Monday, 31 December 2012

Pressing on...

I have been just a little bit rubbish at keeping this up to date recently. Mostly its been due to the need to press and get this season out of the way. So, to rectify this, I thought I would write a summary of where 146 Cider is at the end of 2012.

Gathering Fruit for 2013 Hampshire Heritage
Bad news first; Wild West and Hampshire Heritage are both sold out. Well, at least they lasted a little longer than last year! You may still be able to get some bottles from some of the outlets (see my website - and there is always the Gosport Winterfest and Winchester Beer Festival where I have saved some of each.

Better is that there is still plenty of Eastern Delight left. I think it was over compensation for having made so little of it for 2011!

Each year, I try to grow the number of outlets a little at a time to ensure supply lasts longer than just a couple of months. As this season closes, I can confirm that the National Trust in Hampshire has selected 146 Cider Co. to supply bottled ciders for their Hampshire houses (well, the gift shops). In addition, I am also talking to another group of historic houses and a posh hotel too... lets see where that takes us!

Production has yet again increased by some 80% and is currently expected to be 6,500 litres for 2013. I say expected as I have yet to finish - with about 1.5 tons of apples to press. This means that there will be plenty of all three blends... plus there is a 4th blend, a variation of a blend and some special bottled ciders all fermenting to be ready for next May/June.

The problem is that the cider garage at 146 Cider has a maximum capacity of about 7,000 litres. So, the lovely people at Fruitwise (where all Hampshire Heritage fruit comes from) are in the process of constructing a new 'cider shed'. I only expect to store things here as opposed to working from it. However, next year it will really come into its own by allowing me a little more time before having to buy or rent a property for 146 Cider.

During this Christmas period, I have used the down time to update the website - updating a few things as well as constructing a new image gallery which now contains photo's from throughout the commercial journey of 146 Cider (and before). My hope is that is adds another layer of transparency about what I do and what is involved in making these drinks.

So, Have a wonderful New Year and I hope you enjoy any ciders that you have to hand! I will do my best to keep this blog going (though it will not be a New Years Resolution... I am not good at keeping those!)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

How much apple would you like in your cider?

Cider friend, Nooks Yard has set up a simple question for cider lovers to answer: how much juice do you think there should be in cider?

The question is straight forward, but think of the implications. The regulations from HMRC state that cider is cider with a juice content of some 35%. The Cider Workshop's mission statement suggests 85% upwards should be regarded as craft/real/traditional cider. CAMRA are a little... well, a lot more vague on the whole.

Anyway - here is the link:

The more responses, the more useful the information may be.

Oh, and its worth noting that 146 Ciders are 98%+ juice (146 sourced and pressed apple juice). Just saying:-)

Monday, 24 September 2012

146 October Events...

OK, I should really keep the 146 diary up to date. Trouble is it has been a hectic year so far - and as I write this I am meant to be milling and pressing but keep having to put it off in order to get the mill working properly (or else I will have to borrow one!) I guess that deserves a separate post at some point!

October is turning out to be one of the busiest cider months since 146 Cider starts - its probably best just to list everything in chronological order... here are the festivals:

Fri 5th - Sat 6th - Ale-ing Beer Festival, Hayling Island.
This is the 3rd year 146 Cider's have been available at this festival - this year it will be Hampshire Heritage and Eastern Delight.

Fri 12th - Sat 13th - The 2nd Portsea Island Beer Festival, Portsmouth.
I guess you could say that this is the replacement of the Portsmouth Beer Festival (which is now sadly defunct). This is the first attendance for 146 Cider to what has been reported as a great and growing festival. Hampshire Heritage and Wild West ordered.

Sat 13th - The 2012 Wickham Beer Festival, Wickham.
This is a bit of a phenomenon - I didn't know Wickham was so popular, but this festival is definitely worth the trip. As far as I understand it, 146 Ciders are the main cider available - and all three (Hampshire Heritage, Wild West and Eastern Delight) should be readily available throughout the event.

Fri 12th - Sat 13th - Woolston Beer Festival, Southampton.
Third year out for this small but perfectly formed beer festival, and you will find Eastern Delight and a medium dry Wild West in attendance. Hampshire Heritage will probably be on standby in case it all gets drunk too quickly:-)

Fri 12th - Sun 14th - Hampshire Octoberfest, Basingstoke.
Probably the largest of the beer festivals in Hampshire - not as large as the awesome Nottingham 'Robin Hood' Festival, all three ciders will be available.

Thurs 10th - Sat 13th - Nottingham Beer Festival.
A massive festival with huge numbers of ciders available from small producers all around the country. Normally I don't send 146 ciders this far, but the cider organiser is a friend so its not one to miss. Hampshire Heritage, Eastern Delight and a medium dry Wild West will be shortly winging their way northwards.

And this is the list of other events for October:

Sat 13th - Orchard event at the Vyne, Basingstoke.
A National Trust property, how could I turn down the chance to sell my cider at an event with the word Orchard in it? I will be taking bottled cider and some small bag in boxes along and would be happy to chat to people.

Sat 20th - South Hants CAMRA Cider Month event - Pressing cider at 146 Cider Co.
As last year, places are limited so if you want to have a go at making next years Eastern Delight or Hampshire Heritage get in touch with CAMRA

Sat 27th - Apple Day Event; King Johns House, Romsey.
Another apple day event and 146 Cider will be available to buy in bottle or small bag in box. If the wind is in the right direction (nb - term of phrase, not a technical cider term) I will bring a press and do some demonstrating... lets see if I can get my old press together (the curse of upscaling is that things become less transportable!)

And that, I think, for the minute, is that.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Label Designs...

Sunday, 1 July 2012

146 Festival Action - July 2012

Another busy month lies ahead, although I am starting to worry that the cider is going to go too fast like last year. I suppose this just means that the growth of the business is meeting demand.

Anyway, events for this month:

Guildford Cricket Club Beer Festival: 6th - 7th July. All three 146 ciders will be in attendance again this year. Guildford and 146 have been together all the way really (both are in their 3rd year and the festival has supported 146 all that time).

The White Horse Fete, Otterbourne: 7th July. A chance to meet 146 Cider (just hope your not disappointed:-) I will be bringing all three ciders along and bottles to take away.

The White Horse Cider Festival, Netley Marsh. 8th July. This is running for most of the week, but I will be bringing a few samples along and be available to talk 'cider' from about 2pm. The White Horse is the newest pub on the 146 Cider books... I should have it on the website soon!

Royal Windsor Racecourse, Windsor: Ronnie Scott Jazz Evening, 16th July. With the cider festival such a success last month, we're doing it all again (but with better music:-) Should be a fun evening!

Of course, the ciders are always available from the regular outlets - which you can find on the website:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Another Southampton win...

Adding to the '146 Hall of Fame' in my dining room, I can now proudly announce that Easter Delight won 'Cider of the Festival' at Southampton Beer Festival 2012. I prepared a press release, which I intended to send off to the local rag (but I haven't found the gumption to do so yet...). Here it is:

Local Producer Celebrates Local Win

Southampton based cider producer, 146 Cider Company, celebrated another win at the CAMRA Southampton Beer Festival over the Jubilee weekend. Eastern Delight, the companies ‘eastern style’ of cider, won the award via public vote during the festival, which featured ciders from Wales, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and the other producers in Hampshire. 

This is the second time 146 Cider has won the award, with it's Hampshire Heritage cider blend winning the title in 2010. Jez Howat, cider maker for 146 Cider, said, “Winning in my home town is always the most important thing I can do as a producer." This award means that all three of the main 146 blends of cider now have accolades, with the companies Wild West Cider winning ‘Highly Commended’ at Bath and West show in 2011.

“Both Eastern Delight and Hampshire Heritage ciders are made using locally sourced apples, so it is an entirely Hampshire drink in both its ingredients and production. I have calculated that the entire food mileage for both drinks is somewhere in the region of 80 miles or so - not untypical for cider, which is an incredibly low input product.”

“Campaign for Real Ale (and cider!!) festivals are important for small scale beer and cider producers as they showcase some of the best drinks available, often with a focus on local products. The Southampton Beer Festival is probably CAMRA’s largest annual beer festival on the south coast, so it’s an important event for 146 Cider.

"I would like to thank all those who voted for Eastern Delight at the festival, and also to those who offered comments to me directly about the cider – this helps to inform me as to what I am doing well and also how I can improve the cider next year.”


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Royal busy weekend...

What with the Diamond Jubilee, building a walled vegetable patch to make growing things more accessible for my daughter and stocking (and restocking) Southampton Beer Festival - not to mention the festivities at The Wonston Arms in Winchester (I may have forgotten to advertise that in advance) - things have been pretty busy over the weekend.

So, now that it's behind us I guess I can reflect on '146 activities'!

Well, lets start off with a nice photo of the Jubilee celebrations around our way. Yep, it was a small gathering on the neighbours driveway, but it was fun none-the-less.

And so on to more cidery things. Well, I failed to score any wins at either the Hereford Museum Competition or Bath and West this year. Not surprising as both had record numbers of entries and the wins went to well known figures in the cider industry. Competitions are a worthwhile activity though - I like to use them as a gauge for the cider; after all, each year is different.

For festivals, well, Southampton and Wonston aside, the next one coming up is the Southampton SUSU bars (thats Students Union to those who don't attend university:-) Its been another local development for me this year and its great to see students challenge my preconceptions and actually enjoy a real cider instead of something 'with berries'!

Sadly, it would appear that the Florence Arms has closed its doors. I am not sure if its temporary or have any idea of the reason for its closure - I will hopefully be able to report back soon on this. I also don't know what it will mean for the Golden Lion in Southwick either as both had the same landlord. In any case I hope that he is well and that this is just a temporary or planned closure for a short time!

And as for the walled veggie patch? Well, its not quite finished - falling victim to yesterdays bad weather. However, peas and pumpkins are planted in tiny pots, so it cannot wait too long!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

New outlet... Romsey Beer Emporium

My failure to control my cider stock last year meant that it didn't quite go as far as I had hoped it would. One of the things I missed out on then was to support (well, supply is probably the more honest word) the new Romsey Beer Emporium.

Well, all that is now corrected and I am very pleased to announce that 146 Cider Co. will be adding this fine shop to the list of outlets to start the 2012 cider season. Initially, they will be selling Hampshire Heritage and Eastern Delight in 500ml bottles - so I encourage any cider drinkers locally to support this shop (if anyone is willing to carry on selling traditional ales and ciders despite this governments best efforts to kill the industry then they deserve all our support!)

I have added them to the list of outlets on the 146 Cider website and lets hope its a growing relationship. They join the other two outlets for bottles of Bitter Virtue and Southwick Brewhouse and now means that 146 Cider can be obtained from the west to the east of Southampton.

Friday, 27 April 2012

New Outlet... The Rockstone

So, although I have increased probuction this year by 80%, I am keen to bring 146 Cider back towards Southampton without increasing distribution outlets too much. One of my regrets of last year is that everything just disappeared too quickly - and that I had allowed distribution to grow where ever it may be found (though I am ever thankful for the support everyone of everyone who has sold 146 ciders).

The Rockstone describes itself as not your typical city centre pub - a warm comfortable place to eat drink and relax, to transport you from the hustle and bustle of the city to a country pub full of conversation, hearty food and fine ales. Not only that, but its a pub that loves it's ciders too!

I am very pleased that a pub in Southampton has started to sell 146 cider. Not only that, but it will be selling all three blends of 146 cider. I have produced some shiny new pump clips and invested in the conversion thingy's and have to say it does all look rather satisfying to say the least.

So, if you want draught Hampshire Heritage, Wild West or Eastern Delight in Southampton, The Rockstone has now become the place to go...

My hope is that this continues throughout the year to become 'the' 146 Cider beacon in Southampton. Going by the feedback I recieved following last years Southampton Beer and Cider Festival, it will be a nice place to point out to people when they ask me where to get hold of my ciders.

As usual, The Rockstone will be added to the outlets page of my website.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

146 Festival action... May 2012

I abysmally failed to acknowledge the first festivals of the year - although both Winchester Beer Festival and the Ellingham RFC Festival (near Ringwood) both sold out... so clearly they didn't need any additional promotion:-) Next year I will advertise them... honest!!

Reading Beer & Cider Festival
So, (hopefully) in date order, 146 ciders will be found at:

Reading Beer and Cider Festival 

(2nd - 6th May) - THE big CAMRA beer and Cider festival in the South... well, excluding the Great British Beer Festival I suppose. It includes the annual cider championships (which this year include a couple of friends... so well worth getting involved with).

The Royal Bath and West Show 

(30th May - 2nd June) - All three main blends will be found on the SWECA cider bar (in the cider tent) at this excellent regional showcase of rural life. Plus, its the chance to see one of the UK's biggest cider competitions too:-)
I will keep each month updated as we go along, although don't forget that Southampton Beer Festival (my favourite and number 1 supporters of 146 Cider since the very beginning) is looming in early June. I plan on spending a little time behind the bar again if I can, but for now, here is the link to their website for your delectation!

Its all happening from 30th May - 2nd June and I will be sure to announce it if/when any 146 is ordered!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ready, Steady...

So its nearly time to start selling cider once again. And I guess its that moment to formally let people know what is in the 146 Cider arsenal this year. Having spent some time racking and bottling (and tasting) the ciders I am happy that all of them are good enough to release - and I am personally very, very pleased with one or two of them.

As a first, I am also gearing up (girding my loins, you might say) to sell Wild West as a medium dry. I know, its not a big step from dry but it is currently all I am prepared to do. To do this I intend to sweeten with sucralose. OK, its an artificial sweetener but I have spent quite a long time procrastinating and investigating what the best method is. Sure, sugar and apple juice are 'more' natural - but the pay off is that you then have to pasteurise to stabilise (and both affect the taste more than you might believe)... Have you ever tried a Westons that tasted of apple juice? Then you will understand the problem.

Aspartame and Saccharin are the other options. These are both much better established. However, they leave a taste and, in the case of aspartame, are not sufficiently stable for my liking. Sucralose is used in sugar free pop drinks and is the main agent in 'splenda'. It is stable and it doesn't compromise the flavour of the cider too much. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to sweetening. Well, there is - get the cider to stop earlier. However, this is much easier said than done without the use of champagne bottles or (again) pasteurisation.

Anyway. Here is the line up for 2012:

The 146 Cider Co. bottled cider range for 2012

Hampshire Heritage – Dry – 7%

The original 146 Cider, this is a blend of 50% desert and 50% cider apples sourced from the Fruitwise Heritage Orchards in Southampton. It has a good tannin and a mild acid this year as I have ceased using Bramley as a sharp. I think it is the best Heritage blend I have produced.
Wild West – Dry or Medium Dry – 6.8%

A western style of cider made from 100% cider fruit (this years coming from Dorset and Somerset). I have increased the amount of bittersharps for this year which means I don’t have to use Bramley to balance it. As a result there is a very good dose of fruity tannin and an underlying acid that doesn’t interfere.
For the first time, I am prepared to offer this as a medium dry cider. No, it doesn’t mean I will sweeten everything, but the tannin in Wild West bears some sweetening without compromising its taste. Any sweetening will be done using ‘Sucralose’ – a non fermentable artificial sweetener which is far less intrusive than aspartame and does not require pasteurisation (as would be needed using sugar or apple juice).
Eastern Delight – Dry – 7.1%

This was the trial of the 2010 season and is now a full part of the 146 Cider line up. Made from 100% quality desert apples sourced from Fruitwise and Hill Farm (both Hampshire Orchards), Eastern Delight is a proper eastern counties cider. By only using desert apples with character (such as Orleans Reinette and several forms of Russet) this cider has a flavour as well as acid. No Bramleys were harmed in its production, which has balanced the flavour better than the trial.

‘Batch '#15’ – Dry – 6.7% – limited to 100 x 500ml bottles only

This is a blend of three varieties of apple, Blenheim Orange, Harry Masters Jersey and Taylors Gold. It was a single pressing where the juice tasted outstanding and was kept back for competition entry. It is similar to Wild West in style, although with more acid notes, and it has a different character to Hampshire Heritage (which has over 25 varieties of apple as opposed to 3). Because Hampshire Heritage is going to be used for some competitions, this can be released on a very limited basis as it contains a different character to the other three ciders.

The three main blends are already ordered for several festivals (I will update the events page of the website and keep the blog up to date regularly). The bottles will start to be delivered early in May... with Batch #15 following once matured fully.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Introducing the future of Bag in Box technology...

Ladies and Gentlemen. For your delictation and endulgance I give you the latest development in Bag in the Box technology..... The Bag in.... ummm, nothing. The BAG (ladies and gentlemen:-)

Should have drawn faces on them... note the bowling ball handle

No, its no illusion. this is a bag. it is standing up all on its own without the aid of mirrors or, well, a box.

Its actually a three litre, triple thickness bag which is literally a carry out. I saw them when doing the usual order for the start of the season and wanted to give them a try to see if they are a good idea. And, owing to the fact that I have a number of South Hants CAMRA people due a small amount of the cyser (honey cider to the oiks) I made but cannot sell without attracting masses of duty, I figured I had an audience to try it on.

Note to said CAMRA people. Could you let me know how you get on with it:-)

What are the benefits? Well, cheap (definitely) and environmentally sound (possibly). Easy to dispose of and even carry (although carry too many and watch the plastic finger holes slice each of your fingers off like a mini guillotine:-).

Why did we ever need a box? The answer to this lies in the use of said bag. The bag is very frustrating to fill and even more hassle to seal after filling. And, although Mr and Mrs (and Ms) Trading Standards expect a full measure, it is very difficult to achieve all of the 3 litres; impossible without spillage and/or divising some contraption to hold the bag upright. Oh, wait... yes. The contraption I eventually used was (wait for it) a box!!!

Full circle.

In conclusion. They are neat - easy to move around but a bugger to fill and seal. I reserve judgement on what they are like to use and how well they store cider. I have a bag made up that I will store for a month or two now... now that is what I call consumer testing:-)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Budgets and Myths...

**As of 8th March, this is updated to more accurately reflect the current duty comparison**

And so we approach budget time once again - the only expectancy we can all have is that things are going to end up more expensive, whilst we're all taxed that little bit more.

And its always at around this time of year that those who would hit cider with extra duty under the guise (or pretence) of 'parity with beer' or 'giving beer a fair deal' crawl out from under their respective stones. I understand the point - beer has been knowcked about and played with by successive governments of late - and cider has seen a bit of a surge in popularity (although I don't think you can put the two things together).

So - first off, can I ask if you really want to know my response to this question? If the answer is no, don't bother reading this post (casting pearls unto swine n'all). I will give you a clue as to where it goes... cider and beer are not the same and should not be treated the same.

Now, I am a duty exempt small scale cider maker. In all common sense I should probably keep my mouth shut and be grateful for what I have (and I suspect there are beer drinkers or politicians who would probably think just that). Under the current exemption, I get to make 7000 litres (70 hectolitres or 70HL) and the moment I make a litre over that I am due to pay full cider duty on all of my production. Small brewers, on the other hand, have a sliding scale of duty, which starts as a 50% discount off beer duty up to a production of about 5,000HL and then gradually diminishes up to about 60,000HL

So why is beer and cider treated differently? Well, its fairly obvious why wine and beer are - they are different drinks - different strengths etc. etc. . However, cider and beer??? Whilst they may be percieved in the UK to be the same, they are not. Not made in the same way, or using the same ingredients, chemicals or processes... etc. etc. Its only in the UK that beer and Cider are sat next to each other in this way, in other european countries, cider is a low alcohol wine as opposed to a super strength beer (though I suspect that doesn't earn as much for the treasury!)

Today I saw a tweet (yep - catch me using high falutin technology... although I am not sure I really understand its purpose!!) from a Tory MP insisting that a brewer would pay 4 times as much in duty as cider of the same strength at 8.5%

What is wrong with that statement?  Well, technically possibly nothing (except for the fact that it is, in practice, wrong). However, apart from the obvious question - how many 8.5% beers do you get?... how many 8.5% ciders for that matter. The answer for cider is NONE. at 8.5%, cider is reclassified as 'made wine' (so Andrew Griffith's comparison is technnically very incorrect - the cider duty at the percentage would exceed the beer duty by about 22%)

The issues with this claim are compounded by the fact that this MP is sat on alcohol related committees... so he should really have a better grasp of things than to publically regurgitate verbatim propaganda from SIBA - who take it as a mission to campaign against cider.

So, assuming that we are daling with an average beer (about 4% vol) and an average cider (about 6.5% vol) - both produced by small producers (or even medium sized producers), the duty calculations are different but comparible: For the beer, the producer will pay (using 50% relief) £9ish per %vol. The cider maker however, once over 70HL will pay the full cider duty at £36ish flat. 

In all, the AVERAGE % beer will pay around 8 or 9% more in duty that an AVERAGE % cider. Not anywhere near the multiples proposed by some quarters! If you then bring into account economies of scale, cost structures, differences in carbon cost/mileage/sustainability etc. then the two are even more fairly balanced. See, not the same at all!

Bear in mind that the brewer at 5,000 hl a year only pays half the national rate of beer duty - so the difference is VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED AND ALSO, below 2.8% ABV, beer duty is REDUCED AGAIN BY HALF SO THAT AT THAT LEVEL BEER DUTY FOR THE SMALL BREWER IS HALF THAT on cider anyway.  

A fair deal for beer (as the politico claimed) does not mean do a bad deal for cider. You will just end up with a bad deal for both beer and cider! Simple parity would see the end of full juice ciders - as producers lowered the alcohol content by watering down (and hence paid less duty). Belgian ciders (and Irish ones too) which are already down to 4% or less would not be affected. The Tories would simply have just killed another traditional part of UK industry... and beer would still not get its fair deal!

One more thing to add (just to complicate things a bit more). In the last couple of years the government have recognised that not all ciders are equal. As a result a new definition was introduced which set the juice content lower limit at 35% Below this, the drink was not classed as cider but effectively as an alcopop. If the goverment are looking to close loopholes for cider, then might I suggest that this is the number to look at. Artisan and craft cider producers in the UK use much higher juice content than 35% (my own labels say 97%+). This is just my opinion and discimination may even ben against EU law, but if Andrew Griffiths wants to entertain himself by looking at cider, this may be the area:-)

Unfortunately, beer and pubs have been a bit of a cash cow for several governments now, which IS bad. Many cider makers (myself included) support the relaxation of the duty excalator to encourage enterprise and growth in this valuable and traditionally British market (i.e. what the government keeps saying it wants). However, unless they understand the differences as well as the similarities they will never make an informed judgement - and hitting cider is not the answer

And that is all I have to say about that!

To sign a petition to call for the scrapping of the beer duty escalator click here

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

41 and counting...

OK - I was 41 on Sunday. So. It happens to most of us and is better than the alternative. But what do you get for a 41 year old that has a passion for apples and who is trying to 'expand' (and having recently given up smoking I do mean that literally as well as figuratively!!).

So here, for your delictation and delight we have the JShip Packing Scales for bag in box filling exactness. To those who also have the 'apple' passion, please avert your eyes now:

I should also say to those customers who have had bag in boxes from me in the past - please don't worry, I always went over the limit for your bag in boxes. Sadly, these new scales means that you will get a bit less 'cos I can now be much more accurate.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Update from the garage of 146...

My word, January and February passed pretty darn quick! Now that we are into March I have finally finished the task of cleaning and cleaning (oh, and cleaning) everything in or even near the cider garage. I am also meant to be racking ciders off to mature. After all, its not been so cold a winter.

Well, having ploughed my way through cleaning the Voran, the kegs (of various sizes), the mill and a variety of tools and 'things' I am generally ready to put the cider into storage. Aha. But the cider isn't ready for me! Not one of them. Hampshrie Heritage is sat at 1.005, Wild West is at 1.005. Eastern Delight, which was the last to be complete in early January is at 1.005. Before storage, I really want to let them reach 1.000; normally they finish at around 0.995.

So. They stay put for now. At least things are clean and ready. The sad part is that until they are ready and mature I have no cider for sale.

On the bright side, I have used the opportunity to have a sly snifter of each and can report that:

Hampshire Heritage - is a fairly deep cider this year with some full tannin in it. The acid is much milder than last year, which is no surprise. More West Country than I had expected it to be, it will be interesting to see how it matures.

Wild West - is much, much better this year. Very rounded tannins and the addition of the bittersharps balances the taste out very nicely. I hope it doesn't get too dry though.

Batch 15 - This is a special competition batch of cider. Guess what? Its still at 1.007 and tastes very juicy (which isn't surprising as it was pressed very late!). However, the balance is just right - there is acid present as well as pretty good tannins too.

Eastern Delight - This is still too youngh to try, although it has progressed well and is down to 1.005. I will report back once I have had a glass to see how it is:-)

So, on the whole everything is looking good. It just has to finish fermenting! And at least the tanks are ready to be filled.

One more thing to note - the first beer festival of the year is the Winchester Beer and Cider Festivel. I was concerned it was going to be too early for me, but I have nicked 20 litres each of Hampshire Heritage and Wild West which now accompany me in my office (which is warmer and will let them finish quicker). So I shall take them to the ball on the 16-17th March...

So, although the cider won't be on general release until May, you will be able to get a sample or two locally... well, maybe at Reading too...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The season is finally over...

This was rather a long season of apple pressing! Still, its all done now and I can sit back and enjoy Christmas - well, that and start to plan some improvements for next year!

Getting the Voran press after the start of the season could have perhaps been better - it took a week to get it into place, and a further week to change the motor to work on non industrial electricity supply. And then the process of learning what it was capeable of and how that would affect the rest of the pressing process had to take place on the job. And it does change rather a lot! I now have to go through my list of modifications, cost them up and make sure they are done before next September.

So, sitting here in the warm (at last) and allowing the aches to recover I can now report that in all there is:

  • 1650 litres - Hampshire Heritage Cider

Fermenting gently in a Rotoplas tank (all together). This year, there were 18 different varieties pressed; 48% cider (mostly bittersweet), 51% desert and 1% sharp. There is no Bramley used at all which should allow the more delicate but fragrant acids in the desert fruit to come through better.

  • 1000 litres - Wild West Cider

 Not quite as much as I had hoped this year, but an IBC full nonetheless! This year I have used a wider variety of cider fruit (last years contained too much heavy tannin from the Chisel Jersey); 76% cider, 10% desert and 14% sharp varieties used. Whilst I am hoping to round off some of the harsher tannins I still want to achieve a fully western style of cider - just the best western style of cider I can produce!

  • 1600 litres - Eastern Delight Cider

This is the experiment from last year - 300 litres of a fully eastern style of cider. I anticipated it being a little less acceptable to customers than the western cider - what with most supermarkets being full of this kind of thing (well, variations on a theme I think!). However, it went down far too well and was almost all sold out within a month.

For the 2011 season, I had to introduce another supplier which came in the form of Hill Farm Orchards (about 10 miles from where I live in Hampshire). These guys supply fruit for the Capella brand of juice and also for the locally acclaimed 'Hill Farm Juice'. In honesty, I simply couldn't increase production for Eastern Delight without it - Fruitwise only have so much fruit available! And so, this year there is a stack of Russets from Hill Farm and a good measure of Cox too.

My aim with Eastern Delight is to demonstrate a high quality full juice Eastern style of cider from properly ripe heritage varieties of fruit. I don't want to use Tesco fruit and I don't want bin ends. Having pressed it I am happy that the quality is still there and am really looking forward to this drink.

  • 65 litres - 'Batch 15' Special Cider

I am not sure how much of this will get out to customers. It was such a good blend of fruit that I had to keep some aside - mainly as a contender for my competition entry of 2012. There is an excellent balance in the three varieties; Blenheim Orange (almost overipe desert apple with lots of sugar and a mild acid), Harry Masters Jersey (moderate bittersweet cider apple) and Taylors Sweet (a sweet cider apple with a really nice character and not much acid). 

Of course, the test is in the tasting once its all fermented, but I reckon that I have been very lucky in the varieties and quality of apples available this year - so lets hope that it results in some cracking cider!