As many of you may know, Mike and I have been on a two-week jaunt through the Emerald Isle occasioned by his participation in a golf tournament in County Cork. A visit to Ireland means, for him, plenty of Jameson and Guinness (both of which he enjoyed in ample measure) and for me (really for us both, because he likes it, too) it means enjoying a pint of good Irish hard cider.

I’m not, nor have I ever been, a big beer drinker, chiefly because I don’t even remotely like bitterness in food or drink. I figure natural selection gave me bitter taste receptors to warn me off of poisonous foods, so why tamper with 4 million years of genetic tweaking?

I can drink the maltier, non-hoppy brews (it’s the hops that impart the bitter character so many beer aficianados covet) and have found a very few microbrewery offerings that go down pretty easily over the years. But I’d still rather have something else and figured what with the carbs and calories involved why push myself to drink something that I don’t really enjoy and that can only cause me bariatric pain in the end? So in days gone by, when all around me were into their Black and Tans or their Guinness Stouts or their Firestone Double Barrel Ales at pub gatherings, I’d either opt for a glass of wine (which sometimes leaves you feeling like a bit of an outcast and in many cases isn’t the very best wine you could hope for) or I would painfully nurse a pint of something just to join in with the gang.

Then, about 10 years ago, I discovered hard cider and pub life was forever changed for me.

Now I had something that tasted as good as it looked, brimming golden over the rim of the glass, and that I truly could enjoy. Now, I, too, could order a pint!

And on this two week sojourn that took us from Dublin to Galway to Lahinch to Kinsale to Cork, I did so with (I admit it) pretty much reckless abandon. It was vacation, after all.

Historians tell us that fermented cider, not ale, was the chief alcoholic drink of the American colonies, so there’s even a patriotic connection to ordering a pint of cider to be proud of. Whereas the colonists probably fermented their apple cider in non-airtight containers and so didn’t capture the carbon dioxide released from the fermentation of sugar to alcohol, today’s hard ciders are made much like beers, giving them a lovely bit of sparkle. The result is a delicate beverage with a lightly sweet flavor and an alcohol content somewhere in the 4 to 5% range. Even though a portion of the natural sugar in the apple juice has been converted to alcohol, to be sure there still a bit there and so drinking a pint of cider is, for a low-carber, something of a guilty pleasure.

Drinking a lot of pints is a real dietary vacation!

I’ve long wished that someone would make a ‘light’ cider, so that I could enjoy with less metabolic impact. And, on this trip, I discovered that, at least in Ireland, someone does. Bulmer’s, the prevailing cider brand throughout Ireland, makes a Bulmer’s Light Cider that has only 92 calories and only about 3 or 4 grams (if I remember the label correctly) of residual sugar. It’s sweetened with a blend of sucralose and aceK. We ran across it in a grocery market in Dublin, sold in cans, and I had great hopes that I’d find it in some pubs along the way, but never did. Still, it’s a comfort to know it exists.

Bulmer’s cider has been imported into the US since about 2000, as I understand it, but under the Magner’s name. So far, I’ve only been able to trace the original product and have found no mention of the ‘light’ but it gives me hope that in the future some savvy beverage importer might bring the reduced carb/reduced calorie version to our shores.

If anyone out there knows of a US available light version, please do share with us all!

Until then, I will just have to content myself with the occasional pint of Hardcore on tap at my local Irish pub.


  1. My husband’s family lives in England, so during our annual or bi-annual visits, we always head to a pub at least a few times. I used to enjoy a pint of the thickest darkest wheat beer on tap, but now that I have gone gluten-free, I seek out the driest cider available instead of beer.

    My “sweet” receptors are so sensitive with my LC/low sugar way of eating, that even dry cider is sometimes too sweet for me (& my BG meter sometimes says so too), so I order only a half pint, but also a sparkling mineral water (or club soda, whatever is plain and bubbly), and dilute the cider’s sweetness, like a wine spritzer (remember those?). My concoction raises a few eyebrows, but I’ve never been tossed out of a pub yet. And it just confirms I’m one of those crazy Yanks…

    Comment from MD Eades: A GREAT idea that I will happily join you in. Most of the pleasure and half the carbs!

  2. oh no, you’re downing pints!!! what’s next, drinking Jameson’s and gambling??!!!!!!

    Comment from MD Eades: Too late! We’ve been drinking the J and gambling for years (especially the manly half of the team!) 🙂

  3. Mary Dan – Magners Light does exist:

    If you email them via the ‘contact us’ button, they could point you in the right direction. You have big marketing power here, so it’s worth giving them the link to your blog.


    Comment from MD Eades: Thanks! I will check it out for sure!

  4. Hi there… I love Bulmer’s. I lived for several years just down the road from the Clonmel breweries and it was always a joy to travel the roads around Clonmel that were bordered by their fruit orchards. They’ve recently made a pear cider that is absolutely delightful and a little lighter than the apple cider.
    The name they go under here in the US is not “Manger’s” but “Magner’s”. I’m on my way to Ireland tomorrow for a wedding and will be enjoying cider galore as I’m not a beer drinker either 🙂

    Comment from MD Eades: Oops! If I originally wrote Mangers, it was a typo, and thanks for catching it! I will fix it straight away. Magner’s, indeed, it is.

  5. You mentioned Black and Tan’s, well there’s a drink I encountered at an semi-Irish style pub here in St. Louis that they called a ‘Black Velvet’ (I think it was. They MAY have called it a ‘Black Silk.’)

    A TRUE black velvet is actually Guinness floated over champagne, but this was Guiness floated over hard cider. VERY tasty!

    The ‘Guinness’ half probably has 6-8 grams of carbs, probably another 10-12 from the ‘cider’ half (Maybe a bit more if it’s a sweeter cider). Guinness is fairly smooth, too, with just a hint of bitterness (I’m having one now!), and as it’s ‘floated’ atop the cider, you get a hint of the sweet, sharp, apple flavor with each sip.

    I recommend trying it, especially if you find a place that has hard cider AND Guinness on tap.

    Comment from MD Eades: In some places, I think they call that Guinness/Cider float a Rattlesnake or a Snakebite or something like that. I will have to give it a go sometime.

  6. 9:30 in the morning here in Tennessee, and that picture just got me to pining for a hard cider…I’ll check my World Market here in town today.
    Glad to hear about your trip – hope the tourny went well.

  7. not only is there an apple and pear cider but they also have a berry cider. The pear and berry are produced in response to the popularity of a swedish cider – koppaberg (the berry incidentally contains roughly 8% alcohol)

    enjoy your vacation!

  8. My current favorite apple cider is Crispin, which is dry and has strong apple and honey notes – almost like a cyser – and 12g of carbs per bottle.

  9. Mrs MD,MD…HTG to you and Clan E

    Dunno if you can get where you IS but Rock Creek made in Alberta i think is super duper and as good if not better to my taste than the Bow that is Strong..and i grew up getting caned on the later
    Also has the added bonus of being able to call it Cock Reek !

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