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[Review] Craft Range Mixed Berry Cider Kit

Started by Shane Phelan, August 13, 2014, 09:25:04 PM

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Shane Phelan

August 13, 2014, 09:25:04 PM Last Edit: August 14, 2014, 12:19:21 AM by LordEoin
HomeBrewWest (relatively) recently launched a new line of kits called "The Craft Range" and they kindly sent me their Craft Range Mixed Berry Kit cider kit to try out. The kit contains the following ingredients:

•   2.2kg Fruit Juice Concentrate
•   1kg Dextrose
•   Craft range sweetener
•   Mixed Berry Flavouring
•   Yeast sachet with nutrient included

Before I start I'm going to point out that I'm not really a cider drinker, I generally find them too sweet and if I was forced to drink I would generally go for the drier variety. What I have been doing though has been to try and find a cider that I could brew that the frustratingly fussy SWIMBO would drink. I went in on the cider buy last year and while it was exciting and tasted great initially it wasn't what the she was looking for. The best approach with the results, which took up one of my kegs for half a year, was to bottle and then mix with apple juice which was tolerable at best for her. When the opportunities to review some cider kits came up I jumped at the chance to try a few different options as I would be brewing one myself and others would bring them to meets which I could also try.

Kits are very straightforward to brew and offer an approachable introduction to the world of brewing to brewers starting out. At the previous capital brewers' brew day we, well mainly Dillan, brewed the kit under the supervision of capital brewers.  ;) You can see Brian in the background taking video and sound recordings for his podcast. I'm not going to go into detail about making the kit as I feel fishjam45 has already done an excellent job here and I see no reason to duplicate it.

After cleaning and sanitising all of the equipment I began heating the water. Given that it was summer and I didn't boil the water that was needed to mix the ingredients, I heated it up to 85degC instead and topped up to 23L with cold water. Despite using water that was 15deg below boiling I was still pitching quite high at 26degC. My advice would be if you feel you must boil the water then add a tray of ice to the mixture while topping up to 23L. This should help keep the temperature in a pitchable range.

The mixture was then left in TOG for 3 weeks to ferment after which half of the brew was bottled and the other half was kegged. The night before bottling I added the flavouring and half of the sachet of sweetener on advice both from HMW and Rossa who pointed out that adding the full sachet makes the cider far too sweet.

I'm trying it now as I type the review and it does taste like mixed berries albeit with a slightly artificial yet inoffensive after-taste. I'm hoping this will mellow out a bit in time. SWIMBO's overview is that is smells and tastes nice. She felt that it smelt and tasted of alcohol which might be true as it was almost 6% by the time it fermented out. I tasted one of the other cider kits as part of this series of reviews and I thought that one was a little bit on the watery side. I had expected the same to be the case, with this kit and was going to recommend putting in a little less water using the same trick used with the wine kits. In this case I don't think that is necessary as I think there is still a decent amount of perceived body despite the low finishing gravity. 

I will see how I get on with this kit but already I have decided that it will probably replace my bulk buy purchases for two reasons. One being flavour, its much sweeter and more pleasant (in an alcopop kind of way) than the slightly harsher apple cider. Two is time, I'm already drinking this kit after 4 weeks, I'm not really motivated to tie up my equipment for months on end for something that SWIMBO is only drinking out of politeness. Overall its a pretty decent kit and I will probably try some of the others in the range once this runs out.
Brew Log


Nice one. It's rare to have a drinkable cider after just 4 weeks. I know I have a batch from juice sitting there since March and I haven't tasted a drop of it yet!
What kind of berry taste is it? like blackcurrant/strawberry/raspberry usual koppaberg style mixed berry type of thing?

Ps: I hope you don't mind, I updated the thread title to show the brand


Brewed this up recently. Going on the Raspberry Lime cider I made from the same range, I had expected to wait three months or so for this to be free from sulphur aromas. However, at only two weeks in the bottle I was pleasantly surprised to find this is pretty much ready to go, aside from quite an artificial aroma which may blend better with time. Dunno where they get their alcohol estimates (4.7%) though - as with the Raspberry Lime, this worked out over 6% in the bottle for me.

Shane Phelan

I still have a couple of these left, I have one every now and again. The flavour hasn't really faded at all, they last really well. It does taste a bit like koppaberg, but not as sweet. I would make it again.
Brew Log


I have one of these kits on the go at the moment!
Remember: The Nationals are just round the corner - time to get brewing

Shane Phelan

Brew Log


Don't think so.

I remember Jacob did the Rasberry/lime at the club brew day (Natioanl HB week) a few years ago, and I think I did a simple cider kit from them, but the auld memory is fading a bit due to Xs EtOH

[Edit] Just checked and it was the Ice Cool Cider Craft Kit I reviewed
Remember: The Nationals are just round the corner - time to get brewing