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Low-alcohol cider reviews

Apple on trees in orchard in fall season

Cider drinkers now have more choice than ever before, including a decent number of low-alcohol or alcohol-free ciders.

The big question for cider-makers aiming for the bottom end of ABV range is: can they make a drink that tastes like a decent cider, rather than just apple juice? We decided to find out.

Here they are, in no particular order…so, take you pick!

There’s nothing stronger than 1% here. But if you’re looking for totally alcohol-free drinks, the ciders from Kopparberg and Old Mout are the only ones that can give that guarantee.

Where we could get the information, we’ve also noted how many calories they have. If you need more information on alcohol and calories, you can get it here.

Sheppy’s Classic Low Alcohol Cider

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per bottle: 140 (28 per 100ml)

Score: 5 out of 5

Sheppy ciderDavid Sheppy is the sixth generation of his family to make cider in Somerset – an area that’s well-renowned for its orchards and its long tradition of cider and perry production. These days, Sheppy’s turn out around ten different types of cider on their site near the picture-perfect Bradford-on-Tone in the south-west of the county.

Their first low-alcohol cider was launched in June 2018. Considering the enormous popularity of cider, cider makers seem to have been slow to realise that there might be demand for ciders for drinkers looking to cut back on the units. Sheppy’s have made up for the wait, mind, by bringing us a top-quality 0.5% cider.

Like the rest of their ciders, it comes in a smart bottle with a nice little image of a horse and dray – a subtle nod to the company’s past. At first glance, it looks kind of pale for a cider. But, to be fair, quite a few commercial ciders seem to be coloured with caramel, and there’s none of that sort of stuff in Sheppy’s drinks.

It’s got the aroma of a good cider, and most importantly, it’s got the taste of a great cider. Our taste testers couldn’t quite agree what they liked about it, but they all liked it.  For some, it reminded them of proper farm scrumpy. Others thought it was smoother than that. But everyone agreed, if this was plonked in front of you in the pub, you’d be quite happy to drink it all night.

Five out of five, we say.     

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Old Mout Cherries & Berries

ABV: 0%

Calories per bottle: 190 (38 per 100ml)

Score: 3 out of 5

The story of Old Mout cider began in New Zealand’s Moutere Valley – hence the name – way back in 1947. But it’s only in the last few years that they’ve really taken the UK drinks market by storm, finding their way into pubs and shops across the land. They still trade heavily on their Southern Hemisphere roots, although the cider now seems to be made in by Bulmers in Herefordshire (where many great ciders have been born) and is owned by the Dutch brewers Heineken

This new Cherries & Berries cider sits alongside the Old Mout range of 4% ABV ciders: Strawberry & Pomegranate, Kiwi & Lime, Passionfruit & Apple, and Summer Berries. So, how does this one, at 0%, measure up?

Well, it looks great. The label has warm, deep colours, with some enticing fruit, and a cute kiwi. As for the taste, it’s sweet – very sweet. Although it’s loaded with apples and all sorts of other natural fruit juices, the first two ingredients listed on the can are water and sugar. 

That said, Old Mout’s alcoholic ciders are renowned for their sweetness. If you’re a cider traditionalist, you probably already know you don’t like them. On the other hand, if you’re one of the many people who’ve helped make fruit cider brands such big sellers in the last few years, and you’re looking to drink a bit less alcohol, this new  alcohol-free Cherries & Berries may be perfect for you. We compared alcohol-free Cherries & Berries with the 4% Old Mout cider of the same flavour, and they are very similar drinks.  

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Rekorderlig Premium Strawberry-Lime

Calories per can: 114 (38 per 100ml)

Score: 2 out of 5

Like Kopparberg, Rekorderlig are Swedish and relative newcomers to the cider market. The brewery was founded in 1996 in Vimmerby in the south of the country, a town also famous as the home of the children’s author Astrid Lindgren, creator of the anarchic Pippy Longstocking. Much like Pippy, Rekordelig pride themselves on being very Swedish and “refreshingly different”. So, does this cider stand out?

Having tasted it, we’re not quite sure where to place it. It’s certainly very different to standard strength Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime at 4% ABV, which is a sharp, almost sour drink. This low-alcohol version, on the other hand, is pretty sweet, reminding some of a certain childhood favourite.

So, if you’re a fan of sweet ciders, give it a go. If you normally drink full-strength Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime, you may find it disappointing, which makes us ask whether there’s a gap in the market for a sourer adult-orientated alcohol-free cider? And, if there is, maybe Rekorderlig should be aiming to fill it.

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Waitrose Low-Alcohol Cider

ABV: 1%

Calories per bottle: 160 (32 per 100ml)

Score: 4 out of 5

davPeople have been recommending this one to us for months. So, we thought it was about time we got ourselves over to Waitrose to pick up a few.

This cider hails from Herefordshire, which is generally a good start for a cider. And it’s matured in oak vats, which may explain its lovely caramel colour.

As with many supermarket own-brand drinks, the packaging’s not great, but we didn’t let that put us off. The drink itself looks good and smells like apples (again, generally a good start for a cider).

It’s got a bit of fizz but not too much. It may be a bit sweet for some palates, although not half as sweet as Kopparberg. Overall, it’s as good as most of the big-brand ciders you’ll find on tap or in cans.

So, if you love your cider but are looking to reduce your alcohol, this may be your answer.

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Stowford Press

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per bottle: 89 (27 per 100ml)

Score: 5 out of 5

StowfordHenry Weston and his descendants have been making cider at Much Marcle in Herefordshire since 1880. They’re clearly experts in apples, and these days they create 30 different types of cider on their farm, and export to 40 countries.

Stowford Press LA was launched back in 1994, making Westons low-alcohol pioneers. Possibly because the term “LA” does sound a bit 1990s (anyone for a Tennet’s LA?), the brand was revamped in 2010 as Stowford 0.5%.

The first thing to say about it is that it’s a good cider. It tastes of cider apples. It’s got depth and complexity, and it steers a good middle course between being too sweet (like a lot of commercial ciders) and being mouth-puckeringly sour (like one or two farmyard scrumpies).

At 0.5%, this is not a totally alcohol-free drink, but for anyone who’s looking to cut back (rather than abstain) it’s an excellent choice. No one’s going to mistake it for a traditional 7% or 8% cider, but most of us would never guess it was so low in alcohol.

The smart yellow-and-black packaging closely matches its 4.5% equivalent, avoiding the trap of making a low-alcohol drink look like some poor relation of the “real thing”.

It’s free from artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, and gluten too. It’s also suitable for vegetarians and vegans and is certified kosher. And it’s matured in oak vats, which might explain the lovely colour.

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Morrison’s Low Alcohol Cider

ABV: 1%

Calories per bottle: TBC

Score: 2 out of 5

MorrisonsAs far as we can see, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are the only big grocery stores who’ve ventured into market with their own low-alcohol ciders. So, credit where credit is due.

They next question is: would you want to drink them? In this case, possibly not.

Like most low-alcohol ciders, this one is a mix of cider and apple juice, but they also chucked in some extra sugar. The result is a drink that’s a bit too sweet, as well as being a bit too gassy. It’s refreshing enough when chilled, but we can’t say it’s great cider, sorry.

As with a number of the alcohol-free beers (hello, San Miguel and Sainsbury’s) this cider is also let down by its packaging. When you’ve made a decision to lay off the booze for a bit, it would be nice to have more alcohol-free options that at least look like a treat.

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Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Cider

ABV: 0.9%

Calories per bottle: 150 (30 per 100ml)

Score: 2 out of 5

Sainsburys

Like Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s deserve some credit for being one of only a few supermarkets to offer customers a low-alcohol cider. Since this one is produced for them by Westons, we had high hopes for it.

Sadly, it seems that Westons keep their best cider to sell under their own label, and this one they’ve made for Sainsbury’s is unlikely to knock Stowford Press 0.5% off the top spot.

Like Morrison’s Low Alcohol Cider, this one has added sugar, which was probably a mistake. Maturation in oak vats doesn’t seem to have done a great deal for the colour or the flavour either.

As with so many of the less-appealing alcohol free beers, this cider feels like Hobson’s choice – you’d have if you had to do but you wouldn’t search it out.

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Kopparberg Alcohol-Free Mixed Fruit

ABV: not more than 0.05%

Calories per bottle: 190 (38 per 100ml)

Score: 4 out of 5

Kopparberg FruitStrongbow may still dominate at the pumps, but when it comes to bottles and cans of cider, Kopparberg is king. These Swedish ciders are consistently in the top two or three of the sales charts across pubs and off-licences.

It’s all the more remarkable considering that they’re relative newcomers. It was in 1994, that brothers Peter and Dan-Anders Bronsman got started on their mission to make Swedish cider great again. And they’ve only been exporting to the UK since 2006.

As their makers are the first to admit, Kopparberg ciders are sweet. Very sweet. They don’t look much like cider either. They’re either very pale – almost clear – or various shades of red from the addition of other fruits. Either way, they’re about as far from traditional cider as you can get without actually not being made from apples. If you’re a cider connoisseur (or cider snob, depending on how you look at it), you probably won’t like them very much.

That said, there clearly is a huge demand for sweet, easy-drinking ciders, as the phenomenal rise of Strongbow Dark Fruit shows. If you’re part of this growing trend, then 0% Kopparberg Mixed Fruit may be just the drink for you. Having compared it with its 4% equivalent, we really can’t tell the difference.

So, if you like fruity cider and also like keeping a clear head, go for it! We give it 4 out of 5 for being a great alcohol-free version of what it is.

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Kopparberg Alcohol Free Pear Cider

ABV: not more than 0.05%

Calories per bottle: 210 (42 per 100ml)

Score: 4 out of 5

Koppaberg PearPear cider or “perry”, sits in an interesting place in the world of booze. On the one hand, there’s old-fashioned farmyard perry, produced from very particular pears and a bit of a minority pursuit. Then you’ve got brands like Lambrini and Country Manor that are basically strong pear cider, sold and marketed as wines.

Finally, we’ve got the drinks that actually get called “pear cider”. Of these, Kopparberg is the best-selling worldwide, ahead of major players like Bulmer’s and Mangner’s.

According to the people at Kopparberg, the juices of plump pears are mixed with naturally soft water to make something fruity with the “punch of a strong pear taste”.

As with other Kopparberg ciders, this one is never going to get the votes of cider purists, but should go down well with drinkers who’ve enjoyed the sweeter, easier-drinking ciders that have come onto the market since around 2000.

Just like with Kopparberg Mixed Fruit, we tried the Kopparberg full-strength and alcohol-free pear ciders side-by-side and we couldn’t tell them apart. So, if you’re one the people who helped make Kopparberg’s 4.5% ABV Pear Cider the world’s best-selling pear cider, you’re sorted for alcohol-free drinks.  

Once again, we give it 4 out of 5 for being a great alcohol-free version of a popular drink.

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