Just a tad over two years ago, Back of the Ferry added cider as a tab to this blog. At the time, we noted how ciders had really started to explode as a beverage category in the bottlos and the bars of Sydney. We questioned the sustainability of this trend, likening the proliferation of brands to the cooler explosion of the late 1980s. Well, if there was any doubt lingering in this correspondent’s mind that ciders are a fad for Australian (Bristolians will always drink them), that doubt has been extinguished after the event Mrs BotF and I attended on the weekend. Cider is an old drink with a rich heritage – and it’s always been around – but now it’s becoming really big.
The unlikely venue for the 2012 Australian Cider Festival was the Hotel Steyne. To be fair to the proprietors of the Steyne, the “unlikely” qualifier is going to become redundant soon, based on the effort they’ve put in recently. The Hotel Steyne has come up with a way of clearing out its tables in the two bars that face the beach (where do they store it all?) and creating a space that has been used at various times for ping pong tables and in this instance over 20 stalls for cider producers to display their wares. The outdoor area was also turned over to the festival and on each day there were a line up of bands. The taps in the Seaside Craft bar had in the main been given to the cider folk and there was stuff on tap I’d never seen before.
So 21 cider producers turned up ranging from Lost Pippin who hail from Tasmania and were at their first show and not yet got a website to the giant Magners who sponsor football teams and command about 12% of the English cider market. In between were an eclectic bunch from the Shaky Isles (Monteiths and Old Mout), NSW (Bilpin Cider, Batlow Cider ,Small Acres Cyder, Borrodell Winery, Sydney Cider, the Australian Brewery and Tilse’s Apple Truck Cider), Victoria (Napoleone Cider & Co, Lucky Duck Cider Company, Matilda Bay and Flying Brick Cider Co), South Australia (LOBO Cider and The Hills Cider Co and even Western Australia (Little Creatures).
Cider makers come in a variety of forms. They can be beer brewers making cider on the side, winemakers making cider on the side, cider and juice makers, apple growers making cider or genuine cider makers. And just like craft beer, cider also comes in a variety of forms – still, cloudy, fizzy, clear, scrumpy, different apples, different alcohol strengths, different fruits. Everyone had apple based ciders and many had perry or Pear Cider. According to the bloke from Lost Pippin (which is a type of apple), you make cider like wine (which I didn’t know) and I was quite surprised at the number of still varieties available. Mrs BotF, who has patiently attended a couple of beer festivals with me, was in her absolute element. Her favourite was a small Victoria cider maker called Lucky Duck, which is on tap at the Steyne. I must say that I really dug the Scrumpy from Old Mout (coming in a powerful 8%). Old Mout (rhymes with fruit) are cider makers first and foremost and they’ve started to push the style with varieties like Boysencider (Boysenberry wine and cider). The Small Acres Norfolk Still was wine-like in its mouthfeel and finish – and probably reflective of a more traditional English cider (given the owner is English and started the cidery because she missed the cider style she was used to). I’ve got to say that generally the cider specialists tended to come out on top in the taste stakes.
Congratulations to the Hotel Steyne and Cider Australia for putting on a sensational event. It was a great opportunity to immerse oneself in a type of beverage I don’t normally go for (unless it is in pursuit of an @Untappd unique) – but that might change this summer. Hopefully there’ll be a 2013 Cider Festival and it will be as close to home as this one was. And thanks for the good deal on the shirts – Tilse’s Apple Truck Cider!