About two weeks ago I got an email suggesting that a package was being sent to me with a variety of ciders inside. Yesterday a package full of cider showed up at my door with the Strongbow branding on a hamper. I had forgotten entirely about the email by this time, but stuff showing up is fairly commonplace.
The odd bit really is that I have no information about any of these ciders. I assume that they are all in some way Molson Coors affiliated, but I don’t have background details. They don’t work up dossiers for cider the way they do for beer. Cider’s only got the one ingredient, you see, and about 75% of people remember that it’s apples.
Well, that’s not exactly true. A lot of these have other stuff in them.
Wanderoot Artisanal Cider
“Classic Apple” it says on the tin. “Crisp and Lively”, it says. Cider with “Natural Flavour” it says, which, if this were an actual artisanal cider would be “cider” since cider is naturally cider flavoured. One assumes that this would be the inevitable détente category entry by Molson Coors to combat Brickworks. I hate to give AB InBev the edge in anything, but my memory of Brickworks is that it is a lighter product and has the redeeming quality of being refreshing whereas this seems more closely to emulate the Boston Beer Company’s Angry Orchard, but without the subtler apple peel and stem character. “By giving our apples the chance to get to know each other they return the flavour” says the website. APPLES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.
The aroma is largely Allen’s apple juice and uncooked pie crust. My goodness, this one is sweeter than an apple on Christmas Day. This is sweeter than James Taylor’s perception of your love for him. This is four-sips-in headache inducing, lip smacking, insulin spiking sweetness in a 473ml can.
Not artisanal. Not crisp. Lively, though, in the sense that the sugar would sustain the life of an ant colony on an unmanned voyage to Mars.
Strongbow British Dry Cider
We’ve all had Strongbow. It’s been in pubs since before many of your parents met, back when Duran Duran roamed the earth demanding virgin sacrifice. The canned version of Strongbow has the advantage of being light in body and therefore at least somewhat refreshing. There’s a small sulphurous nose and at the head of the swallow there’s a big yeast and alcohol bite that just sort of dissipates into nothing on the finish.
I’ll tell you what Strongbow isn’t: overwhelmingly apple-y. That sort of explains to me its durability. Light in body, light on flavour, popular with people who don’t like beer but want to be drinking something to fit in. There’s nothing wrong with Strongbow, but that’s not exactly a slogan that’s going to win you the presidency.
This is a flavoured cider and therefore a good deal sweeter than the basic Strongbow model. I find the can somewhat confusing. It says Elderflower on it, but the tasting notes on the back of the can say “light sweet floral aroma with hints of litchi and lime complement the crisp apple finish.” Putting aside the grammatical quibble, why are you naming a product after a flavour that you then have to explain to the consumer in terms of other flavours? Doesn’t that seem like a bonehead move?
In truth the aroma is not unlike a number of Southern California style Pale Ales exactly because of the tropical note and the elderflower plays not entirely like ground cherry before it yields to a deep apple sweetness. For some reason I find myself thinking of gummy worms. Yes. It’s gummy worms. Put that on the can and you won’t have to worry about explaining it any further.
Ginger and Apple seem something of an odd pairing, but I’ll try anything once.
The aroma is interesting. It really is fresh ginger and quite mild at that. It has something of the yankee candle about it, but at the very least the sweetness is lessened by the aromatic presence of the ginger that lingers on the roof of the mouth after the swallow. There is actually something of a hint of lemon that creeps at the aroma. I was prepared to hate this, but so far this is the most compelling thing in the hamper. Sort of a pleasant afternoon cordial.
Molson Canadian Cider
I reviewed this a couple of years ago for the Sun. I believe my conclusion was that it was quite a bit better than it needed to be considering the branding. I suspect that they’re using the same yeast for this that they are for the Wanderoot. There is that same nagging uncooked pastry flabbiness around the aroma. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing if you’re making beer. It’s just that with an apple product it just makes me think it’s half baked. It’s bittersweet. Lard pie crust and flour dusting the counter. Lingers for a day even if you clean assiduously.
Alright, I find this annoying. I understand that in order to compete with a purchased artisanal brand like Brickworks you need better labelling, but the question I find myself asking is why is this a better product than Wanderoot? That’s ridiculously oversweet and one note while this is a perfectly creditable macro cider. I don’t claim that this is a world beater by any stretch, but the (greatly reduced) sweetness is tempered by a little complexity. There’s nothing objectionable here for what it’s meant to be. It does its job.
Molson Canadian Cider Pear
This has got apples and pears and I don’t mean your uncle Ted’s. I suppose the idea here is to combat somewhat the presence of Rekorderlig in the market, but that’s much better than this is. I will give it this. The combination of apple and pear seem to allow for a small barky presence somewhere in the middle of the aroma and there’s a small hint of what I want to call burnt cork on the palate. There is at least a little complexity. The pear doesn’t override it completely. Bartlett, rather than Bosch, I think.
Molson Canadian Cider Stone Fruit
Earlier we had gummy bears and now we have those sour peach candies. Except without sourness or moreishness or the delighted smiles of children.
Yeah, no. That’s it. There are no further tasting notes for this confectioner’s nightmare.
Molson Canadian Cider White Cranberry
What is a White Cranberry? I don’t know, but it probably enjoys more privilege than a regular cranberry. Fruit oppression is no laughing matter.
Oddly, the aroma here is vaguely summery and I find myself casting my mind back to bug juice at summer camp. 1700 km down the Missinaibi River and you remember detail. This has got that nondescript fruit punch element to it. There is actually a relatively mild acidity here and it’s not at all unpleasant. I think if this were very cold on a hot day, possibly served over ice, I’d be happier about it.
I think this is the second most successful of the day’s flavoured ciders. Might be a lesson there. Blend your cider with something with a vastly different flavour profile. Sweet on sweet is claggy. The little acidity here opened it right up.
You could drink these ciders, I guess.
But the small cideries in Ontario just won a combined 43 medals at the Great Lakes International Cider Competition. So… Don’t drink these. Except possibly the Ginger and White Cranberry ones if you’re feeling a bit nasty.
Look, the actual artisanal ciders in Ontario are hard to get at the moment and they can be quite expensive. In some cases, though, they’re orders of magnitude more complex and you really owe it to yourself to try the good stuff.
As Groucho says in Horsefeathers, “I have to be here, but you folks can go out into the lobby until this blows over.”