Defining Real Cider
CAMRA is an organisation that supports and promotes real ale, cider
and perry, and I presume that by now, most beer drinkers have a good
idea of what real ale is. But I suspect that most drinkers,
including those that drink cider, do not know what constitutes real
cider, compared to the keg version. So let me try to explain.
Cider, and I am giving you the basic version here, is the easiest
drink in the world to produce. You start with apples, crush them,
squeeze out the juice and let it ferment using the fruit's own
sugars and natural wild yeast. And hey presto it turns into cider.
But it's not quite as simple as that, which is why CAMRA has its own
definition of what we accept as being real cider.
Let me start with explaining about the fizzy, keg ciders that are
found in almost every pub in the UK. Most start with apple
concentrate, which can be imported from almost anywhere in the
world, although a lot of the UK's apples are also turned into
concentrate for cider. This product is then heavily diluted with
water, and then has a dose of something like sugar or corn syrup
added to allow it to ferment way above the legal maximum strength of
8.5%. So it then needs to be diluted down before it can be sold,
resulting in a drink with a considerable amount of water and sugar
water, with consumers having no idea how much juice is actually in
the final product. Then it is filtered, pasteurised and gas added.
Certainly not a naturally-produced drink.
So CAMRA obviously needs it own definition to show what we accept as
real cider (and perry) compared to the mass-produced industrial
drinks, and this has become even more important now that we are
being swamped by a new phenomenon - cider either made or flavoured
with other fruit.
There is, of course, no legal definition of what cider and perry
actually is. The nearest you can get to this is the duty levied by
HM Revenue & Customs for various types of alcohol. For these
purposes, ciders or perries made or flavoured with fruit other than
apples or pears are classed as wines, and have wine duty levies on
them. And anyone who thinks that these drinks are traditional ciders
should certainly think again. Currently you can get ciders labelled
as melon, lychee, peach and the ubiquitous tutti frutti flavour, to
name just some of them. Traditional they ain't!
CAMRA's definition for real cider and perry is fairly
straightforward. It should be made from nonpasteurised apple or pear
juice with no concentrate to be used. Large amounts of sugar or
similar products are not to be used to ferment the juice way above
its natural strength. No added water to deliberately increase the
volume of juice. No pasteurisation to take place, no added
colourings or flavourings to be used, no artificial carbonation. No
micro filtration (which takes out all the yeast).
Finally, a sweetener may be added to the fully fermented drink to
make it medium or sweet.
It's not complicated at all, is it? We at CAMRA are trying to
promote a traditional, natural drink that
we are proud to support. Simples!