Tuesday 28 December 2010

Ending 2010...

Happy Christmas (belated) and a peaceful New Year to all those who read this blog.

I am sorry to say that apart from any 146 Cider left at the regular outlets, the 2009 season’s cider is now done and dusted. However, do not panic or fear. Supplying cider throughout the year is a problem that better cider makers than I have to deal with, although I only have to think about a couple of pubs and retailers.

The issue is made easier for me by the spacing of the two remaining festivals – the Gosport Winterfest, run by South East Hants CAMRA is on for February 25-26. On March 25-26, the Winchester Beer & Cider Festival is being run by South Hants CAMRA. There ought to be enough to last these two events, but once it’s gone, I cannot supply more. More information will be posted closer to the time; I have been asked to help out and ‘be there’ at Winchester for a session if you’d like to meet me, offer any advice or just try the cider and say ‘hi’.

So there is always something to look forward to... and 2010 seasons cider will be ready by May! A proviso though: if the new cider is rubbish, it won’t be going anywhere!!

The 2010 pressing season itself is all but over now; I am hoping to collect a few more very late quality desert apples but the bulk of the pressing is done. Sad man that I am, I can confirm that I have pressed 3.4 tons of apples of varying sorts (I will post up the varieties and percentages at some point closer to launch as a part of the attempt to be transparent in what I offer.

In all there should (hopefully) be over 2000 litres for 2011 – though not all the traditional ‘146 Cider’. In fact, 146 Cider is changing a little for 2011. No, not the cider itself - the blend used is the same as the 2009 season! However, it would seem that the name itself is a bit confusing (I hadn’t considered that calling the cider ‘146 Cider’ AND the company ‘146 Cider’ would be less than simple!). Also, the supply of, and varieties of apple available to me have allowed 146 to push on with plans to produce the three different styles of cider that I aim to offer as a business. So...

As of 2011, 146 Cider will become ‘146 Cider Company’ (did I hear someone yawn?), and the main blend ‘146 Cider’ (which I would describe as a ‘Hampshire’ style – 50% cider and 50% desert/culinary) will become ‘Hampshire Heritage Cider’ for 2011. That’s all that’s changing... honest! There will be about 400 litres more than this year, so it ought to go further?!

In addition to this, 146 is launching two new blends:

‘146 Western’ is (go on, guess) a West Country style of cider – 90% cider fruit. Its gonna be dryer and more tannic than Hampshire Heritage, but as it has a base of 10% sharp, acidic apples, I suspect it’s going to come out more Somerset than, say, Devon or Herefordshire.

‘146 Eastern’ is the one I didn’t expect to make until next year, but with Fruitwise having some market quality desert fruit going spare it seemed the ideal time to start. This is a blend made up of 100% quality heritage desert varieties of apple – no cider fruit, no sharps. Its proving to be the hardest to start fermenting, and (at the moment) there is only 120 litres of it. So its probably going to be a ‘festival special’ for 2011. Who knows though, if more fruit becomes ‘spare’ for Fruitwise, then there may be a little more to go around.

Talking of fermentations, everything is going well (albeit very slowly in this cold weather). Very little ‘fluff’ to skim off the top, although the pectin cap has been absent totally this year – we shall see what difference this makes to the finished product. I suspect it may be a little dryer in the mouth than last year (although I have resisted temptation to artificially sweeten... and shall continue to for now, thank you very much). By the way, the image above demonstrates an important aspect of planning a cider house, shed or garage - make sure there are more than two electrical sockets! I was using two pumps here, and had to use the lamp instead of the main light in order to do so!!

The final thing to report is that 146 Cider has finally been presented with its 'Cider of the Festival' for the 2010 Southampton Beer Festival. Yeah, done to death I know, but its my first award, so here it is:
Happy New Year to all... see you in 2011:-)

Tuesday 30 November 2010

146 @ The Golden Lion

A new pub to add to the list – well its entirely new, the landlord of existing outlet The Florence Arms has introduced 146 to his other pub in the small village of Southwick near Fareham. This is a trial for the moment, although the cider has gone down well at the ‘Flo’ so I hope this becomes another regular. The cider is available in 500ml bottles.

Southwick is a very pretty village, and the Golden Lion (renowned as the pub that Eisenhower and Montgomery regularly visited during planning for Operation Overlord during WW2 at nearby Southwick House. Out the back is the Southwick Brewery – although now a museum with an extensive real ale/cider shop, all the old brewing kit is on display. Well worth a trip, if just to try 146 in a new setting:-)

Sadly, stocks of the 2009 blend of 146 cider are running low (I will blog the last events I know it will be at shortly – although there should be enough to ensure it is available at the regular outlets until Christmas). This does mean that the Southwick Brewery shop won’t have any stock of 146 until this years supply is ready... but watch this space!

Oh, and just for those real cider-heads. If you can catch the shop owner, Al, he is the guy who ran Swamp Donkey with Angus Whitehead. Nice chap too!

Monday 29 November 2010

Award Presentation...

Event: Cider of the Festival (Southampton 2010) award presentation
Where: The Hop Inn, Wood Mill, Southampton
When: this Thursday at 8.30pm

146 won this accolade at its first Festival at the Southampton Beer Festival earlier this year. With things being busy as ever the presentation has been put off several times.

It may also be one of the last times to try 146 2009 cider, as there is little left - and the rest is reserved for a couple of Festivals and the regular Florence Arms (plus a few bottles for the other regulars).

However, there is hopefully going to be plenty for 2011 - well. 1200 litres anyway (400 litres more than 2009).

Hope to see you there:-)

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:-)

Tuesday 28 September 2010

New apples for old cider...

It would appear that today is a good day for cider apple varieties here in the UK. Over the last 25 years, the NACM (National Association of Cider Makers), together with Liz Copas (Pomologist... that is someone who knows a lot about apples, not someone who reads your fortunes from the pips!) have been growing a number of new varieties. These were whittled down to 29 new types.

So, whats wrong with the old ones? Well, some are pretty hard to grow and very tempramental - round here, Kingston Black and Crimson King are pretty much non starters (although they grow well elsewhere). Others don't yield very well; though I can't think of one at the moment! Dabinett is probably pretty shy on Hampshire soil (well, Durley soil). These new varieties are trying to tackle these problems and produce a well balanced, problem resistant apple that makes great cider.

It has to be said (and Andrew Lea, ex-Long Ashton colleague of Liz Copas has mentioned it a few times on the Cider Workshop), these will almost certainly only be available to fairly large commercial concerns for the time being. However, you only have to look at varieties like 'Bulmers Norman' to see that this will, hopefully, filter down to us mere mortals sooner or later.

There is a great account of this in a Guardian article [click the link to access]

I would love to try cider made from a few of these:

Lizzy; Prince William; Amelia; Amanda; Jenny; Hastings; Connie; Helen's Apple; Three Counties; Jane; Tina; Early Bird; Vicky; Naomi; Nicky; Angela; Gilly; Willy; Joanna; Maggie; Hannah; Jean; Sally; Fiona; Shamrock; Tracey; Eleni; Betty and Debbie

I think Betty is probably my favourite name... although Willy isn't far off:-)

Thursday 23 September 2010

Apple Days...

As well as being the cider making season, its worth remembering that it is the apple season too. Yeah, I know this may seem like the bleedin' obvious, but its a neat way to get on to think about visiting an apple day somewhere.

The best list of apple days around the country can be found on the Common Ground website, which each year gives details of more and more apple day events. An apple day event will generally have a display of apples of various kinds - sometimes focussing on 'local' heritage verieties, as well as selling fruit and juice. Invariably there will be pressing demonstrations, and likely cider ad apple juice on sale too. On the fun side, expect anything from apple bobbing to competitions to peel apples in order to get the longest peel!

New Forest Cider's 'Steam Pressing weekend turns the apple day on its head by concentrating more on the cider side of things - its more like a festival in som respects. As well as a number of groups pressing juice, there are plenty of other traditional crafts being demonstrated... and you can get your cider hot or cold. Truly recommmended!

Although the plan is to attend New Forest Ciders event (as a punter - no 146 on sale there... yet), 146 will be found at the Fruitwise Apple Day, at Durley Village Hall on Saturday 25th September. From a cider point of view, this is still quite early in the pressing season - though I plan to take the kit along and do a demo - please don't hold me to it though! However, thanks to the hall having a licence I can sell a few glasses and folk are welcome to a complimentary taster!

The Fruitwise Apple Day takes place on Saturday 25th September at the Memorial Hall in Durley (SO32 2AR). Full details can be found on their website.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Bletting apples...

I just realised that in my last post I wrote about apple bletting, and put a notation next to it - leading to the belief that I would actually explain myself.

Well, this is marketing Will, but not as we know it. I forgot! So, to put things straight I have a post just about bletting:-)

In my dictionary, it says:

the ripening of fruit, esp. of fruit stored until the desired degree of softness is attained.

...which is pretty good for a dictionary! Bletting is exactly that. Pressing unripe apples is a big fat no no for making cider - the juice is acidic, sufficient starch has not changed to sugar, etc.

Bletted apples, however, are often soft (some insist that they are black before pressing, but I have yet to go that far!) Early apples generally don't blet very well. They don't keep and go mouldy (which is different from going soft!) However, the later cider apples can sit for anything from a week to a month before they are ready to press.

So there you go.

Thursday 16 September 2010

October Festivals...

What I have found this year is that things don't stand still for very long. That isn't to say that it was not unexpected - I would love to say that I have sat back and watched in amazement as orders came in. This hasn't happened without a few late night emails, conversations (as well as a few very early morning/evening deliveries!)

So, as we drift into the Autumn; as apples bletting* pile up (or stack up - as the case may be) and the cider making gets into full swing, two more festivals have decided to serve up a bit of 146 Cider.

Hampshire Octoberfest, Basingstoke

The first for the calender is the Hampshire Octoberfest, on 2nd and 3rd October (well, the name probably gave it away!). Even with a German Oompah band, I struggle to imagine Basingstoke as the next Munich (the host of the 2010 Oktoberfest in Germany) - however, it all looks as though it is going to be a lot of fun. [click here for directions]

There is a lot more information on the Hampshire Council website, although they state:

"This years Hampshire Octoberfest will see a huge variety and quantity of ales and ciders from all the Hampshire Breweries. After last years overwhelming success, there will be more of all of those old favourites such as Bowmans, Irvings and Andwell breweries plus some beers from four new breweries.

The new Hampshire brewers are Botley Brewery, Flack Manor in Romsey, Hensting Brewery in Owslebury, Winchester and the Upham Brewery in Bishops Waltham. It looks likely too that there will be a few new ciders for you to try, including 146 Cider from Southampton."

Woolston Beer Festival, Southampton

Just to prove that us 'Southerners' do actually like beer and cider, South Hants CAMRA have set up a new festival to be held at Woolston (just over the Itchen bridge from the city). [click for location]

The Woolston Beer Festival is on the 8th - 9th October, and should have a small but good selection of ciders on offer including 146. I may even do a stint behind the bar on the Friday (unless the temptation to be a customer becomes too much!!)

Oh, and whilst I am on plugging October festivals, don't forget the Ale-ing Festival on Hayling Island (near Portsmouth) on the 1st and 2nd October!

So, a few more chances to sample 146 Cider for yourself, as well as a few others I'll wager! Given that the government is going to make us all incredibly poor shortly afterwards, I'd get a few jars in whilst you can;-)

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Books, books books

Well, as well as the harvest of apples that has now started there seems to be a harvest coming of the cider book variety too (well, 2 I can immediately think of!).

A few people have asked what I would recommend for people coming to making cider. The first thing I would always suggest is getting involved with an online community like The Cider Workshop... lots of people who are either going through the same thing or have in the past. However, there is nothing like having real paper and pictures to refer to.

The first ‘new’ book out this autumn worth mentioning is a 2nd edition of just the kind of book that is essential for cider makers of all experience. Andrew Lea’s ‘Craft Cider Making’ takes you through the process of turning apples into juice, and juice into cider. It covers the most common faults for cider and gives options for tailoring your cider. And it does all this in a methodical manner with pictures to demonstrate.

For those who appreciate something a little lighter, the Naked Guide to Cider is out next week. This book tries to cover both the cultural and traditional nature of cider, as well as giving a guide on how to make it. Their aim is to encourage anyone and everyone to 'have a go', and catalogue many different cider makers to show the diversity found within the cider making community. Whilst many books of this nature tend to focus just on the South West of England (Ciderland, as it is known), the Naked Guide does at least include other parts of the country, including Wales and the Eastern Counties. You can even read a bit about how 146 Cider started whilst you’re at it...

There are other key books for those interested in cider and cider making. These are just the new ones that I would go out and buy to add to my small but worthy collection (well, maybe not Andrew's book as I already have 2 copies of the first edition. Who knows, they will be worth something one day - apple juice stains n'all!)

Tuesday 31 August 2010

New outlet - The Bugle in Hamble

A pub... in Southampton this time... near where I live too:-)

The Bugle, in Hamble (or Hamble-le-Rice if you really must) is now in the 146 Cider book of outlets as the newest to take us on.

Initially, they will be selling 500ml bottles - an interesting choice, as they are all kind of 'bottle conditioned' in that there should be a sparkle to the cider. Many folk prefer their cider sparkling and as long as there is no mention of ice it should all be good! My hope is that they progress on to a bag in box arrangement - as draught is my preferred choice. But then what do I know, I only make the stuff! (as my mum always used to say about dinner...)

As a place, Hamble is a very lovely village on the edge of the river Itchen with cobbled streets and a very old world feeling to it - smaller but comparable (in my humble opinion) to Lymington. The Bugle fits in to this very well - though I will have to report back on what Real Ales etc. they already serve...

It is also great in that the 'food mileage' of 146 is dipping almost to the single figures for this pub! with a total of about 4 miles from Orchard to 146, its then got to be no more than another 5-6 miles to the pub!

Given that 146 Cider is in its first commercial year, the aim was to keep things small - a couple of pubs, a couple of retail outlets and a few festivals. I am very pleased that this has been achieved within the first 6 months - not at all the places I had figured on, but that is probably a good thing!

As usual, the Bugle is now added to the list of outlets - we shall see if they are a regular!

Sunday 29 August 2010

The Ale-ing Fest 2010

Another festival to add to the diary... the Ale-ing Fest is a beer festival on Hayling Island, near to Portsmouth. Now in its 15th year, it is a relatively small event (well, by some standards) it will feature '24 ales and cider' - though I am not sure what other ciders will be there yet.

This year the Ale-ing Fest is taking place at the Hayling Island Community Centre over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of October 2010. Another opportunity to sample 146 Cider on draught!

Thursday 26 August 2010

Revving up to the new season...

So, the pressing season is nearly upon us!! - I like 146 to capture the whole of the season, so although the early fruit neither contributes a lot to the taste of the cider (early apples tend to be thin and low in sugars) they provide a good starting fermentation to 'share' with the later pressings. Also, because of the dry year we have had so far, I do expect to encounter problems with high sugar levels in the main crop. High sugars mean high abv, and anything about 8.5% is liable for duty at a high level (the cider effectively becomes classed as 'made wine'). So the early fruit may help temper this a bit.

So, the plan this year? The plan is to produce 2-2500 litres of full juice cider. Plus I have a hope to produce a new product too - although Fruitwise has suffered some setbacks with bugs that have lowered the expected crop levels which may affect this. I have no wish to change this blend which I like (and many others do to, as it is proving!), but if needs must...

As I do have a full time job, and ironically one of the busy periods of the year is during the cider season, I don't expect to get much more time to collect and press apples than last year. Pressing for longer, into November and towards Christmas, is the main answer and should also give the apples more time to ripen properly. Don't believe the 'straight from the orchard to the press' rubbish that some advertisers would have you believe! It may work like that for some 'brands' but to craft a full juice cider, the fruit is left to fully ripen first... some Somerset farmers would say its not ready till some are black!

The other tactic has been to buy a second press. Producing volume on your own is all about optimising time - but the tricky bit is not to cut corners in the process! Using two presses in tandem should deliver 300 litres in a full day of pressing, whereas this was 150 litres last year. The other press is a proper, Goodnature press, which uses a manually operated hydraulic ram. Its still a rack and cloth set up, just like the 'Raypress' and it will press roughly the same amount of pomace too. Once it has finished going through its overhaul, that is!

To go along with the planned increase in production, there are now two 1000 litre IBC's embedded at the back of the Cider Garage. These will help blend and mature the cider in bulk with a lot less moving about.

So, thanks to all those who have spent money on 146 cider - its all going back into making more cider and improving practices! All the best:-)

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Wickham Charity Beer Festival

Ever keen to supply local events and get as many people as possible the chance to taste 146, it will next be available at the Wickham Charity Beer Festival on 11th September 2010. Click here for location and details.

It will be sat alongside New Forest Cider and Hecks Morgan, so not a vast choice (but a good choice!!)

This will be the 5th Festival for 146 - 80 litres of the stuff was consumed last weekend at the Guildford Festival! Don't forget that the Pompey Beerex is on this weekend - I may even have a go behind the cider bar on the Friday Evening:-)

Wednesday 28 July 2010

The soul of 146 cider (Part 3 - Orleans Reinette)

The Orleans Reinette. What an apple! This is my number 1 favourite apple for taste. And as such it deserves a big ol’ place in 146 cider. Yup, its a desert apple (although a good sweet one) but it has such a good body to it that I plan on making a gallon or two of it as a single variety this season. Sadly, it won’t be sufficient to sell on (I have to say, why would I subtract a decent apple from the main blend... surely that would weaken the whole thing?)

Orleans Reinette is also a useful apple, falling mid to late October when the cider crop is in full swing. See, a problem with tannin is that it needs a bit of acid to keep it from getting sick. I have other varieties that help with this balance, but the Reinette is a good part of that. Not that I need an excuse to make cider from it really. I think it really helps on a taste level – keeps the cider from being too west country and gives it a quality ‘mouth’ (I say that like I really know what it means!!)

So, what is the Reinette? Well, as you might expect its French. It dates back to the 1700's (breaking the Victorian mould), and is used in the UK mainly as a desert apple. The French, however, use it also for cooking as the flavour is absolutely superb... just something to consider when you are breaking out the Bramleys for the apple pie next. From records, its not a great keeper, although this is not something us cider makers have to worry about too much (sorry, Stephen).

Next time its back to cider varieties – Stephen Hayes mosted favourite (I think... well, at the moment it is), Yarlington Mill. Superb apple – very reliable... a lot of it in 146 Cider!

Saturday 24 July 2010

The soul of 146 cider (Part 2 - Tremletts Bitter)

Apples! Not just apples, but high quality heritage apples! Sorry, already done that!!!

When it comes to cider apples, there is probably none more inedible than the Tremletts Bitter. My friend Stephen Hayes regards it as a condiment – to be used sparingly as it is so bitter and almost no sweet.

It is true that it is full of tannin and not much else. It is the Bramley of the Bittersweet cider apples. It is a small, highly red apple that ripens mid September and can be very shy to give out much juice. However, it turns out at a time when the majority of early fruit is being pressed and provides a ‘tannin injection’ into what would otherwise be a weak part of the blend. Early apples tend not to keep well, and are pretty thin on flavour. However, if you want to get the flavour of the full season, they are an important part of a blend.

Tremletts Bitter, like the Egremont, is a Victorian cider apple identified from the Exe Valley in Devon. Tends towards biannual cropping (though I am fortunate enough to have access to several trees which alternate) but in an on year is a branch breaker. Recently, some producers have started producing a single variety Tremletts cider, which I find a bit odd - on its own, Tremletts would be challenging to say the least! However, if you are reading this with a glass of 146 next to you, and can taste the baseline tannin in the cider, chances are the blended Tremletts will have played a big part in that.

Next time, I shall have a ramble about another desert apple that produces year on year, Orleans Reinette (Yum!)

Wednesday 21 July 2010

146 goes to Guildford...

Just confirmed: 146 Cider will be found at the upcoming Guidlford Cricket Club Beer Festival on Friday, 13th and Saturday, 14th August 2010. [Click to access site]

At the moment, I am not sure what else is on offer at the event, although at each evening session there will be Jazz and during the Saturday afternoon there will be some cricket to watch.

A busy couple of weeks for us - and I am starting to worry that I need to make the stock of cider last for the regulars (once its gone, its gone till this upcoming seasons cider is ready in April/May 2011). However, this activity has inspired me to put a couple of hundred litres aside for regular buyers to help ensure that stocks last longer. This seems to make a lot of sense to me - a festival allocation and a regular outlets allocation... just so long as I am disciplined enough to stick to it!

The Festival is now on the events page.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Congratulations to the Flo!

Well, if I thought things were going well for 146 Cider in 2010, the only pub that it can currently be found has gone and won some awards of its own!

The Florence Arms has won this years Portsmouth CAMRA's Cider Pub of the year, but also the Wessex Regions Cider Pub of the Year too! Nice going Greg.

This is very good news for a pub that prides itself on stocking a wide range of ciders - and hopefully in the not too distant future some ciders from around the world too. I attended the award notification on Saturday, and it is a very well loved pub which tries to reach beyond the regulars by holding poetry readings, plays and events regularly.

Winning the regional title qualifies the Flo as an entrant to the national title. 146 Cider wishes them all the very best in this - there can't be many pubs selling as wide a range as you guys!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Bitter Virtue...

It is a great pleasure to announce that Bitter Virtue, Southamptons specialist real ale and cider retailer, now stock 146 Cider. I have to say I am very happy about it! [click for a location]

It has been a goal of mine to find an outlet who are easy to access and local to me who are willing to act as a retailer for 146 to the general public. I have to say, the Oakleaf Brewery Shop would o doubt also be quite happy to do so (although I haven’t asked them and its a bit further to travel).

Ann and Chris (the owners of Bitter Virtue) are lovely people and care a lot about what they do, and they sell a broad range of real ales as well as cider.

So, from now on you can make requests for cider directly to me through the contacts on this website, or directly to Bitter Virtue. I will fulfil the order to Bitter Virtue and then you can buy directly from them... yes, its a little more obscure than coming directly to me but it is safe and legal, means I don’t get it in the neck for having cars pulling onto our driveway and will give buyers a much larger range of beer and cider to choose from (well, whilst you there n’all).

The outlets page has been updated to include full details.

Good news for 146!

Monday 12 July 2010

The soul of 146 Cider (Part 1 - Egremont Russet)

Apples! Not just apples, but high quality heritage apples! Hampshire apples too no less... Southampton apples even!

I know I keep doing this to death, but really that is what its about – I cannot claim to be the ultimate apple nut (that honour is reserved for Rambling Steve Appleseed) but I do like my apples! This is why I list the varieties that go into the cider... I am proud of them.

What I want to try and do is to document the main varieties that go into 146... give ‘em a write up (so to speak). There are a few regulars that will always appear in a fairly healthy quantity; they determine the baseline taste of the cider. More than once, I have sat with a particular variety of apple in one hand and a glass of 146 in the other. Its not all that helpful (after all, there are over 25 varieties) but I can point you towards the ones you should be able to taste.

Rather than do the whole thing in one go, I thought I would start with my main desert apple (and one of my top 3 apples to eat too...) Egremont Russet.

It is said that you cannot make a bad cider from a russet. I happen to know from experience that you can make a bad cider from any apple! I have also tried making single variety cider from an Egremont Russet too, with interesting results. It is probably marketable but not for me though. I am not particularly an ‘S.V.’ person. However, the Egremont is a singular apple and very under rated. If you are going to do a taste test though, please use a quality Egremont and not one bought from one of the supermarket chains which have more in common with cardboard. You will find it has a rich, almost 'nutty' flavour, with plenty of sweetness and a bit of acid.

The Egremont is an early flowering tree, which is a good annual cropper. Depending on how much the fruit is thinned, they can be absolute whoppers; full of character – both sweet and sharp. They tend to be available in early October too, so right at the point the main cider fruit start to fall. The trees also have the peculiar tendency to flower a second time once the fruit has been picked, which is a nice sight in an all but green orchard.

The Egremont is a Victorian apple, first noted in the early 1870's. Commonly it is used as a desert apple, although in this day and age (where people go for smooth apple skin) its rough skin may put some people off. Just goes to show that appearance is definitely no indicator of character!

Within 146 Cider, you will get sharpness as well as the tannin ‘dryness’, and a residual sweetness (even though the cider is fully fermented). This is, in part, due to the amount of Egremont that goes into the blend.

Next time I get a chance to do this, I shall bang on about one of the main cider varieties, the one that gives almost total tannin/bittersweet bang – Tremletts Bitter.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

How do you like it? Cloudy or clear...

There are different folks for different styles of cider. Some want a cloudy scrumpy; some want a clear and sparkling cider. Some simply refuse to call it cider... preferring cyder or zider. Its all much of a muchness and depends what you’re used to. So, what is 146? Well, its all these things!

If you are drinking 146 from a glass at a festival, or from the Flo, then its likely its come out of a bag in box. This generally means the cider never settles and it will be flat and a little hazy. That is probably the most true that 146 gets to what I intended.

If, however, you have a bottle in front of you then you have options. When 146 is just bottled, it is very much like the bag in box cider. However, over a few weeks (certainly by the time you get it) it has had a chance to settle. This simply means that the remaining yeast will drop to the bottom and leave the cider clear. If it’s left for a few months, it may even develop a bit of a sparkle too. This is also fine – carbon dioxide helps the cider keep for longer.

The fine trace of yeast you see is simply the remnants of a natural process that started last autumn. It’s harmless and, to some, increases the flavour and experience of the cider.

The question is – what to do? If you like your cider clear then simply pour gently off the yeast and leave it in the bottle. If you want it cloudy – well, give it a little shake to ‘wake the drink’ and pour as you like. If you want it sparkling... well, I don’t do requests generally but you may be pleasantly surprised when you come to open the bottle.

Thats the beauty of traditional cider!

Events for 146 Cider

Apart from getting involved in festivals, I have a few other events that are worth mentioning – even tagging on this blog. I have now set up a separate ‘Events’ page, where festivals, markets and special events can be listed. Asides festivals, there won’t be so many of these, as time is ever the enemy. However, its a good chance to meet people and to personally get feedback.

The first, worth a mention as it is happening later this month, is the ‘Dinner at Sunnyfields’ being run by the White Star Tavern in Southampton. This is a meal and opportunity to meet local producers, so its not just a market! There is a cost to attend (please see the event link for details). [Click for location]

146 will be there, selling cider by the bottle (as the event is licenced I am allowed to do this) and offering a taster or two out. Hopefully, the cider will also be available by the glass.

The other event worth noting is the Fruitwise Apple Day at Durley Village Hall on Saturday 25th September (again, details on the events page). The Fruitwise orchards provide the apples that make 146 Cider what it is, so this is an excellent opportunity to ‘get up close and personal’ with the different varieties of apples that go into the cider, try some and even buy a bottle or two. Licencing requirements are being looked into currently, but there is plenty of time to get everything right. [Click for location]

As the Fruitwise Apple Day falls inside the pressing season, I shall be taking my press along with me and giving demonstrations of the fine art of chopping and squishing apples to a pulp!

I will keep everyone informed of any other events 146 will be at this year as they crop up – and even one or two that I will be attending but not selling (the brilliant New Forest Cider Steam Pressing Weekend, for example).

Monday 5 July 2010

Next up... Pompey Beer Festival 2010

Festivals are turning out to be a good way of ‘introducing’ 146 to the world, and having now got 2 under my belt, the next one is another biggy. The Pompey Beer Festival is held at the Guildhall, Portsmouth on 20th and 21st August [click for location].

Whilst this isn’t a CAMRA event in itself, the festival is run on the same scale as the one in Southampton and is well worth a visit. Expect to see a few from Whiteheads – it would seem that this is his home ‘turf’... Looking at the list from last year, there was also a good choice of ciders from many other parts of the UK.

I am hoping to get a pass out to attend the festival too - well, you have to do quality control checks, don't you!

There are a few other events on the go... but more on those when the cider is confirmed!

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Family Fun, Food and Real Ale Festival - Gunwharf Quays Festival

Things are warming up around here... quite literally too. It was good to get down to the Fruitwise orchard yesterday to talk apples, cider and the state of the country with Stephen. The crop is looking good for this year (once again). Such a big part of making 146 Cider is a result of the care and passion that Stephen and Julia have for their orchard, and this shows in the quality of the fruit that comes my way.

Have been bottling (well, bag in boxing) once again. This time for the Beer Festival at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth [click for details]. I understand that there are going to be 6 ciders available there – I suspect that there will be a good amount of Whiteheads too, though I hope that New Forest Cider will be represented.

This is the second festival 146 has been involved in now. With the 20 litre bag in boxes, I am much more happy this time. The cider will keep much better than in a keg, where the air gets in as the first pint is drawn – BiB’s simply collapse as cider is drawn.

The only thing left to sort out for it are the labels! Following a discussion on The Cider Workshop, I need to ensure that the labels comply with the relevant UK regulations. So, from now on will be putting a ‘batch number’ instead of a ‘bottling date’ on the front of the label. Also, the 12 month BBE was too restrictive (I was being over cautious) as cider generally lasts for 2 years plus when bottled well. However, as the bags in bag in boxes are plastic, these need to have a limited shelf life (hence I will only do these to order – just to ensure maximum drinking time).

Its not all fun and games selling cider you know!

Cider of the Festival – CAMRA Southampton Beer & Cider Festival 2010

It makes me very happy to announce that 146 Cider was given the honour of being the ‘Cider of the Festival’ at the recent Southampton Beer & Cider Festival.

This is the first time South Hants CAMRA have awarded this, so I am particularly pleased with the result. As it is nominated by the people who attend the Festival, it is further evidence (to me) that the things are being done properly and that the cider is sellable.

From another point of view, it is also a good result for The Cider Workshop too. As a part of the team that run the Workshop, I can now join the ranks of Ray, Mark and Roy in being producers that are not only commercial, but also have been awarded something for their efforts. I think I may have a little way to go before putting myself on the same level as Mr Gold Award for Service to the Industry Andrew Lea, however. Not a bad line up of people to run a forum though eh!

All the best

Monday 21 June 2010

Outlets for 146 - update

Following a very successful debut at the Southampton Beer Festival, I am very pleased to say that 146 has now going to be available in a pub AND a shop... so you can buy a pint of 146 on draught, and then buy it in a bottle!!

So, who are these people willing to take a punt on a new product? Well, first off, The Florence Arms – possibly the best (if not, certainly one of them) cider house in Hampshire. The ‘Flo’ is a pub in Southsea (click here for a location) which serves rather a lot of cider. They have a whole range of the regulars (Koppaburg, Bulmers, Westons etc.) but also pride themselves on serving full juice ciders too. Whiteheads is readily available, for example... And now 146 is also represented! It will be available on draught (bag in box), so I am very interested to see how it does - and whether it becomes a regular there or just an occasional?!?

And for the shop? Surprisingly its a brewery shop – the Oakleaf Brewing Co. Shop in Gosport to be exact (again, click here for a location). They will be selling 146 in 500ml bottles. Another one to keep an eye on!

So far, home town Southampton is still ‘in the process’. I would like to think that I can get to supply a retailer and a pub here too – not just because its easy to get to, but because I want to have local outlets (and as Southampton and Portsmouth are my 'local' towns so the ideal places to sell it...) – I have no real interest or sufficient cider to go further afield at the moment, with the exception of a few beer festivals I'd like to be involved in. Needless to say, I have created an outlets page, so you can keep tabs on the movement of 146 Cider there.

Happy days!

Friday 18 June 2010

What’s in 146Cider (2009)

As with last years cider (which was never really seen out ‘in public’ although was a perfect gift for builders and friends etc.) I really like the idea that anyone drinking a bottle of 146 can look up what went in to their drink. In a way, I think its encouraging for anyone who wants to have a go at making cider themselves. However, in the commercial environment where producers and manufacturers are so frightened to declare what they use to produce their products us cider makers should be proud of the low food miles, minimal energy, absence of artificial flavours and preservatives and (quite simply) the simplicity of our businesses!

Craft cider is almost entirely made from apple juice. I say almost entirely – there is nearly always some water in there. The process of keeping things clean means rinsing and washing down – and some of this will get into the end product (don’t worry – it’s always clean/boiled water). And then there are sulphites. This is added to clean the juice prior to fermentation (kill any unwanted bugs), and then to protect cider that is in storage. If you have a bottle in front of you, it will say ‘trace’, so the quantity is tiny.

The 2009 season saw an increase in the amount of Bittersweet cider fruit available, and this shows in the finished product. I also used more specific sharp varieties, including some cider sharps. This has given a dual tone to the cider. So (if you are interested in my own tasting notes), I believe that the 2009 146Cider has both tannin and acid – which can both be tasted as being separate from each other in the mouth. I am pleased to say that, once again, the cider is neither west country nor is it Eastern style – something I am keen on maintaining.

So, what is in your pint?

Once again, the entire fruit came from the Fruitwise Orchard. This is a good relationship to have, and my hope is that 146Cider going ‘commercial’ will reward both them as well as 146. I have already documented the pressing previously – although it produced a total of 900 litres of cider.

The 146 blend is made up of the following:
• Desert Fruit – 48%
• Cider Fruit – 44%
• Sharp (Culinary) Fruit – 8%

This came from the following varieties:

• Ashmeads Kernel
• Bramley
• Dabinett
• Egremont Russet
• Harry Masters Jersey
• John Downie Crab
• Kidds Orange Red
• Kingston Black
• Laxtons Epicure
• Le Bret
• Ribston Pippin
• Spartan
• Sunset
• Sturmer Pippin
• Tremletts Bitter
• Winter King
• Yarlington Mill

As this season will be more commercially available than ever before, I do hope that people find this information interesting – after all, making craft cider really is nothing like the latest Magners adverts would have you believe (although the idea of driving a truck through a golf course actually is rather appealing:-)

As ever, any feedback is welcome.


Saturday 5 June 2010

Competitions and Festivals...

OK – first off, an apology. Lots has (and is) happening with 146. However, over all that, the disabled facilities at home have just been completed and, following a forced move for a month due to dust playing havoc with my daughters’ health, I have yet to have any real quality time with my laptop!

The first major thing to announce (although if you’re a member of the Cider Workshop you will already have had me posting about it) 146 came 11th out of 40 dry ciders at the Putley Blossomtime Trials in Herefordshire. As a first shot, this is a good standing – beating a number of already commercial ciders is always a good thing if you want to sell cider:-) It was a pretty great day in actual fact, and I encourage producers to have a go next year – if for nothing other than the fun of talking with other producers.

And the other thing to mention? Southampton Beer (and Cider) Festival. Yep, I should have mentioned this before the event, and did indeed plan to. Oh well. I went along yesterday to give 146 a bit of encouragement, and ended up pretty much trying all other 15 of the ciders on sale. A few were extremely sweet, and really not my preference. However, one or two (the Dan Y Draig Medium Dry, and the New Forest Dry) were really very good indeed. I supplied 10 gallons, although they were (unfortunately) in polypins, which doesn’t do much to protect the cider once opened. However, seeing almost an entire 5 gallon disappear over the course of the evening was very encouraging.

Being naturally paranoid about my baby 146 Cider, I kept asking how it was going down (apologies to any of the bar staff reading this!!!) and the general tone was very good. “Most people love it, some hate it – but they are Magners drinkers”. Hmmm. It would seem I have come a long way. Having started out trying to make cider like Magners (I was a staunch ‘Friday night’ Magners man) it would seem I have learnt something over the last 5 – 6 years then!

I am still aiming to have a retail supplier in Southampton soon. As I am not personally licenced, I can only sell 146 to licenced premises – however, once a retailer has been ‘signed up’, I can always point folk to them for the stuff.