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Cider World 2018 – Frankfurt: A review by Lilibet McFetrich

Last weekend, Sean and I headed off to Frankfurt to go to Cider World’18 also known as Frankfurter Apfelweinmesse. It was the 10th year of this event being held there but the first under its new name of Cider World. This name change represented the exciting developments taking place internationally in the fast growing world of craft cider. It was a 2 day international cider tasting and awards event held in the beautiful Palmengarten (palm tree garden) area of the city.

We stayed at the lovely boutique Hotel An der Messe in a quiet residential area just a short walk from the Palmengarten. The service was very good and the staff friendly and helpful. There was also a lovely secluded garden which was a real sun trap and a nice place to relax.

On Saturday morning, Sebastian from Cider Kultur, a fairly new German cider importer, came to meet us at the hotel.  After a leisurely al fresco coffee at a cafe near the university, we went along to the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten where the event was taking place. A stunning location with the white conference centre situated in lovely gardens with a beautiful fountain and a stunning tree-lined walkway upto the entrance. We were warmly greeted at reception, given our name badges and tickets for the following day’s event but no literature or information pertaining to that day’s schedule. So we were a little unsure as to what the format would be, but Sebastian, who was attending the event for the third time, was very excited.

After collecting our official Cider World tasting glass, we entered a light and airy and fairly modest sized conference room on the first floor. It had sliding glass doors the length of the room which opened onto a beautiful terrace overlooking the gardens to the front. The room had been set up with banqueting tables covered in white table cloths which ran down the length of both sides. The 40 or so producers stood behind these tables with several bottles of their products on display. The atmosphere was very professional and there was barely any advertising on display. One notable exception was Long Ways Tipperary Cider which had a stunning eye-catching yellow banner showing their products complete with the strap line ‘You’d have to go a Longways to find a better cider’. This definitely caught my attention and made for an easy conversation starter.

After mingling and tasting for about an hour and a half and meeting producers from many different countries including Luxembourg, Austria and the Czech Republic to name just a few, we were all invited through to the Awards ceremony which was held in another conference room set up in theatre style to accommodate several hundred people. At this stage I hadn’t fully appreciated that all those cider producers present were award winners. So I was a little startled when the host announced that there would be 40 awards given out! Apparently judging had taken place the day before with a panel of international judges. The awards ceremony took just under 2 hours, although it became evident that all producers present were awarded either ‘Honor’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ or an ‘overall category winner’ award. It was very difficult to follow what was going on as no use was made of the projector screen to flash up the winners details, and there was no list of producers and product names or countries of origin to refer to. Moreover, within each award category, awards seemed to be given out randomly and not by cider type or country of origin. I think if this could be addressed in future years it would greatly enhance the experience for those attending.   

Anyway, with the ceremony concluded, we all returned to the initial conference room for more tastings and delicious, complementary refreshments served on tiered cake-stands on the sun-drenched terrace. However, although the mood was bouyant, the general feeling was one of a bit of confusion as to who had won what. This was a great shame, as a huge amount of time and effort had gone into the judging and collating of the information for the winners’ award packs which, on closer inspection, looked very informative.

The producers, and many who had attended the afternoon’s events, carried on partying well into the night. But as it was our first trip to Frankfurt and it was also doubling up as a short break, we headed, on foot, through the Aldstadt to the south side of the city, Saschenhausen, to sample the delights of a typical Apfelswein restaurant.

As the weather was so warm, we were able to sit out all evening at long wooden trestle tables in the walled garden of this bustling restaurant. Here we sampled the delights of Apfelswein. This is served in traditional, attractive, patterned stone-jugs known as Bembels. The Apfelswein was fairly dry and more like a typical English scrumpy. It was also quite refreshing when mixed with wither water or lemonade (a local tradition), which obviously made it a bit sweeter! We combined this with plates of Weiner Schnitzel, potatoes and the famous Frankfurter Green sauce which is made from sour cream and herbs. We also had the good fortune to sit with some friendly young Germans who introduced us to another speciality – Mispelchen – which is a brandy made with medlar, a persimmon-like fruit. Delicious.

Sunday was another beautiful day with temperatures reaching 20 degrees. After a leisurely breakfast overlooking the hotel’s garden, Sean and I headed along the magnolia tree-lined avenues, through Beethovenplatz, back to Cider World where tastings for the trade were starting at 11 before opening to the public at 1pm.

The place was abuzz. The reception area had moved to a larger space where we were warmly greeted by an army of smartly-dressed cheerful young staff who digitally checked our tickets, provided colour-coded wristbands and even put them on for us. More importantly, we were each given a tasteful black fabric bag complete with a booklet listing all the producers, countries of origin and where to find them in the Exhibition hall or gallery. Most useful, and a simplified version, even just on a single sheet would have been very beneficial the previous day.

After leaving a 10 euro deposit for the tasting glass, we entered the spectacular, ornate and galleried main exhibition hall which overlooks the interior of the Palmengarten house, resplendent with dramatic palms and elegant decor. What a fantastic setting. This time the space was bedecked with eye-catching banners, colourful promotional materials, some producers in national costume and most importantly, a stunning selection of ciders and apfelweins. Some 95 exhibitors in total from 16 countries. The atmosphere was fantastic with a great sense of enthusiasm and expectation in the room.

We spent a wonderful couple of hours meeting producers, hearing their stories and sampling a fantastic array of craft ciders and apfelweins. And this time there was no doubt as to who the winners were as they proudly displayed their certificates on their stands. We heard about the wonderful work being done by Ramborn Cider Company in Luxembourg who are working with more than 100 farmers to revive, maintain and improve the traditional meadow orchards.

We met a Japanese farmer, resplendent in his red silk robe, from Tamura Farm who had brought a wonderful selection of his ciders and stunning apples and an Italian family, 2 sisters and their mother, who run Mela Godo in the Aosta valley. The expression means ‘pamper yourself’ but mela also means ‘apple’.

Then there was Karl from Blakstoc Cider, serious craft cider, in Vienna. Blakstoc means old tree in medieval German and his products are a combination of hops and apples which he describes as Europe’s finest hopped cider. They are hand-crafted from wild tree apples in the Styrian hills and in 2017 he was a Gold Medal winner at the International Cider Awards in London.

Sidras Bereziarta from the Basque country in Spain were 4th generation cider producers. Prior to 1936 there were 975 cider producers in this region but this now stands at 75.  Cider used to be drunk instead of water as it was safer!  However due largely to improvements in the quality of the local drinking water, the number of producers has declined significantly. 

Horn Cider from Denmark won an award for their Freja cider which is named after a Nordic goddess. They combine all their products with local honey. Very tasty. In particular their dessert wine, Kvasir – Gylden Aeblevir (12.5%) which I bought a bottle of.

From Germany we came across Bembel-With-Care which was set up in 2007. Their products are all available in cans.  And their Apfelwein Gold (5%) with quince is particularly tasty. This is a modern take on the traditional apfelwien which was typically only available in bottles and served in large earthenware jugs called Bembels.  The name BEMBEL-WITH-CARE, combined with their logo which depicts a glass, a jug and 2 arrows indicating ‘this way up’, is a play on words Handle With Care.

We also met an interesting gentleman who was helping to promote the local movement in Frankfurt to open a Deutsches Apfelwein Museum in the cellar of the Romer City Hall where there are old wall paintings depicting scenes of people picking apples in the orchards.  This medieval building in Frankfurt’s Aldstadt has been their town hall since 1405.

It was a fantastic event. The passion for keeping the orchards of the world alive and flourishing was evident. Moreover, the production of of fantastic craft ciders combining traditional methods with new and creative styles, blends as well as packaging and promotion was truly inspirational.

The only shame for us at Fetch The Drinks is, that bar one or two Irish producers, the ciders at the Exhibition are only available in bottles, not bag in boxes (BiBs) which make up the largest part of our business supplying to wonderful cider festivals and micro pubs up and down the UK. Apparently any products served in BiBs are perceived as being of a lower quality than bottled produce and therefore producers feel they wouldn’t sell. But maybe in the way that Frankfurter Apfelweinmesse has transformed into Cider World, maybe BiBs will take their place in the mainland European market in time. Meanwhile, BEMBEL-WITH-CARE and their excellent selection of canned Apfelwein products may bridge that gap.   

We finished off our stay with a lovely visit to the adjacent gardens – Palmengarten, which just had a modest entrance fee of 7 euros per person. The flora and fauna was stunning.

A fantastic weeknd. We will definitely be returning next year.   

 

Cider list for this Friday’s Cider Festival at Shelley Theatre!

We have got a fantastic range of ciders available for the festival this Friday, including the 2017 CAMRA National Gold award winning cider from Countryman and the winning Perry, Piglet’s Choice from Nempnett!

We’ve also got, literally straight off the press, the new Strawberry Sunshine from Dorset Sunshine – made from real New Forest strawberries.  Or if you prefer a darker fruit – we have the most natural cider and black you can get – Millwhite’s Blackberry Blush. Plus an old favourite – Farmer Jim’s Rootin’ Tootin’ – a spicy sweet mix of of freshly ground ginger and tart raspberry.

We’ve also got the last box, in the whole country, of the limited edition Bourbon Cask from Seacider!

And it goes without saying that we have our usual superb range of dry, medium and sweet traditional ciders made by traditional artisan craft cider producers from 100% fruit.

Want to know what all the craft cider fuss is about?  Come and find out for yourself!   This Friday, with live music from The Underdogs and hot food available from the Real Cure – from 6pm at the Shelley Theatre – buy tickets here.

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A visit to New Forest Cider

 

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A lovely sunny morning spent in the orchard with Barry Topp of New Forest Cider (4th generation) which is located in the beautiful New Forest village of Burley, and pictured here with Sean in front of the stunning Tom Putt apple tree in full blossom. The Tom Putt is an old, traditional English apple variety from the West Country where it was ‘gribbled’ by the Rev. Thomas Putt. It produces a very distinctive apple which is flat round in shape with prominent angular ribs. The skin is largely crimson and it produces a cider which is dry and sharp that can be sweetened by blending.

From his own orchards, where Barry grows 15 varieties of cider apples, he and his family produce their traditional New Forest Cider available in dry, medium and sweet (6%) as well as producing Kingston Black Cider (7%) which is a classic single apple variety. These New Forest Ciders are all availbale on our website here to order in bottles or 20L Bag in Boxes.

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We rounded off the morning with a delicious Ploughman’s lunch with home-cured ham and a refreshing glass of Kingston Black in the sunny garden of their Cider Pantry cafe.

And the dogs came too!

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Thistly Cross Whisky Cask for Burn’s Night!

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What better way to celebrate Burn’s night on January 25th than with your friends and a delicious 20 Litre Bag in Box of Scotland’s own Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Cider.

Matured for 6 months in ex Glen Moray whisky casks and infused with the mellow, vanilla oak of the cask – delicious! Just click on the link to order.

New Year and another Cider Road Trip with Fetch The Drinks!

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With Ollie and Wilbur our canine companions safely aboard their crate in the hold – ready to guard our precious cargo (or try and break into it in Wilbur’s case!), we left the sunny, but rather chilly south, in our Fetch the Drinks van to visit some of our wonderful cider producers and stock up on some truly scrumptious ciders. First stop was Oxfordshire to visit Rory Souter, founder of the Cotswold Cider Company and stock up on Yellowhammer (6% – a medium, rich and fruity cloudy cider), No Brainer (6% a classic dry cider with a great depth of flavour), Side Burn (5.4% a medium bottled cider with toffee apple infusion) and Blow Horn (4% with a botanical blend of Indian chai-spices) – all great favourites with our customers. It was great to catch up and hear about some exciting new developments for 2017. Watch this space for new products later in the year.
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From there we headed across into Wiltshire to see Nick Howard, who founded Circle Cider near Swindon in 2011. He’d been busy pressing recently as someone had very kindly given him a load of apples on Christmas Eve. Here we loaded the van with some delicious Bag in Boxes of Butcher’s Dog (7% sweet), Cat’s Tongue (6.1% dry) and Roundabout (5.6% medium).

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On into Somerset to Millwhites Cider based in Rookridge, where orchard pruning was underway. The dogs enjoyed a good run around the paddock before we all headed off loaded up with Bag in Boxes of Rum Cask (7.5% made from West Country cider apples and aged in barrels from The Jamaica Rum Company – full of flavour with a subtle rum finish), Blackberry Blush (4%, a medium dry real cider blushed with blackberry juice) and Rioja Cask (6.7% aged in Rioja casks – dry with a glow of red wine and hints of wood tannin). By now it was absolutley freezing!  On our way south we passed The Willow Man Sculpture near Bridgwater, originally unveiled in 2000 to mark the Millenium. Very impressive 3 tonne structure of willow woven on a steel framen and sometimes referred to as The Withy man or Angel of the South.

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Devon and Ventons Cyder next.  Here we caught up with Mark Venton in the lovely village of Clyst St Lawrence (so named due to the River Clyst running through Devon). Freezing still but sunny (Mark assured me it was not cold though!  I begged to differ but then I’m always cold!). Here we enjoyed a glass of his Bath and West Show award-winning cider in the paddock before loading up Bag in Boxes of Skippy’s Scrumpy (6% dry, traditional straw-pressed cider) and Apple Vice (6.5%, a medium fruity straw-pressed cider) both made from vintage Devon apples.

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Our last stop of the day took us to Hecks which has a lovely farm shop where I took the opportunity of picking up some delicious Smoked Cheddar Cheese made on Batch Farm near Shepton Mallet and some Caramelised Onion Chutney from Rose Farm near Wedmore in Somerset – perfect accompaniments for cider tastings later that evening! Hecks has been producing Traditional Farmhouse Somerset Cider for 6 generations since 1841. This time we collected some single variety Bag in Boxes for a festival order and some BiBs of their Traditional Farmhouse medium.
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This trip saw us breaking our journey with a lovely stop at the wonderful Wheelhouse B & B at Gawbridge Mill in Kingsbury Episcopi on the Somerset Levels. Here we were treated to the most amazing homemade scones on arrival and fresh flowers followed by a delicious breakfast the following morning with oodles of fresh fruit, warm compot, homemade yoghurt and a wonderful full English breakfast wih the choice of duck or hen’s eggs.

The evening was spent at the Wyndham Arms pub in Kingsbury Episcopi drinking some of Julian Temperley’s Burrow Hill Cider and Somerset Cider Brandy – perfect for such a cold night. Ollie and Wilbur certainly enjoyed the evening and the heat from the roaring fires. Needless to say tastings continued back at the Wheelhouse accompanied by some lovely smoked cheddar.

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After a leisurely walk (us) and run (dogs!) round the paddock before and after breakfast –  (with Wilbur thoroughly enjoying his freedom after several months of lead walks due to an elbow problem) – we drove just a short distance to Burrow Hill to collect some more lovely Traditional cider (dry and medium dry or ‘Alf N ‘Alf as they call it!). Here we were fondly greeted by a very muddy Fudge, one of their farm dogs and had a quick tour round the very impressive Somerset Cider Brandy distillery courtesy of Laura.

 

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We then headed off to Perrys Cider, beautifully situated in Dowlish Wake near Ilminster where the family has been making cider since 1920. Here there was a lovely farm shop with many enticing products – (not all alcohol I hasten to add!) although I did get distracted by an appealing bottle of ginger liqueur which I’m sure will have many medicinal benefits!

We spent a long time talking to a wonderful gentleman who’d worked there for over 40 years and enjoyed a quick visit to their museum before heading off with Vintage Pathfinder (7.2% medium) on board.

 

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Final official stop – Green Valley Cyder located at Darts Farm on the outskirts of Exeter where we collected some lovely boxes of Vintage Cyder (7.5%) and spent some time catching up with the wonderful Larry of Green Valley (pictured below). This also provided the perfect opportunity for a yummy lunch stop –  delicious hot chocolate, pork and scrumpy pie and millionaire’s shortbread. There was also a great dog park for Ollie and Wilbur to go wild in before heading back home with a slight detour for a sunset walk along the bay at Lyme Regis.

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Another perfect road trip collecting cider ready for you to order through our website or trade department for commercial sales!

Halloween Cider Fest – Fri 28th Oct – cider list

We have a fantastic range of traditional craft ciders (with appropriate Halloween-themed names or logos!) from small artisan producers at our Halloween Cider Festival this Friday!  And if you liked them – all available to buy in 36-pint party-size bag in boxes on the Fetch The Drinks website.

Cotswold Cider Company – No Brainer dry 6%

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Circle Cider – Cat’s Tongue dry 6.1%

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Mr Whitehead – Devil’s Device dry 8.4%

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SeaCider – Medium 4.6%

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West Milton – Midnight Stumbler medium 6%

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Black Rat – medium 4.7%

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Handmade Cider – Crazy Diamond sweet 6.8%

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Mr Whitehead – Midnight Special Perry sweet 5%

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Snails Bank – Fruit Bat sweet and fruity 4%

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Beard and Sabre – Blackbeard sweet and fruity 4%

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Millwhites – Rum Cask medium 7.5%

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Farmer Jim – Rootin Tootin medium 4%

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PLUS … amazing cider drinking and dancing music from the Mother Ukers!  The Mother Ukers are ‘The Ukulele Band’ who unleash the power of their humble little four string ukes and guarantee to tickle your ears, kiss your soul & get them feet a tapping!

Yummy hog roast from foodie legend Carl at The Perfect Pig

£5 per ticket – book on-line through the Shelley Theatre website.

WHAT IS JUICE CONCENTRATE AND WHAT DOES IT DO TO MY CIDER?

Fascinating article by Jeff Alworth from All About Beer Magazine 17th February 2016 – copied in full.

 

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The history of cider doesn’t involve much in the way of technical innovation until the 20th century. The biggest challenge for cidermakers has always been the juice—it is heavy and takes up huge amounts of space. Because apples ripen only once a year, cidermakers end up having to deal with a year’s supply as it becomes available between September and the end of the year. But in the 20th century, clever people figured a work-around: concentrate the juice, store it, and then rehydrate and ferment as needed throughout the year. And that’s what large producers do.

I had never really put a lot of thought into how juice is concentrated until I sat in on a session at CiderCon – an industry conference – with Terry Chambers, President and GM of FruitSmart, a company that prepares and sells apple juice and apple juice concentrate (AJC) in Yakima. FruitSmart is not principally a supplier to cider makers, but they have lately started getting requests, and Chambers was at CiderCon in Portland, Oregon to explain what the different products were and how they’re processed. It was enlightening.

When apples come to FruitSmart, the process for all products begins the same way: the fruit is inspected, washed, and milled or pulped. That’s exactly what you’d find in any traditional cidery. The product lines then diverge, going toward unprocessed juicing or processing. For the unprocessed products, the milled apples are then pressed and either pasteurized or sold unpasteurized. (The latter product is new and offered on the request of cideries.) It’s cloudy and viscous—the rustic sweet cider you’d buy at a farm stand.

The processed track looks a lot different. After milling, the pulp is heated to 190°F or higher. The juice is then treated with enzymes for 30 to 90 minutes, which breaks down those viscous compounds in regular juice. Then it goes through “hot extraction” (juicing), filtration, and then concentration, which is a process like distillation (more heat) where the water is boiled off. To recap: processed juice is heated three times and broken down with enzymes in its long journey toward concentration.

The effect is, as you would guess, profound. During the session we tasted the regular unprocessed juice, a processed juice that hadn’t been concentrated, and then juice made from concentrate. The unprocessed juice was farm-fresh, complex, aromatic, and viscous on the tongue; it also had that slightly chalky mouthfeel you get from apple skins. The processed juice is what you remember from childhood—very light color, perfectly clear, vaguely appley aroma and a one-note, very sweetly apple flavor. The concentrate had even less color—it was just this side of water—absolutely no aroma, was the consistency of water, and it didn’t even really taste of fruit at all. It was basically a sugar-water solution.

In fact, all the flavor and aroma gets blown off during the process of concentration, and FruitSmart captures it and sells it as “fruit essence.” If you are a juice-box maker, you might buy both the AJC and the essence and when you rehydrate before packaging, you’d spritz the dull juice with a bit of essence to make it taste like apples.

So what to make of all this? There is a very heated but mostly subterranean war going on between small cideries who make “orchard-based” products without concentrate and larger producers who have to rely on AJC to meet production demands. I had mostly been agnostic about the AJC debate: so long as the juice was rehydrated to its original strength, this seemed like a convenience rather than a transgression. But learning more about the concentration process has made me question that.

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If you pick up a bottle of supermarket cider, you’ll likely find a string of ingredients that includes words like water, sugar, apple juice concentrate, carbon dioxide, malic acid, natural flavor and caramel color. All of those extra ingredients are necessary to replace everything that got stripped out during processing: water and sugar to rebalance the concentrate, natural flavor (like FruitSmart’s essence) to replace lost flavor, and caramel color to restore its lost hues.

There’s nothing inherently wrong or immoral about using AJC in a cider. Many cideries only use a portion, blending in more flavorful whole juices to add character. And even when a cidery uses only AJC, they reconstruct the flavors and aromas to create a profile they’re looking for. It’s not even hugely “unnatural,” in the sense that these constructed ciders use natural (albeit processed) ingredients. Rather, the takeaway for me is realizing how processed AJC really is, and how manipulated ciders using it must by necessity be. It results in a consistent, mass market product that can be made year-round. If you’re looking for the flavor of an orchard in your cider, though, you won’t find it in products that use apple juice concentrate.