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Thanks to brands like Magners, cider has become a big summer drink.

In fact, the 3rd most popular in the UK:

  1. Pimms 26%
  2. Beer/Lager 24%
  3. Cider 14%
  4. Soft Drink 12%
  5. Rose Wine 5%
  6. White Wine 5%
  7. Prosecco 4%
  8. Gin and Tonic 3%
  9. Champagne 1%
  10. Vodka and Tonic 1%
  11. Other 1%

Cider – that most teenage of alcoholic drinks – has suddenly become cool again.

Artisan producers are popping up across the country, and an increasing number of cider festivals are appearing on the summer calendar.

A fashionable drink like Magners is without doubt a far cry from the cider of the 1990s which was consumed by three less than cool social groups: Teenagers necking ‘White Lightening’ in the park, elderly farmers finding bits of squirrel in home made scrumpy, or Levellers fans.

Today’s British ciders are increasingly becoming as sophisticated as wine, with specific regions, apples, styles and production methods spearheading its revival.

Camilla and Prince Charles tasting Severn Sider

Camilla & Prince Charles tasting Severn Sider - Photo Credit: NACM

Connoisseur’s will immediately say Thatchers is the big name in apple ciders with full flavours separating the men from the boys. There are slightly lighter apple ciders such as Waitrose’s superb Cox’s Apple cider to try if Thatchers proves too much on your first cider encounter.

For a special occasion, i.e. not in the pub garden, it’s worth trying a vintage or ‘dated cider’ which a lot of top end off licences have started stocking. A safe start might well be Henry Weston 2007 Vintage Cider; well safe in terms of taste but alcohol wise it’s a whopping 8.2 per cent, so leave the car at home. In some circles Pear Cider or ‘Perry’ is deemed a more refined drink than its apple cousin (it’s lighter and less sweet) so if you really want to push the boat out try a bottle of the rather flashy Kopparberg.

Of course no exploration of the cider world would be complete without mentioning Cider Festivals. Now before you start thinking about old man’s scrumpy and dogs with string for leads again, these events are way more exciting than their beer equivalent: For starters there are girls there. Secondly they nearly always take place in beautiful parts of the country such as Bath and involve everyone being legless by mid afternoon… if you can’t pull there then you may as well give up.

And talking of festivals one of the best kept secrets of Glastonbury is the ‘cider bus’ at the back of the main stage serving what could take over from beer as the new winter drink; Hot Spiced Cider.

Cider’s recent overhaul from scary scrumpy to fashionable festival tipple is well documented. Now its lesser-known sibling, perry, has also had a makeover.

Waitrose’s perry sales are up 42 per cent from last year and Magners has just launched Magners Pear with an £8million marketing campaign.

Perry, sometimes known as pear cider, is a drink made with fermented pears instead of apples. And if you’ve ever slurped a Babycham or a warm glass of Lambrini then you’ve already tried it.

Magners has dubbed 2009 the ‘year of the pear’. Like many of the larger brands, including Gaymers and Bulmers, it has opted to call its new drink a pear cider, rather than ‘perry’.

While the Campaign for Real Ale tends to agree and simply defines real, draught perry as: ‘Consisting entirely of non-pasteurised pear… no pear juice concentrates [are] to be used,’ real aficionados believe only pears from the perry pear triangle – the Three Counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, whose traditional perry is protected by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) – should be used.

‘Perry has to be made from perry pears and is very traditional. Pear cider can use any pear, including culinary fruits.’

Perry pear trees is they take a long time to fruit. Lots of  orchards were lost when perry and cider went out of fashion. With perry back in demand hopefully will signal more orchards being restocked with pear, as well as apple trees.

So, if you’re thinking of switching to the pear, does it make a difference whether you go for farmhouse perry or big-brand fizz?

Perry is less sweet than cider, has a delicate flavour and you can drink it with the same fish and chicken dishes that go with dry white wine. Look for drinks that name their varieties of perry pear. Also, they tend to have fantastic brand names such as Merrylegs and Dunkertons.

It looks like there could be many more converts to Cider and Perry before the summer is out!

If you fancy a trip to Taunton, Somerset, here’s a list of producers to visit over a couple of days in which you can celebrate wonderful cider.

This can be done by bicycle, but it would be safer having a designated driver tour you around!

We suggest the following cider producers for a great day out around Taunton.The postcode link takes you to the location using Google Maps:

CAMRA announced that Gwatkin’s Yarlington Mill cider of Abbey Dore, Herefordshire, and Broadoak Perry of Clutton, Somerset, won Gold medals at CAMRA’s National Cider and Perry Championships 2009, held at the Reading Beer and Cider Festival over the May bank holiday weekend.

The results are:


GOLDGwatkin, Yarlington Mill (Abbey Dore,Herefordshire)

SILVER (Joint) – Orchards, Wye Cider (Brockweir, Gloucestershire)

SILVER (Joint) – Rosie’s Triple D Cider (Llandegla, Denbighshire)


GOLDBroadoak Perry (Clutton, Somerset)

SILVERSeidr Dai Painted Lady Perry (Cardiff, Glamorgan)

BRONZEGwatkin Blakeney Red (Abbey Dore,Herefordshire)

Gwynt Y Draig Vintage Cider

Gwynt Y Draig Vintage Cider

The Guild of Fine Food have announced the winners for the 2009 Great Taste Awards and Welsh Brewers and Cidermakers have again done well in the competition.
Gwynt Y Ddraig have walked away with 3 stars, the highest award, for their Vintage 06 bottled cider. They also received one star for their bottled Orchard Gold, as did Ty Bryn Cider with their Sweetened Sparkling Cider.

Vintage 06 is descibed by Operations Director Bill George as, “A blend of our very best cider apple varieties from the Autumn of 2006, fermented slowly and left to mature for twelve months before making its way to the bottle. A masterpiece of flavours to enjoy by itself, or as an accompaniment to any menu”. The cider is fermented in oak and is described as medium-dry.

There is an open day coming up on the weekend of the 8th-9th August 2009, 1100-2100 Sat, 11-1900 Sun.