Hopefully we have seen the last of winter and as spring comes into view so the cider season begins once more.
It’s been a tough year for Salt Hill Cider as we struggled to get enough fruit for this year’s cider and in the last month we have had the worrying news that the EU is trying to force the UK to abolish the duty exemption for small cider makers such as us. If this goes through it could well mean the end for many of our traditional artisan producers and this would be a serious blow to the diverse range of unique local styles available.
It’s not been all bad news however as Salt Hill Cider won our regional CAMRA cider of the year award at Reading Beer & Cider Festival last May and will be at this year’s festival to try to win again in 2015.
Reading is rather a good town for cider drinkers and this weekend I am pleased to say that one of the town’s best pubs, the Nags Head in Russell Street will have Salt Hill Cider available.
The season is officially underway and hopefully our cider will be appearing at many pubs old and new around the area.

The Bramley apple is one of England’s most well known and well loved apple varieties and has been the popular choice for pies and crumbles for nearly two centuries.
Incredibly the original Bramley tree that is the genetic parent of every Bramley tree in the world still lives today in a garden in Nottingham where it has survived for two hundred years!
The fruit from this humble tree was found to be so good for culinary use that grafts were taken from it to produce more of these trees all over Britain and around the world and the name “Bramley” was established as the premier cooking apple.
Less well known by most people is that the Bramley also makes good drinking!

The apple’s juice is fairly tart and a little acidic when fresh but when blended with a sweeter apple such as Cox’s Orange Pippin and left for about a year to mature this produces a great Eastern Counties style of cider.
The Bramley has been the stalwart of Kent cider making for centuries and today there are still vast orchards of this variety all across the county and these are used by most Kentish cider makers as well as being sold for culinary use throughout the land.
A well matured Bramley juice adds a refreshing bite to cider and when available is very important ingredient in my own Salt Hill Cider as it helps to balance the other varieties of sweeter eating apples.

2014 was a good year for Berkshire cider makers as my own “Autumn Gold ” took first place in the regional CAMRA awards which are held at Reading Beer & Cider Festival in May each year.

Another Berkshire producer, Tutts Clump were awarded first place at the same event for our regional Perry award so this really helped to raise the profile of Berkshire cider and perry.

There are now several cider makers in Berkshire and the ciders and perries made from local fruit tend to be quite different from the West Country “scrumpy” style ciders as they tend to be sharper with a clean refreshing taste and lack the tanin found in fruit in the west.
The long dismal winter period is the quiet time for cider making and orchards are in a state of hibernation awaiting the longer days and spring sun’s warmth.

The cider that was pressed in the autumn last year is still slowly fermenting and maturing in the barrels and will continue to improve and mellow until it is ready to drink in the spring.
A long established practice amongst cider makers is “Wassailing” an old english word meaning “be of good health” which is held in January usually around Twelfth Night.
This a traditional ceremony to celebrate the orchards and bless the trees in the hope of good apple crops in the coming year and a bountiful harvest for cider making in the autumn.
This year Salt Hill Cider was very pleased to be involved with a local event, the first ever Hedgerly Community Orchard Wassail.
On Saturday 10th January a group of people gathered and proceeded to the orchard where they enjoyed a barbeque and cider drinking around a bonfire followed by a tree blessing and reading of traditional Wassail songs.
The Hedgerley Community Orchard is a young orchard planted and maintained by a group of local volunteers and is still a few years from being fully productive.
Hopefully this Hedgerley Wassail is going to be expanded for next year and become an established local event.

Now that Spring has finally arrived the cider drinking season begins and pubs and festivals will start to stock the new season cider and perry.

The apple crop in 2014 was very low around many areas of the country and this will have an impact on the availability of good quality real ciders.

Around Berkshire and Buckinghamshire there was a real shortage of apples and as a result Salt Hill Cider had to buy in cider apples from the West Country where crops were rather better than ours.

The new season cider will be ready to drink from around Easter time and hopefully will be available throughout the year.

If you enjoy an occasional drink of cider then please ask your local pub to stock some this year and help to support your local producers and to make use of the fruits of local gardens and orchards.


Greg Davies


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December is a quiet time in the cider makers calendar, autumn’s apple juice is very slowly fermenting and maturing and will not be disturbed again until the spring when it will be ready for drinking.
All the beer festivals are finished for the year and pubs seldom think of ordering cider during the colder months.
Salt Hill Cider will be keeping a low profile until the days lengthen in the new year but for any cider fans who would like to get some Salt Hill Cider before 2015 it will be available at the Binghams Brewery shop in Twyford over the festive period.
Discerning drinkers can buy some Urban Fox or Merry England and also have the chance to pick up some of Binghams great beers to compliment the ciders.
Until the new year, Wassail!

After the glut of apples last autumn I was hoping for another decent crop this year as we had a decent spring and summer. No such luck! We hardly found any spare fruit around Berkshire this autumn and have had to buy in some apples from the West Country in order to make some cider ready for next year.
For the first time Salt Hill Cider has been made from traditional cider apples, a blend of Dabinet and Michelin varieties have been pressed and we will have to wait for several months to find out how the new cider will taste.
The cider festival season is nearly over for the year so Salt Hill Cider will be available at Woking Beer Festival this weekend and at Wycombe Rugby Club Beer Festival the following weekend. We will then go into hibernation for the winter ready to emerge in the spring and begin a new year. The apple trees seem have gone into a pattern of on/off years so hopefully in 2015 we will have a bumper harvest in the autumn and Salt Hill Cider will once again be made entirely from local fruit.


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