Friday 20 November 2009

What’s in 146? [2008 cider]

Due to various business trips and commitments, cider has not been top priority over the last couple of weeks (shock, horror!!) However, this does create the space for reporting on last years cider – which shall hopefully find a home for retail sales as soon as I can get round to organising it!

A significant reason for starting this blog was to allow anyone drinking 146 cider to see where it came from. I guess it’s a part of being honest about where the cider came from… yeah, I know ingredients are included on the label – but “Apples, tiny bit of water and a trace of sulphite” is a bit too simple. I like the idea that people can see photo’s and information about what type of apples went in to the blend. At the scale I am operating at, I can easily do it. We shall see if its something that can continue! So:

146 Cider (Traditional) – 2008 blend

Pressed between September and November 2008 at both 146 Cider and at Fruitwise Orchard. This was blended initially in February 2009 and then finally in September 2009. It was mature in August 2009 and ready for bottling in October 2009.

Desert Apples 30%
Cider Apples 64%
Sharp (Cooking) Apples 6%

Varieties found in 146 Cider:

Ashmeads Kernel
Crimson King
Egremont Russett
Harry Masters Jersey
Kidds Orange Red
Kingston Black
Le Brett
Lord Lambourne
Orleans Reinette
Tom Putts
Tremletts Bitter
Winter King
Yarlington Mill

Sulphite was added (50ppm) prior to fermentation and then (50ppm) prior to maturing.

My hope in providing this information is that drinkers who care a little more about where their beverage comes from will look here to see. In the same way that line fishermen will tag the fish to show that it is humanely caught, 146 cider is produced in a traditional way, using no industrial equipment or additives, and travels no more than 10 miles from orchard to bottle (OK, if you factor in miles for purchase of equipment that total could be doubled…)

If you have tried 146 cider, do let us know what you think.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Pressing all done...

So, the last pressing for the 2009 cider is now done and ‘Stephen’, the #1 Spiedel tank, is bubbling away. So that is that… time to do the maths and the records ad pack everything away. No, it doesn’t mean ‘no more washing, sterilising and cleaning’ as it generally doesn’t at all. However, my target for this year was to double (again) the quantity of juice pressed, and I am happy to report that this has been achieved.

There are a number of reasons for ‘just’ doubling up and not rushing away with and pressing thousands of litres. The main reason is simply that I am not set up to produce lots of cider well. I don’t have the tankage, pressing ability, storage and most importantly the time. By increasing steadily (if you can call doubling up each year steady) things can be bought and introduced in a reasonable way. This year I am have the benefit of 2 Speidel tanks – which have proven themselves already. The Fruit Shark mill has made such light work of producing pomace from apples this year that I know it will do for a number of years to come. The press has come in to its own too this year, with a consistent 6-7 gallons of juice at each pressing taking just under 2 hours to achieve. Harmony, it would seem, has been achieved – shame it can’t last!

So, with 835 litres of juice fermenting, there should be now be much more time to organise things. I need to finish bottling up the 2008 season cider. It is now pretty much fully mature and I need to find a few buyers for it. I am hoping that this won’t be too much of a task – in any case it’s all on a VERY small scale!

Also, the next four months will be taken up by builders and buildings as we extend the house to provide better disabled facilities for my daughter. Not that I begrudge her this at all – it has been too long in coming!

All in all a good season. Time to start thinking about the next one!

Friday 30 October 2009

0 to 146 - the story so far

OK, I admit it. I am proof that Magners drinkers ARE human beings and can go on to actually make real cider! I used to believe that I was a sophisticated cider drinker – well, may be all the marketing money that they spent actually worked a bit eh! No, I wasn’t into ale or beer and although having been to a few festivals, was by no means versed in ‘real’ cider.

The first year of cider making, I made about 50 litres from apples that I either scrounged, scrumped or nabbed from trees that I found at the roadside. The cider was thin, flat, but drinkable. And I had caught the bug and had not made a fool of myself.

A couple of things that you realise as a new cider maker. First, if you have the passion, you never make enough. Secondly, in order to do this, you will realise that the weakest part of the cider making process is the thing that is replaced the following year until you become the weakest part of the process. Oh, and you can never get enough barrels, tubs and things to hold juice/apples/equipment – cider makers are very creative when it comes to what you can use containers for!

One other thing, which is a useful tip for anyone wishing to make cider and improve it, is that having cider making friends is very, very useful. I joined an online community and found a ton of information, as well as a ready source of experienced folk to ask my daft questions. On the whole, I would recommend this to anyone with an interest (which is why there is are links to it all over the blog!)

In my first year, I used a small 6 litre Vigo screw press and a blender. I decided, in order to double the amount I produced the milling needed to be quicker and less complicated. This is the weakest link theory in practice. With a Vigo hand scratter, I doubled the amount to 100 litres in the second year.

In the second year of making cider, a valuable relationship with Fruitwise Heritage Orchards was born. Located near to 146 in Southampton, Fruitwise boast extremely fine fruit for sale at markets (yes, to actually eat and cook with!). 146 has been lucky enough to strike a solid relationship with the owners which will go on for as long as they are allowed to grow whatever apples they wish. If you have tried 146 Cider, the odds are that it will have been made from heritage apples from the Fruitwise orchards. In 2009, 146 has used pretty much all of their windfall or ‘ugly’ apples to produce a heritage cider – a name that will stick to this particular blend as 146 grows.

The second year produced a cider that was technically better, and had more body to it. It seemed to disappear far too quickly, with relatives and friends scoffing the lot (well, we are generous people!). It was still fairly light, but there was a distinct flavour to it – not too West Country, yet more so than a typical Eastern style.

And this has been the blend that we have worked with ever since; a cider that contains both quality cider apples with heritage desert varieties and sharp (cooking) varieties. I often refer to it as the ‘Hampshire’ style… well, there is no real tradition in Hampshire (although there are long standing cider makers that I respect tremendously, such as Barry Topp of New Forest Cider). I would have thought that sitting neatly in between East and West, our style fits rather nicely.

The quantities doubled again to 200 litres in the third year, and again to 405 litres in the fourth, together with a new steel framed ‘Ray’ press, named after Ray Blockley of Torkard cider who laid out the design for it (see weakest link principle in action). The 2008 batch forms our first commercially available cider. This is more Western in style than in previous years – something that we hope to correct with 2009’s pressings. Incidentally, this year we replaced the mill with an electric mill and are currently aiming to produce 800 – 1000 litres.

What are the plans? Well, as a one man band, 146 will continue doubling production year on year until either I fall over or one of the family give in and decide to start helping out. This doubling up of cider gives time to evaluate equipment, play with styles and, most importantly, take my time over doing things. There is no rush to make thousands of litres – the apples will be there next year.

This is a very short version. I haven’t mentioned my micro orchard of ‘obscure’ cider varieties, or the cider ‘garage’. There is so much more to say about the apples that go in to 146 cider… and the people who grow them!

Next time maybe?!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

A new cider blog is born

Welcome to the web blog for 146.

Having made cider in ever increasing quantities over the last 5 years, I have finally taken the decision to start selling some of it (well, couldn’t really drink it all now!!) The idea is to sell it locally via a few outlets (watch this space) and slowly increase quantity each year. So, this blog is a part of the start of this ‘enterprise’ – to produce the best ‘Hampshire style’ cider possible, using craft techniques and as close to 100% apple juice as possible … and sharing this journey through this blog.

One of my passions as a cider maker is to create an honest cider, using good ingredients and good practice. This has helped create a cider that my family love (always the harshest of critics!) and that I am proud of. I have a list of things that I want to put into this blog – images of the press, apples and cider, information about the cider; where it comes from, what goes into it, how its made (etc. etc.) However, one step at a time eh!

So, lets see how this blogging thing pans out.