Category Archives: Cider

Savanna Dry Premium Cider

South African Savanna Dry Premium Cider

I like to think that I discovered Savanna Dry ciders during my time in Botswana, because it would be nice to connect this discovery with my other two discoveries there (the other two being pinotage and Nina). But that is not true. I actually first got exposed to it in 2005, when my ex brought some from a three month stint during her legal training in Stellenbosch…but I digress.

After my return from Botswana, I began looking for sources for it in Germany, and I was lucky. There was a guy who selling it (Germans, you can find his website here)! I admit, it is not cheap, but there hardly is anything like it to get that Southern Africa feeling back into my daily life. So, while Nina and I were living in Germany, we would usually have a box in our house, rationing ourselves in order not to overspend. But for our wedding celebration, we actually bought a couple of boxes to serve while people arrived at the venue…in the spirit of our relationship’s roots.

Here in the US, I have not seen it in stores, and online sellers here seem to be happy to completely overcharge their customers on shipping, so I give that a pass (the insanely high shipping and handling prices here will have to wait for a rant in a seperate post). So, when a friend of mine came to visit us from London this spring and asked what he could bring, I told him Savanna Dry. And he did bring two bottles, big bottles even (500 ml instead of the usual 330 ml)! We had one in the summer, and it was time to have this one the other night…leave aside all the emotional connections with it for me personally, and the first thing you notice is the awesome branding. I LOVE the label and the fact that they bottle it in clear glass, so the cider gives the label its appropriate background.

Savanna Dry is, as the name indicates, a dry cider (the company’s slogan is: “It’s dry but you can drink it.”). The color reminds me of the soft, warm sunlight of an afternoon in southern Africa. Its bubbles are never offensive, and it has this strong and great taste of yellow apples with a bit of tartness, sometimes it even reminds me of biting a bit too deep into the apple and getting the coarser inner bits that surround the kernels, which in this case is not offensive. The company website says it is made from apples in Elgin region in Western Cape province of South Africa. At 5.5% ABV it is just right for warm summer nights, but also when it gets colder. I like to throw in a slice of lemon for just the right punch of acidity and, I swear, I feel like I am back in Bots … where life is so much more pleasantly slow.

If you get a chance to try it, please do so! You can check out their website here.

Savanna Dry cork

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Tandem Ciders Smackintosh Hard Apple Cider

Another cider

I’m really stepping up my cider game here, but I wanted to report briefly on this cider that we had over the weekend. Induced by J.K.’s Scrumpy we had last Thursday night, a friend who crashed with us for a couple of nights decided to buy this 750 ml bottle of Michigan cider and we drank it Sunday.

Tandem Ciders is located in Sutton Bay, MI. For the Smackintosh they use “old school Michigan apples” (whatever this is to mean…), in this case McIntosh apples (you kinda figured with that name), Rhode Island Greening and Northern Spy. The store we bought it at had several other varieties on shelf, but somehow we ended up with this one. At 5% ABV it sounded about right for a summer day.

It poured way lighter in color than the Scrumpy and the texture was also less thick. It tasted pretty yummy, refreshing and a nice amount of not make you burp bubbles. I did not get a “smack” or anything (I guess I expected something like that from a cider called Smackintosh). It was on the sweeter side, but still refreshing, a good drink on a Sunday afternoon.

What I could not get over however was its price. The bottle was sold to us for $12.99 (sic!). In my view, that is an outrageous price for a cider. Cider is supposed to be easy drinking, easy buying summer refreshment. At that price, I can get quite decent wines that provide me with more value than a cider…

So, all in all? Tasted good, glad it was a gift, because I would not pay that amount of money for a cider…

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J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider

Summer is not just wine time for me, it is also cider time. I only developed a soft spot for ciders in my 20s which is kind of curious because I grew up just 40 minutes West of Frankfurt, which is Germany’s cider capital (cider is called “Ebbelwoi” in the dialect of the region). I guess it is the fact that Frankfurt is on the “wrong” side of the Rhine (everything that is on the right bank of the river is considered the wrong side by people who live or grew up on the left bank of the river) that made me never dive into its apple wine culture. I also always loved “Apfelschorle”, which is mixture of apple juice and sparkling water, very refreshing when it is hot. Trier, where I lived for a long time, boasts its own culture of apple wine called “Viez”. Usually drier than the Frankfurt stuff, this mixes well with sparkling water or lemonade…

A friend of ours brought some of this Michigan cider to our place the other night. J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider is a USDA certified organic cider. The bottle claims that the cider is fermented naturally in small artisanal batches from apples harvested at Koan Family Orchards in Flushing, MI. The company boasts its history (since 1860), and states that the recipe is unchanged since the great depression.

The cider was of a honeyish, brown color; quite darker than I know ciders. That was definitely a surprise. The first taste I got was pretty sweet. It gave you a good mouthful of cider, the texture being rather thick. It tasted strongly of yellow apples, with honey notes towards the end.

For my taste, Scrumpy was too sweet and too heavy to be truly refreshing in summer heat. I am just looking for lighter refreshment these days. But I can imagine this one going down much better as the later fall days arrive…and be a really nice drink when the cold Michigan winters reach us.

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