Straighten Up and Fly Right.

Ah, cider.

Yeah, this is is a beer blolg: beer is the love of my life. But cider? Cider is my Mistress. My bit on the side. My sneaky, drunken-5am quickie. My on the D.L. hook-up. My…

Er, not sure where I’m going with this anymore…

Anywho, I love cider, almost as much as I love beer, and if I ever develop Celicas, I’m opening a cidery (or just moving next door to Peckham’s). And recently, the cider world has seen the resurgence of a name we’d almost thought lost for good: Crooked.

For those not in the know, a brief history (with apologies for any factual error I make here. I’m not a journo, I haven’t done research and this is based off what I’ve heard from people in the industry. My own sideline perspective tallies with what I’ve been told):

Once upon a time there was the Three River Cider label, a.k.a. The Cider House Orchard. The only reliable (sorry, I mean easily Google-able) record of this exists in the dark recesses of RateBeer. They went out of business, possibly before I had ever tried them. My theory is that New Zealand wasn’t ready for that sort of cider yet, but there is probably a better explanation. They were bought up and became Crooked. Incidentally, you should definitely check out that website before an actual designer with any sort of competency gets their hands on it.

Would you believe me if I told you the vulture is wearing plate armour and holding an axe just out of frame? Cos it's true.

Would you believe me if I told you the vulture is wearing plate armour and holding an axe just out of frame? Cos it’s true. Source

Now Crooked cider was great: bone dry and full of flavour. It didn’t just taste like fermented apple juice; you could taste the whole damn apple. The flesh, skin, seeds, stalks and all. And it was jam-packed full of weird (delicious) funky-yeast flavours. And it was hazy. Hazy as fuck. In short, Crooked was great.

Ok, so I’m going from memories here. Maybe time has greened those pastures. Crooked was a least interesting. It was authentic, and got me excited at a time when it wasn’t even guaranteed that cider would contain and actual fruit, let alone apples (oh wait, we still live in that time).

Now you can probably tell what comes next in the story: the Vulture went the way of the Dodo. Without putting too finer point on the matter (or talking too much shit about people in the industry), Crooked was mismanaged into the ground. But there was always rumours that Crooked was coming back. And finally rumours coalesced into bottles on shelves. Bottles which it took me about a month or so to recognise, because they now look like this:

IMG_20140319_210200

I detect the hoofprints of a Graphic Designer. It’s generic, but at least it’s dynamic. Definitely an improvement anyway.

So straight away, you’ll notice that it’s crystal clear. Crystal clear as fuck. That’s ok, many great ciders are filtered and fined. The back of the label is a little more ominous:

IMG_20140319_233027

Again, I detect the hoof-prints of a marketing person.

It says a hell of a lot, without telling you anything at all. Whatever. How does it taste?

Um, you know when an old band gets back together, but half of the members have changed, and it’s alright, but it’s just not the same? Yeah, pretty much that.

Yeah it’s dry, but not like the old Crooked. If old Crooked cut like a scalpel, then new Crooked is more of a bread knife. It’s lost it’s skin-and-stalks flavour too; it just tastes like apples now. And it’s clean; too clean. Gone is the yeasty-funky-barnyard character. In short it’s lost pretty much everything that made it Crooked.

But wait just a moment! You know how I said the label doesn’t really tell you anything? Actually it does: “100% NZ Hawkes Bay Apples”, with a little map showing you exactly where the Hawkes Bay is in New Zealand? But the old Crooked Cidery (and most importantly the orchard which grew their amazing cider apples) was in the Wairarapa!

Suddenly all is clear. This is a revival of Crooked in name only. The bottle also lists a business address in Wellington. This cider is probably made under contract in the Hawkes Bay, from apples grown in that region.

Now that’s kind of disappointing, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad cider. It’s made with real apples and it’s not back-sweetened into oblivion. It’s just hell of a lot shallower than it used to be. It’s gone mainstream. But new Crooked is definitely a lot better than the overly sweetened products of the corporate breweries. And I’d take it any day of the week over Rekorderlig. And if you take anything away from this, I guess it should be that.