RG 2006 July

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

July, 2006



Apple Mugs

I visited the RHS garden at Wisley in Surrey last week. In the shop there they have some delightful bone china mugs with various fruits depicted on them. The apple mug is without doubt the nicest of the collection and has a picture of what could be two Yarlingtons on a little branch with their neighbouring leaves. I just had to have them and was quite unable to resist. There are now 4 of them sitting on a little shelf in the ciderhouse. Much nicer to offer to people for tastings than the motley selection of old wine glasses that I have been using! (The pint glasses are in the cupboard in case any serious drinkers happen along)

Organic cider

I agree wholeheartedly with John's view of "organic" cider. I tend to think that it is a sales ploy used by larger producers to help justify the higher price of their top of the range ciders. For example, I like Weston's Organic but feel sure that its fine flavour is due to the use of carefully blended vintage bittersweets, and the way that it is made. I can't believe that how the apples have been grown has much to do with it, though it is nice to know that what you are drinking is free of pesticides etc.

John wrote:

Bit of a racket, isnt it:) You're not alone, my parents looked into
this years ago and it was too expensive for smallholders then too. Thus
any cider I make is organicaly grown but not Organic IYSWIM.

My guess would be that nearly all cider from small and medium scale producers is made from apples that are organically grown. Apart from the nicety of it there are two good reasons for this. Unlike eating apples, there is no added value in cider apples being cosmetically beautiful. Good cider can be made from apples with warts and all! Secondly any farmer selling cider apples is making so little from the enterprise that he is hardly likely to incur the cost of chemicals and spraying. From what I have seen, the only additive is usually the dung from sheep or cattle, where orchards are also used for grazing.

To my mind this is well and good. There is a phrase that Roy Bailey uses on the labels of his Royal County cider that says it all for craft cider producers. Roy states that his apples come from trees unsullied by pesticides and growing on land free of artificial fertilisers and agro- chemicals. I particularly like the word 'unsullied'. Who needs organic certification any way?

John again:

Personally I question the value of the organic certification in the
context of cider. While it's comforting in a knit-your-own-yoghurt
kinda way to know what you are drinking is organic, the quality of what
we might consider to be a good cider comes not from the organic-or-not
nature of its ingredients but from the process by which it is made.
Thus an organic carrot may have more taste than a non-organic one but
Bulmer's Strongbow would never match Cider by Rosie for example even if
it were made from organic ingredients.

I can of course confirm that the three orchards where the apples grow for Cider by Rosie are similarly unsullied.


Supplying festivals, cider miles and delivery

Ray wrote:

No idea if anyone is going to have any "Cider by Rosie" - we are
planning to have some for our next festival (if there's any left and
we can get John R. to pick some up).

I would be pleased and honoured to have some of my cider at your festivals. The problem is of course one of "cider miles". I tend to keep the sale of it fairly local. As the cost of delivery becomes more due to the price of fuel, it becomes uneconomic to deliver one or two boxes to a single destination further than about 15 miles. Further than this and the net gain falls below a pound a pint.

I have just had my first success with a festival. The recent Beerex at Salisbury sold three 20 litre boxes of Cider by Rosie and I have since heard that it went down very well. Here I am indebted to Charles May of Abbey Stores in Salisbury. Not only was I able to combine the festival delivery with my delivery of some boxes to his shop, but he kindly completed the delivery of the boxes ordered by the festival, from his shop to their site. Thank you, Charles.

I don't know how you manage to economically arrange for your festivals to have a range of ciders from many miles away. Perhaps you have a collector who plans an economical 'round trip', picking up ciders and beers, here and there on the way. (Could this be the mystical J R ?) If there is a way of getting it to Leicester or where ever, please let me know by email.

Last year by this time, my cider had run out. This year having made twice as much, I'm still going strong. There is about 1000 litres left which should just see me into September, at the current rate of sales.

Have you costed the feasibility of direct mail order Rose?

Ray, I've just had a look at the Royal Mail website. I do not imagine it is worth trawling around the independent carriers to send one box of cider. The maximum weight of standard parcel post is 20 kg so it would be possible to send a 20 litre B-in-B. The boxes are sturdy and should travel OK. To keep below 20 Kg one must allow for the weight of the box and liner (about 1 kg), so the bag would have to contain 33 pints instead 35. The cost of carriage is £12.46 + £1 insurance. I could do such a box, inclusive of packaging and carriage for £50. You would need to charge £1.52 per pint to break even.

Any 'cider mileage' in that?

Some of the commercial parcel carries/deliveries can ship it at a greatly reduced cost they actually go on size rather than weight in many cases. DH

Taking your advice, I've been googling about a bit amongst the carrier firms. Having first established that cider is a permitted liquid ( being of less than 70% alcohol!), I asked for quotes based on 21 kg, the net weight of a 20 litre B-in-B, and its dimensions 35 x 28 x28 cm. Prices ranged from £20.36 to as low as £9.34 inc. vat. The latter is for a 48 hr service, (not a problem as good cider shouldn't be hurried). Seriously though, it seems to me to be a very fair price when you consider the alternative of doing a round trip with a van, with diesel at £1 a litre, even when allowing for pick ups from a number of producers.

The carrier is called 'Parcels4delivery'. It could be the answer for festival organisers wanting to get obscure ciders from the even more obscure and furthest reaches of the UK, providing that they are available in bag in box. Weston's have been shipping their ciders around in B-in-Bs for some time. In their case of course the volume and number of outlets makes it is worth using their own van.


It is interesting to hear of peoples experiences with the supply of cider and beer by parcel carriers. It looks to me as though B-in-B packaging should be ideal for the job. These boxes are usually fairly rugged and there is nothing to get broken. The tap is the only vulnerable part and this is tucked away inside the box. The only risk would be that due to puncturing by sharp items also in transit. However the carriers have strict rules about packaging, so any such item should not be accepted in the first place, unless properly packaged to prevent accidents of this sort.

Geoff's experiences with Parcel Post are certainly enlightening! Sending bottles must always be rather risky. I've had 6 packs of Weston's 2 ltr cider jars delivered here with no more than shrink wrap plastic holding them down on a shallow cardboard tray. It is amazing that they arrive intact. Perhaps their philosophy is that if the delivery man can actually see the glass, he will take more care.

I really only raised the subject of B-in-Bs by post as a possible means for getting a range of ciders at festivals up and down the Country. In my view it would add to the interest in real cider at festivals especially those where we've see the comment afterwards that 'there wasn't much there worthy of note'. I do not see this as a means of creating a new market many miles from home. So far I've been happy just selling directly to local outlets within a reasonable distance for delivery. They take all that I make. Maybe I will want to discuss things with those who can sell it further afield when I've been able to increase the output. It's certainly a nice thought!


Going rate for cider apples

Recently there appeared an idyllic picture in our local paper. It showed an old orchard of full standard cider trees, leaning as they are want to do, above a carpet of wild flowers. The orchard, near Bridport in the Marshwood Vale, comprised 14 acres and was up for sale at a guide pice of £5000 per acre. What a dream to own and enjoy the sheer beauty of it, I thought. Somebody with that sort of money to spare will have a wonderful buy as well as a good supply of apples. Then I reached for the calculator and found that at the price paid for cider apples (I paid £80/ton last year) it would take about 12 years to return the purchase price. Who would consider such a thing, when it would be better to invest the capital and buy the apples one needed each year from somebody else? Perhaps it would be attractive to a young person who could envisage a lifetime of cider making, but such a person is the least likely to have the capital required. I dearly hope that this lovely old orchard was bought by a philanthropist to ensure its preservation and not by someone intending to grub the trees and use the land for horses. In this area there is a great demand for small parcels of land for the grazing of horses.


Welcome to Steve Hughes, 'Rosies triple D'

This Sunday I used my recently restored tractor driven scratter and a twin screw press for the very first time at a small vintage agricultural show near Mold, North Wales.
Out of the 35Kg fruit I milled, it yielded 3.5 gallons which on the 150g per ton norm means I was about 67% efficient.
Steve Hughes - Rosies triple D

Well done Steve and welcome to ukcider! Good to have another producer on board.

It sounds like you are off to a good start. I bet it has been good fun getting the vintage equipment to work and you will have a lot of satisfaction from completing the restoration. When I first went to Lynne Down Cider (Herefordshire) about 14 years ago they were using a tractor driven scratter. I went back last year and they were still using it! It is such a solid lump of machinery that I imagine it will last for ever. The only problem that they had with it was that the belt drive was prone to slipping.

I've seen quite a few apple washing pits and there does not seem to be anything critical about the size of them. Last year I used half of a 1000 litre IBC container and it worked very well. The built in plastic tap was ideal for emptying the water at the end of each session. As it is important to keep replenishing the wash water it is best not to have the pit or the tank bigger than is really necessary. I am hoping to make a permanent pit at the foot of the apple elevator that I want to install this year. I expect to be making it no bigger than about 4 x 5 and about 2 ft deep. I am also not reckoning on it needing planning permission. You don't have to ask them if you want to make a garden pond, which could be much larger.

You will find selling your cider is a most satisfying thing to do. If you can put some real cider on the market, albeit only locally, that sells alongside and as well as that of the better big boys, like Westons, it is a great feeling of achievement. When I deliver to a pub I usually have a pint of ale at the bar before I leave. Sometimes I hear a customer come to the bar and ask for a pint of Cider by Rosie while I'm there. It still gives me a buzz! I am in my second commercial year and have sold 3000 litres of the 3500 I made last year. I am aiming to reach the full 7000 this season.

Oh yes and welcome to Rosies cider club too. There are quite a few of us about. There is Weston's Old Rosie, named after a blooming steam engine. I've heard of a Kingston Rosie and recently on holiday in Devon I came across a Randy Rosie (I ask you!)

Rose of 'Cider by Rosie'