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 was 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 had a bit of a buzz about it during lockdown, it seems as a drink to have sunk back into obscurity. I guess that is the fickle nature of fashion, it hasn't affected me either way, I'm still chugging along. There also seem to be rumblings of tax changes - a thoroughly dull subject but just another piece of friction to dissuade people from getting into cidermaking and looking after old orchards.
My new year's resolution this year is to spend more time down at the wood with the trees, it's a beautiful spot miles from a major road and blessed with absolutely pants mobile reception (there is one spot you can get a bar or two if you are lucky but otherwise you are on your own). Alongside the apples we have loads of sloes, damsons, blackberries and elder, giving homebrew opportunities in abundance. Nettle beer is off the menu though after receiving a firm thumbs down from everyone I've tried it on!
This year after much curmudgeonliness my tree's finally gave up and yielded a decent crop, meaning I should be able to create the second batch of Ortgeard, and a larger run than 2020. All in all I'll be bottling a larger proportion this year.
As ever, the Nobody Inn (about 400m from my trees), The Cridford Inn (an easy mile or so), and the Ye Olde Cider Bar in Newton Abbot have kindly supported my little company by taking bag-in-a-box cider, joined this year by the wonderful The Shirker's Rest in New Cross London. The lovely Cafe Ode in Shaldon has also stocked my 500ml bottles. If you're looking to get hold of some of the pet nat, we're still supplying Art & Craft in Streatham and online supplier Elston & Son, and more recently Juliet's Quality Foods in London and Ben's Farm Shops in Devon, which seem to have done a roaring trade.
Looking to 2023, we're still trying to get a cidermaking shed at the wood off the ground so I'll likely be fermenting in my in-laws barn just outside Newton Abbot, but hopefully there will be more to report there next year.