Thursday 18 November 2010

Cider report...

This ought to have been called the case of the missing cider maker ‘cos its been ages since I did any ‘blogging’. However, this hasn’t been for lack of activity in the Cider Garage!

My main job, the one that pays the mortgage, has had a couple of important months. Autumn is not just the appling season, its the exhibition season for the bus industry. The company I work for are the largest supplier of software into the UK bus industry and are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. To mark this occasion, a Routemaster which belongs to one of the staff was refurbished and was the centrepiece of the stand at the Eurobus Exhibition at the NEC at the beginning of November. Now, buses are all well and good – I appreciate them but mainly as a means to an end. However, I have to say that by the time I got to the show, I had a fondness for the old bus. And it looked very graceful on the stand (and a great place to hide away when standing up talking to people wore my legs out!

OK, enough of that. What is there to report from the cider front?

Despite early predictions that the apple crop from the Fruitwise Orchards was going to be very poor, the late spell of rain worked wonders and, although things were generally later than they normally are the crop was generous. With the workload I had on in September and October, this delay in collecting fruit was actually pretty good. Another benefit was that the fruit had longer to develop flavours – albeit the sugar levels have not been as high as some have predicted.

One of the predictable things about making cider is that each year is going to be unpredictable! This year, as far as the fruit is concerned, has proven that to me time and time again! Each year of pressing detailed records have been kept about the quantity of apples, potential alcohol and blending; this is mainly for posterity and learning the craft. It also serves to show how the blend should be made up. This year I aim to produce a cider that tastes similar to the 2009 blend – not least of all because lots of people have tried it and liked it. Makes sense, eh?!

Consistency in cider is a myth – especially for craft ciders, but even the larger companies have to play and fiddly with their ingredients to ensure that each and every bottle tastes the same. So, as much as I strive to ensure a consistent product by blending to exact percentages, I know its not going to happen. Why? A good example is the Egremont Russet. Last year there was a glut of it in the cider; not so much was available this year, so it will play a lesser role. Lord Lambourne, however, was a total no show last year whereas there is a good amount in this year.

Tricky innit!

So, I am over 1500 litres of cider so far with another 1.5 tons of fruit left to press. The IBC’s are coming in handy and its been very satisfying to watch them fill up with juice. The pressing kit is getting worked hard and its starting to look like it could do with a rest (and a good service!). Its not that it is not clean, just tired – the reconditioned Goodnature press is coping well although the hydraulic ram needs emptying and refilling with hydraulic fluid. If I can get a chance whilst its raining, I shall get it done.

The exciting thing is that 146 Cider is expanding from its single offering, with a major new blend (well, major being 1000 litres) and another limited blend. There are also going to be a couple of ‘styles’ that I have been playing about with for a while, like a bottle conditioned cider and possibly even a ‘medium dry’!

And thats all I have to say about that... for now:-)

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