RG 2007 May
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
May , 2007
Rushed off my feet!
It seems funny to think that back in March I was worrying about being able to sell 1000 litres per month, in order to have dry tanks in September. I was then convinced that an intensive sales drive was necessary and as a result now have 14 pubs and 3 off-licences selling my cider. The increased number of outlets together with the prolonged spell of sunny weather has meant that sales have rocketed. I was surprised to realise yesterday that 3000 litres have been sold in the 7 weeks, since when I began in March.. At this rate the remaining 4000 litres will be gone by mid July!
It is not just the pubs, more festivals and special events are now coming my way. John Reek called yesterday to take some boxes to the Reading and Cambridge CAMRA festivals. At the same time I have been asked for 4 boxes for the Blandford Georgian fair next weekend and 6 for a country Fair near here the following weekend. The organiser of an even bigger event has asked for my cider in July. Wonderful! I'm getting that whelmed feeling again.
April passed in a blur of packaging and deliveries. There has been very little time for anything else. Usually by now I've managed to get the garden into reasonable order and ready for the summer months. This year I've not been able to do a thing to it. There are nettles and all manner of wild plants growing in the flower beds. I really have been rushed off my feet by the cider sales. It's been a real buzz and very encouraging, but I'm so ashamed of the garden.
Currently I'm in a flap to get a fair bit of C by R put into bottles to take to Putley. The bottling and bag-in-box filling has taken over the press room. Even the beloved St. Em has got involved. Her juice tray is stacked full of green bottles waiting to be filled. Very infra dig for a press of her stature! I've come to the conclusion that I dislike bottling. It is a real chore to do by hand and takes much longer to package a given volume than it does in B-in-B. It takes me 30 minutes to fill, cap, label and pack a case of twelve bottles, a total volume of 9 litres. I can do 2 of my 20 litre B-in Bs in the same time. Bottles do command a higher price per litre than draught, but with all the extra effort required, I do not think it is worth while for a small operation like mine. Still it could be fun selling them at Putley this weekend ( or so Roy has assured me!)
I do prefer and rather enjoy doing my B-in-Bs. It has become a fine art here now. The latest time saving improvement is to use a hot melt glue gun for assembling the cardboard outers. This is much quicker than using sellotape and gives a more professional look to the product. The new customised print on the outside of the box has also proved to be a good investment. In pubs where the box is put on the bar, I've noticed an increase in sales that I am sure is due to the self advertising effect of the box.
Campaigning to defend small cidermakers
With regard to Small_Cidermakers_Exemption
I have written to my MP, Robert Walter, from my viewpoint as a 70 hl producer. I stressed the importance of the tax exemption to the craft cider sector of the industry. Without this concession, in trying to compete with the wholesale price of cider from the large producers, people like me would wonder why they are bothering to work so hard for so little return. The inevitable result is that many wouldn't.
I urge all sub 70 hl cidermaker/sellers to write to their MPs. The more noise we make the better! Rose.
There is an engineering opportunity staring me in the face. It is called a slim line chiller cum outer container for 20 litre B-in Bs. Anyone here in the refrigeration business? If this glorious Mediterranean weather we are having becomes the norm, it would be a very good thing for pubs to have for their B-in-Bs. One pub I supply prefers to have the smaller 10 litre boxes because they will fit in the chiller cabinet behind the bar.
I can imagine a slim walled, well insulated outer case containing arrays of Peltier cooling plates. It could fit over the B-in-B like a tea cosy. I've seen Peltier coolers in electronic equipment and seem to remember that they were high current low voltage devices. The B-in-B device would need to have a meaty low voltage power unit tucked away somewhere and connected by a few metres of cable to the cooler case. The advantages would be quiet operation and the inherent safety of low voltage power.
I tried a glass of Magners last summer which came with the lumps of ice in it.( I was not quick enough to stop the barman from adding them). My impression was that between the heavy carbonation and the over-chill and dilution from the ice, it was impossible to discern much actual cider flavour at all. This year I intend to buy a bottle, open it, let it stand for half an hour and then drink it at ambient temperature. I'm curious to see if it now tastes like West Country cider, since so many big loads of our real cider apples went over there last year. An interesting experiment to try sometime.
Blossomtime celebration approaches
- Is this weekend's village fete/blossomtime celebration still on? I'm about to bottle up some cider tonight to bring down.
The only reason I've not been on here yet to remind people is that I have been so busy catching up on my pub orders since I got back from Putley. There is also much to be done in preparing for Saturday. Today we have had to build a new May Queen throne, as the old one was nigh on falling apart. It is still not finished so I will be out cutting hazel tomorrow as well as collecting tables, chairs, maypole etc. The weather is atrocious so I keep popping in to nervously check the long range forecast on the internet. I'm glad to tell you that there still appears to be a sunny window in the weather here for Saturday. The problem is that heavy rain is expected tomorrow so I think it will be difficult to get another mowing done on the maypole area. Could be 'panic stations' on Saturday morning. However come what may, the cider tasting and Barbecue will go ahead, even if it has to be in the barn.
You will I hope find a good few of our ukcider faces to put names to. I wont begin to list them but I can tell you that you will have the opportunity to meet our beloved founder and moderator, Andy Roberts, without whose efforts we would all be much the poorer and would probably never have met. Andy and Linda ( brave souls ) are camping in the orchard on Saturday night. More tents are welcome, but no mobile homes please as there is not enough clearance between the trees.
Reading what Ni said about Putley sounded a chord for me too. It was just so nice to actually meet people in the cider and perry world whose names I've known so well in the last three years on ukcider. I also enjoyed meeting other cider makers who have never posted here, which is a bonus that only a festival can provide. It was especially pleasing to be able to renew my acquaintance with Jean Nowell, whom I had not seen since the early days of 'Big Apple' in the 90s. It was, as Roy predicted, a lot of fun having a stall in the hall. It is worth the aching feet to see people taste and enjoy your cider. This is not something that happens very often with wholesale selling. The Putley weekend ended on a high note for me, as Ni and Sharon kindly invited me to their place for dinner and I was able to taste their excellent cider and perries. I've had to completely rethink my view of Nehou as a cider apple. Their Nehou and Perthryre cider is so delicious!
I'm hoping that my little festival here will rekindle the joys of Powerstock and Putley, so do come if you can. If possible, a little jar of your own would be especially welcome to add to the variety of the tasting table. The event begins at 3 pm but if you can get here by 1 pm a DIY ploughmans will be available at the cottage where you may also have an audience with her holiness St. Em. should you so desire.
HOUGHTON MAY FESTIVAL
The weather had obviously decided to make us pay for the long warm dry spell in April. I nervously looked up the local 5 day forecast every day for a week before our event. It showed a miraculous day of sunny periods for our Saturday in amongst day after day of heavy rainfall. I was worried that this precious period of respite would slip to the Friday or the Sunday, but mercifully it held fast. When Saturday came it stayed dry, though rather windy. It was such a relief that our event could go ahead as planned.
A new throne had been made for this year's event by Terry, our village chippy, and this was beautifully decorated for the day with lilac and other flowers. Our good friends the Bourne River Morris men came as usual to carry out the ceremony. Top apple picker Louise Gale was our May Queen this year.
She looked really lovely in her traditional long white dress, as she was carried on her throne by the Morris men, immaculate in their whites and floral hats. The procession wound amongst the apple trees to the dancing area and the six men bearing the throne were accompanied by another of their team playing the accordion.
It was a timeless and beautiful sight and one felt magically absorbed as a witness to this old rural tradition. No doubt Thomas Hardy would have fully approved!
Lou's throne was placed at the edge of the dancing area on a little dais from where she would preside over the events to follow. Here she was crowned May Queen by Alf, the Squire of the Morris. In a short speech as an adjunct to the ceremony, Alf informed us that our event was the one that his side most looked forward to, each year. He felt it to be the essence of our tradition. I felt that Lou's wonderful smile, which endured to the end in spite of the chilly wind on her bare arms and neck, showed the stoicism of tradition!
The maypole dancing then began. It was a lovely sight and carried out with great skill by the children of our local school.
There then followed some impressive Morris dancing from the Bourne River side. Their last dance was carried out with the usual fearsome clashing of their sticks. I always shudder to think of the pain they could inflict to each others knuckles were things to go wrong!
After the dancing came the barbecue and cider in the barn. We decided to put as much as possible inside the barn this year due to the uncertainty of the weather. Our local musicians, the Bulbarrow Band, also occupied a relatively windproof corner of the barn. The 'Bulbarrow sound' resonated around the timbers and actually seemed even better for being inside.
There was a cider bar in the opposite corner where cider from a number of craft makers was available free of charge, for comparative tasting and as an accompaniment to the food. A range of my own ciders were there along with ciders and perry from other makers in Dorset. There were also ciders from Somerset, Hampshire, Witshire, Surrey and even all the way from Herefordshire by courtesy of our good friends Sharon and Ni!
It was especially nice this year to have such an interesting spectrum of real, full juice, cider to savour. I did not manage to try them all on the day and have only just started to catch up. The last few days have been taken up with clearing away and taking borrowed items back to their owners. Only now have I got to the happy stage of being able to relax and enjoy tasting what has been left. Yesterday Lorraine, one of our fiddlers in the Band, appeared up at the barn with her wheelbarrow, to give me a hand. When the clearing was nearly done we came across the only bottle of Michael Cobb's cider that had not been drunk. We sat on the bales and shared it between us. It was delicious and made us pleasantly tiddly. I think you could have another winner at the B & W there, Michael! This evening I enjoyed a glass of Matt Helliwell's Surrey cider. This is refreshing, clear, sharp and has a fine flavour. It is an appropriate reminder of how good eastern style cider can be, after reading the thread recently begun by Roy.
It was so nice to see a good number of our ukcider friends here, some like Barry and Matt for the first time. Thank you all for coming and for your most welcome gifts!
It was particularly good to see Nick & Co from Powerstock who made a return visit, cementing still further the East and West cider halves of Dorset and Penny from Owermoigne Cider museum in the middle of the county. Liz Copas was here too and was kind enough not to comment on the poor state of some of my trees!
Finally it was really great to see so many people of all ages having a good time celebrating the joyful month of May.
Ps. If you are reading this, Bo Rutter of Shaftesbury, maker of excellent cider and perry, as tasted at Powerstock and here last Saturday....Please email me or better still join us here on ukcider!
Contact and Supply
- Rose, Just wondering how to contact you to purchase some of your cider before it all disappears? Many thanks and excellent work!