Rainy Saturday in Bermondsey and it’s time for a cider tour in an area becoming famous for its micro-breweries where it has acquired the label The Bermondsey Beer Mile. After a few years popularity in the 70s, home brewing went into decline but has bounced back strongly on both sides of the Atlantic.
We meet at The Draft House on Tower Bridge Road where 11 of us have booked an afternoon tour with UKBreweryTours where we are due to try seven different ciders and some apple brandy. First is a sweet one with the intriguing name SeaCider-Marmalade made in Brighton and 5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume). With several types to taste, the glasses are small allowing us to reach our final destination in Borough Market reasonably sober. Our guide is knowledgeable although the pub music means he has to explain things twice to our group spread over two tables.
On our table we have a couple from Milton Keynes recently returned from Lanzarotte with some Honey Rum which sounds good for a Christmas drink.
Time for a few minutes walk to Hawkes Cidery and Taproom where we sample three different ciders: All Made Equal at 6.3% ABV is much drier and sharper, being made with champagne yeast. Beer yeast would probably work too, but the cider makers prefer the champagne variety.
Third tipple of the afternoon is Urban Orchard at 4.5% ABV and sweeter than the last one. We learn that cider only has to have 35% apple to qualify as such and the best-selling ones like Kopperberg have lots of corn syrup. But this cider maker uses 70 per cent of his own apples, buying others to make up quantity. And into the knowledge of cider comes the first joke of the day “Garden of Eden really messed up the apple trade” Ha, ha.
Fourth tipple is Disco at 5.4% ABV which tastes sour after the previous one. Two more bottles arrive: Thistly Cross from Scotland’s east coast is strongest at 7.9% ABV which is aged in whisky barrels. Not really unusual since the whisky trade buys in different barrels for ageing their liquor.
Second bottle is Olivers Fine Cider which turns out to be the only one I do not like. This uses Czech Kazbek hops and comes in at 5.5% ABV. Trying to describe taste here is difficult since some like the Olivers cider and others like me, dislike it. While we are upstairs, an American film crew is making a Brew Dog series of films which will be available on Netflix among others. It is raining steadily now but the film crew carry on with lots of umbrellas and the occasional “Action!” Lots of expensive kit around being worked on by people in black tee-shirts, where some stuff is being edited.
Time for a vote. It’s raining and we can use the rest of the budget at Hawkes to try other ciders or walk down to Borough Market where we can try some Cider brandy. Unanimous vote for the brandy so we step off into the rain.
Cider with Rhubarb??
Borough Market is buzzing and we end up at The Cider House. Available on draught today are: Sweet, Medium, Dry, Kingston Black and to complement our first tipple SeaCider-Rhubarb (sic) which I try and is really sweet. Being the last stop, we try some of each others ciders and as before, tastes can be opposite. Three kinds of cheese (including some lovely unpasteurised Stilton) come out for the Somerset Cider Brandy when the stall manager brings out some Hungarian salami. At 45% ABV the cider brandy is a bit strong for some but it is a pleasant change to scotch or brandy and gives a warm feeling on a miserable day finishing off a very pleasant afternoon. Final bonus is chatting to a Spanish father and daughter couple who are in London for a week.