Brother's Strawberry and Pear cider
by Daniel Burt
(Beer Delegate, Manchester, UK)
Brother's Strawberry and Pear Cider. The question is: are those strawberries or pears?
2008. It is a march of progress and the drums beat relentlessly. It seems the sun which set on the England of last night has risen again to greet something else entirely; a nation changed and a nation refreshed.
No longer will we suffer lightly the acrid bitterness of Strongbow, nor the cloying permanence of Magner's cider, no dear reader, England now has a holy triumvirate of cider and the most recent addition, Brother's Strawberry and Pear cider, fast seems to be sweeping the nation.
Now, as I cast a baleful eye over my wardrobe I see shirts that don't quite fit, jeans that have holes in all the wrong places and T-Shirts of long defunct bands (bands that weren't cool at the time and have remained suitably un-cool in the cruel annals of history). My point is that my finger, far from being on the pulse, is generally either picking my various body crevices or perusing Scott Walker B-sides and rarity albums, un-hip stuff like that.
However... in this instance, I'm surfing the new cider zeitgeist, baby!
Now, in the interests of honesty I will wholeheartedly state that I have only tried Brother's Strawberry and Pear flavour (also available are Pear, Apple and Toffee Apple), though my sources, such as they are, tell me that this is the most popular flavour and it certainly has been the most precipitous in my most recent drunken tomfoolery.
The first thing that will strike the intrepid cider connoisseur upon tipping the glass is the unsettlingly neon appearance of the drink. The majority of people have come to expect of their strawberry-based drinks a certain red hue, but this has an almost otherworldly garishness.
Hyperbole aside, this colour in a cider hints ominously of a diabetic level of sweetness and certainly, it is sweet, but it is also moreish. It's literally like drinking a particularly well-measured glass of carbonated Vimto (carbonated Vimto that gets you high!), and really, as far as taste analysis goes, that truly is as apt a description as is required. The persistently sweet taste and bold appearance of Brother's Strawberry and Pear cider might alarm those with sensitive teeth but, if you're worried about dental hygiene on a night out, odds are you're not one of my friends.
Now then, far be it for me to turn my head at a fine real ale but, pragmatism governs my nights out like a slightly tipsy force of benevolence. You simply cannot drink pint after pint of Well's Bombardier in a nightclub whilst maintaining a healthy level of dance-related stupidity, and keeping the necessary energy reserves to talk feverishly and inarticulately to women when you have six or seven pints of ale weighing heavy in your stomach. The logistics just don't add up.
It is grounded in these fundamental truths that Brother's Strawberry and Pear cider has really carved its niche. The sugar of the drink grants you the energy to see you beyond that 1.30am hump and on towards the 4am finish. Also, as a cider, the sugar is, by and large, fruit-based and not chemically added; it's not the angry sort of drunk so obviously apparent in your average Blue W.K.D. drinker and, as the carbonation is the result of a longer fermentation period as opposed to being added artificially, it's not the regurgitant gassy mess it could so easily have become.
I'd label it an alcopop it's OK to like; it could be the new double Vodka and Red Bull; it could even be the new Jager-bomber.*
Being nothing if not a dedicated researcher (wikipedia), I was mildly curious about the fermentation process of Brother's Strawberry and Pear cider. The initial, slightly jolting, saccharin sweetness of the brew hints at some kind of dark alchemy that could only really be achieved by infusing the sickliest of fructose with a half-melted Mars Bar and then combining 4-6 teaspoons of sugar with 4-6 teaspoons of sugar; truly it is a sugary amalgamation.
The Brother's website advised that their Somerset-based pear plantation has regional Ley lines that magnetise the soil and underbrush which stimulates fruit growth. Obviously, at this point, I stopped reading and presumed the brewing process was something somewhat less than a healthy endeavour; pears and strawberries fermented into a sugar apocalypse.
Fair enough; have no illusions, you're in a pub and no-one's getting any thinner, Squire. It's probably better for you than a bottle of Smirnoff Ice.
Now then, earlier I may have somewhat misleadingly inferred an almost arbitrarily spontaneous rise for Brother's cider: It was in fact actually first brewed in 1992 in Somerset, though the brand has been gradually picking up steam for years, making its name at the Glastonbury Festival where it was served from 1995 onwards, culminating with the 2006 and 2007 Glastonbury festivals where they were successfully able to cater to needs of rock festival goers by producing a drink which contains alcohol (festival strength Brother's Strawberry and Pear cide is 7% ABV).
Subsequent is these successes; Brother's is now stocked in numerous supermarkets and off-licenses and crucially, my favourite inner city boozers. So, can 140,000 festival punters be wrong? Well obviously they can yes, but against such insurmountable odds... you try to resist sunshine! You might as well arm wrestle a pneumatic drill, it just won't work, is what I'm trying to say.
*If you don't know what a Jager-Bomber is, I suggest you find out.