Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Flying out the door...

It is turning out to be a busy Easter for us.

Last Thursday evening we delivered a 20 litre box of our Sheep Wash cider to the The Hand & Heart on Derby Road in Nottingham NG1 5BA, on more of a trial basis than anything, to see how it would go down. Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), the pub manager Austen phoned me to ask if he could have another two boxes as it had sold out already... Selling 20 litres of draught local cider in about four days is quite a result and we are well chuffed. All being well, Torkard Ciders will become a regular feature of the fare available at The Hand & Heart.

We delivered another box of Sheep Wash to the Talbot Taphouse on Butterly Hill in Ripley DE5 3LT this afternoon for their Easter 1st Taphouse Beer & Cider "Best in Cask" Festival, starting this Friday at 12 noon. Afterwards, Yarly (the mutt) and I went on a long circular walk around Felley Mill, over the fields and through the woods. While strolling along in the biting wind and sleet, I amused myself by trying to work out how we could all get to the Talbot Taphouse for their festival (they are a dog-friendly pub), as they also have on some of our favourite ales too: Thornbridge "Jaipur" and Whim "Hartington IPA" to name but two. The festival is also to celebrate "National Cask Ale Week" which is a good excuse (as if you need one...) for a pint of real ale.

Tomorrow I will be boxing-up two ciders for The Victoria Hotel, Dovecote Lane, Beeston NG9 1JG. The Victoria are also having a festival over Easter and have decided to try out our cider to see how it goes down with the festival goers and locals: fingers crossed... Landlord Graham has asked for two versions of Sheep Wash so I think it will be something dry-ish and something medium-ish - or maybe medium-sweet-ish.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Torkard Cider on the media trail...

The last couple of weeks have been very busy for us from a local media point of view.

Budget day was the day when we were contacted twice by BBC Radio Nottingham for comments about the 10% plus inflation hike in cider duty. Typically, with it being a nice day and Gail having the day off, we had gone to Burnt Stump Country Park for a wander round, and to exercise and train the dog. So when my phone rang and the nice lady from BBC Radio Nottingham asked if they could interview me, and get some sound bites about the cider duty proposals in the Budget, I had no idea what she was on about as the Budget had not even been unveiled before we left home. Caught out there! However, by the time they phoned again for a live on-air interview around 6.00pm, I was genned-up and ready.

One question though: why, Why, WHY do radio interviewers insist on playing the Wurzel's song "I am a cider-drinker" and talking in a faux West-Country-yokel accent when interviewing people about cider? Grrrr! I find it really irritating and condescending - but of course, you laugh and smile politely and carry on through gritted teeth. Please try to find something else to play next time - and I am a Nottinghamshire cider-maker which is way away from the West Country - unless my geography is not what it is cracked up to be!

I'd much prefer a local dialect, like the "Erewash Valley" dialect from the Derby's / Nott's border where I grew up, which is much richer to my ears and brings back memories of my childhood / youth and listening to my dad's workmates from Sandiacre, Long Eaton and I'lson (Ilkeston to the uninitiated). So something like: "Aye up me duck, wot yer reckon t'budget then?" would be far more appealing to my ears!

We were also visited by Spyke Golding, chair of Nottingham CAMRA and editor of their excellent Branch magazine, who wanted to interview us for an article on local cider makers. They have a regular section on "Meet the Brewer", so we became the first subjects of a "Meet the Cider-Maker" article. The April/May 2010 issue containing the article can be found in many pubs around the locality, or you can read the article online at: Nottingham Drinker

Friday, 26 March 2010

Aaaargh! Where has the time gone...?

Here we are at the end of March, spring is almost upon us - chronologically at least - and I haven't added anything to this blog since last December. Shame on me.

So much has happened it is difficult to know where to begin...?
How about snow; frost; snow; more snow; deeper snow; ice; burst pipe in cider shed; colder frost; frozen and cracked airlocks; snow..... I think you get the picture. The weather has really made life difficult in trying to get the trees planted up on the orchard, as we still have a lot of land to clear and trees to heavily prune and pollard. Still, the heeled-in trees look happily snug and smug in their little bed for the time being.

Santa came and brought me lots of goodies in the shape of three varieties of crab apple trees (from my mum) to aid pollination and to give us a range of edible crabs which we can mess about with. More about them later. My brother and sis-in-law brought me a Felco No. 8 pruner which is excellent, along with a Silky Fox 300mm Gomtaro Apple pruning saw - which is a bit frightening at the moment. However, both have already seen use in trying to bring some shape and structure back to our Stoke Red.

We have also invested in a mutt... Namely a "Lollie" which we have called "Yarly". I kid you not. A Lollie is a cross between a Labrador and a Border Collie (a sort of glorified mongrel if you like), and we have named her Yarly after our favourite cider apple, the Yarlington Mill. Yarly has really interesting colouring: her mother is a sleek black Labrador and her father is a chocolate-brown and white Border Collie, so Yarly has turned out silver-grey with black patterning which is the result of Blue Merle patterning from her father's Border Collie genes. 

Yarly - The Movie. Cert: PG

On the home front, we have had a Solar Water Heating Panel installed on our roof which is already proving its worth - much to my surprise and amazement, I have to add. The bare bones of the installation involved a panel full of the evacuated-tube solar collectors, a much larger (and better insulated) hot water storage tank, a couple of pumps and motorsied valves - and a fascinating animated display panel (boys toys). It is amazing to see (and feel!) hot water being pumped from the collectors into the storage tank at over 45C when the outside ambient temp is only 14C... Our hot water boiler never even fired up yesterday - I can't wait until there is some proper spring and summer sunshine...

Our cider has started to go out - earlier than I'd really like, but the customer is (nearly) always right. Our first outing this year was at Chesterfield Beer Festival in February, where we trialled our new blend called "Sheep Wash". It was / is very young, but rather tasty. The cider and perry list was really impressive - as was the beer list - but we stuck to the great ciders and perries available and worked our way through the lot (apart from the couple of sickly-sweet ones and the Broadoak rubbish... ugh!). We were very surprised to find out from Trev, one of the organisers, that our 'Sheep Wash' cider was voted "Cider of the Festival" by the punters - great news! Another framed certificate to add to our "multi-award winning" portfolio of five winners.

We delivered a box of 'Sheep Wash' to the Hand & Heart pub on Derby Rd in Nottingham last night - our first pub outlet in the city. A lovely pub, great atmosphere, good food, good local real ales and two local ciders: ours and one from "Three Cats" across the border in Derbyshire. It is very pleasing to find publicans willing to wholeheartedly embrace local ales and local ciders! Well done.

Next week we are off to Ripley in Derby's to deliver our cider to the Talbot Taphouse, the brewery tap of Amber Ales. They are having a festival over the Easter weekend and have asked for our cider; hopefully it will go down well and they will want more over the coming warmer months.