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Tipsy-Turvy

Published: Saturday July 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday July 21, 2014 MYT 4:37:15 PM

The merry perry aka pear cider

Carlsberg Malaysia recently launched the Somersby Pear Cider to complement their increasingly popular apple cider. - SAMUEL ONG / THE STAR

Carlsberg Malaysia recently launched the Somersby Pear Cider to complement their increasingly popular apple cider. - SAMUEL ONG / THE STAR

Our columnist has fruits on his mind as he compares pear and apple ciders.

Cider is not beer. That is the first thing you should know about cider.

Now, I’ve featured a more general view of what cider is in this column a couple years back; so this week, I’ll take a look at ciders that are made with pears.

But first, a recap. Cider is a fermented drink that is made from fruit alone. In fact, it is closer to wine than beer. With beer, the brewer still needs to extract the starch from the raw material, and convert it into sugar that can be turned into alcohol. However, fruits already contain sugar, so after they are crushed, the brewer already has a liquid that can be fermented into alcohol.

While most ciders tend to be made from apples, there are also ciders made from pears and other fruits. In Malaysia, apple cider has been around for some time now, but lately, more and more pear ciders are being launched.

“Historically – it all started with apples. Britain is the biggest cider nation in the world, they had a tradition for apple orchards there,” said Kristian Normark Dahl, master brewer for Carlsberg Malaysia, which brings in Somersby cider.

“Then it started evolving from there. Both apples and pears contain a lot of sugar, so they were both suitable for making an alcoholic drink.”

Traditionally, pear cider was actually called “perry”, and made with specific perry pear varietals that were usually not meant for eating, but rather, grown specifically to make perry.

According to the official website of Britain’s National Association Of Cider Makers (cideruk.com), perry was traditionally made in the “area of the Herefordshire-Gloucestershire border”. The website also states that pear cider has always been small compared to its apple counterpart, making up only about 5.5% of total cider volumes.

While NACM considers the terms “perry” and “pear cider” interchangeable, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which actively promotes the brewing of traditional cask ales and ciders, frowns on the term “pear cider”. On its website (camra.org.uk), it argues that commercial pear cider is not real perry, and that perry should be made by traditional methods from perry pears only, not pear juice concentrate.

Most modern producers, however, have taken to calling it “pear cider” to reach out to modern drinkers who may be familiar with the term “cider” but not “perry”.

Whatever you call it, there is no arguing that with the growth of apple cider, pear ciders are also getting a lot more attention from brewers all over the world, with commercial cider makers such as Somersby, Magners, Gaymers, and Brothers already producing their own pear ciders.

Cider has also been growing in popularity in Europe and Australia. For instance, Somersby is brewed in Sweden, and imported into Malaysia by Carlsberg; while Taps Beer Bar (Facebook.com/tapsbeerbar) carries Gypsy Pear Cider, brewed by 2 Brothers Brewery in Melbourne.

Anyway, other than the fact that one is made from apples and the other from pears, what is the difference between the two?

Recently, I met with Dahl and Carlsberg Malaysia’s marketing director Juliet Yap for a tasting of the recently launched Somersby Pear Cider, and took the opportunity to compare the brand’s two ciders.

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two – even the packaging is almost exactly the same, except for the “Pear Cider” in place of “Apple Cider”. Upon further scrutiny, however, you’ll see that the pear cider is much lighter and paler in colour compared to the golden straw hues of the apple cider.

Taste-wise, there is a distinct difference in sweetness between the two. The apple one definitely tastes more, well, apple-y, but is also noticeably much sweeter than the pear one.

The Somersby Pear Cider has a much more subtle sweetness to it – it’s still sweet, but like a pear, it’s a more refreshing kind of sweetness.

“Some people have told us that they preferred the apple one because it has more ‘kick’ and more apple flavour, while others have said they prefer the pear because it is more subtle and less sweet,” said Yap.

So why would someone choose a pear cider over apple? Well, Dahl reckons that there shouldn’t really be a distinction between the two at all. “In terms of flavour and occasion to drink it, it’s not like choosing between a lager or a stout,” said Dahl. “You can choose a different occasion to drink a lager or a stout, but with pear and apple cider, you can drink either one anytime you want.”

“Yes, the pear actually does taste less sweet than the apple. But with both of them, you get a clean, refreshing, fruity flavour, which you can drink anywhere you want, at any time of the day,” Yap concluded.

> Michael Cheang wonders what an apple and pear cider mixed with orange liqueur would taste like.


Tags / Keywords: cider, perry, Carlsberg, Tipsy-Turvy

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