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
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.
Christmas is coming and we're off for a few days to celebrate. The cider that's been bubbling under the stairs for the last couple of months has slowed and the plops of bubbles rising are fewer and further between. Easing out the bungs releases a delicious apply smell. We've racked all the containers, indulging in the geekery of ph's and specific gravities as well as numerous and more qualitative taste testes which made the whole afternoon a slightly tipsy blur. The process also got a bit messier as the afternoon progressed. While all the equipment was carefully sterilised, my aim with the siphon tube became poorer as we progressed following numerous taste tests, leaving slightly sloppy kitchen floor. And how did it taste? a little rough around the edges but pretty palatable. The demijohn's with blends worked better than the single variety versions but its all an experiment so we'll see how they evolve over time. Now we wait. Everything's sitting ther