Real Cider

The following article is reproduced with the kind permission of CAMRA. Sheffield Pub Guide is not endorsed by nor run in conjunction with CAMRA.

About real cider

Real cider is in a similar situation to that which faced real ale some 25 years ago as the number of outlets for real cider is diminishing, even in the West Country. The situation with perry is even worse, as it is rarely available away from the farm gate.

As a result of this CAMRA set up a cider and perry committee to inform consumers about the choice of real cider and perry and to encourage continued production.

Recent reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy may result in landowners being paid for "grubbing up" their trees. In a worst case scenario without trees there will be no fruit, and without the fruit there will be no cider or perry.

Over the years, CAMRA has given advice and technical help to producers, monitored the industry and advised beer festivals. Specifically CAMRA has:

  • Instigated a National Champion Cider and Perry of the Year award
  • In 2003 establish October as CAMRA's Cider and Perry Month
  • In 2004 established the hunt for The National Cider & Perry Pub of the Year

CAMRA also publishes the Good Cider Guide, the latest edition was published in 2005.

Definition Of Real Draught Cider & Perry:

A) Ingredients

  1. The liquid content before fermentation must consist entirely of non-pasteurised apple (cider), or pear (perry) juice
  2. No apple or pear juice concentrates to be used.
  3. Normally, only the sugar naturally available in the fruit should be used to cause fermentation, but in years when the level of natural sugar in the fruit is low, the addition of extraneous sugar to aid fermentation is acceptable.

B) Process

  1. No pasteurisation to take place during the production process in relation to the cask product.
  2. No added colourings to be used.
  3. No added flavourings to be used.
  4. There must be no artificial carbonation for draught products.
  5. Sweetener may be added to fully fermented cider/perry to make it sweet or medium.
  6. The addition of water is permitted to bring the alcoholic content of the cider/perry down to the level required by the producer. Ideally, however the minimum juice content should not be lower than 90% volume.
  7. No micro filtration allowed (this takes all the yeast, leaving a "dead" product).

What Is Keg Cider?

It is artificially carbonated, pasteurised, served under gas pressure. Most of today's keg cider is made from apple concentrate rather than real apples, some of which can be imported from almost anywhere. Keg cider is usually filtered and may also contain any of a long list of additives and colourings as defined permissible under Section 162 produced by HM Customs & Excise Department.

How To Make Real Cider

  1. The apples are washed and checked for rot or mould. Apple which are rotting should be discarded.
  2. The apples are crushed in a machine called a scratter, which chops them up into small pieces. They are now called pulp.
  3. The pulp is placed in layers on a press and then the juice is extracted.
  4. If a traditional screw or hydraulic press is used the pulp is wrapped in fine mesh cloths, like parcels, and about eight of these are used to make one pressing - called a cheese.

The natural yeasts in the apples start the fermentation and several months later you have cider.

A number of the larger producers will add sugar at the fermentation stage, enabling the cider to reach 12-14%abv, and then it is diluted down before it is sold (the legal limit for cider is 8.5%abv).


The apples that are used in the West Country and other certain parts of the country are cider apples, which are grown specifically for the purpose of making cider. Cider apples are generically identified as bittersweets and bittersharps.

With most ciders the greater the variety of apples used, the better as they all have different characteristics. In recent years a number of producers have starting making cider and perry from single varieties of fruit; these produce an interesting & sometimes surprising result from a tasting point of view.

Local Variations

In Somerset and other areas of the West Country, layers of straw were used instead of cloths. Some producers still use this method.

In Herefordshire it was the tradition to use horsehair, but there are no known producers who still do this in the Herefordshire area.

In the Eastern Counties - Sussex up to Norfolk (& including Kent) - the tradition for cider is to use a mixture of eating and cooking apples, although a number of producers in Norfolk are growing cider apples as well.

Time Of The Year

Producing or making cider this takes place from late August to early in the New Year and depending on ambient temperatures, fermentation can take until the following spring.


  • There is a flat rate of duty on cider up to 7.4%abv.
  • You pay on the quantity made.
  • A higher rate is paid for ciders between 7.4% and 8.5%abv.
  • A higher rate of duty is levied on cider using mushroom closures, mainly made using the champagne method.
  • A duty exempt limit of 70 hectolitres per year (about 1,500 gallons) helps the very small, local producers.
  • Duty is controlled by HM Customs & Excise


Perry is a drink so difficult to find that most people don't even know of its existence.

  • This drink is made exactly the same way as cider is from apples, perry is from perry pears.
  • Like cider apples; perry pears are grown specifically for perry production.

Believe it or not more perry is made now than has been made in a century, but it is difficult to market because of its low production volumes. Perry is traditionally a specialty of the Three Counties and Welsh Borders, as perry pears were said to only thrive "in sight of May Hill". Now however perry pears are also grown in other areas such as Somerset and Norfolk.

The demand is there for perry but producers cannot make enough of it, as there is not enough quality fruit available. It takes only three years for a perry pear planted in the right conditions to bear fruit, but up to thirty years before it is at full maturity.

  • Perry is a drink rarely found in pubs.
  • However at most CAMRA beer festivals you can usually sample a range of Perry.

Yearly CAMRA run a National Cider & Perry Competition and present Gold, Silver & Bronze Awards for both cider and perry.

Serving Real Cider

Depending on facilities and turnover in the licenses premises, real cider is usually served from a polycask or similar container on or behind the bar.

Lately there has been an innovative marketing of real cider from Manucubes or a bag in a box system to extend the shelf life to 3 months. These are available from specialist off licence shops and are increasingly being used by Weston's. Both Manucubes or the bag in a box system are similar to the well accepted Australian wine box and prevent the spoiling of the cider by excluding air, thus preventing airborne anaerobic bacteria infecting the drink, or if present, growing in the container thus making the cider "hard" (or infected) once opened.

Further Information

More information about CAMRA and real ale can be found on the following pages: