The Pros and No Cons of Drinking Cider
Imagine a weather event so severe that it literally wiped out an entire vintage of grapes in Napa Valley or Russian River Valley or the Santa Lucia Highlands. Devastating on a number of levels. Well, this is exactly what has appeared to have happened to the Southwest England Cider Apple Orchards after devastating rains there have appeared to destroyed the potential of 17,500 acres of cider apple trees. The news is of a “Cider Drought” in one of the world’s premier cider orchard growing regions.
I would not have known this had I not recently set up a GoogleAlert for “Cider” after having been tasted on the drink by a representative of a new Cider being made by a California winery. I’m one of those fools who thought “cider” came in a large jug, was brown and opaque and was sweet with no alcohol. Turns out that’s not cider. Here in the U.S., that’s what “Cider” refers to. And if you are talking about the real stuff, well we in the U.S call it “hard cider”. It’s a long story, but unlike the rest of the world, we attach the “hard” in front of “Cider” to indicate it has alcohol.
There’s a good chance I’m going to be writing quite a bit more about Cider here at Fermentation in the near future. I’ve discovered that at its best, in its craft form, it may just be the perfect drink. At 6%-8% alcohol the stuff doesn’t have nearly the potential to get you drunk, but drink the equivalent of a 750ml. and you’ll have a buzz. On the other hand, it has many similarities to beer, but it doesn’t fill you up and weigh you down like beer does…at least like beer does to me. Additionally, as I’ve learned over the past week after having tracked down probably most of the ciders sold at retail in Napa, in its craft form, hard cider can be a beautifully complex and intriguing drink. To put it mildly, GREAT STUFF.
I feel for the English Cider lovers because I think I understand what they love about this drink in the same way I understand what wine lovers appreciate about the best wines from a region. And I can’t imagine what the reported loss of 17,500 acres of premium cider orchards means to the orchardists, the cider makers and the devotees of fine English Cider.
To put it mildly, I’m hooked on Cider and plan on an extensive investigation of the drink. And I think I might even begin reviewing ciders on this blog. While wine is never reviewed here, I think I found a drink that I not only want to drink, but which I can review here in a way that might provide useful information to readers as well as not cross any ethical lines.
In the mean time, think good thoughts about the English orchardists, cider makers and cider drinkers. They have tough future ahead of them.
Having been involved with yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae for 20 years and realising that the French have been using various laboratories for finding a strain that is perfect for wine making has increased my curiosity for all fermentation.
Being from the very county that is most famous for cider (Somerset) has meant experiencing many types of local cider. Cheddar Valley is one such brand. This is a strong orange coloured cider with great depth of flavour. Some other kinds called ‘scrumpy’ are very thin and refreshing on a hot summers day. However, these are very underestimated by non-locals and less that three pints can have you flat on your back. Cider was the choice of farm workers when they collected the bales of hay and straw. Lunch was a large lump of Cheddar cheese, bread and a flagon of cider. Locals will cook with cider like the French would cook with wine. There is even a cider brandy that has to be tried to be believed. GI’s who came to Minehead to learn tank marksmanship during WWII discovered cider and have documented the strange effect it had on them and despite being able to think and find their way back to their barracks found that their legs had a mind of their own. Cider intoxication can creep up on the unwary, but more than likely hit you like a sledgehammer as you get out in the cold night air.
We call some ciders ‘Rough Cider’ and this can be like drinking slightly apple tasting water. This can be the dangerous one, as it can be drunk very easily. I have witnessed violence after beer, lager and whisky drinking but strangely enough it is rare to encounter violence when cider or wine is drunk. Why? It’s a fruit drink with its own sugar source, not a grain drink with added sugar. There has to be something in this and it’s not just drinking in moderation.