Even the most dedicated aficionado of Devon Cider may find themselves wondering from time to time – “cider and beer, what’s the difference?” Some might think the answer is obvious, like comparing apples to oranges, or apples to hops as the case may be. But at Cockeyed cider, our pursuit of both the beautiful and the daring in the creation of our Devon traditional cider and Devon fruit cider means we can never simply take the easiest answer at face value. As we explain in this article, there is far more to this question than first appears.
Back To Basics – What’s Beer And What’s Devon Cider?
As with any of the great philosophical questions, it’s often best to start at the root of the subject and work your way upwards. So let’s begin this journey by covering exactly what is considered as cider in Devon and what is considered a beer.
Beer is one of the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. The history of it’s production dates all the way back to 6000 BC (though we’re sure people have been getting cockeyed responsibly for even longer!). A beer is an alcoholic beverage that is made by the brewing and fermentation of starches, with cereal grains being the most common.
During this brewing process the fermentation of the starch sugars is what produces the ethanol and the carbonation in the beer. Hops are commonly added in modern beers, which adds the bitterness that sets it apart flavorwise from Devon cider.
While it has its own ancient history, Devon cider on the other hand is a much more UK-centric drink of choice. The UK has the highest consumption of cider per capita anywhere in the world, and ciders from the South West (where Devon ciders are made in case you’ve never seen a map!) are usually stronger. Cider is made by fermenting apple juice in a similar process to how you would make wine. However, apple juice contains far less natural sugar, meaning the alcohol content is lower by comparison.
Since apples grow all over the UK, it is common to use local produce in the fermentation process and we ourselves often use local apples in the creation of our Devon ciders.
That straightens out exactly what is beer and what is Devon cider. The key takeaway at this point is that beer is brewed and cider is fermented. You might already have picked up on a few key differences in their ingredients, which is something we’ll be exploring further below. If this small snifter has got you hankering to learn exactly how our Devon craft cider is made, then have a gander at this article for insights on all the magical processes that go on behind the closed doors at our cidery in Devon.
The Different Ingredients In Devon Cider And Beer
As you might have figured out from the section above, both beer and Devon cider use the fermentation of starch sugars to produce their alcohol, but it’s there that the similarities end. Right from the first ingredient they’re already on different tracks.
The base for beer is always starches and, in the vast majority of cases, this is in the form of cereal grains. Malted barley is the most popular grain of choice. Beer is also combined with hops during the brewing process to act as a natural preservative and a stabilising agent. Other ingredients such as other grains, herbs, or even fruits can be added as well to change the flavour. But I thought fruit made it a Devon cider? I hear you ask. Don’t panic. Fruit can be added to beer, but the base is always cereal grains, which sets it apart Devon cider as you will see.
Devon Cider is made from fermented apple juice. No true self-respecting no lies only deliciousness Devon cider would ever have the gumption to list malted grains as one of its ingredients. If Devon cider is at a party then malted grains are the person they hate and will spend all night hiding out in the garden with the smokers to avoid. Not that this means Devon Cider is in any way antisocial. Other fruits are often welcomed into the mix to change up the flavour; like we do with our Bonobo Banana, Monkey Mango and many other Devon Fruit Ciders.
Beer Vs. Devon Cider: Which Is More Alcoholic?
As the doctor said at my last appointment about my weight gain, it all comes down to sugar. Beer ingredients contain naturally fewer sugars and additional sugar will typically be added by a brewer in small quantities to round out the sourness of the brew. However, because this brewing process is integral to beer making, that means every true beer will contain a certain percentage of alcohol.
However, Devon cider is very different. It’s not as common in the UK, but cider can actually come in alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties (perish the thought!) with the key difference being the fermentation process. Alcoholic Devon cider is made by fermenting the natural sugars in the apples to create ethanol, but non-alcoholic cider skips this step. What sets it apart from just being apple juice is the lack of pasteurisation, as well as there being no attempt to filter apple solids out of the liquid.
The important point is that apples are naturally much higher in sugar than cereal grains, which means that while your average beer and cider won’t vary too much in alcohol content, yeast can be allowed to feed on these extra sugars for a more alcoholic drink, as is the case with our Copper Beech strong Devon cider.
The All Important Difference: Taste!
Obviously Devon Cider made at the Cockeyed cidery tastes best, but putting aside personal biases these differences in ingredients and brewing processes do add up to some very different flavour palates.
Devon cider is usually classified into two categories. Dry and Sweet. Dry Devon ciders such as our Mad Jack tend to be, as you might guess, less sweet than sweet ciders. This is because the yeast has been allowed to consume the majority of the cider’s natural sugars, usually resulting in a high alcohol content. These flavours might not only be a little easier on your teeth, but also allows much more of the base apple flavours to shine through.
On the other hand, labelling something as a ‘Sweet Devon Cider’, such as our Cock Bird, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be sticky or sickly. All this term really refers to is that the natural sugars present in the fruits have been preserved by repeatedly racking and straining the yeast during the fermentation process, creating a Devon cider that goes down nice and easy.
Beer can also be divided into two primary groups: Larger and Ale. You might have heard of them. In this case the different terms refer not to the sugar content, but the temperature at which the drink was brewed at. A larger means that the brewing process was conducted at a low temperature, and results in a clean-tasting and crisp flavour. An ale by contrast is the result of brewing conducted at a higher temperature, and tends to have a more robust flavour and a pronounced bitterness in the after taste.
The Much Less Important Difference: Does Devon Cider Have A Different Colour?
For those with more artistic sensibilities, there is also a marked difference in colour between Devon cider and the humble beer. Beer tends to arrive in a vast array of colours, varying from the very pale all the way to the extremely dark depending on the malt used. Ciders however are often yellow, orange or brown, and don’t typically stray outside of this palette.
The cloudiness of the liquid is the truly interesting difference. By and large, beer tends to be a clear drink that you can see right through; whereas cider can be cloudier than your dad’s ‘last one I promise’ barbeque in September. This is because the naturally occurring polyphenols in the ingredients are typically strained out by beer brewers, but are left in by cider makers in Devon.
You might want to remember that these polyphenols also have a surprising effect on the health difference between these two drinks as well. This and more we’ll explore in the next section.
Could Cider From Devon Actually Be Good For You?
We’ve already explored the health benefits of apple cider vinegar in a previous article, but what about the health benefits of our Devon cider itself? An answer in the affirmative might surprise you.
No, we’re not pulling your leg. Here are just a few of the reasons drinking Devon cider might actually be good for you:
- Polyphenols: We mentioned these a moment ago. They’re a plant compound that act as antioxidants which help your body repair cell damage and lower your risk of certain types of cancer such as colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.
- Phytonutrients: The presence of these in Devon apple cider also reduces the oxidation process of bad cholesterol which can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries. A significant cause of heart disease.
- Pectin: Because cider tends not to be filtered, it still contains some of the pectin content of it’s apples. This is a soluble fibre that can help with your digestion.
However, this article isn’t a one man show, and to its credit there are some reported health benefits of beer as well:
- Vitamins & Minerals: Beer contains a number of natural nutrients such as vitamin B, iron, calcium, phosphates, and even protein.
- Heart Health: Studies by the Piedmont Heart Institute have found that moderate consumption of beer may actually be linked with lower rates of cardiovascular diseases.
So having seen all this, maybe this summer when you’re kicking back in the garden enjoying a cider in the Devon sunshine, you can raise your glass without feeling quite so guilty about it. As long as you don’t have too many that is!
Feeling Thirsty? Get In Touch With Cockeyed Cider
If this article has given rise to a familiar tickle in the back of your throat, why not head over to our online cider shop? We offer a range of traditional and fruit Devon ciders to satisfy that particular craving ranging from the studiously traditional to the wildly experimental. If you aren’t quite sure how to choose one to slake your thirst, or want to ask about our delivery options, please contact us on 079261089 or by email at email@example.com. One of our team will be glad to help you.