personally, I don’t mind having a glass of hard cider from the US or Canada as long as it’s not from concentrate. Seriously, I’m happy to try a cider from New Zealand without even having to leave Berlin. Lucky me! But, I want to have a choice between cider made in Europe and overseas. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of choosing because, at this moment, the only real cider on draught available in Berlin is from the US and Canada. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the marketing and distribution strategy? I know, a good marketing and distribution strategy cost a substantial amount of money. But look at the Zeffer Cider Company from New Zealand. They needed funding to expand into Asia and raised $1.2 million in a crowdfunding campaign in under a week! See the article here. Learn from them because now they are taking Berlin. How about you? When will you take Berlin?

UPDATE: Just learned that most European cider makers don’t even offer their cider in kegs, not to mention recyclable one-way kegs.

Dear cider makers, please be more flexible and widen your keg offer! Cider drinkers in Berlin want to drink decent cider as well! Don’t leave us with Strongbow being the only cider available on tap :-/