As far as I'm concerned cider is our national drink holding a particular place in our heritage. I feel we should spend as much time enjoying cider as we do beer.

As I'm sure we're all aware cider is made from apples. But real cider, like real ale is pure and unpasturised, it is always made directly from apples unlike many of the ciders we see in our pubs and supermarkets which are made from apple juice concentrate. Any apples can be used to make cider and traditionally in the West Country it is made from varieties of specifically cultivated cider apple, whereas in the East of England it is more often made from combinations of sweet and bitter apples.

Perry is the pear equivalent of cider and is its equal in terms of history, tradition and culture, however perry has fallen out of favour with the British drinker, which is a shame as it can be fantastic with great depth and complexity. All perry is made from specific perry pears and I suppose in part it is the cultivation of these which has fallen over the years.
Some of the beers at the excellent Reading Beer Festival
Reading Beer Festival April 28th 2006.

Having had a fair bit of experience in making my own cider coupled with my training in tasting I was asked to be a judge in the National Cider and Perry Awards held at the 2006 Reading Beer Festival.

The festival itself was excellent, really well run with a massive number of beers, ciders and even wines. Panels of judges were selected and between us we sampled a vast range of cider. I have to say that some of them were absolutely awful, but such is the joy of judging. Flavours ranged from farmyard amonia through to toffee with some really well balanced samples. I think one of the main difficulties with cider is balancing the alcohol and flavour levels. Ths science beinng that the longer the apples are fermented the drier and stronger the cider will be. I want to be able to taste the apples

There has been a definate trend toward very strong ciders of 7% and above and I find this too much. I like a session and with the best will in the world it's hard to sit down and drink seven pints of this stuff.

It was a blind tasting so we had no idea of the maker of the ciders that we were sampling. Our notes and scores were collated and in the end the results were:

GOLD - Gwynt Y Ddraig Medium (Andrew Gronow, Tel: 01446 795 709)
SILVER - Upton Sweet (Valerie & Robert Fitchett, Tel: 01235 850808)
BRONZE - Dunkertons' Medium (Ivor & Susie Dunkerton, Tel: 01544 388653)

GOLD - Gwatkin's Blakeney Red (Denis Gwatkin, Tel: 01981 550 258)
SILVER - Summers' Medium (Summers' Cider & Perry, Tel: 01453 811218)
BRONZE - Butford Farm Dry (Martin Harris, Tel: 01568 797 195)

For a more comprehensive article on the awards please go to the Reading CAMRA site at