A Quart of Ale± #20. Terrific Irish Ciders. "Lucky to have each of them"

A Quart of Ale± #20

Moving on over to craft.


Terrific Irish Ciders.

"Lucky to have each of them" 

Cider is one of the most ancient of the alcoholic drinks, made wherever apples are grown. Yet some countries, Canada for example, has a law preventing people calling a liquid cider unless it has apples in the ingredients. There is a huge variety of ciders, from dry to sweet, from clear to cloudy. Once at a gite in France, the owner came over with a cloudy bottle, oil to ease a sticking front door we thought, but no it was a delicious homemade cider and there was a basin of strawberries as well!

Normandy and Brittany (where I then was) are well known for their ciders but it is only in recent years that craft cider has hit Irish shelves. And even here now, there is an amazing variety, especially from Munster, Leinster and Ulster. I have just a few examples below, including a non alcoholic gem from Highbank, and they illustrate the variety and quality available.

Con Traas of the Apple Farm, who produces a superb example himself, was asked a few years ago to give his verdict on a couple of the then new ciders, Longueville and Stonewell. He declined, saying we were lucky to have each of them. I feel the same way about the quintet below and others such as those coming from The Cider Mill in Slane, Dan Kelly (also in the Boyne Valley), and others that you can find here at  Cider Ireland .


Stonewell Medium Dry 5.5%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork



This County Cork cider is approaching its 10th birthday and is tasting as well as ever. It was their first and  “remains our most popular cider”. It is a classic, very popular here too, and we often order it in restaurants as it goes well with a variety of dishes.


You’ll know it’s Irish by the eye catching Celtic design on the front. Aromas of the orchard invite you in. Light gold colour and squadrons of little bubbles flying up to the top. Terrific wash of sweet apple flavour on the attack and then you note a balancing acidity before a satisfying finish.


They say: We don’t complicate things by using artificial additives, apple concentrate, glucoses syrup or dilute with water. This carbonated cider is best enjoyed as a refreshing thirst quencher, chilled to 7 degrees (watch the ice – whilst it will maintain the chill it can conceal the full flavour!). 


With winter approaching, you can put this out the back for chilling as an overlong spell in the fridge would also hamper the flavour. This medium dry contains approximately 20% cider apples and 80% eating apples. The cider apples provide the astringency in the cider and the structure on which the full, rounder and more citrus characteristics of the eating apples depend. The cider is made from Irish grown apples and the varieties used are Dabinett, Michelin, Jonagored and Elstar.



Highbank Organic  “Drivers Cider” 0%, 330ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork



I’m walking through long rows of apple trees, all in blossom, pink and white abound. The grass between is ankle height, lush and liberally populated with white daisies. Lush, but recently topped. Had I been there a week earlier, I would have seen battalions of dandelions.


I was in Kilkenny, in the healthy heart of Highbank Orchards, an organic farm owned and managed by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts. It is here they grow their apples and make their ciders (and more), including this one.


Made from organic cider apples from the Highbank farm, Drivers Cider is a refreshing non-alcoholic drink for the designated driver with no added sugar or chemicals. This Blusher apple limited vintage is Single Estate (grown, distilled and bottled at Highbank Farm) and no sugar or sweeteners have been added. 


It is a bit sweeter than the Stonewell but finishes dry. It’s a delicious well-flavoured drink and really works well with food as we found out during the Sunil Ghai Special Lunch in Sage last year. Any drink that pairs well with Asian is worth noting, especially when you’re driving home afterwards. In fact, we enjoyed the pairing so much, we bought a second round of the Highbank! Probably one of the best of the Irish non alcoholic drinks.


Johnny Fall Down “Late Apples” 2017 5.5%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork



Light gold colour, no shortage of bubbles. No mistaking the orchard aromas. This one comes on strong, packed with complex flavour, smoky and spicy with a lingering dry finish. One for your short list for sure, from the new kids on the block at Killahora. 


At a tasting earlier in the summer, Killahora’s Barry said this Late Apples is driven by 30% Dabinett and lots of French varieties, some inedible as a fruit. And that this is designed “for food”. They suggest it is also one for the red wine drinkers and point the white wine drinkers in the direction of their Early Apples issue.


They say: "We work on what the year gives us. In the cidery, we do as little as possible to it. This deeper bittersweet, medium-dry cider is made from the late ripening, rare varieties of apples in our Cork orchards. Pair with darker meats, spicy food, cheese and oily fish.” Serve chilled, no ice!


Killahora was founded by two cousins, Barry Walsh and Dave Watson, with the goal of growing the best rare apple and pear varieties on Irish soil and to use artisanal techniques to turn them into award winning drinks. 


Dave brings a passion for and encyclopaedia-like knowledge of apple and pear trees, while Barry brings the wizardry of fermenting, blending and creating new drinks. “We make everything as naturally as possible with minimum intervention and use wild fermentation.Everything is handmade on site with 100% fresh juice and we take our time, allowing our products to mature for up to a year to get the most complexity of flavour.”


Highbank “Proper Irish Cider” 2016 6%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork



This organic cider from Kilkenny’s Highbank Orchard has an amber colour, with fountains of bubbles rising. Aromas are tart and true to the orchard fruit. On the palate, it is just amazing, this masterpiece of deliciousness and refreshment and then that dry finalé. If Bach had made cider, he’d have been happy to put his name to a bottle like this, precise and satisfying from first drop to last.


They say: This traditional, dry cider grown and produced by Highbank Orchards Matured on its wild yeasts Highbank Proper Cider has no added sulphites, no added sugar and is Irish Organic with naturally high tannins. A delicious, refreshing drink, Proper Cider should be served chilled over ice particularly with a fish course.


Highbank Organic Orchards, owned and run by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts, produce their ciders in small batches with an emphasis on pairing ciders with different foods. All organic, with no added sulphites and gluten free, the cider apples are from Highbank’s own organic trees grown on Highbank Organic farm in County Kilkenny. It is a beautiful farm and this is a beautiful cider.



Longueville “Mór” Cider 8%, 500ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Longueville harvest


This Longueville House cider had a clear amber colour and pleasing orchard aromas. This is a medium cider with a delicious full flavour, slight touch of tannins (on the lips) and a satisfying finish. Rubert Atkinson of Longueville: “No ice! It waters down the flavours and kills the sparkle. Enjoy this like a wine, in a wine glass.”

Longueville House (near Mallow, Co. Cork) grow two varieties of cider apple, the Dabinett and the Michelin - “No chemicals and no pesticides”. The regular Longueville House Cider, has an abv of 5.9%. The sugar is natural and they use no extra sulphites. 

Longueville’s Mór gets its higher abv (8.00%) and distinctive flavour from fermentation (1 year) in their just-emptied apple brandy casks. “It is the same juice as the regular cider but is more robust, has more character, more flavour, well rounded, well balanced, really lovely.” I couldn't agree more! Made from 100% fresh apples. Contains only naturally occurring sulphites.


They say: William O'Callaghan and his father Michael before him have been fermenting exceptional craft cider and distilling Ireland's only Apple Brandy now for almost 35 years. We have brought the cider and brandy production to another level while maintaining the very natural and respectful processes of our fore fathers, the terroir and sustainability - crushing, pressing, fermentation, filtration, light carbonation, pasteurisation - all while using no pesticides, fungicides, insecticides or any other ‘cides in our orchards. 

One way they counter the aphids, a tiny bug that can do enormous damage, is to encourage the hoverfly by planting the likes of Fennel, Angelica and Yarrow. These attract the hoverfly, a natural enemy of the aphid.

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