Is cider the next 'big thing' in beer?

There have been a number of trends over the last few years in the beer world, some making more of an impact than others. Some trends could be put down to a preference shift within the mini-cosm of beer-geekery, others had a wider effect on the beer drinking World.


One definite trend in my memory was the arrival and domination of Citra. New hops arrive on the scene every season and of course you’ll see a scramble to experiment with the exciting unknown, but nothing quite got the blanket explosion of single hopped bar space like Citra did. It was everywhere.

Walking a perfect line between accessibly clean citrus fruitiness and strength of aroma and flavour, it was a winner with beer geeks and casual drinkers alike and remains hugely popular to this day. Which other hop still commands so much bar space under its name? Very few.

Black IPA was another one that made a lasting impact because, stylistic and linguistic oxymorons aside, the beers were often fantastic.

A lot of beer drinkers, particularly those new to craft beer or real ale, will avoid darker beers in favour of lighter, hoppier styles, but Black IPAs were a curve ball that lulled many an avid pale ale drinker over to the dark side. With a combination (when done right) of sharp citrusy, fruity hop top notes and a rumble of dark malt flavour hiding underneath, they ticked all the boxes in the same way as salted caramel – with seemingly opposing flavours creating something moreish and satisfying to the palate.

What seemed like a fad, turned into a trend and has now become a fully fledged style in its own right. Forget Cascadian dark ale or any other rubbish, its Black IPA, and it’s here to stay.

Saison. Need I say more? It’s the Riesling of the beer world don’t you know. Obviously not a new thing like Citra or Black IPA, but still, in Britain at least there seemed to be an explosion in the interest in Saision within a very short space of time. Whether it was beer geeks gushing about world class examples like Saison Dupont or UK brewers cooking up their own interpretation, saison came from nowhere to become a hugely popular style in the UK.

Belgian beer styles don’t generally make it over to the mainstream British drinker, but saison has a fighting chance, particularly something like Ilkley's approachable yet flavoursome Siberia Rhubarb Saison.

So what’s next? Well personally I think the next big thing in beer is going to be, somewhat confusingly, cider. It’s been bubbling under the radar for some time now thanks to places like Euston’s The Cider Tap (opposite that other famous tap in Euston) and trendy outlets like Friends of Ham in Leeds, who have given cider equal billing alongside draft beer.

There’s a real breadth of flavour in the cider World that beer lovers (me included) are only just beginning to discover - from the upfront appley sweetness of a hazy, 5% real cider, to the musty, sour, sharp and dank depths of the really big and complex stuff.

It’s high in abv, complex, produced on an impossibly small scale, getting popular on the other side of the pond, hard to track down, yet often extremely well priced. In other words, it’s a beer geek’s wet dream.

I’ve even come up with a marketing slogan to help things get going: “Cider, not just for tramps and teenagers.”

 

Image credit: www.real-cider.co.uk

5 comments:

  1. Two problems with cider,

    a) whereas beer tends to vary between bland and brilliant, bad cider is utterly foul and often undrinkable, and its not always easy to tell the difference before you try it.

    b) the best thing about beer is that you can get high levels of flavour and complexity at approachable ABVs in the 3-6% range. Can this really be said about cider?

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  2. Magners has had it's day in the sun, and cider is waiting for the next scorching summer. 10 years away according to the met office.

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  3. As you say, cider and beer are two different categories. The current trend for craft everything means that ciders from smaller producers are getting more attention, and if you inhabit the blogosphere, you might get the impression that they are the next big thing, but in my opinion, not to much.

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  5. pY0

    a. I think this is probably 'real' ciders biggest challenge. Though often what might be perceived as 'bad cider' by some may actually be a quality complex drink once youre really into it. Just like the first time you taste a lambic or musty aged old ale.

    b. I've tasted some pretty awesome low abv ciders (no lower than 4%) but they tend to be sweet. The beauty of hops is that even a low abv beer can be very bitter, but with cider the dryness is a result of fermenting out the sugars, which also creates a higher abv. So it's difficult to get high complexity and dryness into a low abv package.

    Though high abvs hasn't held back belgian or american beer!

    zak - Cheers for your thoughts. I do think that more 'normal' pubs are giving proper cider a go though. The same places that you started to see Brooklyn lager and sierra nevada sneaking into are now quite likely to have a box of cider behind the bar. It's early days, but popularity is growing id say.

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