Cider has undergone a revolution in recent years and the world of craft cider has changed beyond all recognition. There are so many great ciders to choose from and there's a cider for everybody.
Too much cider
That's great if you know what you're looking for but if you're just getting into craft cider it can overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. The more you know before you start the easier it will be find the ciders that are right for YOU.
Help is at hand
If you're looking for some guidance on where to find the best ciders and what to look for when you're choosing them, then read on! In this blog post, we'll discuss everything you need to know about finding your perfect cider.
Where to find craft cider
Small batch cider doesn't lend itself to mass production so it's difficult to find in the supermarket. In fact you could almost say that if you can find it in a supermarket then it's unlikley to be proper cider! Although there are a few exceptions.
The best place to find proper cider is on a cider farm. If it's made on a farm then it's probably proper cider and the chances are that person selling it was also involved in making it. You'll be able to taste the different ciders and they'll tell you all about how they're made. It's fun and informative and you get to taste some great cider. Why not see if there's a cider farm near you?
Another great place to try cider is cider festivals - or beer festivals with a cider section. Most beer/ cider festivals have a good range of proper cider and you can try lots of different types to see which ones you like. You can usually buy halves or even thirds so you don't have to drink a whole pint if you don't like it!
If you're lucky you might live near a decent cider pub but there aren't as many as you might think. Even pubs with a great beer selection don't tend to have a great selection of craft cider. Ask the bartender about their cider selection and if they point at the Strongbow tap you're probably in the wrong pub!
A great place to find craft cider, and meet the cider maker, is at country shows. Most agricultural shows will have a few cider stalls but the real treat is to find the cider tent, where the cider judging takes place. That's where you'll find the cidermakers and if you're lucky you might get some free samples too.
Best cider shows
The best shows for cider are those that take place in counties that are traditionally associated with cider making. The biggest and best is The Royal Bath & West Show, which is home to the British Cider Championships and is the spiritual home of cider!
Online cider shops
If you can't make it to the farm then your best bet is a good cider retailer that knows their apples. Make sure you pick someone that really understands cider and isn't just shifting bottles as they will take the time to understand what you're looking for and make sure they find the right cider for you.
Different Types of Cider
Farmhouse (scrumpy) cider
This is the most traditional type of cider. It is typically made with cider apples, which produce a dry, still, cloudy cider which is around 6% ABV. It is strong in alcohol and flavour and is not for the feint-hearted!
Most widely-available cider is sparkling. This is made from a mix of cider and eating apples and then carbonated to produce a lighter, fruitier drink that is more accessible for the casual cider drinker. It is usually around 4-5% ABV.
Vintage cider is particularly good cider from a single year's harvest, which is matured in oak barrels for up to a year to develop the flavours. It will usually be stronger in flavour and alcohol and will often be up to 7-8% ABV.
Most ciders are blended from different types of apple but a few apples have enough complexity to be used on their own. These single-varietal ciders are made from varieties like Kingston Black, Dabinett and Yarlington Mill.
Cider is often matured in wooden barrels to help develop the flavour. By using different spirit barrels, you can create an extra level of complexity and cider is often matured in rum or whisky barrels.
Most French ciders are made using the technique of 'keeving'. This stops the fermentation process before all the sugar has turned into alcohol, resulting in a smooth, fruity cider which is typically only 3-4% ABV.
The traditional way of making cider sparkling is to finish the fermentation in the bottle, which produces carbon dioxide and creates a natural sparkle. The only downside is that it also produces sediment in the bottle.
A growing number of craft cider makers are making 'fine' cider, which is aimed at the cider connoisseur. They typically made using the more complex techniques outlined above to produce a cider similar in character to natural wine.
Ice cider was invented in Canada and is made from frozen apples to produce a concentrated, sweet cider. Ice cider is similar to a dessert-wine and is perfect after dinner with cheese or desserts.
As the name suggests, fruit cider is made with a mixture of apples and other fruits to produce a sweeter cider with a very fruity flavour.
Perry is the pear equivalent to cider. Proper perry is made from perry pears, in the same way that cider is made from cider apples. It produces a light, delicate drink with earthy undertones and is not to be confused with 'pear cider'!
Best Cider Brands
One of the tricky things when you're looking for craft cider is that a lot of the big brands that you've heard of are owned by large corporations and the smaller producers which are the ones you're looking for you won't have heard of them.
Here are a few of our favourite producers to look out for. This is definitely not an exhaustive list by any means but will give you a starting point. Any of the ciders from any of these producers are good quality, full juice ciders that are worth trying.
Top 10 Cider Makers For Novice Cider Drinkers
Burrow Hill, Somerset
One of the best known Somerset ciders, famously served on the Somerset Cider Bus at Glastonbury Festival. Excellent medium-dry sparkling cider, draught (scrumpy) farmhouse cider and bottle-fermented (Champagne style) cider.
Previous winner of the Supreme Champion at the British Cider Championships. Excellent range of sparkling 500ml bottles and still cider in pouches and bag in box.
Good range of very accessible Devon craft ciders in bottles, keg and bag in box.
Iford Cider, Somerset
Small Somerset producer with an expanding range of modern and fruit ciders.
Good selection of accessible, easy-drinking ciders.
Excellent farmhouse cider in bag in boxes and a wide range of bottles. Newly expanded farm shop and
Sandford Orchards, Devon
Sandford's everyday range is widely available in Devon and is decent, every day, cider but their Vintage range is on another level and is proper, big, vintage cider.
Very wide range of ciders from one of the oldest cider makers - everything from single varietals to fruit cider and every day session ciders.
Good range of easy-drinking, accessible ciders, including Natural Dry (Dry), Vintage (Medium Dry) and Taunton Gold (Medium).
Excellent range of sparkling 500ml bottles - Red Hen (Medium-Dry), Rocky Road (Medium), Beatnik Billy (Medium-Sweet) plus 75cl Special Edition Keeved Cider.
Top 10 Cider Makers for More Experienced Cider Drinkers
Apple County, Monmouthshire
Excellent selection of sparkling, full-juice, single-varietal ciders from South Wales. Also a great range of proper fruit ciders, made with fruit grown locally to the farm.
Wide range of organic ciders from a traditional cider farm that has grown up into a large scale cider maker.
Traditional Somerset cider from sixth generation cider family. Traditional (still) cider on draught and range of sparkling 500ml bottles.
Small Somerset maker with only one cider but it's a cracker!
Newton Court, Herefordshire
Excellent selection of accessible, organic ciders in 330ml and now 500ml bottles.
Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Herefordshire
Much-celebrated cider-maker with a wide range of cider and perry in 330ml and 75cl bottles. Wild-fermented and full of character.
Wide range of 500ml bottles with excellent branding. Cider is unfiltered so is hazy in appearance. Excellent range of single-varietals.
Keeved ciders and an ever expanding stable of unique fruit combinations, special fermentations, barrel aged ciders, and collaborations in 75cl bottles.
Multi award-winning cidermakers who produce a huge range of traditional, single-varietal and bottle conditioned ciders.
Rull Orchard, Devon
Small producer in Devon that makes small batches of cider on a small farm but it is always consistently good. Also great honey, fruit juices and amazing hedges!