For many of the people in the West Country, Cider is described as the nectar of the Gods and once you’ve tasted these locally brewed ciders using fruit grown in Dorset, you’ll be inclined to agree!
Of course, a tour of the West Country wouldn’t be complete without sampling at least one drink from the many cider producers in the region and with so many flavours now available, you will need to find at least one made the traditional way.Read More...
The historic way, or as some might say, the right way, to make a cider is from fermented apple juice. Of course there are lots of different apples available and all of them will make a slightly different cider, so depending on your preference, keep an eye out for the various apple cider varieties. The best traditional cider comes from cider apples, of which you’ll find plenty gracing the orchards of Dorset.
In the UK, there are two main traditions of making cider, the West Country method and the East Anglia method. We might be a bit biased, but we think the Dorset way is the best. With the West Country method, the drinks are made using a much higher percentage of the true cider apples and so are richer and sharper in flavour, while those from the east of the UK tend to be clearer and lighter.
By grabbing a pint of cider on a warm day, you’re tasting a bit of history. Cider is such an old drink that no one is really sure when or where it was first made and being that apples are available pretty much every where, the mystery may never be solved. Historically, cider was made from the only resources available to the producers, which meant that crab apples were often used and it was very unlikely you’d get a pretty looking serving. These days, English ciders are produced using more culinary apples, including those you can pick up in super markets and other stores and the styles and tastes of those ciders vary depending on their location. Some producers retained their original cider recipes, which gives the end result a much more bittersweet, bittersharp taste. These ciders are usually higher in tannins than modern ciders which also affects the colour, so you’re likely to end up with something amber or yellow in colour. Many of these ciders are also have a cloudy appearance. Modern ciders are usually sweeter and drier with a clearer look about them.
With cider being the most popular of all the west country drink products, it isn’t surprising that many producers have been looking for a way to put their own unique spin on their creations. Though you’ll find plenty of speciality ciders that are still created in the traditional way with local apple varieties, you’ll also find ciders in a range of different flavours with other fruits and juices added into the mix during the fermentation period. In Dorset, you’ll find flavours such as cherry, blueberry and cranberry made with locally grown fruits. During the winter, it is also likely that you can find ciders flavoured with warm spices like cinnamon and ginger.
Other methods to create a unique taste include using wooden barrels or adding in harvested hops, much like you would in beer production. All of these methods help create a rich taste that really sets these ciders apart from the rest.
When it comes to cider, it isn’t just the drinking that is a west country tradition, wassailing festivals are also an important part of the west country’s cider production. If you’re lucky, you might catch Dorset locals taking part in the festival during January. The ceremony usually involves residents making an offering of cider to apple trees to protect the fertility of the trees and to encourage a good harvest. These events are great fun, so tag along if you spot some wassailing taking place!