Summertime is the season when real cider is at it’s best after months of maturing and improving and the cider is at the peak of condition at the same time as the peak of cider drinking demand.
It is for this reason that the CAMRA,s cider judging competition takes place at Reading Beer & Cider Festival which is held over the Mayday Bank Holiday each year.
More than 150 ciders and perries from all across Britain are available to discerning drinkers and they also do battle to win their regional award and the winner of each region goes forward the the national judging which is judged by a panel of CAMRA members and experts.
In 2014 Salt Hill Cider was proud to win the Southern regional award and go through to the final against some of the very best cider makers in the land.
The results for 2015 went as follows;

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, the winners of its National Cider and Perry Championships

Cider
GOLD (joint) – White Jersey, Orgasmic Cider Company
GOLD (joint) – Janet’s Jungle Juice, West Croft
BRONZE – Medium, Three Cats

Perry
GOLD – Two Trees Perry, Gwynt y Ddraig
SILVER – Snowy Owl, Raglan Cider Mill
BRONZE – Perry, Snails Bank

The joint winners of the Cider Gold medal are White Jersey by Orgasmic and Janet’s Jungle Juice by West Croft. White Jersey was described by judges as being ‘fruity’ and ‘easy drinking’, with ‘a slight sweetness balanced by an excellent tang’, and having‘balance without too much acidity’. Janet’s Jungle Juice was described as having a ‘mature and woody aroma’ with ‘an initial sweetness and a smooth finish’, and a ‘full mouth feel with a resinous aroma’.

The winner of the Perry Gold medal is Two Trees Perry by Gwynt y Ddraig (meaning ‘dragon’s breath’ in Welsh) which the judges described as being ‘initially sweet with a refreshing, dry aftertaste’,‘complex yet well balanced with a poached pear flavour and aroma’ with a ‘slowly developing finish’.

The final round of judging for CAMRA’s National Cider and Perry Championships 2015 took place at the popular Reading Beer and Cider festival .
The competition featured ciders and perries from across the UK, with each cider and perry judged on its individual taste, aroma, flavour, after-taste and overall appeal.
The top awards were selected by a specially chosen panel of experienced judges, drinks writers and CAMRA members.

Andrea Briers, CAMRA National Cider and Perry Committee Chairman, had this to say on the quality and diversity of entries:

“The quality and variety of real cider and perry is increasing year-on-year, making our job as judges increasingly difficult. With a set of truly excellent drinks available this year at the festival, and a competition which was very tight right until the final judging we are confident these ciders and perries can truly be known as the best in Britain.”

Reading CAMRA Beer and Cider Festival serves over 550 beers available, plus 150 ciders and perries (from over 100 producers), plus a selection of foreign beers, English wines and mead.
Over the four days festival around 13,000 attendees will drink over 35,000 pints of beer and 11,000 pints of cider.

2015 could prove to be the most challenging year for small cider makers; EU plans to force all cider makers to pay duty could spell disaster for the diversity of local ciders across the UK.

At present cider makers who produce less than 7000 litres do not have to pay duty; this helps to encourage small farmers and cider makers to plant and maintain a network of orchards across the country which is vital to wildlife and an important part of many local economies.

Many tourists enjoy popping into farm gate cideries in the West Country as they have done for generations and this is part of the local culture and economy but if this EU legislation goes through there may well be many less of these as the extra cost of this duty will make small scale cider making unviable for many.

This could seriously damage the range and variety of local flavours and mean that the larger commercial cider makers will have an even bigger share of the market!

Please sign CAMRA’s petition to stop this from coming to pass.

A great range and ciders and perries will be available to try at Maidenhead Beer & Cider Festival in July which will be an opportunity to try ciders and perries from Berkshire and several other counties.

2014 was a disastrous year for our local apple crop which made life hard for Salt Hill Cider but hopefully this autumn we will have a much better harvest across berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

We are always looking any unwanted cooking or eating apples for our cider so if you know of any going spare please contact me on 01753 823918.

Wassail

This coming bank holiday weekend Salt Hill Cider is going to be available at three excellent venues; it will be at Reading Beer & Cider Festival which is one of the great cider events of the year.
Salt Hill Cider will be available and we will also be entering the cider competition and hoping to repeat last year’s success when we won South East regional cider of 2014.
I will also we working on the cider bar on the Thursday evening and doing missionary work promoting the delights of cider drinking.
For cider fans who are not planning on going to Reading’s festival Salt Hill Merry England will be appearing at two great pubs over the weekend; The Royal Standard in Wooburn Common and the White Horse in Hedgerley both of which will have a good range of beers as well.
Let’s hope for some fine cider drinking weather!
Wassail

Summer is officially here!
I saw the first swallow of year yesterday and that’s good enough for me; the cider drinking season has started. Just three weeks now till the biggest cider event of the year; CAMRA’s Beer & Cider Festiaval is on over the first May bank holiday in Reading and is a great place to try more than 100 ciders and perries including Salt Hill Cider.

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.
Wassail
Greg

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.

Wassail

Greg Davies

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Join us for the first chance to try the new season award winning Salt Hill Cider in 2015 – full details above.

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