Thursday, 24 February 2011

The last of the 2009...

Well, there it goes. The last of the 2009 cider. I have to say, it has kept extremely well (it must be all that money I spent on improving storage... so it has paid its dues then:-)

The fine examples of bag in boxes, as well as 24x500ml bottles are fulfilling the final orders until April, when I unpack the shiny new 146 ciders to see if they are fit for human consumption. Actually, I tried them again today (stubbornly remaining above the racking off line!!) and they are (in my humble opinion) possibly even better than last years. We shall see.

So, if you are near Gosport this weekend, 20 litres will be found at the Gosport Winterfest (click here). 20 litres isn't much - but I am told there is a good selection to choose from... lets hope they aren't all Mr Whiteheads eh (sorry Angus, but it is nice to try others too).

The other 30 litres is now in storage until next month, when they will be winging their way to the Winchester Beer Festival. Don't worry, if the cider garage is still cold enough to stop the 2010 cider finishing its fermentation, then it will keep nicely. This is the first Winchester festival for quite a while, so it is a pleasure to support it (click here).

And what of the bottles? Well, they are heading off to the Oakleaf brewery shop (click here), who have been kind enough to let me 'piggy back' a bottle order so that I have plenty of bottles for conditioning some of this years cider.

There is a little more, but unless you were invited to my 40th birthday party (apple themed, of course) then I am afraid you won't see it.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

1 - 1001, 2 - 1003, 3 - 1012... Jump!

Fermentations are steadily drawing to a conclusion here at the 146 Cider Company. So, if I am going to stand a chance of bottle conditioning some of the cider, then I am going to have a busy weekend.

The Hampshire Heritage has slowed right down now, and is sat at 1001. If last year was any kind of marker, this cider dries out to about 998 (which is nice and dry), so by getting it into the bottles now there should be a nice sparkle to it. Last year it was achieved more by accident than judgement, but there you go. I also want to bottle some as still cider too, but that is a good couple of months away.

It has cleared really nicely and tastes not that disimilar from last years blend... though it is still very young and will definitely benefit from maturing a bit (to drop the acid a touch).

I also want to bottle condition some of the 146 Western too, but that is stubbornly dropping slowly and is 1012 (a drop of about 8 since this time last month!). This is the first year for this blend for me, and I have been worried about having sufficient acid content (it was just slightly less than 10%). However, it tastes very good (if a bit sweet at the moment) and there is definitely some acid in it - so maybe the 146 Eastern blend will not succumb to being an acid blend for the Western cider.

146 Eastern is only going to be a festival special this year. Not a bad way of trying it out as it is distinctly different and much higher in acid than the other two. Its currently 1003, so nearly ready for storage – and this is not a bad thing. Like the other two it has cleared nicely, but will need to settle down a bit before it is a nice pint. Made up from quality desert apples though, I am expecting it to be a light and sharp drink – very nice in the summer!

Bring on the barrel cleaning!!!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fiery Ginger Wine

OK, so I said I would post something actually not connected with cider. So here it is. The 146 Cider adapted recipe for ginger wine. It produces a fairly thick, sweet and fiery wine. Excellent for colds, winter and... well drinking really!

- 8oz Root Ginger (crushed thoroughly)- 2 x Oranges (pith and juice)
- 2 x Lemons (pith and juice)
- 500g raisins (chopped roughly)
- 1 red chilli (chopped and crushed with seeds)

- 2 gallons water (boiled and warm)
- 2kg white cane sugar

- White wine yeast (or general purpose will do)
- Yeast nutrient (optional)

Most ginger wine recipe’s call for the ginger, fruit and raisins to be boiled with the water. Don’t bother doing this, it’s not necessary. Put fruit, ginger, raisins and about half the sugar into a tub. Add the water and stir it all up. If you are like my daughter, watch about 2 hours of telly and keep stirring!

At this point your can check the must with a hydrometer – add more sugar until you are happy with the SG (adding all of it will probably give you something around 16% abv).

Allow the must to stand for about 24 hours before adding the yeast and nutrient. It needs to be about 20 degrees to start it off. This is the aerobic fermentation (open to oxygen) and it needs to be stirred once or twice a day for the next 8 days.

After this time, rack the fermenting fluid into a couple of demijohns (or another container that can be fitted with an airlock). Strain the solids through a clean cloth.

Once the bubbles have ceased, rack it again and let it mature for about 6 months. Then bottle it – drink it – bathe in it... whatever you like.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

February Catch Up...

The headlines:

- Pruning the 146 micro orchard and adding to its small number

- Fermentations – slow and slower

- 7 year old makes ginger wine (with a hint of chilli)

- And finally, don't forget the Gosport Winterfest!

Okay – I should have warned you not to get too excited by it! Well, it is winter after all!

Pruning the 146 micro orchard and adding to its small number

Winter is the time for tree management. This is essential for tons of reasons, for which I am probably not the best reference. Take a look at Stephen Hayes Youtube site to see what I mean. As the trees in the micro orchard are only 3 years old, pruning helps form a decent tree shape – a good form will optimise the amount of fruit a tree bears as well as making future maintenance easier.

At the moment, there are 6 trees in the orchard. These include a high quality desert apple (Ashmeads Kernel) and a very mildly acid cooking apple (James Grieve). These will ultimately form a base for a special ‘limited’ cider that I want to make in a few years. To build on this, there are currently four lesser known cider apple trees; a full bittersharp, two full bittersweets, and a medium and mild bittersweet. My hope is that these rare varieties will bring something extra to the cider that cannot be found elsewhere.

To this, I have a couple of Dabinetts that I want to plant shortly. Many cider makers are happy to make Dabinett single variety cider; and its not bad. However, for my purpose it is a good variety to provide a quality bulk to the blend.

It is also another variety to play around with.

Fermentations – Slow and slower

February is turning out to be warmer than last year, so although the cider got off to a slow start, the fermentation tanks are keeping busy. A friend from the Cider Workshop has a live webcam linked to his tanks, so you can witness in real time the wonders of fermentation! To be honest, cider fermentation is really not that much of an event in itself.

The Hampshire Heritage is just about finished (I am cleaning the storage tanks as I write) and the 146 Eastern is just nudging below 1010 (that will take about 14 days to finish). Only the 146 Western seems to be stubbornly stuck in the 1020’s. This is the batch that concerned me the most when planning the blend of sharp/sweet and bitter – there is less than 10% sharps (as per a traditional west country cider) so it was always going to be the most unpredictable fermentation this year.

7 year old makes ginger wine (with a hint of chilli)

So, its not all cider here! Following a successful batch of ginger wine (which was given mostly as Christmas presents for my daughters nurses and friends) we decided to give it another go. The recipe is simple and (loosely) based on a 1968 recipe in “Home Wine and Beer Making” – although we took some liberties with the recipe to produce something a little more special. I will post separately (although, lets face it, this is a cider website/blog!)

And finally - dont forget the Gosport Winterfest

Order is in and the cider is... well... still sat in storage for the moment. However, the Gosport Winterfest starts on Friday 25th February at the Thorngate Halls in Gosport. See the South East Hampshire CAMRA website for details.