Burrow Hill's Somerset Cider
Gold Rush Cider
Ross-on-Wye Dry Perry
While most people think of British cider as... well... let's be honest... most people don't think of British cider. When they think of British drinks, they think of Pimm's cups or perhaps a room-temp cask ale. And if they do think of cider, it's probably that boozy apple juice served up in a pint can that hits American soil. But true English cider—the kind fermented from apples grown on century-old trees, pressed by presses handed down from generation to generation—is some of the best and most nuanced cider in the world.
Traditional English cider and perry is a far cry from what we are used to seeing in supermarkets and at bars in the United States. Traditional English ciders are often produced using only the wild yeasts living in the orchards and are aged in large oak barrels that provide additional structure to the already tannic bittersharp and bittersweet apples. The resulting ciders are full of earthy, mineral flavors that develop over a pint as the beverage crawls towards room temperature.
For the first time in history, some classic examples of British cider and perry have recently landed on American soil and, with this influx of "true" English ciders, Americans can finally enjoy what the Brits have been sipping for centuries.
Exciting English Ciders
All of these ciders are prime examples of the English cider tradition. We'd easily pick any of those over a Blackthorn or Strongbow.
Oliver's Cider and Perry Gold Rush Cider Herefordshire, 6.8% ABV A favorite. This transatlantic collaboration between Greg Hall of Chicago's Virtue Cider and Tom Oliver from Oliver's Cider and Perry is an exciting drink for cider and sour beer lovers alike. Pressed from traditional English cider apples and fermented slowly using ambient yeast, the cider then goes through a second fermentation using lambic beer yeast. While less earthy than most, the result is a fantastic example of English cider with big flavors of tart lemons and fresh cranberries. The strong tannins provide a lingering finish worth savoring.
Hogan's Medium Cider Warwickshire (with apples from Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire), 5.4% ABV Hogan's Medium Cider is like a bridge between the mass market ciders of England and the more complex farmhouse ciders. The controlled stainless steel fermentation results in a straightforward flavor profile, but one that is balanced by the use of quality apples and a proper acid-to-tannin ratio. This is a good introduction to "real cider" but some might find the butterscotch and caramel notes a bit off-putting.
Burrow Hill Cider's Somerset Cider Somerset, 6% ABV While the Hogan's Medium cider is sort of the entry-level introduction to English ciders, the Somerset Cider is a step up. It offers a bit more dimension and quirkiness, while remaining highly drinkable.
Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company Dry Cider Peterstow, 6.4% ABV A classic example of English farmhouse cider. Produced from little more than juice, wild yeast, and a bit of time, the Ross-on-Wye cider is rustic and austere with a strong mineral side and lingering tannins reminiscent of tart grape skins. While the earthiness may take some getting used to for newbies, we loved its complexity and long, leather-like finish.
Did Someone Mention Perry?
Perry, cider's oft-forgotten pear-based cousin, also has a long history in England and each of these are with a try. Some prefer its floral nuances over the earthy character of British cider.
Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company Dry Perry Peterstow, 6.8% ABV Floral, delicate, incredibly complicated and unusual in flavor, the Ross-on-Wry Perry is one of the best we've found on American soil. This perry has a nice tartness and tannins that will have you searching out the complex flavors until the last drop.
Hogan's Vintage Perry (2010) Warwickshire, 5.4% ABV Any new perry from traditional perry pears (as opposed to the common dessert pears often used in the United States) is a welcome addition on the American cider landscape. Though it's not super complex, this is a great introductory perry and far better than most commercial examples you will find.
Thanks to Shelton Brothers for providing samples for review.