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.