Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Cider Styles - What's the difference?

Cider Styles – What’s the difference?
With cider consumption levels sky rocketing in Australia and New Zealand of present, it’s easy to get confused with the many various styles and types. Like beer, cider is not grounded by just one style or identity and comes in many different forms. These stylistic differences range from the common, well known ciders, to the ultra expressive and highly traditional. With consumers being constantly bombarded with new cider products, exposure to these differing styles in inevitable. But with the right knowledge on hand, choosing the right cider for the right occasion can become a whole lot easier and memorable.

General Apple

If you look closely this very minute, you will notice the ever growing presence of apple cider in retail liquor outlets. Consumers are really spoilt for choice in this category, as more and more Australian and New Zealand ciders are being produced. But as local apple cider becomes increasingly popular, so does the ever emerging range of imported ciders from countries like France and England. As a whole, they all have their own unique stylistic differences which offer loads of diversity and variety.

 Australian and New Zealand Apple Cider

The ciders being produced in both Australia and New Zealand are characterised by their fresh, clean and floral features. They are mainly made using the more traditional eating or cooking apple such as Pink Lady, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. It’s the use of these apples that give the unmistakeable dry, acidic and crisp edge making them perfect served ice cold on a hot summer’s day.  Filtered to brilliant, artificially carbonated and having an alcohol content at, or around 5%, this style of cider is really booming. It also helps that Australia and New Zealand have perfect apple growing regions like the Adelaide Hills, Batlow, and Moutere Valley. Stylistically, these types of ciders are relatively straight forward and can be rather one dimensional in their flavour and textural spectrum. But the more superior examples are able to capture the purity of the apple in the bottle, and really highlight the strength of the fruit.

 Recommendation of Australia

The Hills Cider Company – Apple Cider

 Recommendation of New Zealand

Monteith’s Brewing Company – Crushed Apple Cider

4.5% Alcohol,

 French and English Apple Cider

As cider increases in popularity, so does the curiosity to try new products from far and wide. Many different and fascinating ciders are currently being imported into Australia and New Zealand, and it’s now very easy to acquire them.  What you see in these offerings is a thousand years of tradition, combined with traditional cider making methods. These ciders offer much more in terms of complexity, texture and authenticity through the use of traditional cider apples. These apples offer the fundamental characteristics of tannin structure, astringency, bitterness and sharpness, all the hallmarks of a traditional cider.

France has two main cider producing regions consisting of Normandy and Brittany, which have been producing cider since the sixth century. Ciders from these two regions offer lower alcohol levels, with naturally sweet and naturally carbonated attributes. It is not rare to find a Cidre Bouché at or around the 2% alcohol content. A natural and traditional farmhouse process called keeving ensures that the cider retains residual sweetness and natural carbonation without filtration. It is most commonly cloudy, excessively bitter and astringent, but most importantly very complex. These characters of traditional French farmhouse cider may frighten many new cider consumers away but the complexity, authenticity and individuality is what makes these ciders.  They also match very well with food such as pork and cheese, and can be consumed as an aperitif.

 French Recommendation

Domaine Dupont РCidre Bouch̩ Effervescent Naturel

5.5% Alcohol –  

English cider hails from the West Country in the counties of Somerset and Herefordshire. Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Cornwall and Wales are also known to produce small quantities too. English cider comes in all shapes and sizes, from the mass produced made from concentrate, to the small artisan made offering. English cider is commonly vat aged, artificially carbonated, slightly astringent, pasteurised and filtered clear. Alcohol contents can range from the humble 5% to anywhere up to 10% for the vintage styles. A cider can commonly be a blend of up to 30 different cider apple varieties to help gain a balanced flavour profile. Single varietal ciders are also very common with varieties like Kingston Black, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Somerset Red Streak all perfect candidates. These ciders do lack the fresh, crisp punch to which the Australian and New Zealand ciders offer. But this is made up for by the use of superior cider apples along with deep rooted cider making methods and traditions.     

 English Recommendation

Thatchers Cider Company – Green Goblin Oak Aged Cider


The term scrumpy is thought to be an historic term meaning to steal or gather old apples, from which they had fallen off the trees and began to shrivel.  The history of scrumpy cider can be traced back to when the Normans conquered England in 1066. Since being introduced to cider, the English mastered the art of cider making and importantly the scrumpy style. These are the real traditional English ciders, where the cider itself is usually higher in alcohol, bottle conditioned, astringent, volatile and very cloudy. Scrumpy is commonly labelled as the most pure and hands off style of cider with no filtration, no preservatives and no water or sugar added. But unfortunately, constant referral as being highly alcoholic and aggressive has stigmatised the style.  Alcohol contents are known to reach dizzying heights of 15%, which is heading into apple wine territory. Scrumpy is slowly becoming represented in Australia and New Zealand with some commendable, cleaner examples being produced. Overseas scrumpy imports, especially from England, are now also becoming readily available to the more curious cider consumer.

 Scrumpy Recommendation 

The Real River Company – Scrumpy Cider

 Fruit Flavoured

Fruit flavoured ciders are fast becoming the new, trendy drink of choice when it comes to the every day cider drinker.  The popularity of these new concoctions has exploded, and in a very short time frame too. Consumers are being exposed to fruit flavourings like wild berry, peach, mango and strawberry. The flavours are not just limited to fruit with ginger, vanilla and cinnamon for example all being represented. The authenticity of these ciders is questionable, and the term ‘cider’ is used fairly loosely with these products. One could argue that these beverages should not fall into the same category as traditional apple cider. Being made mostly to a recipe, the alcohol content is always in the 4% to 5% range. Stylistically, the ciders are angled towards being very sweet, lightly carbonated and somewhat refreshing. Combine these characteristics with often flamboyant and eye catching labels, and you have a formula for success.

 Fruit Flavoured Recommendation

Rekorderlig – Strawberry and Lime Cider

4% Alcohol –


Perry, or Pear cider as it is also known, is only now becoming popular in Australia and New Zealand. What was misunderstood and unfamiliar, is now becoming accepted and sort after. Pear cider is much more delicate than its apple counterpart, usually being slightly lower in alcohol due to its higher level of non-fermentable sugars.  Just like apple cider, there are two distinct forms of pear cider – the traditional and the new wave. Traditional perry which dates back to the fourth century often shows earthy, distinctive pear characters with lots of cloudiness, juicy sweetness, complexity and mouth sapping tannin. Australian and New Zealand pear ciders in comparison show crisper and cleaner features, combined with much subtle pear aromas. Pear cider is a very refreshing alternative to apple cider no matter what the style, and it is certainly sure to please.
Perry Recommendation

Napoleone & Cider Co – Pear Cider

5.4% Alcohol –

This article can be read in Beer and Brewer Magazine - Issue 23 Summer 2012.


  1. I am great fan of Cider and this variety of cider creates my interest more in it. The Apple Cider is my favourite one.

    Australian Brewery

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. Hopefully you will also be able to write about Danish cider in the future. Check out

  3. Hi James, what about ciders made in the methode champenoise style? We're seeing a bit more of that now as well as barrel fermentation being used in lots of different experimental ciders. Seems you'll have to expand your style encyclopedia soon! I love reading your articles and look forward to further explorations. Cheers, Sara (Napoleone & Co Cider)

  4. Hi Sara! Thanks for the blog love. Muchly appreciated! Yes, you're right regarding the MT ciders in Australia. Popularity is on the rise, but so is the dry farmhouse styles. They are almost the same thing really, but disgorging etc is a focus of the Aussie alternative. Back when the article was written, MT ciders were really limited to the 'mainstream' producers of Napoleone and St Ronans. So covering the MT technique loosly feel under the Brut, oak aged Norman style cidres in the article. It's nothing new really to put it bluntly. But I can think of several producers making this sort of style, minus the disgorging in Aust. But the style IS being perfected in Australia currently which should get merit. So thank you for highlighting this for me, and i'll endeavour to add a MT section.