RG 2004 March

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8289401_8cd6453906_s.jpg This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant

March, 2004


Oak Barrels

Any of you cider makers, within striking range of Babcarry Somerset, on the look out for barrels? Mr Beaton of Deer Park Farm, Babcarry, has a consignment of 46 gallon, oak, ex- whiskey barrels, newly arrived from Scotland. He is selling these for the remarkable price of £20 each. [Garden centres also sell these for water butts at between £50 - £70 and Vigo have them at £40.] The ones that I bought have dates on them between 1990 to 1995, so there should be plenty of life left in them. Their freshness is not in doubt. My garage smells like the distillery that they came from! Mr Beaton's phone no. is 01458 223141. I would be interested to hear views on the best way to keep these barrels until they are used for cider. I have heard that they can fall apart if allowed to dry right out. Is it best to fill them with water or just spray them periodically?


There is certainly plenty of alcohol in these barrels. I didn't think I would get fed up with the smell of whiskey, but I have! I will be glad to get them out of the garage. I have just the place for them outside, alongside the North wall of my barn.


Welcoming a new member

Welcome to Craft Cider Making! I can tell from your description that you have definitely caught the bug and the fascination of it all. The point when you really get hooked comes when you taste and enjoy what you have made yourself. The satisfaction is immense and just leads you on to make more and experiment with different varieties and blends. I never thought that cider could be made with eating apples until I tried Ashmeads Kernel as a single variety.It is great and I do some on its own every year now. Good luck with the Coxs. I tried a bottle of Thatcher's single variety Cox and found it tasty and enjoyable. the only thing I did not like was that they had made it very gassy.

Cheers, Rose.

Sheppy's single varieties are outstanding. After trying a dozen bottles from their web site, I was so impressed that I ordered three more Dabinett trees and introduced a further three of Tremlett's Bitter, to my orchard. I especially liked the Dabinett, it had a full fruity, rich flavour. I had not made Dabinett as a single variety before, so I decided to give it a go last Autumn.It looks and tastes promising. Interesting to hear that Waitrose sell the Sheppys. Our nearest supermarket is Tescos and they only sometimes have Thatchers, which are not as good. I will have to have a look in Waitrose in Dorchester next time I'm there.


I would recommend "Cider and juice Apples" by R R Williams to anyone wishing to grow cider apples. It has been the most valuable book that I've had over the last 10 years or so and I still refer to it often. My favourite pages are those of Table 10 which lists the vintage quality cider apple varieties with their characteristics. This has played a big part in the choice of trees for my own orchard and has been most useful. The book is a mine of information on all aspects of orchard practice, albeit from a commercial viewpoint. I have recently bought Liz Copas' new book, "A Somerset Pomona". This is also very informative concerning the characteristics of cider apple varieties and has the great bonus of a superb set of colour photos of all those described. I especially liked her section on apple identification, which works well with the photographs. When I took some unknown apples to our local "Apple Day" last autumn, I was somewhat amused to see the apple expert, Harry Baker, was using it as his main reference for identifying cider apples. I think Liz needs to produce an expanded edition to cover the non Somerset varieties.


Vicky's experience with the magistrates confirms what a bad joke it is at present. I rang the magistrates licensing office here to discuss the procedure. It was immediately clear that the pompous lady who answered did not even want to discuss cider licensing with me at all. She said I would only be able to deal with them via a solicitor since " everthing has to be properly tied up with the Police and the Fire Service[??] etc". I said that I did'nt think the amount of cider I am likely to sell would run to that sort of expense! Next I rang the Licensing Dept at our local Council. There was a much friendlier response altogether. I was told that they would be dealing with the licensing from 2005 and they hoped that it would be simpler than at present. However the lady said they had no firm details from the Government as yet so she was unable to give me any further information. It looks rather as if it is all still in the melting pot. I think it would be a good thing to write to the Parliamentary Cider group [see Andy's posting of 10 Feb]. If as many of us as possible were to do this we might just help to ensure that the new regime is more favourable to the small producer. I also wonder whether CAMRA have been able to exert any pressure to help our cause. Real cider is certainly in the same postion as was real ale when CAMRA came to it's rescue in the 60's. Any CAMRA members know anything about this?


I have just received the Dorset Magistrates Licensing guide book. It is not an "easy read", to put it mildly. I can see now why they expect applicants to use a solicitor! I have decided to wait until next year and see what happens when the Council takes over. It could hardly get worse. It seems from what I read, that they would be involved in any case, with their planning, building regulations and consents as well as environmental and health and safety issues. Lloyd George has a great deal to answer for! I shall just be a wholesaler this year. I presume it is possible to sell wholesale to one's friends, given that the quantities are large enough. Can someone advise me what the minimum legal quantity is for wholesale ?