A Cider Sampling

Below is a trio of ciders, selected not quite at random but quickly off the shelf for a comparison. They were tasted over a few nights. Kept in the fridge, the cans hardly lose carbonation over that time.

The English Blackthorn is slightly sweet with a good apple taste, but the flavour is hard to place in terms of “national” classification. It’s not quite English and not quite North American, I’d guess the formula aims at an indistinct “international” profile. Blackthorn Dry, the original formulation – or original since the 1960s when the Blackthorn brand was first introduced – is now sold only in England vs. this sweeter and stronger export.

Apple concentrates are used with added sugars. I support authentic methods but at the same time, the taste is fine, so this is not something I would linger over.

The Okanagan, from British Columbia, is by far the sweetest cider I’ve had, a liqueur cider if that makes sense. It would go well in small glasses iced after a light dinner with a biscuit. The apple used seems yellow Golden Delicious or of that type.

I plan to blend it with a lean stout – Ontario has a number of dry (“Dublin”) stouts with a burnt cereal edge – to create a Black Velvet. The extra dryness of the stout will be offset by the sweetness of the cider, and the latter’s sugary quality will be diffused in the mix.

The Thornbury, from Ontario, had a bright, North American apple taste and an alluring carbonation, soft and enveloping. It was least sweet of the three with a nice acid undertone, yet not a scrumpy-style, not, that is, bone-dry and strong. It shows how far cider has come in Canada as it offers good complexity yet without losing the appealing fresh quality. Thornbury is well known too for its brewing line.

None of the three had a Brettanomyces or wild yeast note which in my view ramps up the quality. Brett is such a dominant taste, even in small amounts, it tends to overwhelm the appealing qualities of cider. But it’s a question of taste of course.

Ontario has been making cider for a long time, it’s probably another early Yankee import. It pops up in tavern bills of fare from at least 1800.

Quebec’s cider scene surely derives ultimately from the Norman and Brittany apple yards and fermenting vats, after all most Quebeckers’ ancestors came from those regions.

I am not sure what the antecedents of British Columbia’s cider industry are. Perhaps it is truly home-grown given the long repute of the Okanagan Valley fruit orchards.

The cider barrel was a stock notion of the 19th century. It been reinvented for our time by artisans and ambitious multi-national companies.

 

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