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!)