A Quart of Ale± #116. On the craft journey but off piste with two Ciders, Ginger Beer and a Belgian Framboise

 A Quart of Ale± #116

On the craft journey but off piste with two Ciders, Ginger Beer and a Belgian Framboise

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Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider 5%, 375ml bottle Le Caveau via Neighbourfood 



In 2016, I wrote that this was “one of the best ciders I have ever tasted”. Glad to report, after a recent tasting, there’s been no change in that opinion of the Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider…



Made in County Meath by Mark Jenkinson, it has a rich amber\gold colour, micro-bubbles constantly rising in the glass. The aromas are impressive too, redolent of the orchard. And on the palate there is a very pleasing concentration of real flavour, layers of the most beautiful flavours, a gentle and complete experience, and then a lovely dry finish as well. This is in a class of its own.



Mark makes it in small batches in his Cider Press in the heart of the Boyne Valley from 100% fresh pressed Irish apples. Each 1000 litre batch is unique and may vary slightly. Serve chilled in a stemmed glass.



Keeving is not the easiest to explain as “it is more intuitive than an exact science”. But Mark gives a good run-down here. Crucially, it preserves the “lovely apple aromas and the rich flavours of the fruit and results in a robust yet smooth cider, complex and full-bodied with a bittersweet twist and a long dry finish.” 



Briefly, Keeving means it is not filtered, not pasteurised, and not sweetened. The fruit sugars are naturally retained as are the intense apple flavours and aromas from the original must. 


Hope that doesn’t sound too complicated. To put it simply, the result is a terrific drink with an ABV of 5% and is very highly recommended.


At one of the Ballymaloe Lit-Fests a few years back, highly respected Food and Drink writer Pete Brown said you can only shake your head with wonder that a process from the 14th or 15th century can still produce a “beautiful natural cider. In a blind tasting, I would class this as Breton and it would be a perfect match with crepes”.


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Armagh Craft Dry Cider 4.5%, 500ml bottle Aldi (Mayfield)



Just poured my golden Armagh cider from Aldi and am watching the many bubbles playfully make their way to the top. Orchard smells abound as you sniff and you notice a certain tartiness there too. It is certainly dry on the palate but there’s no shortage of flavours nor of refreshment. 


This refreshing Armagh dry cider is exclusive to Aldi, is vegan and vegetarian friendly, and the label recommends you serve it chilled. They also make a sweet and medium in this series.



For five generations, the Armagh Cider Company have been growing apples on the Troughton family farm in the orchard county of Armagh. “Our apples are carefully hand-picked and matured before they are pressed and fermented in only the smallest of batches. Our apples don’t leave the farm until they are bottled to complete perfection and we take great pride in bringing delicious authentic cider from blossom to bottle to you!”

They farm in Ballinteggart where the ‘From Blossom to Bottle’ culture has been nurtured for five generations. And to where quite a few awards have made their way.

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Black Castle Fiery Ginger Beer, 330ml bottle, The Granary Midleton.


It has a murky ginger colour, aromas of ginger too. Spicy enough to take your breath away as it gently burns the mouth. But no harm done at all, just a lively and refreshingly spicy drink that is not too sweet. If you are on BBQ duty, have one of these Irish craft sodas at hand!


In general, fiery ginger beer uses fresh ginger for a kick and cinnamon for added sweetness and spice. And it looks as if Dublin based Black Castle have hit on the correct formula with this spicy wake-up call for your taste buds! Note: if you don’t like ginger, you will not like this!


Black Castle: “Our Ginger Beer is packed full of flavour and just the right amount of heat! Made with rich Muscovado sugar, Ginger Root Extract and infused with a blend of warm Cinnamon and Cardamom spices. Lightly carbonated making it the perfect alternative to alcohol on a night out!”


It is “Hand-made in Co. Wicklow, is Non-Alcoholic and Allergen Free Best served over ice with a wedge of lime! Add it to cocktails such as a Moscow Mule or a Dark n Stormy.”

Their other soda is Berry Bramble Sting. We had that in County Clare previously and you can read about it here .

  • It is touted as an adult drink and indeed it may be best to keep it away from the kids (and from adults who dislike ginger). It is certainly on the fiery side.

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Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic Beer 2.5%, Dede at The Custom House Baltimore



Pours a raspberry red, with a pink foamy head, and smells like the fruit. Also tastes like raspberry, probably more on the swallow than on the palate. 


Superb as an aperitif as is often recommended. I didn’t have any raspberries but a handful of early loganberries were at hand and the pairing was fine. The brewers recommended pairing with endive salad. 


I picked this beer up at the deli in the Michelin starred Baltimore restaurant Dede at The Custom House where I’d seen it used as part of the wine pairing for the Tasting Menu where it was paired with the various desserts. Think I may get a few more in Bradley's for the garden for the sunny (oh ye of little faith!) weeks ahead.


Must admit I had been expecting something on the sweet side, after all it is flavoured with raspberry concentrate (20%), sugar and natural sweeteners. But I was more than pleasantly surprised to find it is quite tart.

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