10 Days in the USA (2014) – Part One (of 2)

It started with a call from Ben Watson http://www.chelseagreen.com/authors/ben_watson asking if i would be interested in doing a tasting/talk at Franklin County CiderDays 2014  http://www.ciderdays.org. I already knew that a week later The Festival 2014 hosted by Shelton Brothers (my USA importers) was taking place in LA http://www.sheltonbrothers.com/the-festival-tap-list/ , so that left the mid week period and it was good fortune that my longtime friends Dick and Diane Dunn asked whether i would care to visit with The Rocky Mountain Cider Association  http://www.rmcider.org/Home.html . I was very pleased to be asked and even more pleased that i could say yes, thanks to everyone’s generosity especially Dick and Diane, Bill Lyon http://cidersnob.tumblr.com and Ben and the CiderDays Committee Lisa, Lynn, Don et al at Franklin County Chamber of Commerce http://franklincc.org .

My other job is perfect preparation for this 10 day sprint round cider in the USA.

Franklin County Ciderdays was wonderful. So much pride in the locality for the apples, orchards and cider, both hard and sweet. Events and locations that would keep participants coming back year after year in  order to enjoy everything that is on offer. To steal directly from the program here are some of the 2014 Event Highlights that i got involved in:

  • 20th Anniversary Kickoff Reception — Friday evening event at The Blue Heron restaurant in Sunderland, MA, featuring select Massachusetts ciders, a selection of sweet and savory small plates from Chef Deborah Snow, and the opportunity to meet and greet cidermakers. I really enjoyed this opportunity to meet and talk with cider makers and match their ciders with superb food. I recall these but there were more!
  • The Marketplace at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls, with local artisans and producers, food vendors, and, of course, apples!
  • The Cider Salon — the world’s longest-running hard cider tasting with more than 65 individual cider brands from across North America and Europe in the big tent across from the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, 53 Main Street, Shelburne Falls. Two sessions — 3 to 4:30 and 5:15 to 6:45 (Saturday). This was fantastic, swamped by people tasting so many different ciders, many being poured by the cider makers themselves. I met with the emerging legend that is Andy Brennan who is Aaron Burr Cider http://www.aaronburrcider.com and i commended him on the prices he is getting for his cider in New York and i showed not a hint of jealousy ;-).
  • CiderDays Locavore Harvest Supper — Chef Paul Correnty will once again mastermind a savory fall feast featuring apples, cider and other locally grown foods. Held this year in the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls.
  • British Cider Tasting with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry, Herefordshire, England, on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield. I think we had fun and learnt a bit. 6 months later, we will have had 7 people who were at the talk visit our cider house in Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, the power of cider.
  • Apples to Juice to Cider tasting with Steve Woods and John Bunker on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield.  “Taste the Apple then Taste the Cider” was a great experience for all. Can you determine from the raw apple exactly what the cider might taste like?
  • Steve has passed the end of my road on many trips to Herefordshire but this was the first time we had met and i am very glad to have made the connection to the “godfather” of cider in the US. We also made a trip to Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Cider http://www.povertylaneorchards.com which did not disappoint. It also meant i could meet with the owner of a very fine nose belonging to Nicole LeGrand Leibon some 12 years after we first met at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto http://eventistore.slowfood.it/saloneterramadre/2014/eventi/eng/SL50/the-miracle-of-apples-ciders-and-perries-of-the-world.html in Turin. (this link is 2014, we met in 2002). Much apple and pear juice has flowed through the presses since. A pleasure too to talk with Brenda, Wanda and Ryan.
  • Cider and Cheese Pairing on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield.
  • Apples for Baking: Tasting and Workshop with Rebecca Clark, Betsey Clark Dickson, and Lori Clark on Sunday at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield. It was great to meet with Ben Clark on a number of occasions through the weekend.
  • Fermentation: Basics and Beyond with Jocelyn Kuzelka of Panacea Wine Consulting, on Saturday at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center. Jocelyn will cover yeast selection, nutrients in the juice, and blending and sensory analysis. This was a chance to hear first hand information and experience from Jocelyn who has amassed a wealth of experience and put together a great presentation.
  • Fruit Exploring with John Bunker and Rowan Jacobsen on Saturday at Apex Orchards, Shelburne John and Rowan made this a compelling experience and it could have gone on for a lot longer and still have only scratched the surface of what these 2 know. Rowan’s book “Apple of Uncommon Character” is superb, informative and a great read. John’s apple manual is a true reflection of the man himself, crammed with info.
  • Ice Cider Making with Claude Jolicoeur, author of The New Cider Maker’s Handbookon Saturday at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center. Great to meet with Claude at last and i took many many notes during this presentation…..

Judith (and Terry) and Field Maloney of West County Cider kicked FCCD off some 20 years previously, the essence of what they started remains but has blossomed into an event for many, whatever your level of interest and experience. It was a pleasure to see Judith and Field again and thanks to Field for the Johnny Appleseed from Leominster shirt, that is Leominster in MA not Herefordshire.

Special thanks to Ben who kindly sorted all this and drove me around for 3 days. Needless to say we talked cider and many other topics and always, always finished the day with other cider fanatics (including the delightful Eliza “apple mad” Greenman  https://www.facebook.com/elizapples?fref=ts, Jocelyn Kuzela and Rowan Jacobsen, round  a table strewn with cider at The Wright House in Historic Deerfield http://www.historic-deerfield.org/discover-deerfield/historic-houses/wright-house/ . I would return in an instant.

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Easter already!

2015 has started, as all years have started recently, with haste. The first few weeks of January were taken up with coming to terms with the inevitable cold, persistent dark and preparation for lambing.

The cider and perry is sitting in barrels and tanks, fermentations on going, some nearer the finish than others but all still in a transient state, all awaiting the onset of spring and warmer weather, so that the ferments can complete and malolactic changes can occur and some maturation can commence.

By Easter the lambing is pretty much finished. The ewes and lambs are out at grass, that is just showing signs of growth and the Texel lambs are starting to fill out nicely. Thrice daily we are still topping up tiddlers and orphans while daily we put out more creep for lambs, feed the ewes and observe and if necessary treat for any lameness, problem eyes, orf and mastitis. The Herefords and Hereford X cows are calving well and looking forward to getting out on grass too. I know David on The Archers has his Herefords out already but that is just north of us in Borsetshire!

Down to the cider house we prepare orders, either for collection or despatch, then check on the progress of some ciders and perries as we start to bottle, do some back blending and put together some new ones. Already in 2015 we have a new “Yarlington Mill” medium sparkling cider, a single varietal dry “Coppy” perry (only available via our website or at our shop) and a new “Making Hay” cider (our sweeter sparkling) and our latest Vintage cider from 2013 harvest after 18 months in oak, a tasty number with a little more acidity than in previous vintages.

2015 so far has seen some fine new outlets come on board, as well as continued export to Austria, Holland and the USA.

We are just starting to taste some of the new perries made with the early fruit from new bush orchards. So far, not very inspiring if i am honest, so we will do a bit of racking and blending and then baton down the hatches for a few more months to let some development occur.

Last weekend saw a busy trip to London to visit some restaurants, bars, pop up speakeasys, delicatessens, stores and bottle shops. I marvelled at the hours the proprietors and their staff put in and the dedication they show in finding just the right products to sell.

Starting on friday night with our dedicated London bottle merchant, Felix Nash from Fine Cider http://www.fine-cider.com . A big thanks to BAO London http://baolondon.com , The Richmond http://www.therichmondhackney.com , Proper and Sons http://www.properandsons.com/site/ , The Beauvoir Deli http://thedebeauvoirdeli.co.uk , Printers and Stationers http://www.printersandstationers.co.uk , Lyles of London https://twitter.com/lyleslondon (the perry is coming), Elliots at Borough Market http://www.elliotscafe.com , General Store http://www.generalsto.re and an extended stay down at Hop, Burns and Black http://www.hopburnsblack.co.uk where Jen and Glen made me so welcome that i stayed all day while they and their customers suffered my mutated 70’s rock based playlist.

A long very stimulating discussion with the astute and lovely Mary Topp at the New Forest Cider Stand at Borough Market http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/new-forest-cider-2 and http://www.newforestcider.co.uk and a great refreshing glug of their dry Kingston Black cider. A refit of the Borough Market stand is coming in the next few weeks and other very exciting developments down in Hampshire. Proof that you can not stand still and rest on your laurels.

Oliver’s Draught ciders and perries (and some bottles too) are available in London through Alice Churchward at The Real Al Company http://www.therealalcompany.co.uk . Alice has established a great rapport with a host of pubs and off licences and among the visits we made were The Antelope http://www.theantelopepub.com , The Flying Pig (hi Justine)  http://www.theflyingpiglondon.com , Finborough Arms http://www.finborougharms.co.uk under the rampant enthusiasm of Jeffrey and Alessio and The Euston Cider Tap http://www.eustontap.com/pages.php?navid=9 where i really would like to see more dry cider on offer.

No doubt here, London is becoming very important(again) for draught cider (and perry) and not for the first time, we have another opportunity to establish more fine bottled cider and perry as the perfect accompaniment to fine foods of many kinds. Just got to make sure it is well made, suitably balanced, perfectly presented and in the hands of the right merchants.

Cider-what is it?

From when I was a kid I loved my pop music and indeed “pop music” has pretty much kept me afloat. 
When it comes to being from Herefordshire, of the bands to emerge from the local talent pool, one was The Pretenders, of which more at some stage, but the first up were Mott the Hoople. 
Their eventual lead singer, was Ian Hunter. IH recently celebrated his 75th birthday and ended a recent interview with Esquire magazine by saying “I’ve stayed fresh and vital because my head is full of tomorrow. I’m always writing something new. If you just sit around thinking, you’d go crazy. I even get bored doing “When I’m President” now. (his most recent album). The last thing doesn’t matter. For me? It’s always got to be the next thing.”
When am I getting round to something to do with cider you ask yourself?
Well here goes. 
It is these words that will ring in my head everytime i hear another argument about what cidermakers should and should not do, about what cider is and is not.
There are all sorts of criteria that might dictate your arguments and reasoning. Whether you pay duty, VAT, employ people, are convinced that 100% fresh pressed juice is the only way, that tradition and heritage must dictate the present, any other additions whether fruit or not are an abomination, the consumer does not know what a good cider is, the ingredients are all that matters, the end taste is all that matters, duty rates inhibit innovation etc. etc. 
I think though that Ian Hunter has helped me see a way through this quagmire. 
In order to keep the buzz going, keep making great (quality) “cider”, keep looking for new ways to engage the consumer, whether new tastes, packaging or matching with food. But it is always the next thing, no resting on any non existent laurels, just onto the next blend, making cider the way you need to make it in order to sell it, drink it, market it, the way you believe is the best way. Your way, not THE way, just your way.
We want this wonderful world of cider to blossom and flourish and for it to be possible to make a living from craft cider making. Please don’t put a noose round real ciders neck.

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Welcome to Oliver’s Cider and Perry

Welcome to Oliver’s Cider and Perry new website.

The progress of the site has been slow and steady, mirroring the way we make our cider and perry.

A big thank you to Chris Clinton at C2 who has taken great trouble to listen to what we wanted and come up with a great way to make it all work.

We really hope that you will check back now and then to see what is new and any comments, please feel free to get in touch.

Cheers Tom Oliver.