I used to drink a lot more cider than I do nowadays. Not necessarily quality stuff, though. Where I’m from in Austria, the state of Upper Austria, a local variety of cider call Most, made from apples and often a share of pears, was fairly common but not necessarily a refined drink.
Before I started home-brewing, the first fermented alcoholic beverage I made at home was a cider. I do enjoy the drink, but I don’t have it particularly often, not least because it’s not the kind of drink that is super popular in most of Germany. Like Austria, Germany does have pockets where local kinds of cider, Apfelwein, are common. Berlin is not one of them.
I’ve known Barry for a few years, just from the twitter beer bubble. Within the last few years, he documented on social media how he bought up patches of orchards and rejuvenated them, and of course, turned the harvested apples, pears and quinces into his own cider. Most recently, he turned this into a little business under the name Kertelreiter. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of locally produced, small batch, craft cider, so when Christmas season came around, I decided to not only gift a large mixed box of his ciders and perries to relatives of mine, but also to order a small mixed box for myself.
Barry asked me about my opinion about his ciders, so why not turn them into a wee blog post? I took myself time with trying all of the different ciders, having only one bottle per evening, with the exception of the last two on the list. I tasted each in the order in which I have them here.
First, I tried King of the Pippins. This one intrigued me the most as it’s made from just a single variety of apples, Goldparmäne in German, apparently one of the oldest cultivated apple varieties that still exist. It’s a dry, wild-fermented cider, and it showed: my first impression was lots of funk, which I like in beer, and I equally enjoyed it here. I noticed that it left a particularly dry feeling on my tongue, only had a relatively restrained fruitiness, and a very pleasant acidity. This tasted like a very classic cider, and totally unlike any of its industrial or mass-produced relatives. A great impression for the first sample.
Next up was Lacrimae Mundi, a cider barrel-aged in a Cabernet Sauvignon barrique. The difference to the first one was noticeable: while also dry, it was only slightly funky, but it had so much pleasant sharpness that reminded me of eating a Granny Smith apple. Less funk, lots of green apple fruitiness, and a particularly refreshing acidity. Again, a stunning cider.
Out of the Sun, fermented with Nottingham Ale yeast, presented itself fairly clean, dry, fruity, but also with a certain bitterness and a hint of booziness at the beginning that I didn’t quite enjoy as much. Still, a very nice cider.
Rehwasen, the next one, is made from a blend of seven apple varieties and one pear variety, and aged in an oak barrel. It was dry, with a bright acidity and some green apple. It got whiff of vinegar on the nose, which was actually not unpleasant. None of that vinegar could be tasted, so it might as well have been my senses playing a trick one me. And of course, there was a slight hint of oak.
After trying four different ciders, I went on to the perries, the first one being Levitation, fermented from 80% perry pears and 20% Conference pears. This one was very dry, with lots and lots of tannins. It actually made me want to chew the perry, and it definitely tasted like eating a perry pear. Absolutely fantastic, my favourite out of all of these.
The second perry, Pale Rider, has a wicked colour! This hazy perry comes in shades of pale pink, and is made of a 60/40 mix of perry and Conference pears. It was dry, more acidic and cleaner than Levitation, with not nearly as many tannins and some bitterness. Not quite a stunner as the previous one.
And finally, Holunderkin. This is a ciderkin, made from a second pressing of the pomace that had been rehydrated with water, wild-fermented and infused with elderflowers. It’s light, only 4% ABV, and comes across as quite acidic, leaning almost towards vinegar but in a really pleasant way! The elderflower aroma is very bright. My late grandmother told me that when they were young, they used to drink highly diluted vinegar as a refreshing drink, and this ciderkin reminded me of that: enough acidity, a really pleasant aroma from the elderflowers, I can imagine that to be the perfect drink for an extra-hot summer.
All in all, I’m really impressed by all the ciders and perries. All of them have unique characteristics on their own. This is what makes Barry’s selection of ciders so stunning: even though they are all made from a few simple ingredients, apples, pears and quince, pressed by hand, fermented and then matured for some time, they are all so remarkably different. Each of them seems carefully thought through and crafted, and every type of cider has something that really differentiates it from the rest of it. I’m absolutely impressed by the creativity that went into these 7 types of cider and perry, and can only recommend that you get yourself a box to try them as well.
Personally, my biggest surprise was how much of a joy it was to drink (and chew!) Levitation. My previous experience with perries was a bit underwhelming, so having a perry that was entirely different from what I’ve had before was kind of mind-blowing. Great stuff.