Magners Irish Cider
Magners Irish Cider is a brand of industrial cider produced in County Tipperary, Ireland by the C&C Group.
Originally William Magner began commercial cider production in Clonmel, South Tipperary in 1935, after he bought an orchard. In 1937 English cider-makers H.P. Bulmer bought 50% of the business which greatly increased production. After the war in 1946, Bulmers acquired the rest of the company and changed the name to "Bulmers Ltd Clonmel". H.P. Bulmer maintained international rights to the Bulmers trade mark, so that any exports were carried out via the parent company rather than directly exported from Ireland.
In the 60s, H.P. Bulmer upset Showerings Ltd of Shepton Mallet when it produced a "Champagne perry" product to compete with their then popular "Babycham" brand. Bulmer's were taken to court and lost. In 1964 they were forced to sell Bulmers Clonmel to Guinness and Allied Breweries, parent company of Showerings. The company name was changed to Showerings (Ireland) Ltd.
Soon after, the company moved its main processing operations to Annerville, 5 kilometres east of Clonmel.
The success of Bulmers cider in Ireland led to the development of the Magners brand to market the company's cider outside of Ireland. Since H.P. Bulmer retained the right to their Bulmers brand worldwide, the C&C Group needed to come up with a new name, hence Magners. The concept was originally developed by Stuart Wootten, who said the growth of Irish pubs meant there was a market for an Irish cider, although many of these themed bars in the UK have now gone out of fashion. The brand was launched in Northern Ireland first and then introduced in London, and later the rest of England, and through into Spain and Bavaria. The launch saw the share price increase and the company struggle to meet demand. H.P. Bulmers market share declined and they relaunched their Bulmers cider in packaging similar to Magners with the idea of it being served over ice.
Today the C&C Group brands Bulmers/Magners is a substantial part of the economic infrastructure of Clonmel.
The cider is apparantly made from 17 varieties of apples, mostly Bramley cooking apples. It is available in 330 ml, pint, litre and 750 ml bottles and 500 ml cans. It is now available across the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.
- "Cidona" - a soft drink in Ireland which was sold to Britvic in 2007.
- "Magners Light - a low calorie version of their cider launched in 2007.
- "Magners Pear" - a "Pear Cider" launched in March 2009.
- "Magners Berry" - a cider fused with blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries launched in February 2010.
Jon S reports: I live about 6 miles from the Magners plant (Bulmers, as it is called in Ireland), so might be able to shed some light, for better or worse.
As of the last time (a couple of years ago) when I was informed about the contents of Magners, they made 80 million litres of cider utilising 25,000 tons of fresh apples; mainly Bramley, and a mixture of cider varieties majoring on Dabinett and, to a lesser extent Michelin. This means that about 25% of each bottle or pint comes from fresh apples, and the remainder from apple juice concentrate, sugar, and water (I reckon about 50% water). (I think that Magners have claimed using 1/3 fresh juice, but I can't verify that or where they get that from). I can also confirm that at any one time they carry a stock of about one years extra supply, so the cider you get is typically aged for more than a year, though mostly in stainless steel rather than oak.
They do have quite a number of big oak vats (I would guess over 500,000 litres each) in their old pressing plant, called Dowd's Lane in Clonmel. A vast amount of fermentation takes place in these vats, despite the fact that the juice is mainly pressed in a newer out of town plant where they have their own orchards and bottling plant.
The reason that so much fermentation is done in the old vats is that they have not been successful in establishing the appropriate yeast cultures in their new pressing plant, and believe it or not, they do not add yeast beyond what is present in the air and on the apples. According to published information (in one of the scientific journals), there are three important yeast strains that act in the fermentation of Magners and the third, a Bretanomyces strain (normally an undesirable I understand), is the one that they cannot successfully get into the new plant. As a consequence, Magners have at least one 20,000 litre truck continuously bringing juice/cider the two miles between the old plant and the new one. The truck(s) collect fresh juice, bring it to the old plant, where it picks up the Bret culture in the pipework and oak tanks, and bring cider back to the new plant. A lot of cider is moved to and forth each day.
I have never been told (or asked), but I suspect that the colour of Magners is natural. Does anyone have any information on whether Bret can impart any colour to cider? It has certainly been of a similar colour since I was young, and I can think of no reason that it would have had colour added in those days. But here's the funny thing about Magners. It is an industrially made "cider" (for want of a better word). However, the formula that they have happened upon was not concocted. They made more or less the same stuff years ago, but it was not popular then. Here in Ireland, with very aggressive (and clever) marketing, they lifted the image from a very low level to that of a premium drink. The price has gone up to match, which presumably means much more profit for the company. And this I suppose answers the other question. Some peeps (here in Ireland it is especially young peeps) will drink any old $*@t, especially when it is marketed aggressively. Not that I think that Magners is any old $*@t. For what's in it, it's quite good, though far too sweet to my taste. Lastly (almost), the word around here is that Magners is looking to buy heaps of apples this season; up to 100,000 tons. Personally, I don't believe that they can process more than 50,000 tons, but even that represents a big increase in volume. And that volume is headed mainly one place, which is to the UK. So you can expect much more big budget marketing of Magners. And lastly, those silkyfox pruning saws really are brilliant.
Apple crushing technology
Around fifteen years ago I spent a short while working in the Tower House office block in Clonmel, which overlooked the loading bay for the Dowd's Lane site. At the time they had an interesting approach to breaking down the apples to a size suitable for pulping. This basically involved a ramp, a pile of apples, and a forklift truck driven repeatedly backwards and forwards. The resulting mush was then scooped off for further processing. This was before the new out-of-town plant was built, so may bear no relation to current practice.