The arrival of spring completes the cycle of the cider making year and heralds the most crucial period when the entire production for the coming year hangs in the balance.
The blossoms that will form the apples in the autumn are set in May and they are very vulnerable to adverse weather during this time.
If there is too much rain at this point in the season then the bees and other flying insects will not be able to fly around the orchards and pollinate the fruit trees. If there are too many hard frosts then the delicate buds and blossom can be killed and lead to a disastrous shortage of fruit such as happened in 2012.
The shortage of fruit across the country that year led to a shortage of real craft cider during the warm summer of 2013 and the shortfall in supply was largely filled by the bigger cider makers with mass produced cider based drinks which are unaffected by the vagaries of the British weather.
Most of the big industrial manufacturers use apple concentrate which is available from all around the world all year round so year round supplies can be maintained.
The UK is a major producer of cider and accounts for 62% of Europe’s output and is worth £3 billion per year!
Cider sale in the UK now make up around 9% of the drinks market and there are an estimated 480 cider makers here using around 250,000 tonnes of British apples every year
Unfortunately at present the real craft cider makers only account for a small percentage of these growing sales figures.
The majority of cider sold across the UK is still made from apple concentrate and can have as little as 35% fruit content which is likely to have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to reach the manufacturer!
These bland fizzy abominations are what is usually on offer in most of the pubs and why you usually have to go the best pubs or CAMRA beer festivals to get the artisan craft ciders.
The spring of 2013 was very kind to cider makers and this led to a bumper harvest in the autumn which should ensure a really good supply of cider throughout 2014 as all cider makers have benefitted from the biggest apple crop in over ten years, although crops of perry pears were rumoured to be quite poor so there still maybe a shortage of good quality perry this year.
Around Berkshire and Buckinghamshire we had a fantastic apple harvest last autumn and there will be plenty of your local Salt Hill Cider on offer throughout this year.
We managed to make a record amount of cider in 2013 due to the generosity of local people and we collected around 5 tonnes of unwanted high quality apples of many different varieties from orchards and gardens locally which hopefully will produce a great vintage cider this year.
The cider that was made through September to November is now fermented and is slowly maturing and improving until it will be ready for drinking around March time.
Salt Hill Cider will be aiming to supply as many good pubs and beer festivals as possible during the year across our region and hopefully getting into some new outlets to supply cider drinkers and maybe convert some drinkers to the delights of 100% fresh juice cider.
Here’s hoping for a mild and dry spring followed by a long hot summer for us all to enjoy drinking some real cider and perry.