Recently, the kind team over at The Stable in the new Queen St. Dining development invited me to a cider tasting evening. I absolutely love cider and drink it frequently with ice on hot days during the summer so I jumped at the chance to attend. It was a great opportunity to learn more about how it is made and the types of variety that are available. The Stable has over 80 different types of cider on offer so I couldn’t wait to learn from the best people in the trade!
Arriving at The Stable with my sister in tow and looking a little dishevelled thanks to the typical British weather, we were welcomed with a glass of sparkling cider and some local cheese and crackers. I absolutely love the interior of The Stable: the wooden, oak tables and soft lighting make the place so warm and comforting. After meeting the handful of other cider drinkers who attended, we took our seats and were welcomed by Exeter’s Cider Master Dave and Cider Connoisseur Tristan.
Admittedly, I knew absolutely nothing about cider other than the fact it’s made from apples. In the first 10 minutes, I learnt that cider is made from the fermented juice of apples which are usually harvested in October and that it takes around 6 weeks to make. During those 6 weeks, there are lots of things you can do to make it special and that’s why we have so many different types of cider. To create sweetness or dryness in a cider, brewers adjust and blend the ingredients to suit e.g. adding more acidic apples to make it a dry cider or adding sweet apples to create a much sweeter taste. Fun Fact: Devon ciders tend to be more acidic!
After the introduction, we got to the good bit – tasting the ciders! Throughout the evening, we tasted 10 ciders that we recorded and analysed on our sheets but we also got to taste about 5 extras in an attempt to educate our taste buds! Dave encouraged us to analyse the clarity, aroma and taste. He presented us with a fantastic array of ciders, some of which in my opinion were absolutely disgusting and others were delicious. I discovered that I prefer a sweet cider to a dry. There were some that were very much in between and classed as a medium but I just thought they lacked taste – apparently these cider producers try to keep everyone happy, not making it too dry or too sweet but I thought they were a bit bland. The amount of sunlight hours the apples and cider gets really affects the sugar content thus making it sweeter.
One of my favourites was the Green Valley Strawby Strawberry Cider. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t drink a whole pint of it as it’s very sweet but the cider was so fruity and would be amazing with ice on a summers day. Another favourite was a sparkling elderflower cider and a mango cider which were both so refreshing. The sweetness was quite overpowering and you could barely taste the alcohol in them – perfect for me as I have such a sweet tooth.
There were a couple of not so nice ones that Dave and Tristan let us taste, mainly to just show us how some cider tastes when it’s either not finished or it has been ruined! We tasted a very dry one that had been ruined as air had gotten into it during the brewing process. It had oxidised, gone dark in colour and had almost turned to vinegar. Another one which had an even worse taste had not finished brewing in the oak barrel. It had a very strong, smoky smell and you could taste the char from the inside of the barrel. This is what cider tastes like before it has been sweetened.
Both Dave and Tristan let us have a taste of their personal favourites. Dave gave us some Pilton Keeved cider from Somerset which tasted great – a perfect medium cider but not too bland at all. Tristan chose St George’s Temptation which was lovely and sweet and you could really taste the strong flavour of the apples.
To finish we learnt one more fun fact – that Thatchers also press the blackcurrants for Ribena! Dave also showed us a couple of bottles of cider brandy which I didn’t even know existed! This just shows how much you can do with cider and apparently, cider brandy drinkers rarely drink normal cider.
Overall, the cider tasting evening at The Stable was fantastic. In between all the drinking, we had some of their delicious pizza and we even finished off the night with a chocolate brownie which was actual chocolate heaven. I learnt so much and it was great to see how passionate Dave and Tristan were about their trade. I really do hope that The Stable decide to continue with these tasting evening so you can all go along to one yourselves!
To find out more about The Stable, visit http://stablepizza.com/