As competition for space in the cider category ratchets up with the news of BrewDog’s investment in Hawkes, this week’s Swift Halves includes three craft ciders, a food-friendly Spanish pale ale and a celebratory triple IPA from SIBA’s Brewer of the Year. Susanna Forbes writes.
Kentish Pip, High Diver, 4.8%
Medium, sparkling cider
No hanging around for Sam Mount and Ed Curry at Kentish Pip. Fresh from launching the immediately successful Skylark sparkling cider (5.4%) in 2017, the brewery has not just been looking at cans, but also crafting a new cider wholly focussed on Cox and Bramley apples, called High Diver (4.8%).
Refreshing and medium in sweetness, the sparkle is well judged and appley crispness is palate cleansing. Good with light dishes, white meat, fish and salads. The good-looking cans carry the illustration-driven branding to good effect, offering a timely reason to retry the range, which includes our favourite High Summer (4%), with its notes of elderflower from the family farm which are both fragrant and palate-cleansing.
Anything else: High Diver and Skylark are also available in 30l keg/key kegs, £79
High Diver, Skylark: £36/24x33cl can; Kentish Pip, 01227 250151
Jack Ratt, Vintage Dry Cider, 7.4%
West Country cider
Across the other side of the country in Devon, Lyme Bay’s new range of ciders Jack Ratt focuses on cider apple varieties. It draws on over a dozen varieties, including favourites such as Dabinett and Kingston Black, and some lesser known gems including Tom Putt and Lambrook Pippin. Our favourite is the Vintage Dry Cider (7.4%) with its anchoring bittersweet notes and rich, ripe apple flavours. Check out also the smartly-attired Ammonite Series, which kicks off with a well-judged hopped cider and one with botanicals.
Anything else: The range is named after local 18th-century legend Jack Rattenbury, who used the hidden caves along the Lyme Bay coastline to aid his prolific smuggling career
POA/12x50cl bottle; Lyme Bay Winery, 01297 551355
Bulwark, Original Cider, 5.8%
Sparkling, medium dry cider
Bulwark is back! Imbibe Live visitors in 2017 will remember finding this good looking Nova Scotian on the Hop & Apple Bar. Well after that sneak preview, Bulwark Original is now available via Brand Central. It is crafted with a blend of five classic North American heirloom varieties, Golden Russet, Northern Spy, Corland, McIntosh and Honey Crisp. There’s a good breadth of apple and ripe pear flavours, aromas of caramelised apple on the nose, plus tangy-peach flavours that give the cider its lengthy finish.
Anything else: Cidermaking has a 400-year-old history in Nova Scotia, dating back to the early 17th century when the New World’s first gastronomic social club was formed in Port Royal Nova Scotia, named appropriately enough the Order of Good Cheer.
POA/12x33cl bottle; Brand Central, 07862 734 417
Stiegl, Columbus 1492, 4.7%
The year Christopher Columbus departed on his first voyage to the Americas happens to be the year of Stiegl’s official birth, hence the name. Enjoyable and quaffable, with a nice malt base of medium complexity and a sweet perfumed note on the nose, this is very food-friendly. Brewed as an ale, this is given the same amount of time in the tankbefore bottling or kegging as a lager.
Anything else: Born out of a brewing-guesthouse in the 15th century, Stiegl has slaked many a thirst in its 500-plus year history, including apparently that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
£13.03/12x33cl bottle, £69.07/25l returnable keg; Euroboozer, 01923 263335
Signature, Treble, 9.4%
Signature Brew won the 2018 SIBA Brewery of the Year gong in March for its fresh ideas and ambitious approach, on top of the marketing implementation award, for its creative musical alliances. True to form, Treble is a bold beer for bold flavour lovers. The hop cocktail, consisting of Mosaic, Summer, Chinook, Citra and Simcoe, makes the experience a bit like sucking a pine tree while revelling in the mango, orange and black-tea flavours too. In a word? Memorable!
Anything else: It’s always been about getting good beer into music venues, so within weeks of winning its SIBA accolade, Signature announced the second year of sponsoring the Slam Dunk Festival – three days, three sites, with its beer bar on tow behind its beer bus.
£38/12x44cl can; Signature Brew, 020 7684 4664