Monday 28 March 2011

Introducing the 2010 range...

The 2010 season cider is currently being bottled, stored and checked to make sure it has really finished fermenting!. So its about time to introduce the new range for 2010. There are three very different ciders this year. They are:
  • Hampshire Heritage Cider
  • Wild West Cider
  • Eastern Pomace Cider
The names have changes a few times over the last couple of months - starting with just '146 East and West' and developing to their current state. I guess the proof is in the feedback from punters!

Hampshire Heritage is the same blend as the 146 Cider from last year. This season, however, there were a lot less Egremont Russett available, and a lot more Laxtons Epicure and Lord Lambourne. Egremont is a very distinctive apple which comes through in a cider - Laxtons and Lambourne are a lot sweeter and have less charisma. So it is no surprise that this has allowed the cider fruit to appear a little more robustly in the flavour. There is a good measure of acid too, although quite in the same way as last year.

I will publish a list of the varieties used and general percentages soon, but for now its roughly a 50% cider, 40% desert, 10% sharp blend of about 20 varieties of apple. As usual, all this fruit came from the Fruitwise orchards, giving it a food mileage (orchard to bottle) of approximately 10 miles.

Wild West is the first new cider I wanted to try. And I am very glad I have. Made from 5 varieties of cider fruit, it has a slight emphasis of the bittersweet, Chisel Jersey, backed up very solidly with Yarlington Mill and sweetened with Sweet Alford. This fruit came a little further, from the Bridport area of Dorset... so a few more food miles to report.

Its a fruity cider, backed up with a good measure of tannin and a tiny amount of acid whose job is mostly to help preserve the cider rather than impact the taste. Again, more detail will follow but its about 90% cider and 10% sharp.

Eastern Delight is a fairly limited eastern counties style cider. No cider fruit used at all, just well stored and prime desert apples from the Fruitwise orchards. These were generally picked by Fruitwise for market and then rejected as either too small, knobbly, or over ripe. In all honesty, the number of varieties is unknown although there is a good dose of Orleans Reinette - a very high quality desert apple.

Eastern style cider produces a light, fairly sharp cider - and with no or very little tannin to give it body it can be an acquired taste. To reduce acid, this style of cider is often left to mature for longer and even to go through a malolactic fermentation (MLF). This is a very slight process, not a fermentation as such, that reduces the acid profile of the cider more.

Eastern Delight is actually not as acidic as had been expected, but even though, it will not be available until the Southampton Beer Festival in June. The other ciders will be available from the beginning of May.

More information about each ciders provenance to follow...

Wednesday 9 March 2011

40 years old and a dilema...

I have a few cider mugs in my little collection... Aspalls, Tauntons two handled mugs, various glasses from the festivals I have supplied. However, look at this fine specimen!!!

I wanted to show off my new cider mug - one of the many presents I have been fortunate enough to get to mark my 40th birthday. Crafted in the same way as a wooden barrel would be - and based on a tankard raised with the Mary Rose. And it makes a very fine cider recepticle!!

I got to try it out at my 'apple and cider' themed party. With only a few Apple Mac's coming, we also had a 'Royal Gala', a 'Pink Lady' and even a 'Granny Smith' as well as an apple tree, an apple pi, and a bee keeper (my father... who happens to be a bee keeper - go Mr Creative!)

For me, well have you ever heard about that little known super hero 'Captain Apples'?

A good party and a fitting end to the last of the 2009 146 cider. Roll on the new 'Hampshire Heritage'!

Now... I have a dilema. With the main blend sorted out for a name, I am unhappy simply calling my other blends '146 West' and '146 East' and so changed the names to 'Pickfords Promise' (or even Pickfords Western) for the western cider and 'Bunyards Delight' (or Bunyards Eastern) for the eastern cider.

'Pickfords' is because the apples used come from an orchard just north of Bridport - an area that PHT Pickford reported was very good for growing apples. Mr Pickford was sent from the Ministry of Agriculture in the 1930's to see what was going on in Dorset and essentially raise the game of Dorset producers. This he did, and reported back what he found.

'Bunyards' came about because the fruit is mainly sourced from the Fruitwise 'Bunyards' orchard - a desert apple orchard with many heritage varieties such as Egremont Russet, Ribston Pippin, Laxtons Epicure and Orleans Reinette. The orchard is named after Edward Bunyard, who wrote beautifully about apples at the turn of the 19th/20th century and who came from Kent. And as Kent has a tradition of eastern style cider (and is East too:-) it felt right.

I am kind of happywith all of this reasoninng... but still am unhappy with the complete names! I have less than a month to figure it all out as Winchester Beer Festival is likely to want the very first of the Western stuff... as long as it has fermented by then!!!

Any sensible suggestions will not be ruled out!!!

Thursday 3 March 2011

Whadda ya know!

While waiting to start racking the Hampshire Heritage, it seems I am back in production mode once again. Fruitwise, the orchard that provides the ingredients for both Hampshire heritage and the small amount of eastern style cider I made during the 2010 season have finished their markets for the year and have boxes of apples left over.

Instead of throwing them out for the birds they asked if I wanted them. I am not worried about the birds; I expect they are happily munching their way through all the spent pomace we mulched at the base of about 50-60 trees during pressing last year.

So, this weekend I milled and pressed 260kg of quality, well bletted desert apples. This added another 190 litres to the total and brings the 2010 total to 523 gallons. Not just double the previous year (which has always been the plan) but about 3 times as much.

It also means that the Eastern style of cider is now much more respectable and should be available for more festivals. I may even take 60 litres aside and let it mature for 12 months to see if that improves things... gotta keep moving forward!!