Along came a cider: Great artisan producers put Ireland on the apple map

At Dan Kelly’s Cider in Co Louth they do things the hard way, in other words properly

My personal favourite is the Dan Kelly’s Original

My personal favourite is the Dan Kelly’s Original

 

“We don’t use sulphites or cultured yeasts. We don’t add acid, artificial colours, sweeteners or anything else. We simply press the apples and let wild yeasts do their thing. It is the riskiest, most expensive way of doing it, but hey ho, here we are.”

Swap apples for grapes and that could be a quote from one of the many natural winemakers. But I am talking to Olan McNeece of Dan Kelly’s Cider, one of a small group of really good artisan cider producers in this country. 

The cider comes from apples picked on their 80-acre farm near Drogheda, Co Louth. That includes 14,000 trees yielding an average of seven million apples every year. Most of those are sold as apples to various retail outlets around the country. 

“Covid made apple sales go ballistic,” McNeece says. “People were baking at home and it was brilliant and positive and long-lasting I hope; a generation of younger cooks got into baking apple pie with Bramleys.” 

Kelly’s has some delicious offshoots, including two lighter, more refreshing options, the draught cider, and the single variety cider, as well as Coll’s cider and a whiskey cask cider. My personal favourite is the Dan Kelly’s Original, a lovely thirst-quenching cider with bite and real character. 

The French and English see cider as a valid alternative to wine, to be drunk alongside food. McNeece argues that, as well as traditional pairings such as pork, craft cider goes really well with everything from prawns to chicken to lamb curry. So the next time you buy a few bottles of craft beer, why not include one or two Irish craft ciders as well?

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