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Tuesday, 05 February 2019 16:51

In Cider Trading – Ciderhouse, 15 & 16 February

Written by 

Please allow me to introduce myself.

Your Malthouse Blogger Neil Miller has asked me to fill in for him over the next few weeks as he takes a break after nine years of regular Malthouse bloggery.

I’m Martin Craig, beer writer and Malthouse regular, and I will just have to do in the meantime.

Neil and I have different writing styles [1] and my knowledge of Mexican wrestling, Star Wars/Trek, Chuck Norris movies, and bad Canadian music pales in comparison.

But I do have a strength Neil cannot match – it’s well known that Neil is not a cider fan: “As noted many times, it is a matter of public record that I am not a cider drinker,” Neil confessed in this blog in 2013. I like cider, and this week we’re getting excited about Ciderhouse.

Every year, in the peak of summer, The Malthouse replaces barley with apples and becomes The Ciderhouse. This year’s takeover sees at least 12 cider taps confirmed, with a few surprises coming on the night.

It is an occasion for joy, and, for occasional cider drinkers, an occasion to discover what’s changed in the cider world.

Compared to the innovative and experimental world of craft beer, cider moves slowly and traditionally. It takes weeks to grow a hop bine: it takes years to grow an apple tree. New varieties of hops appear each year, but new apple varieties don’t exist. Like wine makers, cider makers rely on one harvest each year and have to adapt to the vagaries of cropping, rainfall, sunshine and, in some years, ex-tropical cyclones with a mean sense of timing. Apple trees give a strong crop one year, followed by a small crop the next.

So cider makers’ skills lie in understanding the different characteristics of each year’s harvest, then working to bring out the best in them.

One rule of thumb says any apple that tastes too bad to eat makes a good cider. It’s not that simple, but many cider apples are too sharp (acidic) or bitter (tannic) to eat. Some are even too sharp to ferment – the acid kills the yeast – and so cidermakers blend juices before fermentation, and then blend the resulting ciders to produce something delicious and quenching.

And apple juices are highly fermentable. Left alone, just about all of the sugar can ferment out, leaving a cider that is puckeringly astringent. The simple trick it to add sugar to restore sweetness, and that’s exactly what a lot of the fizzy, appley sweet supermarket ciders get. But a craft cider can be left dry, or have apple juice added for balance.

The result is that trad ciders cover a huge range of flavour experiences. Flat or carbonated; clear or cloudy; pale or red-brown; sweet or aridly dry. And next year’s batch will be different again.

The apples for next year’s Ciderhouse are ripening on the branch right now. Alex Peckham, who has the biggest cider apple orchard in the country, reports that the apples are feeling the heat from this long, hot summer. “If this keeps on the apples will be small, sweet and intense.”

Right now Ciderhouse has twelve taps confirmed, with more in the pipeline, and of course, The Malthouse’s excellent range of bottled and canned ciders in the fridge.

International guests

Thatcher’s Apple Cider

Aspall Suffolk Cider

Magner’s Apple Cider

 

New Zealand ciders

South Cider Crisp Apple

Moa Apple & Rhubarb Cider

Moa Apple Cider

Peckham’s Boysenberry Cider

Peckham’s Reserve Dry Cider

Sprig & Fern Berry Cider

Sprig & Fern Mango and Lime Cider

Good George Extra Dry Apple Cider

Good George Rose Strawberry and Lime Cider

Next time we write of Deep Creek Brewing and the ever-flattering Aloha shirt/moustache combo.

Cheers!

Martin Craig

Guest Malthouse Blogger

[1] For one thing, I don’t do footnotes. If it’s worth saying, put it in the text already!