Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ciderhouse News - Cidermaking 2014

Here's a short round-up of what's been happening at Rockingham Forest Cider recently. As you'll notice from the pic above, we have a new certificate for the ciderhouse wall, having gone one better than our previous Silver effort in 2011 and won Gold for a Green Horse/Red Longdon Perry in the East Midlands Cider & Perry Competition. Competition organiser Denise Wright can be seen taking the full weight of the certificate, whilst I stand idly by in front of the impressive East Midlands wall of cider at Nottingham CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival. A great day out, c/o of all the hard working volunteers, but particularly Ray Blockley of Torkard Cider who put together this years impressive collection of nearly 300 ciders and perries from throughout England and Wales. In the spirit of friendly competition I'm encouraging Susan to go one better and present 301 ciders and perries at the Leicester Beer Festival next year.

The innaugral Cottingham Village Apple Day was held at the end of September, organised by Green Horizons a Cottingham based project for families with children who are on the autistic spectrum. In addition to having Red Kite Cider on the pop-up bar we gave samples of a Vilberie Cider to a steady stream of thirsty cider fans on what turned out to be a proper Summer's day. A really great event, and very well supported by villagers and visitors.

Perry making is in full swing, which in the case of the 2014 season is quite a small childs swing with a sensible safety bar. No Green Horse or Malvern Hills this year, but some Blakeney Red, and a similar quantity of mixed pears which will hopefully make something tasty for next year. Needless to say this means there will be no repeat of our award-winning perry, and no Green Horse, which is particularly sad as this is my favourite perry of all. Sniffle!

The Blakeney Red has come out at a modest 1.049 this year, the mixed batch a more respectable 1.055. Fermentation is progressing at a nice even pace, and every day we pray for sub-zero temperatures in a bid to slow things right down and therefore retain some residual sweetness in the perries.

The very latest news from the ciderhouse is that the Yarlington Mill apples are in the process of being picked, and Dabinett (below) are still hanging on the tree. This year, in a break from tradition we will be collecting a tonne of Dabinett from a top cider and perry maker near Leominster.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ciderhouse News - June 2014

We're approaching 'Peak-Cider' time here at Rockingham Forest Cider, with both cider and perry (almost) literally flowing out of the ciderhouse and straight down the throats of thirsty customers. Almost! We do have to transfer the golden liquid into boxes and barrels to aid this process. Licensees help too with their fancy 'glasses' and stoneware cider mugs, for which we thank them.

It's an inevitable reaction to the hot weather. People prefer to move around a lot less in the heat, and what then are they to do with those idle hands and moribund legs? Might as well shuffle to the bar and order a pint. That's where we come in..

This coming weekend you might want to shuffle over to Oakham for pints (or halves) of cider at the almost accurately named Oakham Ale Trail. Fear not cider and perry lovers, it's not all malt'n'hop in the capital of Rutlandshire. Our regular outlet in the town, the terrific White Lion, has expanded its range to include our Vilberie Cider, Red Kite Cider, and Green Horse Perry. Exotic 'foreign' cider will also be available from 'Udders Orchard of 'Uddersfield-in-the-North. Rare and unusual beers will also be available, as well as Maria's rare and tasty 'Craft' Pies (fully endorsed by the Rockingham Forest Cider branch of the Campaign for Real Pies) as well as other food type things.

Staying in Rutland for a moment, our Red Kite Cider will also be available at a mini-beer festival at the Exeter Arms, Barrowden. I haven't got a good picture of the Exeter Arms, but this photo of Saturday afternoon Cribbage play in the bar gives an idea of the kind of traditional village local it is. It's also home to the Barrowden Brewery, so expect some of the beers to have been sourced from literally 'yards' away.

Continuing to stay in Rutland for just one more paragraph, a Rockingham Forest Cider blend continues to be on tap at the bijou Veranda Cafe at Wing Hall. Great food and regular live music evenings here too, including the fabulous Latin Jazz sounds of the Sven Klang Jazz Band on the evening of 5th of July.

In other news, the ciderhouse has now been fully fitted out with a vintage skittles table, something else to do with those idle hands and moribund legs in the Winter. This table will be making an appearance at the forthcoming Cottingham & Middleton Village Fete (5th July), as will a box of our Red Kite Cider. The date for this popular village event has (almost certainly) been set to celebrate the day after American Independence Day (possibly), although I haven't managed to get confirmation of this yet (and probably won't). Either way, come and celebrate 'something or other', with a glass of cider and a throw on the skittles table. It's what Summers were made for.

Friday, 16 May 2014

More May Merriment

Polish-up your Half-pint Tankards and iron your Bermuda Shorts, the bank holiday is very nearly here, and there's more cider and perry to be drunk than even I can handle. The unpredictable month of May promises to go out in a similar fashion to how it came in, quite literally littered with Beer and Cider (and Sausage) festivals to the north, west, and... well, mostly north and west to be honest.

We've been very busy in the ciderhouse ahead of the weekend. Racking and tasting. Boxing-up and tasting. Tasting a bit more, just so we're absolutely sure that everything tastes fabulous and fruity at the bunch-of-five events we'll be supplying.

We're particularly excited to have been invited to the very first Charnwood Cider Festival (24th - 25th May), the brainchild of award winning Leicestershire cidermaker Rob Clough (that's him on the left). In addition to the whole extensive range of Robs own Charnwood Ciders, there will also be local East Midlands guest ciders from our friends in the north at Torkard Cider, as well as Green Horse and Blakeney Red Perries from us-selves. Set in the shadow of Old John himself, the event would make a great refreshment stop after a traditional bank holiday walk at nearby Bradgate Park. More details below.

Once again, we're delighted to be represented at the Newark CAMRA Beer Festival (23rd - 25th), with Red Kite Cider and Green Horse Perry in attendance amongst a host of other quality ciders and perries (and beers apparently!). One of several festivals on our list of 'might go' for the weekend. As ever there's just too much choice.

Sausages are of course the perfect accompaniment to a glass of traditional cider. You didn't know! Well get on-trend and find out for yourself at the accurately named Oadby Sausage & Cider Festival (24th - 25th), which features a whole host of award-winning sausages, a similar range of fine ciders, and all located in the easily accessible village of Oadby. Well it would be wouldn't it! Our own Red Kite Cider will join the extensive line-up. There will also be live music, and plenty of people talking like the Wurzels all weekend I shouldn't wonder.

Our love affair with the tiny country of Rutland continues to grow. Not only is our Vilberie Cider available at the Veranda Cafe at Wing Hall and the White Lion, Oakham, but an annual Rutlandshire event will also feature our cider and perry over the bank holiday weekend.

More evidence of cider/sausage affinity can be experienced at the annual Grainstore Cider & Sausage Festival 22nd - 26th) in Oakham. The cider tasting takes place under canvas at the front of the brew-pub, and you'll find our Red Kite Cider and Green Horse Perry amongst the apple-y and porky delights on offer.

Just over the border, and back home in Northamptonshire, the annual Village Gala (24th - 26th) at Easton on the Hill will also feature our Red Kite and Green Horse. This looks like a fabulous traditional May event, centred on the Blue Bell pub which is where the beers, ciders, and much else besides can be enjoyed. More details below.

So there you have it. You can't say we haven't given you a choice!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Good Times Are Coming, But They're Sure Coming Slow..

With all the news coming from the CAMRA National Cider & Perry Championships and the Big Apple Cider Trials in Putley this weekend*, I've been driven to spend rather too much time time in the ciderhouse. Too much time glaring at stubbornly fermenting tubs of cider and shouting 'COME ON!'. The question is, when will it end? When will the fruits of our Autumn labour deliver ciders and perries of potentially award-winning quality, and eyeball-dazzling clarity.

In truth the ciders are just about there, and the perries have been tasting fab for some weeks now. The 2014 sales drive is about to step up a gear, and it's here on this blog that we'll be giving you the heads-up on where we're at, and what we've got. Quite soon now!

Meanwhile, here's what's happening around the orchard and garden, because nature won't be rushed, and generally responds poorly to cidermakers shouting 'COME ON!' at it.

Plenty of these about the garden
The tell-tale holes in the wax reveal it should be another good year for solitary bees too
Bramley Blossom, one of the prettiest in the garden

Hens Turd cider apple blossom on a cordon grown tree, with Hagloe Crab in the background
Could do without this though. Canker on one of the pot grown Dabinetts. Currently in full flower and it's not unknown for a fruit tree to recover from Canker, but the trunk is completely girdled so the prognosis is not good!
Rhubarb, lots of it. Which is good as I like lots of it.
* Congratulations to all the winners in competition this weekend, many of which we know and have huge respect for as cidermakers and generally nice people. Full results from Putley can be seen here, with Sheppys Cider and Olivers Perry taking gold in the national CAMRA competition.

Friday, 18 April 2014

(Some) Cider is Go!

With earthquakes hitting the tiny, fragile village of Rutland almost every day now, the Rockingham Forest Cider Emergency Delivery Team have literally strolled into action ahead of the Easter weekend.

In a bizarre reversal of normal earthquake disaster behaviour, reports suggest refugees are literally pouring onto the Wing Hall Campsite, though sensibly equipped with caravans, BBQ's, and an array of emergency ball games. Supplies of Rockingham Forest Cider have now been car-lifted onto the site, and initial reports suggest that there should be plenty of buns and cake at the Veranda Cafe to see desperate campers through the weekend in relative comfort.

The White Lion line-up today
Meanwhile, Les at the White Lion in Oakham has reported that the pub was at the very epicentre of recent seismic activity. At the height of this mornings catastrophic event, glasses clinked alarmingly and Maria is understood to have been very fearful for her pies. Recent over-indugence of Hazelnut Porter by Les has so far not been ruled out as the source these dangerous vibations (boom-boom!).

Just to be on the safe side, we've delivered a stabilising box of cider to the pub, and can confirm that the pies have survived their ordeal intact and tasty as ever.