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Intro to cider styles  

Start exploring cider further with this guide 

When you hear cider styles do you think of ‘medium, sweet or dry’? Think again. British cider and perry styles offer a broad range to suit all tastes, based on regionality and the different varieties, or varietals grown and fermented locally. Each regional style expresses its own unique range of flavours and aromas. Adding to an already wide range of options for the novice or experience cider and perry drinker, modern British makers are experimenting both with different fruits, equipment and techniques to create new styles and drinking experiences. Use this guide to begin exploring cider styles today! 

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Intro to cider styles  

Start exploring cider further with this guide 

When you hear cider styles do you think of ‘medium, sweet or dry’? Think again. British cider and perry styles offer a broad range to suit all tastes, based on regionality and the different varieties, or varietals grown and fermented locally. Each regional style expresses its own unique range of flavours and aromas. Adding to an already wide range of options for the novice or experience cider and perry drinker, modern British makers are experimenting both with different fruits, equipment and techniques to create new styles and drinking experiences. Use this guide to begin exploring cider styles today!

Basic guidelines to the styles of cider and perry

Cider is a great British drink with a range of styles, flavours, processes and occasions equal in breadth and diversity to beer, wine and spirits.

Now is the time for the media, drinks trade and consumers to know that there is a cider for everyone – from bone dry to unctuously sweet; from zingy and crisp to bold and earthy; from still and silky to brisk and bubbly; to be served from draught by gravity pour or handpull; from kegs or bottles; and to be served in glasses from pint to flute.

CAMRA’s definition of ‘real cider and perry #NotFromConcentrate’ is created to apply to cider and perry across this full diversity of styles and the variety of methods of dispense.

Basic guidelines to the styles of cider and perry

Cider is a great British drink with a range of styles, flavours, processes and occasions equal in breadth and diversity to beer, wine and spirits.

Now is the time for the media, drinks trade and consumers to know that there is a cider for everyone – from bone dry to unctuously sweet; from zingy and crisp to bold and earthy; from still and silky to brisk and bubbly; to be served from draught by gravity pour or handpull; from kegs or bottles; and to be served in glasses from pint to flute.

CAMRA’s definition of ‘real cider and perry #NotFromConcentrate’ is created to apply to cider and perry across this full diversity of styles and the variety of methods of dispense.

Styles of cider and perry

This basic guide is derived from the Style Guidelines in Modern British Cider by Gabe Cook, CAMRA Books 2021; and is supplemented by a range of content in CAMRA Learn and Discover. Learn & Discover – CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale

British styles of cider and perry are informed by three key factors: –

  • Selection of apple/pear variety
  • Cider making methodology
  • The potential use of additional flavours

Any combination of these factors can result in a number of different styles

Styles: Western counties; Keeved; Eastern counties; Traditional perry; Modern perry; Flavoured (fruit); Flavoured (botanicals); Ice; Bottle-fermented; Low/No; Rosé; Co-Fermented; Spirit products

Beginner Flavours

“Now is the time for the media, drinks trade and consumers to know that there is a cider for everyone

— Gabe Cook

“You get soft, almost wine like aromatics, refeshing… acidity and apple driven, when you try Kent and Eastern style ciders”

— Alison Taffs

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Or JOIN CAMRA for unlimited access to Learn & Discover

Styles of cider and perry

This basic guide is derived from the Style Guidelines in Modern British Cider by Gabe Cook, CAMRA Books 2021; and is supplemented by a range of content in CAMRA Learn and Discover. 

Learn & Discover – CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale

British styles of cider and perry are informed by three key factors: –

  • Selection of apple/pear variety
  • Cider making methodology
  • The potential use of additional flavours

Any combination of these factors can result in a number of different styles. 

Styles: Western counties; Keeved; Eastern counties; Traditional perry; Modern perry; Flavoured (fruit); Flavoured (botanicals); Ice; Bottle-fermented; Low/No; Rosé; Co-Fermented; Spirit products.

Western counties cider

Cider with tannins from apples developed historically for cider production.

A style with its roots in the western and south-western parts of England and parts of Wales, but now produced from apples grown UK wide and internationally. Made using classic, tannin-rich, cider apple varieties providing bold structure and intense aromas, flavours and mouthfeel.

These varieties are classified into families described as bittersweets, and others which bring some acidity (bittersharps and sharps) and fruitiness (sweets).

How cider is made: Part 1 – Fruits and Orchards – CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale

Keeved cider

A naturally sweet style, sometimes referred to as French or Normandy Style.

With western counties style tannic character, this style is characterised by undergoing a particular process prior to fermentation, known as keeving, which normally leads to a lower alcohol content and retention of residual sweetness.

These ciders are often presented in bottles with a degree of natural carbonation.

Western counties cider

Cider with tannins from apples developed historically for cider production. A style with its roots in the western and south-western parts of England and parts of Wales, but now produced from apples grown UK wide and internationally.

Made using classic, tannin-rich, cider apple varieties providing bold structure and intense aromas, flavours and mouthfeel. These varieties are classified into families described as bittersweets, and others which bring some acidity (bittersharps and sharps) and fruitiness (sweets).

How cider is made: Part 1 – Fruits and Orchards – CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale

Keeved cider

A naturally sweet style, sometimes referred to as French or Normandy style. With western counties style tannic character, this style is characterised by undergoing a particular process prior to fermentation, known as keeving, which normally leads to a lower alcohol content and retention of residual sweetness. These ciders are often presented in bottles with a degree of natural carbonation.

Eastern counties cider

A style of cider that is characterised by the relative absence of tannin, and by the predominance of acidity, fruitiness and freshness, achieved through the use of dessert and culinary apples developed historically for home consumption. This broader style of cider has the greatest geographical spread.

Depending on the specific variety of apple (and process) used, these ciders can present themselves as being dominated more by crisp acidity, soft fruitiness or aromatic minerality.

Eastern counties cider

A style of cider that is characterised by the relative absence of tannin, and by the predominance of acidity, fruitiness and freshness, achieved through the use of dessert and culinary apples developed historically for home consumption.

This broader style of cider has the greatest geographical spread. Depending on the specific variety of apple (and process) used, these ciders can present themselves as being dominated more by crisp acidity, soft fruitiness or aromatic minerality.

Traditional perry

Made using specific perry pear varieties, grown for centuries, for the sole purpose of making perry, they are differentiated from dessert pears by the presence of tannin, providing a varying degree of boldness and astringency.

Depending upon the variety, there will also be varying degrees of fresh acidity and rich fruitiness. Generally lighter in weight than tannic ciders, florality, fruitiness and texture exemplify these drinks. The presence of citric acid ensures floral characters, as well as tropical fruitiness. Pears contain sorbitol, an unfermentable sugar, ensuring perry retains, to a greater or lesser degree, a natural sweetness.

Traditional perry

Made using specific perry pear varieties, grown for centuries, for the sole purpose of making perry, they are differentiated from dessert pears by the presence of tannin, providing a varying degree of boldness and astringency. Depending upon the variety, there will also be varying degrees of fresh acidity and rich fruitiness. Generally lighter in weight than tannic ciders, florality, fruitiness and texture exemplify these drinks.

The presence of citric acid ensures floral characters, as well as tropical fruitiness. Pears contain sorbitol, an unfermentable sugar, ensuring perry retains, to a greater or lesser degree, a natural sweetness.

Fruit or flavoured cider

Made with a western counties or eastern counties base cider, this style includes the addition of fruits other than apples/pears, botanicals, or potentially the flowers and honey from plants and trees to create a whole new experience.

The fruits and additions can be added at any time, but is typically post-fermentation, immediately prior to packaging. There are some ciders which are ‘co-fermented’ with fruits or honey, the addition being made pre-fermentation, adding fermentable sugars and contributing towards the taste and aroma of the resultant finished drink (see co-fermentation).

Low/No

These ciders are defined by their lower than average alcohol level. They can be made with western counties or eastern counties styles of cider and could potentially have other flavours added.

To be called a low-alcohol cider in the UK, the liquid must contain less than 1.2 % ABV and also contain other flavours. This low level of alcohol can be achieved by:

  • Diluting cider with water and/or juice
  • Stopping incipient fermentation
  • Removal of alcohol via distilling or reverse osmosis

Other styles include:

Modern perry – made using dessert and culinary pears, which do not display the tannic or acid characters of the traditional perry.

Ice cider – higher alcohol and sweet.

Co-fermentation – an emerging concept for British cider makers.

Bottle-fermented – technically known as methode traditionelle, the champagne method.

Rosé – new category aimed at appealing to rosé wine drinkers.

Spirit products – which started their life as cider, before being distilled, and those that are a mix of this distilled spirit and cider or juice.

Interpretations of styles

Within any one of these styles there will be some considerable variation in the look, smell, taste and mouthfeel of the multitude of different products that sit within them.

These interpretations of a style can be brought about through several different factors – some born of human decision making, some more attributable to mother nature.

Dry or sweetened?

Fully fermented to dry or produced with a range of sweetness; either natural sweetness through a natural retention technique (keeving or cold racking) or  with the sweetness achieved through the post-fermentation addition of juice, sugar, sweetener.

Still or sparkling?

With the sparkle produced naturally through process such as bottle fermented; bottle conditioning (via secondary conditioning, Pét Nat, or associated with keeving); or achieved via force carbonation.

Young or aged?

Some degree of ageing may be desirable to the cider, whereas other makers may wish to showcase the youthful exuberance.

Blends or single varieties?

Every single apple is entirely unique in its flavour, properties and characteristics. See: ‘apple and pear families and varieties’ (below).

The vast majority of ciders today, and historically, are made with blends of different apple varieties.

Some cider makers, however, have a desire to showcase the innate characteristics of a single variety (SV). It’s all about personal choice, from the maker and the consumer.

Yeast selection – cultivated or wild?

The vast majority of cider made all around the world will be made using a selected cultivated yeast strain.

There are, however, many cider makers who choose to allow a succession of wild yeasts to undertake the act of fermentation; including a number of non-saccharomyces yeasts from apples or pears coming in from the orchards, and multiple wild strains of saccharomyces strains which will set up shop in the cidery building itself, adhering themselves to the mill and press, ‘house style’.

“You get soft, almost wine like aromatics, refeshing… acidity and apple driven, when you try Kent and Eastern style ciders”

— Alison Taffs

Styles: Western counties; Keeved; Eastern counties; Traditional perry; Modern perry; Flavoured (fruit); Flavoured (botanicals); Ice; Bottle-fermented; Low/No; Rosé; Co-Fermented; Spirit products.”

— Gabe Cook

Fruit or flavoured cider

Made with a western counties or eastern counties base cider, this style includes the addition of fruits other than apples/pears, botanicals, or potentially the flowers and honey from plants and trees to create a whole new experience.

The fruits and additions can be added at any time, but is typically post-fermentation, immediately prior to packaging. There are some ciders which are ‘co-fermented’ with fruits or honey, the addition being made pre-fermentation, adding fermentable sugars and contributing towards the taste and aroma of the resultant finished drink (see co-fermentation).

Low/No

These ciders are defined by their lower than average alcohol level. They can be made with western counties or eastern counties styles of cider and could potentially have other flavours added.

To be called a low-alcohol cider in the UK, the liquid must contain less than 1.2 % ABV and also contain other flavours. This low level of alcohol can be achieved by:

  • Diluting cider with water and/or juice
  • Stopping incipient fermentation
  • Removal of alcohol via distilling or reverse osmosis

Other styles include:

Modern perry – made using dessert and culinary pears, which do not display the tannic or acid characters of the traditional perry.

Ice cider – higher alcohol and sweet.

Co-fermentation – an emerging concept for British cider makers.

Bottle-fermented – technically known as methode traditionelle, the champagne method.

Rosé – new category aimed at appealing to rosé wine drinkers.

Spirit products – which started their life as cider, before being distilled, and those that are a mix of this distilled spirit and cider or juice.

Interpretations of styles

Within any one of these styles there will be some considerable variation in the look, smell, taste and mouthfeel of the multitude of different products that sit within them. These interpretations of a style can be brought about through several different factors – some born of human decision making, some more attributable to mother nature.

Dry or sweetened?

Fully fermented to dry or produced with a range of sweetness; either natural sweetness through a natural retention technique (keeving or cold racking) or  with the sweetness achieved through the post-fermentation addition of juice, sugar, sweetener.

Still or sparkling?

With the sparkle produced naturally through process such as bottle fermented; bottle conditioning (via secondary conditioning, Pét Nat, or associated with keeving); or achieved via force carbonation.

Young or aged?

Some degree of ageing may be desirable to the cider, whereas other makers may wish to showcase the youthful exuberance. 

Blends or single varieties?

Every single apple is entirely unique in its flavour, properties and characteristics. See: ‘apple and pear families and varieties’ (below).

The vast majority of ciders today, and historically, are made with blends of different apple varieties. Some cider makers, however, have a desire to showcase the innate characteristics of a single variety (SV). It’s all about personal choice, from the maker and the consumer.

Yeast selection – cultivated or wild?

The vast majority of cider made all around the world will be made using a selected cultivated yeast strain.

There are, however, many cider makers who choose to allow a succession of wild yeasts to undertake the act of fermentation; including a number of non-saccharomyces yeasts from apples or pears coming in from the orchards, and multiple wild strains of saccharomyces strains which will set up shop in the cidery building itself, adhering themselves to the mill and press, ‘house style’.

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