[Photo: Eleanor Thatcher, fifth generation cider maker, at the orchard in Christon]
The apples come from one of the West Country’s oldest, and most influential, orchards. With its ongoing research into apple varieties, Thatchers Cider is celebrating the work of the former National Fruit and Cider Institute with its new limited edition cider.
Thatchers has blended apples from one of Somerset’s oldest and most influential orchards for its new, limited edition Christon Single Orchard Cider.
The standard orchard in Christon, nestled at the foot of the Mendip Hills, was originally planted back in 1928, and is home to traditional apple varieties including Court Royal, Frederick and Stembridge Cluster.
The Christon orchard plays a very special part of cidermaking history. It was planted by cider pioneers at the National Fruit and Cider Institute at the Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol in the early days of cider research. It was these cider pioneers who really were the founding fathers of the modern cider industry, with their ground-breaking research into apple varieties and regional growing conditions. Their work on cider making techniques, including yeast selection, is still valued by cider makers today.
Fourth generation cider maker Thatchers has harvested the orchard – that is home to 25 different varieties of apple – four times throughout the season, ensuring each variety has been captured at its perfect ripeness. The apples were taken straight from the orchard to the mill, and pressed straight away, retaining all the individual characteristics of the fruit, and the orchard.
The fresh juice was cold fermented in Thatchers’ cider barn, carefully preserving the flavour and character of the fruit. Each small batch of juice has then been blended together before being matured in oak to create the robust and full flavoured cider.
The mix of apples blended into the new, unique Christon Single Orchard cider brings a depth and complexity to this cider. Just 10,000 bottles are being produced of the 8.4% abv, medium dry, full-bodied cider.
Richard Johnson, chief cidermaker at Thatchers, says,
“I love this traditional orchard at Christon which oozes character and tradition. There’s a real mix of heritage apples here, that we’ve blended into this really bold, full bodied cider, perfect for the onset of colder days and darker evenings when a smooth, warming cider is so welcome.”
By using apples from one single orchard, the cider makers at Thatchers recognise how the soil and climatic conditions have a huge influence on the fruit’s flavour and characteristics, just as the researchers at Long Ashton did back in the early 1900s. The Christon orchard is nestled on south facing slopes at the foot of Somerset’s Mendip Hills, with a red loam topsoil over a clay subsoil. The varieties harvested from Christon orchard also include Brown Snout, Yarlington Mill, Yellow Styre, and White Close Pippin.
Liz Copas, one of the UK’s leading pomologists and formerly of the Long Ashton Research Station has helped identify all the apples – and perry pears – in the Christon orchard.
She says, “This has to be one of the most influential orchards in modern British cider making. It’s a real privilege to have the chance to walk through these trees some of which are coming up to 100 years old. All cidermakers today owe much to the work that was carried out at Long Ashton Research Station, and Thatchers have captured that essence in a bottle with this new cider.”
With its forty acres of trial orchards, including its living library Exhibition Orchard, Thatchers is carrying on the Long Ashton tradition of research into apple varieties, growing conditions and their suitability for cider making. Its “100 Tree Trial” has seen 10,000 new trees of different apple varieties planted in Thatchers own hedgerow style, with all these varieties having either performed well in the Exhibition Orchard, or having a reputation for producing excellent cider.
Richard concludes, “Trialling different apple varieties and researching how they perform in varying cider styles is such an important part of our ability to innovate and create ciders for today’s shopper. At the same time, we are able to look back at the legacy of the Long Ashton Research Station and carry that on into our work today.”
The apples are coming in, the presses are at work, and it’s almost that time when the Big Apple has welcomed visitors to the Herefordshire parishes of the Marcle Ridge for the past thirty years. But, sadly, not in 2020. The event, which was scheduled for 10th and 11th October, has been cancelled. The community organisation behind the Big Apple had come up with a programme and a delivery plan designed to keep the event within COVID-19 secure guidelines, but the latest changes proved a step too far.
“We’ve been outrun by the virus”, said spokesman Jackie Denman.
“We’d like to thank the Public Health team at Herefordshire Council for their advice and support – they really tried to help us make it happen. In the end, the decision to cancel was our own. The timing just wasn’t right.”
Messages of support followed the announcement late last week.
“Everyone agreed that we had made the right decision, but they also took the trouble to tell us that we would be much missed.”
This annual opportunity to enjoy the orchards in this special corner of Herefordshire, to see, hear and smell cider being made and to taste many different varieties of apples, local ciders, perries and apple juices has become an established part of the calendar for many people. Apple growers and cider makers depend heavily on events for sales of their produce, and almost all had already been cancelled.
“We tried so hard to keep the Big Apple going, especially because we were almost the only apple event in this part of the country that was still in this year’s calendar. We’ve put a special area on our website at https://www.bigapple.org.uk/harvestime2020/, with information about the local producers that would have been there, and some ways to get hold of their produce.”
Hawkes will be bringing their new concept of cider festival into Germany with a one-day event. German cidermakers Ostmost and Pica Pica, alongside Austrian Cidermakers Blakstoc will be attending. All cidermakers will be pouring to a relatively green crowd in terms of cider drinking, so the festival will be shining a light on new tastes and experiences.
Hosted at BrewDog’s Berlin brewery, the space is a 2500 square meter old power station
Entry is free and guided tastings from each of the Cidermakers will be on offer for a small fee.
A new TV campaign from Thatchers, the family cider makers, will appear on screens from Monday 17th August 2020. Called “Family”, it reinforces the values that are the driving force behind everything that Thatchers does.
True to life, authentic, warm and aspirational, the new campaign from the Somerset cider maker will be broadcast nationally, on TV and Video on Demand.
The ad has been directed by award-winning British director Steve Reeves with production company Another Film Company. The creative agency is McCann Bristol, and media agency Bray Leino.
Bill Bailey has provided the voice over, and as in previous campaigns Martin Thatcher has a cameo role, this time joined by family members Anne and Eleanor. Cider makers Richard Johnson and Sophie Jennings also make appearances.
Martin Thatcher, four generation cidermaker says, “This is an ad that’s warm with a smile in its heart. We hope everyone will be able to relate to it. The sense of family runs very strongly throughout all we do at Thatchers, from our heritage and traditions, through to our quality and expertise in cider making. It’s something we’re all very proud of, and we know it’s something that will always stay true. There’s never been a better time to reinforce the message of family and caring for each other.”
A forty and thirty second ad will showcase the Thatchers cider portfolio of Thatchers Gold, Haze and Rosé. A social campaign will also run.
Thatchers has been the cider category’s top off trade performer during lockdown with sales +108.7% in the last 12 weeks. *Source: IRI, vol sales 12 w/e 18th July 2020.
The Partnership – a coalition of producers and retailers – has launched a social media campaign to help patrons get the most out of their returns to their favourite hostelries.
The campaign will highlight the safety measures put in place, the importance of guidance within the premises, the need to respect physical distancing and the promotion of responsible drinking while having a good time.
Set to run over the next month, the campaign will include links to the Scottish Government’s guidance for consumers.
“It is important that consumers know the industry is taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously and this campaign is also aimed at highlighting that. The hospitality industry has been devastated by the pandemic and it will be a long road to recovery, the support of consumers and their confidence in the trade will be key.
“In launching this campaign, the whole industry in Scotland is getting behind our pubs and bars. By highlighting the changes being made to keep consumers safe, the innovation being used in this and of course, the pre-existing world class food and drink already on offer, we hope to welcome back as many customers as we can safely do so. In turn, the trade will be able to continue to support jobs and contribute to the economy.”
“After being closed for almost four months, operators cannot wait to welcome customers back through their door, but we all know it needs to be done safely. The campaign seeks to highlight the safety aspect to consumers by telling what they can expect when they return to a pub, bar or restaurant.
“Whether it’s giving contact details to staff, ordering via an app or QR code, or having to wait in line to use toilet facilities, it will be a new experience for everyone. The pubs and bars will still be the same premises we know and love, but these changes are to keep us all safe and as an industry we are ready to support that by playing our part.”
The Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership (SAIP) is a partnership of alcoholic beverage producers and representatives of the on-trade and off-trade in Scotland which includes:
It provides a platform for the alcohol industry to promote responsible drinking and contribute towards tackling alcohol-related harm.
In addition to this campaign, the SAIP runs three major programmes, namely the promotion of the 125ml wine measure in the on-trade, the ‘You’re Asking For It’ campaign to tackle proxy purchase and Drinkaware at Work campaign in collaboration with Drinkaware to support employees in making informed choices about their drinking.
Just as the Chancellor announces his mini-budget to support the all-important hospitality sector, Little Pomona launches Table Cider.
A seasonal blend of apples that will be released in parcels in the year following each harvest, Table Cider is cast in the mould of table wine.
Full of fruit, freshness and energy, Table Cider celebrates three things about great dry cider that are possibly even more important than the apples and the techniques used in its production: cider’s sheer joyous drinkability, its easy affinity with food, and the subtle, effortless way it inspires conversation.
“In this most convivial of alcoholic drinks, cider is far greater than the sum of its parts and something Herefordshire-based Little Pomona feels is well worth celebrating,” said co-founder and cidermaker James Forbes.
Table Cider is a careful blend of five different apple varieties – Dabinett, Browns Apple, Egremont Russet, Ellis Bitter and Ashton Bitter – brought together in bottle to reflect the summer season of its release.
Since its inception Little Pomona has proudly championed the apple, that wonderful fruit of the nation’s native wine. They have continuously pushed the boundaries of apple fermentation while letting the fruit lead and giving it time to express itself in its natural state – fully fermented to dryness.
Of Table Cider, James said, “Since many of our releases are small, they can be hard to get hold of. As we thought more about what we are doing as makers we realised that it is in the sharing of cider with friends and family and crucially, food, where its true value lies. We wanted to create a cider to reflect this which was both affordable and also more available.”
Table Cider will appear in batches throughout the year. “We have over 50 different possible cider components maturing in our cidery,” said fellow founder, Susanna Forbes. “We will be making the most of this and matching each batch of Table Cider to both the season and the dishes on everyone’s tables.”
“We decided to finish the fermentation in the bottle and leave it undisgorged in its natural state,” assistant cidermaker, Blair Côté, said. “That means sediment, which is a joy – there’s a ton of flavour there! – so gently rouse the bottle before pouring.”
Table Cider (7.3% abv) is available in 75cl bottles with an RRP of £8-8.50.