Sweet sixteen

Cider is like liquid sunshine. Forget what you think you know about this delectable drink – Kiwi cider makers have revived this classic in an array of styles. Here are 16 refreshing and food-friendly drops for the sun-drenched days ahead

Photography by Tony Brownjohn

Still or sparkling, cider can be sweet or dry in a variety of styles. Draft cider gets a shorter fermentation time and may contain sugar or juice concentrate (just check the label). Like Frenchstyle cidre it can be sweet, so serve it extra cold or even over ice. Fruits like berries are blended with either an apple or pear cider (the latter also known as ‘perry’) to create speciality ciders, ranging from tart to sweet. Traditional cider gets a lengthy fermentation period – upwards of eight months. While it can be made with eating apples, it’s usually crafted from tannic, heritage varieties like Kingston Black and the wondrously named Broxwood Foxwhelp for a medium-dry to dry finish. As with beer and wine, cider needs yeast to transform sugars into alcohol. In fact, the distinction between cider and fruit wine is solely determined by the alcohol content. So while ciders fall between two and nine percent alcohol by volume (ABV), fruit wines can, like grape wines, be around 14 percent.

But one good apple does not a summer make. Here are the top tipples from 16 Kiwi brewers:

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Ciders pair well with food, though drier styles fit the broadest range. For the latter, check out the apple or pear cider from Matakana’s Zeffer Brewing Co., both of which are unfiltered and naturally cool-fermented up to three months without added cane sugar for a finish that’s both rustic and classically dry. Peckhams’ English cider is traditionally crafted with organic Kingston Black and Sweet Alford apples, white wine yeast and an eight-month fermentation period. Green Man Brewery also produces an organic cider and, like Townshend and Peckhams, uses recycled bottles from Dunedin startup SmartBottles, making ciders from these breweries not just tasty but delightfully ‘green’.

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Embracing tradition is nothing new at Canterbury’s Camla Farm, which took gold at the BeerNZ Awards this year, sweeping the cider and perry categories. Under cider maker Mark Nixon’s guidance, apples are hand-harvested in autumn and milled. As with the process for old-world ciders, the pomace or pulp is layered into cloth parcels called ‘cheeses’, which are then pressed. The resulting juice is left to ferment for six months before the vintage is bottled in time for summer. Invercargill Brewery uses this time-honoured method for its newly released Heritage Cider which, along with its Nally’s Cider, is made with local apples and fermented for six months.

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Scrumpy is a traditional cider taken rather seriously in England’s West Country – in Somerset alone (pop 912,900) a total of 25 producers make highly guarded versions. On our shores, Hawkes Bay Independent Brewery’s Kingston Scrumpy took a silver gong at the BeerNZ Awards while Redwood Cellars also grabbed silver for its bubbly, medium-dry Old Mout Scrumpy with notes of rose, honey and marmalade. Scrumpy gets its name from the old British word ‘scrimp’, slang for an apple that’s either smallish or on the wrinkly side. Ciders made in this style are customarily unfiltered, usually still and tend to be higher in alcohol. Scrumpy Strong Cider from Gisborne’s Bulmer Harvest Ltd is lush, fruit-forward, and around the eight percent ABV mark, as is the Good as Gold Scrumpy from Harrington’s Breweries.

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More than a few breweries have turned a hand to cider, including Lion Nathan, with its Speight’s Apple Cider and the Mac’s Isaac’s Cider range. DB Breweries offers Monteith’s Crushed Pear and Johnny Arrow Dry Apple Cider, both of which took bronze medals at the BeerNZ Awards. Moa Brewing Company snapped up gold this year with its Weka Apple Cider, which is slowly cool fermented in French oak to retain its unique green apple characteristics. The legendary Stoke McCashin’s Brewery has long made one of New Zealand’s oldest ciders, Rochdale, adding ginger and lime to its line-up for a refreshing twist.

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KJD Brewing in Christchurch uses a proprietary apple juice blend for Eve’s NV Cider which, much like the brewery’s chocolate-cherry porter, is made with food in mind. Kirsten Taylor of KJD, a veteran brewer and beer judge, says it’s a good fit with roast duck salad but works well with everything from sticky ribs to Asian fare.

A sterling match for roast pork or grilled haloumi and sausages, cider is also a great aperitif or simple summer drinks mixer. The Sprig & Fern Brewery’s Three Berry Cider is a clever blend, routinely ranking as one of its most popular brews. Benger Gold Wild Cider from Cromwell juice-maker Benger Gold is a melding of Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin apples for a medium-dry style. Both stand well on their own, but, with lager, make for a new slant on the tried-and-true shandy. Mix with stout for a Poor Man’s Black Velvet or, best of all, pop open a bottle, pour into a nice tall flute, and let summer unfold.

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Want more?

To learn more about the traditions of cider making, check out these websites:

And for a Kiwi-made cider press go to:

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