RG 2007 April
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
April , 2007
Powerstock Cider Festival
Today has passed in a haze! I rather over enjoyed the wide range of ciders and perry at Powerstock last night. Having decided that I would sleep in the back of the car, I was then able to sample nearly all that was on offer! It was an excellent occasion and very well supported. By the end of the evening the hall was really crowded with people enjoying the cider and perry and the conversation so animated that it was impossible to hear the band. It was a very happy atmosphere, yet well ordered and thoroughly enjoyable. The accent was on local produce and there was also some tasty food available, to accompany the cider.
When I arrived I was met by Nick Poole, who has organised this event so well since 2001. He courteously carried my b-in-b into the hall announcing that he was putting me next to a nice couple who had come all the way from Herefordshire! Their polypin was already in position on the table. Very soon they appeared and I was delighted to find that they were ukcider's own Ni and Sharon from Leominster. Their single variety Major was really nice and had a fine full and rounded tannic finish. It was very much to my taste and I kept returning to it, (with Nigel's blessing!), throughout the evening.
Another very pleasant surprise was to meet Liz Copas and James Crowden. I could hardly believe my good fortune to see them both in the same evening. I've often praised their books in my postings. Liz's well produced Pomona has been incredibly useful to me, like a cidermaker's bible. I've read and reread 'Cider - The forgotten miracle' by James, a real gem of fascinating cider lore. I am hoping that they will both be able to come to our event here on 12 th May. Liz is currently researching the original Dorset cider apple varieties, a subject of especial interest to me.
Seeing the increasing success of this cider only festival, I could not help thinking that this is the sort of event we craft cider people should be promoting. There is an increasing interest in cider by members of the public. If several hundred people can be attracted to an event in a small village in the back of beyond, just to sample different ciders, imagine the attendance at an event of this type in a large town or city. Cider does not have to be tied to beer festivals.
St George's Day
Today of course is St. George's day. Whenever will our lords and masters realise that our national day should be a public holiday? The trouble is I think that we English are just too laid back about it. We need to assert ourselves more, like the Irish the Scots and the Welsh who take great pride in their own national days. Well I'm doing my little bit today. The flag of St. George is fluttering from a limb of the the poplar on the roadside edge of our garden.
A few years ago David, the landlord of our local, The Crown in Winterborne Stickland, decided to start a little annual celebration of his own. This has been held each year in the pub car park on the Saturday closest to St. George's day. It began with a simple re-enactment of St. George rescuing the Maiden in distress and slaying the Dragon and there were a few stalls dotted around to hold the public interest for a little longer. Year by year the event has grown and the one held last Saturday was a real bonanza. The little pageant was very well done and the costumes were superb. There was a drive past of vintage cars and a continual programme of live music and dancing throughout the afternoon. Two Morris sides, male and female, put on some excellent displays. The village school children and our local folk groups added just the right sort of music and song for the occasion. David's wife Stephanie and daughter Olivia worked very hard keeping up a continual supply of barbecue food. It was a lovely afternoon and a great celebration of our national day!
David raises a lot of money for charities with these events and he also likes to help local traders. Incredibly, against his own interest, he has extended this kindness to me. For the last three years I've been able to have a cider stall there. I do my usual thing, two barrels and a barn door to make the bar, then stand there selling my cider draught and in bottles to take away. It wasn't much to start with, but this year there were so many more people there, that it was really good for me. The weather was warm, sunny and perfect for everything, especially cider drinking!
Just as the festival itself has improved, so has my stall. This year I had a gazebo over the stall with bunting around it and a large flag of St. George under the bar between the two barrels. I had draught bag-in-boxes of Cider by Rosie and three specials on the bar with colourful computer printed descriptive cards and price lists.
Two of the boxes contained my keeved Porter's Perfection and Kingston Black which proved to be very popular. I had previously bottled a fair bit of these in champagne bottles ( to be on the safe side! ) and was amazed by how many of these that I sold. Reluctantly I'd set the price at £4 a bottle, thinking it probably would not sell, yet realising that with all the work that had gone into it, plus the cost of the bottle etc., it would be silly to ask less. However I was soon to discover that keeved and naturally semi-sweet cider, sells itself! Many folk came to the stall, bought half a pint and wandered around drinking it. Later they came back, saying 'I've never tasted cider like that before, I must have a bottle or two to take home'.
It was certainly a glad day for me. I was also pleased, (and somewhat relieved), to see that there were a good many trays full of pints of beer, being carried outside from the bar in the pub. It was altogether the most perfect day for drinking and many of the drinkers were in walking distance of home! Need I say more?
As for me, I took my bike.
I am always upset to see apple trees grubbed. They, of all fruit trees, seem almost human to me. Their pace of life is similar to our own, becoming productive in teenage years and in their prime a few decades later. They become most dignified by old age, where they then have the advantage of being able to outlive us. To those of us who patiently watch the slow development of apple trees and rejoice when they eventually bear fruit, it seems like an extreme act of vandalism if they are then struck down within a few hours. I've been near to tears when I've seen places where this has happened.
In the case of Norton Fitzwarren, I believe this is where the West Somerset Railway used to join the main line, in the good old days before Dr. Beeching destroyed our rail network. Presumably the new junction needs more space for its redevelopment. Having enjoyed trips to Minehead on the preserved branch line, I have to say that my sadness on hearing about the orchard was also tinged with pleasure to hear the good news about the railway. I know that for many years it has been the dream of the West Somerset Railway Co., to become reconnected to Taunton and that there were many bureaucratic obstacles to be overcome. Raising the large sum needed, must have also been a great task. Nearer to here the Swanage Railway is still facing a similar challenge to become reconnected to the main line at Wareham, a struggle that has been going on for years.
Back to apples and as you say Ni, "Keep grafting". This reminds me to ask you whether you had any success with grafting the Hereford Redstreak scions? Before I sent you them, we had a discussion here about the HR and it emerged that a peculiarity of the variety is that it can be rooted as a hardwood cutting. Indeed this was considered to be a test of veracity for the HR, since apple trees can usually only be propagated by grafting. I was intrigued enough to try this for myself.
Gardening is my other hobby, so I used the method for hardwood cuttings that I've found always works best. I cut the scion just below a node and dipped it in hormone rooting liquid. The scion was then planted into a small pot containing only Perlite granules. I've kept the Perlite moist and the pot has stood on our kitchen window sill for a good few months. Being prepared for disappointment, imagine my surprise a few weeks ago to see the terminal bud unfurling! The leaves then fully deployed, looking lush, green and full of promise. Last week I carefully removed the scion from the perlite and then was able to see the little white root nodes that had developed along the bottom inch of the stem. This was very exciting, so I've now replanted it in a mixture of potting compost and Perlite to see if I can grow it into a proper whip.
I am hoping to be able to confirm that I do have a genuine Hereford Redstreak, but I suppose I really should set up a control by doing a similar trial using wood from a Somerset Redstreak, so as to be quite sure.
My continuing sales drive has become more rewarding. Another 5 local pubs are now selling my cider. When the old faithfuls of last year are added this brings the total number of pubs to 12. It is interesting to note that they are mostly village pubs. I've come to realise from my trawling around that nearly all the pubs in towns are tied houses. Of the 3 towns closest to here, Wimborne has no free houses and Blandford and Dorchester each have only one. Happily, my cider is in both of those but I'm now very aware of how much my business depends on the village free houses. Long may they resist being bought up!
1000 litres sold
The last week has been hectic as I've been packaging like mad to cope with a rush of further orders. This is probably the pre Easter holiday stocking up effect, but it has meant that the first 1000 litres have now gone in the space of 3 weeks. Today I pumped the 1000 litres from the second tank into my stainless variable capacity vats, to settle out ready for packaging. If this rate continues it will not be difficult to sell the whole 7000 litres before the autumn.
Yesterday I had a pleasant surprise. The landlord of one of my newly found pubs rang and asked if he could have another box straight away. He had had his first box only two days earlier, so I was amazed that it had sold so quickly. Usually it takes quite a while for sales to become established and increase in a new outlet. Advertising in remote parts is only by 'word of mouth'.
Anxious to maintain a good impression I jumped into the car and took another box to the pub. When I put it up on the bar I asked the landlord how it was that he'd sold the first one so quickly. Had a gaggle of youths been in and seized upon it as a more effective route to oblivion than their usual lager? "No", he said. " It was the old guys mostly. They were so pleased to find some real cider available. It reminded them of old times and they just loved it!"
bringing back real cider
I was in too much of a hurry to stop for a drink. There really was no need anyway. My heart was already warmed by this little aside. Indeed there was a spring in my step as I left. I realised that, albeit in my own little way, my passion to bring back real cider is being achieved.