An event which I initially suspected was created simply to annoy me by forcing me to write about cider has proved incredibly popular with virtually everyone else, reflecting I think New Zealand’s soaring love of cider. A list of available ciders for Ciderhouse is featured in the second half of the blog.
First however, it is time for a quick history lesson. The irreverent but useful book – “Drink – A User’s Guide” – asks the fundamental question: “Did the ancient Egyptians drink cider? They grew apple trees along the Nile delta after all. There’s no direct evidence, but it would be injudicious to assume they didn’t – they thought of pretty much everything else.”
The Guide goes on to observe “the cider drinkers were mostly in the Euro belt between the grape-growing south and the grain-growing north, on a diagonal from Bavaria to Somerset in the toe of England, with a detour into northern Spain. The Romans were the Johnny Appleseed’s of the ancient world  who, when they arrived in England in 55BC, found the villagers of Kent drinking cider and liked it so much they introduced it across their Empire. Julius Caesar was such an enthusiast that he had cider-apple tree seeds and saplings taken to Rome, though not much came of it.”
Switching to my battered and beer stained copy of Pete Brown’s “A man walks into a pub”, his first and to my mind still best book, Brown explains how the British people changed from a nation of cider drinkers to a country which loved beer in just one paragraph (albeit a rather long paragraph). Brown wrote:
“When they reached Britain, the Romans found brewing as established here as it was everywhere else in northern Europe. The difference was that the early Brits favoured mead and cider rather than beer. Essentially, anything that has naturally occurring sugars can be fermented to produce an alcoholic drink of some kind. Britain was heavily forested at this time, and the population clearly saw no point clearing the trees to plant fields of grain when they could just as easily get leathered  on stuff that grew without them having to go to all that effort.” 
“This only began to change when, not for the last time, the Germans taught us what proper drinking was all about. In the fifth Century AD the Germanic Angles and Saxons began to colonise Britain, the Angles eventually giving England its name and identity as distinct from the Celts in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  They loved to drink ol or ealu, words which evolved into ‘ale’, and the country had its national drink. The hard, beer-drinking tribes of north Europe forced the wine-loving Romans to withdraw, and we never looked back.”
“Drink – A User’s Guide” makes this telling observation: “Recent history has tended to be dismissive of cider yet it is unique, neither wine (though made like wine) nor beer (though drunk like beer) – and produced in as wide a variety of styles as either.” Some of that wide variety is showcased in the Ciderhouse Selection 2014.Here are the ciders and a few comments or observations.
First up is Fork Brewing Bandwagon Cider from the Malthouse’s sister bar the Fork & Brewer. Brewing Rockstar Kelly Ryan has produced a very drinkable, balanced, dry apple cider with almost a Granny Smith note. Bandwagon received its distinctive name after Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Part Owner of Fork & Brewer said he did not really care what the first cider was called but the brewery had to get on the cider bandwagon early.
One of the most challenging ciders on offer is Zeffer Farmhouse Funk – a cloudy, 7% cider which has been aged in Brettanomyces infused barrels. This is definitely not your run of the mill cider and could be the surprise hit for many.
Zeffer Red Apple recently picked up a trophy at the New World Beer and Cider Awards. Here is what I wrote for the booklet  “This cider immediately makes an impression on the eye, boasting a colour that is best described as a “pink blush.” Strong carbonation helps showcase a nose of red apple skin and some dry white wine notes. The judges called this a “creative and interesting” cider and noted it retained its drinkability because of some sharp and crisp flavours, and a tannic undertone.”
Long-term readers will be aware of my fascination with slogans and mottos. I like the simplicity of Peckham’s creed – “Making cider with integrity. No compromise, no short cuts, minimal intervention.” From their family farm in Moutere Valley, the Peckham’s use heritage apples to make honest English style cider. Malthouse has the more traditional Peckham’s Moutere Cider and the elderflower infused Peckham’s Elderflower Cider.
Peak Brewery in Masterton produces a West Country cider using traditional heritage apples which are sourced from local organic orchards. In keeping with the style, Peak Brewery’s Will’s Neck Cider is sharper than the ciders many Kiwis are drinking. Wills Neck is, of course, the highest point in the Quantock hills, near Taunton in Somerset. 
Good George Drop Hop is a former Trophy winner at the Brewer’s Guild Beer Awards and rightly so. It is made in Hamilton using hops which produce a drier, more bitter finish. Several other producers have started experimenting with hops in cider. In a shocking revelation, I actually have a bottle of this in my fridge. Drop Hop has proved excellent for steaming clams or providing some kick to sautéed mushrooms and spinach.
The famous McCashin family (of Mac’s and Stoke brewing fame) make cider under their Rochdale label. Rochdale Apple Cider 4.5% is made with a refreshing blend of apples, has a sweet body and a slightly tart finish. I can foresee this being very popular outside, if Wellington’s weather ever improves.
Heading off to England for the last two ciders, Thatcher’s is a well established family run cidery in Somerset. That family is, not surprisingly, the Thatcher’s and half a dozen of them are still involved in the day to day running of the operation. Ciderhouse is stocking Thatcher’s Gold, the Official Cider of the Glastonbury 2014 festival so it must really cut through mud nicely. It is a medium sweet, effervescent and the Thatcher family believes Gold is “perfect for… well, just about everything in our opinion.” Their motto is a little bit more confusing, reading “Cider does not just grow on trees you know…”
Aspall is a family cyder-making business which was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family.
Pouring at Malthouse will be Aspall Suffolk 5.5% which was created to celebrate 275 years of cyder making by 8th generation brothers Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild. They describe the cyder as “fruity, dry, racy, thirst-quenching, lip-smacking.”
The title of this blog – “Appley Goodness” – was provided by Colin. His brief to me for this post was a list of ciders and the cryptic note “All above on tap. Mmmm… Appley Goodness.”  Such a wordsmith – I am in awe.
Next time, we drink to Rocky, the tiny plastic rubber duck with a nose for fine beers. Where will he turn up next and whose drink will he fall into during yet another failed attempt to demonstrate that tiny plastic rubber ducks can float on foam?
 No one, of course, called any Romans “Johnny Appleseed” at the time, given the erstwhile Mr Seed was not born until 1774 – in America.
 In the introduction to this book, Brown has collated four pages of English phrases or colloquialisms for over-indulging on alcohol. My favourites include the aforementioned leathered, barrelled, fuddled, honking, hoonered, mashed, scoobied, tangled footed, and tired and emotional.
 I have split Brown’s original epic passage into two paragraphs for the safety of people reading this blog on mobile devices.
 Mr Brown is an Englishman and is so probably unaware that the correct order of those nations should be “Scotland, Ireland and, to a much lesser extent, Wales.”
 A ripping good read by the way.
 The Hills are also rumoured to the summer holiday location of choice for Geoffrey Boycott.
 I had to fix Col’s spelling and the grammar obviously.
Beer and Brewer Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting