English cider legend Tom Oliver lends his magic touch to ‘Understood in Motion 03.’
Angry Orchard is, by far, America’s largest cider brand. Meanwhile, Oliver’s Cider and Perry in Herefordshire, England, has garnered global acclaim specifically by focusing on small batch production. These two brands from opposite sides of the pond – and seemingly opposite sides of the cider spectrum – might seem like strange bedfellows, but they recently came together for a limited release cider collaboration built on a mutual respect for the intricacies of making great hard cider.
Understood in Motion 03 is the third iteration of Angry Orchard’s Understood in Motion collaboration series. The project launched two years ago featuring a collaboration with Vermont’s Eden Specialty Ciders, followed last year by a second version produced with Oregon’s E.Z. Orchards.
Though the series has only been around since 2016, however, this latest take actually traces its origins back over six years ago when Ryan Burk first traveled to the U.K. to visit Tom Oliver’s cider house. At the time, Burk, who landed his current post as head cider maker at Angry Orchards in 2015, was still cutting his teeth in the world of professional cidermaking. “Tom Oliver has always been an inspiration to me and to cidermakers around the world,” he told us. “I’ve always admired his approach to cidermaking and we became great friends back when I first started making cider.”
The two quickly began collaborating, including well-received products released by Michigan’s Virtue Cider, where Burk was employed at the time. Then, when Burk made the leap to America’s largest producer, Oliver was happy to follow along. “Overall, this is about apples and people that care about them,” Oliver explained. “Angry Orchard’s continued commitment to the cider industry in America is honorable. I wanted to work with Ryan and Angry Orchard because we share a similar vision about where we source our high-quality fruit from and developing well-balanced, innovative ciders. Our dedication to the industry begins with assuring drinkers that cider is made with apples. Without apples and different varieties, our individual cider styles wouldn’t exist.”
The resulting cider is a fitting expression of both countries’ scenes, demonstrating the funky farmhouse and earthy notes that are a trademark of proper English cider and Oliver’s ciders especially. But Understood in Motion 03 is also informed by modern American small-batch cider making in its sharp, balanced acidity. “Using the same bittewrseet apple grown in our respective countries, Dabinett, blended with two different acidic apples, and using different natural fermentation techniques led to a unique and funky wild cider that we were both extremely proud of,” Burk said.
At the same time, both cidermakers emphasized that this collaboration was about more than just what’s in the bottle. “Collaborations barely exist in cider,” Burk continued. “This is a great way to combine cidermaking techniques and grow awareness among cider drinkers around all of the cool and interesting approaches to cidermaking…. Working with a renowned UK cider maker like Tom Oliver allows for Angry Orchard and this collaboration cider to get people thinking about hard cider in a new light.”
“It’s so wonderful to see American drinkers finally having the opportunity to understand cider,” Oliver added in a very British sort of way. Here’s hoping we get to keep understanding more ciders like this one in the future.