A rainy night in Manchester and yet a slice of sunshine was to be found in the form of the Moss Cider Project’s Cheese and Ciderologist night at Manchester Food and Drink Festival. On entering Albert Square, the Festival Hub looked warm and inviting, with rows of bench style tables laid out ready for us thirsty cider drinkers to descend, and descend we did, as the sold out event was packed to the rafters.

A wide range of ciders were available to buy before the event and we decided to try Moss Cider’s very own pear cider – aptly named Pyder. This was absolutely delicious and we knew then we were in for a treat.

Finding a spot on the benches, we soon got chatting with our neighbours, both of whom had found out about the event through having donated apples to the project. This community feel is the whole ethos behind Moss Cider. That vibe was clearly evident at the event, creating a friendly, relaxed buzz.

Moss Cider is the realised dream of Moss Side resident Dan Hasler, who back in 2010 decided to transform the former Stagecoach bus depot into a cider making haven. Dan’s dream was to become a local cider producer, so he went on a course, acquired a cider press, appealed to the local community for donations of fruit – and the rest is history. Not even Dan was prepared for how much of a success the project would be as the great and good of Manchester raided their gardens for apples and pears, and Dan gave them some of his lovely cider in return. Simple.

He’s currently Manchester’s most sustainable drinks producer and the only cider producer in the city of Manchester (excluding the suburbs), hence the slogan ‘Mancunian to the core’. He’s now aiming to take the project further, by moving into progressive cider making and broadening perceptions of what cider is, which leads us to events such as this. A journey through cider’s weird and wonderful customs from around the world, and some a little closer to home.

The night kicked off with Dan introducing himself and Gabe Cook, aka the Ciderologist of Sunday Brunch fame. What is a Ciderologist, you may well ask? Basically, Gabe is the oracle when it comes it to cider and has made a living out of talking about it. Fair play that man! He is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about cider and talked us through each of the ciders that we were served. First up was a Himalayan cider named Himachal, which was paired with a Paneer curry dish from the guys at Mowgli in the Corn Exchange. The cider certainly had an unusual flavour which really did complement the spiciness of the cheese dish. It was a far cry from any traditional preconceptions of cider I had and personally I really liked it. Of course, that is why we were all there – to broaden our knowledge and open our eyes to a whole new world of cider.

Next up was a Spanish cider, Trabanco, paired with Cabrales blue cheese. Gabe explained that the cider is traditionally still, but that they pour it from a height to give it a bit of fizz. He then gave us a demonstration of how this is done with the bottle held high over your head – apparently the trick is to look straight ahead. Hilarity soon ensued, as Dan and some of us in the crowd took the chance to have a go and, yes, it was as hard as sounds.

Back to tradition with a West Country English style cider, Bushido by Little Pomona in Herefordshire, accompanied by a Pecorino Nero cheese. This was quite a sweet one, and much more what most of us imagine cider to taste like. French style cider came next: Greggs Pit Dabinett and Yarlington Mill 2015 Vintage, Herefordshire, which we learned from Gabe is made using the Normandy method. The cheese for this one was Delice de Cremieres. Gabe simply informed us, “It’s French!” leading to more laughter all round and confirmation that his expertise lies in cider rather than cheese!

For the final course, we were able to try something new from Moss Cider themselves, Hallertau Blanc Dry Hopped Moss Cider. This really was something completely different – a cider made with dry hops. This was accompanied by Thom from Burt’s, which is a cheese washed in Gwatkins cider – yum! The hopped cider was produced in collaboration with Chorlton Brewing Company, renowned for their sour beers and progressive approach to beer making. The perfect partner in crime, as Dan wants to take on this approach to cider making to really push the boundaries and explore new possibilities. He told us how some of the old cider makers aren’t too keen and have a ‘don’t mess with real cider’ attitude, but in Dan’s opinion it can only enhance cider by expanding its breadth and range. Dan wants us all to ‘spread the cider gospel’ and his enthusiasm is infectious. He’s at the forefront of cider making and wants to forge the path, to bring more cider into Manchester, and to really push for the progressive cider movement to take off.

To round off the evening, we were offered a special cocktail – Old Fashioned Apple Pie served with L’Atipique Calvados and a preserved crab apple to replace the cherry. Gwatkins Stoke Red dessert cider was also available.

As a craft beer drinker, I was one of those who dismissed cider as the poor relative, but this event gave me the opportunity to try ciders unlike anything I had tasted before and to see how different, unique and exciting they can be. I for one will be joining Dan, Gabe and other cider enthusiasts in the cider revolution.

themossciderproject.org

Tracey Reeves