For so many years cider in Ireland was Bulmers, Scrumpy Jack, Strongbow, Blackthorn or worse still, Diamond White (jesus, remember those ads?) Each one a veritable chemistry technician’s wet dream that had horrendous ethanol overtones, that horrid soda-stream type heads & had even sicklier aromas (IF you could smell anything at all as often it was served frozen to f**k). I’m glad to say that in recent years in Ireland, the Cider & Perry game has stepped up massively alongside craft beer. Much of it driven by craft beer enthusiasts who have also been crying out for a decent cider/perry.
You may be wondering what drove this article & why the heck a blog by a hophead has an article about ciders? Well, cos I can & I enjoy a craft cider when I come across one I like. So, back to the article – I was recently in my local Lidl where I live to grab some bread from their bakery & decided I’d have a cheeky peek in the beer section when not only did I discover they’d started selling craft beers from Trouble Brewing, O’Haras & Rye River (even though they brew the Lidl-branded ‘Crafty Brewing Company‘ beers), Corsendonk and De Brabandere-Petrus Dubbel’s – both in 4 packs, & a trio of beers from Brasserie du Bocq-Gauloise.
But, amongst all these beers (including the excellent Graffiti Pale Ale from Trouble), was some new ciders including two ones under the Crafty Brewing Company brand; a dry cider & a medium cider. At first, I thought these might be from Rye River given their recently launched Trader Tommy’s ciders (which I thoroughly enjoyed even if they were on the sweet side) and according to Lidl’s press release around it – they are, but taking to Rye River that’s a big ‘no‘ – it’s not them. So who’s making it for them, for now remains a mystery.
Seeing Lidl launch an own-brand cider that comes from an Irish craft producer is a great sign. It starts banishing the memories of the Tesco yellow-pack cider cans that were prevalent in the 1980’s. But it doesn’t end there. Our craft cider scene is flourishing, & this is a great time to highlight some absolute favourite ciders/perries & their producers.
The ciders that Olan & his family have been turning out from their Orchard in Drogheda have been nothing short of stunning. It’s a real end-to-end operation; they grow the Apples, pick them by hand, press them, ferment them & bottle them. While only producing a single regular cider, they produce some variants & specials, one of which – ‘Fiona’s Fancy‘ I still have dreams about it was that damned good.
Okay, so I’m not a massive fan of O’Hara’s beers (‘Leann Follain‘ being the massive exception – it’s stunning, & ‘Foreign Affair‘ – which was just utterly epic). Yes, they’re incredibly well made & consistent. But they’re just not my kind of kick-back beers. ‘Falling Apple‘ is their first foray into commercial cider & boy is it a cracker. This is one of my absolute favorite ciders to drink regularly. And that’s saying something as I don’t buy that much cider.
The ‘Sweet‘ & ‘Strawberry‘ ciders from the Antrim cider producer are to die for. Their specials are just insane & not to be passed on, of note I’ve got to mention the ‘Special Reserve’ & ‘Summer Sweet‘ ones. Seriously, if you’re not tempted by their ciders, something is incredibly wrong with you.
There was no way in hell I was doing a blog post about cider without mentioning what Daniel Emmerson & his crew turn out. First of all – if you’ve NEVER had their ‘Tawny‘ cider – stop what the f**k you’re doing, & go find some. I’m not kidding here. Go, get it. Now! Yes, it’s bloody expensive, but it’s worth it. This is THE cider in Ireland in my books. This is what I consider to-be the high benchmark for elevated cider in the same way I consider ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin‘ & ‘Sink The Bismarck‘ are for BrewDog. StoneWell also produces a low ABV cider, which I adore called ‘Tobairin‘. It’s a great guilt-free-middle-of-the-day drinking cider. They also produce a prestige cider called ‘Esterre‘ which if you find it, go buy it. It’s a fantastic replacement for a bloody good bubbly (and a damn sight cheaper too). They also in the past did a special collaboration once off hopped cider with Blacks of Kinsale called ‘IP Cider‘ in 2014 which I begged Sam Black to do on a regular-ish basis to no joy (I still hold this against you Sam …. I’m blaming you & Daniel for introducing us to it!).
Yes I know, I know. This isn’t an Irish produced cider. It is however sold in plentiful supply in Ireland hailing from France. Being from the land of cheese-eating surrender-and-strike-monkeys doesn’t make it any less worth mentioning. We only seem to have a single entry from their range in Ireland that I’ve been able to find, which is their medium (or ‘demi-sec‘ for those who parlais le français) cider. It’s a fantastic lazy-chill-out-and-not-give-AF drinker.
I’ve only found this in my local pub, Thomas O’Keefe’s in Kilcock. It’s produced by Crabbies & when I’m in my local, if I’m not in the mood for a McGargle’s Uncle Jim’s Stout on draught, this is what I have. It goes great with their tapas, which they do extremely well.
Are there any craft ciders in Ireland you’ve found that you enjoy? Tell me in the comments below.