We prepared the list of 10 best ciders in the UK that you need to try before making a final decision on which one is for you! Find them here!

In our collective imaginations, cider is inextricably linked with the West Country. And whilst it is true that the orchards of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall do groan with cider apples ripe for being transformed into scrumpy, there has been a revival of artisan cider-making elsewhere in the country in recent years. Gone are the days when the fizzy, bilious big-brand cider on the supermarket shelves – favourites of teen drinkers of yesteryear – were all we could expect. And, just as with wine production, the different regions, different soils and different varieties of apples all produce different, often highly complex, flavours too. From Norfolk to Yorkshire, Scotland to Ireland, the production methods range from the innovative to the ultra-traditional, with some apples grown on centuries-old orchards on the one hand and new flavour combinations being worked on all the time on the other.



Here we take a look at this most traditional tipple, from the best dry cider in the UK to the best fruit ciders. Whether you’re looking for sweet, non-alcohol or dry, these are the best ciders to try in the UK right now.

How To Choose A Cider In The UK – Best Tips



If you are new to the cider game, there are a few things to consider before taking your first sip. And the joy of it is that, with so many varieties to sample, the journey of discovery is bound to be a fun one.

Sweet or Dry?



Of course, as with all things in life, what takes your fancy is ultimately a matter of taste. But before you start any cider degustation, it is best to first identify the place you’re most likely to want to start by understanding that ciders fall loosely four camps: dry and sweet (with a whole spectrum in between); fizzy and flat. Those considerations aside, cider experts tend to agree that the perfect drink balances acidity, sweetness and bitterness – the rub being that such an ideal balance is, of course, up to the individual palette.



Sweetness and dryness are, however, not only a question of taste. They also denote alcohol and sugar content. Within the gamut of ciders on offer – with off-dry and semi-sweet falling between the two extremes – the rule of thumb is that dry cider tends to have a higher alcohol content. This is because most of the natural sugars found in the apples have been converted to alcohol. However, before those who prefer a lower-alcohol drink start reaching for the sweet stuff, it is also important to know that these varieties, perhaps unsurprisingly, contain a higher sugar content and thus higher calories, the sweetness derived from added sugar, sweeteners or apple concentrate, as well as from a slower fermentation process. For those who are keen to keep their sugar consumption to a minimum whilst still enjoying a refreshing cider drink, the natural choice would be scrumpy, which contains no added sugar, and which is flat rather than fizzy.

When choosing which cider to start the tasting process with, a good guide is to think about which other alcoholic drinks you enjoy. For example, if you prefer dry white wine to sweeter varieties, then it’s reasonably likely that you’ll also have a preference for the dryer ciders. Likewise, if you would typically choose traditional ales over a lager, the same holds true. But it is ultimately a question of responsible experimentation; why not, then, start with a cider that falls somewhere in the middle of the dry-sweet, alcoholic-sweet spectrum and proceed from there? Cheers!

How To Identify A True Cider



Whether you prefer sweet or dry, there is one thing that all cider drinkers will agree on: that your drink must contain a decent apple juice percentage. As the My Best website states, ‘UK law states that to be officially classed as a cider, the product in question must contain at least 35 per cent apple juice, so at least you know you’re getting this as the minimum when you buy any cider. The British organisation CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale), however, proclaim that a minimum of 90 per cent juice denotes a true, quality cider, which in turn does make for a better, fully-flavoured taste.’



Whilst, unfortunately, most bottles of cider you can buy in the shops will not list their apple juice percentage (though a few may do so over on their websites), one of the easiest ways of discerning whether you’re about to consume a good quality product is to look at the other ingredients it contains. Aside from apple juice, the best ciders should contain just water and sugar (with just a sulphite or two in the mix to keep the product drinkable). The bottom line? The more sweeteners and flavourings listed, the cheaper and less good quality the drink.

Do Check The Alcohol Content





We tend to think of cider as one of the gentler alcoholic drinks – and not without reason. Many ciders do, indeed, come in at between three and five per cent ABV, which means that they are not too potent. Do be warned, however, that some of the traditionally produced ciders come in at a much more powerful eight to 12 per cent – a fact that can knock drinkers for six if they haven’t first checked the label. (We know of at least one brand, sold in a famous pub in Bristol, that punters can only buy in half pints, so potent are its effects.) The lesson? Do check the strength and consume accordingly; after all, the strong, flat, dry varieties can taste deceptively like apple juice. We recommend, however, not gulping it as if it were!

For those, meanwhile, who want all the taste without any of the ill effects, more and more companies are now producing low- or no-alcohol ciders (think zero, one and two per cent ABV).

Glass Or Can?





Do you have a preference for drinking out of a glass or can? The jury is out on this one, with some experts claiming the superiority of cans on account of the fact that UV light cannot penetrate the drink and thus change its flavour. Others, meanwhile, claim that glass will always be best, as it keeps your drink cooler and you won’t get the tinny taste that can come through with cans. Those with an eye on environmental impact, however, should note that glass has a considerably lower carbon footprint.

Are Fruity Ciders Any Good?





As with any drink that has undergone an artisanal renaissance, there are many twists on the classic to be discovered. In the case of cider, these come in the form of a host of fruity or flavoured takes on the original apple drink. As My Best website says, ‘Nowadays ciders are being flavoured or blended with anything from citrus fruits to kiwis or berries, so whether you’re intrigued to try something new or have a penchant for a sweeter alcoholic treat, you’ll definitely be able to find something to satisfy. There’s also no denying that they’re refreshing, easy to drink, and can add a summery vibe to even the rainiest barbecue. Do bear in mind though that they are usually pretty sugary, so they can add a lot to your daily intake if you have more than one or two.’ If you want to try a variant without going too crazy, why not start with a perry, which is made using the same techniques, but with pears instead of apple? Different but still classic. Read more on My Best here.

10 Best Ciders In The UK That You Need To Try





As we approach the summer – the natural season of cider-quaffing – now is the moment to start limbering up for a sunny season full of excellent apple-based concoctions. And the ever-excellent Olive Magazine has a helpful guide to the top cider brands in the UK to assist in the onerous task. Hot weather doesn’t have to be all about chilled wine or beer – cider has, after all, been made in the British Isles since the Romans lived here in around 50 CE, so by drinking it you are both honouring tradition and supporting British growers. The fact that apples are easier to cultivate in the UK than grapes also means that the food miles involved stay lower too.

As Olive says, the only problem that cider has had over recent years is one of image. They write, ‘Its popularity has waxed and waned, however – the 20th-century saw the rise of mass-produced cider, often made from diluted concentrated apple juice and bulked out with water, sugar, preservatives and other additives (cider legally requires a minimum of just 35 per cent apple juice). In contrast to the meteoric rise of craft beer, cider has struggled somewhat with an image problem – all too often seen as a cheap, low-quality, sickly sweet drink.’

Happily, that is the case no longer, with some really excellent producers creating excellent small-batch, seasonal and often 100 per cent apple juice ciders. Check out Olive’s recommendations here – and if you’re excited to explore more, we’ve collated a list of our own for further summer tastings. These are the ones we really rate.

Old Mout Cider



If you’re looking for the best fruit ciders in the UK, look no further than Old Mout. Ok, it might have started life in New Zealand back in 1947 after one Wanda Tait went on a cycling trip to England and came home inspired by the taste of cider, but it is made in the UK – with a hearty dash of her Kiwi spirit seeping into the products. Old Mout is inspired by the great outdoors – and by all that nature provides. So, while the folk at Old Mout like a classic apple cider, they also pour their passions into creating new cider and fruit combinations, from a befitting kiwi and lime cider (what else?) to strawberry and apple to an alcohol-free pineapple and raspberry. Explore the range here.

Westons Cider



It all began in 1878 when Henry Weston settled on a farm in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, and began making oak vat ciders and perries. Five generations of Westons later, they are still based in Much Marcle, having devoted their lives to perfecting the cider that bears their name using the bittersweet apples they grow. Often matured for up to 18 months, these are smooth and rounded ciders; a perfect place to start any cider exploration. Explore more here.

Stowford Press Cider



One of the Weston family ciders, Stowford Press, which was created 30 years ago and originally known as ‘Vat 53’, is one of the producer’s bestsellers – and with good reason. Medium dry, it is refreshing and delicious – the perfect summer drink. Find out about the range here.

Rekorderlig Cider



While the colder British climate is conducive to growing good apples, the same can also be said for Scandinavia. Rekorderlig is a now-global Swedish brand whose product is still made in the small town of Vimmberby using water from a local spring. One of the pioneers of the innovative fruit cider, it also specialises in excellent botanic blends. Peach basil cider anyone? Top of up of blackberry violet juniper cider? Check the range here.

Thatchers Cider



Thatchers Cider was founded in 1904 and the family is now in its fourth generation of impassioned cider-makers. Still made on Myrtle Farm in Somerset now, as it was then, when it was founded, it was thought to be so far the best around that employees would sometimes get paid in the amber nectar. New technologies have, of course, been introduced over the years, but the devotion to creating some of the best cider in the country – from the smooth Thatchers Gold, which is known as a real ‘cider drinker’s cider’ to some of the best sweet cider in the UK in the form of sweet sparkling Thatchers Rosé to the arguably the best non-alcoholic cider in the UK: the medium-dry and crisp Zero – has remained constant. Explore more here.

Thirsty Farmer Cider



The wonderfully named Fear family have been making cider since anyone can remember. They first sold it commercially in 1880, but thereafter resumed producing it on their farms through the south-west solely for friends and family. That all changed in 2005 when Andrew Fear decided to sell it commercially once more, and Thirsty Farmer Cider was born, chiefly to sell at fetes and in their farm shops. However, by 2010, it had exceeded all expectations, winning CAMRA’s Best Cider in the East Midlands in their East Midlands & Yorkshire Cider Competition. Since then, the awards have kept flying in. We can see why. This rich amber, long fermented cider is a thing of pure joy. Do check out its excellent apple cider vinegar, too. Explore the range now!

Severn Cider



This multi-award-winning producer has been making cider and perry at the family’s Gloucestershire home – and now cider mill – since 1956. We like the still farmhouse cider, as well as the medium sparkling variety. And don’t neglect to try the apple cider vinegar too. Learn more here.

Orchard Thieves Cider



Part of the Heineken portfolio, Orchard Thieves Cider is made using crisp, tart apples from a cider mill in Cork. Crisp, refreshing and with overtones of zesty blood orange, this will be one to drink on repeat throughout summer. No wonder this remains one of the most popular cider brands. Find more here!

Kopparberg Cider



Based in Sweden, Kopparberg is a master at the sweet stuff. Specialising in fruit ciders, you can choose from the likes of mixed tropical to the alcohol-free strawberry and lime – each of which is refreshing and as light as a feather. Check here for more.

Bulmers Cider



With a heritage dating back to 1887, the Herefordshire-based Bulmers uses 100 per cent British apples to make its medium-sweet cider, which is created with a blend of sweet and sharp apples. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try its crushed red berries and lime variety? If you want to find more click here!

Comparison Of Top Ciders At The Market In The UK





Whilst artisan cider-producers have increased exponentially in the last few years, it is clear that the best-selling cider in the UK remains in the hands of the supermarket big brands. In 2021, Strongbow took the top two places according to data from The Morning Advertiser’s Drinks List 2022, with Strongbow Dark Fruit securing the second spot. However, whilst it remained ahead of the competition, volume sales were, in fact, down by 28 per cent. Thatchers Haze, meanwhile, rose from seventh to tenth place, the only brand whose sales rose in the period. Whilst the high-street producer might have experienced falls in sales, one area of undisputed growth was in the fruit cider market, with volume sales up by seven per cent. To explore more, read the full article in The Morning Advertiser here.

Looking For Something Different?





There has never been a better time to go alcohol-free. Gone are the days when choices were limited to Diet Coke or lime and soda. Now teetotallers can expect the same innovation and quality control in their drinks as in any other tipples one might find at a well-stocked bar. The rise and rise of alcohol-free cocktails, such as those produced by Seedlip, attest to the growing appetite for drinks with flavour but no risk of a hangover the next day. REAL Kombucha looks at the alternatives. While kombucha itself is not made from apples, it argues that the complexity found in the fermented drink, whose gut-kind properties and benefits are well-documented, offers the same sort of complexity as cider – while not straying any higher than 0.5 per cent ABV. Other no- and low-alcohol ciders it rates include Sheppy’s Low Alcohol Classic Cider; Stowford Press Non-Alcoholic Cider; Braxzz Oaked Cider 0.0%; and The Good Cider of San Sebastien. Read the full article here.

Summary





There is now a plethora of cider brands available to buy in the UK, many of them made on these shores too, whose traditional techniques and high apple juice content make them real contenders for the drink of the summer. Exploring UK cider brands and what’s available is half the fun, with low sugar, higher alcohol varieties available alongside lower alcohol, high sugar alternatives. If you’re looking for non-alcoholic ciders, there are many delicious examples available to try, with artisanal methods of making creating drinks that hold their own against wine in terms of complexity. Whether you’re looking for dry ciders made in the UK or sparkling sweet stuff, there is an amber-hued drink to suit your mood and tastes. We’ll drink to that.

By Nancy Alsop
April 2022

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