Dish of the Day: Cider vs. beer
A group of lovely young people with big hair and cool clothes are dancing and smiling at each other in a country garden, there is sunshine and laughter. One particularly trendsetting hipster plunges his hand into a bucket of ice and pulls out a bottle. A drop of condensation rolls slowly down the outside of the bottle of tempting golden cider. He licks his moustachioed lips, swigs deeply and releases a sigh of satisfaction that you only get from that first drink on a hot day.
Images like this will be coming your way this summer.
Now imagine that small brewers had the same advertising budget. Being able to promote the beer world’s summer alternatives with this kind of imagery would surely kick the balance back the other way. In these hotter months a beer lover will often discard comforting stouts, porters and bitters in favour of bracingly hoppy pale ale or a crisply chilled pilsner.
If it’s interesting varieties and flavours you’re after, the boom of new UK breweries plunder the world’s hops to produce a dizzying array of these summery styles as refreshing as any cider. If it’s the acidic sourness of a dry cider or the exciting fruitiness of the young pretenders you crave then Belgium holds the trump cards. Belgian lambics pack a powerfully sour punch which is tempered by cherries or raspberries in the fruity varieties, kriek and framboise.
But if the figures are to be believed it seems that the masses have succumbed to cider’s fruity charms. In pubs and bars, cider sales are up and will surely continue to climb in this scorching weather. But it isn’t traditional apple cider that’s making inroads, it’s the gaudily packaged, fruit flavoured ciders that are catching the attention of drinkers desiring new and interesting experiences. These can be so bland in flavour that they end up tasting like fizzy fruit juice, ultimately making them a glorified alcopop. Maybe that’s the attraction but it seems a shame that these supposedly exotic flavoured ciders are taking over the market.
There are some extraordinary traditional ciders that deliver deep, earthy flavours of cider apples, oak and funk. These mature flavours and higher ABV can take time and attention to fully appreciate, maybe too much time for the seasonal search for relief from the sun.
But these ciders pack a lot more authenticity and natural fruit flavour into each bottle than the newer products can ever hope to achieve. Just take look at the ingredients lists on your bottle to fully appreciate the difference.
So if you find yourself turning to a gooseberry and starfruit flavoured cider this summer, consider instead traditional British cider or explore what our new brewers have to offer.
Here are five ciders and beers to try this summer:
1. Oliver’s Perry and Cider Bittersweet Funk , a very dry, still cider made from vintage cider apples and matured in oak for 18 months.
2. Weird Beard Mariana Trench. A transpacific pale ale that delivers a ton of mango and passionfruit from the American and New Zealand hops
3. Oud Beersel Kriek +
4. Oud Beersel Framboise. Traditionally made lambics from Belgium, stuffed with kilos of fruit to refresh you this summer.
5. Meatime Friesian Pilsener – This seasonal special is an excellent take of a North German Lager, crisp, dry, with a peppery hoppiness to quench your thirst.
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