Year 8 - still truckin

I'm a little late with my musings this year, COVID hit me this Xmas and I'm only now climbing out of that pit. 2022 w as pretty mental on the apple front as much as anything else; in 2021 I was scrabbling a bit for apples but last year they were everywhere, boughs heaving through the long hot summer that merged into autumn. The sheer number of wasps getting caught up in the excitement of pressing was a new challenge - I had to fish out loads who had gone for a dip in the juice coming through the press and discovered that their backstroke wasn't up to it. And the levels of sugar (which translates to alcohol) were far higher than previous years, driven by the heat and lack of rain. I had to leave some on the ground as I only have so much tank space but they'll go back into mulching next year's crop. Depressingly after two years when cider ha d a bit of a buzz a bout it during lockdown, it seems as a drink to have sunk back into obscurity. I guess that is the fickle n

Year 7 Hanging in there

We start '22 largely as we started '21, newspapers rolling out a litany of depressing statistics and the threat of a lockdown looming large over us all.  However that dark cloud aside, from my point of view I've had a great year; loads of support from some great outlets adding The Other Cup in Newton Abbot as well as 'going national' thanks to the lovely people at Scrattings . As ever The Nobody In n down the road from the orchard, along with The Cridford Inn , the  Cider bar in Newton Abbot,  and Cafe Ode and T he Shipwrights Arms in Shaldon have been great. The wonderful A rt and Craft brewery continues to provide a London outlet for my Pet Nat.  COVID trapped me in the city last Christmas meaning I racked the bulk of the cider slightly later than I would have wanted. It felt so good to get down to Devon and into the shed. I left the cider on the lees longer than usual; until  the end of January although the results were good.  We had a cold end to spring/earl

Year 6 OMG

It feels weird to write about 2020 when in a sense it's still with us - a long, dark lockdown of the soul, stretching out into the indeterminate future. What a fucker of a year. The virus has impacted so many lives in so many ways it makes everything else seem trite by comparison. I type this sitting staring at the walls in locked down London as the trees in Devon slumber peacefully. Another growth ring for them. We got planning permission in the spring to build a cider shed at the orchard meaning I can move out of my in-laws barn which I was slowly colonising as I added more and more containers to the collection like a Speidel fanboy. This is probably not going to be a fast move (£££!) but it gives the long term plan a little more solidity and a path to the future. Speaking to pubs, even when they were open this year, tastes changed somewhat; the drinking crowd being younger as the oldies were more likely to play it safe and stay home, meaning a shift to sweeter cider or away from

Year 5- the orchard is growing up

This year has been a good one cider-wise, 2018's hot summer meant loads of concentrated sugar in the juice producing strong, flavour-packed cider that went down very well.  The Nobody Inn, The Cridford Inn, The Real Al Company and Ye Olde Cider Bar have been great to me this year with a few other pubs taking some boxes here and there. I'm still struggling to get much traction in London but working on it. The orchard is coming on great guns, I've now got 22 apple trees between 10 and one year old. The older ones are growing strongly, pretty much proper sized trees now, I remember planting them when they were smaller than me. It was great this autumn to get a proper harvest of apples that made a real contribution to the total haul alongside various old orchards in the local area. It should also mean that next year, weather permitting, I can start to experiment with single variety and specific blends rather than doing everything by taste from unknown apples as I do now.

Year 2, making and selling Cider

I’ve been making cider for years but this is my second year of selling on to pubs. I live in London but source apples down in Devon, pressing and fermenting at my in-laws’ house just outside Newton Abbot. This year I doubled down on production. I fermented 450 litres of cider from apples donated by farmers who had no use for them, a paltry amount by commercial standards but a fair bit of hard graft for me.  Most of the trees I picked from were old, scattered around ancient fields.   None of the farmers really knew the types of trees they had so I collected by taste, looking for the mouth-puckering tannins and balancing with the sweeter varieties and some cookers from a friend’s garden (I’m no expert but learning!). A few days of picking was followed a couple of weeks later by three days of pressing in late October 2015, a really mild dry period. In the spring I racked off a few bottles and started stalking the streets. It’s hard to sell cider in London,

Year 1

Wildling Cider Year 1 started back in 2014, with an advert in the window of a shop in Newton Abbott asking about apples and finished a couple of weeks ago when I dropped the last of the cider off at the Bree Louise pub in Euston. It's been astonishingly unprofitable but great fun. The insurance alone ate through well over half my earnings and that's before tax, but it was thoroughly rewarding to have discovered that someone had bought the first pint between me dropping the cider off and quickly parking the car up. I never met them. I did meet the second guy and I got a photo, I think he thought I was a bit odd. I bought the third pint myself and learnt a valuable lesson in pricing,  here are a few of the other things I've learnt: Getting your level 2 in food safety is ridiculously, scarily, worryingly easy Bucket presses are very very inefficient as is a hand-turned scratter, I was very thankful for the kit that I rented from Orchard Link There is something lovely ab

New Years resolutions

I've been making cider for a few years now using apples donated by farmers down in Devon. It's amazing how many apples just end up rotting into the ground as people don't have the time to pick them up. I've learnt loads and created enough to keep me and my friends in booze. But my dream has always been to create something I can sell, so this year I'm going for it. Unfortunately it's not as simple as taking a barrel and standing on a street corner.  I've spent the last few months jumping my way through all the various government-devised hoops to enable me to simply go and ask someone if they'll buy it off me. This is very limited edition, it'll be a fair few years before I'm doing anything to scare Mr Magners or even cover my costs but everyone has to start somewhere. I'll put more down over the next few weeks about what's involved and ultimately, come April, if I can convince anyone to buy it.  But right now, on the 4th of Ja