Cider Tasting The Reliance, North Street, Leeds
Article from Yorkshire Evening Post.
CIDER? Made in Yorkshire? This is a joke, right - surely cider
is only made by bewhiskered, besmocked West Country types who say
"ooh arr" a lot and pronounce "Somerset" with zeds?
Well no, it's not. Apparently there are at least three
commercial cider makers in Yorkshire, and while I can't comment on
their dress sense, facial hair or pronunciation, I can confidently
announce that their products are proving increasingly popular on
bars across the north.
It's all down to something called the Magner's Effect, according
to Phil Kennedy of the Real Cider Company, based in Hebden
"Cider was often be seen as a young person's drink - one for
those who are just starting out and developing their tastes. It's
an easy drink to get into, when your palate isn't so well
"But Magner's ran this brilliant campaign persuading people to
drink cider over ice. It really turned a lot of people back on to
cider and now they are discovering that there are a whole load of
different, interesting ciders to try. After a while you become more
discerning and look for new flavours and perhaps go for a cider
that's more hardcore.
"It's just like with ale. People will start off on something
like John Smith's Smooth, progress onto a mainstream real ale like
Black Sheep, and then perhaps onto some of the more unusual beers
His company started out with a cider festival at the Stubbing
Wharf pub in Hebden Bridge. From there, business boomed and they
now distribute all across the north. The Reliance in North Street
is one of their regular customers, and here Phil has lined up 11
for us to taste - the attractive display of bottles showing off the
full range of colours from off-white to bright-golden and pink.
We start dry and get gradually sweeter. The first, the
aggressively dry and sharp Gwatkins Foxwhelp was almost
undrinkable, but we soon moved on to the much more palatable
oak-aged WM Watkins Oak Barrel, blended from a selection of Welsh
apples. Next up, Rum Cask from Ross-on-Wye derives its distinctive
rich softness from its fermentation in old rum barrels.
Just three selections in, and we've already experienced a host
of different tastes. Which sort of begs the question, what exactly
IS a real cider?
The Campaign for Real Ale, always hot on their acronyms, set up
a sub-group, the Apple and Pear Produce Liason Executive (APPLE)
who have defined the best real ciders and perries as being made
with only freshly-pressed fruit, unpasteurised, unfiltered, with no
enzyme treatment, preservatives, dilution, colouring or fruit
So essentially it is the fermented juice of the apple with
nothing added and nothing taken away. And unlike brewers, who add
yeast to kick-start the beer's fermentation, cider-makers rely on
the fruit's natural yeast.
"It takes about three months from pressing to drinking," said
"It's a very simple process. You don't need to use heat - you
simply put it in a bucket and ferment it." It is the many different
varieties of apples which create the wonderful range of
Next up was the easy-drinking, clean tasting Olivers Medium from
the evocatively-named Ocle Pychard in Herefordshire. Then was the
full-bodied, bigtasting Janet's Jungle Juice from Westcrofts in the
Somerset Levels. "Somerset ciders do tend to be less sophisticated
than those from Herefordshire, but they're very popular," said
The next one was the only Yorkshire one on the tasting.
Moorlands Farm in East Yorkshire turned to cider-making after the
bottom fell out of the beef market. One meeting with a friend who
had 200kg of apples to spare - and a quick trip to the Monks of
Ampleforth for some advice - and farmer Rob Gibbon was suddenly a
Encouraged by good feedback from local restaurant The Star at
Sancton, they expanded rapidly from there - and by 2010 they had
pressed nearly 5,000 litres for the summer season. This first year
of production culminated in their Medium Sweet Cyder being
Champion at the Yorkshire Cider Competition 2010. Good it is
too, very pale, quite tart, with some surprising sweetness in the
From here we were over the Pennines to try Ribble Valley Gold -
so clear and golden that Phil queried whether it may have been
filtered, breaking one of APPLE's core laws. This had a real
palate-cleansing nature to it, despite an aroma not unlike blue
cheese. "When you're tasting cider you have to remember that you're
drinking a very different thing to beer," said Phil. "It can smell
awful but still taste great, and while you wouldn't normally want
cloudiness in your beer, in cider it often adds a lot to the
At 4.6% ABV Monty's Double was one of the weaker examples we
tried, but it looked gorgeous, the colour of Red Streak apples
giving it a pink tinge. This, and its lovely refreshing nature,
made it rather like drinking a gentle rose wine - it would be a
perfect accompaniment to cheese.
Unlike the Gwatkins Norman which was dark and cloudy, and just
too sweet. Sorry Gwatkins, we've not liked yours at all.
We finished off with two perries, starting with the pale,
easy-going but at 7.5% deceptively potent, Broadoak, CAMRA Champion
Perry of 2009.
There's actually a pear tree on the Queen's coat of arms, dating
from the time when conflict with France and Spain had all but ended
the supply of wine to the tables of the Royal household. Perry
replaced it as the favoured drink of the English court.
And we finished off with the dry, caramelly Two Trees from Gwynt
Y DDraig in Wales which uses filtration to achieve its attractive
sparkling colour - and it is clean-tasting on the palate too. "It
suits the modern taste - and is a real big seller at the
You can imagine that on summer afternoons, this one is just
The revival of cider making in Britain has not been without some
issues. The Common Agricultural Policy had already seen a number of
orchards flattened into fields.
In the States it was prohibition which killed cider-making off
and it is really only getting back on track now. But just as
America has become a world-leader in the brewing of interesting
crafted beers, so their cider-makers are now getting up to
Phil is the ideal evangelist for the product, though he does add
a small health warning: "Sometimes these ciders are stronger than
you think, and getting drunk on them can be a strange
"It affects you differently; it gets your legs."