A woman walks into a pub. If that sounds like the first line of a joke, you’re right but this one is a bad joke. She asks for a cider but is served with a glass of beer. When she points out the barman’s mistake he responds condescendingly ‘Beer and cider – it’s the same thing’. That unfortunately is a true story. I know, I was there.
I doubt that the barman is the only one who is clueless about cider. I regularly hear and read people referring to cider being brewed. Cider is not apple beer and is not brewed. It is made by pressing apples and fermenting the juice. Like wine.
Think about the following scenarios at the bar of a pub.
Customer: May I have a medium glass of Cabernet Sauvignon please. Bar person: Yes – anything else?
Or: Customer: What India Pale Ale do you have? Bar person: On cask we have St Austell’s Proper Job and in cans we have Brewster’s IPA.
And here is another one:
Customer: A pint of cider please. Bar person: That’s £4.90 thanks.
What is missing from the cider order? The customer did not ask for a brand, or a specific style. Most people don’t. There is usually only one draught cider on the bar. Customers expect to get a cold fizzy drink that is a bit fruity and on the sweet side and that is invariably what they will get. They may not even know that cider comes in a variety of styles and that not all cider is carbonated, chilled and sweet.
Cider comes as still, naturally sparkling, bottle fermented, champagne method, dry, medium, sweet, ice cider, cider brandy, acidic, tannic, wild yeast fermentation – cider made from dessert and eating apples, cider made from bold tannic cider apples. You’d never know by looking at the choices in most pubs and retailers. Many ciders sold in pubs and supermarkets are the equivalent of apple alcopops produced in a few days by diluting concentrated apple juice with water and adding sugar, preservatives, caramel, colourings and other additives. This cider has a low value perception and people give it little respect. Real cider on the other hand is made from freshly pressed apple juice and time. Months of fermentation and maturation produces a sublime drink that is akin to wine.
So how can we enlighten people about the diversity of real cider and change their attitude that all cider is rocket fuel, the quickest way to being blotto? Education is a start. In 2018 Britain’s Beer & Cider Academy launched its accredited cider courses written and delivered by Gabe Cook, aka The Ciderologist. The courses lead towards the Pommelier accreditation. I was the first person in the UK to be certified as a Pommelier. It has the added benefit of starting a conversation. People are intrigued and want to know what a Pommelier is and what it entails. This then leads on to a discussion about real cider and alcopop cider and it has the result of elevating people’s opinion of cider.
For people who want to learn about cider on their own device, in their own place and at their own pace I devised the School of Booze cider courses. They offer a solid base of cider knowledge and with the learning, revision and examination will take 5 hours or less to complete. People who take these courses will be enlightened about cider and may even be inspired to be real cider advocates and help in the #RethinkCider campaign.
Cider advocates are vocal about quality, provenance, apple varietals, cider & food matching, organic, small batch & the artisan nature of cider. These efforts are encouraging people to rethink cider. It is happening on a small scale but it’s a start. Real cider deserves our efforts!