Beer and cider made their mark at this year’s Imbibe Live with a heady mix of new faces, legendary brewers and cidermakers, and pioneering distributors. While contestants battled it out centre-stage to win The Tapsters crown and be named the best beer & cider team in the land, the number of beer and cider exhibitors grew by around 50%.
Arguably the largest cluster of cidermakers to be seen in London included Somerset stalwarts Sheppy's, Devon’s finest in Sandford Orchards, and Herefordshire’s own Tom Oliver, in his role as cider ambassador.
New names such as Pilango Cider and Nirvana brewery landed at the Hop & Apple Bar, alongside the welcome return of favourites such as Cotswold Cider Co
Here are a few of the team’s favourite tastes, ranging from a low abv Krombacher through to ginger-flavoured cider. While contemporary and fruit ciders run alongside their traditional brethren. Check out the next issue for more reports, and rest assured, we’ll keep you posted on newbies just as soon as they get their first distribution contracts.
-Susanna Forbes, beer and cider editor
A new lower-abv version of Aspall’s core cider, created in response to the on-trade saying: ‘We love your cider, but it’s too strong’. Hence this sessionable cider, with all the Aspall character and just lower alcohol – what’s not to like? (JS)
4.5%, Aspall, 01728 860510, aspall.co.uk
Pilango, Liberated Cider
Following a trip to Portland on the US West Coast, the guys behind Pilango returned inspired, and their ciders and Tooting-based cider shop are the welcome results. There’s a well-judged sparkle for this cider, crafted from donated and rescued apples from gardens in south-east England. With baked apple notes on the nose, the palate displays sprightly dessert-fruit notes, with a splash of green apple freshness thrown in. (SF)
Circle Cider, Roundabout Medium Cider
A deft mix of cookers and eaters, this cider is typically refreshing, with bright, food-friendly crispness. Made using apples from ‘private and abandoned orchards’ in Wiltshire, this is available in bag-in-box and bottle. (SF)
5.6%, Circle Cider, 01793 491070
Sandford Orchards Shaky Bridge
Made from Famous Glory, Sweet Alford and Woodbine bittersweet apples, this Devon cider is full of ripe apple tannins, rich flavour and crisp acidity. Medium-dry, the cider has candied apple and cinnamon notes, with a long, off-dry finish, and well-judged carbonation. (IS)
6% abv, 01363 777 822, sandfordorchards.co.uk
Knights Malvern Gold Cider, Aston Manor
Pleasing bittersweet notes anchor this cider from Herefordshire orchards in the shadow of the Malvern Hills. With an apple rollcall that includes Yarlington Mill, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett and Kingston Black, it’s easy to see why there is structure and texture as well as rich, baked apple flavours. Food friendly too. (SF)
6%, Aston Manor, 0121 328 4336
Fruit and spice
Sheppy’s Cider with Raspberry
Described as ‘summer in a bottle’, this is a traditional apple cider blended with fresh, pure raspberry juice. This sweet cider delivers an aroma of fresh, slightly tart, raspberries, with a light, moreish flavour to match. Fruity and delicious, we’d recommend serving this over ice, ice cold, or as an accompaniment to dessert. The low abv adds to its sessionable credentials. (IS)
4% abv, 01823 461 233, sheppyscider.com
Thistly Cross, Real Ginger Cider
A wonderfully balanced cider rather than one with an artificially sweet overpowering ginger flavour, this cider displays its ginger component subtly, expressing the freshness of the root, unlike some sweeter or spicier ginger variations out there. (JT)