If you’re into you craft beer you’ve probably heard of Bridge Road Brewers makers if Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider. Based in country Victorian town of Beechworth, like all good start-ups they start out in dad’s shed. Today they have grown into a brewery producing over 20 different beers and a Cider. Is the Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider just another beer brewer cashing in on the cider boom or is this a Real Cider?

I’ve said in the past, I’m always a little worried when beer brewers have a go at making cider. Mainly because of what industrial breweries make and call “cider”. Having a look at the label, “live bottle conditioned cider” means at very least it’s made from real fruit and yeast. A promising start.

I wanted to know why would a successful craft beer brewery want to get into cider. So I have a chat with Ben Kraus about Bridge Road Brewer to find out about their move into cider.

Ben: “There were a combination of factors that lead us to produce a cider at Bridge Road Brewers. We expanded into cider primarily to supply the demand through our cellar door/restaurant at the brewery in Beechworth. We experienced more and more customers asking for cider, and decided to go down the path of producing our own.
We are in one of Australia’s best Apple growing regions with our high altitude cool climate sites around Beechworth and Stanley. I might be a bit biased but I believe these orchards produce extremely high quality table apples that leave most of our orchards located in the hotter Riverland’s for dead. I have a background in wine making and viticulture, and see that cider is much more closely aligned with winemaking than brewing. We also have access to a modern and high tech Austrian made apple press located a few minutes away at the home of Beechworth Apple Juice.”

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Real Cider Reviews: With your background in wine making and now a well-known craft beer business, how did this effect the way you make cider?

Ben: “When I decided to make a cider I wanted it to be representative of how we make beer, with a focus on complexity and flavour using traditional methods and as natural as possible. I am not a fan of the type of cider that predominates at pubs around Australia, fizzy mindless goon, sometimes sweet, sometimes dry, mostly unmemorable, basically just like mainstream beer from big brewers.
This meant no concentrates, only 100% juice, no preservatives and allowing fermentation to stop naturally, i.e. dry, and not sweet. To do this with table apples, we found to be a massive challenge, one that continues now even after a few years in. Unfortunately table apples don’t make great cider, and certainly do not provide complex flavours, structure or much tannin. I liken it to trying to make great wine from table grapes such as sultana or red globe varieties, the reality is it aint gunna happen.
We use a traditional English farmhouse cider strain to assist in providing complexity and character to our scrumpy.
Last year we managed to score about 4 tonne of mixed traditional cider apple varieties, which provided us with some of the complexity we desired, the result was a tart cider with complex flavour, tannin and some natural residual sugars. Unfortunately the same orchard was rendered fruitless due to heavy frosts last season.
This year we have compromised and begun using a % of quinces in our cider to provide flavour, tannin structure and also some residual sweetness. The results are promising, but we’re still a way off achieving anything like the great farmhouse ciders of France and England, one day perhaps!? This year we combined the quinces with Pink Lady and Royal Gala.”

Real Cider Reviews: Can we expect any other ciders out of the Bridge Road Brewery any time soon?

Ben: “We have taken 1000litres from this years cider and put it into 2 French cognac barrels that were shipped here full of beer from Norway, we have done this in the hope of adding an extra layer of complexity and character. We should know if our hopes are met in about another 6months.”

The Nose

I poured the bottle of deep, stewed apple coloured cloudy cider into my pint glass. I was a expecting a full on funk feast. Instead it was quite a mild fragrance that had just a little bit of barnyard about it. I think the extra notes here that you don’t normally associate ciders are coming form the quince.

The Taste

The Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider could either be thought of as a work in progress or an inventive drink that has been forced to embrace seasonality. This review can only look at this season’s cider. First up you get this big round and luscious scrumpy taste, almost buttery.  This fades too quickly through the bottle-conditioned bubbles leaving behind an intense bitterness. Its quite a jaggered bitterness makes for a moth puckering finish. Its by no means unpleasant bitterness, maybe this is the fashion with craft beers using strong and unusual varieties hops for bitterness and I’ve just not developed the taste for it yet. When I take a sip the first half of the mouthful is so different to the finish. It’s like two drinks in one. I may have started off a little sceptical but now I’m hoping that this year late winter early spring doesn’t bring heavy frost to the local orchards because this is so close to being a really good cider. A little less quince and a few more traditional cider apples could make this into a top shelf Scrumpy.

Pairing Ideas

Pork and cider, the two are made for each other. I tired the Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider with a pork spaghetti Bolognese. Personally I like a cider with a cheese. So grate a strong Parmesan cheese over the top of your Bolognese. You know the type, the one your know sure if it was aged in an artisanal Italian cave or a teenagers gym bag. The Parmesan mellows the bitterness and the two just click like a metronome. Coming in at 7.3% it’s probably a good idea to pair it with a hearty feed.

Final Thoughts on Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider

Trees need a cold winter to prepare them to fruit; they need sunlight in summer to ripen that fruit. If it is too hot in winter or if you get an unseasonably late frost, that’s it, the years crop gone. For the orchardist that is the years pay check gone. For the cider maker, their plans can be thrown into disarray. This cider has a great base. The up front taste is lovely and buttery; the tannins that are so important to a good cider are powerful. Once matched with equally strong foods the Cider real comes alive. I can’t wait to try this again next year. My fingers are crossed that Jack Frost stays home and lets the apples grow. It’s obvious to me that the taste buds behind Bridge Road Brewers have a clear taste in mind when they created this Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider. I’m excited to watch the evolution of this cider of the next few seasonal. And too answer my first question, yes; beer brewers can make a decent cider.

Product Bridge Road Brewers Strong Scrumpy Cider
Company Bridge Road Brewers
Sweetness Medium Dry
Alc/Vol 7.3%
Website bridgeroadbrewers.com.au
Country of Origin Australia
Region Breechwood, Victoria