Two weeks after CiderCon, the globe’s largest celebration of the fermented apple, Susanna Forbes’ Swift Halves are unsurprisingly cider-tinged. Alongside a new, peerless ice cider from Vermont, she’s picked apple wine from Kent plus an unusual, barrel-fermented keeved cider. There’s creativity on the beer-front from north of the border and a 0.05% can for those still embracing the go slow. Wassail!
Eden, Heirloom Blend Ice Cider, Vermont, USA
Ice cider, 10%
One of the highlights of CiderCon, the US Association of Cider Makers’ 1,000-strong conference, is meeting the true stars. Take Eleanor Léger, the charming face behind Eden Specialty Ciders, New England’s ice cider pioneer. In the week that Eden held its sell-out 10th anniversary dinner, we tasted Eleanor’s Heirloom Ice Cider.
A blend of 15 heirloom and cider varieties (‘heirlooms’ are the original apple varieties in the US, previously neglected and now being rescued), this shows incredible richness, with ripe apricot, peach and cooked apple notes on nose and palate. There’s a herbal tinge and it’s spliced with an almost ethereal acidity. Never cheap but always worth it.
Anything else? This has just landed in the UK, thanks to new retailer, Scrattings, with a wholesale sideline in ice cider.
£20/37.5cl; cases of 6; Scrattings, 01984 568190
Pilton Cider, Tamoshanta, Somerset
Keeved cider, 4.7%
Someone over here doing well over there is Martin Berkeley of Pilton Ciders. Familiar to Imbibe Live attendees, Berkeley is renowed for his smartly attired, keeved ciders. Tamoshanta is Berkeley’s trademark keeved cider made with an orchard blend of cider apples from traditional trees. On Burns Night, it is transferred into Scotch whisky barrels to finish its long, slow fermentation. The result is an amber russett cider with fine bubbles, light, dusky tannins and a mellow sweetness.
Anything else? The cider is named after both the Scottish hat and the famed eponymous poem by Robert Burns.
£4.50/75cl; cases of 6; also avail. in 37.5cl; Crafty Nectar – Trade: 07840 541701; Pilton Cider: 01749 340 948
Hush Heath, English Apple Wine, Kent
Traditional method cider, 8%
Hush Heath’s Sparkling English Apple Wine is made in exactly the same way as its sparkling wines. The same equipment with the same attention to detail. The fruit – Cox, Bramley and Egremont Russet – comes from the Hush Heath estate. The secondary fermentation is with champagne yeast, and cidermaker Victoria Ash adjusts the sugar dose to aim for more of a crémant style.
Once fermentation is complete, Ash leaves the new cider on its lees for just three months, to retain pure crisp flavours rather than allowing a more savoury, autolytic style to develop.
Anything else? Elegant and crisp, opt for broader bowled glasses rather than narrow flutes, so as to appreciate the tingly, fresh aromas.
£8.25/75cl, cases of 6; Hush Heath, 07825 758833
Fyne Ales Origins Brewing, Goodnight, Summer, Argyll
Sour ale with gooseberries & camomile, 5.4%
Brewed in collaboration with local restaurant Inver, Goodnight, Summer forms part of the first tranche of Fyne Ales’ Origins series. Four years in the making, the series is designed to celebrate local provenance. In Goodnight, Summer, Scottish-wheat Belgian-style wit was infused with camomile before ageing on whole gooseberries, some of which were locally foraged. A fascinatingly winsome sour beer with light gooseberry notes peeping through the hints of camomile. Elegant. Drinkable. Different. The next Origins chapter should arrive ahead of summer.
Anything else? The witbier base of Goodnight, Summer is brewed with the same wheat Inver use to bake its bread.
£17.34/6×37.5cl; Fyne Ales, 01499 600120
Budweiser, Prohibition Brew
Launched last year but receiving a timely push during Tryanuary, Budweiser’s near-as-dammit zero alcohol lager resurrects the recipe that was used during Prohibition. With discernible malt notes, a welcome hop bitterness on finish kicks in without the metallic overnotes found in so many of its low abv brethren. A well judged carbonation prevents this from being cloying.
Anything else? CGA research shows that despite the growing interest in the low/zero abv sector, much of which is driven by younger drinkers, low/zero abv beer accounts for just 3% of fridge space.
£31.66/24x33cl; AB-Inbev, 0870 1696969
Read more? Forbes kicked off 2018 with a typically varied range of strengths and colours, influences and experiences