Thursday 19 September 2013

Jez Howat featuring in 'Whats Brewing?'

Whilst cider making is probably one of his preferred methods of letting off steam, Jez unleashes his literary talent (well, his opinions anyway) on the world of CAMRA. Hope the text is big enough to read:-)

Thursday 30 May 2013

Big Apple CIder Trials 2013... another win for 146 Cider

Earlier this month, the annual Big Apple Cider Trials were held at Putley in Herefordshire. This is one of the nicest, friendliest competitions in the cider calendar each year (although being the fourth year of entry, I was keen to take it seriously and *try* to bring home a piece of paper.

And it is with great pleasure that I can say we have achieved that. A first place too! For Hampshire Heritage Vintage which won first place in the Bottle Fermented Cider class. I am very happy about this - the class is hotly contested with some of the best cider makers in the UK (if not the world) entering, so it is very good to be associated (in a tiny way) with them.

Hampshire Heritage Vintage is a 'Traditional method' cider. I could call it 'Methode Champenoise'... no, wait, I couldnt. It isnt from France and it isn't wine! However, it is a fully fermented Hampshire Heritage that is then layed down in a punted bottle to condition for a number of months with a charge of champagne yeast and additional sugar. Once it has finished its new fermentation in bottle, the yeast is riddled (caught in the neck of the bottle) and then disgorged (ejected). This creates a highly sparkling and clear cider that is mature and full of intense flavours.

Sadly, there were only 25 bottles of this for 2013. Perhaps next year I will make more:-)

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Cariad's Marvellous Cider

I am just getting ready to start racking my ciders - this is simply moving the cider from one container to another, which will then be left to mature before it can be sold. Why? Well, its all a bit yeasty at the moment, so that needs to settle out. It still has a little fermentation to do too - which is best done slowly and off the main bulk of the dead yeast that falls to the bottom of the tank as 'lees' once it has finished its job.

People who read this may be familiar with the usual blends - Hampshire Heritage, Wild West and Eastern Delight. This year I have made several others though, and I hope to introduce these before they are released.

The first, and I guess it is an appropriate time to do so, is my daughters cider: Cariad's Marvellous Cider. This is limited to 400 or so bottles and is a single variety Egremont Russet cider. Single varieties are not the best a cider can be - let me put my cards firmly on the table to start with. However, Egremont is my favourite apple (when grown well) and, knowing this my daughter, Cariad, decided to hijack a bin of them for her own cider. These apples are out of Hill Farm Orchards; just down the road from me and producing some fantastic fruit (except for all the Braeburns they grow!).

Now, she didn't press them all - in fact, she only helped me press about 5 litres with a makeshift press that I could get alongside her. Why? Well, this is a part of the reason for making a cider with her name.

You see, my girl is physically disabled. Google Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1 and you will quickly see why Cariad, my 9 year old teenager, is a very special girl indeed. And in order to make life as fun and 'normal' as possible, I aim to give her as much independence - including her zeal to make her own money. So - here it is! Last year, she made jam and chutney which her nan and grandad sold at their markets. This year, it is dads' turn... she figured she could make more money out of cider!

So, while I have done my very best to make sure that this is an excellent, full juice example of the Egremont Russet the spirit of the drink is all hers... and for that all the money will end up in her Disney bank account (and you should see some of the crap she spends it on... or is that just a fathers perspective?!)

Part of the reason for posting this now is that Cariad is currently in hospital getting over a chest infection... which has turned out more severe than I have seen for several years! These things can be very serious indeed and I have to say a massive thanks to the Physio's who are so important to her recovery... and as it turn out like cider. I am not sure Cariad will allow me to just give them a bottle though!!! :-)

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Gold Medal for Eastern Delight...

Following on from the success of Eastern Delight at the 2012 Southampton Beer Festival (it was crowned 'Cider of the Festival', the eastern style cider has been awarded Gold Medal at the 2013 Winchester Ale and Cider Festival.

This is particularly satisfying for us at 146; many competitions around the UK have very little place for a cider made exclusively from dessert fruit - in fact, in the west they are often dismissed as having some kind of fault. I have long felt that this was a mistake, that a cider made from high quality, heritage varieties of dessert apples (the ones that focus more on flavour and less on being crisp and sweet) could make an interesting cider.

This is the start of the 2013 cider competition season - so lets see what else we have in store this year.

Saturday 16 February 2013

New outlets for Hampshire cider...

First of all the sad news: All 2012 ciders are now sold out. I am actually rather impressed that I managed to eek it out for this long. The good news is that its only a couple of months before the new cider is ready to go, although I won't be selling it until it's ready.

And so, at this odd time of year to be getting new outlets, I am very pleased to announce a couple of new locations to get hold of 146 ciders.

The first location I should have already mentioned by now is Mottisfont Abbey, near to Romsey. Having had a great event at the Vyne last year (I hope to be doing that again this year!) the National Trust got me to jump through the hoops and I am now able to supply the Hampshire sites with Hampshire cider. OK, the hoops weren't actually that demanding, but Mottisfont is the first of the houses to take 146 ciders... and I hope this can continue and expand in the new season (I am, after all, getting a lot more bottles in for them:-)

Another location that started taking bottles is the Booze Shack, in Shirley, Southampton. A relatively now business, they appear to have quite a few local ales on as well. It is lovely to be growing business so locally as this is my goal for 146 Cider Co.

Finally, the most recent addition to outlets for the cider is Limewood, near to Lyndhurst in the New Forest. A boutique hotel, Limewood aim to sell quality, locally produced food and drink... so it's really great to be a part of that. Currently, they have Eastern Delight in bottles, although with the new season that will hopefully broaden to include the others as well.

All these locations are/will be up on the website shortly. It would be nice to secure a couple of regular pubs around Southampton in 2013 too - though I do get that they are having a hard time of things at the moment!

Monday 11 February 2013

Extra 146 Storage...

It is finished. As you will see from the snowy pressing picture, the 146 cider garage is all but overflowing with juice – with not much room for anything else. And there is a lot to happen – bottling, storage etc. So, last year Fruitwise agreed to build a new shed on the orchard as a storage place for 146 cider. And it is now complete:

It is an exciting development for 146 – not least because Stephen and Julia of Fruitwise are such lovely people – but because I now have the one thing that I had run out of – space to develop the company.

For this year, it will act as a cupboard of sorts – empty barrels and bottles. The aim is to store some of the larger barrels there (not easy to move, let alone nick!) which frees room in the cider garage for full bottles etc.

Next year it will come into its own – as I can press to my hearts content knowing that I have sufficient space to put it.

If the business plan continues to travel in the direction planned, I anticipate outgrowing both garage and shed in around 3-5 years – but by then of course I hope to have help and sufficient turnover to pay for something bigger.

Exciting stuff!!!

Friday 1 February 2013

2012 Pressing Report

At last, I am finished pressing this years juice. And may I say what a mixed bag of apples it has been!

Hampshire Heritage, as ever, is a pleasure to work on. Yields are slightly up and as usual the balance has been struck 50/50 between dessert and cider fruit. If ever there was a year that this was in danger, it was last year. However, it is testament to the care and love that Fruitwise give to their orchard that both the sugar content (potential alcohol) and quality has been brilliant. A touch less alcohol than last year (will come in under 7%) but the number of varieties pressed remains roughly the same – Hill Farm may have contributed a few Egremont Russets to make up for the lack of Fruitwise russets last year, but needs must.

Eastern Delight has taken off as the Hill Farm cider now. Last year, it had quite a lot of Fruitwise dessert apples in it, which added a huge amount of character. However, if its going to expand then it needs to stand on its own. Yield and sugars in Hill Farm apples have been fantastic again, and I am expecting ED to remain just over 7%. However, the Cox had a year off, so it’s a lot of Egremont and some Royal Gala. To compensate for the acidity, there is about 5% cider fruit in the blend.

Wild West, in a Rotoplas

The troublesome cider this year has been, once again, Wild West. The normal orchard, Strongs, had a near total failure of crop last year, so I used a neighbouring orchard, Rogers. Sadly, I was left a ton short at the end, so there is slightly less juice than I had planned. Also the apples were VERY grubby and I ended up throwing quite a lot away (more than I would call reasonable, to be fair).  Add to this poor sugar levels and I think you will understand why the blend had to be 80/20 cider fruit to dessert (acid). Not only did I need to protect the juice with extra acid, but I needed to get the sugar level to above 1045. My lesson for this cider is to secure a proper contract for fruit with some kind of incentive to supply a reasonable quality of fruit!

As for specials and competition ciders, well, there are five of them in total. Four are competition blends of specific Fruitwise apples and there is about 30 litres of each. These will be released as (very) limited bottles at some point – unless I drink it all:-) The last is a single variety Egremont Russet cider which was produced by both myself and my 9 year old daughter, Cariad. Cariad lives with a form of muscular dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (which you can Google all you like but I won’t go into any more detail than that as she is learning how to use the internet!) Each year she insists on making something to sell so that she can raise spending money for our annual pilgrimage to Disneyland Paris. Last year it was jam and chutney. This year she figured she could make more by making cider. So a bin of Hill Farm Egremont Russet was selected (by her) and we made 220 litres. She will be designing the label and all proceeds from it will go into her piggybank for Disneyland.

Well, charities have done a lot for her in the past and she has a very independent mind!

What else?. Watch out for a new ‘medium’ blend this year… and a renaming of the ‘medium-dry’ Wild West. Many people have suggested that the all dry line up ought to include a sweeter cider, so these should redress that imbalance (though I like dry ciders, so it took some getting used to!)

The new  medium cider will be a blend of 50/50 Eastern Delight and Wild West, and be available in bottles as well as bag in box. It doesn’t have a name yet – its still in testing currently from the very last of last years batches.

Wild West (medium dry) will be known as Mild West from 2013. I know it is very sad, but I giggled a lot when it was suggested to me!

So, there will be 146 ciders in 2013. About 6,500 litres give or take. Lets just hope I can make it 4 years in a row of winning something – and that I don’t end up throwing the Wild West down the drain!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Does my bum look big in this???

I know its a little belated, but worth showing off. This is the latest trend in cider making gear... it is actually very warm and waterproof:

Now, this was a Christmas present. I asked for (and I quote my words as closely as I can remember them); "Something that I can throw on to press apples - it needs to be waterproof and a jacket I don't care if it gets really dirty. 'Cos it will!". Somewhere in my parents head, this must have turned into "I am a farmer and I need a really nice new jacket, with matching wax trousers. I might even save it for best".

Needless to say, I have used it for pressing - as per photo above. And, who would have believed it - it got bogging with apple bits and juice. But then I hosed it down and it has come up really well. So I guess it was a result after all. Not sure I will be allowed to wear it for best though!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

It's Snow Joke!

As it was so pretty, but blooming cold, I figured I would take some pictured of my final day of pressing to show off on here. The images will also be available through the website gallery that I spent so long over Christmas on (whilst unable to press apples through being at the in-laws)

This last batch were the very late Fruitwise stored dessert fruit. These were picked for market but unsold – I normally get them as the very last apples to press, they are very well bletted (soft) and provide a welcome break to the grubby cider fruit I had spent the previous month working my way through. These will go into Hampshire Heritage to balance the blend to 50/50.

Fortunately the hosepipe didn't freeze... to much!
Ice Racks
Pressing went on!

The last apples. This isn't how they are normally stored!

"Would you like ice in your cider?" - I guess the washing water was cold!

Pretty, but tricky!