It has been quite enlightening on my hard cider quest, learning how very different these ciders can be. I had expected to find many similarities and only minor differences, but that has not been the case. Though all have an apple flavor, their styles and flavor profiles have been widely divergent. My latest tasting, Magners Irish Cider, was no different.
In 1935, commercial cider production began in Clonmel, Ireland by local man William Magner. He was successful and in 1937, he secured rights from English cider-makers H.P. Bulmer and Company to use the Bulmers brand name in Ireland. In 1949, Mr. Magner withdrew from the business and the Bulmers name became prominent. But, to avoid confusion with the English cider, the cider is sold outside of Ireland as Magners Original Irish Cider. This is Magner's 10th anniversary in the U.S.
The cider is made from 17 different apple varieties including Michellin, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Bulmer's Norman, Tremlett's Bitter, Breakwell Seedling, Taylor's, Harry Master's Jersey, Medaille d'Or, Reine des Pommes, Ashton Bitter, Brambley's, Grenadier, Brown Thorn, Brown Snout, Vilberies and improved Dove. They grow many of their own apples in a 250 acre orchard in Clonmel. They also purchase additional apples, being Ireland's largest buyer of apples. buy some apples from other Irish growers.
The Magners Vat House, where the cider ferments, was commissioned in 1936 and most of the vats, from 2000 to 60,000 gallons, are oak. Many other cider companies do not use oak vats for fermentation. They also use the same presses they have been using for the last fifty years. In addition, they filter their cider while other companies only pasteurize their cider. These differences do affect the taste of the final product.
Magners Irish Cider has 125 calories per 11.2 oz, is 4.5% alcohol and is also 100% gluten free. The taste really pleased me. It has only a light carbonation, which I prefer, and is mostly dry, with only the slightest hint of sweetness. It does not remind me of normal apple cider but has an earthier, richer flavor, which is likely due to the vats. The apple flavors are more subdued, though noticeable, with a bit of bitterness, though not in an unpleasant way. This is definitely the type of hard cider I could drink all day as the flavor profile really appeals to me. I really enjoy its earthier taste, and I think it might pair well with foods that other hard ciders might not.
Something you might not consider, but you could also cook with Magners Irish Cider. Why not? Plenty of people use regular apple cider while cooking, so it is not a big step up to hard cider. I was provided several recipe examples but one stood out to me:
Seared Scallop with Potato and Roasted Quince Cider Sauce
2 large dry scallops-cut in half (scallops which come 8-10 per pound work best)
1 cooked Idaho potato (cut into rings the same size as the scallops)
4 TBL butter
6 oz. Magners cider
1 tomato diced
1 bunch of basil (chopped for chiffonade)
1 Quince (diced)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Core and peel Quince. Sauté in butter until soft. Set aside for sauce.
2. Heat pan until it is very hot. Add a little oil. Season scallops and potatoes with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and scallops and sear.
3. Brown scallops. Flip and remove immediately.
4. Finish browning potatoes on both sides. Remove potatoes.
5. Drain oil. Add shallots and lightly sauté. Add Magners cider and reduce by 1/2. Add diced tomato. Slowly whip in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped basil and roasted Quince. Stir well and remove from heat.
Arrange potatoes and scallops in a circle in the center of the plate, alternating. Spoon sauce on plate around scallops and potatoes (not over the scallops and potatoes). Serve.
Have you tasted Magners Irish Cider? And if so, what were your thoughts?
Disclosure: I received free samples of the Magners Irish Cider.