I'm a cider girl. I hadn't even tried cider, ever, before moving to the UK over seven years ago, but because of its prominence here - there's a renaissance happening and these days it's as popular as lager, thanks to Somerset's enduring commitment to the tradition of cider making - I was encouraged to give it a go.
As with wine and beer, not all ciders are created equal. There are some that could be served as apple juice and no one would know the difference. But I found my preferences fell somewhere between the super sweet and quite dry and I couldn't really find something my taste buds would stay loyal to. Not being a beer drinker (bar the odd framboise but does that really count?) and my tendency to become narcoleptic on literally a few sips of wine, never mind spirits (I'm fun, eh?), cider's appeal endured because it's crisp and fruity, and I've always liked bubbles.
Last week the family-run, Somerset-based cider producer Brothers sent me two of their new flavours to try: Festival Pear Cider, and Strawberry. The 500ml bottles arrived with their new spring/summer branding featuring vintage-style labels based on a drawing that the wife of one of the founding brothers made nearly 20 years ago. I was really up for trying them because a) as mentioned, cider is my go-to drink, and b) somehow I hadn't crossed paths with Brothers before and c) I love the berry ciders. Or at least I love the idea of them. My last favourite now just seems far too sweet so I found myself in cider limbo.
First, I opened the Festival Pear Cider which is a stronger concoction than their regular pear, and most other ciders, at 7%. I was pleasantly surprised to find after one crude swig straight out of the chilled bottle that its initial sweetness is cut with a drier finish. For me, this is the perfect balance. Next, and on a different day, I tried the Strawberry (4%) which is a pear cider with strawberry juice - Brothers specialty is Perry - and was almost in shock that this bright red liquid beaming from my glass wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. Yes it's sweet of course, you don't buy berry varieties expecting something else, but like the Festival Pear, it's nicely balanced. So thank you, Brothers, you're now my go-to cider. I can actually finish a whole bottle!
A little history on the company: Brothers Drinks Co. Limited was started in 1992 by the four Showering brothers whose family have been making Perry in Somerset since 1658, and whose grandparents were behind the successful Babycham from the 1950s! (I have some of their dainty vintage cocktail glasses with the adorable white deer on them.) Brothers began selling its cider exclusively at Glastonbury back in 1992, and since then, its following has continued to grow, loved as ‘the company that introduced pear cider to the UK.’ (They found that most folks didn't know what perry was and responded more favourably when they were offered 'pear cider'.) For the next 10 years the Brothers Bar became increasingly popular, so five years ago Brothers Cider was launched into the on and off trade, by popular demand, for the first time. Today they are the sixth largest cider company in the UK Off Trade Multiple Grocers, and one of the fastest growing cider brands in the market.