Everyone who knows me a little, knows that ever since I traveled to Australia in 2006 and later even moved there in 2011, I became a huge fan of the drink ‘cider’. I am not such a beer lover and drinking wine all night is usually not a good idea with me, so cider turned out to be my perfect drink.
Now living in the UK, I’m lucky too, because here in the South, cider can be found everywhere and it is also produced here a lot. It comes in all shapes and sizes and every time I have tried a new brand or taste, I pull the label from the bottle and put it in a scrapbook. Yes, I am a hoarder, I know!
Soon after discovering cider, I noticed that in the Netherlands, cider doesn’t really have the same status as it has here in England. Many people don’t even really know what it exactly is.
With apple cider brands such as ‘Jillz’ and ‘Apple Bandit’ from Heineken (who are desperately trying to get the Dutch to drink cider), there seems to be some interest in the cider here and there, so on my website The London Tester, I decided to tell my Dutch audience more about it (in this guide). But of course I translated the article, so you can enjoy it here on The Travel Tester in English as well.
Whether you’re already a cider fan, or you’re asking yourself right now: ‘What is Cider?’. This guide is for you!
Disclaimer: I wrote this article from my own passion for cider, it is in no way sponsored by a cider brand. Remember: under 18 no alcohol and drink in moderation!
What we'll cover in this article
- What Exactly is Cider?
- How is Cider Made?
- A Short History of Cider
- What is the Difference Between Ciders from Other Countries?
- Products from Amazon.com
What Exactly is Cider?
According to Wikipedia, cider is “an alcoholic drink that is made from the juice of fruits, especially apples, in principle without the addition of extra sugar.” It is often compared to beer, because you usually drink it from the same kind of glass (or from a bottle) and it looks a bit the same, but actually it is more like a wine made from apples.
In terms of taste, apple cider drinks are also much sweeter than beer and there is no bitter after taste, something that I personally do not like about beer at all. If you pour cider into a glass, there is also no head of foam like you have on beer.
Except of course here in the UK, where they serve both beer and cider literally to the brim of the glass, which makes walking with the glass super inconvenient, but that is a story for another time.
Cider how to make it? Keep reading!
How is Cider Made?
Cider, Cidre, Sidra, Apfelwein, Ice Wine … Whatever the drink is called around the world, ciders are basically made from the fresh juice of apples. Of course not the apple juice that you might drink at breakfast, because a more bitter, low-sugar apple is used. These cider apples have high tannin content and are usually not really meant to be eaten just like that.
The type of apple used can also change the taste of the cider. For example, in France, the taste of cider is more subtle and fruity, while in Great Britain and Ireland it is more robust and firm.
Making cider is a relatively easy process. There is no cider brewing process, but instead the apples are picked, ground (‘scratted‘) and the pulp (‘pommage‘) is put in barrels where it can ferment easily. After the apple juice has fermented, it must mature for about 3 months (up to 3 years!) before it is drunk.
The percentage alcohol apple cider contains can vary considerably, but usually there is between 4% and 8.5% alcohol in apple cider. There are also brands from the USA and Canada that even go up to 12%.
Have you tried producing home made apple cider yet? I’d love to give it a go sometimes!
Soon I’m visiting the Thatchers cider brewery (? I think ‘factory’, or probably’cider farm’ is a better term here), so I’ll tell you all about the apple cider making process there! Stay tuned!
The old skool way of making cider: with a cider press!
A Short History of Cider
Did you know that until fairly recently apples were not eaten at all? They were often too bitter! This reminds me of the apple trees that we used to have on our allotment back in Amsterdam. You could never just eat them from the tree, but they always had to be processed into for example apple sauce … or cider, apparently! Missed opportunity!
So what people used to do was squeeze the juice out of the apples and then let it ferment into alcohol. It even seems that the pharaohs in ancient Egypt already hung around in apple trees at 1300 BC. Smart guys!
Whether or not they really drank cider, we’re not sure, but they drank beer, so they knew how to ferment. In any case, it is known that the Romans certainly came into contact with cider around 55 BC when they entered the ports of the British Isles. As with so many things that the Romans discovered, the story soon circulated around Europe and ‘cider’ was a concept.
Cider / Beer? What’s Your Choice?
What is the Difference Between Ciders from Other Countries?
A big difference between the cider that is made in various countries around the world, is the way of alcoholic fermentation. With the British, Irish and French, the drink becomes bubbly by binding fermenting carbon dioxide to wine (or adding carbonic acid to the wine in the more industrially produced wines). In France, very high quality ‘cidre‘ is sometimes made in the same way as champagne, by fermentation on the bottle itself.
In Germany, they let the natural carbon dioxide escape from the wine, giving you a so-called ‘silent‘ wine. I also saw this in Oviedo in northern Spain, where they poured out the cider (‘sidra‘) from very high in the air in the glass, so that oxygen returned to the drink and it came back to life. . There they drank small bits of cider as a kind of shot, because if you waited too long, the carbon dioxide was gone and the cider became too bitter. This ritual is called ‘escansiar‘ and is fun to watch while enjoying a bite!
There is also a difference in the type of drinking glasses used in the various countries for drinking cider. In England, you get all the cider in a ‘pint‘ glass with ice, but you will often get cider from a ‘Geripptes‘ glass in Germany, which you can recognize by the diamond pattern. In France, you often get a kind of flat bowl to drink from and in some places you even get an earthenware cup! For the more refined ciders, you often get a wineglass in France (I saw this in Canada too, they call it more ‘Ice Wine‘, not really cider).
The glasses are all quite wide, so the cider can mix well with the oxygen, which make it easier for the aromas to release.
Cider from South-Africa
Cider from Wales, Sidra from Spain and Cidre from France
Cider from England
What Are the Different Types of Ciders?
Instead of apples, pears are also used for some ciders. This is personally my favorite! In this case, you’re actually talking about ‘Perenwijn‘ (Netherlands), a ‘Perry‘ (UK) or a ‘Poiré‘ (France).
There are also various ciders available with other fruits, such as berries, elderflower, lime or passion fruit. This is not for everyone though, because they can be pretty sweet.
How do you Combine Cider with Food?
If you like to eat apple sauce with your food (very common in The Netherlands), then imagine how drinking cider with the same type of food will also works really well. With a nice piece of meat (especially pork), with fish, stews or even a barbecue, you name it, it will go well with cider!
Furthermore, cider tastes good with cheese, fruit pies, or just a handful of peanuts in the pub. Of course you don’t really need an excuse to enjoy a glass of cider, haha!
What are Average Cider Calories?
I had a quick look at calories in ciders, and this is what I found for some of the bigger brands:
Bulmers Light Irish Cider – 99 calories per 12 oz
Magners Irish Cider – 125 calories per 12 oz
Strongbow Cider – 140 calories per 12 oz
Kopparberg Mixed Fruit Cider – 140 calories per 12 oz
You can say that an average cider will have around 125-140 calories per 12 oz (can size)
Cider in Australia, Cider in America, Cider in Finland, Cider in England
Cider Festivals in the UK
Here are few cider festivals, cider events and beer festivals including cider makers not to miss:
- Falmouth Folk & Cider Fayre
- Chester Food, Drink & Lifestyle Festival
- Gower Cider and Cheese Festival
- Reading Beer & Cider Festival
- Ludlow Spring Festival
- Welsh Perry & Cider Festival
- Eastbourne Beer & Cider by the Sea
- Royal Bath and West Show
- Nailsea & Backwell Beer & Cider Festival
- Compton Martin Outcider Festival
- Great British Beer Festival
- Peterborough Beer Festival
- Witcombe Cider Festival
- Brogdale Cider Festival
- Ross Cider Festival
- Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival
- York Beer & Cider Festival
- Craft Beer Calling Festival
Cider in Ireland, Cider in Finland and Cider in Canada
What are Dutch Cider Brands?
I thought there were only two Dutch cider brands, but after a bit of research I found a lot more, yeah! I have not been able to try them myself yet, but here you can find more information:
- Doggerland Craft Cider (doggerlandcider.com)
- Apple Bandit (applebandit.nl)
- Jillz (jillz.nl)
- Bear Cider (bearcider.com)
- Ram Cider (ramcider.nl)
- Lightship Cider (lightshipcider.com)
- De Vergeten Appel (devergetenappel.nl)
What are Irish & British Cider Brands?
There are many types of British and Irish cider brands, but here are some nice ones:
- Thatchers Cider – Engeland (thatcherscider.co.uk)
- Aspall Cider – Engeland (aspall.co.uk)
- Orchard Pig – Engeland (orchardpig.co.uk)
- Cornish Orchards – Engeland (cornishorchards.co.uk)
- Strongbow – Engeland (strongbow.com)
- Bulmer Cider – Engeland (bulmers.co.uk)
- Bulmers Irish Cider – Ierland (bulmers.ie)
- Magners – Ierland (magners.com)
There can be a bit of confusion about the cider Bulmers, because there are actually two brands. I only discovered this recently and it blew my mind! So, “Bulmers Cider” is named after the British cider maker H.P. Bulmer from Hereford, England, which makes its own Bulmers cider and also Strongbow cider. The company is owned by Heineken International.
“Bulmers Irish Cider” is a cider from the Irish C & C Group, which only sells under this brand name within the Republic of Ireland. In all other places in the world it is sold as “Magners”.
What Are Other Tasty Ciders?
I also find the following brands of ciders very tasty:
- Somersby Cider – Denmark (somersbycider.com)
- Kopparbergs – Sweden (kopparberg.com)
- Rekorderlig Cider – Sweden (rekorderlig.com)
- Old Mout – New-Zealand (oldmoutcider.com)
- Savanna Dry – South-Africa (savannacider.com)
- Angry Orchard Cider – USA (angryorchard.com)
- Stella Artois – Belgium (stellaartois.com)
What is Cider? More Information!
Still not enough information? I can imagine! :) Here are some more great resources about Cider:
- Cider Cider (cidercider.nl) *Dutch Site
- Het Cider Huis (hetciderhuis.nl) *Dutch Site
- World Cider Awards (worldciderawards.com)
- Real Cider (real-cider.co.uk)
- List of Cider Producers in the United Kingdom (wikipedia.org)
- South West of England Cidermakers’ Association (sweca.org.uk)
- The Welsh Perry & Cider Society (welshcider.co.uk)
I am very curious to find out if you have heard of cider before and/or if you have already tasted it? Cider Drinkers, tell me your favorite brands? I’d love to try it! Cheers Everyone!