A blog about cider

Friday, April 06, 2007

IRISH BULMERS: Magners without ice

Mmmmm.. this cider blog idea has not quite worked out the way I planned, no matter, here is a bit of a kick start… dinking cider in Dublin.

The land of Guinness also seems to have one brand of cider everywhere you look.. Bulmers. Now the odd thing about Irish Bulmers is that it is not made by the famous HP Bulmer of Hereford (creator of the mighty Strongbow), but a completely separate company. Irish Bulmers is sold outside Ireland, but for obvious reasons it cannot call itself Bulmers because that name is already taken up. So, outside of the Emerald Isle it is known as… Magners. Yes, Irish Bulmers Original and Magners are one and the same.

There is a big difference though, over there it is readily available on tap and they pour it straight into a pint glass for you to drink, unlike Magners which tends to come out of a chilled bottle and poured over ice. Now why anyone would want to drink cider with Ice in is beyond me. OK, it is nice to have your cider cold, but it don’t take long for the ice to melt and .. well.. water down the cider! Now there is one theory about the ice thinning out the cider to enable it to penetrate the blood system quicker, which, to me, sounds like a load of bollocks. Cider is not supposed to have ice in it simple as. If you want it cold, bung it in the fridge or even freezer first.

We don’t often get a chance to sample a cider in large quantities (it’s usually one pint of something unusual, or large quantities of Strongbow), so Dublin was a bit of a change, cos we drank nothing else but Bulmers Original for five days. Actually, it does not taste that bad when you get to drink it without ice. The Irish are proper drinkers and do not insist on the frozen H2O, in fact many barmen look at you silly when you ask for it. It is not too dissimilar to the might ‘Bow, dry, but not too dry, smooth, refreshing and has a rich autumn apple taste. It is slightly sweeter and yet slightly more bitter than ‘Bow and a slightly thicker consistency. All in all drinking it for five days was not a particularly unpleasant experience although it did leave the throat dry by the end of a session… not as nice as ‘Bow, but we have not come across anything as good as ‘Bow when it comes to long distance sessions.

It has to be said though, away on a football tour, spending the majority of time in pubs drinking the stuff, starting before noon each day and never finishing before 4am.. and we never seemed to be able to get drunk on the stuff. If memory serves it is 5%, which is not far behind ‘Bow at 5.3%, but it has nowhere near the same kick. Another reason to not be messing about with it outside of Ireland.

All in all it will form a pleasant memory of the trip, but we wont be converting to Magners over here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

MALVERN GOLD: A one off surprise

Cider, not the greatest tool in the photographers kit for steady hands

On a trip to Malvern before Christmas to see the reunion of Omnia Opera we came a cross a hidden gem, MALVERN GOLD. A beautiful little cider with a cheeky surprise.

This was our first visit to Malvern and the first time we had heard of this tipple, it maybe that everyone in Malvern knows about it, lucky gits. Apparently the Knights family have been brewing cider for three generations, but this particular blend is fairly new.

Made from apple juice, none of this apple concentrates nonsense; it has a refreshing smooth taste, fruity at first, then a slightly bitter after taste. It tickled me hearing a girl sat across from us telling people the after taste was because her bottle had not been washed out properly… philistine. This is not a mass produced chemical cocktail and those that are not used to real cider might find it a challenge, but after only a few slugs it quickly gained some serious respect from the Iguana posse.

Of course, taste is one thing, but to really gain respect a cider needs a bit of oomph. And this oil certainly had that, a kick way beyond what we expected from a 6%er. One pint left its mark, the second got us worrying about making the distance, the third loosened up the laughing muscles, the fourth removed any cares about doing embarrassing things, the fifth brought on a feeling of invincibility, the sixth helped us forget how to count and at some unknown point in the evening the bar ran out of Malvern Gold!

Few ciders leave such a mark with only one session. We have kept an eye out for it ever since, but it appears that this really is a local cider for local people. A trip back to Malvern is definitely on the cards.

NAME: Malvern Gold


TASTE: bitter sweet

IGUANA RATING 10/10 (Tasty and wicked, treat with respect)

BREWED BY: Knights Cider, Malvern


Saturday, January 27, 2007

STRONGBOW: The nectar of the iguana

Strongbow, suitable for all occasions

Ah Strongbow. Bowjolais, ‘Bow, old faithful, the nectar of the iguana. The first alcoholic drink I ever liked, the one I have drunk most of, my tipple of choice.

It has that perfect combination of taste and strength; a taste of apples that is pleasing to the pallet, not to sweet, not too dry, not to gassy, a taste that never bores, even after several gallons in one sitting; a strength that will get you tipsy after a few, but not so strong you are falling down after three (more about those sorts of cider to come).

Suitable for all occasions, gigs, festivals, raves, parties, football matches, weddings, funerals, sitting in a pub, sitting on a bus, sitting in the garden, sitting in the house, for hot days and cold nights, to be drunk with a meal or to accompany a fine reefer. There are no occasions when it is not appropriate.. erm.. apart from driving. It comes in cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, out of a tap and of course, in a pint glass.

Some like it chilled, which is glorious on a hot summers day, but it is fine when it is warm or even flat.

I know all of the above because I have drunk it in all these situations, and more.

When I were a lad it was not widely available in pubs so we often found ourselves wandering the streets sinking a few flagons before heading to the pub to drink pissy l*ger. These days though there are not many UK pubs that don’t serve it, which is handy. Cider, for some strange reason, is not widely available through out the world, or at least not as available as it is in the UK. This has led to trips across Europe involving large quantities of ‘Bow stuffed into the luggage to break the monotony of continental lager. It can be found on the continent, but it tends to be in pubs with names like ‘the George and the Dragon’ or ‘Paddy O’Riley’s Irish Bar’, which sort of defeats the object of going abroad, but it is necessary to make the odd sacrifice for a fix of the ‘Bow.... and fotrtunately 'Bow is the cider that these pubs usually serve.

These day there are several different versions of Strongbow, such as super strength versions, smooth versions and even non alcoholic versions (???). No doubt throughout this blog they will all be given a test run (except the one that is supposed to be drunk with ice… cider with ice in, how f*ckin’ stupid is that?). Given the fact that ‘Bow is the one we drink most, no doubt we will revisit the original at some point as well.

NAME: Strongbow

STREGNTH: 5.3% abv

TASTE: Dry side of medium

IGUANA RATING: 10/10 (The muts nuts)

BREWED BY: HP Bulmer, Hereford

BORN: 1960


Monday, January 15, 2007

A BLOG ABOUT CIDER? Get a life son!

Cider. How different life would have been without it. It has drained me bank account, it has made me fall down and hurt me self, it has made me loose control of my bodily functions (only temporarily fortunately) and may well have damaged my career, but it has brought me many many happy times (I just wish I could remember them all!) and I love it.

I remember my first taste, sat in a playground near my house, like it was yesterday, not 30 years ago. It was Strongbow. It got me drunk and tasted nice, unlike that beer and lager nonsense. Since then I have sampled many varieties and this blog will be an attempt to chronicle some of the many ciders on the market that i sample in the future. I am not sure how many different ways there are to describe an alcoholic drink made from fermented apples, but I am sure it will flex my pickled brain trying.

What has inspired this? Well, this blog is partly inspired by the collection of different ciders that found their way into my Christmas stocking and partly by ‘CAMRA’s Good Cider Guide’, bought for me by Nipper McStump, a comrade that has shared many cider experiences with me over the years.

Sad? maybe, but as my real ale officianado mate Ashes would say "better then sitting in the house with a pencil in your eye"