A Call From The Orchards
Late summer heat is the cider makers best friend. It rattles the glasses for a refill, before the long winter when many drinkers opt for beers and malt. More importantly the late sun brings up the flavours and the sugars in our cider fruit, and promises the excitement of another year’s vintage – the promise, the grail, the best blend yet?
But this year it just seems cruel. Cider has received a crushing blow (pun intended), the lockdown months hit cider a-symmetrically, whilst the big producers were able to stabilise their losses through their supermarket channels, smaller makers – those who are bringing us wonderful and exciting ciders, have been stricken. Country shows, farm gate sales, festivals and awesome local free trade pubs across the West of England, the home of global cider – all gone, and with it their sales.
And who does this hit the hardest? It’s the best orchards in the world. It’s the men and women who get up every morning, with the single focus of producing the world’s best cider apples from their orchards, those growers who have chosen to grow fruit for the artisan producers (skip to 1hr 35min in this Times Radio piece). Because it is these people who will not be selling their fruit this year, they are looking into avenues of immaculate orchards, groaning on the bough with sweet miracles begging to be turned into cider. But so many tons will thud onto the orchard floor and simply rot.
Here in Crediton most of our vats are full, we will be pressing half of the apples we pressed last year – which is still more than we will need, but it will fill up our tanks to the brim. It’s the best we can do for our growers, and it feels terrible. So in a year of bleak news and competitive sympathy, have I brought another tale of woe? Another pitiable dirge? I have not. Because I – a man of vision and courage, have a plan. Our growers are hardy, they know what a hard winter looks like and have survived a few, what they need is the promise of summer, better times to come – and we can do it.
A few of us cider makers have already quietly been recruiting a ‘Cider Army’, if you receive a tap on the shoulder – or a knowing nod – you’re on board. You will join us in buying the gift of cider for the unfortunate who have never embraced it’s joy. You will encourage those tragically wedded to grape or grain, to ‘swap one for the orchards’ and ‘discover cider’ and we will empty the brimming barrels in every cellar, ready for the apples next year. We will be so successful that our growers will need to plant more trees – and we will see no more Swedish Hell-Water on the grocers shelves, but great ciders from the world’s best makers. If you made it this far – you are in the regiment, welcome, now get out there and save an orchard.
Written by Barny Butterfield - Cheif Cidermaker at Sandford Orchards, Crediton
(For the record, because I tire of reading clap-trap from the dreary prohibitionists, alcohol sales fell steeply during lockdown – following the trend of a decrease in consumption year on year for 15yrs. Why The Guardian and others seem hell bent on consistently reporting the opposite is beyond me. If you like reading gov. Documents, then knock yourself out with some facts UK Alcohol Duty Statistics. The brilliant @PeteBrownBeer lays bare the myth in a blog written recently.)
A super exciting announcement!
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