Cockagee Keeved. Carson's Crisp. Highbank Medieval. Dan Kelly's Small Batch. Tempted Dry. Ballyhook Flyer. Long Meadow Medium. Dovehill Reserve. Kilmegan Infused. Dalliance. Con's Medium.
Let's be clear about what is going on here. Whatever else the small collective of Ireland's craft cider makers achieve in their work – riches beyond imagining; the adoration of the nation; improved cross-border relations; etc; etc – they have already achieved a shift in the language we use to describe drinks.
“A Ballyhook Flyer for me and a Cockagee Keeved for my friend, please barman”, sounds like the drinks order from a P. G. Wodehouse novel. Even before you crack open a bottle of these resplendent Irish drinks, the names and titles of the ciders reveal an ancient, agrestic, novelistic – and extremely sensual – overtone and texture.
A dalliance conducted with bottles of Dalliance? Tempted Dry with An Gairdin Eden salad? A ham and mustard sandwich with Dan Kelly's Small Batch? What do you think explains the magic of Con's Medium Dry – the Dabinett? the Karmijn de Sonnaville? the Jonagold? the Elstar? the Bramley?
Could you hitch a ride to an Elstar? What would you say to an Aisling Bitter?
It's almost Shakespearian, the glottal and mellifluous wonders of craft cider. But the good news is that the drinks taste even better than they sound, and the even better news is that Ireland's craft cider producers are finding themselves in the position that Irish craft brewers first found themselves in four years ago: the public crave what they make, and so do publicans and shops.
So, the big boys with the big brands should be very, very concerned that there is a collective of craft cider makers, gathered under the banner of Cider Ireland, all of whom use only Irish fruit, unlike the mass-market guys who add in concentrate and sugar solutions.
Irish craft cider is the wine of the country. We have the climate to grow the best apples in the world and, thereby, make the best cider in the world, and the apple harvest in autumn is our own vendange. A little tweak to regulations would allow restaurants to serve cider under the guise of a wine licence, and if cider makers were awarded the same tax advantages as micro-brewers, the industry could explode in the same way as artisan brewing has over the last four years.
Which politician, north and south of the border, will be the first to climb aboard the apple cart, and facilitate the legislation to drive the industry forward? A Long Meadow Medium for the first to step up to the barrel.
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