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Cider Connoisseur: Craft Vs Commercial

Do you know the difference between craft and commercial cider?

The UK is the world’s highest per capita consumer of cider, as well as being home to the largest cider-producing companies. But increasingly consumers are realising that commercial cider is not REAL craft cider. So how do you know?

 Commercial CiderCraft Cider
QuantityMade in bulk / large batchesMade in small batches – artisan are numbered.
JuiceOften from concentrateMade with fresh pressed apple juice. Colcombe House uses 100% juice from apples grown on the family farm.
Water %High added water content to re-constitute concentrates.Low water content – typically natural amount in juice and sometimes a small amount added to achieve the correct blend of juice flavour.
OriginOften imported or from a blend of different juices.

Locally produced, usually in collaboration with local apple growers. Artisan Cider is often produced from apples grown by cider maker themselves.

Colcombe House – we grow all our own apples.

Sugar & SweetenersAdd artificial sweeteners & sugar to aid fermentation.Minimizes the use of sugar as a fermentation aid, and if used, it is natural from sugar beet, dessert apple juice or simple table sugar.
AdditivesMay add artificial additives, colours and flavours.Does not use any additives (besides yeast, sorbates, any spices/hops/juice, etc)
ConsistencyConsistent from batch to batch as all natural variation removed during concentration & re-constitution processes.May be inconsistent batch-to-batch due to natural seasonal variation in apples.
Food Miles / Carbon FootprintOften shipped long distances to consumers, sometimes manufactured across multiple sites and countries.Often only available locally/regionally.
ProducerOften made by big beer companies which have a large advertising budget.Small company, which typically doesn’t have a large advertising budget.
Environment & Social ImpactOften made to achieve commercial profits without taking the environment or social impacts into account.Locally grown & sourced. Producers typically have a connection to the land, apple variety or location where the cider is produced and this supports the local economy and business.
AuthenticityUsually a story or brand is carefully crafted by a marketing team. Identifying the consumer’s values and producing a cider to match.Generally cider blends are carefully curated and perfected over time. Cider makers usually have an independent story full of interesting anecdotes.
PriceLow price – often £1 – £3 a bottle

Higher price – often £2 – £5 a bottle.

Artisan Cider can be priced from £4 a bottle up to as high as £20 or £30 for a ‘fine wine’ batch produced speciality.

What is Artisan Cider?

Colcombe house cider
There is of course another cider sub-category, Artisan, which is normally defined by cideries using apples they grow in their own orchards. Cideries can usually trace these apples from the pressed juice back to the tree from which the apples were first harvested.

Most craft cider companies don’t have their own orchards, and generally buy apples to press themselves or buy juice from local growers. This supports the local economy and other small businesses. Plus it is still fully traceable and preferable to commercial concentrated juices.

Other Ciders / Alcopops

There are also some ‘ciders’ on the market which are not actually cider at all… They aren’t even made from fermented apple! Instead they use water, juice (from concentrate), sugar, additives and flavourings. These are considered ‘Alcopop’, not cider due to the low fruit content. For example, Strongbow does not use the word ‘cider’ for this reason, and other examples include Kopparberg and Rekorderlig.

Which Cider is right for you?

When choosing a cider brand and variety it is usually best to approach as you would a fine wine. Different apple varieties and craft ciders have their own unique flavours, mouth feel and aromas which pair with a wide range of foods. Most craft cider makers will supply tasting notes to provide the cider connoisseur with all the information needed.

When selecting a producer, you will want to consider the above categories and decide what is of most importance to your values:

Is quality or quantity of the most importance to you?
Are you looking for a session drink, food pairing or a unique experience?
Do you want to support the local economy and small business?
Is the environment and heritage of a brand important to you?
Do you identify with the brand and cider makers individual story?
Do you consider the food miles when purchasing products?
Enough talking about Craft Cider – try one of our signature ciders today and get 10% off your first order (usually reserved for subscription members).

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