Posts Tagged ‘Cider’

Cider Review: Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy

8 November, 2010

I STOPPED trying to review cider for good reason. Trying to review them was like comparing potatoes. There’s not much to choose between them, and at the end of it all, you wish you hadn’t bothered. Nowadays I only bother if I find one that is genuinely different and closer to the mythical ‘Real Cider,’ or if it’s been recommended in the comments section. With both of those conditions being true, feast your eyes upon this: Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy bottle

Look carefully, and you’ll spot the reasons why I couldn’t miss the chance to try Old Rosie. First is that it’s cloudy. You can see sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That’s not something you see in many, if any bottled ciders. Second, this Old Rosie is Westons Old Rosie.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy neck label

Readers who have bookmarked or subscribed here might remember way back how much I liked Westons Premium Organic Cider and Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider. What you can’t see on the bottle is the price tag. I procured this bottle from Nisa Local on London’s Old Street for the exorbitant price of £2.25 pence.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy front label

For that wallet-emptying price, you get front and back labels that are clear and straightforward. On the front label, there are simply the facts you need to know, to help you decide whether to buy it or not. And, for some reason, a picture of a steam roller. I can only guess that they are working through clip-art of traditional imagery, and that the next product will feature an anvil or a turnip. Nevertheless, this press release answers some questions.

Seam rollers aside, it says everything you need to know. Specifically, that it is “Cloudy Scrumpy” called “Old Rosie” that has been “Inspired by Tradition”. Toward the bottom are the vital statistics and a brief description. Westons describe it as “ lightly carbonated traditional scrumpy cider fully matured in old oak vats”. Even as just a part-time cider drinker, I like the sound of that. Those vital statistics are that this is your regular 500ml bottle and that the alcoholic volume is a heady 7.3%.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy back label

The back label is off-putting until you realise that nearly all of it is taken up with foreign language translations. Nevertheless, there are a few details worth reading. There is at the top a more detailed description of Old Rosie. They describe it thusly:

“A light, crisp and dry lightly carbonated scrumpy cider. Allowed to settle out naturally after fermentation to retain its cloudy appearance. Gently invert to ensure an even distribution of natural apple sediment.”

I don’t normally copy entire descriptions verbatim, but then I’ve never tried a cider that has so much to explain. Who am I to argue with the label? I will try holding it upside down for a minute or so before opening.

After that, we quickly reach small-print details, which I shall reel off in quick succession. The web address is www.westons-cider.co.uk. The Ledbury, Herefordshire postal address is on there. The cider does contain “sulphites to preserve freshness”. It is best served chilled and is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs. Westons are a member of The National Association of Cider Makers. And, at 7.3% alcoholic volume in a 500ml bottle, it weighs in at 3.7 UK units of alcohol. So women, even a single bottle of this stuff it too much for you. Not that the women of Cardiff or Scotland will pay much attention to that.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time for the fun part and the reason you’re reading. What does Westons Old Rosie taste like? Will it be noticeably better than the big-name brands? Will it be worth the huge premium? The only way to find out will be to hold my fridge cooled bottle upside down for a minute and crack it open. When it’s the right way up, obviously.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy poured into a glass

The whole process or turning it upside down for a couple of minutes was an interesting one. You could see the sediment slowly tumbling downwards to the top. Careful balancing, and you can get the bottle to sit upside-down on its top.

Pouring it was no problem. Westons Old Rosie is so lightly carbonated that there is no foam whatsoever. In fact, I can hardly see any bubbles in it at all. In the glass, it is the cloudiest and most naturally looking hue of straw-yellow I’ve ever seen.

How does Westons Old Rosie smell? Mildly of apples. Just as you’d hope for. But there’s a difference. Many ciders smell of apples in the same way that air-fresheners can smell of alpine berries; artificially. Old Rosie on the other hand smells like there are squished up scrumpy apples in the glass.

How does Westons Old Rosie taste? The first sip was an easy and pleasant one that made me burp moments later. As did the second one. But the taste is worth it. The label described it as “light, crisp and dry lightly carbonated”. I can’t disagree with those words. It is quite simply all of those words, together with a natural taste of apples and the tangy, citrusy quality that goes with it. The flavour is a light one of apples. And the aftertaste is a strong one of apples, bitterness, tanginess and citrus. Imagine eating a scrumpy apple. Drinking Old Rosie is a little like that, but in pleasant liquid form.

What am I enjoying about Westons Old Rosie? In two words, a lot. This is the most natural, proper and closest to ‘Real Cider’ that I’ve had the pleasure of trying. I like how natural it smells. I like that you can taste the sediment in each sip. I like very much how natural and apple-y it tastes. Yes, it does have a slightly bitter aftertaste, but not an off-putting one. If it was a beer, I’d describe it as well-balanced or bittersweet, because it’s neither very sweet, not very bitter. It’s not too gassy, with the burps soon subsiding. I also like how strong it is at 7.3% and the exclusivity of it.

What am I not enjoying about Westons Old Rosie? Unless you hate all cider, it’s difficult to find any reason to dislike Old Rosie. If I had to nitpick, I could say that the strong-ish finish to the taste could put off some girls and alcopop drinkers. I don’t think lager drinkers will be fazed by the aftertaste one jot, though. It is a palaver to find somewhere that sells it, and to serve it at the right temperature with the turning the bottle upside down first. But the biggest complaint is the price. Old Rosie may well become my favourite bottled cider, but at this price, I won’t be buying many bottles to take over to friends and family to spread the word.

How can I sum up Westons Old Rosie? It has completely won me over. By some distance, it is better than any other cider I’ve reviewed so far. I may not be able to tolerate mainstream cider ever again. Yes, it’s scarce and expensive, but that natural scrumpy taste and cloudiness make it worthwhile. Yes, it is that good.

Rating: 4.45

Have you tried Westons Old Rosie? What did you think? Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Advertisements

Cider Review: Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider

25 August, 2009

I STOPPED doing “reviews” of cider for the same reason I stopped “reviewing” lager. There seemed to be almost no difference between each one. Every cider boiled down to how much it tasted of apples, with only the hair’s breadth between a good one and a not so good one. At least for the big-name ones I tried. Why then, have I written this? Mainly because I still want to try a Real Cider. But also because someone recommended this one in a blog comment, and because Westons more mainstream Premium Organic Cider is the best I’ve tried so far. So, from Tesco, here is a bottle of Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider bottle

First impressions are good. It looks like a bottle of high-end ale. Which is probably the end of the market where it belongs. It’s also a good thing because you can buy it without feeling like a teenager or an alcoholic, buying the huge bottles or brightly coloured cans of the cheap stuff.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider neck label

The neck label keeps it simple, by playing on the heritage. Much like the rest of the bottle. “English Ciders” and “Estd 1880” help conjure the right cider images.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider front label

The front label does all the right things. It makes you think about apples and rural heritage. Two things that the brightly coloured cans of fizz fail to do. There photo above speaks for itself. This is a 500ml bottle of a whopping 8.2% alcoholic volume cider. Or should that be a typical 8.2% alcoholic volume? If you know how explosive real cider is supposed to be, leave a comment. Either way, it’s only 0.2% short of alcoholics favourite, K.

Interesting to see that this is 2008 vintage. Besides this bottle, I’ve only seen one or two fancy ales do that, and of course, wine. An instant way to add class, but not if that vintage dates to just a few months ago. That said, does real cider improve with age? Your expert advice in the comments at the end of the post, please.

The writing around the brown and white photograph of a Victorian gentleman gives his name as “Henry Weston JP, CC”. And on the other side of the border, “1850-1917, Founder”. Not the sort of ruddy faced farmer type you might expect.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider back label

Over on the back, everything is clear, concise and easy to read. The little ‘story’ describes it as “full bodied” and made from “the very best of a single year’s crop”. Crucially, it is “traditionally matured in old oak vats for up to 6 months”. I’m going to presume that six months is plenty of time, but if you know a cider that’s better and matured for longer, leave a comment in the usual place.

Moving in to the smaller-print, and they have a website at www.westons-cider.co.uk. While not as bad as some brewers websites, it still left me struggling to come up with any good direct links to give you. Some poking around in the online shop did reveal this page about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider at http://www.westons-cider.co.uk/acatalog/Henry_Westons_Vintage_Special_Reserve__12x500ml_.html. Okay, there’s nothing particularly interesting on the page itself, but rather where they put it. They filed it under “Medium Dry Ciders” and, critically, “Sparkling”. Which, according to CAMRA, means it’s not a Real Cider. I’m as gutted as you are. Will I ever get the chance to try the real thing?

Next they give a serving suggestion. They describe it as “delicious on its own or with cheese and meats”. They also say its “best served chilled” and that vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs. So can anyone can drink it with almost any food group? Only if they ignore the nanny-state. Because under all that is the big take of recommended UK units of alcohol.

Lest you forget, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that women not exceed 3 units daily, and men, 4. Hilariously then, this bottle of Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider weighs in at 4.1 UK units of alcohol. Drink it, and the nanny-state will start wagging her finger. I love that.

Down in the even-smaller-print is the Herefordshire address of H, Weston & Sons Ltd. There’s also a little symbol, informing us that they are a member of “The National Association Of Cider Makers”. An industry body who have a website at www.cideruk.com and the cider industry news at www.cideruk.com/cider_news/latest.

What does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider actually taste like? Will it be the best cider I’ve tried so far? And should you buy it? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider poured into a glass

In the glass, this fridge chilled Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider looks… well, after all those dark ales with thick, creamy head, this looks unimpressive. But this is a cider, so it’s probably intentional. There’s no head, It’s a very pale yellow colour, and fizzy.

What does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider smell of? If you guessed bananas, you are way off. The real question is, how much does it smell of apples and does it smell of chemicals pretending to be apples? The answer to the first question is yes, it has a delicious aroma of apples. The second answer to the second question is more of a grey area. It still smells processed like the other pasteurised ciders, but not as badly done as some of the big-names. In short, it smells apple-y and scrumptious.

How does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider taste? Remembering that this is a medium-sweet cider packing an 8.2% punch, the first couple of sips are not bad. A couple more reveal this to be one of the strongest and most distinctive ciders I’ve ever tried. The flavour is delicate and sweet. And of apples, obviously. Then comes the strong rush of the finish. This is where you’re reminded of the 8.2% powering this bottle. Balancing that sweet flavour with dry bitterness comes the long aftertaste; of apples. That said, it’s not dominated by apples. Sure, they’re there, but you’re not swamped by them.

What am I enjoying about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider? I like the taste. I like how easy it is to drink, without being too dry and bitter. I like that this won’t put off people who stumble upon this cider in the supermarket. I like how it packs in so much alcohol, yet manages to be easy to drink. I like that it tastes natural, instead of having that synthetic taste. And I like how it looks like a bottle of ale, instead of coming in a crudely coloured can.

What am I not enjoying about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider? The taste won’t be to everyone’s liking. It is powerful stuff, and suffers from the super-strength lager problem of having rocket fuel properties. Besides that, it’s a little gassy and not easy to find in shops. Partly because it sells out so quickly.

To sum up, Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider is one of the most interesting ciders I’ve tried. Okay, so it isn’t a Real Cider, but it’s as close to it as I’ve ever been. It has a scrumptious taste of apples without being overbearing or synthetic. And to top it off, it’s as strong as Geoff Capes. If you like cider but want better, in a bottle, from your supermarket, without going to the trouble of buying a keg or bag or finding a pub that sells real cider, then buy this. A very pleasant way to get sozzled.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider?
Do please leave your opinions, answers to my questions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Cider Review: Westons Premium Organic Cider

15 August, 2008

SINCE reading the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) web page about Real Cider, I’ve been looking out for real cider. Sadly, the shops are full of big-name, mass-produced ice-ciders. And that’s irritating. In Tesco, the closest thing I could find was this bottle of Westons Premium Organic Cider. If anyone knows just ‘Real’ this cider is, do please leave a comment at the end of the post. For now, I’m just looking forward to trying a cider that wasn’t produced on a vast scale by a company with an advertising budget of millions.

Westons Premium Organic Cider bottle

First impressions are tremendous. The plain looking labels give it a farmyard look. And the organic credentials will delight even Prince Charles. Just take a look at the neck label as a starting point.

Westons Premium Organic Cider neck label

Westons Premium Organic Cider won the “Organic Food Awards” in 2003 and 2004. That theme of being organic and natural continues on the big front label too.

Westons Premium Organic Cider front label

The front label is also about the only place on there where you’ll see any graphics. In the background is a cider apple that looks like it was plucked from a clip-art tree. If this were a big-name brand, I would knock it for that. But with such a thoroughly local cider, I just can’t bring myself.

Instead, I’ll point out that Westons were established in 1880. Giving it considerably more heritage than I first thought. Under the small word “naturally” is perhaps the most prominent use of the word “Organic” you’ve seen on a cider. So much so, it doesn’t really have a name. Just “Organic”. Something I’m sure Westons would be delighted for you to associate with their cider ever after.

All the vital statistics are at the bottom of the front label. This is a 500 millilitre bottle. And the cider within has a volume of 6.5%. A percentage point or two above the big-name ciders. And very welcome.

There’s some surprises down there too. This cider also won the “Organic Food Awards” is 1998. That brings it up to three “Organic” awards. Not bad. Unsurprisingly then, there’s a big “Soil Association” “Organic Standard” symbol on there. Just to reinforce the organic message.

The back label is what you’ll be hoping for by this point. Informative and straightforward.

Westons Premium Organic Cider back label

Apparently, the organically grown cider apples in this, stick to the strict “Organic Certification UK5” from the “Soil Association”. That’s all well and good, but what will it taste like? The label has an answer there too. This one goes with key words and phrases including “easy to drink” with a “ripe apple aroma” with a “refreshing” and “well balanced taste”. No hyperbole here. That all sounds honest enough to be true. I hope it is.

Also on the label, they recommend that it is “best served chilled”. Which I’m doing having stored it away in the fridge. Then there’s the part where they take the natural and organic theme a step beyond. That’s because Weston Premium Organic Cider is “suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.” Vegetarians and vegans you might expect to see covered, but coeliacs? According to the charity Coeliac UK, it’s a nasty disease that means some people can’t eat gluten. Isn’t it customary to simply write “Gluten free” on packaging and labels?

For the chronically worried, the number of UK units of alcohol is 3.2. Still worried? I recommend a bottle of cider or ale to calm your nerves. That’s not the only symbol on there however. There’s also one informing us that they are a member of “The National Association of Cider Makers”. Never heard of it. But then I am an exceptionally uninformed reviewer. If there is such an association, then I’m glad that they’re part of it.

Lastly, right down at the bottom of the back label is the all important address. Important because where a beer or cider comes from is always interesting to know. Take the Asian, European and American beers that talk about authenticity, but were made just down the road for example. Fortunately, there’s no such trickery here. That’s because Westons Premium Organic Cider comes from H. Weston & Sons Ltd. in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England. They even have a good website that avoids the Flash-frippery of the big names. The address is www.westons-cider.co.uk.

Time to crack open this bottle of organic cider. I’m looking forward to this. And not entirely sure what to expect. Which is the level of mystery I want from an ale or cider.

Westons Premium Organic Cider poured into a glass

In the glass, it has a very deep apple-ish amber colour. Deeper amber than most of the big-name ciders. It’s not as fizzy as them either. I’d call it ‘lightly-sparkling’. Neither still nor fizzy.

They describe it as smelling of ripe apples. It does smell apple-y. I’d say it smells most like Gaymer ‘K’ but more natural. I like it.

A few gulps in, and it’s drier than expected. And it tastes of apples. Obviously. But much more so than the big name ice-ciders. What you notice most of all is how dry it is.

There’s plenty for the cider fan to like here. It has much more taste than the trendy ice-ciders or white-ciders. It’s at least as dry as Savanna Dry, and still manages to be easy to drink. And it’s strong and not at all gassy. This is quality stuff.

What about the downsides? Well, if I had to nitpick, I’d pick the dryness which is drier than to my taste. All the cider aficionados out there will now pipe up and tell me that’s exactly how it should be. And that my opinions are stupid piles of grime. Undeterred, I’ve got to say, it is dry.

So, what is Westons Premium Organic Cider all about? In a sentence, it’s a well made, tasty, drinkable, strong, dry cider that happens to be organic. I liked it. It does what you want a small, regional cider to do. Well worth a try if you like cider but are tired of the tasteless dross that is the mainstream.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Westons Premium Organic Cider? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions and recommendations below and I look forward to reading them.

Comparison: Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice

8 July, 2008

AS proof that I do read your comments, here is a request. The question to answer is simple… Which tastes best? Cider with ice or without?

Now, I have thought about doing comparisons before. For example, comparing domestically churned out lager with the imported version of the same brand. But that would be like comparing council tax with income tax. Whatever the outcome, you’ve lost out. Not having the things to hand has also been a problem.

It is with both the means (the four-pack of Gaymers Original Cider) and the will (Gaymers Original Cider is pretty good), that we get this comparison under way. If you read yesterday’s review, you’ll know that this cider does a reasonable job of representing all the ciders out there where the manufacturers want you to use ice. So this isn’t just comparing Gaymers with and without ice. It’s comparing all ciders with and without ice.

Hypothesis:

I’ve always had the suspicion that adding ice makes it a little more refreshing, but waters the thing down. Especially by the time the ice has melted. And, if you’re buying your cider, or any other drink from a bar, you get worse value if they add ice because it leaves that much less room in the glass for drink. You can try it the next time you get a cola with your fast-food meal. When your body is cursing you for having a Big Mac with cheese, at least you’ll be smug about getting good value from your soft-drink.

Back to the cider. I started out with two glasses roughly equally filled.

 Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice - No Ice

Next step was to add four ice cubes to one of the glasses. I added them to the glass on the right-hand-side if you couldn’t tell.

 Cider with Ice vs. Cider without Ice - With Ice

You might have noticed how one of the glasses is now nearly full. The next time you order a drink and it arrives with ice, just imagine a quarter of it being water. In these tough economic times, you may want to pass on the ice.

First Test: Smell

Yes they do smell different. The glass with no ice has a much fuller smell of apples. The glass with ice has a very weak smell of apples. No surprise considering the quarter of a glass of water sitting on top.

Second Test: Taste

Glass without ice tastes of tangy, citrusy and rather dry cider. The glass with ice tastes of… not much. It tastes watery with a hint of apples. The character is completely different. With the ice, it’s no longer as tangy and citrusy. Which is bad. But it’s not longer so dry in character and it’s much more refreshing. Which is good.

Observations

The difference is bigger than I expected. It changes the character and nature of the cider in a big way. If it affects the typical example of Gaymers that I used, you can be sure it will affect any other brand in much the same way. And that would go for pear or fruit cider too, I would imagine.

Which is best?

That depends on your taste. And how hot the day is. Hot day, I’d go for the ice option. You probably need the re-hydration anyway. If you’re not sweaty, then enjoy a civilised and flavourful glass of cider without ice.

Conclusions:

This shocking result nullifies all my past cider reviews. Some of them were with ice and others weren’t. That immediately makes my comparisons wonky. If you do trawl the archives of this blog, compensate for the cider reviews where I added ice by imagining that I was more complementary about the smell and flavour. I certainly won’t be adding ice for any more reviews.

Where do you stand on the ice vs. no ice debate? Leave your opinion here for the world to see.

Cider Review: Gaymers Original Cider

7 July, 2008

ON sale for half-price at only £1.67 from Tesco, I couldn’t resist this four-pack of cider. Especially as this is one of the newly popular original ciders from one of the biggest cider producers in the country. If you’ve had one of the white ciders or super-strength ciders, then chances are that you’ve had a Gaymers without realising. I’m happy then, to have Gaymers Original Cider. A Gaymers that doesn’t hide behind a different brand name.

Gaymers Original Cider 4-pack

The four-pack itself isn’t particularly flashy. But it does the job. Sort of. That’s because after carefully removing one of the bottles, it was like removing the keystone from a bridge. Bottles falling all over the place.

The bottles themselves, and remember, there are bigger versions on sale, look different to the competition. Gone is the dark, elegant curves of the competition. Because here is a stocky, robust looking green bottle. A bottle with “Est 1770” and “Gaymer Cider Company” embossed upon it.

Gaymers Original Cider bottle

It has a big, wrap around neck label. One that is gold and makes the bottle look as though it’s wearing a dinner jacket.

Gaymers Original Cider front of neck label

Under the Gaymers logo, the one that looks like a crown with flames shooting out of each side, we learn that this is “Cold filtered”. What that means, I don’t know. But this is the first cider I’ve seen that is. It goes on to explain that this is “for a crisp refreshing taste”. Sadly, the back of the neck label doesn’t offer any more of an explanation.

Gaymers Original Cider back of neck label

All we get is the standard “drink responsibly” message and website. Look hard enough though, and you do see one thing that is unusual. There is a tiny symbol saying that Gaymer is a member of “The National Association of Cider Makers”. Never heard of it, but I’m glad that there is one.

The main front label is nothing out of the ordinary for a cider.

Gaymers Original Cider front label

Everything is clear and readable. Just lacking the character and personality of a beer or ale bottle label. There’s little on here that isn’t elsewhere on the front of this bottle. The established date is worth returning to, however. That’s because 1770 is a seriously long time ago. It means that when Gaymer first started producing cider, we had a mad king, and much of North America. Amazing.

Besides all the facts on the front label that we already know, are a few that we don’t. The vital statistics are on there. That this is a 330 millilitre bottle. And that it has 4.5% alcoholic volume. Nothing exceptional there then. The same goes for the prominent, capitalised words “Serve Over Ice”. I think that there may be some bandwagon jumping going on here.

Spinning the bottle around reveals a miniscule label.

Gaymers Original Cider back label

It’s a cider so there’s nothing to read, right? Wrong. For the first time, there is a proper, beer style description on the background of Gaymers Original Cider. We get to learn that this cider, established in 1770, is made with traditional cider pressing methods. That is made from English apples. And that it has a particularly crisp, refreshing and smooth taste. No mention of the word ‘dry’, so I’m happy.

There are a few other juicy details on the back too. This bottle has 1.5 UK units of alcohol. It contains sulphites. And it describes itself as a “Medium Cider”. Considering how strong it is, I can’t disagree with that.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time to answer some questions. What is Gaymer Original Cider like? And is it better than my current favourite, Magners Irish Cider?

Gaymers Original Cider poured into a glass with ice

I opted for a handful of ice cubes in the glass this time. The colour is a deep-ish golden-yellow apple colour. There’s no head and not that much fizz in the glass. The smell is apple-y. Much as you would expect and hope for from a cider. I like it. Even though it’s not particularly natural. It reminds of that other Gaymer cider, K. Which is exactly what I was hoping for.

The taste however, reminds me more of those less satisfying Gaymer ciders; the white ciders. It does have a taste of apples. But one that is light in character, and one that doesn’t taste particularly high-quality.

But don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to enjoy with Gaymers Original Cider. The light, apple-y taste is still very nice. The character isn’t dry, but sweet. Especially when you have plenty of ice in the glass. Something I like a lot. It also checks those other important cider boxes by being crisp and refreshing. What with the added smoothness by not being gassy, it does everything it promises on the label.

Even with all these good things, I can’t quite topple Magners from its perch as top Medium Cider. It simply doesn’t have enough flavour for my liking. And there is something about the quality of ingredients that seems synthetic.

Where does this leave Gaymers Original Cider? It’s very good, but just short of excellent. If you can find it at the price I did, then it is excellent value and well worth trying.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Gaymers Original Cider? What did you think?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Cider Review: Savanna Dry Premium Cider

29 June, 2008

FOR some reason, I’m unusually susceptible to cider advertising. Which is why I’ve ended up with a bottle of Savanna Dry Premium Cider, even though I don’t like dry cider.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider bottle

This one came from Tesco, where they’ve been heavily promoting it for some time. Its long has premium shelf space, and, last week, a little tag hooked onto the place where they put the prices for each product. The tag suggested drinking it from the bottle with some lemon. As I don’t have any sour citrus fruit handy, and too much class to drink from the bottle, this is going straight into the glass. Let me know in the comments what you think of it with lemon. Is it better or worse for it?

At just over £1.50 pence, this little bottle is at the premium end. It does have the advantage of having a name that matches its character. Wouldn’t it be great it a Brazilian firm started producing Rainforest sweet cider?
[EDIT: I’ve just checked the receipt, and the actual price was £1.31. Cheaper, but still at a premium.]

What can I say about the bottle? Well, it’s small and dumpy looking. And it’s transparent. So you can see the pale yellow cider held within.

The front label sums up what you need to know with excellent imagery.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider front label

The crayon effect gives it an unusual look. The pictures of savannah landscape and the prominent word “Dry” all add to the image of a drink that will make you thirsty.

The back label doesn’t add much in the way of a description. But it does answer some questions about its origin.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider back label

First up, we learn this drink’s vital statistics. This little bottle holds the typical 330 millilitres of liquid. But it has an above average 5.5% alcoholic volume.

You won’t be surprised to learn that is contains sulphites. But what will surprise you is that we get a full list of the ingredients. For the first time, pretty much ever, we can see what goes into a cider. This one is made with “apple cider, glucose syrup, apple juice concentrate, flavourings, carbon dioxide, colour (E150c), antioxidant (sulphur dioxide)”. That was interesting to learn. Sort of.

There’s a web address. Which is www.savanna.co.za. The observant among you will notice the unusual “ZA” country code on that address. And, sure enough, it’s confirmed by the back label. Perhaps the most prominent part of it is the line “Product of South Africa”. Suddenly, you realise that the “Savanna” name and graphics aren’t just marketing.

This is the first African cider I’ll have tried. And I’m looking forward to it. The African lager I tried, Castle Lager wasn’t bad. This might even change my mind on dry cider. Either way, it’s time to open this expensive and well travelled bottle and see if it’s any  good.

Savanna Dry Premium Cider poured into a glass

First impressions are, it’s very fizzy. No head though. Possibly because of its dry character, it reminds my of some Strongbows. The colour is a darker shade of yellow. Apple juice colour. It has a similarly rich apple-y smell too. Appetising, if like me, you like apples.

The character is exactly as it says on the bottle; dry. No surprise there. But it is very effective. Just a couple of gulps, and you get that dry sour taste at the back of your tongue. The taste is, no surprise either, as it tastes of apples. Not strongly so. Nor with the barely noticeable weakness of some ciders. Savanna Dry is somewhere in-between. But you’ll hardly notice. And that’s because your mouth will be feeling as dry as the savannah of this cider’s name.

It is however, not as dry as I feared. I was half expecting Sahara levels of dryness and unpleasantness. But it never seems too dry. The high-quality is very much in evidence. And that makes it drinkable. Which, I never expected to say about Savanna Dry.

To sum up, Savanna Dry is an expensive, but quality dry cider. If you like cider. And you like it dry, this is a must. If you like cider, but don’t normally touch anything “dry”, it’s still worth giving this one a go.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Savanna Dry Premium Cider? Have you tried it with lemon stuffed into the neck of the bottle?
Then share your opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world here please.

Cider Review: Magners Original Irish Cider

27 June, 2008

PERHAPS the most heavily promoted cider in the recent boom is Magners Irish Cider. You can’t have missed the advertisements adorning every commercial break on television, or the billboards on the side of buses. So, cajoled by marketing, I have here a small bottle of Magners:

Magners Original Irish Cider bottle

It’s a nice looking little bottle of cider. The black cap certainly helps it in the style stakes. And the word “Original” is embossed upon the shoulder.

There is no neck label. But it does have golden foil wrapped around it. There is no writing on it, but it does have the Magners logo. And I think that logo could be vats of cider. Can anyone out there confirm?

Magners Original Irish Cider bottle neck

The classic roundel front label is where everything happens.

Magners Original Irish Cider front label

The background is golden. Isn’t it always, with cider? The “Magners Irish Cider” banners and logo prominently cut through it. The borders inform us that this is “Magners Original Vintage Cider”.

Inside the borders of this “Original” are all the vital statistics. They proudly tell us that this was “Produced In Ireland By WM. Magner”. That this bottle is the standard 330 millilitre size. And that the cider is the standard 4.5% alcoholic volume. Little sets it apart from the competition on paper at least.

Staying true to cider traditions, there is little to read on the back label.

Magners Original Irish Cider back label

That said, it does have more of a description than most. They inform us that “Magners Irish Cider is patiently vat matured to deliver a pure, crisp, refreshing flavour and natural character.” At least half of that is almost identical to what it says on the Bulmer’s Original label. But it’s hard to blame them, as there’s little to truly set one cider apart from the rest. Let’s hope this one really is crisp, refreshing and delivers flavour. Bulmer’s didn’t.

The only other details on the back label are either repeated on the front label. Or they are in another language. Which means we have faster the usual, reached the part where I open the bottle to tell you what it’s like. No mention of serving with ice on this bottle, so it’s straight in the glass. Although I’m sure that Magners marketing people would be delighted if you did have they’re cider on ice whilst out with friends on a hot, sunny day.

Magners Original Irish Cider poured into a glass

Pouring Magners Original Irish Cider is exciting. There’s lots of fizz. It never froths up, so you’re completely safe, but there’s lots of action. In the glass, it’s filled with more bubbles than I’ve seen in another other cider or beer. Amazingly for a cider, it leaves a head. Not a patchy few bubbles, but a complete head.

Colour is an orangey gold. A little like toned down apple juice. And the smell is more apple-y than I’ve sniffed for a long time. Not overpowering by any means. Simply a nice, rich smell of apples. Just as a cider should be in my opinion.

A few gulps in, and I’m enjoying this one. The taste is like the smell. And exactly what I expect from a cider; apple-y. Not too strong, simply a good taste of the fruit this is made from. As for the character, it’s not too dry and not too sweet. I may not have tried many, but it seems well balanced.

What do I like about Magners Original Irish Cider? The flavour for one. It actually has a flavour, unlike so many other ciders. And it has the right flavour in the right proportions. It’s not dry. It does what it promises on the label in that it’s crisp and refreshing. Although I suspect mine would be crisper and more refreshing if I’d have thrown some ice cubes into the glass first. Lastly, despite all the fizz, it isn’t too gassy.

What don’t I like about it? Very little compared to other ciders. If I had to nit-pick, I could say that it doesn’t taste of apples enough. Or that it makes you burp. A little. It might be almost flawless compared to other ciders, but even the best cider compared poorly to beer and ale. If you want lots of complex, interesting smells and flavours you won’t them in a cider. Not even a Magners.

For a cider, it’s an excellent specimen. If you want to introduce someone to a good quality example of what a cider should be, this is a good choice. This is probably my favourite normal strength cider. But it’s hard to give it a truly high rating, when you could be enjoying the complex blend of flavours in an ale.

Rating: 3.25

Have you tried Magners Original Irish Cider? What did you think of it?
Leave your opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations with the world, here.

Cider Review: Strongbow Sirrus

23 June, 2008

WHAT is your biggest complaint about your favourite cider? Is it too dry? Not apple-y enough? Whatever you want your cider to be more of, or less of, you’ve probably never complained that your cider wasn’t smooth enough. Fixing this problem that didn’t need fixing is Strongbow Sirrus. A “Smooth Cider”.

Strongbow Sirrus bottle

The bottle is cool and stylish. Being completely transparent, the orange-y cider within gives it a great look on the shelf in Tesco.

The neck label is the only part that isn’t transparent.

Strongbow Sirrus neck label

There’s the “Strongbow” name and logo. Then there’s the completely different “Sirrus” typeface. Besides all the arcing lines bouncing around, what catches your eye are the words “Best Served Over Ice”.

The main front label is much the same as the neck label. Almost identical in fact.

Strongbow Sirrus front label

The biggest differences are that it’s mostly transparent. And, instead of the advice about ice, it has “Smooth Cider”. I like it. The “Sirrus” name and arcing lines give it a different look to every other cider, including other Strongbow’s. This is a cider trying to appeal to the sophisticated young urbanite. Someone who has shiny granite surfaces in their kitchen, and complains about the carbon footprint of other people.

As is the custom with cider, there’s almost nothing to read on the back label.

Strongbow Sirrus back label

In this case, that’s no bad thing. What makes the bottle so stylish is that nothing gets in the way of your view of the orange liquid inside it. The extent of the description is that this is “a smooth tasting cider” and that it is “best served over ice”. Nothing we didn’t know already from the front of the bottle.

Fortunately, the vital statistics of this drink are the most prominent things here. This is a 500 millilitre bottle. And the alcoholic volume is a reasonable, for a cider, 5%. That translates into 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And if you were in any doubt as to how much of your daily amount that is, there’s a little guide on the subject here too.

The long list of ingredients has only one item. And it’s not, amazingly the sulphites that are the only item on every other cider. Instead, this one “contains sulphur dioxide”. What’s that? Is it the same thing as sulphites?

Strongbow is a Bulmer brand. And so, unsurprisingly, it has the HP Bulmer Ltd address in Hereford. It also has an email address and a telephone number in case you want to say something to them.

So, how smooth is Strongbow Sirrus? What’s it like and is it any good? Time to answer some questions.

Strongbow Sirrus poured into a glass

What caught me off guard was the head. Normally, cider doesn’t have one. But, poured onto a handful of ice cubes, a big head frothed up. It disappeared quickly, but watch out if you pour this one.

The colour is no surprise. More orange in colour than some. In looks at least, it’s the David Dickinson of ciders. As for smell, there is barely any. If you sniff hard enough, you can just about detect a whiff of apples. But it really is faint.

A few gulps in, and there’s little radically different to be found here. The taste is of apples, and has all the tanginess and sourness that goes with it. And that’s a taste which is welcome after the weak flavoured Bulmers ciders.

My main complaint with most Strongbow’s is the dryness. Why anyone would want a drink that makes you thirsty? Sirrus doesn’t go down that route. Not fully at least. I’m having a hard time figuring out if this is not very dry or not very sweet. So I’m going to call it as being a little sweeter than it is dry. Your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post as usual please.

Then there’s the smoothness. I have to agree, it is smooth. And why that is, becomes clear when you discover that you’re not burping. That’s because Sirrus is hardly carbonated at all. Despite the massive head that frothed up at first, there are hardly any bubbles in the glass.

The relatively sweet flavour, and the smoothness add up to a drinkable cider. They also give it qualities that I haven’t seen elsewhere, so it scores distinctiveness points too.

And I would give it a high rating, if it weren’t for a few niggles. Probably because of the smoothness , the refreshing-ness is lacking. Even with the ice in the glass, this crucial part of any cider was missing.

How to sum up Strongbow Sirrus? It’s a smooth cider. If you want a cider that’s reasonably tasty and doesn’t make you burp all the time, then this is one to try. If, however, you want a refreshing cider, or a dry cider, then look elsewhere. Overall, different and not bad.

Rating: 3.75

Have you tried Strongbow Sirrus? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Cider Review: Bulmers Pear

19 June, 2008

A few days ago, I tried Bulmers Original cider. It was adequate, but light on flavour. So it’s with a mixture of curiosity and disinterest that I turn my attention to my first pear cider: Bulmers Pear.

Bulmers Pear bottle

The bottle is almost identical to that of Bulmers Original, only with green instead of gold. And with the word “pear” instead of “original”. I think it looks fairly attractive. But does green equal pear? My first thought was it was lime cider.

All the usual details are there on front label.

Bulmers Pear front label

The HP Bulmer signature. The established date of 1887. The news that this is a “select vat matured” “premium quality cider”. A couple of silhouette pears are the main indication that this isn’t a regular cider, but part of the growing trend for flavoured ciders.

The back label is much the same as that from Original too.

Bulmers Pear back label

The description takes the usual marketing route. No prizes for originality with descriptions of fine ingredients and premium quality. But at least the description that this has a “natural, refreshing taste and smooth character” gives us some clue about what to expect. Albeit a vague one.

The main part of the back label is a big box talking about units of alcohol. For the five people out there who are interested, this 1-pint (568 millilitre) bottle of 4.5% volume cider contains 2.6 UK units of alcohol. The rest of the small print has things like their Hereford postal address, Careline telephone number and email address (consumercare@bulmers.com). Lastly, like all ciders, the only ingredients they mention are sulphites. Which, apparently, have something to do with freshness.

Is pear cider worth the hype? Is it a fad? And is it any good? Time to find out.

Bulmers Pear poured into a glass

After last time when there wasn’t enough room in the glass for ice and the cider, I’ve given the ice a miss this time. Despite the recommendation on the bottle to “serve over ice”.

The colour is no different to non-pear cider. Or indeed many other ciders I’ve seen. Although it is lighter in it’s shade of yellow than some of the less natural ciders out there.

The smell is mostly of apples. But the character of the smell holds something else. Something that could be pear. It’s hard to know either way, since the smell isn’t very strong.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m wandering where the pears are. I’m tasting mostly the same light flavour of apples that Bulmers Original had. A few more gulps and sips in, and I am finally detecting something different. The after taste is of pears. Yes, they are in there. I think. If it didn’t say “pear” on the bottle, I would be struggling to identify what it was. Bulmers Pear then, has a lightly apple-y taste and an even lighter taste of pears in the after taste. And that gives it a slightly different character to normal cider. Although you’re left in no doubt what you’re drinking.

What do I like about Bulmers Pear? Well, the blend of flavours compliment each other rather then clashing. Both are light and inoffensive, making it very easy to drink. And it’s not dry, making it drinkable on it’s own and for the casual cider drinkers out there. Myself included. With some ice, this could be a very refreshing drink too.

What don’t I like about it? The flavours. They’re just too weak for my liking. I like a drink to take chances with strong and unusual flavours. Then there’s originality. Bulmers may have been one of the pioneers of pear cider, but with everyone jumping on the band wagon, I’m not sure what separates this from the pack. I’ll have to try more of them to figure that one out. Lastly, it’s rather on the gassy side.

What is Bulmers Pear cider all about? And how can I sum it up? Think of it as an alcoholic, fizzy fruit drink. Lightly flavoured, and easy to drink it’s one for summer occasions. I simply found it less than interesting. You can barely taste the pear. And every flavour in there is weak. There’s nothing shockingly bad about pear cider. It’s just less fun than it could be.

Rating: 2.35

Have you tried Bulmers Pear? Or any other pear or fruit cider?
What did you think?
Leave your opinions, thoughts, ideas, recommendations and suggestions here please.

Cider Review: Bulmers Original

12 June, 2008

CIDER has been booming. This article from the trade press sums up what we had all guessed from the ads that fill every TV commercial break. Namely, that cider has been the fastest growing category of drink recently, that new ideas are being tried and that fortunes have been thrown at advertising.

Since I’ve always liked cider, this has all been no bad thing. The trouble comes with trying to review the stuff. Sure there are some differences between them. K from Gaymer was sweet and strong. Strongbow Super was strong and dry. And the multitude of strong, white ciders, also all from Gaymer were strong and bland. But they suffer the same problem as lagers. They’re made to almost exactly the same formula, with hardly anything to distinguish one from the other.

With ciders being such big business, the time seems right to revisit them. And hopefully to be proved wrong about them in the process. I’m going to be looking for the big names, the new and unusual and anything that isn’t dry. Dry isn’t as fun as sweet, so unless anyone out there wants to request a dry cider, you won’t find many turning up here.

Proving that advertising does work, I returned from Tesco today with a bottle of Bulmers Original. This one was priced £1.33.

Bulmers Original bottle

It’s hard not to like the way it looks. It might look almost identical to certain other bottles of cider, but the look works for me. The gold foil around the top says “quality”. Have you ever seen an “economy” drink that has gold foil wrapped around the top? This one has the “Bulmers Original” name, the “B” apple logo. And the “Estd.” date of 1887. Nice to see that Bulmers have some experience when it comes to ciders.

Bulmers Original neck foil

The main front label is cheesy. Or should that be “apple-y”? That’s because everything is either inside, or floating around the Bulmers apple shaped logo.

Bulmers Original front label

Around the top, it reads “Select Vat Matured”. After initially puzzling over what Value Added Tax had to do with it, it clicked that they meant this had been made carefully and with patience. Around the bottom, the straightforward “Premium Quality Cider” is rather plainer. And as they don’t refer to it as “dry”, I should be safe with this one.

The middle of the apple logo has nothing of surprise. Everything is well laid out. The established date is there. And there’s a signature from “HP. Bulmer”. Uninteresting, but my mouth is nonetheless watering for the cider contained within.

Back labels on bottles and cans of cider are always let downs. This is no exception.

Bulmers Original back label

Unlike beer bottles, they simply don’t know what to write. So you always end up with the small-print taking an uneasy centre stage. To Bulmers credit, they have taken the time to come up with a short paragraph of actual writing. It might only be about the “finest apples”, vat maturing, “refreshing taste and smooth character”, but at least they gave it a go. The “refreshing” and “smooth” part even gives us something to judge it by. Bulmers and other cider producers, have a look at the labels on bottles of ale to see how it’s really done.

The most prominent part is the block about units of alcohol. This bottle has 2.6 UK units. But if you’re in any doubt about how much out nanny-ing Government recommends, there’s a tabling telling you about it.

Under that, we can see how to get in touch with HP Bulmer Ltd if we ever feel the need. Their Hereford postal address is there. As is the number for their “Consumer Careline” and an email address, which is consumercare@bulmers.com.

Beneath that are the vital statistics. This, the most common size of bottle is an unusual 568 millilitres. Unusual, but welcome, because that makes this a full pint. The first I’ve seen since Wells. This fact deserves to be shouted about, not hidden away in the small-print. Even so, well done Bulmers for steering clear of the 500 millilitre Euro homogenisation.

The other vital statistic is the alcoholic volume. For Bulmers Original, 4.5% is the order of the day. Not high. Quite low for a cider, isn’t it? But that’s probably a good thing considering how this stuff is consumed.

The ingredients list is interesting too. I say list, but for this, as with every other cider I’ve looked at, the only thing they mention is “sulphites”. I’ve always had no idea what they are. But this one says “contains sulphites for freshness”. Some sort of preservative then?

They also suggest serving over ice. This seems to be the new trend driving cider. Of course that’s going to up the refreshment factor, but I’m not sure whether to try it on ice. To keep the playing field even with the other ciders I’ve tested, I’m tempted not to bother. On the other hand, I want to give each drink a fair chance. Which is why I’m going to make this my first review of a cider with some ice cubes.

I’m looking forward to this. More so than I expected to be at this point. Time now to see if Bulmers Original is any good.

Bulmers Original poured into a glass

Immediately, I’ve fallen into an obvious trap. With ice cubes in there, there is no way this pint glass is going to have room for the pint in the bottle as well. So either get a bigger glass or a smaller bottle if you’re going down the cider on ice route.

First impressions are that it’s orangey. Maybe artificially so. I kept being reminded of Robert Kilroy-Silk whenever I saw it. The smell? Of apples rather predictably.

The first few gulps were spent trying not to accidentally swallow an ice cube. First impressions of the taste are that it doesn’t taste as much of apples as I had expected. With most ciders, it’s as if you’re drinking concentrated crab apple. Not in this case. The apple-y flavour is surprisingly subdued.

A citrusy bitter and sour taste is the first thing you notice. The aftertaste is where you notice the hints of apple. Aren’t most ciders the other way around?

What I liked were that it was very refreshing. I’m not sure if the ice is adding anything apart from obstacles, but it is cool, crisp, clean and refreshing. Exactly what you want from a cider. It’s also very drinkable. With no strong flavours to contend with, it’s clear how this has become mainstream. It’s also smooth, exactly as promised on the label.

What I didn’t like was that there simply wasn’t enough taste and flavour. The flavours were so weak, it was almost like drinking apple flavoured water. Something not helped by the cubes of frozen water floating on the top.

Bulmers Original is a totally competent cider. But I don’t love it. Yes, it’s refreshing and drinkable. But it’s also light on flavour and weak. Some people will love these things about it. And on a hot day, at a party or a barbeque, I’d happily cool down with this cider. I just can’t find enough good reasons to want it over the alternatives.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Bulmers Original?
Got any opinions, correction, requests or suggestions? Then leave a comment here.

Beer Review: Gaymer White Star White Cider

1 May, 2008

SURELY not every white cider on the market can be made by Gaymer? After reviewing first Diamond White and then Ice Dragon, both of which were mediocre and both turned out to be from the Gaymer Cider Company. In the same way as the rather good K, the Gaymer name was carefully hidden away. Will that be the case with my next can of strong, white cider? Will this one be better than the rest? I doubt it.

Gaymer White Star White Cider can

This can, like Ice Dragon, has a unique look, all of its own. This one goes for a white, silver and blue colour scheme. That together with the Apple Macintosh font gives it a sci-fi feel. I quite like it, I must say.

Beneath the large, “White Star” logo are the basics. It describes itself as “White Cider”. Confirms that this is a 500 millilitre can. But, I’m pleased to say, without that ridiculous claim to have been 440 millilitres in the past. Ice Dragon and the cheap super-strength lagers, I’m looking at you. Instead, this one boasts of being a “Big Value Half Litre”. Also down at the bottom of the can we learn that it has 7.5%. The exact same volume as Diamond White and Ice Dragon. A clue to it’s origin perhaps?

Turn the can around enough times and you reach the details side of the can. Again, for a can of white cider, devoid of much in the way of real details.

Gaymer White Star White Cider details side of can

We get all the familiar details like “Serve Chilled”. And “White Cider”. And “With sugar and sweetener. And “Contains Sulphites”. If someone can explain what a sulphite is, I would be very grateful.

The usual UK units of alcohol symbol is on there. And I can report that is 3.8 UK units of alcohol.

But… who made White Star? Surely Gaymer can’t be behind yet another white cider? Lets read the postal address and find out…

I don’t know whether to be surprised at this or not. But it IS the Gaymer Cider Co who are behind White Star. The same outfit from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England, who were behind the identically uninspiring Diamond White and Ice Dragon, and the very good K. If this is going to be a re-run of the past two days, then it’s not looking good. Time to find out if my fears of another disappointment are well founded…

Poured into a glass, and it looks identical to its stable mates. It’s just as pale and fizzy as they are.

Gaymer White Star White Cider poured into a glass

It smells just as much of synthetic apples as they did, too. And, I’m sad to report, that it tastes as mediocre as they did. Yes it does taste mildly of apples. And it is moderately refreshing and easy to drink. But, there’s barely any apple-y taste and none of that lingering refreshment that you expect from a cider.

In short, White Star is just as disappointing as Diamond White and Ice Dragon. In fact, I’d be surprised if they weren’t identical, and simply packaged differently.

I’m not sure if what I’ve had this week has been a true cross-section of white ciders. Or if other manufacturers produce white ciders. If they do, I’d be interested to know how they compare. So if you’ve had a white cider from someone other than Gaymer, leave a comment at the end of this post.

If the three white ciders I’ve reviewed do sum-up what the category is all about, then I’m not impressed. They have no taste. They’re not a refreshing as other ciders. They are the lagers of the cider world. In the same way that lagers offer a fraction of the flavour, body and character of beers and ales; white ciders have only some of the flavour and refreshment of proper ciders.

If you like the apple-y taste and refreshment of ciders, look elsewhere. You wont find it with a white cider. I certainly didn’t.

Rating: 2.95

Have you tried White Star or a white cider from anyone that is no Gaymer? If so, then leave a comment with your thoughts, corrections, suggestions and recommendations.

Beer Review: Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider

30 April, 2008

YESTERDAY’S introduction to strong, white cider in the form of Gaymer Diamond White wasn’t great. It wasn’t as delicious, nor as strong as Gaymer’s other strong cider, K. What I need to try are more white ciders. Which brings me to the next in my strong, white cider round-up, Gaymer Ice Dragon.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider can

This tall, 500 millilitre can was purchased from my local off-licence for very little money. It used to be 440 milliltres. But they’ve used the old trick of adding 13.5% to make it the same gigantic size as the other alcoholics favourites.

The front of the can doesn’t give away who made it. Just like K and Diamond White, whoever is behind is keen to hide their name. And they do it well. What with the unusual, mostly blue colour scheme and red dragon logo, it stands out.

Under the solid blue and “Ice Dragon” logo, is a frosted, icey snow flake blue background. On top of which, are the basics. Namely the description of “White Cider”. A pill shaped red blob telling us that this has the typical 7.5% volume. And the words “Extra Strength”. In case you didn’t know that 7.5% alcohol volume is quite a lot for a cider. I like the way this can looks. It’s too colourful and cheerful be an alcoholics choice. Instead, it looks to be trying to be the student party cider of choice.

Turn the can around enough times, and you reach the details side of the can. Everything, or at least the details they decide to give you, are here. All in high-contrast and readably sized lettering. Thank goodness for that. After a few weeks of needing to squint to read the labels, its good to have things printed clearly and in a readable size.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider details side of can

It may be readable. But that doesn’t mean that there’s much to read. From the top, it starts with the uninspired “Serve Chilled”. Under that, we learn that this has 3.8 UK units of alcohol. Which if you didn’t know, is a lot. You really wouldn’t want more than that amount each day.

Under that is the terse description and ingredients of “White Cider with Sugar and Sweetener Contains Sulphites”. Maybe they’re supposed to be two or more different sentences? With nothing else even approaching a sentence printed on the can, you’ll have to look elsewhere for reading material while drinking Dragon Ice.

Like Diamond White and K, the manufacturer isn’t madly keen on being identified. You have to find the postal address to find out that this is, once again, the output of one Gaymer Cider Company. The same one, of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England who hid behind Diamond White and K. Are we going to discover that every white cider brand out there is owned by these chaps?

As for what to expect, I’m guessing that it will be a lot like Diamond White. Why shouldn’t it be? It’s white cider and it’s from the same company. Either way, it’s time to find out.

Poured into a glass, and first impressions are that it’s identical to Diamond White. It’s just as fizzy and just as pale.

Gaymer Ice Dragon Extra Strength White Cider poured into a glass

The smell is almost exactly the same, too. That is to say, it smells of synthetic apples. All in all, not a great start.

A couple of gulps in however, and it does start to redeem itself. It does taste a little more of apples that did Diamond White. And that refreshing apple aftertaste seems to stay a little longer. On the other hand, it could just be my imagination, and it’s no different at all. There isn’t much in it. It’s still very very similar.

It’s just as light, easy to drink and quite refreshing. But on the other hand, it hasn’t got much taste. Or the apple-y refreshment that you expect from cider.

If you asked me to recommend either Diamond White or Ice Dragon over one another, I would be hard pressed to come up with a winner. They’re both equally cheap, tasteless and strong.

If you are a student who is trying to decide whether to buy Diamond White or Ice Dragon, pick either. Or pick the cheapest. Or pick something else entirely. K is about as cheap, stronger and tastier. Or pick a beer, spirit or wine instead. There aren’t many reasons to recommend this.

As a consequence, it scores exactly the same mark as yesterday’s white cider.

Rating: 2.95

Have you tried Ice Dragon or any other of Gaymer’s many ciders? What did you think?
As usual, recommendations, ideas, suggestions and corrections in the comments box please.
Check back tomorrow for my next white cider review. How much worse can they get? Or will the next one surprise us all?

Beer Review: Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider

29 April, 2008

A FEW weeks ago, during my look at super-high-strength lagers and ciders, Gaymer K was the big surprise. It was very strong at 8.4% volume, tasty, drinkable and cheap. This, I followed up with a few days ago with Strongbow Super. At 7.5%, it was a weaker. And because it was a dry cider, it wasn’t as drinkable. But it was still cheap.

Next to them on the shop shelves however is another type of strong cider. The White Ciders. All at 7.5% volume, I’ve rounded up three strong, white, ciders. The first of which is a little bottle of Diamond White.

Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider bottle

The bottle isn’t unusual in shape. But it is quite small. And there doesn’t appear to be much on the labels.

The neck label keeps things simple with only the word “Strong” beneath an illustration of a diamond. That says it all really.

Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider neck label

The main front label doesn’t have much on it either. But it’s still the place to look for the details.

Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider front label

The blue background and stylised “Diamond” and “White” lettering looks good. “Strong” is still very prominent. And the 7.5% is neatly positioned to stand out. There’s also the words “Drink Cold” next to what looks like the sort of star symbol that you see on freezers. Not sure if that means you should store it in a freezer or just a fridge.

The back label doesn’t have an awful lot on it either. In fact, it’s mostly barcode with little bits of text around the edges. You get the impression that if they didn’t need a barcode, there would be no back label whatsoever. It really is little larger than a postage stamp.

Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider back label

Prominently positioned next to the Diamond White logo is the units of alcohol symbol. 2.1 for this little bottle. And the smallness of the bottle is confirmed by the label. It is only 275 millilitres. Unusually small, this is the first bottle I’ve seen that has this odd capacity. Also on the back label, it describes itself as “Strong White Cider”. It contains sugar, sweeteners and contains sulphites. Just like every other cider. Yet I’m no clearer on what sulphites are.

There’s still little indication of who is behind Diamond White. Hold on… what is that I see in tiny lettering beneath the barcode? It’s the postal address and name of the manufacturer. I wander who it is? Well stone me, it’s Gaymer again! The same Gaymer Cider Company of Shepton Mallet, Sumerset, England who were behind the excellent K. And if I remember, they were keen on hiding their identity on that cider too. This hints at two things. First, that Gaymer really doesn’t want to be associated with strong ciders. And two, if K was anything to go by, Diamond White will be pretty good. Time to find out.

Pouring it, the reason for the unusual 275 millilitre amount becomes clear: it filled my half-pint glass nicely. The other thing that stood out were how many bubbles were rapidly rising to the surface. So many, and so violently, they cause a quite loud fizzing sound. The last thing that strikes me, is how it looks. It’s a very weak shade of yellow for a cider. Although that could be down to it being a white cider. Until I’ve tried some others, it’s not clear if it’s unusually light in shade or not.

Gaymer Diamond White Strong White Cider poured into a glass

The smell is good though. A light and apple-y smell accompanies Diamond White. But there is something synthetic about the way it smells. Rather like it’s sister cider, K.

A couple of gulps down, and it’s clear that white cider, or Diamond White at least, is a different animal to ordinary cider. It tastes less of apples. And minus the full-flavoured, full-body that I love about cider of the non-white variety. Diamond White is… well… rather watery.

As a cider, this makes it hard to judge. With the tiny amount I’ve had so far, I’d say that it’s somewhere between a dry and a sweet cider. Although I could be wrong on that call.

There are some cider-like qualities still present however. It does taste a little of apples. And, especially when cold, it is quite refreshing. It’s also very easy to drink. And surprisingly, despite how fizzy it is, I didn’t end up burping. Which was a relief.

But I’m not impressed. It doesn’t have the lingering, apple-y, refreshing aftertaste that cider should have. It doesn’t have much taste or flavour at all. And it’s not all that potent either, if that’s what you’re after.

At the end of my glass of Diamond White, I’ve hit upon what white cider is all about. Assuming that Diamond White sums up what the category is all about. Diamond White, or white cider in general is the strong lager of the cider world. Like strong lagers to ales, Diamond White hasn’t got much taste or flavour. But it is strong. And this one is easy to drink, easy to buy and cheap. But, it isn’t as strong, or as delicious as, for example, K. And that makes Diamond White and the other white ciders a puzzle about what their purpose is. With two more white ciders to go in this round-up, there’s still time to figure it out.

Rating: 2.95

What is Diamond White and the phenomenon that is white cider all about? If you’re tried Diamond White or the other white ciders, leave a comment with your thoughts, opinions, ideas, corrections and suggestions.

Beer Review: Strongbow Super

24 April, 2008

TIME for another strong cider. Recently, the only other strong cider I’ve reviewed was K from Gaymer which weighed in at 8.4% volume. This one is Strongbow Super from the HP Bulmer Ltd empire, and comes in at 7.5%. It’s about the same price and just as easy to buy as K, which raises the question: will it be 0.9% better tasting?

Strongbow Super can

Like most of the very strong lagers and ciders, this can doesn’t list packaging as one of its strengths. Most of it is taken up with that large and monochrome image of the famous Strongbow warrior image. Apart from the name, and very prominent red “Super” and the little text “Extra Strong Dry Cider”, there’s not much else to mention.

Rotate the can around however, and you can find the small print squashed into a tiny strip down the can. And even this is intercepted by one of the illustrations of an arrow.

Strongbow Super barcode side of can

Besides the barcode, perhaps the most noticeable thing on there is the 3.8 UK units of alcohol. Being the socially responsible purveyors of low price strong cider that they are, they also include the maximum recommended daily units for men and women. Four for men and three for women in case you were wandering.

As well as the Hereford, England, postal address address for HP Bulmer Ltd, there’s also a careline number. Plus there an email address of strongbow@bulmers.co.uk.

There’s also a little description on there telling us that this will be a “Strong Dry Cider With Sugar And Sweetener”. And that it “Contains Sulpher Dioxide”. Whatever that is. There’s little else to say about this 500 millilitre can. The only way to say anything more, will be to drink it.

In the glass, and it’s a very deep, dark yellow. Roughly the same shade as mid morning pee.

Strongbow Super poured into a glass

It has an equally strong, if better smelling odour about it, though. A little different to the very strong apple-y smell of K, but still mouth-watering for any cider fan.

A couple of gulps in, and immediately, there’s something different to the taste compared to K. Where K was sweet, Strongbow Super is dry. And to me, that makes it less drinkable.

It’s no disaster by any means. It’s still very easy to drink considering how strong it is. And the apple-y taste and refreshment that cider is all about are still there.

But a few more gulps in, and surprisingly, I’m not finding it as nice as I was expecting. Aside from the dryness that makes some bitterness and sourness come to the surface, there is something else to make me think twice about it. Yes it’s refreshing. Compared to a stout. But there are beers out there that are more refreshing. And this, being a cider should surpass them all in levels of refreshment. But it doesn’t.

In short then, Strongbow Super wasn’t as good as I had been hoping. Compared to K, it’s not as strong and its dry quality makes it less drinkable. As least to my taste buds. I’m almost certain that some of you out there will prefer the fact that it’s dry enough to rescue the south of England from a medium-sized flood. But I didn’t. Which is why I’m only giving it…

Rating: 2.9

Strongbow Super isn’t the only 7.5% cider out there though. Close to it on the off-licence shelf is something called Diamond White. It’ll be interesting to see if that can do any better.

Have you tried Strongbow Super or any other strong ciders? What did you think? Got any recommendations or any you think should be avoided?
Then leave a comment in the little box below.

Beer Review: ‘K’ Gaymer Cider

20 March, 2008

ALREADY, my exploration into the controversial world of the super-strong drink has included an Duvel ale and a “barley wine” Gold Label beer. And we haven’t even reached the notorious lagers. And this instalment won’t either. You see, I didn’t realise this when I picked up this can, but we have here, a strong cider. This is K, produced by the Gaymer Cider Company from Shepton Mallet, England.
K can

This one was from my local off-licence. And priced quite reasonably too. Why did I choose this one as the next strongest to try? Well, it has the right image. The tall 500 millilitre can is the same size as the lagers that come with free ASBOs. It provides the young, irresponsible drinker with maximum alcohol units for minimum price. Yet at the 8.4% clearly printed below the logo, it is marginally weaker than both Duvel and Gold Label. So, I’m going into this one predicting a rough experience from a strong drink, but that it won’t be as hard going as what will follow it.

Taking a closer look at the can, I think the black background and combination of red, gold and high-contrast white lettering to be a good design. This one also has a big red banner around the top explaining that this one has an extra 13.5% to bring it up to 500 millilitres. But in the market today, it’s hard to imaging them succeeding with anything less. The quote “The ultimate in quality” follows the ‘K‘ logo all the way around the can.
K logo

And around the bottom of the can are the words “Strong”, “Refreshing” and “Different”. We’ll see about that when we try it. I do like the serious but minimal look of the can however.

Around on what you could consider to be the ‘back’ of the cylindrical can are the details. All neatly contained above the barcode. The paragraph that normally gets devoted to a story or some history in this case has a lot of marketing twaddle. It truly is one of the most inane paragraphs I’ve seen on a drink. Something about how the ‘K’ stands for the ultimate in quality. You get the idea.
K barcode side

Also on there are the main details you’d want to know. That this is cider. That it contains sulphites. Whatever they are. That is it best served chilled. That this can manages to fit an astonishing 4.2 UK units of alcohol. And neatly hidden away is the name and address of the Gaymer Cider Company.

Now I could be wrong, but I’d say Gaymer are hiding their name. As if they don’t want the Gaymer name to be associated with the ‘K‘ brand. And who can blame them. If Gaymer is pushing their name with their other premium cider brands, they wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as words like “teenager”, “anti-social” or “disorderly”.

And that’s all there is to talk about the outside of the can. Time to open it up and see how “Strong”, “Refreshing” and “Different” K actually is.

Once poured carefully into a glass, I realise it was pointless to be careful. Cider doesn’t have a head. As K beautifully demonstrates. It’s also predictably cider-ish in colour. A good, deep, gold colour.
K cider in a glass

You don’t even need me to describe the smell to you. It smells of apples. But if you’ve had cider before, you’ll know that. I’ve not tried anything more than cheap ciders in the past so I don’t have much to compare it with. It could be substandard in some way, but I wouldn’t realise it. Leave a comment if you have an opinion one way or the other.

It’s been so long since I’ve had a cider, I’d forgotten just how refreshing they can be. And even a very strong cider like K here is just that. It does, predictably, taste a little of apples. And it does have a slightly bitter/sour aftertaste. But it’s surprising how easy to drink it is considering the 8.4% strength. It would be very easy to get through a lot of this without realising how inebriated one is becoming. And that is perhaps what K is all about. The easiest, cheapest way to consume as many units of alcohol as possible.

Working through the can, I can’t say that K is the best tasting cider out there. I’m fairly sure that big bottles of Woodpecker or Strongbow as tastier. But you can’t argue with it as an effective, accessible vehicle for all those units of alcohol. Even if the gassiness makes you burp a lot.

Final thoughts? K is an example of what I set out to find. It’s affordable. Very easily drinkable. Especially if your palate isn’t yet mature enough to appreciate beer. And it is very strong. I’d rate it higher than Gold Label for drinkability but it doesn’t have the character of Duvel or strong Scottish ales. I’d go so far as to say that K is bland in comparison. It certainly is very easy to drink though. This is going to be a challenging rating to give…

Rating: 3.3

Have you tried K? What did you think?
Can you recommend any other ciders, high-strength or otherwise?
If so, leave all comments, ideas, insults and bribes in the usual place…

Beer Review: Tesco Strong Dry Cider

27 December, 2007

TWO posts in one day? There’s a simple reason for suddenly becoming so prolific; I’ve got a lot to get through. It’s Christmas, which means I’ve been getting through much more than usual. I want to open the next bottle, but before I do, the last one I tried has to be reviewed first. So without further ado, let us begin a Bloggy Woggy first: a cider review.

Yet another Tesco own brand, this follows the patter we know and love; lots of quantity for a surprisingly minuscule price. £2.69 in this case for a gigantic 3 litre bottle. That’s around five pints worth cider. Or to put it another way, less than 54 pence per pint!

As far as taste goes, it’s hard to fault it. It’s everything it says it will be on it’s oversize exterior. It’s sweet. It’s refreshing. It’s dry, but not undrinkably so. And tastes, mildly of apples. Albeit, not as much of apples as some of the more premium ciders on the market, which did disappoint me somewhat.

What this strong, dry cider was not, was strong. At 5.3%, it simply didn’t have the kick of other ciders. And that disappointed me. I went through about three pints of this in rapid succession last night, but barely felt tipsy. Let alone like I had just drunk a substantial quantity of strong cider.

Trying to sum up this cider, is therefore a challenge. It tastes quite good and it is cheaper than air. But if it fails in the ‘getting you drunk quickly’ stakes, then what good is it? I would have to say, good enough. Buy it if you’re on a budget or for a drink the whole family can enjoy when you buy a take away or prepare a big family meal. The biggest problem you’ll have with this drink at family occasions is finding a place to store the fuel tanker sized bottle.

Rating: 3


%d bloggers like this: