If there’s anywhere to begin, this is it. Cider has a bit of a reputation to lose; alco-pop, painfully sweet, flavourless, only for kids trying to get as drunk as possible as fast as possible.
Actually, in many cases, right, but that’s not why we’re here. I’m a cider fan and will usually try a local if we’re out and about in any cider-producing region. Northwest France does it pretty damn well, but no matter where it comes from, any and all cider or perry I try now is compared with Gwatkins and I genuinely doubt that any will come even close.
We found this on tap at Ludlow Food Festival a few years ago. I’m fairly sure it was Mr. Gwatkin himself on the stand, it was a hot day, and a light perry (pear cider for the uninitiated) seemed like just the ticket. A couple of mouthfuls later we circled back round and told him this was the best we’d ever had by a long way. It still is.
Perrys are harder to make than ciders because the fruit has to be perfectly ripe and perfectly treated – any damaged or bruised fruit affect it much more than they would an apple cider. It needs to be made with perry-specific pear varieties which aren’t common any more. This perry wasn’t overly sweet and had a sublime combination of fruit and floral flavours and then, after that had begun to fade, a wonderful tangy aftertaste that lasted longer than such delicate flavours should do. We had a few pints of that, that day.
Ciders now tend to be incredibly sweet and, lordy me, made even sweeter by adding strawberry or rhubarb flavourings and shipping them from New Zealand. Not Gwatkins. They’re made in the traditional way using traditional, old, cider-specific apple and pear varieties and they have bite. A barman at a fantastic beer festival, Eddyfest (which will be listed here soon!), was muttering about having sold out of all of the ultra-sweet imported ciders and being completely bemused as to how people could drink them. We’d both just poured away a pint of two different ciders that were genuinely so sweet they were causing pain, and had circled back to the bar for pints of Gwatkins. I offered him a sip – I think it was the Yarlington Mill – and he did a bit of a double-take, took another sip, and said “by God you’re going to know you’ve had a pint of cider after one of those”.
Gwatkins. The way cider should be. And they do mail order.