Well here we are again!  After a long and very un-English hot summer autumn has arrived.  Now the whole cycle of cider making begins again with the gathering of the apples needed for next year’s cider.  The long cold winter we experienced at the start of the year meant that fermentation of last year’s cider was slow and took longer than usual to complete.  A long slow fermentation is good to develop a nice smooth flavour so it was worth the wait.  This summer has seen good crops of apples on the trees but the drought has meant that the fruits are quite small and will have less juice due to the lack of rain available to the trees.  After a very successful year in 2009 I decided to double my production of  Salt Hill Cider for 2010 to 1000 litres in order to meet demand supplying local pubs and beer festivals.  This year has been another successful one helped by the sunny weather and growing interest in real cider and I have now almost sold out for another year.  It has been a good year for the local CAMRA beer festivals with large quantities of cider and perry being supped at Windsor, Reading , Ealing and  Egham festivals and also at the first ever cider festival at Windsor Racecourse on 23rd August 2010 which will hopefully become an annual event.  Also still to come is the Ascot Racecourse beer festival on the 24th and 25th September which is growing every year and has a great selection of ciders and perry on offer and benefits from good public transport links making it easy to leave the car at home and make the most of the day.  Salt Hill Cider was or will be at all of these as well as appearing at a few local pubs of distinction throughout the year.  I am planning to increase production again this year to 1200 litres to make sure I can meet orders and have a bit left for my own consumption!   A few months of hard work lay ahead of me now throughout the autumn I will be gathering apples and pressing the juice out every week until all of my barrels are full of delicious sweet golden nectar which will then be left in peace for several months to let nature do it’s miraculous work turning the juice into cider.  Nothing will be added or taken away because everything that is needed is already in the fruit, the natural yeast will slowly convert the natural sugars of the juice into alcohol and at the end I should be left with naturally dry cider which improves and matures other the spring months.  This is why there are less ciders available during the winter months , unlike the breweries  we only get one chance to make our year’s supply while the fruit is around during autumn.  The larger commercial cider producers that can keep a uniform year round supply going to pubs, they do this by using either frozen juice or in most cases they use apple concentrate which they store in huge amounts and can add water to their pasteurised product so avoiding the seasonality and better flavour of real ciders.  The proposed huge rise in cider duty caused great alarm in the cider makers this year, however this has  been put on hold by the new government who have promised to consider the case for making a distinction between craft cider makers and industrial makers of white ciders and other high strength low quality drinks.  Unfortunately it looks like the limit for being described as cider is going to be set at 35% apple juice, hardly a high standard considering your pint could contain 65% water, sugar and any other ingredients!  If the standard was set at around 80% fresh pressed juice we could have improved standards and exclude the majority of of the large producers of poor quality fruit based drinks. 
Good quality cider is available sporadically at quite a few pubs across our part of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and I am sure more pubs will join in as demand grows especially if people ask for real cider when they visit their local.  The pubs that currently can be relied on throughout the year are The White Horse in Hedgerley, The Bell in Waltham St Lawrence and The Bird in Hand in Knowle Hill.  It is usually the case that the best pubs with the best range of beers and cider are in country areas and are hard to reach without a car, this is why I am especially pleased to reveal that the latest pub to stock Salt Hill Cider is The Moon & Spoon in Slough High Street who are keen to support their  local cider maker.  I hope this will be a chance to reach out to a whole new audience and and convert a few drinkers who are new to the delights of real cider and I will continue to enjoy producing Berkshire cider made from local fruit for you to enjoy. 
Greg Davies

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