It’s been over a year since my last post but it certainly hasn’t been an uneventful time: I’ve put out my sacroiliac joint, had a nasty cycling accident with significant concussion, and couldn’t stand, walk or even sit down for much of that time. The blog was the last thing on my mind.
Anyway, one consequence of my enforced rest is that I’ve been thinking hard about the future of the blog. More about that soon but for now I thought I’d announce my return with a quick post looking at some interesting apple-based booze I’ve consumed over the holiday period.
First up is Apfelglühwein (5.5% ABV), a pre-mulled cider from Kelterei Heil in Weilmünster-Laubuseschbach near Frankfurt in Germany, the country’s cider central. German cider isn’t widely available in the UK but given that’s true it won’t come as a surprise that this bottle came from Aldi. The German supermarket chain is now well established in the UK and often comes up with interesting produce for the alternative tippler, especially at Christmas, this year’s haul also including a 42 year old Armagnac for £25. But that’s another story.
Sipped at room temperature, Heil Apfelglühwein comes across much like many still British ciders, albeit without much tannin. Pleasant enough except that the impact of the mulling spices is quite bitter. Warming (but not boiling) the liquid does a lot to address this, helping the sweetness of the cider balance out the Christmas spices. Pleasant and seasonally appropriate if not hugely exciting.
Next up in terms of interest value is Somerset Pomona (20% ABV) from the Somerset Cider Brandy Co in Martock in the English West Country county of Somerset and bought from The Essex Cider Shop, which I’ve written about before here.
The product – which is named for a Roman goddess of fruitful abundance – is described as “a secret blend of juice and Somerset Cider Brandy which is then matured together in oak barrels for a further two years” and intended as an alternative to port to be sipped with strong cheddar cheese.
It’s an unusual beast, both fresh and fruity and aged and spirity at the same time. Not a surprise given its make up but unexpected in practice. It’s also very easy to drink, not cloying at all, and so perhaps best supped in the manner of a brown spirit.
Which of course, half of it is. Somerset Cider Brandy Co, which also makes Burrow Hill Cider, has built a considerable reputation for its English cider brandies. Less well known than its French counterpart Calvados, Somerset Cider Brandy revived the spirit in 1987, apparently more than 300 years since it was last recorded as being made.
These come in a number of variations aged in oak barrels for between three and twenty years, including a limited edition label designed by Damien Hirst (now seemingly sold out). All are made using English cider apple varieties, adding to their distinctiveness.
The fame of the company’s products is clearly spreading with Somerset Pomona apparently now stocked in Copenhagen’s famous Noma restaurant. However, if Noma was looking for something truly astonishing to serve to its exclusive clientèle it might have been better served opting for another of Somerset Cider Brandy’s output. Its Ice Cider!
Having seen ice cider described as “like drinking starlight” in Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw’s book World’s Best Cider: Taste, Tradition and Terroir, from Somerset to Seattle I’d been keen to try it for a while. While I failed to hunt down an authentic Canadian ice cider in time (the drink originated there), The Essex Cider Shop came up trumps in still having a bottle or two of Somerset Cider Brandy’s elusive take on the drink.
And what a drink! Made by partially freezing cider apple juice, removing the ice and then fermenting the concentrate, Somerset Cider Brandy’s Ice Cider (13% ABV) is easily one of the most intense alcoholic drinks I’ve ever sampled.
From the fridge it pours deep red and unctuous with an alcoholic apple crumble aroma. In the mouth it offers an intense, deep, rich, fruity, tannic, sharp, sweet and almost syrupy cider-like experience. I can see why its makers suggest serving it over ice. As it warms in the glass these disparate elements start to fuse and it also becomes much drier on the finish with immense tannins and acidity sparking off the tongue. Oddly, it changes colour too, becoming more of a rusty brown than a deep red.
Although less alcoholic than Somerset Pomona it’s definitely another for quaffing in small measures only. Indeed, it’s almost unimaginable drinking much of it in one go. But that just makes a bottle last longer. What a memorable experience and a great way to announce my return to the blogosphere.
Happy New Year from The Tippster!