Christmas is fast approaching and you’re on the hunt for a boozy gift. You find yourself in the ‘This’ll do’ gift section of a well known department store and think “Well I know they love cider, maybe this big glass bottle would be nice?” or “Oh that’s nice, two bottles and a branded glass, he’ll love that!” …
Stop it. I’ve seen you doing it. In fact, you have bought them for me more than once, and while the thought is appreciated, it’s hard not to cringe. The problem is whilst these ciders may look appealing, they tend to be highly commercial brands or of dubious quality. Even if it is good cider, it is often sold close to double it’s retail price (if not more).
It would be a tall ask to expect everyone to know what to look out for, so here are my suggestions to ensure a rosy-cheeked grin for a cider lover this Christmas.
1. Specialist Cider Shops
Cider shops offer a fantastic selection of real cider and perry. If you live nearby one pop in, they will be able to offer you all the advise you’ll need for a great gift this Christmas (you may even get a free tasting!) Not only do they stock great ciders but they tend to have other excellent gifts such as Cider apple brandy, hampers, stoneware mugs, and books!
Places I highly recommend are Bristol Cider Shop, Middle Farm, Three Counties Cider Shop, Darts Farm, Tiddly Pomme and Essex Cider Shop. Some of which you can order online. If you are not local to one, try looking in your local farm shop or see if you live near a cider producer, nowadays there’s a good chance you do! Also worth a mention is eebria.com who have a great range of cider producers and low delivery cost (per producer).
If you are on a bit of a budget or want to avoid shopping online, I suggest trying Waitrose or Marks and Spencer. They stock a good selection of ciders (although it varies by region) of far better quality than is available in the high street gift packs. Look out for producers such as Dunkertons, Perry’s, Sandford Orchards and Sheppy’s amongst others. If you’d like to make them look great as a gift, here’s simple and inexpensive wrapping idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsW1dc7pzkQ
2. Subscription Boxes
The subscription service has certainly become very popular. Who wouldn’t want a box full of their favourite things every month? Cider lovers can also get in on the action. There are a number of companies now offering this service. They will send out a mixed case of cider and perry straight to your door. It is a great way to taste different styles of cider and find out which producers you like. You will also get to try ciders from different regions of the UK, which you may otherwise struggle to get hold of. They also tend to offer a flexible service which can be cancelled at any time.
While it may cost as much as a gym membership, it’s obviously a lot more fun!
3. Cider Making Kit
Ever wished your partner had a hobby? Cider making kits are a great way to keep them occupied!
A kit in its most basic form will only cost around £35 and further tins of apple concentrate cost as little as £15 and produce 40 pints! Everything can be picked up easily at Wilko or online. It is a very straight forward process and the tin comes with all the instructions they’ll need. The beauty of the kit is that it allows them to learn how fermentation works without all the additional equipment you need to make real cider. The next thing you know they’ll be trying different kits (Black Rock is a good one) and start dabbling with the blend. One thing leads to another, you’ll have a nice new shed in your garden, a cider press and crack pot schemes for a company! (My girlfriends Dad is testament to this!)
I should point out that the cider you make from these kits is not of fantastic quality. It is made from apple juice concentrate, which is pretty much how cider is made on the huge commercial scale. It’ll make a similar, albeit less refined, but pleasant drink.
Happy Christmas shopping!