British scalawags used to scrump the property of their unsuspecting neighbors. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to “scrump” is to “steal (fruit) from an orchard or garden,” which stems from the term scrimp, meaning “withered apple.” Nowadays, scrumpy refers to rustic, unfiltered apple cider that originated in the land of scrumping, primarily Western and Southern England.
Unlike standard cider, scrumpy is made using just apples (historically, ripe windfalls). Traditionally, scrumpy-makers add no extra juice or sweetener, don’t pasteurize the finished product, and bottle it without any of the characteristic carbonation drinkers come to expect from store-bought cider. Commercially available scrumpy usually clocks in around 6 to 9 percent alcohol by volume, but the home-brewed stuff can reach 15 percent.
These farm-based ciders are scrappy in nature, so while scrumping scrimps is no longer a prerequisite, brewers tend to honor scrumpy’s unrefined qualities. Many still prepare scrumpy in small batches, often using scavenged apples, which leads to vast variation and inconsistency between batches. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get enough of one, but find yourself disgusted by the next.