Real Cider and Perry
What is Real Cider & Perry:
- The liquid content before fermentation must consist entirely of non-pasteurized apple (cider), or pear (perry) juice
- No apple or pear juice concentrates to be used.
- Normally, only the sugar naturally available in the fruit should be used to cause fermentation, but in years when the level of natural sugar in the fruit is low, the addition of extraneous sugar to aid fermentation is acceptable.
- No pasteurization to take place during the production process.
- No added colourings to be used.
- No added flavourings to be used.
- There must be no artificial carbonation for draught products.
- Sweetener may be added to fully fermented Cider/Perry to make it sweet or medium.
- The addition of water is permitted to bring the alcoholic content of the Cider/Perry down to the level required by the producer. Ideally, however the minimum juice content should not be lower than 90% volume.
- No micro filtration allowed (this takes all the yeast, leaving a "dead" product).
How To Make Real Cider
- The apples are washed and checked for rot or mould. Apples which are rotting should be discarded.
- The apples are crushed in a machine called a scratter which chops them up into small pieces. They are now called pulp or pommace.
- The pulp is placed in layers on a press and then the juice is extracted.
- If a traditional screw or hydraulic press is used the pulp is wrapped in fine mesh cloths, like parcels, and about eight of these are used to make one pressing - called a cheese.
The natural yeasts in the apples, or that have built up in the buildings that will have been used to make cider for many years, start the fermentation and several months later you have cider.
It must be noted that a number of larger producers will add sugar at the fermentation stage, enabling the cider to reach 12% to 14% ABV - for example some of the Westons brands, and then it is diluted down before it is sold (the legal limit for cider is 8.5%) - this process however does not conform to CAMRA's definition of real cider or real perry.
The apples which are used in the West Country & Herefordshire/Gloucestershire/Worcestershire, and increasingly in other parts of the country are cider apples, which are grown specifically for the purpose of making cider. Cider apples are can be categorised according to their level of acidity and level of tannins. An apple with high acidity is called "Sharp"; conversely, one with low acid levels is called "Sweet". Note that "Sweet" when describing the apple is to do with lack of acid, NOT the amount of sugar present! All apples have sugar; some Sharp apples will actually have more sugar than some Sweet apples! Apples with high levels of tannin - the mouth-drying or puckering effect you get from tea - are called "Bitter". Do not confuse this "dry mouth" feel with a cider that is described as "dry". A cider that is "dry" has no sugar left. (One with sugar left will be medium or sweet).
Ciders are often made from different apple varieties. The reason for this is that not all apples make a good cider, so blending apple types can reduce the unpalatable varieties. With skill and knowledge, an experience cider maker can quite easily make a good cider from a single variety of apple - but it is not easy to do well.
Time of the Year
Producing or making cider this takes place from late August to early in the New Year and depending on ambient temperatures, fermentation can take until the following spring.
- There is a flat rate of duty on cider up to 7.4% ABV.
- You pay on the quantity made.
- A higher rate is paid for ciders between 7.4% and 8.5% ABV.
- A higher rate of duty is levied on cider using mushroom closures, mainly made using the champagne method.
- A duty exempt limit of 70 hectolitres per year (about 1500 gallons) helps the very small, local producers.
- Duty is controlled by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
- Adding fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and other flavourings to cider or perry that significantly change the flavour from apple/pear, or impart a colour change from amber/golden yellow, or allowing whisky or rum flavours in old casks to signficantly alter the flavour are not permitted by HMRC's definition of cider. Any "cider" made like this, even if the producer makes less than 70hectolitres, is classed by HMRC as "Made Wine" and is liable to pay duty at a higher rate.
Perry is made in the same way as cider, but made from pears. Pears trees take longer to mature, so the drink is relatively rarer, but gaining in popularity.
Believe it or not more perry is made now than has been made in a century, but it is difficult to market because of its low production volumes. Perry is traditionally a specialty of the Three Counties and Welsh Borders, as perry pears were said to only thrive 'in sight of May Hill'. Now however perry pears are also grown in other areas e.g. Somerset & Norfolk.
The demand is there for perry but producers cannot make enough of it, as there is not enough quality fruit available. It takes only three years for a perry pear planted in the right conditions to bear fruit, but up to thirty years before it is at full maturity.
Yearly CAMRA run a National Cider & Perry Competition and present Gold, Silver & Bronze Awards for both cider & perry.
Serving Real Cider
Depending on facilities and turnover in the licenses premises, real cider is usually served from a 5gallon polycask or a 20litre "Bag-in-Box", either on a hand pump, or by gravity.
The Bag-in-Box method is very popular with cider makers for the simple reason that it prevents a headspace of air forming over the cider. Air (or rather Oxygen) is the main enemy of cider as it will oxidise the alcohol to vinegar. Despite cider makers generally preferring Bag-in-Boxes, there still seems to be some reluctance from bar managers to widely adopt the dispensing method, despite the better quality of cider served, and that even an opened Bag-in-Box will keep the cider fresh for up to 3 months - in an opened polycask, the cider will start to acetify (turn to vinegar) within a few days.
Real cider does not need to be served chilled, and certainly not "over ice". A cool-ish room temperature, very much like red wine, will be sufficent. If chilled too much the fruit aromas that give cider and perry its character are suppressed.
Real Cider in Cheshire
Cheshire Cider, Eddisbury - Draught and bottled
Mad Hatters, Stockport - Draught