The threat to Craft Cider from White Cider

White_Lightning_bottle

White cider: high-alcohol + low-price = problem alcohol?

In case it has passed you by, there is a move afoot by the health lobby to persuade Chancellor Hammond to change the duty paid on cider. The recommendation of Fiona Bruce MP is that a new duty band is created for cider in the ABV range 5.5%-7.5% alcohol. The aim is to reduce the harm caused by the consumption of high-strength so-called ‘white ciders’. These are typically 7.5% ABV and low-price (£3.00-£3.50 per 3-litre bottle).

While we applaud any strategies aimed at reducing the harmful effects of alcohol in society, we do not believe this measure would resolve the problem its aiming at. However, it would have the unintended consequence of wiping out many small traditional craft cider makers whose products almost always fall into this ABV band.

Late fruit spilling out of the silo and bursting with juice.

This is what traditional craft cider is made from – apples

Why is Traditional Cider So Strong and Is It a Health Threat?
Traditional craft cider is usually made from a very high percentage of fresh-pressed apple juice. That means the resulting strength of the cider is dictated by how much sugar is present in the apples at harvest time. Our ciders usually range from 5.5%-7.5% ABV or thereabouts. We follow these methods not in order to make strong booze, but because we believe in following traditional cider making methods, utilising our passion, our skill and the season’s harvest to make drinks of outstanding flavour and character. The very concept of diluting all that hard-won flavour with water is anathema to most traditional craft cider makers. We are the original English wine makers – traditional cider is made using the ethic of wine production. We tease our subtle and varied flavours from fruit and fruit alone.

So why isn’t traditional craft cider a target for alcohol abusers? Despite rumors to the contrary, craft cider isn’t a cheap commodity to make. Using fresh fruit once a year, extended maturation periods and vast storage requirements make real cider a very expensive product to make. We calculate that our costs per litre of liquid produced are around 15-20 times higher than the liquid turned out by industrial makers that’s made from concentrate, and delivered to the outside world in a matter of days.

Traditional craft cider isn’t abused because it’s a high-price craft product – not exactly the target of problem drinkers. Even the MP Fiona Bruce who is asking for the duty changes recognises that.

Cider’s Current Duty Regime
First of all, there is no doubt that cider does enjoy a beneficial duty regime when compared to other alcohol. This recognises the extremely long investment cycles of growers planting orchards, the amenity (and incidental economic) value of orchard landscapes, and historically the amount of space and storage required when making cider annually from fresh fruit.

The majority of high-volume industrial cider makers use concentrate in cider making – that’s a fact. But they also tend to grow fruit themselves, or contract other UK growers to produce it, from which they make their concentrate, so they can rightfully benefit from the cider duty breaks. They also act as responsible citizens, driving down overall alcohol units in society, employing many people in usually rural locations and generally ‘doing their bit’. They also very rarely stray into making products over around the 5% ABV mark.

Makers of white ‘cider’, on the other hand, seem to be hell-bent on using their economies of scale, and the recent availability of extremely cheap globally produced concentrate to cynically market very cheap alcohol units – which, of course, are highly likely to become the target of alcohol abusers. They’re exploiting cider’s advantageous duty rate while not planting any orchards or even using domestically produced concentrate.

To put a few numbers around that… A recent survey of NACM and affiliate organisation memberships revealed that ciders over 6% ABV represented a single-digit percentage of overall production – the actual number escapes me for now. But of that high-ABV output, white cider made up over 80% of the total output.

Possible Realistic Solutions to White Cider
Minimum Unit Pricing or MUP (as the Scottish Government is going to introduce) could minimse the damage from white cider. And it wouldn’t affect small traditional craft cider makers because our products are already way above the price per alcohol unit being bandied around. But it is hugely politically unpopular. The problem is that any extra revenue from MUP is generally scooped up by retailers, rather than Treasury, so Governments are unpopular because they are increasing the price of alcohol, but they get no additional revenue benefit. It’s a Lose/Lose for them.

On other possible routes to alleviate a duty increase for traditional craft makers, while we are still a member of the EU, it wouldn’t be legal for the UK to define a duty regime based on either the size of a producer’s output or where its raw materials come from. This has all been closely examined in the past. So while small brewers do enjoy a reduced duty rate regime based on the volume of their output, that’s because it was negotiated into the EU Duty Structures at the time of their inception – something which would be nigh-on impossible to retrospectively introduce for smaller cider makers at this stage. That will change after Brexit.

It would, however, be possible for Treasury to write a new definition of cider in Notice 162 (the duty bible for cider makers) which specified a different – and higher – juice content threshold. Currently, to qualify for cider duty, any alcoholic drink produced must contain a minimum of 35% apple or pear juice. This can be achieved by watering down concentrate to a specified sugar content if desired.

Our recommendation would be that the current 35% juice definition (even when achieved by re-hydrating concentrate) could continue for all cider under 5.5% ABV so the bigger, more responsible (and, let’s face it, economically important) cider makers aren’t unduly affected.

However, if we are concerned about high-strength drinks being sold cheaply, let’s make sure any measure hits its target. We would propose a change to the Notice 162 Cider Definition for any cider over 5.5% ABV requiring a minimum juice content of, say, 80%-85% and that apple juice concentrate must not be used in its manufacture. This measure would eliminate 7.5% white cider altogether – it would either be hugely expensive to make (this we know from personal experience), or would attract Made Wine duty of £8.65 per 3L bottle. Duty and VAT alone on 3L of white cider would amount to £10.38!

Economic Impacts
The Cider Duty revenue proportion coming from traditional craft makers – most of whom will be making products over 6% – while almost crippling to the makers, is infinitesimally small to Treasury. If the survival of such an important cultural tradition means foregoing a tiny slice of that, then it has to be worth it – the incidental economic tourism benefits alone of traditional craft cider are probably more valuable. We also play a hugely important role in promoting the rest of the industrial cider making industry.

We believe that as an industry, cider needs to stand together, but in this particular instance it seems the smaller traditional craft makers are looking increasingly like collateral damage in a war that the big industrial makers should never have allowed to happen. There does come a time when traditional craft cider makers have to stand up for their own survival, control their own message and suggest a way forward. That way we may be able to ensure the continuing survival of the original English wine that we are all so passionate about making. If this duty increase goes ahead without some kind of exemption for traditional craft cider makers, it’s no exaggeration to say we may see wholesale business closures among the craft cider making community in the UK.

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The Stars are out

Neil has started planning for pressing already – the new press has to be installed and configured, plus apples and storage to be sorted out. The pressing season always looms close after the busy summer months, and needs to be thought out. It’s probably the most important part of the year for Worley’s – everything hangs on the quality of the fruit and getting the pressing stage exactly right. The best juice makes the best cider – we don’t add lots of water to our ciders, so the apples and their juice has to be the best we can press.

Best juice
It works, we’ve just won a two-star rating in the Great Taste Awards for our lovely Special Reserve. These are the Oscars of UK Food & Drink and are run by the Guild of Fine Food We’re very proud of this achievement – it’s a cracking cider and our mission this year is to tell as many people about it as possible! Why not.

Special Reserve is a ‘keeved’ cider, which means the pressed juice is specially treated to reduce the level of ‘nutrient’ in it. This nutrient is naturally occurring in apple juice and is kind of like vitamins for yeast, so its scarcity makes the yeast struggle ad results in a very slow fermentation. After a couple of months or so, the yeast will almost stop working and – if you’ve done it right – will result in a naturally sweet, lower-alcohol cider.

The trick then is to catch the very tail end of the fermentation after the cider is bottled so the cider is effectively bottle-conditioned – in other words, it makes its own fizz. We start to sell any vintage once the cider has reached a lightly-conditioned, medium sweetness, but a very gradual fermentation will always contiune in the bottle if – like us – you don’t subsequently pasteurise them. So it’s an unpasteurised, unfiltered, naturally sweet and bottle-conditoned cider that delivers a cider of balanced complexity with gentle sweetness and mellow tannin.

Not pretty: the first stages of keeving – 'le cap bruin' rises to the top. A jelly-like cap gathers on top of the sweet juice at the early fermentation stage.

Not pretty: the first stages of keeving – ‘le chapeau brun’ rises to the top. A jelly-like cap gathers on top of the sweet juice at the early fermentation stage.

View from below: you can see the dark layer on top of the pure, clear juice. Backlit like this it looks beautiful!

View from below: you can see the dark layer on top of the pure, clear juice. Back-lit like this, it looks beautiful!

Two-star award-winning cider! Available in the UK and in the USA. Best drunk well-chilled on a sunny evening. A dish of olives, charcuterie and good cheese alongside.

Two-star award-winning cider! Available in the UK and in the USA. Best drunk well-chilled on a sunny evening. A dish of olives, charcuterie and good cheese alongside.

GT 17 2-star

Worley’s Cider Special Reserve. Two stars in the Great Taste awards 2017

 

At the office…
On a sunny day, there’s no better place to be. Photos sum it up better than words.

Through the gabled roof to the yard beyond

Through the gabled roof to the yard beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning the show barrels in the sunshine

Cleaning the show barrels in the sunshine

Hello from the other side

Hello from the other side

It's a difficult job, but someone's…

It’s a difficult job, but someone’s…

 

Pub of the week
The Maltings looks like the kind of place we’d settle in for a pint or two. Our Twitter friends, the Maltings in York regularly carry a box of Worley’s Cider, so if you’re in York at any point seek out this top pub, with real ciders and ales on all the time. Food available in the daytime – we particularly like the sound of the burnt bread (cheese toasties to you and me!). Cheers Shaun & all!

The Maltings freehouse in York. A proper pub. We've not been there yet, but will definitely visit next time we're in York.

The Maltings freehouse in York. A proper pub. We’ve not been there yet, but will definitely visit next time we’re in York.

Maltings

It’s in Tanners Moat, York. 01904 655387 info@maltings.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chill out, Winchester here we come
Into the summer swing here at Worley’s. Plenty of outside events to keep us busy, and even though the weather’s sometimes been dodgy, the cider’s been flowing. The Cheese and Chilli Festivals have been wonderful this year – always good, they seem to have really got into their stride in 2017. Downton Brewery serve their excellent beer next door, and there’s everything you could want from a Cheese and Chilli perspective. If you’ve not been yet – there’s one more for 2017, in Winchester on 19th & 20th August. www.cheeseandchillifestival.com.

Cider, cheese, chilli and good cheer. Thanks to everyone who has been to visit us at the bar this year.

Cider, cheese, chilli and good cheer. Thanks to everyone who has been to visit us at the bar this year.

Tickets available in advance or on the door for a little bit more.

You can get a delicious pint of cider, plus we have our full range of chilled bottles including our starry Special Reserve. See you there? Say hello!

 

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Pubs, festivals and bottle shops

As a small business, we’re always trying to get the most out of all our sales channels – making Worley’s as easily available as possible. This is one of the biggest challenges as a small cider maker because most of our time is spent actually making, packing and dispatching the cider! This week’s blog is about how you can get to try our ciders if you haven’t already managed to do so.

Harvest-Moon-2017

Pub partners

Worley’s draught cider range is now available pretty much throughout the country – available to pubs, clubs and festivals through a distribution network built up over the last few years. Our cider is available throughout England and Wales, so if you’re a real cider drinker and would like to get a pint of Worley’s in your local, please ask your landlord or landlady to get in touch with one of our regional suppliers and they should be able to make all the necessary arrangements.

North East/Yorks/Lincs – 01522 540431 Small Beer Ltd
Bristol/Bath – 0117 9720812 Aims Refreshments Ltd  – delivering 7 days a week and a same-day service.
North West/Wales – 01384 374050 The Brewers Wholesale
North London & home counties – 01525 372290 Edwards Beers & Wines
London01296 630013Dayla Drinks
South East & South East coast: 01323 811411 Middle Farm in Sussex and
01306 627779 Pigs Ears Beers Ltd

Or contact us directly if you’d like more info about our range and where to get it
07753 633964.

… And don’t miss the last few weeks of the Wetherspoons summer cider festival. This year, they are featuring our Mendip Hills Medium and it’s going down a treat judging from the feedback. Big pub chains supporting small producers – fantastic.

Micro pubs and Freehouses

We’re going to feature a few of our excellent customers over the next few weeks. One of the first on the list has to be The Vaults micro pub in Devizes, Wiltshire. There’s pretty much always at least one Worley’s cider on the bar, as well as a wonderful selection of excellent craft ales. They will also usually feature a range of beers by the excellent Kennet and Avon Brewery – the micro brewery in Melksham that owns the pub – plus lots of interesting guest ales from the host of quality craft breweries. It’s not quite as tiny as its name might suggest, and there’s a free ploughmans on Thursdays! First come, first served mind. But if you miss out, there are always the excellent pies on offer…

The Vaults micro pub and beer shop in St John's St, Devizes

The Vaults micro pub and beer shop in St John’s St, Devizes, Wilts

 

Other ways to find us include online, of course; through bottle shops, farm shops and delicatessens. We are trying to get our bottled ciders further afield, but it’s a tricky one so far! We’re working on it. Meanwhile, you can buy our bottles online, or if you’re in the South West, try our stockists – full list here.

Spot the Worley's – Yeovil Cider Shack has a great range of local ciders and is really worth a visit if you're passing anywhere near. Maybe on your way to the the South West on hols? Stock up.

Spot the Worley’s – Yeovil Cider Shack has a great range of local ciders and is really worth a visit if you’re passing anywhere near. Maybe on your way to the the South West on holiday? Stock up, it’s very near the A303 Yeovil turnoff.

As well as selling through distribution, we take our cider bar to various events and festivals throughout the warmer months. We go down particularly well at food festivals – such as the Cheese and Chilli Festivals happening at five locations this year. Coming up is Guildford this weekend, plus Swindon and Winchester over the next few weeks. They’re always a brilliant day out. Plenty to do for adults and kids, plus excellent and genuine food and drink to sample. Try the website or call 07776 255199 for further info, and please come and say hello to us if you make it to any of them.

Mmm cheese. Mmm chilli - the Cheese and Chilli Festivals have got them both!

Mmm cheese. Mmm chilli – the Cheese and Chilli Festivals have got them both. And Worley’s cider!

Cheers all, have a good week!

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Pressing business

It’s been a beautiful week here in Somerset. We’ve had gorgeous weather and have enjoyed watching the July changes – lots of young birds, the light changing, over-blown hedgerows and ripening crops.

A beautiful sunshiney week. This is the view from the yard out to the woods.

This week has been particularly exciting as we took delivery of our new press. It’s a beast! The Voran EBP650 was shipped from Kreuzmayr in Austria after we bought it second-hand a few months ago, and it’s now arrived at its new home in Somerset.

This new press is so much more than just a new piece of equipment. It is probably the most important piece of kit that Worley’s Cider owns. This is a belt press that extracts juice through a system of rollers and mesh, rather than a rack-and-cloth press that requires making a stack of apples and squashing the juice using a hydraulic ram.

Our new Voran belt press, (not a pinball machine or a loom)

Having this machine means we can produce more volume for 2018 sales. Our outgoing press is also a Voran machine, the 180P2 which is their largest rack-and-cloth press. It has suited us perfectly over the last four years and we’re sorry to see it go. The difference is pressing 3 tonnes of apples per day with the old press, versus 1.5 tonnes per hour with our new one. We needed to upgrade so we can cope with the demand for quality, real cider.

Our previous Voran rack-and-cloth press – an incredible machine that's served us beautifully and has NEVER gone wrong

Our previous Voran rack-and-cloth press – an incredible machine that’s served us beautifully and has NEVER gone wrong

The press in action - featuring about nine layers of saturated apple pulp ready to release its juice

The press in action – featuring about nine layers of saturated apple pulp ready to release its juice.

 

We’re selling our out-going Voran press, so if you’re interested – please give Neil a ring on 01749 880016, or email ask@worleyscider.co.uk.

Champion cider providers

We’ve been supplying The Stable pizza restaurants for a while now, and are really happy to be one of their regular cider providers. They champion real cider, craft makers and the whole ‘local’ thing. The Stable was started in Bridport a few years ago and has taken off in a massive way – proving we think that people really love simple things done well – like proper fresh-made pizza, and decent real cider.

Visiting the Stable Bristol and tasting ciders with some fab pizza people

They have created a small army of Cider Masters in each branch who make it their business to learn about craft makers and pass on their knowledge to other staff and customers alike. There are Stables all over the South West and they’ve expanded to London, Birmingham and are going further up the country. Find your local Stable here, go say hello and grab a pint of Red Hen and a gorgeous crispy, cheesy pizza!

Sitting on the wall… Worley’s 50cl bottle range available from our webstore here

And a reminder, that our 20-litre Bag in Box ciders are also available to buy online at our webstore. Great for summer parties, barbecues and holiday camping trips!

 

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New season Special Reserve

We are now fully stocked – 5 kinds of draught ciders, 3 types of 50cl bottles and our famous Special Reserve is back after a sell-out 2016.

This year’s Special Reserve is a real corker – naturally sparkling, rich and golden with a beautiful apple flavour. It’s a great example of the cider-maker’s art, and so much so that a delegation of cider makers from the North West Cider Association (USA) visited us in May to find out more.

Worley's Special Reserve1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were part of a tour of France and England to learn more about keeving and wild yeast fermentations, and represented cider farms in Oregon and Seattle – the main cider-making regions in the States. The climate is similar to the UK in this corner of the USA, so cider apple trees can thrive like they do here in the west of England.

A great bunch, it was a pleasure to host them at our place for a few hours. Neil showed them around the yard and pressing shed, and we finished with a tasting session.

There was a lot of local interest in this US delegation as they timed their visit to attend the week of the Bath and West Show near Shepton Mallet. There’s a huge cider tent at the show, and a well-supported cider competition as you might expect from the biggest agricultural show in Somerset. Their visit to Somerset caught the attention of the BBC, who sent along a reporter and camera operator to record the event as part of their Show coverage.

BBC filming Neil talking to the NWCA delegates about the art of keeving

BBC filming Neil talking to the NWCA delegates about the art of keeving

From here we took them to a local pub, The Three Horseshoes Inn in Batcombe. Landlord Kav provided a three-course meal showcasing the best of Somerset produce, and they tasted more of our ciders alongside their meal. It was a wonderful day and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone – thanks for coming folks.

On the bar
2017 has also been a good year for wholesale. It’s now possible to get a pint of Worley’s wherever you are in the country, as we now have national distribution sorted!

In 2016 we invested in new machinery so we could pack our own bag-in-box ciders. Although the bag-in-box format has been around for a long time, it’s started to get more popular in pubs and bars, and is a great way to ship fresh craft ciders far and wide. We sent a couple of boxes over to New Zealand last year for a start! Our new box-filler helps us pack in volume. The air is sucked out of the bag by the machine, before the cider is pumped in, ensuring no air is left inside. The bag is then sealed in the box and it’s ready to go. Keeping air away from the cider prolongs its life, and after treating and boxing, the shelf life of a box of our cider is around 1 year.

If you enjoy a pint of real cider but find you can’t get any of ours in your local, please email ask@worleyscider.co.uk or phone 07753 633964 and we’ll tell you how to get some in.

The Oakhill Inn, Somerset - Worley's on the bar

The Oakhill Inn, Somerset – Worley’s on the bar

As well as a good year on the wholesale front, it’s been a great year on the export front too. We’re now exporting bottles to five countries – USA, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, and lately Hong Kong. The bottles are in the process of being shipped to Hong Kong, so we’d love to hear from anyone who gets to try it in a few weeks’ time! Good luck to Steve and Ivan at Wanderer Cider – let us know how you get on.

 

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Worley’s 2016

Another season drawing to a close. Pressing is nearly over, and Neil is currently pressing the last load from the late-season’s fruit.

Late fruit spilling out of the silo and bursting with juice.

Late fruit spilling out of the silo and bursting with juice.

A dry summer with heavy rainfall nearer to harvest time has meant high sugars and plenty of juicy fruit – a brilliant combination for cider making. We’re expecting great results for the 2017 batch of ciders. We wish we could record the beautiful fragrance in the yard at this time of year. Fresh apples & sharp autumn air mixed with a hint of wood smoke from nearby cottage stoves. Shame they don’t make a perfume like that!

Excellent year
2016 has been a great year for us here at Worley’s. We are continuing to grow, and introduce our ciders into more pubs, shops and are exporting to new countries. We’ve invested in new equipment – including a box filler – which means our 20-litre draught boxes are much easier to produce. We box-up 1000-litres at a time which means we’ve always got a good supply in stock.

New for 2016, our branded boxes. Only slightly less back-breaking to fill, but much quicker!

New for 2016, our branded boxes. Only slightly less back-breaking to fill, but much quicker!

The new branded green boxes have been a hit this year too. Whether you’re a trade customer or a cider lover looking for a good supply, please get in touch at ask@worleyscider.co.uk for prices and delivery options.

Bottled sunshine
Another new addition to the range in 2016 has been the bottled Beatnik Billy. Light, sharp and sweet, it’s a sherberty stunner that’s sold like mad at our festivals and events this year. We decided to add some sparkle and bottle it after getting such good feedback in 2015 from the original draught Beatnik Billy, that’s still very popular. Served nicely-chilled, ice if you like, to cut through a thirst and refresh.

Our 50cl range of sparkling bottles – Medium-Dry, Medium and Sweet

Our 50cl range of sparkling bottles – Medium-Dry, Medium and Sweet

In addition to the bottled Beatnik Billy, we still have our delicious award-winning Mendip Hills and our spicy Red Hen in the range. Harvest Moon has sold out for this year, but apples are being pressed to create a whole new batch that’ll be ready in Summer 2017.
Lastly, our extra-fine Special Reserve. Always good at this time of year and great for holiday celebrations such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties. We’re down to our last 25 boxes of this fine drink, so order early if you want to be sure to get some. Our 2017 batch will be available from June next year.

Special Reserve – sold in cases of 6. If you want one, be quick!

Special Reserve – sold in cases of 6. If you want one, be quick!

 

 
And finally…
We welcome the good citizens of New Zealand to the world of Worley’s Cider. We are now exporting our 50cl bottles here, and look forward to getting your feedback over the next few months. We’re not sure it’s on the shelves just yet, but it will be by the time Christmas rolls around, so you can enjoy some with Christmas dinner. Very chuffed that you will be drinking Worley’s Ciders on the other side of the world! Anyone looking to stock Worley’s, please visit http://beertique.co.nz – this is Trade Only folks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas in Ciderland

Pressing’s finished! Thanks to everyone who pressed, delivered and grew apples. While never an easy time, it’s was a lot less taxing than previous years thanks to the new conveyor and its magic powers. The last load of apples were delivered into the silos and Neil and Dave got through them at lightning speed with the end in sight. Well done boys.

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Top left: Neil guides the final load of cider apples to their silo home. Top right: Thumbs up lads, Neil & Dave the Lift Bottom: The fruit of last year's labours, our 2015 range of bottled ciders, available from the website

Top left: Neil guides the final load of cider apples to their silo home. Top right: Thumbs up lads, Neil & Dave-the-Lift Bottom: The fruit of last year’s labours, our 2015 range of bottled ciders, available from the website

New pricing – real cider for less than before
The cuts are hitting us here at Worley’s Cider, but in a good way! We’ve cut the cost of our 50cl bottles, taking £3 off a case when you buy from the website. That makes each bottle £2.50, so £30 for a case of 12 and cracking good value for a premium craft cider. There’s a delivery cost of £8.50 but this will cover two cases and is delivered by courier under a Fragile service. Why not get a mixed case or two of Mendip Hills, Red Hen and Harvest Moon in for Christmas?

Also included in the two-case deal is the beautiful Special Reserve, and it’s brilliant value at just £5 a bottle. Refreshingly sparkly with a bright appley taste – this is our go-to cider over Christmas. We open the first bottle around midday on Christmas day and quaff it in champagne flutes. it’s a great alternative to champers and has that real celebration buzz about it.

Wine bods are always so descriptive about the flavour characteristics of their favourite drink, and recently our ciders have been getting a lot of interest from wine groups and wine tasters. The Special Reserve is always received really well among appreciators of wine, and it recently came top in a blind tasting at a local wine group. It beat keeved ciders that are nearly three times the price, and confirmed to us what we’ve always thought – that this is one of the finest keeved ciders on the market. Get plenty in folks.

Last shout – our 20-litre bag in box ciders are easy for us to send out and are always a splendid addition to any Christmas or New Year’s eve party. They last up to 3 months after opening so would ease you through the first part of 2016 if there’s any left.
What’s the worst that could happen?

Winter refreshment
That’s the sales pitch over, but we do love cider at Christmas. With all the rich food and the overindulgence, a cold glass of still or sparkling does the trick to cleanse the palate and refresh the taste buds. The acidity level in cider gives it the clean, crisp characteristics that make it the ideal summertime drink. The gentle acidity works in the same way over Christmas when the central heating’s too high and the fire’s roaring! And we don’t mind a bit if you want to fill your glass with ice. (Red Hen tastes really good over ice, but don’t tell the cider police we said so.)

Roast pork with a drop of Red Hen in the gravy

Home-reared roast pork with fennel seeds and a drop of Red Hen in the gravy

We also cook with our ciders quite a lot. Adding a splash of cider when making the gravy lends a sweetness to the meat juices and introduces another dimension to a savoury sauce. Just a splash though, we use it as a flavouring rather than a stock. You can also include it in homemade apple sauce – again a splash when cooking the apples goes down well.
If you’ve got any leftover ham this Christmas, try making a bechamel sauce using half milk and half cider and mixing it with some cooked ham and a handful of parsley. Great in a pie.

Cider works well with pheasant too. We’ve tried plenty of recipes over the years including those from Delia and Hugh FW, but here’s one by Blanche Vaughan on the Guardian website that’s delicious. Serve with mash, and it’s surprisingly good with rice too.

Food pairings
Always tricky to recommend certain ciders with certain foods, because palates and expectations are so different. However, we sample our ciders regularly and try them with different foods, and we feel able to make a few recommendations. It’s official, ciders tastes great with rich meat dishes – roasts such as pork, chicken, turkey and goose. A cider like Mendip Hills or Red Hen will go down a treat with a Boxing Day curry (or indeed any curry – cider works really well with a decent curry); and something punchy and bold like Harvest Moon will wash down a mince pie or two just lovely.

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We look forward to meeting friends and customers at our Christmas events and markets this year, or feel free to visit us at the farm and buy your Christmas ciders direct from us. Thanks to everyone who visited us at Frome Independent on Sunday. Happy Christmas to all our Frome customers and fellow market folk, hopefully we’ll continue to see you all in the new year.

If you can’t get to us or our events this year, check out our stockist page here. If you’d like to buy a pint of one of our ciders at your local, then please ask the landlord to get in touch 01749 880016 or email ask@worleyscider.co.uk. We can send boxes directly – tell your landlord they work out very cost-effective!

 

 

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The run-up to Christmas

With Christmas approaching, we’re booking our festive shows by the day. We’re finding there’s a definite rhythm to the ‘retail’ side of the business, with the run-up to Christmas starting straight after Halloween. It might seem like the Christmas fuss is getting earlier and earlier, but there are about seven weeks during this period to promote and sell for the big holiday. We’re not quite decking the halls yet, but we’re going to have to start pretty soon. We sell a lot of three-bottle gift packs for Christmas, and a good deal of Special Reserve cases, as well as our aromatic mulled cider at markets and Christmas fairs. If you’d like a classic recipe for mulled cider, take a look at our previous blog post here and brew up a warm spicy batch as the weather cools.

Our Keeved Royale, made with Special Reserve and a drop of homemade Rosehip Syrup

Our Keeved Royale, made with Special Reserve and a drop of homemade Rosehip Syrup

Very English Keeved Royale
As well as making cider, we’re amateur booze makers, and usually have a few bottles of homemade jollop in the scullery to break out when necessary (yes, we do have a scullery!). Our friends Nick and Rich aka the Two Thirsty Gardeners have just published their first book about the hobby that’s gradually taking over their lives – and it’s fantastic.
Brew it Yourself is full of great recipes to make your own brews, plus how to create liqueurs, cocktails and soft drinks from garden and hedgerow bounty.

Our eye was immediately drawn to the cider section, and in particular the Rosehip Cider that sounded especially enticing. Having a bushful of rosehips in the garden, we decided to give it a try. The result was a bottle of amber liquid with a fragrant, almost toffee-like flavour. Nick and Rich suggest using 500ml/17fl oz glass of dry cider to serve, but as we are leading into a period of good cheer we made ours to go with a glass of well-chilled Worley’s Special Reserve, for a very English Keeved Royale. We used slightly less sugar than called for in the recipe above – 250g instead of 300g. The Special Reserve is a medium sweetness, so the Royale isn’t too sweet. If you can’t get hold of rosehips, Nick & Rich suggest trying blackberries, elderberries, strawberries or raspberries.

Rosehips are plentiful in our garden every year

Rosehips picked, we then top-and-tailed them, and gave them a good wash

Rosehips picked, we then top-and-tailed them, and gave them a good wash

Chopped rosehips simmering in the pan with water

Chopped rosehips simmering in the pan with water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strain through muslin then strain liquid again through fresh muslin

Strain through muslin then strain liquid again through fresh muslin

Amber liquid, just like the one in the book. Result!

Amber liquid, just like the one in the book. Result!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With kind permission, the ‘Gardeners have let us publish their recipe…

For the rosehip syrup:
500g/18oz rosehips, roughly chopped300g/10.5oz sugar

1. To make the Rosehip Syrup, mash up your hips using a pestle and mortar or something similar, then put in a saucepan with 600ml/21fl oz water. 2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins. 3. Remove from the heat, then strain through a muslin cloth into a saucepan, leaving the pulp to sit and drain for around 30 minutes. 4. Strain again through a clean muslin cloth. This is to ensure that no irritating rosehip hairs make their way into the final syrup. 5. Add to a pan with the sugar, then heat slowly, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. 6. Continue to boil for 3-5 mins, skimming off any scum that rises with a wooden spoon. 7. Pour into sterilised bottles when cool and store in the fridge. 8. Chill the cider in the fridge then add the syrup to the cider giving it a gentle stir.

Find Brew it Yourself here. It’s a great stocking filler this Christmas for any boozy gardener, whatever their tipple.

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Pressing lull
Still pressing apples, but we’ve had a week’s break mid-season to recover. This isn’t because we’re taking it easy, it just happens that we’re not using much mid-season fruit this year. At the end of last week, Neil and helper Dave deep-cleaned the yard and pressing shed so we’re ready for action as soon as the next apple load is ready. The fruit we use is harvested at its peak ripeness, so we get pressing as soon as a load is delivered. If we don’t, it’s prone to going over very rapidly, so speed is of the essence. Being a craft producer, we can select our fruit carefully and are flexible enough to take a week out if the apples aren’t quite ready. A lull in the pressing process means catching up on other tasks, such as tractor servicing and trailer mending. We bought this Massey Ferguson a few years ago and it’s proved to be one of the most valuable assets we have. It moves IBCs, apples, pallets of bottles, pressing equipment, and the odd child. It’s small and nimble enough to be able to manoeuvre around our small yard, but strong enough to cope with most tasks.

Old faithful. She's a pretty little thing

Old faithful. She’s a pretty little thing

 

A Welcome visit
In 2013 we started exporting to the States. The interest in real cider over there is gaining momentum and a cider revolution is well underway. It was lovely to get a call recently from Michael Spix, an American chap who was visiting Frome for a wedding, asking if he could call in and visit us. It turns out he works for Whole Foods Market in Seattle, a chain of stores stocking bottles of Worley’s Cider, so he knew the product well. Neil spent a happy hour with Michael and his travelling companion Christine before they continued on their travels. Thanks for taking the time to visit folks, we really enjoyed meeting you.

Michael and Christine at the farm – they were visiting Somerset from Seattle, Washington

Michael and Christine at the farm – they were visiting Somerset from Seattle, Washington

 

If you’re looking for special Christmas presents this year, why not give the gift of cider? Please visit our webshop for our range, we sell our branded giftpacks (flatpacked) – they make great presents for awkward buggers. You can also choose ‘party’ boxes of 20-litres, cases of 50cl bottles or 75cl Special Reserve.

See you next time.

 

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Autumn hues

We’re deep into Autumn now, and the colours are beautiful. Outside our house, the colours of the garden have mellowed, seed heads are popping and the abundance of summer has gone.

Our cottage garden embracing autumn. As you can see, we favour the natural approach when it comes to gardening!

Our cottage garden embracing autumn. As you can see, we favour the natural approach when it comes to gardening!

It’s one of the most important times of year here – we keep talking about pressing apples, but this is when the magic starts. So far, Neil is about three-quarters of the way through our apple quota for the year and the press is going great guns. Our brilliant rack & cloth press gets about 140 litres of juice from a full cheese (nine layers), squeezing the life out of each layer until only a coarse, dry mash is left. We love our press, but there’s no doubt it’s the limiting factor in the pressing process, and will yield less juice per hour than the mighty belt press – a conveyor-belt type affair that squeezes juice from apple pulp on a continuous loop.

There’s something comforting about our current press though. It’s the method used to press apples for centuries, whether through cloths or straw, and although we have help from the huge hydraulic ram, the principle of juice extraction is exactly the same.

Neil positioning the full cheese on the press before starting it up. There are about nine layers full of saturated apple pulp. He has to get it reasonably straight before starting to ensure weight is applied evenly and maximum juice extracted

Neil positioning the full cheese on the press before starting it up. There are usually nine layers full of saturated apple pulp. He has to get it reasonably straight before starting to ensure weight is applied evenly and maximum juice extracted

We’re not sure how many years we can continue using this press, but it’s served us well so far. The racks and cloths are an important part of the process. The racks are lattice boards, made of strips of acacia wood which is strong but flexible, able to withstand the huge pressure exerted by the press. The cloths are polyester with an open weave to allow the juice to flow freely. The cloths filter the juice to a degree, and a polyester ‘sock’ fits over the end of the pipe to further filter the juice before it ends up in the barrel. These cloths need to be washed regularly on a 90° wash to sterilise. We wash the cloths at home in our ancient washing machine and when it’s raining outside they get to dry on the drying racks in the kitchen. The kitchen is filled with the smell of apple sauce, it’s delicious, especially with the fire lit and the rain smattering the windows.

Cloths drying in the kitchen on a wet and windy Mendip afternoon

Cloths drying in the kitchen on a wet and windy Mendip afternoon

Racking off
Yep, sounds a bit rude, we’ve done all the jokes…

Despite all the filtering done by the cloths, there’s still a large amount of sediment that sinks as the apple juice settles in its final IBC resting place. This sediment is left to settle until the cider is ‘racked off’ a few months further into the process, once fermentation has almost come to a complete halt. The cider is pumped from its original tank to a clean one, leaving the sediment behind. This is also called ‘taking it off the lees’. It’s a vital process when making real cider – it slows down the final stage of fermentation and protects the cider from the possibility of developing off-flavours if the lees start to break down. Our cider is left to ferment through the winter, and the first cider should be ready to drink around April or May the following year. If we have a really cold winter though, it sometimes isn’t ready until June or even July. Following this process is why craft cider is so special and why you won’t find high-volume cider makers following these practices.

Newton Farm
We’re thrilled to have made our first delivery to Newton Farm Foods this week. It’s a wonderful farm shop with its own butchery, selling local produce at the shop and café. It’s in the heart of the beautiful village of Newton St Loe between Bath and Bristol, and is a great, welcoming destination if you’re visiting our fine area. There are some country walks around and about, and the views are breathtaking. They’re stocking our full bottle range, plus our gift packs, which make great presents for Dads and Uncles, and let’s not forget Mums and Aunties.

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If you’re not in the area, all our ciders are available online, so please visit our full range at our webshop here. On Sunday 1 November, we’ll be heading for our regular spot at the Frome Independent market, alongside Field to Fire our favourite pizza guys. If you’ve never been you have to visit – it’s the best market for miles around and worth visiting Frome for the weekend if it’s a market Sunday.

In the next blog, we’ll post a few winter recipes – including our easy mulled cider, and a winter dish or two. See you next time.

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October-fest

And so the apples keep coming. It was a grey and drizzly start to last week, but Neil and helper Sean made excellent progress, pressing around 10 tons of apples in just four days. The new conveyer helped the workload – carrying pomace away straight into the trailer without needing to be shovelled. It’s a real beast, but saves a back-breaking job and keeps the pressing shed floor clear from pomace and grots.

This beast takes pomace away from the press and dumps it beautifully in the waiting trailer saving time and energy

This beast takes pomace away from the press and dumps it beautifully in the waiting trailer saving time and energy

 

Pomace is used by the local farm for compost, and sometimes pheasant food for the local shoot. Pheasants love pomace – they scratch through it endlessly, trying to find the apple pips to eat. It keeps them busy and stops them from flying off, so our local shoot is always very happy to receive a (tractor) bucketful.

We also like to treat the pigs around this time of year. Our pair of Oxford Sandy & Blacks are almost ready to go off, and they love snaffling apples in the afternoons.

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They’ve had a good four months on our land, digging, sleeping and fighting with each other, although they’re getting a bit too old for that now and they mainly concentrate on eating. We’ve never tried this breed before, but they’ve got a great temperament – lively without being aggressive – so if the meat’s good, we’ll have them again.

Apples in action

Juice starts fermenting almost immediately – especially in the warm October weather we’ve experienced so far. The barn where we store the early juice is alive with the sound of gentle bubbling – we seal the IBCs (industrial bulk containers) and insert a simple airlock valve that keeps the air off the juice while letting the CO2 out. Allowing air to get to the juice is a fast way to spoil it, so once the caps are on, the juice is left well alone to bubble away quietly through the winter.

This is what 1,000 litres of freshly-pressed apple juice gives off – CO2 bubbles up through the airlock as the juice starts the slow fermentation into cider.

This is what 1,000 litres of freshly-pressed apple juice gives off – CO2 bubbles up through the airlock as the juice starts the slow fermentation into cider.

 

This season so far, we’ve had good yields from the apples – nice juicy fruit from the wet summer! The sugars are lower than last year, again, because of the lower sunshine through the summer. The strength of our ciders are always dictated by the sugars in the apples we press – sugar ferments to alcohol, so lower sugars mean a lower alcohol content in our 2015 harvest cider.

Last year’s apples were smaller with high sugars, so our 2015 cider is strong – for example the Harvest Moon bottles are 7.2%.

Bottles on stall

With the season fast approaching, our gift packs are making a more prominent appearance at our events. At just £10, they make a great present

We’re booking Christmas shows at the moment and are looking forward to the warm,  seasonal scent of mulled cider. Our next event is the Frome Independent on 1 November, where the mulled cider will be flowing. If you’re planning an event or would like to see Worley’s at a Christmas fair near you, please get in touch.

Meanwhile, if you can’t wait for Christmas, you can always stock up on our bottles and draught right now. Everything’s available at our webshop, including our 20-litre Bag in Box still ciders Red Hen, Rocky Road and Harvest Moon.

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