Alcoholic drinks made from fermented pears have a long and noble history. They have been common in England for centuries, especially in the “Three Counties” (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire). However, in the second half of the 20th-century consumption dropped dramatically as changing agricultural practices killed off pear orchards. In this time pear cider (or “perry”) became something of a joke with serious cider drinkers, as products like Babycham and Lambrini gave the drink a bad name.
In 2007 the market experienced an incredible boom with sales jumping by tens of millions of pounds in a couple of years and the likes of Kopperbarg, Bulmers and Magners becoming commonplace in pubs. Purists like CAMRA have strongly criticised the new cider products, even saying that they shouldn’t be called “pear cider” at all.
This criticism is somewhat justified as many of these drinks are not made in the traditional way with fermented pears. Instead, they obtain their alcoholic content by different means and are then flavoured with pear concentrate. It´s not all bad news. Although this hasn’t experienced the high profile of the craft beer phenomenon, small local breweries continue to produce delightful pear ciders using traditional methods. These have the bite and refreshing qualities of a good cider combined with the undefinable sweet, floral, pear aroma. Three I can thoroughly recommend are Oliver´s, the Kent Cider Company and Raglan Cider Mill.